The Compte Augustus La Garde visited England in 1832. An early example of a Frenchman not coming to shoot us. During that time he had lunch with Thomas Kemp, who built Kemp Town and probably Paskins Hotel. Thomas Kemps obituary said that he had built one of the most magnificent assemblages of private dwellings in all of England.
The Compte wrote of his visit just 180 years to soon for Trip Advisor
The very first Trip Advisor by Compte Augustus La Garde in 1832
The Compte La Garde arrived on one of the paddle-steamers that ran twice a week between Brighton and Dieppe. He reported ‘we drew in alongside a pier, a kind of bridge suspended on chains; a model of grace combined with solidarity’
(This was the famous Chain Pier, completed in 1832 and was the brain chi1d of retired naval officer, Captain Samuel Brown)… (Actually it wasn’t quite a model of solidarity as it was destroyed by a storm in 1896)
The Compte had a bad crossing. In good weather this crossing took 12 hours but a gale kept him at sea for 24 and he was seasick for most of the journey. However like most Brighton visitors he recovered sufficiently to make a good meal on his arrival
The Gloucester Hotel in Gloucester Place (the building still exists as the picture shows).
He recommended this establishment to any other traveller seeking “A polite hostess, attentive servants and a much greater rarity in Brighton moderate prices’ (Oh these Trip Advisors can be cruel)
He continued in this enthusiastic vein: “An admirable dinner was set before me, consisting of the excellent fish which abound in Brighton, Lamb said to be the best in all England because the Downs on which the flocks feed are impregnated with salt; the local vegetables were very tasty although the English boil the flavour out of them. Then a variety of boiled puddings were served together with some Portuguese wines. Much too heavy for my palette’
‘I was then quite ready for bed by the time I had completed I my meal and perused some newspapers . . . The Boots presented me and every other guest with a boot-jack and slippers, then, candle in hand, he took me up to my room where my luggage had been deposited.
The staircase, although small, was elegant and carpeted. The comfortable bed was of a size that would have accommodated at least three travellers in a German hostelry. Four carved pillars of massive mahogany supported the tastefully draped tester. The bedding consisted of an enormous pile of mattresses surmounted by a thick feather bed. When I had scaled this peaceful fortress (with the aid of a small flight of steps) and drawn its double curtains of white muslin, I found myself installed in something like an inner room, at least as spacious as a monk’s cell. In a safe haven and in lively anticipation of the novel scenes I was about to witness in Brighton.
‘I had no trouble in sinking into a deep sleep and putting behind me all the fatigues and nausea of that short sea crossing.’
Awaking to a typical Brighton sunny morning which sustained his good humour, the Compte examined the furnishings of a Brighton hotel, which, although of a good middling sort, was certainly not one of the most luxurious and expensive.
‘Its studied neatness was a delight to the eye’, he recorded. ‘A soft carpet covers the floor at all seasons of the year. A marble fireplace, extending only a short way into the room, is decorated with a number of graceful little trinkets. The fire-irons have such a polish that they are obviously cleaned every day. The iron grate, a foot high, is filled with coal as black and shining as jet. As to the furnishing, there is a toilet table set out with everything necessary for one’s morning ablutions: such as basins of all sizes and for a variety of purposes (in porcelain or Wedgwood ware); crystal bottles; face and hand towels in linen or cotton; perfumed Windsor soap.
And all this in the bedroom of an inn!’
The Compte then went on to remark about detail of behavior which was always a pleasant surprise to visitors from the Continent. “I was hardly awake when a trim maidservant brought me hot water and took my order for breakfast. This was when I first noticed a very convenient custom which obtains here. Even if you ring for them a score of times, the servants never come into your room without first knocking (English tourists in Europe at this period were always embarrassed and often angry at the way hotel servants burst into their bedrooms without warning, regardless of the guest’s sex or state of undress or occupation.)
Well that was 1832; since then we have lost the Chain Pier and the West Pier. The Gloucester Hotel has ceased trading; replaced in large part by Paskins Hotel. Both Fish and Lamb remain wonderful in Brighton and we have dozens, nay hundreds of restaurants, many who have mastered the art of cooking vegetables.