Brighton Dome and Museum to be revamped as part of Royal Pavilion Estate plan

By Jenni Davidson | 19 November 2013

Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Estate in potential world-class makeover

A photo of a drawing of a spectacular stable during the 19th century
King George IV's stables, within what is now the Royal Pavilion Estate, were among the finest of their period© Courtesy Brighton Dome
Brighton is unique in this country in having a former royal palace, a museum and a major performing arts venue set together in historic public gardens – more than 1.2 million people visit the Regency era Royal Pavilion Estate each year, incorporating the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Brighton Dome and the Pavilion Gardens.

A £35 million makeover, Heritage Centre Stage: Reawakening Brighton’s Royal Estate, will carry out “vital” repair work and much-needed improvements to visitor facilities. The project is essential if the buildings are to remain open.

“Although this is an ambitious and aspirational plan, it’s a really necessary one,” says Andrew Comben, the Director of the Dome and the Brighton Festival.

“As well as conserving the Grade I and II listed buildings, the aim is to reconnect the whole area back into one single, coherent estate.

“Research has shown that many visitors are unaware of the history of the estate and how the buildings relate to each other.”

“The stories that we have to be told are amazing and unique,” adds Amanda Jones, the project’s director.

“What’s not amazing is the way they’re being told.”

Plans are at an early stage, but a new gatehouse and visitors’ centre, based on Regency architect John Nash’s early 19th century plans for a conservatory, are among them.

Within the Royal Pavilion, planners hope to restore the Regency organ – a rare example of a secular organ - and improve disabled access by installing a lift.

A secret passageway, running beneath the gardens between the Pavilion and Dome, will also be opened to the public.

The original interior of the Grade I-listed Corn Exchange, George IV’s former riding school which is used as a concert venue and exhibition space, is currently obscured by stage lighting, seating and mirrored windows. A modernisation of the fittings will galvanise the undervalued space.

The King was very fond of his horses, which were worth about £5,000 each – in the region of £200,000 in today’s money. His stables, at the adjoining Dome Concert Hall, were some of the grandest in Europe.

Nash once commented that George’s horses enjoyed better housing than him, but that was rectified when the Royal Pavilion was redesigned and extended by the architect between 1815 and 1822.

Nash’s striking domed structure draws on Indian and Islamic architecture, while the interiors are lavishly furnished in an oriental style.

Arts Council England have already promised £5.8 million towards the restoration of the estate. A bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of November could secure a further £14 million in development funding.

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A black and white photo of a decadent concert hall during the 19th century
Nash's domed structure draws on Indian and Islamic architecture© Courtesy Brighton Dome
A black and white photo of a man in a suit sitting in front of an elaborate concert organ
The organ is a rare example of a secular organ© Courtesy Brighton Dome
A close up photo of an elaborate concert organ featuring layers of black and white keys
The Arts Council has pledged almost £6 million to the project© Courtesy Brighton Dome
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Follow Jenni Davidson on Twitter @jenni_davidson.
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