St Leonards-on-Sea is the place to be – says The Guardian

Is St Leonards really the ‘yin’ to Hastings’ ‘yang’?

That was how The Guardian summed up the relationship between the two towns – or are they really two parts of the same town? In answer to the question about St Leonards: what’s going for it? The Guardian feature writer answered that the town has, ‘come of age’.

Tom Dyckhoff said in his piece: “For years, all talk has been of its elderly twin, Hastings, newly colonised by rat-race escapees, with their boutiques selling linocut prints or vintage eccles cakes. But slowly, to the west, its neighbour has been undergoing its own metamorphosis. It is very much yin to Hastings’ yang.

“Whereas Hastings’ Old Town is all higgledy half-timber and tattooed sea dogs, hipster or otherwise, St Leonards has from its birth been a refined, Regency place.”

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The Guardian’s recent feature on St Leonards

Mr Dyckhoff recalls the town’s beginnings in 1826 under the watchful eye of property developer James Burton and his architect son, Decimus: “Their work survives, its stucco now largely freshly painted and reappreciated after the doldrum decade,” he writes.

He says the town has a problem with traffic and urges people not to use what he describes as ‘the G-word’ (gentrification) or to describe St Leonards as ‘Portobello-on-Sea’. “It is not,” he says.

Norman Road and Kings Road are where, “the hepcats hang” according to Mr Dyckhoff who give particular praise to, ‘the brilliant Kino cinema, Half Man! Half Burger! or St Clement’s.”

And he describes the property available in St Leonards lie this: “Start with the fabulous original waterfront of Regency homes – including James Burton’s – on the Marina.

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St Leonards Gardens – an example of the ‘green leafy space’ referred to in the feature.

“Explore the leafy avenues rising up the hill behind. There are excellent mid-Victorians east towards Hastings, around Warrior Square. West, find later Victorians around Pevensey Road and Filsham Road, often with fine views.

“Heading out to Silverhill, there are excellent streets of 19th-century townhouses off London Road. Large detacheds and townhouses, £500,000-£900,000, though higher for humungous bling.

“Detacheds and smaller townhouses, £300,000-£500,000. Semis, £200,000-£600,000. Terraces and cottages, £175,000-£350,000. Flats, £90,000-£400,000. Rentals: a one-bedroom flat, £450-£675pcm; a three-bedroom house, £875-£1,075pcm.”

But what did the readers think?

One commentator on the piece says: “Have lived here for over ten years and love it. Great for community life, lots of festivals and events – a high street full of interesting independent shops and cafes (both boutuquey and the sort of butchers, green grocers bookshops and bakers that are disappearing from most high streets), some decent pubs and some of the best cafes and restaurants in this corner of East Sussex.

“More a live music scene than there used to be with opening of Piper and Kino which means no need to always go into Hastings for entertainment. The beach is quieter than than Hastings too. But wouldn’t call it Yin to Hastings’ Yang – they both share similar pros and cons – grand architecture, history and character, vibrant cultural scene, good green spaces and relatively affordable property on the one hand, low wages, poor transport links and deprivation on the other (they are only 15 minute walk from each other anyway).”

While another says: “Stayed there for a few days last year. The streets were filthy, the town was a mess. Some great new shops have opened but the majority are grotty, many boarded up. In about 20 years it may be ok. Nice park area though. Must have been lovely once.”

And ‘Eggtastic’ said of their visit: “Stayed for a week with my family at the end of August just off London Road and close to Warrior Square station. Weather was superb, but there was still plenty of room on the beach and the water temperature perfect for a dip.

“Ate at Half Man! half burger! located on the ground floor of the magnificent looking Marine Court flats. Burgers were tasty, but it was a just a little too much on the pricey side for what you get. We also ate at Tommy’s Pizzeria opposite the cinema which was buzzing with punters eating on the terrace in the fine weather. We had also been recommended La Bella Vista Italian on the seafront, but unfortunately we never made it there… maybe next time. The smells emanating from there were absolutely divine?!

“It is certainly a little rough around the edges like most seaside towns, but in general it had a good, friendly vibe. The sight of hundreds of people gathered all along the pebble beach on a balmy evening as the sun set to socialise and eat BBQs was really something to behold.”

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2 thoughts on “St Leonards-on-Sea is the place to be – says The Guardian

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  1. Having read the article, it did not say much about Burton St Leonards the creation of James & Decimus Burton. Here is an area that has been significantly ruined by the council allowing crass and eyesore development.
    Not so wonderful if you live in Archery Road or The Mount since the council gave planning permission for a new large residential development far too large for a so called conservation area. This site was originally Archery Gardens that Burton created and the council decided in the 60’s an ugly college would be a better thing than a communal park for locals to enjoy. And three wonderful Burton houses were demolished.
    Then you have Undercliff where adjacent to Burton’s masonic hall is the skeletal remains of a development abandoned eleven years ago after HBC foolishly allowed the site to be built on despite a history of serious land instability. Now classified as a Bona Vacantia property as the owner walked away.

    Just a little about the other part of St Leonards many have forgotten.

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  2. Yes St. Leonards is a wonderful neighbour to Hastings but it is slowly being destroyed by this councils relentless determination to demolish important historic buildings in order to build hideous inappropriate buildings, or, alternatively let buildings rot and decline until they are past saving – for example the important Pugin chapel in Magdalen Road…and what about the Undercliff site mentioned by Sagacious on this comments site? Collapsed and a complete eyesore…why was planning consent ever granted for this site which was well known to be situtation along a serious fault line which goes back as far as the West Hill road site above Grosvenor Crescent…poor old St. Leonards has been dealt a really bad deal over the past decades – neglected, forgotten and now slowly being destroyed. If you doubt this…just go and view the hideousness of Archery Road…and in the not too distant future the ghastly proposals to develop the old bathing pool site…what has St. Leonards done to deserve this.

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