The design of the exotic, vibrant carpet which graces the Saloon was almost lost forever, when Queen Victoria decided to sell the Royal Pavilion in 1850 to the town of Brighton for £50,000. When the sale was agreed it was assumed that the transaction would include the furniture, fittings and carpets. Unfortunately Queen Victoria had other ideas, and all the contents of the palace were transported to Buckingham Palace. This was a very unwelcome surprise for the town council.
Queen Victoria’s thriftiness
In fact, it transpired that the original carpet, designed by Samuel Whitty of Axminster was not needed after all. Well known to be very thrifty, Queen Victoria eventually had the magnificent carpet cut up to make rugs for Buckingham Palace. Nearly 200 years later Conservator Anne Sowden used the one fragile portion of the carpet which still exists today, as the starting point for her carpet design.
Painstaking detective work
Anne Sowden researched the carpet design using an aquatint by John Nash of the Saloon in 1822/3. a rare image from Robert Jones’ original designs and a very detailed description in the Royal Pavilion inventory of 1828. Her painstaking detective work led to the design of the luxurious vibrant circular carpet which now transforms the floor of the Saloon.
Lavish and intricate design
The carpet is one of the most lavish and complicated ever woven by Axminster Carpets, who hold a Royal Warrant, in their 250 year history. The design Incorporates 20 dragons, 100 sun rays and 274 lotus leaves, The original carpet cost £620 to produce. The new carpet which is designed to be hard-wearing to cope with heavy footfall cost £59,500 and took fleeces from 80 Cheviot, Blackface, Welsh and Heavy X-bred sheep, to produce. It has been funded through grants, donations from the public and private donations.