Brighton Royal Pavilion

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October, 2021

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To understand the Royal Pavilion building, it is important to understand some of its history. and how Brighton was transformed from a small fishing village to a fashionable resort renowned for the therapeutic qualities of its sea water and patronised by high society.

George first visited Brighton in the 1760s when it was rapidly becoming fashionable for the rich and famous to visit. Not only did he want to escape the constraints of court he was also recommended it on health grounds. His physicians considered sea water might help the swelling of the glands in his neck. A further attraction was the the lively company, fast living, gambling and the races!

He had originally stayed with an uncle but soon decided he needed his own establishment, especially as he had installed Mrs Fitzherbert, a Roman Catholic, who he had secretly married.

He acquired a small farmhouse in Brighton on the Steine and hired architect Henry Holland to build him a “‘pavilion by the sea.'”: This was a two storey neo-classical building with three main rooms (breakfast room, dining room and library) and a central rotunda. George showed off his love of art and fashion with it lavishly furnishings, especially Chinese furniture and wallpaper.

With the increasing status of the Prince of Wales, the Marine Pavilion was soon extended with a new dining room and conservatory as well as a “grand riding school and stables”:http:// in the Indian style of architecture.

This dwarfed the Marine Pavilion and could stable 62 horses, with quarters for grooms and ostlers above. It had a lead and glass domed roof with an octagonal pool and fountain for watering the horses.

In 1811 George was sworn in as Prince Regent and the building was deemed as unsuitable for the large social events and entertaining required of him.

John Nash was commissioned between 1815 -1823 to transform the modest villa into a magnificent oriental palace, inspired by Indian architecture along with Gothic elements.

Large state rooms were added to the north and south with tent shaped roofs. Nash superimposed a cast iron frame onto Holland’s earlier construction to support a magnificent “vista”: of minarets, domes and pinnacles on the exterior.

George was determined that the palace should be the ultimate in comfort and convenience. Particular attention was paid by his architect and designers to lighting, heating and sanitation, as well as to the provision of the most modern equipment of the day for the Great Kitchen.

No expense was spared on the interior with many rooms, galleries and corridors being carefully decorated with the latest fashion in Chinese wallpaper and Chinoiserie. It was designed to impress both outside and in.

George became king in 1820, but increased responsibilities and ill-health, meant he only made two further visits to Brighton in 1824 and 1827.

William IV continued to visit Brighton and stay at the Royal Pavilion. Although William and Adelaide continued to entertain at the Royal Pavilion, it was in a much more informal style than the glamour and extravagances.

Queen Victoria made her first visit to the Royal Pavilion in 1837, however the lack of space and its association with the lavishness of George IV made Queen Victoria feel uncomfortable. She bought Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight as the private family home.

The Pavilion and surrounding grounds were sold to the town of Brighton for £53,000 in 1850, saving it from the threat of demolition. However, they only bought the buildings and not the contents. Many of the furniture and fixings were removed to either Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.

Brighton continued to prosper in the mid 19th century and the opening of the new London to Brighton railway marked the beginning of mass tourism and the Royal Pavilion was opened to the public, with an admission fee of 6d. Queen Victoria returned many unused items, including chandeliers, wall paintings and fixtures. This has continued to the present day.

During World War I, the Royal Pavilion was converted into a hospital for Indian soldiers, who had been wounded on the Western Front. In 1914, while the British Army was still recruiting and training soldiers, the Indian Army made up almost a third of the British Expeditionary Force. Medical facilities were urgently needed and it was felt there was neither the expertise of facilities in France. It was converted in less than two weeks with 600 beds, and X ray equipment. The Great Kitchen was turned into an operating theatre.
Over 2300 prisoners were treated and care was taken to care for the different needs of Muslims and Hindus.

In 1915, the Indian Army was redeployed in the Middle East. The Royal Pavilion was now used to treat British soldiers who had lost arms or legs in the war. It helped teach them new skills and in their rehabilitation.

The splendid “India Gate”: was built in 1921 as a gift from the people of India in thanks for caring for wounded Indian soldiers during World War One.

In 1920 a programme of restoration began funded by a settlement made by the government for the damage done to the building during its use as a hospital. Queen Mary returned original decorations, including furniture that had remained at Buckingham Palace.
From 1946, an annual Regency Exhibition was held when rooms were furnished with suitable pieces lent specially. These were so popular, it was decided the Pavilion should be furnished and restored as closely as possible to its 1822 appearance. The queen has permanently loaned many items from the Royal Collection.

There is more information and all my pictures “here.”:


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