Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Prinny's Seaside Palace

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton, the classic view - of the back!
Way back in 1750, Doctor Russell, a medical practitioner in Lewes, Sussex, published his Dissertation on Use of Sea Water in the Diseases of the Glands, in which he lauded the medicinal benefits of bathing in sea water. Indeed, he was so impressed with sea water that he even encouraged people to drink it.  This was some years before the birth of a son to King George III and Queen Charlotte, a son who was also christened George.

The young George, Prince of Wales, grew to enjoy an extravagant lifestyle, filled with horse racing and gambling, eating and drinking, dancing and the theatre.  By the age of 21, in 1783, he was already starting to suffer ill-health, probably a result of his way of life, and he was recommended by his physician to take the waters at Brighton, which was fast becoming a very fashionable town. 

The banqueting room.  The chandelier is 30 feet high and weighs one ton.
George - or Prinny, as he is often called - fell in love.  With Brighton and its fashionable society, its horse racing on the Downs, the meeting rooms.  And with the twice-widowed Maria Fitzherbert, whom he married both secretly an illegally. Although Prinny and Maria considered themselves married, they lived in separate houses when in Brighton - which was much of the time.  Maria lived in Steine House overlooking the Steine, the area previously used by fishermen for drying their nets which had, by then, become a fashionable promenading place.  Prinny rented a farmhouse just to the north of the Steine.  Presumably he bought this house because when in 1787 the House of Commons agreed to clear his debts and increase his income, George began to transform his Brighton farmhouse into an elegant modest villa, the Marine Pavilion.
The music room with its lotus chandeliers.

It was in 1815 that Prinny employed the architect John Nash to extend and transform the Marine Pavilion.  It took eight years to bring the work to an end but Prinny, or King George IV as he was by then, only visited twice more before his death in 1830.

It was Queen Victoria who succeeded George but she disliked Brighton and especially the lack of privacy afforded by the Royal Pavilion.  In 1850 there were plans to demolish it but the Brighton Commissioners were successful in persuading the government to sell it for £53,000 and so bought the building for the town.  The purchase included the nearby royal stables which had been built to a design complementary to the Pavilion.

The Dome, one-time stables, now a concert hall.
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.  In 1914-1915, both the Pavilion and the Dome were used as a hospital for Indian soldiers wounded in France and Flanders.  When in 1916 the Indian troops were redeployed to the Middle East, the hospitals were used for British troops.

After the war, the southern gate to the Pavilion grounds was erected as a gift from the people of India in gratitude to Brighton for the way their soldiers had been treated.

The Indian Gate.

It seems quite crazy now, but there was a suggestion back in the 1980s or thereabouts that the Pavilion be demolished - to make way for a bus station!  Fortunately, that never happened and, instead, the council spent huge sums of money restoring the building.  Much of the original furniture has been loaned by the Queen so that visitors see the building as it was almost two hundred years ago.  Even the gardens have been relaid and replanted in accordance with the original plans.

Some photos are my own.  Others have been shamelessly borrowed from various sources.


joeh said...

If this was in the USA, we would have a shiny, tacky new bus station.

I like your way better.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

I can add to Joe's comment that the busses would always be late and only run between the hours of 9:30am and 3:00pm.

Meg said...

Beautiful, but I think it would all be a parking lot in Texas.