Thomas Friend

By Steve Myall

1737 was the year in which Thomas Friend, and John Friend of Portslade, developed the policy of buying land in Brighton.  In the privately held deeds to 14 Sillwood Road, the line of inheritance from Thomas Friend owning the land in 1737, up to Thomas Read Kemp becoming the owner, is explained. In his will of 6th March 1761, Thomas Friend, who died in 1762, left his extensive land holdings in Brighton to his nephew, also called Thomas Friend.  This second Thomas Friend died the following year, 23rd December 1763, without children.  His estate was then left to his nephew, John Bull, who sold it in 1770 to his cousin, John Kemp, another nephew of the first Thomas Friend.  John Kemp died without issue on 29th September 1774. From John Kemp the land passed to his nephew Thomas Kemp, the father of Thomas Read Kemp, the developer of Kemp Town and the ultimate vendor of Church Hill, West Side, selling to the various individual developers who built the early Victorian estate that we know today. TRK’s middle name, Read, was his mother’s maiden name.

Thomas Kemp (1745-1811), T.R.K’s father, is recorded on the 1792 map of Brighton as owning 41 acres of Church Hill West Side, with the 3rd Duke of Dorset owning 5 acres on the east side.

In January 1805 Thomas Kemp’s two children, Thomas Read and Ann, sold about half of the Church Hill land to Arabella Diana (Sackville) Duchess of Dorset (descendant  from the original owning family that sold it to Thomas Friend). Then in the East Sussex Records Office’s document AMS6382 it is recorded that Thomas Read Kemp, and his uncle and trustee Nathaniel Kemp of Ovingdean Hall, repurchased the land from the Dorsets on the 19th/20th  November 1817. In the deed the land is described as 20 acres, 3 rods and 22 pauls of sheep down on the west side of Brighton. It had in fact been used by Kemp for sheep farming while the Dorsets owned it.

Thomas Read Kemp is one of the main ‘gentry’ name that is associated with Brighton, but as the above line of inheritance shows, his final ownership of the town rested on events of an unlikely combination – two early relatives having no children, and a younger brother dying before the elder. Had one of these three events not happened, there would probably be no Kemp Town today.

Briefly re-tracing our steps back to the original Thomas Friend, prior to his ownership in 1737, the 1817 deed also introduces some family names as copyhold owners of land in Brighton, including Church Hill. Included in these names are those of Shadwell, Gunn and Vinall. In the hand-written Sussex Pamphlets 120 (2) held in the Brighton History Centre these families are described as ‘descendants of the aboriginies (sic) of the town’.  In today’s telephone directory there are two entries for Shadwell, sixteen for Vinall and 58 for the Gunn family.

This page was added on 15/04/2011.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.