Originally a fishing village mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Brighthelmstone or Brithelmeston, the city became known as Brighton at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1750, Dr Richard Russell proclaimed the therapeutic benefits of his Brighton sea-water cure and the area developed as a fashionable health resort, visited (from 1783) by the Prince of Wales (later George IV).
The sumptuous Royal Pavilion is a testament to Regency glamour. George IV first came to Brighton in 1783, aged 21. The young prince began an enduring romance with the seaside retreat and it became the setting for one of the most unusual royal homes in the UK.
For the exterior, Indian-style minarets and intricate finishing to grand architecture echoed palaces of the sub-continent. George requested a rich Chinese-inspired interior design, with colourful dragons and sea creatures weaving through wallpaper, golden ornament, ceiling decoration and furniture.
When the work was completed in 1823, the Pavilion was a vast and modern palace, with bathing facilities, toilets and dazzling lighting effects.
The kitchens were radical. Kitchens were generally situated away from the main house but the Pavilion’s was placed next to the Banqueting Hall so food could be served piping hot to the tables. George was so proud of the ornate kitchen design and cooking equipment that he offered guests tours.
George IV died in 1830 and the Pavilion passed to William IV. He used it as a winter palace. Then the crown passed to George IV’s niece Victoria in 1837.
Early in her reign Queen Victoria enjoyed some visits to the Royal Pavilion. She married Prince Albert in 1840 and between 1840 and 1845 they made visits to Brighton together. The Queen especially liked the Music Room of the Royal Pavilion and arrangements were made for Victoria, Albert and their young family to be accommodated on the same floor as her favourite room.
The Royal Family chose to visit Brighton even later in the season, perhaps to avoid the fashionable visitors. Queen Victoria, her consort Prince Albert, their two young children, Victoria the Princess Royal and Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales and members of Court took up residence at the Royal Pavilion on 10th February 1842.
The family stopped visiting the Royal Pavilion in 1845 because it no longer offered them enough privacy.
During the late 1840s, Victoria moved most of the furnishings to Buckingham Palace. The building and grounds were sold to the Brighton commissioners for £53,000 in 1850.”
As well as furniture, Victoria removed wallpaper, carvings and fireplaces, leaving little more than a shell.
After Queen Victoria deserted the Royal Pavilion in 1845, the building quickly fell into disrepair. By 1850, many of the good things had been removed from the Royal Pavilion and the shell of the building was threatened with demolition.
By 1860 Brighton was attracting five times as many people (a quarter of a million!) by train. Queen Victoria was probably very wise to take her family for less public holidays to the Isle of Wight, where she stayed at Osborne House.
As Queen Victoria's reign progressed, Brighton gained new sports facilities. In 1872, Sussex County Cricket Ground opened in Hove, to provide proper facilities for a sport that used to be played on Brunswick Lawns.