Newest Review: ... The audio tour describes the Prince as a person, as well as that period in history, and not just the building, so you will hear lots ... more
Royal Pavilion (Brighton)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Royal Pavilion (Brighton)
Advantages: Stunning Georgian Home
Disadvantages: Expensive admission
The Prince Regent (later King George IV) was a bit of a man about town and used to enjoy his breaks in Brighton before minor inconveniences like reigning got in the way, and it was to his specifications that the Royal Pavilion was built. The original building was started in 1787, and the building was expanded on up until 1823. It is based in central Brighton and is now owned by the local authority. Parking in the city centre is a nightmare so I suggest walking if you can or using local public transport - the station is 10-15mins walk away.
Admission was £9.80 (concessions are available, as are family and group tickets. Discounted prices are also available to local residents) which may seem a bit steep but I think it is worth it. We arrived one sunny Sunday in the afternoon and handed over our dosh to the distracted receptionist who seemed unimpressed with her ticket machine. So distracted in fact, that she forgot to tell us about the included audio tour. It wasn't until we got into the first room and saw the numbered indicators that we realised there was one available, and back tracked to reception. They are available in several languages and there was a children's version too. I found the audio tour very informative, but if you prefer to not use it, they do have a board in each room describing its function. The audio tour describes the Prince as a person, as well as that period in history, and not just the building, so you will hear lots of information. However, parts can be skipped if not to your taste. There is probably a guide book too, but I expect the receptionist forgot to tell us again.
The land originally belonged to a farmhouse which was bought by the Prince and done up to become the more modest Marine Pavilion. John Nash took it over in 1815, after George became Regent and turned the building into what we see today. The nearby Brighton Museum and Brighton Dome Theatre were originally his stables. This fellow didn't do things by halves. I am not going to describe every room we visited, but I am going to mention a few personal highlights. Much of the style of the Pavilion is chinoiserie, which is Oriental influenced and was a very fashionable at the time and a favourite with the Prince.
As both Prince and King, George loved entertaining and the ladies. The largest room and one of the most impressive is the Banqueting room. It is a long and tall room dominated by a magnificent chandelier. The chandelier is 30 foot long and reported to weigh a ton. The chandelier is set in the recess of one of the domes which has palm leaves painted on it. There are a number of palm leaves made from copper, if I recall correctly, attached to the painted dome to give it a three dimensional effect. From here a silver dragon 'holds' the chandelier in his claws. Within the chandelier are smaller dragons 'breathing fire' into lotus flower shades as well as countless shimmery crystals. Subtle it isn't.
Another opulent and very over the top room is the Music Room decorated in rich reds and blues with lots of gold. There are swathes of fabrics draped across one side and lots of gold snakes coiling up pillars, not to mention a fair quotient of dragons. This is where the King's private band would play. The recess of the dome is filled with thousands of gold 'shells', and would certainly have been a good way for George to impress his guests.
It was reported that George often spent more time with his personal tailor than his ministers and there is a small temporary exhibition on at the moment called Dress for Excess, which runs until February 2012. It shows a range of Regency outfits for both men and women, including a number of items of clothing that belonged to the king himself. It would appear that George rather liked his food too. Some of general items of clothing are dotted around the pavilion, plus there is one smallish room dedicated to just this exhibition which also shows his spectacular coronation robe, which isn't usually on display. There is also a small exhibition showing how the Pavilion was used during World War II where it was an army hospital for Indian soldiers. I believe this is a permanent exhibition.
In addition to these public rooms and some others, we also get to see the private rooms used by George, his family and successors. After King George IV's death in 1830, his brother William IV took over and he did use the Pavilion for entertaining, but too a less extravagant extent. When their niece Queen Victoria succeeded to the throne, she visited occasionally, but was no doubt uncomfortable with the level of opulence, having more modest tastes. Being prolific in child-bearing, she soon outgrew it and sold the Pavilion to the people of Brighton in 1850.
On the first floor is a small tea room which sells sandwiches, some hot dishes and cream teas. We enjoyed a cheese scone here. Postcards are available for 50p and there is a more extensive gift shop as you exit on the ground floor.
Overall we enjoyed an hour and a half here (including a brief tea stop) and I found this an informative and fascinating place to visit and a must for anyone who enjoys historic houses. The Pavilion is open daily apart from at Christmas, with slightly reduced hours in the winter months.
Access for wheelchair users is restricted to the ground floor only.
4/5 Pavilion Buildings
Telephone 03000 290900
Fax 03000 290908
Summary: A must see in Brighton
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