Archive for February 2015

BHT Heritage – Graham’s Story

Case StudyI was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder with acute anxiety and was facing a number of serious housing issues.

A support worker at BHT London Road suggested I attend a free tour of the Brighton Pavilion just to get me “out and about” and to help me feel less alienated. They put me in touch with the Heritage Officer at First Base. I was unsure about meeting a group of complete strangers as I often feel anxiety in new situations and, of course, one of the difficulties with managing depression is a lack of motivation. I was encouraged to attend and was assured I could leave at any time if I felt uncomfortable – so I thought I may as well go along and see how it goes.

It had been a long time since I had been out of my flat for any reason other than absolute necessity and the tour of the Pavilion helped me to integrate with other people and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Brighton Pavilion was somewhere I had never visited before despite being born in Brighton! The unique and gaudy decoration definitely inspired me to develop my own creative interests. With my self-confidence growing I attended some of the other tours and visits around Brighton organised by First Base and enjoyed those as well.

After a few group tours I was offered the chance to attend traditional heritage skills workshops, held within First Base. Again, I was unsure about going due to my anxiety and depression, but I was assured I could leave at any time if I felt anxious or uncomfortable. I agreed to try it out as the organised tours and visits had been enjoyable and I felt it may help my recovery from depression. I was warmly welcomed at First Base and thoroughly enjoyed the workshops. I learnt many new skills including how to use various paint and plaster techniques. My anxiety about being with strangers soon passed as I was made to feel very welcome without any pressure. I was particularly interested in the social history of how these crafts and skills were used and how the techniques had not changed for hundreds of years.

With the heritage skills workshops under my belt, my self-confidence and self-esteem was definitely improved and I was offered a place on a free woodwork course, organised through the Heritage project, in order to gain an NVQ Level 1 in woodwork. The course has been challenging but worthwhile and I have enjoyed learning new skills and meeting new people. I would definitely like to attend further educational courses in the future.

All of these activities definitely improved my self confidence and self-esteem and spurred my interest in creative activities. And I’ve now taken more of an interest in my personal health and wellbeing. I’ve started to learn to cook nutritious meals for myself and to take long restorative walks along the seafront and the South Downs. I’ve even stopped smoking! I feel my recovery from depression, or at least learning to live with and manage my depression, has been greatly helped by my involvement in the various activities organised by the Heritage project.

Since attending these free tours, visits and courses, I am now self-employed as a sole trader and use the various creative techniques I have learnt restoring and up-cycling furniture and curios. I feel I can stand on my own two feet now and it is a relief to be independent and not have to rely on benefits any more.

I would like to thank the Heritage project for all their fantastic support and encouragement.

Tour of The Old Ship Hotel

Smugglers TunnelOn Thursday January 29th clients of BHT visited The Old Ship Hotel to learn about how it’s fascinating history, which dates back to 1559, relates to that of The Castle Tavern Ballroom.

Our tour began in the cellars, from which smugglers tunnels would have connected the hotel to other areas of the city, including the Royal Pavilion. Recent exploration of the smugglers tunnels found over 70 passageways under the city which would have been accessed via the river running below ground to Pool Valley. Smuggling was rife in Brighton; in 1820 when the town was celebrating the coronation of George IV, smugglers stole 30 kegs of Gin from the stable yard of The Old Ship.

Passing through the original coach house, our guide then took us up the Grand Stairs to the Panganini Ballroom; renamed after the celebrated violinist performed in the ballroom in 1831. Completed in 1767, a year after The Castle Tavern’s ballroom, the Panganini Ballroom features a Royal Box and a floating balcony, from which Charles Dickens read for George IV, now King, in 1841.

At the peak of its trade the hotel would have employed around 800 members of staff – there was even someone whose sole job was to light cigarettes!

Panganini BallroomThe tour finished in the Regency Room, which was a private room that the King used for his own enjoyment and relaxation. Home comforts included extravagant chandeliers, originals of which can still be seen in the Regency Room today.

The Old Ship is a building of ‘firsts’ – the hotel was the first building to have electricity, installed in 1891, and had the first telephone number. The Bacon family, who owned the hotel from 1852 – 1979, were richer than the Crown.

The hotel played a role during WWII, accommodating officers from HMS Vernon. During this time valuables of the hotel and The Royal Pavilion were stored in the smugglers tunnels.

For more information about The Old Ship Hotel please visit: