In Sussex, we are blessed with a number of great cultural and arts centres, and Brighton Dome and Museum are two of my favourites. You’ll find all sorts of curiosities and intrigues here, and whatever time of the year, or whoever you’re with, there is always something going on to draw you in.
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
I first stumbled across Brighton Museum by accident. I absolutely love the Royal Pavilions but I had never been into the adjacent museum until I found myself lingering in the Pavilion gardens with a couple of hours to kill. The museum is one of Britain’s oldest public museums and it’s fair to say, home as it is to all sorts of different collections, it’s eclectic, diverse, and enthralling in equal measure.
The collections include 20th-century art and design, fashion, fine art, pottery and arts and crafts from across the world including from Ancient Egypt. With my own personal love of Russian history, I was beyond excited to learn that a number of Fabergé items were “discovered” at the museum in 2019 and are currently on display. They include a gold-mounted photograph frame in translucent purple enamel and a beautiful smaller frame in rose pompadour enamel.
No one is yet sure who the two ladies depicted in the photos in the frames are, although there is some thought that one may be Princess Alice of Battenberg, great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, mother of the Duke of Edinburgh. There are also “two enamelled gum pots, one with a moonstone finial and the other topped with a garnet and objet de luxe, in the form of a striking blue, stamp damper”. How these items came to be in the museum is itself a mystery and we’ll be sharing more details about this soon. By way of a teaser, it may involve a spy!
Apart from having a diverse and interesting programme of events, the Dome is another beautiful Brighton building with a great story to tell. The Dome has three parts: The Concert Hall (which used to be the Prince Regent’s stables and was inspired by the Halle au Ble (Corn Market) in Paris), The Corn Exchange (which was built as the riding school for the Prince Regent (later George IV)) and The Studio Theatre built on the site of Mrs Fitzherbert’s stables.
On the subject of Mrs Fitzherbert, Maria Fitzherbert (1756 – 1837) was the secret wife of George, Prince of Wales, the future George IV. Described by some as a cougar, there’s a nearby pub of the same name. Back in the early 1990s, I was a trainee barrister working in offices that overlooked the Dome, and I recall that I used to be able to get mussels, chips and a glass of white wine for £10 from Mrs Fitzherbert’s on my way back from court. But I have digressed. Again.
Before you leave this part of town, cross over the road and explore North Laine, the avant garde and bohemian district of Brigthon.
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