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When the First World War broke out, the army needed to set up hospitals for wounded soldiers on the south coast of England, within easy reach of the port at Southampton. The initial thought was to requisition hotels in Brighton and pay the owners, but the mayor of Brighton suggested a much cheaper option: using the Pavilion.
At the time, the Pavilion was largely used for civic functions and private hire, so it was quick and easy to vacate. Built by King George the Fourth and completed in 1823, the Pavilion reflected George’s enthusiasm for exotic interiors and excitement. For Queen Victoria and her large family it was impractical, so she sold it to the Brighton Corporation, which later became Brighton & Hove City Council.
The use of the Pavilion during the war divides into two distinct phases. During the first phase, from December 1914 to January 1916, it was a hospital for Indian soldiers who had been injured or become sick on the Western Front. During the second phase, from April 1916 until 1920, it was a hospital for British soldiers, specifically those who had lost an arm or a leg. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it was called the Hospital for Limbless Men.
It can be difficult today to visualise the building as it looked a hundred years ago, but as we follow the tour, imagine the rooms with their royal furniture and ornaments removed, and with lino covering the floors, and boards protecting the walls. You’ll have the opportunity to see photographs of the Pavilion during its time as a hospital throughout our tour.
As you make your way through the Pavilion, can I remind you not to touch any of the walls or objects on display, as they’re easily damaged. And please note that photography is not permitted even without using the flash – a condition of the many loaned items on display.
Our next stop is in the Banqueting Room.
To go back to the Entrance Hall, please use the Menu above.