I’ve lived in Brighton for over six years but, until last weekend, had never gotten around to going inside the iconic Royal Pavilion. I think when you actually live somewhere, there can be a tenancy not to do the touristy things that day-trippers come to see, putting them off safe in the knowledge they’ll always be there to explore some other day. In the hustle and bustle of busy lives these on-the-doorstep ‘to do’s’ are all too easily forgotten and never quite manage to come to fruition, which is a shame.
For me, it was time to rectify this misdemeanour and venture inside the imposing Pavilion building I have walked past and admired from the outside countless times. Intrigued to learn more about how and why it was built, I knew shamefully little about the history of the building.
Built for King George IV as a seaside retreat, it was first named the Marine Pavilion and designed in a neoclassical style but was later heavily extended and reworked in the Indo-Islamic fashion recognisable as it stands today by architect John Nash. It’s fascinating and tremulous past included everything from being used as a descreet bolthole for illicite Royal love affairs to construction errors which nearly saw it crumble and even acting as an emergency hospital ward and operation theatre for Indian soldiers during the war.
Entering the Pavilion is like stepping back in time.
The colourful history of the building weighs heavy on the atmosphere and it’s impossible to wonder around each of the extravagantly decorated rooms without contemplating all those people who have walked there before you.
The banqueting hall for example, log fire burning with the huge table laid as if ready to host an imminent royal feast, has all the echos of the past conversations which must have taken place around it. In the kitchen, with its industrial sized cookers and grills along with an army of pots and pans, it is easy to imagine a Royal feast being furiously prepared by the staff who once worked there.
To preserve the furniture and decorative items within from light damage, the curtains within the rooms are drawn and only the most minimal of artificial illumination is used. This adds to the cacooned, atmospheric stillness within the building and makes it all the harder to conceive this place really is right in the middle of buzzing Brighton’s city centre.
Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside, so these featured images are from the official Pavilion website, where you can view more photographs of the interior and also find details about purchasing tour tickets, opening times and get other general information.
Whether you live in Brighton or are just visiting, the Pavilion tour is definitely worth doing and discounts are available for Brighton residents.