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Paper peepshow - St Leonard's on Sea, Sussex

St Leonard's on Sea, Sussex

  • Object:

    Paper peepshow

  • Place of origin:

    St Leonards on Sea (published)

  • Date:

    ca. 1840 (published)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from the collections of Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016.

  • Museum number:

    Gestetner 234

  • Gallery location:

    National Art Library

Originally owned by the Levett Family in Sussex, the land of St. Leonards on Sea was developed into a seaside resort by the famous Georgian builder James Burton. Burton was responsible for much of the urban development of Georgian London, including large areas of Bloomsbury. His involvement with John Nash in Regent’s Park had strongly influenced Burton’s work in St Leonards, where he copied the classical and picturesque style of Nash’s buildings. Burton conceived his plan for a seaside resort in 1827. In February 1828 the building started, and by the end of the year, the Archway (on the front face), Burton’s own house, West Villa (now the Crown House) and South Colonnade (both on panel one) had been completed, and they marked the eastern boundary of St Leonards to Hastings. Before Burton’s death in 1837, many of the major buildings, including St Leonards Hotel (later Royal Victoria, shown on panel three), had been erected. The second phase of the town’s development was continued by Burton’s son Decimus, a major nineteenth-century architect, in the 1850s.

St Leonards on Sea received much royal patronage throughout its development history, as the publisher of this paper peepshow is keen to emphasise. The front face of this paper peepshow documents the visit of Queen Victoria in 1834, when she was still a Princess, and the Queen Dowager Adelaide moved to the town permanently in 1837. In addition, the inclusion of a woman in mourning dress on horseback on the first panel could be a reference to Queen Dowager Adelaide. Another allusion to Queen Victoria might be the poster for the Archery Grounds on the St. Leonards Archway on the front face. The Archery Grounds were developed and maintained by the Mackay Ladies, who became acquainted with Princess Victoria in 1834, and persuaded the Princess to be patron for the Society of St. Leonards Archers, founded by them in 1833.

The anchor on the paper peepshow’s front face is an emblem of the Burton family. Such explicit link to the Burtons makes it tempting to suggest that this paper peepshow was produced to publicise the family’s enterprise in St. Leonards.

Physical description

Accordion-style paper peepshow of St. Leonards-on-Sea.

4 cut-out panels. Hand-coloured lithograph. Expands to approximately 64 cm.

Front face: the title, St. Leonards Archway, and a list of dates sketching out the town’s history across the bottom, surrounding an anchor. The peep-hole consists of a circular opening in the middle of the front face.

Panel 1: the South Colonnade, a man, a woman and four children on the left. A woman (possibly Queen Dowager Adelaide) on horseback in the centre. Two men on the right, one saluting the Queen Dowager. The building on the right appears to be 57 Marina, known as the Crown House today

Panel 2: two riders and a carriage in the centre; pedestrians on either side.

Panel 3: the baths and a couple on the left; a carriage in the centre; the Royal Victoria Hotel and a rider with a horse on the right.

Panel 4: a coach in the centre; two riders and the Colonnade on the right; pedestrians on either side.

Back panel: pedestrians, a carriage and two coaches by the sea. Ships in the bay. The coastline lined with Martello towers.

Place of Origin

St Leonards on Sea (published)


ca. 1840 (published)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 13.6 cm, Width: 14.5 cm, Depth: 64 cm fully extended

Object history note

Part of the Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection, collected over 30 years and given to the V&A Museum through the government's Cultural Gift Scheme, 2016.

Descriptive line

St. Leonards on Sea. Sussex, ca. 1840

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

R. Hyde, Paper Peepshows. The Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection (Woodbridge: The Antique Collectors' Club, 2015), cat. 234.






National Art Library; Optical toys; Paper Peepshow


National Art Library

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