In my last blog I touched briefly upon the infamous architecture of John Nash. Nash was commissioned by the Prince Regent, later King George IV, to design many buildings and gardens in England. Among those commissioned was the Royal Pavilion, located in the seaside town of Brighton on the south coast of Great Britain. The Pavilion is a magnificent structure, and if you aren’t aware of its history, it’s definitely one to make you ask, how did THAT get there?
By the mid-18th century, Brighton had been transformed from a small fishing village to a fashionable resort town. This was largely because people believed seawater could improve their health.
It is said that the Prince of Wales visited Brighton in 1783, at the age of 21. George’s uncle, Prince Henry, the Duke of Cumberland, resided in the area and shared the same tastes as the Regent in regards to cuisine, gaming, and fast living. As you can imagine, George visited him often. George’s doctor also told him the seawater would be good for his gout.
In 1786, under financial backlash due to his extravagant spending in building Carlton House, the Regent decided to rent a farmhouse in Brighton, on the future site of the Pavilion. The Pavilion ended up being a remote, discreet location for the Regent to enjoy liaisons and meet secretly with his long-time companion, Maria Fitzherbert.
In 1787 the designer of Carlton House, Henri Holland enlarged the Pavilion in the neo-classical style. In 1801-02 the designer Peter Frederick Robinson was hired to enlarge the Pavilion again. Robinson’s designs included a new dining room and conservatory. The Prince Regent also purchased the land surrounding the Pavilion and from 1803-08 the designer William Porden created a riding school and a large riding stable built in the Indian style, which could house up to sixty horses. In researching this I can only conclude that the Prince was addicted to spending money and even after having to beg his father for funds to finish Carlton House, he could not seem to curb his expenditures.
Between 1815-1822 John Nash redesigned and extended the Pavilion to the masterpiece we see today. The structure is built in the Indo-Saracenic style, which was prevalent in India for most of the 19th century. The building has the most extravagant Chinese influenced interiors ever seen in the British Isles.
After the death of King George IV in 1830, his successor, King William IV stayed at the pavilion when he visited Brighton. Nevertheless, Queen Victoria disliked Brighton, due to the lack of privacy at the Pavilion, especially since, by this time, the area was now accessible by railway. Londoners were now able to make day trips to the area. Queen Victoria eventually sold the Royal Pavilion and surrounding properties to Brighton in 1850. This marked the beginnings of the site’s tourism.
During the First World War, the Pavilion was used as a military hospital. Today, over 400,000 people visit the Pavilion annually.