Week 5: Wishful Thinking Tour of Britain

Ok, this post really should have been week four post on my personal blog but sometimes you just have to step away from the computer when you don’t feel your best. If you pop by my blog you will notice that our travels on this wishful thinking tour (week 2, week 3) have led us to Brighton, and the Royal Pavilion.

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

 Royal Pavilion~ Brighton, East Sussex

The Royal Pavilion, or Brighton Pavilion, is a palace designed as a seaside retreat for the then Prince Regent. In the mid 1780s George, Prince of Wales, rented a small farmhouse overlooking a fashionable promenade in Brighton. At that time, Brighton was evolving into a seaside retreat for the rich and famous, being so close to London. The Prince of Wales had come on the recommendation of his physician to try the sea water treatments, sea bathing, for his health.

George became enamoured of Brighton and in 1787, after much pleading and promises to the House of Commons, he engaged architect Henry Holland to transform his Brighton farmhouse into a modest villa which became known as the Marine Pavilion. Later on, around 1808, the new stable complex was completed with an impressive lead and glass-domed roof, providing stabling for 62 horses.

Marine Pavilion

And George wasn’t finished expanding his Brighton home. He was sworn in as Prince Regent in 1811 and, since the Marine Pavilion was too modest a size venue for the large social events that George loved to host, he engaged another architect.

The design of Sezincote House—a stunning example of Mogul architecture—in Gloucestershire encouraged George to think on a grand and lavish scale. So in 1815 John Nash—also responsible for Regent’s Park, Carlton House Terrace, Trafalgar Square, St. James’s Park and the Marble Arch—began expansion of the Brighton property. He superimposed a cast iron frame onto Holland’s earlier construction to support minarets, domes and pinnacles on the exterior. No expense was spared on the interior with many rooms, galleries and corridors being carefully decorated with opulent decoration and exquisite furnishings.

Banqueting Room 1826

 However, due to increased responsibilities and ill-health, George only made two further visits to Brighton—1824 and 1827—once the interior of the Royal Pavilion was finished in 1823.

The Royal Pavilion is no longer a royal property. Queen Victoria is said to have found the Pavilion too cramped so she shipped out its contents and decamped to the Isle of Wight. She sold the Royal Pavilion to the town council for the sum of £50,000. Luckily, many of the original furnishings and fittings have since been returned to the Pavilion and are on display.

Interesting facts:

* During the First World War the Pavilion was used as a hospital for wounded Indian servicemen.

* During World War II, Brighton was heavily bombed but the Pavilion escaped damage.

The Pavilion is open to visitors and is also made available for education purposes, banqueting, and weddings year round except a few days around Christmas and for scheduled maintenance. For specific opening hours visit this website.

Upcoming Event:

Dress for Excess: Fashion in Regency England
5 February 2011 to 5 February 2012
@ The Royal Pavilion, The Prince Regent Gallery

This major fashion exhibition celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Regency Act by looking at the life of George IV as prince, regent and king through fashions of the late Georgian period. Men’s and women’s costumes are displayed throughout the palace exploring themes from George’s life and the stylistic influences of the period.

*Sigh* I really want to visit England in the next year! Whose got a spare scratchy?

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