Having made the epic journey to Hastings to dip our toes into events of the past, we took full advantage of being near the South coast and decided a side trip to Brighton was in order. Our Sunday started at a slightly slower pace and once the unavoidable homework was out of the way, we jumped into the car to head an hour west to our destination. I achieved the ultimate moment of parenting success, entirely unplanned, when G spotted the infamous white chalk cliffs of the area. I hadn’t realised it was something she had learned a little about in geography this term and mentally gave myself a pat on the back for ticking the boxes for both her history and geography classes.
Following what seemed like an army of motorbikes of all shapes, colours and descriptions into Brighton, we found our way to a centrally located car park before heading out on foot. We had managed to park strategically close to the main shopping centre and started our short visit with lunch at what has become one of our all-time favourite allergy-friendly restaurants, Wagamama. As at our home branch, their service here was phenomenal, the attention to detail spot on and we all enjoyed food that we knew would be reassuringly safe for both M and G. Once the most critical part of our day was dealt with, we walked to our final destination for the afternoon, the Brighton Pavilion. A new experience for all of us, although I have seen it from the outside before; and what an amazing experience it was.
The children were astounded to see the Indian-inspired splendour of the Royal Pavilion buildings in Brighton – another big tick here as M will be studying India later in the year! – and keen to listen to the audio guides telling them more about the design, build and use of the Pavilion since it was first transformed from modest seaside villa to magnificent palace for King George IV in 1815. M fell in love with the Banqueting Hall with its impressive dragons, life-like lotus leaves and the 30-foot high chandelier, covered in over 50,000 crystals, hanging in the centre of the room. Equally amazing was the music room, which has been painstakingly restored, not just once, but twice since 1975 due to excessive damage caused first by fire and latterly by storm damage. G and M also loved trying to spot the secret doors, behind which were often hidden one of the multitude of toilets in the place or access passages for the servants so that King George wouldn’t see them as they went about their work.
There is currently a photo exhibition about the role the Royal Pavilion played during WWI and Mike and I were fascinated to read about the conversion of this once royal palace to a hospital for troops from the Indian Corps wounded on the Western Front in France and Flanders. As we walked from room to room inside the Pavilion admiring all the artefacts on display, there were often also photos showing how each room had been converted for use during the war. Huge efforts were made to not only protect the historical elements of the palace, but also to make these injured soldiers feel comfortable and “at home” during their convalescence. What struck me the most was a statistic about the number of patients treated during the 14 months it was open (though please forgive me if I misquote as my recollection is perhaps a little hazy): between December 1914 and January 1916, around 2,500 Indian patients were treated and only 18 died. Amazing when you think how horrific many of the injuries suffered by those troops were. Following the Indian military hospital, the Pavilion was then used for a further 4 years as a hospital for British amputees, who not only had wounds treated and prosthetic limbs fitted, but were also then rehabilitated to develop skills to help them in their later lives once the war had ended.
The Brighton Royal Pavilion is a truly captivating and beautiful place to visit, with a fascinating history and it delighted us all. We spent a great couple of hours exploring the rooms and admiring the architecture and I’m glad that we were able to make that stop before heading back home after our busy weekend.