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Plate 3. Marine Pavilion.  

This view of the Steine looks north and in the far distance the path to Lewes over the Downs can just be made out. The centre cream building on the left (west side) is the newly completed Marine Pavilion, built in 1786-7 and which became the favourite retreat of George, Prince of Wales, who had fallen in love with Brighton, after his recent visits. To its immediate north is Grove House (later renamed Marlborough House and not to be confused with the Marlborough House in Plate 2).  The large building complex to the south is The Castle Assembly Rooms. To the right of the print on the East side of the Steine is, a single newly-completed building in the centre ground known as the  ‘Blue & Buffs’. These were  lodging houses for wealthy seasonal visitors, and the houses were painted in the Whig colours of the Prince's close associates. Two of these houses, 3 & 4 still stand today, though numbers 1 & 2 were demolished in the 1920s to accommodate the widening of the road. 

The Marine Pavilion. The neo-classical style Marine Pavilion stood on the site of an original lodging house, part of which was incorporated into the ground-floor reception rooms. The architect Henry Holland extended the original farmhouse but added a similar building to the north of the original and connected the two by a rotunda. Each wing had a pair of bow windows and these were linked by an Ionic colonnade. The facade was faced in cream tiles from Hampshire. The Marine Pavilion was to be the favoured retreat for the Prince of Wales well into the Regency and he later recalled it was where he spent his happiest years. The interior reflects his love of French furnishings and his fascination with China and the interior was lavishly decorated with French decorative art and furnishings, wallpapers and objects inspired by the art of China, known as chinoiserie. In 1815 the architect John Nash enlarged and remodelled Holland's building to create the oriental fantasy that stands today.  

Grove House/The second Marlborough House. 

At the time this print was made the building to the north of the Pavilion was called Grove House. In the 1780s it was owned by Hon. Percy Charles Wyndham (1757-1842), brother of the 3rd Earl of Egremont of Petworth. Wyndham let the house during the season and in 1783 and again in 1784 whilst the Prince of Wales's uncle the Duke of Cumberland (who had previously rented Dr Russell's house) was staying there.  Shortly after the Prince determined to make Brighton a regular haunt. The following year he rented Grove House in his own name before moving long-term into the Marine Pavilion within the next two years. 


In 1790 Grove House was sold to the Duke of Marlborough who had sold his other property on the Steine. Confusingly, for a time there existed two Marlborough Houses on the Steine.  In  

1812 the Prince of Wales (now Prince Regent) bought the house from the Duke of Marlborough and used it for extra next-door  accommodation to the Marine Pavilion which had proved to be much too small for his needs. However, within a few years it was demolished in order to make way for John Nash's Royal Pavilion. The Music Room and the King's Apartments now stand on the footprint of the house. 

The Castle Inn and Assembly Rooms. 

The Castle Inn was opened in 1755 by Samuel Shergold. In 1766 he went into partnership with two other men and together they commissioned the architect John Crunden to build  Assembly Rooms adjacent and to the north of the Inn. Crunden built Boodle's in St James's St. in the style of Robert Adam. The high roof can be seen immediately behind the Inn in the print. The unprepossessing red-brick exterior with arched windows is deceptively plain but the interior was gracefull and elegant.There were four rooms including a Card room and a Ball room. The Ballroom was over 80ft long. The walls were decorated with plaster reliefs in panels and medallions like Wedgewood cameos with delicated scroll mouldings in plaster. At the time considered one of the largest and most elegantly covered rooms in the country. From 1815 the Prince Regent bought piecemeal parts of the Inn and Assembly Rooms. In typical fashion he developed the parts he wanted and sold on parts he didn't. The upper floor Assembly Rooms he converted into a Royal Chapel (not to be confused with the Chapel Royal).  Other ground-floor areas were converted into additional rooms for the royal servants. When the Royal Pavilion estate was bought by the town in 1850 the Church of England claimed that as a consecrated building it could not be demolished. It was re-erected in Montpelier Place as St. Stephen's church. A new street classical temple-front facade was added with giant pilasters that matched those of the interior, and a single-storey porch was later added.  


The set. This set of four etchings and aquatints by Eleanor Lay form a detailed panorama of the Old Steine as it looked in 1788. Originally, a wide, flat, ill-drained expanse used by fisherman to dry their nets and store their boats, the arrival of fashionable society in the latter eighteenth century brought big changes to the area as a flat, sheltered promenade for visitors. The extent of  coastal erosion meant and the proximity of the sea to the existing town meant that there was little space for a seafront promenade. These prints show the Steine before it was drained in 1792-3 and before it was enclosed by substantial iron railings in 1806.  The boundaries of  large, open, flat area, are marked instead by a modest wooden fence and edged on three sides by buildings.  Courting couples, local characters and fashionable beaux promenade at leisure and carriages, horses and dogs animate the scene and provide is a charming snapshot of the extent of development of Brighton on the cusp of the extensive building that would characterise Brighton for the next forty years. 


In the 1760s other buildings grew up aroud the Steine that  played a prominent part in the social life of the town and included the well-established Castle Tavern and Assembly Rooms seen in Plate 3. There were two Circulating Libraries, Dulot's on the East Side, (until the 1780s the only building on that side) and Crawford's in the southern western corner. A number of grand private residencies faced the Steine, notably those occupied during the season by the Duke of Cumberland (Dr Russell’s former house) and the Duke of Marlborough (the only building mentioned here that still stands today and Grade II* listed) seen in Plate 2. Most significant of all though, was the recently-completed Marine Pavilion, built by the architect Henry Holland in 1787. (Plate 3). It was the predecessor to John Nash’s later oriental fantasy, the Royal Pavilion, and the house which George, Prince of Wales, (later Prince Regent and George IV) made his seaside home.



Plate 3 Marine Pavilion. Four Views of the Steyne at Brighthelmston, Eleanor Lay

  • Image Numbers: 1024-1027
    Title: Four Views of the Steyne at Brighthelmston
    Artist/Engraver: Eleanor Lay
    Medium: Copperplate line engravings
    Date: 1788

    Framed sizes (h x w):

    1024 South Side - 585mm x 727mm

    1025 Marlborough House - 585 x 724mm

    1026 Marine Pavilion - 585 x 725mm

    1027 East Side - 585 x 727mm


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