PRINCESS BEJARATANA: The Thai Royal family announced the death on 28th July 2011 of Princess Bejaratana (pronounced Pet-Cha-Rat). The Princess had lived for some years after the second world war at No.26 Lewes Crescent, Brighton with her mother, Princess Consort Sudadhana.
She had been born to her mother and the King in November 1925 and was the King’s only child. The King died the day after her birth and her uncle, the new King, performed her naming ceremony. Absolute monarchy only gave way to constitutional rule in 1932 and the play of power between the old feudal system, the military and various democratic forces has been fought out ever since, often with fatal consequences.
The Princess and her mother moved to Dusit Palace where she received her education from a private tutor. They then moved in with the Queen grandmother during the war, and the princess attended school until the age of 12.
After the war, the Princess and her mother moved to England for her further education. They first stayed at Fairhill Villa at Camberley in Surrey before finally moving to Brighton. Her mother is said to have dealt in stocks and shares and had a comfortable living with a retinue of Thai servants. One elderly man who, as a child in 1947, lived 4 doors along from the Royal household in Lewes Crescent, remembers playing in the Lewes Crescent gardens with a Thai girl from the Thai royal household.
The household moved to 30 Dyke Road on 18th January 1955. Princess Bejaratana returned to Thailand in 1957 and thereafter performed duties representing the royal household with special interest in health and welfare. She was said to have a special ability with numbers and could calculate the day of the week for any dates presented to her, promptly and without any hesitation, as well as remembering the birthdays of all individuals who have been presented to her. She was a revered member of the Thai royal family and was given a state funeral in 2011.
CONSORT HOUSE, 26 Lewes Crescent, Brighton, is Brighton’s most exclusive property. It sold for £3.4 million this year. Its Thai history is not so well known locally, being overshadowed by other history connected with the property. Lewis Carroll, author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, reputedly lived somewhere around here. The tunnel in the garden opposite (see below), which leads to the sea-front, is supposed to have led to the creation of the famous ‘Alice’ story.
1949 Simplex ‘Cycloide’ Cross-frame
Frame No 461977
I picked up this 1949 Simplex Cross-frame from my workshops, where it had just had a thorough mechanical overhaul, and it was on my van while I was scouting for a suitable location to photograph another bicycle. I stopped a few doors down from 26 Lewes Crescent and, after photographing the other bike, I noticed the sign in the entrance to this house mentioned the Princess Consort of Thailand, who lived here from 1949 to 1957. It seemed an appropriate location to photograph a 1949 Simplex Cross-frame. (I hope my friend Damrong enjoys it).
The bicycle is a typical Dutch cross-frame. It is a superb utility bike – I’m surprised the same style of bicycle is not built and sold today. The design comes from the English Centaur cross-frame patent; Simplex seems to have commenced production of their cross-frame the same year the Centaur Cycle Co went out of business (1909). The drum brakes were made by Simplex from 1927 onwards. It has twin brake levers – apply pressure to one lever and the other operates automatically. There’s a rear stand. The Brooks mattress saddle has damage at the back. This Simplex is a well-used machine, but has a charming style and is a very sturdy and practical ride.
1936 SIMPLEX CROSS-FRAME
Princess Consort info with thanks to – http://www.kemptownestatehistories.com/lewes-crescent/house-histories/26