Sunday 2 September 2018

Robert Adam, a famous eighteenth century architect seeks royal patronage at Brighton 

Robert Adam was a very fashionable architect who never designed for a member of the royal family.  In the mid-1780s, Robert was asked to revamp the house of W G Hamilton in Brighton (see left) . The elegant result has survived, called Marlborough House after the man from whom Hamilton bought it.  Robert sought patronage from the royal family and, when Grove House,  a large house to

the north of the Royal Pavilion came on the market, he saw an opportunity.  He tried to interest MrsFitzherbert, then very close to George Prince of Wales who owned the Pavilion to buy this house
and revamp it.  Adam produced designs which have survived at the Sir John Soane Museum in London and you can see them, and those for Marlborough House on the website.  Here is a little bit about the two houses that Adam became involved with.  Inside Marlborough House, some of his interior designs survive. It isn't accessible at the moment and the best rooms are on the ground floor. It would make a lovely restaurant with flats above.  A cheeky suggestion but it would open the key rooms up and the building would be looked after. Go to York and a pizza chain owns and cares for the lovely eighteenth century assembly room. 

Marlborough House. Artist unknown  Brighton Museum website 

 This water-colour shows Marlborough House in about 1800, after Adams transformation of it for Hamilton. This is the facade we still see. To the right stands a double fronted house which Maria Fitzherbert bought and then employed William Porden to transform in 1803-4. The building on the site today isn't Mrs Fitzherbert's. It has been substantially altered. 

Mrs Fitzherbert's next to what is now called Marlborough House again.

        Above  - Mrs Fitzherbert's House, c 1810 and so soon after Porden had revamped it.  

Section of Budgen's map of 1788 

If you look at the map on your right dated 1788 you can see the site of Marlborough House and that the Pavilion is a bit like the jam in a sandwich.  The Castle Inn and Assembly Room is to the south. Looking as if it is joined to the Pavilion on its north side, is Grove House. The Prince of Wales was very keen to buy both of these properties. 

The slug like shape in from of the Pavilion is a huge muddy puddle which appeared most winters until the Prince and the Duke of Marlborough - who from 1790 owned Grove House, paid for a drain.

Having sold the Marlborough House we have just discussed, the Marlboroughs did not have a house in this resort for a while. Grove house - see pictures below was built in 1780 by Percy Wyndham, a brother of the Earl of Egremont (of Petworth House) and whilst he let it in the late 1780s, that was when Robert Adam hoped to entice Mrs Fitzherbert to buy and enlarge it. If she had, the house would have overwhelmed the Pavilion even more then it did.   The Duke of Marlborough bought it in 1790 and renamed it (as was common then) after the family and so it became the second 'Marlborough House' - one to the south by now taking on the surnames or titles of its successive owners e.g. Hamilton House.

Spornburg's watercolour of 1796 (owned by Brighton Museum hows how big Grove House (by then Marlborough House) was.  And below, the drawing by Humphry Repton for his Designs for the Pavilion at Brighton (1808) shows that same impression of crowding in the Pavilion as we see in the Spornburg above it. 

The Prince bought the huge house from the Duke in 1812 for £9000 and his architect James Wyatt  temporarily linked it to the Pavilion.  It was demolished when Nash was commissioned to revamp the Pavilion and the Music Room stands partly over it, the rest of the building is under the gardens

Repton's view of Grove - by the Marlborough House from north  and of Marlborough Row, now mainly under the Pavilion grounds - demolished (bar the north one) once the Pavilion was ready for use again.