Brighton's Royal Pavilion welcomes back more than 120 items on loan from Buckingham Palace

Porcelain pagodas, gilt-bronze candelabra and ivory veneered furniture – these are just some of the pieces currently on display at the Royal Pavilion for the first time in 170 years.

Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 11:48 am
Keeper of the Royal Pavilion David Beevers. Photograph: Jim Holden

More than 120 items that George IV bought or commissioned for what was his seaside pleasure palace have returned on a two-year loan from the Royal Collection at the agreement of Her Majesty the Queen while reservicing work is carried out at Buckingham Palace.

It is there, in the palace’s private east wing, that the objects have been housed since 1847/ 1848 after Queen Victoria decided to stop using the Pavilion as a royal residence.

Speaking at a press preview, keeper of the Royal Pavilion David Beevers described the loan as an ‘extraordinary enterprise’.

A close-up of the porcelain pagodas in the Royal Pavilion's music room. Photograph: Jim Holden

It is the largest number of items to be returned on loan and comes after The Queen issued more than 100 pieces on a long-term loan in 1955.

Beevers said: “It’s the most significant thing that’s happened to the building since it ceased to be a royal palace.

"I thought that the 1955 loan was pretty good but this is astonishing, especially the music room which is as close as it’s ever been to what it looked like when it was a royal palace.

"We are extraordinarily fortunate to have these things here.”

Senior decorative arts conservator of Royal Collection Trust David Wheeler installing the porcelain pagodas in the Royal Pavilion's music room. Photograph: Jim Holden

In the music room, visitors will see six porcelain pagodas brought from China in the early 19th century that George IV later had embellished with gilt-bronze bells, dolphins and dogs. Four stand at 15-foot high, two at 12-foot.

On display there too is the original gilt-bronze French ‘Rock’ clock adorned with figures and foliage – its replica has been moved into storage.

The display, which opened to the public on Saturday, September 21 and is titled A Prince’s Treasure, is the culmination of an 18-month process. Royal Collection staff installed the items a week before it launched, which saw the Pavilion unusually have to close, and an increase in security has been put in place.

Beevers, who became keeper of the Pavilion in 2006, says that when he first heard of the reservicing project to Buckingham Palace he had no idea that the Royal Collection had it in mind to return items to the Pavilion and it is not something he ever envisaged might happen.

Decorative items from the porcelain pagodas. Photograph: Jim Holden

“It was always a dream that it might but I never thought it would,” he said.

“I think I began to feel that we might stand a chance of getting more things back after we restored the saloon.”

The saloon’s opening last year saw the Royal Collection return a few objects on long-term loan.

He added: “I think that encouraged the Royal Collection. They could see that we were serious and that we had a the ability to restore a room as well as we possibly could and I think it possibly inspired them to think well let’s see if we can offer some more things.”

The first items Beevers thought of asking for was, in fact, the porcelain pagodas.

He explained: “Well, it was the porcelain pagodas in fact but I didn’t dare ask for that one first because I thought it was too big an ask because they’re very complicated things – they’re big and they’re very, very fragile,” he says.

“I think the first thing I suggested that we might get back was, I think, the Kylin clock from the saloon because we’d just restored the saloon but the Royal Collection soon indicated that I could ask for more things and they kept on saying ask for more things.

“In fact, I wish in a way I’d asked for a bit more now.”

Entry to the display A Prince's Treasure is included in the admission price to the Royal Pavilion.