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The Eclectic Style and History of the Royal Pavilion

10th May 2019

The Royal Pavilion, often referred to as the Brighton Pavilion, is a unique British landmark. It sits proudly in the centre of the city and is in close proximity to the seafront.

It is one of the best known landmarks of the city and the country's coastline. Here's the history behind this amazing building.

Royal Pavilion History

Building the Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion was originally a farmhouse prior to renovations that began in 1787. It was adapted to become the pleasure palace of King George IV, the then Prince Regent.

It is built in the Indo-Saracenic style that was popular with British architects in India for most of the 19th century. It mixes classic Indian style with Gothic revival. Plus, the French Neo-Classical motifs which were known to be George's cup of tea.

The expansion occurred in stages, growing to accommodate the persons of residence and their staff. These later included both King William IV and Queen Victoria.

George, however, first took residence in Brighton under a cloud as Parliament investigated his extravagances. These were due to renovations of a London mansion, Carlton House.

As a result he relocated to the then considerably more humble property opposite the Old Stein. By 1787, he was employing the designer of his former dwelling, Henry Holland.

The enlargements included one wing of the Marine Pavilion and a central rotunda. The breakfast room, dining room, and library, in the former, were heavily influenced by Neo-Classical style.

In 1801-2 a new dining room and conservatory were added, by Holland's colleague, Peter Frederick Robinson. The surrounding land was added to the estate with an overly sized riding school and stables. This was done in Indian designs by William Porden (whose background was Gothic Revival).

The Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion

The existing appearance of Brighton's Royal Pavilion is down to John Nash whose 1815-22 redesign greatly expanded the property. These elements also included the domes and minarets synonymous with the building.

King George IV was described by many as a vain and extravagant man with a passion for fashion, art, and architecture. He lent this flamboyant style to the project. He was determined that the palace should be the ultimate in comfort and convenience.

He especially chose Chinese export furniture, objects, and hand-painted wallpapers. Indian influences were also chosen to match the stylistic choices of the structure.

The Royal Pavilion

Brighton's Royal Pavilion

Twenty years after the King's death, in 1850 the Royal Pavilion was sold to the Town of Brighton for £53,000. Though it had been frequented by successor King William IV, Queen Victoria did not approve.

The city's purchase started the long restoration journey. This saw the stables converted into a concert hall, now known as Brighton Dome. There's also the Corn Exchange (formerly the riding house), smaller theatres, and a cafe which continue to this day.

Queen Victoria then returned fittings in the late 1860s which were originally removed upon sale for use elsewhere. It has, however, entirely been a journey of twists and turns.

Brighton Pavilion was temporarily converted into a World War I hospital. After that period, George V and Queen Mary returned more furnishings to the property.

The Royal Pavilion

In the 1950s Queen Elizabeth II gave a permanent loan of over 100 pieces, fittings, and a few furnishings. It then suffered a 1975 arson attack.

Over the years, the Royal Pavilion has been faithfully brought back whether this was done through structural repairs or replacements. Plus, there's replications of internal aspects, all culminating in splendid interiors.

The Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion Now

Today the Pavilion is a living testament to King George IV’s regency dream. From the music room to the private apartments, it has been lovingly restored as accurately as possible. Every piece of available evidence was examined, whether original fragments, drawings or prints, and archives.

It can be viewed by the public in tours, of both the rooms and the grounds. It's also available for as a wedding venue.

The interior, by modern terms, has become an ode to eclecticism. The bold tones, mix of patterns, and the balance of both continue to be inspiring.

It's not just history and amazing interiors that the pavilion has to offer, every year they host fascinating exhibitions. Currently on display is a selection of the most famous designs from milliner Stephen Jones OBE. His hats have adorned the heads of fashion icons from Lady Gaga to Princess Diana.

This current exhibition is only on display until 9th June 2019 so don't miss out. Alternatively if you'd prefer to visit later on in the year you won't be disappointed by the charming outdoor ice rink. The Pavilion gardens are annually transformed and it's truly a worthwhile visit for all the family.