Thursday, January 16, 2014

St Leonards, Sussex

Sun-warmed surfaces

Rain and deadlines are keeping me indoors these days, so I have looked through my stock of photographs to find an interesting building or two, preferably illuminated by the summer sun and warmed by the memories of former days.

Some mid-Victorian villas seemed to fit the bill. They were built in around 1860 to designs by Decimus Burton, son of the James Burton who had begun to build St Leonards as a new town in 1828. This bit of the town is leafy, well to do, and stuccoed. The houses have an agreeably period feel – tall sash windows with neat moulded surrounds and tiny brackets to the sills, a deep bracketed overhang to the roof, a bright white finish, and lovely cast-iron balconies that pick up, as it were, where Regency Brighton and Cheltenham leave off. The finishing touch is the sinuous outline of the ogee-shaped canopies above each balcony, just the thing to keep the midday sun off the tops of the big windows. And, to catch the light in a still more interesting way, these canopies have a corrugated covering. Is it corrugated iron? Or some other material? It doesn't really matter. It does the bendy thing just as corrugated iron does, and lends its textured effect to set off the flat white finish of the walls. And it works. Rain or shine.

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There's an interesting account of the residents of this street and the adjacent area here. This page points out that many of the households were made up entirely or almost entirely of women, the heads of households frequently being well-to-do widows or spinsters.


Hels said...

The cast iron balconies in your photo are gorgeous.

Interesting that it became hugely popular to decorate verandas in Australia with "iron lace work" in the late 1880s and through the 1890s. But your date is 1860!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Hels: Have you been to Cheltenham in the UK? The town has many cast-iron balconies that date to the 1820s and 1830s.

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

I can't help feeling that this design was rather old-fashioned by the 1860s - an appeal to the "mature market" perhaps - those who still admired the rather severe neo-Classical phase of 1770-1830? The Bo-Beep Tunnel and the one next to it at Warrior Square station surely demonstrate the determination of the railway pioneers to put the town within reach of retired Londoners.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Interestingly, a lot of the early inhabitants of these houses seem to have been women – often widows, often upper class. A very mature market indeed. I'll add a link to an interesting site that discusses some of the residents of this area of St Leonards.