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Brighton Pavilion

The onion-domed Royal Pavilion is Brighton's most recognisable and iconic piece of architecture.

The playboy Prince Regent (later George IV) converted Brighton Pavilion (at ruinous expense) from a more conventional rectangular-looking farmhouse into the Marine Pavilion, and then employed John Nash to convert that into something that looked more like a miniature gilt-and-fancy-funishings reinterpretation of the Taj Mahal. It seems that George IV decided that anything that was exotic needed to be included, so it has internal stained-glass panels, hand-painted wallpaper, and even a playful green dragon dangling from the ceiling of the dining hall. It was the ultimate party house in a party town. 

It's a building that looks deeply improbable, a jumble of Eastern domes and minarets with a largely Chinese-inspired interior set in a park in the middle of an English seaside town, and the fact that it was converted into a mock Eastern palace from a large traditional English farmhouse, in in one of the most expensively audacious money-no-object architectural retrofitting jobs that England had ever seen just makes it even more striking. The future George IV was able to get away with running up vast debts on his Pavilion project because everyone knew that he was eventually going to be King, and the result was uniquely extravagant.

The Prince Regent was very, very good at spending other people's money, and from the large glass panels, expensive hand-printed trompe d'oileil wallpaper, sumptuous fabrics, gilding and chandeliers you could at least get some indication of where the money went.

Because of its unconventional construction methods, maintaining and renovating the Pavion has been very challenging, and the ticket prices for tours of the Pavilion interior (available from the adjacent Visitor Information Centre if places are available, or bookable in advance from the website) reflect this – a standard adult ticket is ten pounds (reduced rates for locals).

If you're not so interested in the interior furnishings and paintings, you can wander around the Pavilion Park and look at the Pavilion exterior for free. 

Brighton Pavilion at night, as seen from Grand Parade Pavilion Gardens

The Pavilion is one of Gerorge IV's two main claims to fame. The second part of his legacy is an exceptionally bad set of obituary notices that might well never have been matched by any other human being ... ever. The Times defended its "Rotten person, we're all glad he's gone"-style obituary on the basis that the obituary couldn't offend George IV's friends and family, since you couldn't be his friend without meeting him, and you couldn't meet him without disliking him, so logically, he couldn't have any friends ... and his employees and the other people who came into contact with him regularly would be the people most pleased to see him dead. 

Royal Pavilion homepage