Impressions of Madeira Drive by Vincenzo Donlini


Vincenzo Donlin

Local artist Vincenzo Donlini has created some atmospheric images of Madeira Drive. Featuring the terraces, the beach and the green wall, they are full of light, colour and texture. Visit his website.

These paintings were made on site in 2015 – not from photos – so tell of a time before ‘dereliction’. Postcards etc are available from the website.

The story of ‘Maddy’ – Brighton’s historic Madeira Drive

Brighton & Hove Building Green have published a history of ‘Maddy’ – our beloved seafront road in East Brighton which is home to the oldest and longest green wall in the UK.

It’s a story of Victorian invention, bringing together technology, engineering, the environment and health and enjoyment.

Visit the Madeira Drive page to find out more.


Hello Sailor! Promenading the ‘famous Madeira Terrace on Madeira Drive

Crowdfunding appeal launched for Madeira Terraces

Madeira Terraces, home to the longest continuous ironwork structure in the UK and the longest and oldest green wall, are derelict.

People Power called upon to help save Madeira Terraces.

Brighton Council has launched a historic crowdfunding appeal to restore them, and regenerate this neglected part of the seafront as part of the ‘Lockwood Project’.

Leader Warren Morgan said:

“We will harness the city’s energy, creativity and affection for the Terraces to get the project off the ground. At the same time we will leave no stone unturned, seeking every possible avenue of funding from government and other sources.

“We want to inspire private and corporate investors to join us in saving a nationally-important structure on one of the world’s most recognisable seafronts by the much loved pebble beach. I’m not giving up on this. We’re determined to find a way of funding the restoration of the Terraces“.


Building Green will continue to push for the retention and enhancement of the Victorian ‘green wall’ – with 100 species of flowering plant it is a candidate local wildlife site, part of our historic seafront, and beautiful backdrop to the beach.

Madeira Drive A5 leaflet Building Green 1509

Find out more about the history of Madeira Drive on our new page here.

Madeira Terraces and the ‘famous sheltered walk’ – a step back in time

This superb shot by Paul Norman has recently come to our attention. It’s 1985 – shows the green wall East of the shelter hall is fully intact…sadly a few of these veteran (planted c1880) Japanese spindle trunks are missing now, but it’s still one of the best bits of green wall on the whole stretch. Also visible are the hedges that used to exist along on the southern edge of the terrace. Does anyone know what year they were taken out?


Building Green is meeting with the Council on Friday to talk through the proposals for redevelopment of Madeira Drive. We are keen to offer our expertise and support.

Paul’s group Hanover Action, are doing some fantastic work to improve the quality of life for Hanover residents. Check them out here.

Madeira Drive – further designs published

New designs have been published for Madeira Drive – attempting to address the restoration of the Victorian arches whilst regenerating the seafront between the Pier and Marina.

This is the latest in a number of ideas – see Michael Doyle’s and the Council backed ideas of Sea Lanes and the ‘Lockwood Project’ that aims to retain and enhance the historic green wall.

Paul Nicholson (Chalk Architects) favours luxury flats and a park at the level of Marine Parade modelled on the New York High Line.

Visualisation here.

Clearly it would mean the end of sections, at least, of the historic planting and established biodiversity on the Madeira Drive Green Wall, but to remain open minded it may create additional valuable habitat and open space for people and wildlife.

Whether this will remain a fanciful sketch, or a vision fulfilled, remains to be seen. Building Green will want to be involved if this gets off the drawing table.

Coming soon…a cultural and environmental history of Brighton’s seafront road, Madeira Drive

Building Green is very interested in Madeira Drive – ‘Maddy’ – the seafront along East Brighton.

Home to unique Victorian engineering, major public events and a great beach, it’s also the greenest part of the seafront in Brighton & Hove, and is home to rare ‘vegetated shingle’ habitat and the longest, oldest green wall in the country.

For that reason we think it’s worth special attention, and we will soon post a special page dedicated to this miracle mile (and a bit).

In the meantime, here are some more old photos along Madeira Drive…showing the historic development of the seafront, the planting, the tearooms and lift, and the elevated ‘Madeira Terrace’.

Looking east – the Chain Pier, bathing machines and Victorian traffic. You can clearly see planting established on the cliff face. Dated 1890 but Shelter Hall, built 1890, not visible so this is probably earlier

Looking west towards the Chain Pier, with the railway laid out. Japanese spindle trees look around 12 feet tall here. 1883? Lawns were laid out in 1884 and are not visible here. Railway established 1883

The Aquarium, Brighton 1889 – 1896, again with the Chain Pier in the distance and plants well established on the East Cliff. Part of the Gravelroots UK Vintage Trail



Madeira Lift showing the lawns in front and the planting climbing behind the terraces.


Planting along the East cliff – showing the Concorde tearooms but the rest of the elevated walkway not yet built. Less shingle, and loads more sand and reef at low tide. 1890

St Mary's Hall and Kemptown 1926 showing the planting on Madeira Drive and Duke's Mound. Britain from above. Copyright Historic England

St Mary’s Hall and Kemptown 1926 showing the planting on Madeira Drive and Duke’s Mound. Pre-Carlton Hill and Whitehawk

Duke's mound terrace, Brighton

Early planting on the front of Sussex Square, Duke’s Mound – the walls recently cleared and replanted by the Council. After the enclosed Esplanade was opened to the public in 1952

Madeira terraces, Kemp town with cyclist

Madeira terraces, Kemp town with cyclist. ‘The famous sheltered walk’

New Madeira Terraces design ideas

Michael Doyle Town Planning have shared this new design for Madeira Drive with the Council and Building Green.

Maderia Terrace with light weight timber deck and cherry picker for green wall maintenance

Maderia Terrace with light weight timber deck and cherry picker for green wall maintenance

It shows how a timber upper level would allow light to filter through. It’s a more lightweight solution. Michael has also shown a cherry picker on the upper level, which would allow easy maintenance of the green wall.

The green wall covers and protects large areas of the cliff and saves money in the expensive application of new concrete render. However, it does need maintenance – which could be carried out by volunteers as well as the Council.

Michael’s earlier designs also show commercial pods which could be slotted under the terrace in future, enabling new, much-needed, business and revenue to be generated in this area of the beach front.

Commercial units coujld be established under the Madeira Terrace

Commercial units coujld be established under the Madeira Terrace

For more of Michael’s designs see this previous post.

Corbyn on Madeira Drive: “a national treasure”

Jeremy Corbyn promised to win back Brighton at today’s Labour party conference.

Of particular interest to Building Greeners will this report of the interview by the Argus, that:

“He called the Madeira Arches a “a national treasure which must be preserved and expanded”.

But added: “I think investing in the infrastructure is a job for the local council, but it’s also about how you improve the incentives in the businesses along the front. “Clearly it does need doing because Brighton, which is is a national treasure, has got to be preserved, and expanded. “And I will take that on board. I love Brighton.””

Madeira Drive Green Wall – our living Victorian history

Plenty of news about the Madeira Terraces this week, especially a potential bid for UNESCO World Heritage Site Status. But little mention of the integral, living parts of seafront history.

Argus – Rich film heritage

Argus – Minsters invited to Madeira Drive

Argus – World heritage sites well worth applying for

You can download a leaflet here about the Madeira Drive Green Wall.

Madeira Drive A5 leaflet Building Green 1509

Building Green is interested in working with the Victorian Society, Regency Society, Brighton & Hove Heritage Commission and others on the future of Madeira Drive. We want to ensure that the living history is protected and conserved as part of any plans for the restoration, refurbishment or development of Madeira Drive.

A letter to Simon Kirby MP received the following response (11 September 2015):

"Please be assured that the future of Madeira Drive is an issue I am continuing to work hard on and I will certainly keep your comments in mind. I have recently invited the Coastal Communities Minister to the Terraces to discuss the situation and to see what Government funding may be available."

Building Green counted well over 100 mature spindle trees on the green wall last week – each over 130 years old. 100 plant species have been found in total, and the wall will become the first statutory local wildlife site of it’s kind in the UK when the Council adopt part 2 of the City Plan soon.

Madeira Drive Green Wall sign on the ramp to Marine Parade

Madeira Drive Green Wall sign on the ramp to Marine Parade

Check out Building Green’s timeline for Madeira Drive through history.