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Overlooked Britain

Arts |

Lucinda Lambton visits the often unnoticed Western Pavilion in Brighton

The Western Pavilion (not to be confused with the better-known Royal Pavilion) is a clap-your-hands-with-delight surprise to find down a tiny street in Brighton. Would that the whole town had been built in the Indo-Saracenic style! For those not in the know, this was the name given by the British in 19th-century India to their stupendous and stupendously astute architectural amalgams of Islamic, Hindu and Byzantine forms, laced through – danced through – with the gothic and set solid and stately by the neo-classical. Up-to-the-minute engineering innovations from Britain allowed them to be magisterially symbolic of the Empire, while at the same time honouring the architectural lore of the land in which they were being built. With their bulbous onion domes, cusped arches, minarets and wealth of other fanciful details, this was a most zestful architecture.