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A right royal entrance: The North Gate of the Royal Pavilion

Published by: Alexandra Loske

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The magnificent gateway at the northern entrance to the Royal Pavilion dates from 1832 and is an often overlooked and underappreciated Brighton building.

The North Gate in 2017

As with the south gate, we don’t know exactly how it looked in the late 18th and early 19th century, during the early years of the Royal Pavilion. In architect John Nash’s ground plan from 1826 both gates are called ‘lodges’ and are marked as small square brick structures, perhaps in the style of sentry boxes.

Nash ground plan, 1826, detail

As the North Gate is so much in keeping with the oriental style of the Royal Pavilion itself, you may think it is also by Nash and was commissioned by George IV, but the inscription tells a different story. This is the work of the architect and surveyor Joseph Henry Good, built in the early years of the short reign of George’s successor, his brother William IV. We have a fine portrait in oil by an unknown artist of Good (currently not on display), painted in c.1830, around the time he started working here.

Joseph Henry Good, English School, c1830

William IV had great plans for the Royal Pavilion and engaged Good to not only survey the entire estate but also add numerous buildings, including splendid gates at the north and south entrance.  It was reported that John Nash met with William IV on his first visit to Brighton as King in 1830, and was seen marking illustrations in the gravel with his stick, so he may have had some influence on the designs. Good’s South Gate, complete with servants’ rooms and link corridors to the main building and the servants’ dormitories, does not survive.

Good produced no fewer than 46 drawings and proposals for the North Gate alone, the earliest dated September 1830. His architectural plans survive and show how he played with a number of ideas, including cladding part of the gate in blue and white tiles (as seen in plan no. 82, although it is also possible that the blue and white colouring was used to indicate different types of stone), or perspective views with alternative inscriptions to the ones that were eventually included (for example no. 87, where the text reads ‘The Pavilion became a Royal Palace AD MDCCCXXX’). Here are just some examples of these plans, all dating from 1830 to 1832:

The version that was eventually built (as seen here in an 1885 watercolour by R Rust) is a well-proportioned, grand symmetrical gate with a central arch, minarets and a copper dome which has turned a shimmering green.

The North Gate of the Royal Pavilion, 1885, R Rust (fl 1885)

It is a proud building that for many Brighton visitors approaching the town from the north would have been one of the first glimpses of the Pavilion estate. On the occasion of Queen Victoria’s first visit to Brighton in October 1837, an amphitheatre with a triumphal arch was erected to the north of the North Gate, through which Victoria entered the estate, as illustrated in this print from the same year:

Amphitheatre and triumphal arch erected north of the North Gate on Queen Victoria’s first visit to Brighton as queen.

The gate is still the first structure you see when you come to Brighton by bus from the Lewes area or by car from the London Road, and looks attractive at any time of the day and year. Quite appropriately, the building now houses the offices of the estate’s Head Gardener and his numerous volunteers.

Alexandra Loske, Curator (Royal Pavilion Archives), with thanks to Jo Essex, researcher and volunteer at the Royal Pavilion.