Decimus Burton’s magnificent Quarry House was replaced by ‘hideous’ modern flats

Quarry 2 SUS-170611-123936001
Quarry 2 SUS-170611-123936001

This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes a look at Quarry House and the rise of Burton St Leonards.

In early 1828 the London architect James Burton had started building an upper-class new town of St Leonards on sea for the well-off people from London on land bought from Eversfield estate.

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Quarry 4 SUS-170611-124023001

First to be built was the seafront from the Archway at the east end, Crown House, Clock House, North and South Lodges at the top and bottom of St Leonards Gardens and Quarry House in Quarry Hill followed soon after, built as the name suggests in a worked-out quarry from whence much of the building materials for Burtons’ St.Leonards had been extracted.

In 1981 local historian Barry Funnell gave a lecture to The Burtons’ St Leonards Society to mark the centenary of Decimus Burton’s death and the content was later published as a booklet ‘Burton’s St Leonards, The Contribution of Decimus Burton’ and it casts some light upon the origin of Quarry House.

Barry said: “Decimus was moved out of London at the age of five (in 1805) when the family took up residence at Mabledon between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. This house had been designed and built by James Burton for his family’s occupation and it is interesting to note that he incorporated a replica of his St Leonards’ Quarry House. Clearly Decimus could have had no hand in the design of this, yet so muddled was the thinking in the Hastings Town Hall records that Quarry House appeared as a Grade II Listed Building attributed to Decimus. While Mabledon is carefully preserved as an example of the art of James Burton, albeit with later additions, it is sad to recall that developers laid hands on James Burton’s Quarry House to build so totally unsympathetic a block of flats as stands hideously in its place”.

As would be expected Quarry House had distinguished occupiers, The Rt. Hon. William Dundas MP, Privy Counsellor, Secretary at War, Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty, visited, and later bought Quarry House, where he died in 1845.

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Quarry 3 SUS-170611-123948001

He was followed by the wonderfully named Sir Woodbine Parish F.R.S., K.C.H., born 1796, a Commissioner, 1853-65 for the St.Leonards Improvement Act, 1832 (the body that administered St.Leonards before it was absorbed into Hastings).

In 1815 he went with the expedition that restored the Kingdom of Naples to the House of Bourbon after the defeat of Joachim Murat, then returned to Paris as a secretary with Lord Castlereagh’s embassy that drafted the 1815 Treaty of Paris. In 1825 he was Chargé d’affaires in Buenos Aires and signed the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation with Argentina on 2 February 1825, accompanying also official recognition by Great Britain of Argentine independence and served there until 1832.

It was he that brought the importance of the Falkland Islands to the notice of his majesty’s government, and in consequence was instructed to lay claim to them as a British possession. In 1837 William IV conferred upon him the rank of knight commander of the Royal Guelphic order of Hanover. Parish was assistant to Joseph Planta, M.P. Hastings, 1826-30, and Chief Commissioner to Naples in 1840. He died in Quarry House in 1882 and was buried at Fairlight and his widow continued to live at the house until she passed away in 1888

W. F. M Copeland Esq. J.P. D.L, member of the Junior Carlton Club is recorded living at Quarry House from 1889

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Quarry 1 SUS-170611-123925001

During and after the first war the house appears to have been renamed Knockalton and occupied by a Captain F.S.H.Rickards and the building may have had service connections, but by 1922 the Rev. W. Guy Pearse was in residence and the name Quarry House restored. The Rev Pearce had established the house as a Holiday and Convalescent Home for Service and ex-Service men and by 1950 it had become a Service Leave Hostel under the wardenship of Maj. D. Tankard.

The Annual Report of Quarry House for the year ending September 30, 1950 records it as a leave centre for men and boys of the services and a recuperative holiday home for men “Our aim is to provide a Leave Centre for serving personnel and a Holiday Home for Old Comrades at the absolute minimum cost. Q.H. is situated in the best part of St. Leonards overlooking the sea, and is within a penny bus ride of Hastings, the amenities that the House offers are good beds, good food, full size billiards table, games room with table tennis, library, rest room and lounges.

The charges are:

Boys under training (by arrangement with Officers’ Commanding) – their ration allowance only.

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Quarry 5 SUS-170611-124059001

N.C.O.s and Men 6s (30p) per day

Dormitory Rooms. 8s. 6d. (42 ½p) per day Single Rooms

Old Comrades 10s. (50p) per day Single Rooms.

Charges are inclusive of all meals”.

H.M.The King’s.annual donation was gratefully recorded as was the death the Reverend Warwick Guy Pearse who had passed away in 1949 and was the founder of Quarry House and Warden for twenty-seven years “He devoted his life to this work and many men who first came to the House as boys will remember him with gratitude and affection”

Quarry House closed in 1962 was demolished soon after to be replaced, as eloquently described by Barry Funnell above and this inappropriate development contributed to the founding of the Burtons’ St.Leonards Society a few years later.

All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and he can make available copies of many of the historic images used in this series. There’s more local history on Ion’s website, or contact him -


1859 Map.

This extract from Hastings Corporation’s 1859 map shows Quarry House with its substantial grounds in the centre.


From the 1930’s with suitable period lettering this card would have been produced for residents of the home.

Quarry House

From the 1930’s this cheaply produced postcard from an uncredited publisher show the main entrance to Quarry House.

Quarry House x4.

Posted in May 1934, G Simpson writes to Waltham Abbey “I thought I would write and let you know I have got here alright” this multiview postcards for residents to send shows the house and some of the amenities it provided.

Quarry House in 1832.

A watercolour of Quarry House, with Quarry Cottage on the left, painted in 1832 by Rose Wood, James Burton’s Granddaughter.