Telegraph e-paper


A house in St Leonards-on-Sea built by the father-and-son architects James and Decimus Burton

‘Rich, cool, well-dressed, apparently celibate,” was how the scholar Guy Williams described Decimus Burton, the architect of Hyde Park and London Zoo.

Burton came from serious stock. His father was the Georgian architect and developer James Burton, his cousin was the civil servant Lord Haliburton (Decimus’ ancestral name had been truncated in the 1790s following a family feud) and his brother mapped Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. They were an emotional bunch, wrote Williams, except for Decimus, who was uncharacteristically dispassionate. Hence, perhaps, the celibacy.

He was also a man (or rather, a teenager) of resolve. Tutored first by his father, he entered the office of John Nash in 1815 aged 15. His father had struck a deal. Nash had a famously extravagant wife who had bankrupted him. James agreed to fund Nash’s projects in Regent’s Park in exchange in part for the promotion of his son’s career. But Decimus was in no way inclined to kowtow to his eminent mentor.

Later charged with designing a series of terraces, he followed his own tune to such an extent that Nash ordered (unsuccessfully) that one of them be demolished.

First and foremost, Decimus loved gentlemen’s clubs. When he was 24, he designed the neoclassical Athenaeum Club on Pall Mall, which was built by his father’s company. The staircase was “distinctly Egyptian in flavour” wrote Williams. Perhaps Decimus took note from his brother at least.

Fans can purchase another Burton collaboration in St Leonards-on-Sea. A six-bedroom house was laid out by James and expanded by Decimus. It is £1.4million with Phillips & Stubbs (01797 227338; phillipsandstubbs., and is certainly fit for the cool, rich and well-dressed.

Melissa Lawford





Daily Telegraph