Whilst much of the UK may consist of lush green landscapes and gable roofs, we still find some hidden away gems amidst all of this. Scattered sparingly throughout the country we find landmarks, sites and buildings which quite proudly took their architectural inspiration from Islamic designs originating in places like India and Turkey. Some may seem quite odd to be set amongst a rather English context, whilst others fit in quite well. Whatever the case, it seems that the owners of these places were quite eager to replicate what they saw on their oriental sojourns.
The Royal Pavillion
Brighton is known for many things: its beaches, the i360, the famous fish and chips to name a few. However, a 10 minute walk from the Brighton Pier allows one to enter into a completely different environment. You may think you’re standing in front of a mosque! Think again! WIth its rather odd, gothic and Indo-Saracenic architecture, the Royal Pavillion was constructed to serve as a seaside residence for King George IV. He was quite eager to copy what he had seen in his travels to India. With a habit of spending lavishly, the work began and due to the enormity of thought that went into the design, it even attracted Queen Victoria to visit in 1837. However, things took a different turn several decades later. In 1914 it was converted into a hospital which accommodated the Muslim and Hindu army men who were wounded in the first World War when fighting alongside Britain. At one given time, over 4000 soldiers were treated here, with prayer areas developed and dietary requirements adjusted to cater for them all.
The Royal Pavillion has become a hot-spot tourist destination today with its imposing dome and minarets. With its selfish and selfless role, the Pavillion is without a doubt Brighton’s pride and joy today!
Sezincote Mughal Palace
If you’ve ever been to The Cotswold, you may know this one. Or you might not! This Mughal-inspired palace located within the green landscape surprises visitors with its foreign and unusual layout. The idea behind this place was that it had to be Indian and Mughal but internally should remain British. This is why visitors will see an Indian Bridge, weathered-coper onion dome, pools, waterfalls and many rare plants. Aesthetics played a huge part in developing gardens in the Islamic world and these Brits were eager to create a world of their own in England. The interior, however, remains a mystery for some. With its very english and classical layout, it seems that the original owner was not prepared to transform the place entirely because in the end, he probably wanted to feel at home in some ways.
Cardiff Castle’s Arab Room
With its 2000 years worth of history, it comes as no surprise that the Cardiff Castle is one of the most interesting in all of UK. It’s location in the splendid parklands might make it visible to all, but to truly appreciate what it stands to offer, you have to get inside.
Whilst the castle is fascinating to see with its towers and majestic walls, there lies a small and often unvisited room which is brimming with top quality interior designs.
Dating back to 1881 and inspired by the Moorish designs William Burges saw in his travels, the transports visitors to another world! The Arab room is mainly known for its unique ceiling style ‘muquarnas’ and attempts to resemble the living quarters of an Arab ruler. Made of wood and decorated in gold leaf, this is just one of many parts of the room which leaves visitors mesmerised. But all this came at a whopping cost of £8 million!
A large town thirty miles southwest of London, Woking is home to the first mosque in the country – the Shah Jahan Mosque. But that’s not all. A short drive from the mosque we find a peace garden dedicated to Muslim Soldiers who fought for Britain in WW1. These Muslim soldiers were called over from India and other close by countries to help Britain combat their foes in the first world war. At first, the site was chosen as a dedicated cemetery for the Muslim Indian soldiers but due to vandalism and related incidents, the soldiers were carried over to the Brookwood Cemetery, six miles from the peace garden.
The garden has been designed in an Islamic style, with a reflective pool in the middle, fed by a rill with a memorial stone (with the names of all the soldiers engraved) standing upon the upper pool. All this has been designed deliberately, to promote and encourage peace and reflection. Inspired by Mughal style architecture, the pool is surrounded by beautiful lawns as well as birch groves that stand just outside the Indian sandstone walls of the garden. What’s more, throughout the garden one will find evergreen plantings that have been kept low to keep the listed walls at the centre of attention.
Bradford may not be a place people usually think about when choosing a place to visit in the UK. But things are changing now that some of the city’s attractions are being advertised well. If there’s one reason to visit Bradford in the summer (beyond visiting some of the city’s fancy Indian restaurants), it is to see and admire the splendour of the Mughal Garden located within Manningham Park.
The area where the Mughal Garden is was not always as pretty as this. Once an over-spill car park which remained for years in an unacceptable state, things changed when Cartwright Hall was opened. It didn’t seem fair that this grand building stand next to an overspill car park! Work began and after consulting 15000 people asking them what they wanted from the park, the Mughal Water Garden was developed.
Whilst the design of the Mughal Gardens in Lister Park is not entirely a copy of the Mughal Gardens in India, it follows the principles of Mughal architecture very well. One example is how the water is channelled. Instead of flowing water from mountains that flow through canals, the water here is constantly pumped and recycled to make it look like a sloping hillside. What’s more, Mughal Gardens are quite often linked to buildings and that’s also the case with the Mughal Gardens in Bradford. Although Cartwright Hall is physically Victorian in style, it fits well with the Mughal Gardens as both feature pale coloured local stone. Unexpectedly, both complement one another and look remarkable side by side.