With BBC4 running a series on the Regency we thought we would take a closer look at one of the regency icons Brighton Pavilion and its architect John Nash. A huge statement in its time, the Pavilion has gone on to become a symbol of the seaside town.
Over 7 years between 1815 and 1822 John Nash redesigned the Prince Regent George the IV ‘s neo-classical Marine Pavilion into and amazingly elaborate Indo-Saracenic style building. Nash superimposed a cast iron frame onto Holland’s earlier construction to support a magnificent vista of minarets, domes and pinnacles on the exterior.
George then hired artist-designers Frederick Crace and Robert Jones to create the extravagant chinoiserie interiors of the Pavilion. No expense was spared with rooms, galleries and corridors all carefully decorated with opulent decoration and exquisite furnishings.
As well as the Brighton Pavilion John Nash left a lasting impression on Regency London designing Regent Street, Regents Park and beginning work on Buckingham Palace when George finally became King. Nash combined an amazing range of architectural styles, from Gothic to Italianate, Palladian, Greek, and picturesque. Sadly only George IV shared his passion for such expensive projects and after his death Nash soon fell out of favour and his career ended.
The Pavilion was sold to the town of Brighton in 1850 after a long campaign for £53,000. The building was the used as assembly rooms and many of the original fixtures and fittings removed by the royal household ending up in Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.
During World War I the Royal Pavilion was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers. After WWII the restoration of the Pavilion began in earnest. Over 100 items of furniture were given on permanent loan of from Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s. Since then the extensive programme of restoring the rooms, reinstating stud walls, and creating replicas of some original fittings and occasionally pieces of furniture has continued.
Over the years the amazing structure of Brighton Pavilion has inspired all sorts of art forms. We currently have two beautiful prints of the Pavilion by Jo Peel and Nikki Black as well as a selection of reproductions of John Nash’s original views of the Pavilion.