The Royal Pavilion, a royal seaside residence in Brighton, West Sussex is a remarkable and eclectic mix of exotic styles designed by John Nash for George, Prince of Wales and Prince Regent c 1815. The Chinese wallpaper in the Saloon is a familiar sight, but this is likely to have originally graced one of the first floor bedrooms. It was taken down and shipped to Buckingham Palace by Queen Victoria and only reinstalled at the Pavilion in the early 20th century. The Yellow Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace is decorated in a similar paper , which we also conserved and which may be part of the same set. Once yellow, the paper has now faded to a pale cream. It has been skilfully extended by the decorator to fit the available space, but using poor quality lining paper and commercial house paints which have deteriorated with age. It also shows signs of its removal and journey to London as it is torn and damaged in many places, has been repaired and relined with poor quality acidic lining paper and extensively retouched.
The saloon is currently the centre of a major restoration project to conserve and recreate the original 1820's scheme a 'dazzling decorative scheme in gold, silver and crimson' the wallpaper has been removed and conserved and will be rehung back in its rightful place on the first floor. The removal proved particularly difficult as the walls are curved and had been lined with thin sheets of lead to protect against damp. The paper had been attached to the lead using a mixture of animal and synthetic glues and the fragile paper needed to be 'faced up' using a thin oriental style tissue for added strength, then carefully removed using palate knives of various sizes. Once in the studio it was comprehensively tested, the acidic backing papers were removed and the paper washed on fine screens, repaired and relined using lightweight but flexible Japanese papers.
This paper will now be used in Queen Victorias bedroom and is being prepared for rehanging. This will require incorporating new paper, based on the original but designed by ourselves .
Conservators: Allyson and Adrian McDermott. With thanks to all the conservation and curatorial team at the Pavilion for their encouragement and assistance.