Burtons' St Leonards History
The original town of St Leonards was created by the well-known London builder James Burton between 1827 and 1837. His son, the architect Decimus Burton, added further buildings in the 1850's and 60's.
James Burton conceived the town as a brand-new seaside resort for the wealthy and it became instantly popular with royalty and aristocracy. The town prospered and expanded until it merged with Hastings.
The original St Leonards, as planned and built by James Burton, is the area centred on the picturesque park known as St Leonards Gardens, which lies directly behind the Royal Victoria Hotel.
This property with its fine octagonal sitting room was James Burton's own residence from 1831 until his death.
This is where the Archery Ground once stood and was home to the St Leonards Archers, who were founded in 1833. Princess Victoria presented the Archery Club with a special banner in 1834 and the archers became known as the Queens Royal St Leonards Archers after she was crowned queen.
Assembly Rooms / Masonic Hall
Behind the Royal Victoria Hotel stands the Assembly Rooms, now known as the Masonic Hall. This was the centre of all social activity including balls, receptions, card parties and banquets. Food for such activities was often prepared at the hotel and brought across the road via an underground tunnel. Originally set between two graceful villas, only the East Villa remains.
Just above North Lodge is Baston Lodge, built by Decimus Burton in 1850. This building has a strong Italian influence.
Burton Family Tomb
Looking towards the beach from West Hill Road you can see the old burial ground of St Leonards Parish Church. The Burton family tomb in the shape of a small pyramid is positioned in the middle looking out to sea. This is where the architect himself, his wife, and several other members of his family lie.
There are four inscription stones on the tomb which read as below:
In Memory of James Burton Esq, Founder of St Leonards, July 29th 1761 Died March 31st 1837". His wife Elizabeth is also buried here.
Jane Wood, 1702 - 1870 James' daughter and Decimus Burton FRS 30th September 1800 - 14th December 1881. Decimus was buried at Kensal Green.
James' Daughter Eliza 1786 - 1877 and Son, Alfred 1802 - 1877. Alfred was buried at Fairlight.
Emily Jane Wood 1815 - 1892 and Helen Wood 1816 - 1903
Built in 1830 when the Pleasure Grounds (now St Leonard's Gardens) were laid out. The building was originally designed as just a clock tower but later enlarged into a fine ecclesiastic Gothic style villa presenting three storeys to the park and only one to the road behind.
The clock in the Clock House tower was made by George III's clockmaker and was used as St Leonards official time piece during the early days of the town.
The Clock House building was restored in 1976 thanks to funds raised by Marie Lebrock and others.
Situated at 57 Marina, the Crown House was the first building to be erected in St Leonards and served as James Burton's own villa during the construction of the town. The timber frame of the building was constructed in London and shipped by sea to St Leonards.
The Duchess of Kent and her daughter Princess Victoria stayed in No.57 during 1834/5 and after they left the building was renamed Victoria House. As Victoria was crowned queen the house was renamed again as Crown House and remains this today.
The house has seen varying usage during its lifetime including many years as a social club and then public house. In 2014 the Crown House was turned back into a private dwelling and remains as such today.
This building was originally tited the Castellated Villa, but was renamed Gloucester Lodge after its first occupant, Princess Sophia of Gloucester. The stunning building overlooks St Leonards gardens from the North.
Horse & Groom
Within Mercatoria is the Horse and Groom, St Leonards’ first pub. This was built mainly for the benefit of the army of building workers on the site.
The area which is now the corner of Mercatoria and Norman Road was originally called Lavatoria Square and was where the washerwomen lived and worked.
Royal Victoria Hotel
Originally named the St Leonards Hotel, this was the centrepiece of Burton's St Leonards. The hotel entrance was originally at the back so guests could avoid the seafront weather. The building was enlarged in 1903.
Situated off Stanhope Place is a group of double villas built around a shared private garden called The Lawn. These were built by Decimus Burton in 1834.
The Mount is a crescent of houses off Archery Road, built by Decimus Burton.
Maze Hill is lined with striking 19th century Gothic villas and is named after the maze that once occupied the top end of St Leonards Gardens.
This was the original service area of Burton's town, containing the tradesmen's and laundrywomen's quarter.
Mercatoria National School
In 1847 a National School was built at the Mercatoria, originally a trading area, by Decimus Burton. The school moved to a new site at Collingswood Drive, St Leonards C of E Primary and the old school building was converted into a Mosque after purchase by the East Sussex Islamic Association.
North Lodge spans Upper Maze Hill and was originally built as a tollgate at the Northern entrance to St Leonards. Built by James Burton in 1830 to a mock Gothic castellated style. A toll road ran from here and joined up with the main London to Hastings Road.
North Lodge became the family home to Jane Wood, James Burtons daughter, and a later resident was Henry Rider Haggard who wrote King Solomon's Mines amongst other wwell known stories. The archway became damaged by a large vehicle in 2002 and following its repair has remained closed to vehicles since.
Another St Leonards double villa, South Lodge West on the left and South Lodge East on the Right. The centre archway forms the South entrance to St Leonards Gardens.
St Leonards Lodge
St Leonards Lodge was built by Decimus Burton in 1845 for his own use, and later enlarged by a subsequent owner.
St Leonards Gardens
Originally these were subscription gardens and private to residents only. Later they were purchased by the Council and made public.
St Leonards Parish Church
St Leonards Church was originally built in a gothic style. This was the only Church ever designed by James Burton.
It is said that he originally planned to build the church on top of the hill, however he built it on the current site due to objections about having to walk uphill to the church.
The foundation stone was laid on 8th September 1831, which was the Coronation of William IV and Queen Adelaide. The church opened as a proprietary chapel in 1832.
Five years after completion in 1837 a section of the cliff fell down and destroyed the chancel. This was later replaced on a smaller scale.
On 29th July, 1944, the church was totally destroyed by a 'doodlebug'.
The new St Leonards Church was rebuilt post-war and designed by Sir Giles and Adrian Gilbert Scott in a contemporary style with paraboloid arches. It was open for worship by April 1955, however the tower was not completed until 1961.
The current church interior has a maritime theme throughout.
Built from local Crowhurst bluestone, The Uplands is a fine group of buildings by Decimus Burton in Quarry Hill. These substantial sized double villas were constructed in the 1860's as The Uplands School for Girls and then became part of Hastings College of Further Education.