Mr Bell’s Brighton: The Royal Pavilion


Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Brighton’s always had a reputation as a party town and the Royal Pavilion was built as the ultimate party palace. The pavilion was built in three stages beginning in 1787 as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales. The domes and minarets that make the pavilion so unique today are the work of the architect John Nash, who extended the building from 1815.

The first room you see is the original entrance hall, it’s where carriages would arrive delivering guests who would be received in here. It has a deliberately understated look with rooms getting increasingly grander as guests proceeded through the building.

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

From the Entrance Hall you enter the Long Gallery, a much more elaborate room decorated in the Chinese style. In 18th century England this was a very popular form of decoration known by the French word chinoiserie. The wallpaper in here is decorated with bamboo plants and there are Chinese figures that stand along the length of the room.

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Banqueting Room is spectacular and really takes your breath away. The central chandelier is simply stunning with the silver dragon holding the main part of the light in its claws and the canopy of plantain leaves above it. There are dragons all around the room and other oriental figures and motifs. Originally the room would have contained much more silver decor and as it was mainly used at night would have looked even more dazzling in the flickering light from the oil lamps, the large fireplaces and the torcheres at either end of the room.

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Leaving the Banqueting Room you take a little detour behind the scenes, first to the Table Deckers Room and then onto the main kitchen. The Table Deckers Room was used to create the Prince’s sense of theatre. Appearance was very important to George and it was in here that artists worked who were responsible for decorating and laying the table.

The Great Kitchen was one of the most technologically advanced of its period, it was one of five rooms used for preparing food. Unusually the kitchen is right next to the Banqueting Room, not something that was common in that period. George was very proud of his kitchens and guests were regularly brought in to inspect them.

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Just off the Banqueting Room is the Banqueting Room Gallery, a much more sedate room where the ladies would retire to after dinner.

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Saloon sits in the middle of the Royal Pavilion, unfortunately we couldn’t visit it as its undergoing restoration work. John Nash superimposed an iron structure over the existing saloon to support a high dome to create the building that we see today.

The Music Room Gallery is another quieter room that would have been used for conversation and smaller music recitals. If required the carpet could be removed so dancing could take place as well.

The Music Room is another magnificent space, similar in size to the Banqueting Room and just as ornate and opulent. The decoration is by Frederick Crace and is also done in the Chinese style. There are gilded dragons along the walls and down the rooms columns, murals on the walls displaying Chinese scenes with bamboo and pagodas, and beautiful ornate lotus shaped chandeliers.

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The King’s Apartments are unusually situated on the ground of the palace. When George inherited the throne in 1820 he was in poor health so when Nash remodelled the pavilion George had his bedroom moved downstairs. The bed in the room is the one that George died in, at Windsor on 26th June 1830.

The King’s Library and the Library Ante-Room look far more sober than the rest of the pavilion. While George was King he still stayed at the pavilion and used these rooms to receive ministers and to undertake state business, however his visits were becoming less and less as he chose to spend more time at Windsor and the then new Buckingham Palace.

Upstairs there is an exhibition about the pavilion and a tea room, you’ll also find the Yellow Bow Rooms. The Yellow Bow Rooms both north and south were the bedrooms of the King’s brothers, the Duke of York and the Duke of Clarence. The north room was the bedroom of the Duke of York, the inspiration of the famous nursery rhyme The Grand Old Duke of York. The south room belonged to the Duke of Clarence who was crowned William the Fourth after George’s death.

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

After Williams death the throne passed to Princess Victoria of Kent who became Queen Victoria in 1837. Victoria didn’t care too much for the pavilion, it wasn’t that she disliked the design, she had some of the interiors moved and placed in Buckingham Palace, she just found it too small and not very private. Inside Queen Victoria’s bedroom is a reconstruction of her bed. The room has been restored to its 1840 appearance.

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The South Gallery is where George’s guests would have taken breakfast when they were visiting the pavilion. Just off the South Gallery is the Prince of Wales bedroom where George would have slept before he became too ill.

Photo courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Queen Victoria eventually decided to sell the pavilion and use the money to buy what became Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight. Luckily Brighton Council managed to buy the pavilion and save it from demolition. The interiors of this incredible building really are stunning and Brighton Council have done an amazing job restoring the pavilion to its former glory, if you get the chance I’d highly recommend a visit.

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