The William IV Gate and a melancholy event, 1852. Part I: Sunday

As St. Swithin’s day approaches on the 15th we present a true tale of a weather disaster. From the 13th we take a look at a tragedy in three parts…

As Bill Snow emerged from his residence in the Lodge under the North Gate of the Royal Pavilion grounds on Sunday February 8th 1852, into a raw and gusty night, the weather was probably very much on his mind. It had been a harsh winter, with considerable loss of life. Rainfall throughout the country had been high with reports of disastrous flooding. In Brighton the winter had been bitterly cold, wet and windy, and on that evening, a gale was blowing.

The William IV Gate
The William IV Gate

As Porter to the North Gate, it was Bill’s responsibility to close the two huge gates of the Pavilion grounds, every evening at 5.30pm. At the time, the North Gate and its two lodges were only 20 years old, having been built in 1832 with Portland Stone to the orders of William IV at a cost of £3000. The Brighton Town Commissioners had bought the Royal Pavilion in 1850, and Bill had only been in his job for 17 months.

The wooden gates were high and ponderous, made of solid oak; each was thirteen feet high, seven and a half feet wide and three to four inches thick. They had been hung on Collinge’s Patent hinges made of cast iron, a superior construction which meant that in normal conditions, the gates, as heavy as they were, could be opened and closed with ease.

That evening, normal conditions did not apply. As Bill Snow stepped out of his snug Lodge and unbolted the western gate in an attempt to close it, a huge blast of wind tore the gate from his hands, threw him to the ground with great violence and the gate slammed against its stop.

The hinges, being made of cast and not wrought iron, were in fact liable to break under adverse conditions, not envisaged by the builders. And on this occasion, the topmost hinge snapped with a loud crack. The gate sagged alarmingly, and Bill ran to the Palace for help…

Find out if Bill finds the help he needs in tomorrow’s part of the story.

John Cooper, Volunteer & Training Manager

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