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© Miss Esther Harbour

IoE Number: 480508
Location: MUSEUM ART GALLERY AND PUBLIC LIBRARY AND ATTACHED RAILINGS, CHURCH STREET (south side)
  BRIGHTON, BRIGHTON AND HOVE, EAST SUSSEX
Photographer: Miss Esther Harbour
Date Photographed: 07 August 2005
Date listed: 11 March 1987
Date of last amendment: 11 March 1987
Grade II*

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BRIGHTON TQ3104SW CHURCH STREET 577-1/40/150 (South side) 11/03/87 Museum, Art Gallery and Public Library and attached railings GV II* Formerly stables, now museum, art gallery and public library. 1804, extended 1831, 1873, 1894 and 1901-02. The range occupies part of the north facade of the Royal Pavilion Stables, designed by William Porden for the Prince of Wales; Porden's work, which dates to 1804, amounted to a screen wall, the elevation of which matched that of the Riding House to the west, now the Corn Exchange (qv); this screen wall enclosed tennis courts. In 1831 Joseph Good for the Office of Works built stables on this site for William IV and Queen Adelaide; the east return, which reproduces Porden's original elevations, may date from this time. In 1873, the Borough Surveyor, Philip Lockwood, adapted the complex to its current use retaining Porden's and Good's exteriors with only minor alterations. The exhibition galleries were enlarged in 1894 and again in 1901-02, when the Borough Surveyor and Engineer, Francis JC May, heightened the eastern range and constructed the library range, called the Victoria Public Library. MATERIALS: brick in Flemish bond with stone and stucco-cement dressings and details; hipped roofs of slate, onion domes of copper. 2 to 3 storeys, over basement. EXTERIOR: the Museum/ Art Gallery takes up 7 bays of the left, or east side of the complex, returning to the north up to, but not including the entrance porch to the Dome Theatre (for the latter see the Dome Theatre and Corn Exchange, Church Street (qv); each bay in this section is defined by a full-height, octagonal pilaster which terminates above the parapet either in an acanthus urn or an octagonal cap; the corner and return pilasters are of similar design although on a much larger scale. The circulating and reference libraries, which take up the rest of the Church Street elevation, have a 7-window range between them. Good, Lockwood and May all worked in styles which complemented rather than contrasted with Porden's version of Islamic architectural forms. The north elevation to the Porden's stables was originally a 3-part composition, each part of 5 bays, (only the elevation of the Corn Exchange, Church Street preserves this design, although in facsimile which dates to 1868 or to 1934). Bays 1 through 3 of the Museum/Art Gallery are similar to the subsidiary bays of Porden's original elevation and were built in 1901 by May; bay 7, which now contains the joint entrance to the Library and Museum/Art Gallery, dates from 1901, as do the lotus-leaf parapet continuous across the elevation as well as the urn finials. Bays 4 through 6 date either to Porden's or Good's time, and were originally flanked by a pair of narrow, windowless bays; the pointed-arch entrance in bay 5, however, dates to 1873. The latter is supported by coupled columns with cushion capitals carved in Islamic patterns, and bearing an inscription in metal letters, "Museum and Art Gallery"; now blocked, it once led directly into a long gallery (see description of interior below); the 2-storey, pointed-arch, scalloped aedicule in which this entrance sits, however, is of an early C19 design. The entrance in bay 7 through a horseshoe arch, its intrados scalloped, the whole supported by fluted, leaf columns and set into a 2-storey aedicule; this entrance dates to 1901 and is identical to the Church Street Entrance of the Dome Theatre (qv). Flat-arched windows to other bays are set in pointed-arch and scalloped aedicules; the windows are filled with mullioned and transomed tracery which probably dates to 1873. In 1901, the parapet of the Museum/Art Gallery complex was heightened to allow for increased ceiling heights in the first-floor galleries. The elevation of May's Library of 1901-02 is divided into 3 bays of 2-3-2 design, the centre section being lower than the ends; an octagonal buttress of 3 stages terminating in a minaret defines each bay; flat-arched windows, those on the ground floor set in round-arched recesses with grooved architraves; each first-floor window is set in an aedicule consisting of stylised Islamic colonnettes. The end bays are capped by bulbous onion domes with urn finials. INTERIORS: the foyer off the entrance in bay 7 is sheathed in glazed terracotta tiles arranged in Islamic-inspired patterns; these tiles are found throughout the complex and date to 1901. At the rear of the entrance hall is a stair to the first floor. Corridor of 3 bays runs east providing access to all the ground-floor galleries; each bay of the corridor marked by horseshoe diaphragm arch on pilasters; 3 rooms to the north of the corridor, each entered through a flat-arched door set in a wood aedicule with trilobed tympanum, a feature which dates to 1901 and can be found throughout the complex. Retained in the 1901 remodelling is a 2-storey, 5 bay hall on axis with Lockwood's 1873 entrance in bay 5; cast-iron galleries along short elevations at north and south; the section of the hall roof approximates a trilobed arch, the lower areas consisting of groin vaults supported by corbel shafts; centre of roof consists of a glazed and pointed barrel vault raised on a narrow grille band of cast-iron. The circulating library is entered through a rectangular lobby of single-storey height, there follows an aisle formed by a 5-bay colonnade, which, in turn, opens into the 2-storey hall of the circulating library, which is rectangular in plan; gallery along the south elevation and book shelves; rectangular recess to southwest corner; roof of 8 bays, each defined by a truss inspired by a queen post, the medieval forms translated into classical ones; glazed light register above. The reference library is entered on the first floor, and occupies the space immediately above the lobby of the circulating library; nearly 2 storeys in height, rectangular in plan with bookcases and library desks of original design; the walls have a coved cornice with a frieze of scrolled cartouches and volute brackets supporting a Jacobean-style panelled ceiling which is interrupted by 3 domical skylights that once contained chandeliers. HISTORICAL NOTE: the municipal art collection was started with funds realised from exhibitions held in the Pavilion during the 1850s. The art collections were first opened to public view on the first floor of the Pavilion in the 1860s; a natural history collection and library were added in 1869, thus necessitating larger quarters. The new complex, which opened on 20 January, 1873, was not quite large enough to house all the collections, however, and some of the collection had to remain in the Pavilion. All collections were removed from the Pavilion in 1901 and 1902, when the gallery was expanded and the Victoria Public Library was opened on 5 November, 1902; at this point, some municipal offices, which had been housed in the complex, were removed to the newly expanded Town Hall in Bartholomews (qv). In the centre of the Library range is a stone plaque which bears the following inscription: "County Borough of Brighton Library, Museum and Fine Art Gallery/ This stone was laid by His Worship, the Mayor of Brighton, John Edward Stafford, Esquire, J.P., on the 13th day of April, 1901/ Councillor Francis W. Carter, Chairman of the Library and Fine Arts Commission/ Architect Francis J. May, M.Inst., C.E., F.S.I., Borough Engineer and Surveyor. Francis J. Tillstone, Town Clerk". The Museum, Art gallery and Library form a most important group with the Dome Theatre and Corn Exchange, Church Street (qv), and with the Pavilion (qv) and its associated buildings. (Carder T: The Encyclopaedia of Brighton: Lewes: 1990-: 106; Anonymous: Photographs: 1890-1902).

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