Ch-ch-ch-changes: the South Gate of the Royal Pavilion through the ages

The gateway at the southern entrance to the Royal Pavilion estate has gone through many transformations. The existing India Gate dates from 1921 and was designed by Thomas Tyrwhitt in a simple Gujarati style. It was erected as a gift from the people of India to the people of Brighton to commemorate the Indian soldiers wounded during the First World War who were tended in the military hospital established on the Royal Pavilion estate. But what did the south gate look like before 1921?

Surprisingly, we know very little about the design of the south gate in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In architect John Nash’s ground plan from 1826 it is called a ‘lodge’ and depicted as two small square brick structures:

The much more substantial gate house in this print from c1835 (a lithograph by T Cooper after a drawing by Edward Fox) was built in 1831 at a cost of £3437 10s.

After Edward Fox: The Entrance to the Royal Palace, Brighton, c1835. Lithograph by T Cooper for ‘Views in Brighton’

It was designed by the architect and surveyor Joseph Henry Good, who also created the North Gate, which survives. Among Good’s architectural plans in our collection there are at least twenty that show various proposed designs for the South Gate. He drew it from different angles and perspectives, outlining each storey, indicating how rooms in the lodge could be used, and provided suggestions for external ornamental detail.

Architectural plan of the South Gate by J.H. Good, 1831.

The version that was built had two stories containing a number of staff rooms and bedchambers for staff and possibly guests, and a third attic-like storey without fenestration. It was linked via narrows halls and stairwells to a large steward’s room and laundry areas to the east and a servants’ dormitory block to the west, resulting in a much more enclosed look than the earlier gate, but creating valuable work and living space.

Architectural plan of the South Gate by J.H. Good, 1830.

In the Cooper lithograph we can see royal guards in and next to their sentinels to the left and right of the gated carriage entrance. Fashionably dressed figures and the Blue Coach office advertising a coach service between Brighton and London add to the impression of a busy and thriving town. However, in the first complete descriptive account of the Royal Pavilion by E. W. Brayley (1838) the author criticises the look of the new entrance: ‘The South Lodge, which has more resemblance to a gate-house prison than to any object of architectural beauty, is utterly unworthy of description.’

The South Gate to the Royal Pavilion. Coloured postcard dating from c.1904.

After the purchase of the Royal Pavilion from the crown by the town commissioners in 1850 the South Lodge was demolished, the bricks sold for their material value, and replaced with a much more open and lower structure, comprising two arches resembling the main porte cochère of the Pavilion, on a much smaller scale. This first municipal South Gate can be seen in many late Victorian and Edwardian postcards and was eventually replaced by the India Gate.

Volunteer 3D modeller Colin Jones has been re-creating the different appearances of the South Gate in 3D-images. Here are some examples:

3D image by Colin Jones of the later 19th century municipal gate.
3D image by Colin Jones: Aerial view of the south end of the Royal Pavilion estate in c.1832
3D image by Colin Jones: View of the South Gate, c.1835, with water and clock tower visible to the right.

The Cooper lithograph, the Good plans and many other lesser known and unusual images of the Royal Pavilion Estate will be shown in a new display titled Visions of the Royal Pavilion Estate at the Prints & Drawings Gallery in Brighton Museum, 14 March 2017 to 3 Sept 2017. Over the next few months I will focus on more highlights from the display in the free local magazine Viva Brighton.

Alexandra Loske, Curator, Royal Pavilion Archives

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