"All good things are wild and free." --Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Special posting by Laura Jane Waters, authentic British lady and history geek

The Prince of Wales (b.1762) first came to Brighton in 1783 to escape from the restrictive court of his father King George III. He enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the small town, and rented a house there for the following few social seasons. By 1786-7 he had commissioned an architect, Henry Holland, to convert and extend a farmhouse in the centre of town. From 1801-4 it was further extended and the interior was redecorated. Finally between 1815 and 1823 it was almost totally rebuilt and redecorated in the Indian and Chinese style by architect John Nash and interior decorators Frederick Crace and Robert Jones.

(no photos allowed inside...)
The Prince finally became King George IV in 1821 but by then he was in ill-health and spending most of his time at Windsor. He died in 1830 and one of his brothers became King William IV. When he died in 1837 their niece Victoria became Queen. She visited only a few times before she purchased Osborne House on the Isle of Wight as a more private Royal Family summer home, and sold the Pavilion to the town. Most of the contents and furnishings were removed to the other royal residences and parts of the service wings were demolished.

Tea on the grounds outside
During the First World War, the Pavilion was used firstly as a military hospital for Indian soldiers injured fighting for the Empire on the Western Front and then as a hospital for limbless British troops. After the war restoration of the state rooms began in earnest, particularly under the directorship of Henry Roberts and with the support of Queen Mary who began the ongoing return and loan of some of the original contents from the Royal Collection. The Pavilion was opened to the public, largely for functions and community use, until the 1970s when it was finally devoted to its own display.

Restoration continues and the Pavilion is now Brighton's most famous and iconic landmark and visitor attraction. It is the only former Royal palace now in local government ownership, and a fine monument to Regency culture. It is the flagship site for the five museums owned by Brighton and Hove City Council.

  • the fabulous Banqueting Room and Music Room, designed for lavish entertaining and the kitchens which were so impressive for their time that George even took his guests in here!
  • ongoing restoration in the Saloon - check out the delicate gold leaf being painstakingly applied to the cornices around the ceiling. If you visit in the week you may be able to talk to the conservator!
  • Hill Baby with a stroller found in the trash bin
  • a small display on the upper floor about the Indian Military Hospital with period film, paintings and photographs
  • changing annual displays in the new Prince Regent Gallery - until Feb 2012 you can check out Dress for Excess, with examples of Georgian costume displayed around the building and an exhibition about the Prince Regent in the gallery at the end of the visitor route
Musician Linos Wengara Magaya outside the Pavilion
  • delicious seasonal/local food and drink in the Queen Adelaide Tea Room on the upper floor, with a balcony that is open for the summer months
  • the views from the Pavilion gardens - there is a lovely cafe here between April and September (but watch out for the scavenging seagulls) and the flowers are spectacular in the summer months
Laura Waters, history buff and guest writer for Hill Babies
Snapdragons in their summer best

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Contemplating the history of the Royal Pavilion
Consider the following points of interest for Hill Babies in the area:

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