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The Festival of Britain 1951

The Milkmaid Pavilion
Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton & Hove
Previously The Milkmaid Pavilion -now The Brighton Beach Club
© Tony Mould (2019)

The Milkmaid Pavilion on the seafront was built as part of the ‘Festival of Britain 1951‘. The suggestion of a festival was first made by the Royal Society of Arts in 1943. The idea was that exhibitions should be held to commemorate the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition. In 1945, Herbert Morrison, a British Labour politician who held a variety of senior positions in the Cabinet, took charge for the Labour government and decided to plan a series of displays about the arts, architecture, science, technology and industrial design, under the title ‘Festival of Britain 1951‘. 

Promoting national pride

For a people curbed by years of total war and half-crushed by austerity and gloom, the festival showed that they had not lost the capacity for enjoying themselves. Above all, the festival made a spectacular setting as a showpiece for the inventiveness and genius of British scientists and technologists. With the aim of promoting the feeling of recovery and national pride, Morrison insisted there be no politics, explicit or implicit. Programs such as nationalisation, universal health care and working-class housing were excluded; instead what was allowed was town planning, scientific progress, and all sorts of traditional and modern arts and crafts.

Brighton’s Regency Festival

Brighton was one of twenty-three towns and cities across the country selected as Festival Arts Centres and given additional funding from the Arts Council. Among its activities, Brighton staged a Regency Festival which ran from the 16th July to the 25th August. On Friday the 27th of July 1951 there was a ball organised at the Royal Pavilion when everyone was encouraged to dress in Regency costume. Tickets were three guineas each, a princely sum in those days. Preston Park was the location for a varied list of events, amongst which was a  ‘Cavalcade through the Ages’, fireworks and showjumping.


Comments about this page

  • I would like to point out that the b&w photograph in this article isn’t from 1951 because the Sussex Heights apartment block appears in the background. This block was built between 1966 and 1968 [Thanks Alan, we appreciate your correction. Comments Editor]

    By Alan Phillips (24/06/2019)
  • This was not built as a milk bar! When it opened in 1951 it was as a bathing pavilion, but was not a success. It became The Milkmaid Pavilion in June 1957 after being leased by the Milk Marketing Board; the B&H Gazette reported that some Sussex cricketers, including Ken Suttle and Don Bates were the first served, they are pictured on the beach in front drinking milk with two swim-suited girls!

    By Geoffrey Mead (26/06/2019)
  • I recall some of the Brighton celebrations, but mainly I recall being taken by my mother to The Festival of Britain site and marvelling at The Skylon where my Mum took a very clever photo of me (with a box Brownie camera) with the base of the Skylon in the palm of my hand. Then there was all matter of wonderful things in “The Dome of Discovery”: The Shot tower, where they were bouncing signals off the lunar surface, record breaking cars such as Bluebird, a brand new steam engine, “Brittania”, up on Hungerford Bridge and the Festival Hall and a Cinema with 3D.
    All these wonderful things that were enchanting to a 13 year=old boy. Thank you Mum XX

    By John Snelling (24/10/2019)

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