The Banqueting Hall. Source: Musgrave 12-13. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

The Brighton Pavilion is indeed an oriental pleasure-dome; in fact, one cannot easily determine whether Indian, Mogul, or Chinese-Japanese influences predominate; certainly nothing quite like it exists between the Steppes of Russia and Moorish Spain: it is a Prinny "original," containing two of the most extravagant and extraordinary rooms in all of northern Europe. In these rooms, clearly, the Chinese influence predominates. The interior decoration was by the firm led at this time by John Crace. Megan Aldrich writes of the "designs made by John Crace in 1802-04 for the first phase of Chinese interiors at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. Payments for work for the Royal Household were made to John Crace and Sons as late as 1826; despite his death in 1819, his sons traded under his name until 1826."

The Music Room, complete with water-lily chandeliers, mural Chinese landscape-paintings, different shades of rich lacquer, and rosewood pianos with inlaid designs, dated 1817. Source: Musgrave 11. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

The Banqueting Room is dominated by its central chandelier — a vast structure, in 1818 immensely modern because it was lit by gas, not candles. [footnote: The Prince incorporated all the technical achievements of his time; the pavilion is the first house to use cast-iron pillars both for structure and decoration.] It weighs a ton and consists of a bronze-leafed plaintain tree from which hangs a large silver dragon holding in his claws an enormous glass bowl and around its rim are six smaller dragons with lotus flowers in their mouths. The cost was £5613 9s 0d (well over £50,000 today [1977]). There are four other enormous water-lilies and eight ten-foot-high standard lamps — a pedestal of gilt dolphins, a huge, deep blue Spode vase topped by a lotus flower of tinted glass (cost £5322 4s). The room itself is painted with Chinese scenes; the decoration is crimson, gold and blue. The decorative work cost £8339 11s 0d and the furniture £9710 8. 0d. The total cost of the room was the equivalent of about £450,000.

The Music Room is in many ways more astonishing still. It was of this room that the Princess Lieven, one of the most sophisticated women of her time, wrote: "I do not believe that since the days of the Heliogabalus, there has been such magnificence and such luxury. There is something effeminate in it which is disgusting. One spends the evening half-lying on the cushions: the lights are dazzling: there are perfumes, music, liqueurs" (as might be expected, the Prince loved perfumes and cases of quart bottles were constantly being sent to Brighton). The room seemed to recall Marco Polo's description of the great tent of Genghis Khan. [Plumb 198-99]

This "more astonishing" room was to the designs of John Crace's son Frederick, in what Aldrich calls his "mature phase of chinoiserie from 1815-22."

Related Material

Images scanned by Jacqueline Banerjee, who also added the material about the Craces. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.


Aldrich, Megan. "Crace, Edward, John, Frederick, John Gregory and John Dibblee (1768-1899)." BIFMO (Dictionary of British and Irish Furniture Makers, 1500-1914. Web. 16 February 2022.

Automobile Association of Great Britain. Treasures of Britain and Treasures of Ireland. Drive Publications, London: 1973. 99 & 101.

Higginbottom, David. Il. John Barrow and Eric de Mare. The Brighton Royal Pavilion. Brighton, Sussex: The Royal Pavilion, Museums and Libraries Committee, 1972.

Musgrave, Clifford. The Pitkin History of Brighton and the Royal Pavilion. London: Pitkin Pictorials [1948]. Internet Archove. Contributed by Cornell University Library. Web. 21 April 2016.

Plumb, J. H. "George IV." Royal Heritage: The Story of Britain's Royal Builders and Collectors. British Broadcasting Corporation, London: 1977. 197-242.

Created 12 October 2006

Last modified 17 February 2022