Black and white image of rows of hospital beds inside the Dome, with a chandelier above them.

Social History

Brighton Dome has been at the heart of the local community for over 200 years

An old postcard showing four suffragettes

This postcard shows, and seems to celebrate, four suffragettes campaigning outside the House of Commons. However, a message written anonymously on the back of the postcard reveals a sinister intent and demonstrates how bad tempered, and even violent, meetings associated with women’s suffrage could become;

'Gentlemen. A meeting will be held in the Dome, at B'ton on Wednesday next by Mrs Crissy Pankhurst. We hope to see a big audience of men to make things a bit livly [sic]. Please bring a weapon to defend yourselves with as the ladies use dog whips. I am yours truly the secretary to the suffragetts [sic]. Doors open at 7.30.'

A portrait of Mary Leigh, a white woman with dark hair. She is wearing a big hat

In 1910, Suffragettes Mary Leigh and Eva Bourne were arrested at Brighton Dome. They were discovered hiding inside the venue’s organ  intending to interrupt a speech due to given by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. Mary already had a reputation for being repeatedly imprisoned for her militant activities and Asquith was a frequent target. Very little is known about Eva Bourne and this name may have been given in order to protect her real identity. 

A news article titled How votes for women were won

In May 1910 Emma Newsam gained entry to the concert hall by dressing in a man’s overcoat and cap, once inside, she shouted out ‘votes for women!’ before being bundled outside.

In 2018, Brighton Dome was recognised as one of 41 buildings across England that were at the centre of suffragette action.

A line up of mostly indian soldiers in uniform in pavilion gardens

In November 1914, news reached Brighton that Indian soldiers wounded on the Western Front were to be received by the town. The work of converting the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Dome was completed in a very short time and the first contingent of Indian soldiers arrived at the Royal Pavilion just 13 days after.

Indian soldiers stand in the corn exchange with some nurses, some are in uniform

There were 724 beds available across the Royal Pavilion Estate. The most seriously injured were treated in the Corn Exchange, with most of the wounded suffering from gunshot and shrapnel wounds, resulting in fractures in the upper and lower extremities. Some patients were also recovering from the use of poison gas.

A group of surgeons stand in an old operating room

Nine kitchens were established, most of them in tents erected on lawns. They catered for Muslims and meat eating or vegetarian Sikhs. Special arrangements were made for the ritual killing of animals and storing of meat and there were also separate bath houses, latrines, mortuaries and two operating theatres.

A group of soldiers sit on benches outside Brighton Dome

Inside the Concert Hall, the soldiers were entertained with magic lantern shows and organ recitals. The recitals continued until December 1915, when the Indian soldiers were removed from Brighton. On their departure, the commanding officer at Brighton Dome wrote a grateful letter to the Brighton and District Organists’ Association to thank them for their work.

Two soldiers with amputated legs stand on crutches, another soldier in between them sits in a wheelchair

From April 1916, the Royal Pavilion Military Hospital provided surgery, treatment and rehabilitation for over 6,000 British amputee veterans of World War One. 

A man and a woman smiling. The man wears a bowler hat, shirt and tie. The woman is wearing lipstick, a big necklace and a woollen coat.

It was clear from the photographs that Joan had enjoyed the dances held at Brighton Dome during World War Two. Dome Dancing was a programme held between 1940 and 1946 for both local and allied soldiers. In 1942, the Dome Dancing Forces Dance Club opened, offering free dancing lessons twice a week for members of the Forces.

A group of 6 soldiers posing in a relaxed fashion in their uniform

As well as regular dances on a Saturday night for entertainment, there were special dances and events held such as for Canadian Dominion Day and New Year's Eve, as well as the Duchess of Norfolk's Regency Ball in aid of the Red Cross Prisoners of War Parcel Fund. We are particularly excited about these images as they are our only photographs from this era.