Walk 4/5

Virtual walk Page 4/5

I: THE SECRET WIFE  

St John the Baptist Church, built in 1835, houses the tomb of Maria Fitzherbert (1756-1837), the Prince of Wales' secret wife.

George was 22 when he met twice-widowed Maria at the opera and instantly fell in love with her. But he could never publicly make her his bride because of her Catholic faith.

Maria, who was 28, charming and virtuous, refused to be his mistress. Mad with desire, George secretly and illegally wed her in 1785, without the necessary permission of his father George III.

But after many happy seasons together in Brighton, George eventually tired of Maria and left her with a £3,000-a-year allowance. He married his cousin Princess Caroline of Brunswick as a condition of his father paying off his £600,000 debts. This marriage was a disaster and he took up again with Maria, only to snub her a second time when he became Prince Regent in 1811 because of her catholic faith.

 After George's death in 1830, his brother William IV allowed Maria to dress her servants in royal livery. She died in Brighton, aged 80. Her memorial, on the right-hand wall, shows her wearing three wedding rings - one for her secret royal marriage.

 

J: CHIMNEY PIECES

Marine Gardens was a service road for the large houses in neighbouring Charlotte Street. No. 12, lived in by generations of chimney sweeps, is cobble-fronted - a traditional seaside feature, created from beach pebbles and often coated with tar to keep out the rain. No. 14 was the first Brighton home of classical actress Dame Flora Robson (1902-1984).

 

K: POET'S CORNER

St Mary's Church was a favourite church of poet laureate Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984).
It was originally built in a classical style in 1826 by Amon Henry Wilds, the architect son of the well-known builder. It was said to be a copy of the Temple of Nemesis, goddess of vengeance, in Athens. But in 1876 it collapsed and was rebuilt by Sir William Emerson in a French Gothic style.

It has a splendid interior with a vaulted ceiling and is unusually large, seating up to 1,000. A painting of the original church hangs in the vestry.

Back Next