Royal Pavilion Garden — Heritage at Risk FAQ

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As you may have seen in the news, the Royal Pavilion Garden has been placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register. This FAQ explains why the garden is considered historically important, the reasons behind Historic England’s decision, and what this means for the future development of the Royal Pavilion Estate.

Why is the Royal Pavilion Garden significant?

Photo of Royal Pavilion Garden, showing a path leading towards large gate in the background.
Royal Pavilion Garden, view north towards William IV Gate

The Royal Pavilion Garden is Grade II listed and was restored between the 1980s and 1992. The restoration aimed to link and anchor all the different buildings on the estate, and to return to John Nash’s original designs used for the garden. It is not a typical Regency garden, but a unique example of a Picturesque landscape.  Apart from two Nash-style beds in St James’s Park in London, no other Nash landscape has been restored or created from his plans.

The planting reflects what was available in the 1820s when plants for the garden began to arrive in large numbers. Species were selected with seaside conditions in mind and were a mix of British native plants and new exotics. The garden uses a combination of mixed shrubs and herbaceous plants that was first applied in the Regency period.

Why is the Royal Pavilion Garden on the Heritage At Risk register?

Historic England makes the decision on whether to put a historic building or site on the register.

The principal reasons for the inclusion of the garden on the register are associated with the impact of antisocial behaviour and over-use of the space.

Inclusion of the garden on the register is absolutely not a criticism of those responsible for it. Rather, it is an indication that those who are caring for an important part of the country’s heritage are facing significant challenges, which may require more resources than they can find locally.

The aim of the register is to keep attention focused on these assets, to act as a working tool to help define the scale of the problem, and to prioritise action by Historic England, local authorities, funding bodies and others who can play a part in making these irreplaceable assets safe and sustainable for future generations.

Since the garden was restored in 1992 it has become increasingly popular, with almost 5 million people visiting or passing through the grounds every year. Over time this has affected the overall condition of the garden, which has suffered from antisocial behaviour such as graffiti, litter and damage to historic structures.

What does it mean to be on the Heritage At Risk register?

Inclusion of the garden on the Heritage At Risk register helps to focus attention and future action on the garden as one of the council’s priorities – so that money and time are directed where they are most needed in a co-ordinated way.

It means that the specific issues facing the gardens can be openly identified and it provides the opportunity for partnership working with Historic England and others to find appropriate solutions, such as through a Conservation Management Plan. Inclusion on the register also means that there are greater opportunities for access to funding for restoration and improvement schemes, particularly from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

How unusual is it for a garden to be on the Heritage At Risk register?

Nearly 6% of parks and gardens in England are on the Heritage At Risk register — more than 90 across the country.

Stanmer Park in Brighton was also put on the Heritage At Risk register. The council and partners developed a long-term masterplan for the restoration of Stanmer and successfully won £3.75 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund to restore the park.

How are we going to improve the Royal Pavilion Garden?

The Royal Pavilion Garden is part of the Royal Pavilion Estate project.

We’ll be creating a sense of arrival in the garden, providing a space where residents and visitors can experience the city’s rich heritage.

The Regency garden will be enhanced to become a place where all ages can engage and learn about the importance of gardens and green spaces in urban areas. Visitors to the garden will be able to see how it provides habitats for a variety of species and the importance of enhancing and protecting biodiversity.

It will be an exemplar of how people come together to care for their heritage through volunteering, undertaking a range of tasks from gardening and the upkeep of basic infrastructure to greeting visitors and telling stories of the estate and the city.

We will be exploring opportunities to fund improvements such as upgrading the footpaths, additional heritage lighting, and waste management.

Events in the garden will enhance the understanding of the history of the Royal Pavilion Estate. One example of this was the Dr Blighty event in 2016 which highlighted the Royal Pavilion’s use as a military hospital for Indian soldiers during the First World War.

In the coming months we will be consulting on the option of installing railings around the whole perimeter to enable overnight closure to help protect the site.

We also want to promote more community use of the garden.

What happens next?

Historic England will be working with Brighton & Hove City Council to develop a Conservation Management Plan which will identify how to redress the balance and develop a strategy for keeping the historic garden in good condition for visitors to enjoy for many years to come.

Sussex based landscape specialists Chris Blandford Associates have recently been appointed to undertake a Conservation Plan and a 10 year Management Plan for the garden.

How can I help?

The Royal Pavilion belongs to the people of Brighton and we all have a role to play in looking after it.

Over the coming months Brighton & Hove City Council and the Royal Pavilion & Museums will be considering different options to ensure we can continue to provide public access to the garden, while protecting one of our most precious assets and preventing any further deterioration. We are keen to involve and consult residents and other key stakeholders as part of this process. If you would like to register your interest in being part of the consultation process, we would be grateful if you could complete the following short form with your email address. We will be in touch with further information on this process soon.

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If you would like to make a donation to support the ongoing work of looking after the Royal Pavilion Garden, you can make a one-off gift or regular donation to our Garden Fund.