Building of the Madeira Road Wall, 1830s

This image is a photographic copy of a drawing by a Brighton based painter, Frederick Nash (1782-1856). It shows construction work on the sea defence wall in Madeira Road in the 1830s.

What can we see?

William Lambert

The man in the top hat is the builder and stonemason William Lambert. His firm was responsible for building the wall.

The Madeira Road Wall was a major construction project. It took several years to complete, and cost over £100,000 — the equivalent of around £11 milion pounds today.


Several workhorses can be seen in this image. This horse appears to be harnessed to some form of mechanical device.

The horse may have been used to winch materials and equipment to labourers working at the top of the wall. Other workmen can be seen raising and lowering loads using pulleys. Alternately, this horse might be grinding materials for use in the wall’s construction.


Groynes are Brighton’s earliest form of sea defence. The first ones were constructed in 1723-1724.

Made of timber, shingle accumulates between them through the action of longshore drift. As shingle builds up on the beach, it protects the low cliff behind it from erosion.

Royal Suspension Chain Pier

The Chain Pier was the first of Brighton’s three piers. Designed by Captain Samuel Brown it had opened about fifteen years earlier, in 1823.

The pier head was designed as a landing stage for ships to and from the French town of Dieppe. As it became more popular with pleasure seekers,  numerous shops were set up on the pier, including a vintners, jewellers and silhouette artist. These could be found in the four towers from which the chains were suspended.

Author: Daniel Robertson, Curator of Local History & Archaeology



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