Brighton Pavilion is arguably the most stunning landmark in Brighton, and honestly quite underrated. I remember visiting Brighton a lot as a kid, long before I moved here, and never once went inside the exotic palace, I only ever wandered through the gardens.
I admit I did finally go last year, but I’ve always meant to return for another look. It’s a luxury you have when you live somewhere: it’s not a one time thing. I’d like to think if I lived in Barcelona, I’d go weekly to the Sagrada Familia… just to see what else I noticed with each trip.
So mid-week, I took myself on a little field trip, partly as a reminder that being your own boss means you can do ridiculous things like that, and experience that strange mixture of guilt, appreciation and smugness.
That said, Brighton was mega busy – and all the kooks were out, despite it being a weekday afternoon. I’m talking someone walking a cat on a leash, two people in bare feet, sunglasses you’d only find in fancy dress shops and so on. Their idea of fun, I guess.
OK so the Pavilion. It isn’t cheap, at £13.50 for an adult. But when I think about the upkeep of the place, I don’t resent the charge too much. I think we’re spoilt in the UK because so many of our cultural attractions – museums and galleries – are free. You come to expect it.
A little history of the Pavilion, in the 1780s, George, Prince of Wales was recommended he take up lodging in the seaside town of Brighton. The idea was the sea air would do him some good – he was not a healthy dude.
He took to Brighton like many of us creative rebels do: enjoying the extravagant fashion, arts, architecture, drinking, womanising and gambling opportunities the city offers. Not much has changed then. Somehow, he was given the money to transform his originally humble lodging house into a modest villa, which he furnished with Chinese export furniture and beautiful hand-painted wallpapers.
In 1815, George hired John Nash to transform the villa, growing it to the ostentatious palace we see today. This guy did not do things by halves – George wanted somewhere to throw some seriously epic parties, and indulge his love for comfort and beauty.
There’s loads more to the history of the Pavilions, which I’ll link to here, but one thing I love and have to mention is that during WWI, it was transformed into a temporary hospital for Indian soldiers. I kind of love how George’s somewhat selfish and extravagant tastes and all the money and resources that were piled into this structure, all got put to work: it was finally used for something that did some good, something that mattered, something that saved lives.
Another notable event that needs to be seen to be believed is the impact the big storm we had in 1987 – the great chandelier in the music room was dislodged and basically fell through the floor. It looks surreal.
Which brings me onto my favourite room, which is without a doubt the music room. It has dragons carved everywhere you look, the ludicrous chandelier which has all been nicely restored, and this ornate and luxurious carpet which warrants a sign ‘please remove stilettos before walking on carpet’ which I love. It really is a feast for the eyes.
You also get a nice little history of the palace in video format, halfway through, which I love. For whatever reason I’ve never taken to audio guides – I can never get the buggers to work – and museum captions always leave me feeling a bit flat and uninspired. But video is usually really well done, so I appreciate that. Plus it’s nice to sit down.
I typically sped through the tour, and what took me around half an hour, could easily take you half a day if you did it properly – there really is a lot to see, and you can stop for tea midway.
I also love the gift shop which doubles up as a tea room – can’t have a spot of culture without some consumerism, right?
All in all, I rate the Brighton Pavilion a 7/10. A decent way to spend a bit of your day, not exactly adrenaline-pumping but good clean fun.
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