Portraying his life and desires, Royal Pavilion was an escape home for King George IV, where he could gamble and indulge in his other passions such as music and women. The building was designed to reflect the status of the Monarch and to protect the king from the judgment and criticism of his disciples and the press.
Portraying his life and desires, Royal Pavilion was an escape home for King George IV, where he could gamble and indulge in his other passions such as music and women. Being far from the Royal Court in London, Brighton served as a discreet location for the Prince to enjoy liaisons with his mistress.
The structure was originally bought as a superior farmhouse by the Prince, which was further converted into a small neoclassical structure known as the Marine Pavilion, designed by Henry Holland in 1787. The building made quite an impact with the central domed rotunda and glazed tile exterior on its neighboring structures, which were made of brick and stone.
In 1815, John Nash was commissioned to design the Royal Pavilion, both the structure and the elaborate internal decorations. The building was designed to reflect the status of the Monarch and to protect the king from the judgment and criticism of his disciples and the press.
Nash’s vision for Brighton was an amalgamation of the Prince’s aesthetic sensibilities and his colorful personality. The Architecture style of the Pavilion was a blend of Indian, Mughal, European, and Chinese architecture. The elements were a derivation of the design forms and motifs taken from the British colonial experience of the orient. The two major styles reflected were the Indian architecture style, which could be visualized in the exterior, and the decorated Chinese interior.
The domes and minarets found on the exterior of the Royal Pavilion were inspired by Oriental scenery, the collection of drawings by Thomas Daniell, and William Daniell. Although the exterior had the elements of Indian architecture, it had a more Mughal touch with a generic sense of orient. The building had a sense of lightness and airiness due to the rhythmic profusion of the domes and minarets which were supported by the cast iron frames and the vertical thrust.
The spatial organization of the Pavilion was commendable structured which left the visitors impressed and surprised. The Long Gallery, which is the first space after entering the Pavilion, is designed to entertain the guests while avoiding any overlap with the servants. It originally ran a concealed staircase for servants. The Banqueting room was a supreme space meant to showcase the wealth and status of the Prince. It was decorated with three-dimensional copper elements and exotic foliage of a plantain tree, with a low hanging carved silver dragon suspended from a crystal chandelier.
Unlike the other kitchens of that time, the Great kitchen was a room equipped with modern technology, with proximity to the Banqueting room. The Music room gallery served as a space for small concerts and recitals. Whereas, the Music room had a canopy of imitation bamboo hangs, giving an impression of a tent. The chandeliers were suspended from the ceiling with a total of 180 dragons and serpents. The domed ceiling of the room was decorated using 26,000 plaster cockleshells covered in 18-carat gold.
The Pavilion comprised private quarters for King George IV and then later for Queen Victoria. There was a bedroom, library, anteroom, and a bathroom in the King’s private room, whereas the Queen’s room had four attic rooms to accommodate her dressers. Later, the chamber floor was renovated to accommodate Queen Victoria’s children and Prince Albert.
The Royal Pavilion is an epitome of chinoiserie amongst the many royal palaces of Europe. Chinoiserie was inspired by the fantasy of a magical realm and influenced by Chinese goods. The Chinese and Japanese dragons seem like mythical beasts to the British that later became common as common British motifs. The interior of the palace painted a grandeur image of the place with a multitude of generic Chinese features, hexagonal lanterns, silk tassels, and the motif of bamboo, birds, bells, and many more on the walls. The rich colors and the dramatic lighting inside the Pavilion produced an exhilarating atmosphere, which depicted a theatrical spirit. The decorative schemes work from floor to ceiling and increase in richness.
The Pavilion was not limited to the aesthetic characteristics but also was equipped with the latest technological innovations of that time. The dome was made of a cast-iron structure, which was erected on the iron frame above the original dome. Cast iron was also used in the Long Gallery, to construct sturdy staircases which seemed to be made out of bamboo, to match the chinoiserie scheme. Another important interior addition was the steam table in the kitchen, allowing the food to remain warm and ready to serve.
King’s pavilion had the provision of water closets and ladies’ retiring rooms near the Banqueting room. These water closets provided water from the cisterns, where the water was pumped throughout the building using iron mains and lead pipes. Many such innovations were a part of the Pavilion that gave the King a boost to his ego.
The Royal Pavilion had a great impact on the small town of Brighton. Originally being distant from the main court of London, it had a major boost in the development after Nash’s Pavilion. It changed the scenario inside and as well as outside of the farmhouse premises. The Prince also demanded a private racecourse which drastically changed the landscape of the spaces around the Pavilion and Brighton.
It is interesting to know that the Royal Pavilion remains the only royal palace that isn’t owned by the state or the crown. The Pavilion was purchased by the town of Brighton in 1850, under the rule of Queen Victoria because of her lack of amusement with the palace. The royal house was never meant to accommodate a family and lacked a sense of privacy due to the growing population of the town.
The new ownership marked a change in status for the Pavilion and grounds. Formerly a place of decadent exclusivity was later a popular center for wider society to enjoy. After the 1850s, the Pavilion was frequently used for social or civic events such as fests, bazaars, charity balls, exhibitions, and conferences. Later a concert hall was constructed, and a museum, art gallery, and library were built in 1873.
The population eventually grew in the city of Brighton, and with the increased popularity, business venture opportunities, and technological advancements. Cast iron became a fashionable building material, which was used to construct structures such as the West Pier and Palace Pier which gave the seafront a distinct Victorian Character.
The Pavilion underwent a few damages during the First World War. It was used as a military hospital that accommodated 4000 Indian soldiers. Substantial alterations were made within the structure, mainly with the kitchen to accommodate different groups of consumers living in the Pavilion. Later the Indian soldiers contributed two memorials, the Indian Gate on the southern side and the Chattri, which was built above the crematorium grounds.
Even today, the city continues to attract thousands of visitors for holidays and day trips. The town still upholds the charisma of the party-loving owner of the Pavilion, King George IV. The Pavilion remains the centerpiece of the cultural quarter, which now includes the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, the Dome complex, and the Theatre Royal Brighton.
With the advent of the Prince, the city has become a synonym of rebellion and embracing alternative lifestyles. Many other businesses such as pubs, baths, art galleries, and concert halls have flourished and contributed to the rich culture of the city. The Royal Pavilion has transformed the fortunes of Brighton by attracting wealthy visitors. It has become an iconic symbol for the city. It epitomizes the spirit of Brighton, symbolizing fun, innovation, and a healthy disregard for convention.