Set for a King

Beginning as a circular rented lawn in front of the Steine, the gardens of the Royal Pavilion eventually comprised over seven acres of grounds. The changes to these grounds reflected the life and fortunes of George IV as Prince of Wales, Prince Regent, and King. The site continued to respond to changing fashions long after it passed out of Royal ownership in 1850.

West View of the Pavilion from Views of the Royal Pavilion, John Nash, 1826
West View of the Pavilion from Views of the Royal Pavilion, John Nash, 1826

The Development of the Garden

Repton was succeeded by John Nash in the Prince’s affections. Nash is better-known as an architect rather than a landscape gardener, but both he and Repton saw buildings and landscape as a picturesque whole. Nash was no horticulturalist, and he was assisted in his plans for the Pavilion grounds by William Townsend Aiton, royal gardener and founder of the Royal Horticultural Society.

When finally developed in the 1820s, the plans provided a picturesque setting for Nash’s Pavilion. The aim was a succession of interesting views of the buildings skyline from the carriage drives combined with forest lawn scenery in the landscaped park. The latter took ideas from the form and groupings of forest plantations, adapting them to make irregular shrubberies projected into the lawns, forming a series of changing patterns as one approached the building.

The landscape was also meant to be viewed from the Pavilion itself. With its rows of windows opening directly on to the lawn, George’s palace resembled an overblown garden building looking out on a landscape which we take for granted, but which was then highly innovative: a combination of trees, shrubs and plants, arranged to provide year-round interest. The idea was to recreate in the garden, in an extremely sophisticated way, the accidental effects of the countryside.

Royal Pavilion Gardens
Royal Pavilion Gardens

After the Pavilion was sold, new paths and seats were provided and the grounds used for Victorian promenading. Fashionable bedded-out plants in garish colours were placed in borders. A tarmac road led to the front of the Pavilion. In 1984 work started on the restoration of the grounds so that they resembled the plan in Nash’s Views of the Royal Pavilion. The work was substantially completed by 1995.

5 Responses

  1. The Pavilion gardens are beautiful and we always visit them (and the Pavilion and the Museum!) when we spend a day in Brighton. The care lavished on restoring and maintaining them is much appreciated.

    For the photographer, some very pretty views can be had viewing the buildings in association with the gardens.

    PS Could you possibly make the click-through images larger? You post some very nice and unusual pictures and it would be good to be able to see bigger versions of them.

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