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Plate 1. South Side. This print is one of a set of four early views  of the Steyne at Brighton. It looks south over the sea. The main house in the centre was built by Dr Richard Russell in the 1750s.  Dr Russell, a physician from the nearby town of Lewes,  set up a medical practice in the town based on his beliefs on the therapeutic health-giving properties of sea water and over the decades Brighton was increasingly sought out by fashionable society who came to avail themselves of the benefits of sea bathing, sea-water cures and to see and be seen. After Dr Russell's death in  1759 the house was then let as a seasonal residence to the fashionable elite including,  for a number of years in the 1770s,  to the Duke of Cumberland, George III's brother. It was he that introduced the young Prince of Wales, (future Prince Regent and George IV) to Brighton's many attractions.


In the nineteenth century the house was used variously as a boarding house, a Toy Repository and a Puppet Theatre. It was demolished in 1823 to make way for the Albion Hotel. 


The set. This set of four etchings and aquatints by Eleanor Lay form a detailed panorama of the Old Steine as it looked in 1788. Originally, a wide, flat, ill-drained expanse used by fisherman to dry their nets and store their boats, the arrival of fashionable society in the latter eighteenth century brought big changes to the area as a flat, sheltered promenade for visitors. The extent of  coastal erosion meant and the proximity of the sea to the existing town meant that there was little space for a seafront promenade. These prints show the Steine before it was drained in 1792-3 and before it was enclosed by substantial iron railings in 1806.  The boundaries of  large, open, flat area, are marked instead by a modest wooden fence and edged on three sides by buildings.  Courting couples, local characters and fashionable beaux promenade at leisure and carriages, horses and dogs animate the scene and provide is a charming snapshot of the extent of development of Brighton on the cusp of the extensive building that would characterise Brighton for the next forty years. 




In the 1760s other buildings grew up aroud the Steine that  played a prominent part in the social life of the town and included the well-established Castle Tavern and Assembly Rooms seen in Plate 3. There were two Circulating Libraries, Dulot's on the East Side, (until the 1780s the only building on that side) and Crawford's in the southern western corner. A number of grand private residencies faced the Steine, notably those occupied during the season by the Duke of Cumberland (Dr Russell’s former house) and the Duke of Marlborough (the only building mentioned here that still stands today and Grade II* listed) seen in Plate 2. Most significant of all though, was the recently-completed Marine Pavilion, built by the architect Henry Holland in 1787. (Plate 3). It was the predecessor to John Nash’s later oriental fantasy, the Royal Pavilion, and the house which George, Prince of Wales, (later Prince Regent and George IV) made his seaside home.




Plate 1 of 4. South Side. One of four views of the Steyne at Brighthelmston

SKU: 1024|1025|1026|1027
  • Image Numbers: 1024-1027
    Title: Four Views of the Steyne at Brighthelmston
    Artist/Engraver: Eleanor Lay
    Medium: Copperplate line engravings
    Date: 1788

    Framed sizes (h x w):

    1024 South Side - 585mm x 727mm

    1025 Marlborough House - 585 x 724mm

    1026 Marine Pavilion - 585 x 725mm

    1027 East Side - 585 x 727mm


  • To find out more or arrange a viewing  please email or get in touch via the contact form 

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