North Gate House

When Brighton Museum’s Sarah Posey expertly caught a roast potato that was eager to escape my plate at a rather swish dinner party, and was kind enough to place it back on my plate inconspicuously, I knew that we would get on just fine. I was delighted therefore when our meeting led to a tour of North Gate House on the Pavilion Estate.

North Gate House is a building that most Brightonians would know if they saw it but few can recall it in conversation when asked what is situated in its tucked-away position between the Pavilion’s North Gate and Brighton Museum.

The double-fronted building consists of five-storeys, including basement and roof rooms, and began as 8 Marlborough Row as part of a terrace of nine houses. The terrace was built from 1784-1802 but was short-lived. Most of it was demolished in 1820/21 after it was purchased by agents of the Prince Regent. The building was once known as the Lord Chamberlain’s House and Guard House, and was used by Lord and Lady Hertford. It received an Indian makeover in 1832, presumably at the same time that the North Gate itself was constructed in a similar style.

The interior has been radically transformed over the years and now serves as a visitor centre for schools and offices. Many old features remain but one does have to look closely to find them. Wooden shutters and old staircases survive which is remarkable given their age. The floors are wonky but that is always to be expected. A massive range dominates the basement which no doubt originally served as a kitchen. On the ground floor, the two front rooms serve as a seminar area and school canteen.

One great room is a first floor office which overlooks the North Gate and Pavilion grounds generally. It is from here that the Royal Pavilion & Museums Foundation is run. Having gone from 900 to 5,000 members in five years, it is something of a local success story. Much of what goes on throughout the Pavilion Estate would not be possible without it.

Just as North Gate House escapes the attention of those walking by, it has also escaped the attention of many local historians. Fortunately for me, prolific Brighton expert Sue Berry details the building extensively in her book Georgian Brighton and was kind enough to help me out on some of the finer details.