James Burton (1761–1837)

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James Burton (1761–1837) was a builder and developer, responsible for large areas of Bloomsbury and the houses around Regent's Park in London. He later founded the new town of St Leonards-on-Sea, which is now part of the built-up area of Hastings. He was a Scotsman christened with the name of Haliburton.

He was the father of architect Decimus Burton, who worked with him on some of his developments, and Egyptologist James Burton.

Bloomsbury Developments[edit]

At 28 years old he made his first proposition to build on the land made available by the Foundling Hospital. He was already known as architect and builder in Southwark where he designed and built the Leverian Museum in Blackfriars Road. In 1792 he asked the Foundling Governors for an option on the whole of Brunswick Square. They were cautious and refused, not knowing the capacity of this man and also having a policy of not allowing any one speculator to undertake more than a moderate proportion of the ground. He was given a bit of the south side and part of Guildford Street. Burton rapidly added to this site by site until most of the western property was under his control and by 1802 had built nearly 600 houses on the estate.

From work on the Foundling Estate he moved to the Bedford, from there to Skinners', then to Lucas and then to the Crown Estates, for whom he built the Holme in Regents Park. The gross value of the houses he built is in the region of £2,000,000.

For the Russells, Burton pulled down Bedford House and completed the scheme started in Bloomsbury Square (Nos 18-27). He went on to build the south side of Russell Square. He exhibited a view of these houses in the Royal Academy Exhibition 1800.

He then left London for a project in Tunbridge Wells but returned in 1807 to build over the Skinners Company ground between the Bedford Estate and the Foundling lands. Here he built Burton Street and Burton Crescent (now Cartwright Gardens) including the villa Tavistock House for himself on ground now occupied by the British Medical Association. Here he lived until he moved to The Holme in Regents Park, designed by his son Decimus Burton.

His wealth allowed him to help John Nash with financial problems in his Regent Street project in return for which Nash helped promote the career of his son Decimus Burton the architect.

Further reading[edit]

  • J Manwaring Baines, Burton's St Leonards, Hastings Museum, 1956.
  • John Summerson, Georgian London, Pimloco, 1962