The six locomotives in this class were built at Brighton railway works and appeared in traffic between October 1878 and March 1880, intended to replace earlier classes designed by John Chester Craven on the heaviest express trains between London and Brighton. They performed well on these duties for a decade but were eventually replaced by Stroudley's larger "Gladstone" class (B1). They were then transferred to Eastbourne and St Leonards to work on expresses from those towns.
During the winter of 1900/01 members of the class were transferred to the duplicate list. Withdrawal commenced in April 1901 and was completed by November 1904. No examples were preserved.
They were originally classified as "B class" together with the members of the larger "Gladstone class". As all six locomotives had been withdrawn before D.E. Marsh introduced his letter/number classification scheme, they were never officially allocated a new class designation. They were, however, described as 'D3 class'.