Leonard's, St., on Sea

LEONARD'S, ST., on Sea, a parish and fashionable watering-place, in the union of Hastings, chiefly in the hundred of Baldslow, but having a detached portion (adjoining the town of Winchelsea) in the hundred of Guestling, rape of Hastings, E. division of Sussex, 1½ mile (W.) from Hastings, and 62 (S. E. by S.) from London; containing 768 inhabitants. This interesting place is situated on a most beautiful bay on the south coast, and is screened from the northern and eastern winds by lofty cliffs, parts of which were cut away at an incredible expense, to allow for the site of the town. It was commenced in 1828, by the late James Burton, Esq., and has become a well-frequented watering-place. The mildness and softness of the air and its equability of temperature, combined with the influence of a marine atmosphere, render St. Leonard's a desirable residence for invalids affected with pulmonary disease; and the advantages of a bracing atmosphere, found in the more elevated portions, equally exempt from the bleakness of the eastern, and the humidity of the western, coasts, are favourable in cases of debility. Her Majesty, with the Duchess of Kent, passed the winter of 1834-5 at the place, occupying a residence since named Victoria House; the Princess Sophia Matilda at one time occupied the house now called Gloucester Lodge; and in 1837 Her Majesty the Queen Dowager passed the winter here. The town is well paved, lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water, under an act of parliament obtained in 1832 for its general improvement.

A range of buildings facing the sea, called the Marino, in a simple style of Grecian architecture, extends for nearly three-quarters of a mile, with a sea-wall and fine esplanade in front, along which is continued the high road from Dovor, through Hastings, to Eastbourne and Brighton. In the centre of the esplanade is an elegant edifice containing the Royal baths, a library with a reading and news room, a post-office, and a bank; and opposite to this range, is the Royal Victoria and St. Leonard's hotel, which has a handsome frontage nearly 200 yards in length, commanding a fine view of the sea, and contains hot and cold baths, with every accommodation for families. There are also the Conqueror's and the Harold hotels. In addition to the lines of building, are numerous pleasing villas; and in a natural ravine of considerable extent are the subscription gardens, tastefully laid out, and abounding with shrubs and plants of luxurious vegetation: within the grounds is a large flat stone, called the Conqueror's Table, on which William is said to have dined, on his landing near Pevensey. Between the subscription gardens and the hotel are the assembly-rooms, a handsome structure, with a portico of the Grecian-Doric order at each extremity; the ballroom is nearly 70 feet in length, of proportionate breadth, and 30 feet high, and attached to it are card and billiard rooms. A society for the practice of archery, designated the Queen's St. Leonard's Archers, hold occasional meetings on a ground tastefully embellished, and on the 17th of August contest for a prize given by Her Majesty. At the eastern entrance of the town is an elegant archway of the Doric order; near which are some good houses, recently erected, named the Grand Parade, with an hotel called the Saxon hotel. The Hastings and St. Leonard's races take place at the latter end of September, on a race-course about a mile to the west of the town, and are generally well attended. There is a direct railway communication with Lewes and Brighton.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Rev. C. W. Leslie. The church, of which the first stone was laid by the Princess Sophia in 1831, is a handsome structure in the early English style, most picturesquely situated on the cliff; it contains 700 sittings, without galleries, 200 of the number being free. The windows are embellished with stained glass, in which the arms of the princess and other contributors are emblazoned; and there are some good monuments, among which is one to Mr. Burton, the founder of the town, with his profile in white marble inserted in a slab of dove marble. Here are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.