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Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion
View of the Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion is located in Brighton
Royal Pavilion
Location in Brighton, England
General information
Type Palace
Architectural style Indo-Saracenic Revival
Town or city Brighton
Country United Kingdom
Construction started 1787
Completed 1823
Owner Brighton & Hove City Council
Design and construction
Architect John Nash
Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion also known as the "Brighton Pavilion" is a former royal residence located in Prince Regent in 1811. It is often referred to as the Brighton Pavilion. It is built in the Indo-Saracenic style prevalent in India for most of the 19th century. The current appearance of the Pavilion, with its domes and minarets, is the work of architect John Nash, who extended the building starting in 1815.[1]


  • History 1
  • Purchase by Brighton 2
  • First World War 3
  • Tourism 4
  • Marriage venue 5
  • References and notes 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


The Prince of Wales, who later became George IV, first visited Brighton in 1783, at the age of 21. The seaside town had become fashionable through the residence of George's uncle, Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland, whose tastes for cuisine, gaming, the theatre and fast living the young prince shared, and with whom he lodged in Brighton at Grove House. In addition, his physician advised him that the seawater would be beneficial for his gout. In 1786, under a financial cloud that had been examined in Parliament for the extravagances incurred in building Carlton House, London, he rented a modest erstwhile farmhouse facing the Steine, a grassy area of Brighton used as a promenade by visitors. Being remote from the Royal Court in London, the Pavilion was also a discreet location for the Prince to enjoy liaisons with his long-time companion, Maria Fitzherbert. The Prince had wished to marry her, and did so in secrecy, as her Roman Catholic religion ruled out marriage under the Royal Marriages Act 1772.

The richly decorated Banqueting Room at the Royal Pavilion, from John Nash's Views of the Royal Pavilion (1826).

In 1787 the designer of Carlton House, Henry Holland, was employed to enlarge the existing building, which became one wing of the Marine Pavilion, flanking a central rotunda, which contained only three main rooms, a breakfast room, dining room and library, fitted out in Holland's French-influenced neoclassical style, with decorative paintings by Biagio Rebecca. In 1801–02 the Pavilion was enlarged with a new dining room and conservatory, to designs of Peter Frederick Robinson, in Holland's office. The Prince also purchased land surrounding the property, on which a grand riding school and stables were built in an Indian style in 1803–08, to designs by William Porden; these dwarfed the Marine Pavilion, in providing stabling for sixty horses.[2]

Between 1815 and 1822 the designer John Nash redesigned and greatly extended the Pavilion, and it is the work of Nash which can be seen today. The palace looks rather striking in the middle of Brighton, having a very Indo-Islamic appearance on the outside. However, the fanciful interior design, primarily by Frederick Crace and the little-known decorative painter Robert Jones, is heavily influenced by both Chinese and Indian fashion (with Mughal and Islamic architectural elements). It is a prime example of the exoticism that was an alternative to more classicising mainstream taste in the Regency style.

Purchase by Brighton

The Royal Pavilion at dusk

After the death of George IV in 1830, his successor King William IV also stayed in the Pavilion on his frequent visits to Brighton. Queen Victoria, however, disliked Brighton and the lack of privacy the Pavilion afforded her on her visits there, especially once Brighton became accessible to Londoners by rail in 1841, and the cramped quarters it provided her growing family. Famously, Queen Victoria disliked the constant attention she attracted in Brighton, saying "the people here are very indiscreet and troublesome".[3] She purchased the land for Osborne House in the Isle of Wight, which became the summer home of the royal family. After her last visit to Brighton in 1845, the Government planned to sell the building and grounds. The Brighton Commissioners and the Brighton Vestry successfully petitioned the Government to sell the Pavilion to the town for £53,000 in 1850 under the Brighton Improvement (Purchase of the Royal Pavilion and Grounds) Act 1850.[4] In 1860, the adjacent royal stables were converted to a concert hall now known as the Brighton Dome. The town used the building as assembly rooms. Many of the Pavilion's original fixtures and fittings were removed on the order of the royal household at the time of the sale, most ending up either in Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. Queen Victoria returned to Brighton large quantities of unused fittings in the late 1860s. George V and Queen Mary returned more after the First World War. Since the Second World War, the municipality of Brighton has spent a great deal of time, effort and money restoring the Pavilion to its state at the time of King George IV, encouraged by the permanent loan of over 100 items of furniture from Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s, and has undertaken an extensive programme of restoring the rooms, reinstating stud walls, and creating replicas of some original fittings and occasionally pieces of furniture.

First World War

Hospital beds at the Dome during the First World War
The Chattri, a memorial marking funeral pyre of Indian servicemen who died in the Pavilion's Great War hospital

During the First World War, the Pavilion, along with other sites in Brighton, was transformed into a military hospital. From December 1914 to January 1916, sick and wounded soldiers from the Indian Army were treated in the former palace. The Pavilion hospital also incorporated the adjacent Dome and Corn Exchange—buildings which had formerly been part of the stable complex that accompanied the palace.

The Pavilion hospital was set up with two operating theatres and over 720 beds. Over 2,300 men were treated at the hospital, and elaborate arrangements were made to cater for the patients religious and cultural needs. Nine different kitchens were set up in the grounds of the hospital, so that food could be cooked by the soldiers' fellow caste members and co-religionists. Muslims were given space on the eastern lawns to pray facing towards Mecca, while Sikhs were provided with a tented gurdwara in the grounds.

The Pavilion was partly used in imperial efforts to convince potential Indian recruits that their wounded countrymen were being well treated: a series of photographs was produced, with the official sanction of the state, showing the resplendent rooms converted into hospital wards (few pictures were taken of the local workhouse, renamed the Kitchener Indian Hospital, now Brighton General Hospital, which housed the majority of wounded troops). The soldiers also received visits from Lord Kitchener in July 1915, and King George V in August of the same year who presented several soldiers with military honours.

The Indian hospital closed at the end of January 1916, as most Indian Army had been withdrawn from the Western Front and redeployed to the Middle East. were moved on from Brighton after their redeployment in the Middle East.

The Pavilion reopened as a hospital in April 1916. It became a hospital for 'limbless men', treating British soldiers who had lost arms and legs, usually from amputation. In addition to treating the men's physical needs, a great emphasis was placed on rehabilitating the men by training them in skills and trades. The Pavilion hospital operated until the summer of 1920, when the building was handed back to Brighton Corporation.


The purchase of the Royal Pavilion from Queen Victoria, by Brighton, marked the beginnings of the site’s tourism dominance through the Royal Pavilion’s transition from a private residence to a public attraction under civic ownership. Today, around 400,000 people visit the Royal Pavilion annually.[5]

Marriage venue

The Royal Pavilion is licensed as venue for weddings. On 29 March 2014, the Royal Pavilion was host to one of a number of the very first legal same-sex marriages to take place in the United Kingdom following the passing of the 2013 Same Sex Couples Act.[6][7]

References and notes

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ David Beevers, ed., The Royal Pavilion, Brighton: Souvenir Guide and Catalogue 2008:5.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^

Further reading

  • Dinkel, John, 1983. The Royal Pavilion, Brighton
  • Morley, John, 1983. The Making of the Royal Pavilion
  • Musgrave, Clifford, 1951. Royal Pavilion: A Study in the Romantic
  • Musgrave, Clifford, 1959. Royal Pavilion: An Episode in the Romantic
  • Roberts, Henry D, 1939. The History of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton
  • Rutherford, Jessica M.F., 2003. A Prince's Passion: The life of the Royal Pavilion.

External links

  • The Royal Pavilion and Museums' official website
  • Images of the Royal Pavilion
  • Doctor Brighton's Pavilion The Royal Pavilion as a hospital for soldiers of the British Indian Army during World War I
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