George IV’s original lodging house had little land attached to it. As his financial position improved he was able to purchase parcels of land surrounding the palace to create the estate we see today.
The exterior of the palace
John Nash transformed Henry Holland’s modest Marine Pavilion into an Indian-style palace.
The grand central dome was balanced by the sweeping tent roofs of the Music Room and the Banqueting Room, and a forest of small domes, minarets, pinnacles and chimneystacks.
The rendered surfaces of the Royal Pavilion were painted in imitation of stone to match real stone details, creating a unified vision of a building made of Bath stone.
The Royal Stables
The Royal Stables were completed in 1808. The building now houses Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and the Dome Concert Hall. When built it was one of the most magnificent stable complexes in Europe, ‘a palace for hopes’.
Part of this area of the grounds was originally called Promenade Grove. It was a public pleasure garden and an outdoor location for concerts, breakfast parties and evening entertainments.
The magnificent new stables complex was designed by William Porden. With its grand dome spanning some 80 feet, it took over three years to build. The stables accommodated at least 60 horses with quarters for grooms and stable boys on the upper floor.
In 1821, an underground passageway was constructed from the king’s new ground floor apartments to the stables and riding house to allow direct and private access.
The Royal Pavilion gardens were designed by John Nash as a picturesque pleasure ground for the king.
The garden designs reflect the revolution in landscape gardening that had begun in the 1730s. Straight lines and symmetrical shapes were replaced with curving paths, natural groups of trees and shrubs and picturesque views.
The existing gardens were landscaped and replanted from 1815 (at the same time as John Nash’s remodelling of the Marine Pavilion) and was completed by the early 1820s. As the visitor walked or rode round the estate, a series of different views of the Pavilion were provided and the Regency planting allowed for new and exotic varieties to be displayed.
Lost to more modern designs
During the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century the Regency gardens were altered almost beyond recognition. It was not until the early 1990s that the reinstatement of Nash’s garden scheme began, in parallel with a major structural restoration of the palace itself. The restoration took around 20 years to complete.
Restored to Regency planting schemes
Nash’s serpentine drive now winds through the gardens from the William IV Gate towards the Royal Pavilion entrance, with irregular beds of mixed shrubs and flowers bordering the drive and winding paths.
Trees and shrubs have been chosen from the list supplied to George IV, mixed with modern equivalents of Regency varieties of herbaceous plants.
Much of the shrubbery planting is based on ‘rules’ for the design of shrubberies described by Henry Phillips, a local landscape gardener, in 1828. Phillips advises that ‘a well-planted shrubbery depends on the selection of trees and shrubs which succeed each other in blossoming throughout the year, as well as contrasting shades of green for permanent effect and under-planted flowers for the shorter duration’.