1780s architect Henry Holland
converted an old farmhouse near the sea front in Brighton to be a
pleasure villa. That building was altered, on the instructions of
George (Prince Regent, later George IV) to become a glorious folly in
which he could entertain guests. Work began in 1815 under the
instructions of John Nash, but it was not
until 1823 that the final
flourishes were added to the building.
already had a domed
structure in the form of the Stables, created in the early 1800s in the
then fashionable "Hindoo" style. The design bore little or no
resemblance to true Indian architecture and was rather more a dream of
what England thought India was like - or should be like. In 1809 the
fiirst Indian restaurant opened in London but it was never a huge
success and closed three years later. All things Indian and "Hindoo"
were therefore already falling from fashion when George gave the style
While the exterior of the building is based on Indian influences, even if loosely, the interior is decidedly Chinese. Once again, however, the artists and craftsmen involved in its production knew very little about the country and the overall result is a dream of how they believed it was, rather than reality. Lots of dragons and bamboo but very little restraint. Overall the result is the architectural equivalent of a wedding cake - over dressed on the outside and extremely cloying on the inside. However, it is typical of Brighton, the home of Aubrey Beardsley.
In his BBC2 series Abroad Again in Britain historian Jonathan Meades pointed out that the building was never at the height of fashion and was certainly nothing like the commonly-accepted Regency style. He also called it an "ode to excess" and said: "It's so rich it's almost emetic". That is probably true. It is, however, typical of George - Prince of Wales, Regent and dandy - overblown and extravagant.