Brighton Pavilion, an exotic and eccentric palace, was built by George IV as a retreat from his parents and the formality of the royal court where he could indulge his various passions for gambling, women, horses and lavish entertaining.
Designed by architect John Nash in 1815, it dramatically reflected the unusual taste and interests of the then Prince Regent, who was fascinated by the Orient.
The pavilion combined the grandeur of the Regency period with the opulence of Indian and Chinese inspired design. It caused a sensation when completed in 1823 with its Indian type minarets, domes and pinnacles.
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The interiors were equally lavish with extravagant decoration and furnishings throughout, all in the popular ‘Chinoiserie’ style. King George, was able to entertain regally with concerts, balls and banquets that indulged his notorious fondness for food, once even hosting a meal consisting of 100 courses.
Queen Victoria was not fond of the pavilion, finding it lacked privacy and when she sold it in 1845 the palace was stripped of all its decorations and furnishings. To save the pavilion from demolition it was purchased by the local council and is the only royal palace not owned by the state or the crown. Queen Victoria later returned many of the items including the magnificent banqueting room chandelier, 30 feet in height and weighing 1 ton and hanging from the claws of a gigantic silvered dragon.
In 2020 a further 124 decorative items that once belonged to George IV will be on a short-term loan from Buckingham Palace. This will be the first time that these rare and fascinating pieces will have been on public display for over 170 years.
Over the intervening years since its completion the pavilion has been subject to many drastic renovations, in fact the exterior started to leak almost immediately. The latest renovation, of the Saloon, has only recently been completed having taken 3 years of work including hand stencilling 17,000 diamond shapes on the walls using platinum leaf, recreating both the exotic carpet of flowers, birds, dragons and sunburst and the vivid red textiles of the curtains and wall panels. The Saloon has been described as “blindingly bright”.
The pavilion is an astonishing and extraordinary place and as a further treat the Art Gallery, within the grounds, holds an extensive collection of Fine Art from the 15th to the 20th century as well as other numerous exhibits. It is also in close proximity to the famous Lanes, a maze of historic alleyways where there is a mix of eating places, boutiques, antique and jewellery shops. Finally, it is also within walking distance of the sea front and the Palace pier. It should make a wonderful day visit with something to interest everyone.