Representation of the Attack Made by the French Fleet upon Brighthelmstone, 1832

This engraving was made in 1832 by James Basire. It is a copy of a Tudor map from 1545 which depicts a French raid on Brighton.

Critical error

This is a copy of the first known map of Brighton and shows the layout of the town and the neighbouring village of Hove.

It also tells the story of the attack. The French ships can be seen landing on the beach while the town has been set ablaze. A group of men are marching from Lewes in the east to come to the town’s aid, although only the street layout (now the Lanes) and St Nicholas’ Church on the hill would survive.

Basire captured a great deal of details about Brighton at that time, but he made one major error. Can you guess what it is?


It’s the date. Although the original map dates from 1545 the raid actually took place some thirty years earlier in 1514.

It had been commissioned by King Henry VIII at a time of looming war with France. As Brighton was the last place in England to have been attacked by an invading force, the map was created to help plan defences against future raids.

Author: Kevin Bacon, Digital Manager

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  1. Last part of England to be attacked by an invading force, even if we ignore Scottish ones (1745 any one), or you only count sea born ones, Spanish attack on Penzance (and other Cornish sites) in 1595, William III in 1689 and J-p Jones Whithaven attack in 1778 are much later.

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