Regency Weekend

As a committee member of the Regency Society some years ago, I wondered how we would celebrate the bicentenary of the Regency period. Regency Society Weekend, which celebrated the two-hundredth anniversary of the end of the first year of the Regency era, was all that I imagined and more.

Regency Society Weekend brought together some of the finest speakers in the country including Sir Simon Jenkins and Dan Cruikshank. I attended the talk of my friend Jackie Marsh-Hobbs to see what she had to say about The origins of the Regency Society and conservation of the Royal Pavilion.

The story begins in 1850 when Queen Victoria sold the Royal Pavilion to the people of Brighton. But everything was removed from within; much of which was put in storage in the basement of Kensington Palace or installed in the new east wing of Buckingham Palace which was completed that same year. Chandeliers were even taken as evidenced by the distinctive chandelier from the Pavilion’s Music Room which can be seen to this day behind members of the royal family when they stand on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony whilst waving to the public. Some chandeliers were returned during the 1860s but many are replacements.

The Pavilion gradually fell into disrepair. Muddy bronze-coloured paint soon covered gold leaf. The entrance hall doors were painted corporation green. An ambitious group called the Regency Festival Committee ran a series of successful events – Regency Exhibitions – from 1946. These public displays demonstrated to visitors just how special the Pavilion could be with the right furniture in place. The Regency Society was formed the year before, and shared members with the Festival Committee, and also contributed photographs and other items to the Exhibitions.

The legacy of the Regency Exhibitions was a restored Royal Pavilion. They carried on until the 1970s until the Pavilion provided all-year-round complete exhibitions of its own, as it does to this day. When the Regency Festival Committee disbanded in 1957, its profits of £4,480 were given to the Regency Society and used to purchase various items which exist in the Pavilion until this day, such as the carpet in the Banqueting Room and a bust of George IV.

It may have lasted for just several days, but Regency Society Weekend captured the magic of those influential Regency Exhibitions of old. The current committee should be very proud indeed.

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