They were the last express passenger design of William Stroudley, and were a larger and improved version of his Richmond class of 1878. Thirty-six locomotives were turned out from Brighton railway works between 1882 and 1891, and were used for the heaviest London to Brighton express trains. All were named after politicians, men associated with the railway, or places served by the railway. In 1889 No.189 Edward Blount was exhibited at the 1889 Paris Exhibition and received a gold medal.
The locomotives were originally designated "Class B" together with the "Richmond Class" but were later designated B1 class by D.E. Marsh.
During the first decade of the twentieth century the class were gradually replaced by BillintonB4 class locomotives and were transferred to secondary duties. Withdrawal began in April 1910 and by the outbreak of the First World War ten had been scrapped.
The first of the class, 214 Gladstone, was preserved as a static exhibit thanks to the efforts of the Stephenson Locomotive Society and is normally on display in the National Railway Museum, York. Gladstone is the only ex LB&SCR tender locomotive to be preserved, as all the other preserved locomotives (ten A1/A1x "Terriers", one E1, and an E4) are tank engines.