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North and South Parade. 

The two large terraces that dominate the print (separated by a long low library building in the centre) are the buildings known as North and South Parade. They were erected  in 1786, not long before this picture was made. They still stand though most were re-fronted in the nineteenth century. North Parade was and is situated north of St James's Street and the South Parade lies to the south Steine Street. Number 20  was the home of Dr Gideon Mantell, a celebrated Sussex geologist who  practiced medicine in Lewes and moved to Brighton in 1833. He founded the Mantellian Institute which  held lectures and meetings in the house. 


Eleanor Lay's print shop.

Eleanor Lay, the creator of this set of prints was a publisher and print-seller, who had a fashionable shop on The Steine in Brighton. It can be identified as the lower two-storey building immediately to the south of the South Parade at the far right of the print. It has square-paned windows on the ground floor typical of a print shop and a balcony overhangs the windows.  With a magnifying glass the words 'LAY - Printseller' can just be made out. The print shop was active in the late 1780s and early 1790s.


As well as selling prints from London publishers, Eleanor Lay designed and published a number of prints herself, including these four views of Brighton in 1788. One set was dedicated to Mrs. Fitzherbert, the long-time companion of George IV, who he secretly married in 1786. The marriage was not legally recognised but the relationship continued for a number of years and Maria Fitzherbert was a long-term resident of Brighton. The original watercolours by Lay are in the Brighton Museum as well as the set of prints dedicated to Maria Fitzherbert.


Mrs Lay also let rooms on the premises. In 1789 she published two prints by the young Thomas Rowlandson] and also co-published several others by him with the London publishers Samuel William Fores and John Harris. In 1788 the Prince of Wales purchased two large Rowlandson watercolours The English Review and The French Review from Mrs Lay’s shop in the Steine. That they were delivered to Brighton may suggest that they were hung at the Marine Pavilion though there is no clear evidence of this.  


Baker's: The Circulating Library. 

The town’s first library was established in 1760 by Mr E.Baker, a  bookseller from Tunbridge Wells.. It was a single-storey timber building with an arched verandah and was the first building on the eastern side of the Steine. The library initially opened only until the end of October, and was more like a club than a modern-day library with a billiards room and a wooden rotunda for musicians. In 1774 following Baker's death it was taken on by one R. Thomas as the Brighthelmston Circulating Library. From 1781 until about 1784 the town’s post-office was situated at Thomas’s Library.  It then passed to a Mr Dudlow, to Messrs Dulot and Gregory, and finally to a Mr Donaldson who opened a new library on the site in June 1806. Donaldson became bookseller and librarian to the Prince of Wales.  


 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 4 East Side, Eleanor Lay - Framed Antique 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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