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Our History

SEA LIFE Brighton aquarium history

Opened in 1872

Brighton Aquarium was conceived and designed by Eugenius Birch, the architect responsible for the West Pier. Work began in 1869 and the building opened in 1872. The project cost £133,000 (equivalent to around £5.5 million today).

Interior Design and History of SEA LIFE Brighton

Interior Design

Birch's original design incorporated archways, detailed stonework and columns influenced by Gothic and Pompeian design. He also built statues made from Bath stone, red Edinburgh granite and green marble.  

Roof Terrace of SEA LIFE Brighton

Roof Terrace

The roof terrace was finished in 1874, with a number of activities added in 1876 including a roller skating rink, smoking room, cafe and music conservatory. 

SEA LIFE Brighton in 1927 - History

1927 reconstruction

After running into financial difficulties, the aquarium was obtained by the Brighton Corporation. They carried out extensive reconstruction work between 1927 and 1929, changing a lot of Birch's original design. 


1929 Reopening

The aquarium was reopened in 1929 with a grand ceremony. However, it still failed to find its identity and was regarded as a 'white elephant' in the community. 


During the War

When the war started, the aquarium was requisitioned by the RAF as Brighton and Hove were heavily targeted by the Germans. In the picture, you can see workmen building a sandbag barrier.

The WHO at the Florida Rooms SEA LIFE Brighton History

The Florida Rooms

In the 50s and 60s the aquarium hosted a music venue called The Florida Rooms, with many jazz artists filling the centre with music every night. The most famous act to play regularly was The Who, who had a show every Wednesday for an entrance fee of one shilling and sixpence (15 pence in new money). It was the place to be seen for local mods. 

Day & Night Ocean Experience

In May 2019 SEA LIFE Brighton launched a UK first exhibit Day & Night, where guests can experience our wonderful oceans by day and by night. The £2.7 million refurbishment took 8 months and has enjoyed national recognition since its launch. The centre can now boast as having the UK's largest collection of Sharks & Rays under one roof!

Day And Night Experience at SEA LIFE Brighton