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Plate 2. The central, white-faced building is this plate in Marlborough House and is the oldest remaining building on the Steine and is Grade II* listed. The original house was a three-storey, red-brick building with a tiled roof and dormer windows. But a few years before this print  the house was acquired by the fourth Duke of Marlborough, after which the building takes its name.  After fifteen years in 1786 he sold it to an M.P. William Hamilton known as 'Single Speech Hamilton' allegedly because he only made one speech in parliament though this is actually not the case.  Hamilton employed the architect Robert Adam, to remodel the house both inside and out, the only work by Adam in Brighton. When this print was made the remodelling of the facade can only have just been completed. The new  facade has two slightly projecting bays topped by pediments, two large round-headed windows, and a pedimented fanlight doorway with fluted Doric columns. The Prince of Wales stayed with Hamilton twice, once in 1789 and again in 1795 with his new wife, Queen Carloine of Brunswick. 


The building has been used subsequently as a publishing house, education and county council.  The house is now in private ownership though Historic England England is in pre-application discussions with owner about alternative uses for the building. 


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 2 Marlborough House. Four Views of the Steyne at Brighthelmston - Print

  • 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


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