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Thomas Read Kemp, Landowner and Developer

Thomas Read Kemp


Thomas Read Kemp (1782-1844) inherited land in the parish of Brighton from his father in 1811.  By this time, Brighton had been a flourishing seaside resort for around sixty years, thus starting well before the arrival of George, Prince of Wales who is often wrongly said to be the founder of the town's transformation from a declining coastal town into a resort. 

Thomas Read Kemp's political interests were in Lewes which he represented as an MP for some time but he knew that his land in Brighton should be a good source of income if it was developed. Most of it was intermingled with others and he slowly began to untangle this to ensure that he obtained blocks of freehold land. His first project was villas in Montpelier, an area which today is known for its distinctive albeit later style. His second, villas along the London Road and his third, Kemp Town which was first mentioned in the local press in 1822 when he began to employ workmen to lay it out to the scheme published as by C.A. Busby and A.H. Wilds.

All did not proceed smoothly partly due to the recession which hit this resort in the later 1820s but also to the competition which included not only Brunswick Town but other projects dotted about the resort.

Kemp understood the value of publicity and helped many local ventures, some by giving land. He also had important backers. His first wife was Frances Baring, the fourth daughter of Sir Francis Baring who founded Barings Bank.  

Contrary to some local claims, Kemp did not die poor nor was he a bankrupt. Both are myths. To read more see Sue Berry  Thomas Read Kemp and the shaping of Regency Brighton c.1818-1845 in the Journal of the Georgian Group Volume XVII (2009) 125-140.

Content derived from research undertaken as part of the Victoria County History project

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