The Steyne front
The new stable block
In 1803, George engaged William Porden to build a new stable block. His Indian-influenced design incorporated a huge glazed iron roof based on the domed trading floor of Bélanger’s Halle au Blé and cost £49,871 to build. A contemporary guidebook described it as a “truly magnificent building”.
The Indian influence
However, the new stables and riding school dwarfed the main building, and George was soon seeking new designs for the pavilion itself which would be compatible with their magnificence. Although temporarily halted by lack of funds, in 1815 George was finally able to commission John Nash, his new favourite, to redevelop the pavilion using the picturesque qualities of Indian architecture.
The skyline of the new pavilion
|The miniature onion-shaped domes and tall chimney stacks|
on the eastern front of the Brighton Pavilion
A truly Indian design?
|The pierced stone "jali"|
One such element was the perforated stone screen based on the Indian “jali”, designed to provide shade and ventilation in the heat of the Indian summer. This was made from Bath stone and was situated between the tall Indian pillars which masked the saloon, music room and banqueting room. The rest of the walls were covered in stucco.
But although Nash’s design was primarily Hindustan in style, he delighted in pulling together ideas from other places in a truly eclectic manner. The extended pavilion was classically balanced and the way he grouped the tall chimney stacks together was distinctly Tudor in style. Even the “jali” was not truly Indian; the design used in the pierced stone was of a Gothic quatrefoil.
|The music room with its tent-like roof|
Nash’s pavilion boasted two exceptional new rooms. The first of these was the music room, which was situated in the new square block to the north with an additional extension for the largest English-made organ of the time. The room was decorated in a the Chinese style with a dramatic colour scheme of “Carmine, Lake, Crome Yellow and other expensive colours”, and a huge marble and ormolu chimney piece, made by Westmacott and Vulliamy which alone cost £1,684.
Winged dragons sat above the curtain pelmets and huge crimson and gold murals adorned the walls, framed by dragons and serpents. Water-lily chandeliers were suspended from the high vaulted ceiling so that they seemed to float in the air; they were converted to gas in 1821. The whole was topped by a tent-like octagonal cornice and the furnishings included six large Oriental porcelain pagodas made at the Spode factory.
The banqueting room
The banqueting room, to the south, was equally magnificent, with its decorative scheme by Robert Jones. The forty-five foot high dome was painted as if it was open to a tropical sky and was almost completely filled by the representation of a huge plantain tree. From its centre, an enormous dragon was suspended, which held a thirty foot high chandelier in its claws. The chandelier alone cost over £5,600.
Four lotus-leaf bowls also hung from the ceiling, suspended by “Fum” or “F’eng” – Chinese mythological birds. The furniture included two “very large and superbly decorated Sideboards”.
Even the Princess Lieven was overwhelmed, declaring: “I do not believe that, since the days of Heliogabalus, there has been such magnificence and such luxury.”
Sources used include:
Editor of the Picture of London, A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1815)
Huish, Robert, Memoirs of George IV (1830)
Morley, John, The Royal Pavilion, Brighton
Nash, John, Views of the Royal Pavilion with commentary by Gervase Jackson-Stops (1991)
Parissien, Steven, George IV, The Grand Entertainment (2001)
Photographs by Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato