At John Bray, we will be celebrating our 150th anniversary next year. Having been set up in 1872, we have a rich history of selling period properties of character and history, in and around Hastings and surrounding areas. As members of the Burtons St Leonards Society, it is important for our business to understand as much about the history of all of the properties we sell, bringing to life the property and its background wherever possible.
One of the foremost architects within St Leonards and influential on many of the properties we have sold over the years was Decimus Burton, born in 1800 and the well-connected son and of one of the 12 children of James Burton. It was James who had the idea of building a seaside resort in St Leonards-on-Sea, the plans of which started taking shape around 1828, having negotiated the purchase of a strip of coast west of Hastings and part of what was Gensing Farm. His son Decimus later purchased acres of adjacent land and in 1850 began a second phase of the development including the Mount, the Uplands and the Lawn, including landmark buildings such as North Lodge.
There is much misinformation about the role of Decimus in the concept and design of his father’s 1828 St Leonards New Town. The first documented evidence of his involvement is as Commissioner from 1832 under the St Leonards Improvement Act - the statute which established the way St Leonards raised rates and maintained its roads, drainage, water supply etc before the “reach” of Hastings Borough encompassed St Leonards.
His first acquisition of land here was in 1838 when two parcels of land were assigned to him from his father’s Estate. These were subsequently developed by the builder's Henry Hughes and William Hunter as 72 -82 Marina 1850-59 and 19 to 35 West Hill Road by the builder William Rodda 1862 -69.
He acquired from the Eversfield Estate a substantial parcel abutting his father’s estate in the early 1840s and built one of his several homes on it - The Cottage - so that he had a base when he came to St Leonard's for meetings of the Commissioners and to oversee his developments here. The Cottage, now St Leonards Lodge was divided into various residences in the 70’s, of which the primary entrance hall and parlours now form part of a current John Bray sale. The interior of “The Cottage” was extensively remodelled in 1897 by Edward John May the last of Decimus’s 5 pupils who became a noted Arts and Crafts architect.
His prime development here was The Uplands (1849-1856) and The Lawn (1852-56) both built by John Harward on 500-year leases. He also designed two large villas on the Eversfield Estate. Tower House on the corner of Brittany Road and Upper Maze Hill (demolished 1967) and Clone House now Healey House, Upper Maze Hill - built by Henry Hughes.
To what extent he personally managed those is open to question. He may have expected his brother Alfred or his nephew, Henry Marley Burton both of whom were early Members of the RIBA to do that because he was much exercised with new commissions in London, Northern England, Ireland and Wales. His prime residence and practice office was 6 Spring Gardens, Westminster adjacent to Trafalgar Square. His second home up to the time of his death was The Cottage, St Leonards which he later extended and occupied for much of his retirement years. At times he had houses at Tunbridge Wells and Fleetwood, Lancashire and finally Gloucester Terrace, Paddington.
When it comes to period properties, there is no definitive statement but generally speaking, the term period is used for buildings that pre-date the First World War. There is, however, a strong argument for including later 20th-century architecture, such as Art Deco. The line does at some point need to be drawn. The term period property should not be confused with English Heritage listing. Most buildings that predate 1840 are listed, but lesser known is that some modern ones are too. Listed buildings are graded according to their importance and come with certain responsibilities regarding their upkeep. To discuss your property get in touch on 01424 421 544 or firstname.lastname@example.org
We are currently marketing a unique opportunity to buy the main part of Decimus Burtons' original residence within 'The Cottage'. https://www.johnbray.uk/property-for-sale/st-leonards/tn38-0hw/2169893
Watch out for our 150th-anniversary celebrations by following our Facebook page and #JB150
More information on the Burton’s is available on the society’s website www.burtonsstleonardssociety.co.uk
Historical content courtesy of Burtons’ St Leonards Society