Founded in 1845 by William Aldwin Soames, who collected a group of likeminded local citizens to join him in the task, Brighton College was the first public school to be founded in Sussex. It was designed in the Gothic Revival style by Sir George Gilbert Scott RA and Sir Thomas Graham Jackson RA.

Brighton College occupies a significant niche in the development of English secondary education during the nineteenth century: it helped to promote the use of individual classrooms for teaching small groups; it was an early pioneer in teaching both modern languages and science, and later erected the first purpose-built science laboratory (in 1871); it invented the school magazine (1852) and set up the first gymnasium (in 1859). The school’s own development also questions the ‘traditional’ account of how the Victorian public schools developed in England – at Brighton, the school started with a ban on the use of corporal punishment (which lasted until 1851); the school captain was elected by universal suffrage among the entire pupil body until 1878, when a prefect system was also introduced; games remained voluntary until 1902 (and team members had chosen their own captain and awarded colours to their outstanding players until 1878). In other words, the emerging public schools did not all automatically follow a common model or implement a common blueprint developed by Dr Arnold at Rugby School; Brighton’s reputation for innovation was evident from its earliest days.