The history of The Level

Find out how The Level has been restored into a popular open space and events venue.

About The Level

The Level forms part of the Valley Gardens Conservation Area. It is the main open space in this area and is a popular events venue.

People played cricket here from the mid 18th century until 1822. At that time, The Level was laid out by A H Wilds and the local botanist and landscape gardener Henry Philips. Elm avenues were planted along the outer pathway in 1844.

Download a historic timeline of The Level

Development of Brighton's public parks

The 2 men responsible for most of the buying and modernising of Brighton's parks were:

  • Sir Herbert Carden, 3 times Mayor of Brighton from 1916 to 1919
  • Captain Bertie Hubbard MacLaren, Superintendent of Parks and Gardens from 1920 to 1951

Maclaren and The Level

In the 1920s Captain Bertie Hubbard MacLaren redesigned the south end of The Level as a playground and boating pond, with surrounding columns and pergolas.

His designs were illustrated in his plans and described in his journals. 

Download MacLaren's plans for The Level

Download MacLaren's journals

The general layout of The Level is mostly unchanged. The northern part is still a level grassed area for events. The southern part has the remains of the children's playground.

One of the two restored pavilions at the park (the one on Ditchling Road side) is named the MacLaren in his honour. 

Exploring The Level's history

The Level was restored in 2013, and our People's History of The Level exhibition opened. This was a community oral history project to mark the restoration.

Local people shared memories and memorabilia and history and heritage information. It is now admired and enjoyed by many people who hire the space for community meetings and events

Our research included working with an oral historian who trained volunteers to interview and document local residents' stories and memories. The project revealed the park's rich social history. These are the key events and activities associated with The Level in the past:

  • bonfires
  • circuses
  • Coronation feasts
  • Easter celebrations
  • fairs
  • music festivals
  • peace camps
  • play
  • public speeches, including protests.

More information about The Level

My Brighton & Hove website has information on the history of The Level and events taking place there

Go to our website page for park facilities, latest news and updates.