In 1828 James Burton (1761-1837), a successful London architect, commenced building a new town, on land owned by him, and under his own supervision. It was a purpose-built resort for the well-to-do. Among the first buildings completed were the St Leonards Hotel, a house for himself (now 57 Marina), the South Colonnade, an Archway marking the town boundary with Hastings, and tall seafront houses (as far as 71 Marina).
His son Decimus, also an architect, became a Commissioner of the new town in 1833. He leased a triangle of land bounded by Mercatoria, St John’s Church, Maze Hill and Kenilworth Road. Here he built The Cottage (now St Leonards Lodge), Maze Hill House (demolished), The Mount (13 houses), The Uplands (6), The Lawn (10), and a school (now part of the College). Later, in Upper Maze Hill he built Baston Lodge, Tower House and Clone House (now Healey House). He gave some land in Mercatoria for a National School, and completed his father’s seafront terrace by building 72 to 82 Marina.
Situated at 57 Marina, the Crown House is one of the most important buildings in Burtons’ St Leonards. This property 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.
Built from local Crowhurst bluestone, The Uplands is a group of substantially sized double villas built by Decimus Burton in the 1860’s. This was the area intended for the wealthy.
North Lodge, by James Burton 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. North Lodge spans Upper Maze Hill and was originally built as a tollgate at the Northern entrance to St Leonards.
Sir Henry Rider Haggard – author of ‘King Solomon’s Mines’, ‘She’ and other fine novels – lived here from 1918 to 1923.
This building was originally named 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.
The Mount is a crescent of houses off Archery Road, built by Decimus Burton.
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.
One of the oldest houses in St. Leonards-on-Sea. It’s on West Hill and was built in 1832. The house overlooks the sea and the Burton family grave.
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.
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.
The Royal Victoria Hotel. It was originally built in 1828 as St. Leonard’s Hotel, as the focal point of Burtons’ St. Leonards and derives it’s later name from Queen Victoria. Over 500 distinguished guests have stayed at this hotel include King George V, Prince Albert, Edward VII, Gladstone, Palmerston and Tennyson.
Clone House was one of a number of substantial villas built in the mid-19th century by Decimus Burton.
Today it’s called Healey House and it is a care home owned by the Hastings & Rother Voluntary Association for the Blind.
Baston Lodge, just above North Lodge, by Decimus Burton, dates from 1850 and shows a strong Italian influence. On the left is the tower of St. Johns by Sir Arthur Blomfield (1881). The rest of the church was destroyed in the last war and has been rebuilt.
St. Leonards Parish Church was originally built in 1833, in a gothic style look 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. On 29th July, 1944, the church was totally destroyed by a ‘doodlebug’. The church was rebuilt post-war and open for worship by April, 1955, however the tower was not completed until 1961. The current church has a maritime theme throughout.
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