Mary Elizabeth Braddon in St. Leonards
Jennifer Carnell

In about 1839 or 1840, when Braddon was four years old, her parents separated. Henry Braddon had proved to be an unreliable and unfaithful husband and, together with a a friend called Mrs. Walden (who had also left her husband), Fanny Braddon decided to set up home with her daughter on the Sussex coast for a while.

Fanny Braddon and Mrs. Walden chose to live at Maze Hill, St. Leonards.

At this time, St. Leonards was a fairly new and fashionable seaside resort. It was founded by the architect James Burton (father of Decimus Burton) in 1828. Maze Hill is part of Burton's development. In the early 1900s, Braddon described Maze Hill as little changed from the 1830s; it is fairly safe to say that it retains much the same appearance today, as there does not seem to have been any bomb damage there.

At the top of the hill is North Lodge, which was once the home of Sir Henry Rider Haggard.

One of the larger villas, set back from the road.

It is still fairly quiet and it is easy to imagine a more rural feel.

A view down the hill. You can just about see the sea, and at the bottom you can see the back of one of Burton's larger buildings, the Royal Victoria Hotel.

A lovely house called The Clock House.

The lower part of the road has more houses, and they were built in 1832.

More 1832 houses. It's more likely Braddon lived in one of these, than the large detached villas up the hill.

A view of the 1832 houses from the then Subscription Gardens.

A short walk from the lower part of Maze Hill is the seafront. Mrs. Walden decided that Braddon was 'bilious', and so she was taken for frequent visits to the chemist shop situated near the beginning of the colonnade to be given unpleasant medicine, 'All my sorrows on Maize Hill had to do with the chemist's shop.'

These are the only remaining colonnades, as the rest were destroyed and flats were put in their place in the 1930s. The old-fashioned chemist shop only closed in the 1990s, but unfortunately I never took a photograph.

The photographs above were taken in June 2006.

Anyone interested in the development of St. Leonards is advised to read:
J. Manwaring Baines, Burton's St. Leonards (St. Leonards-On-Sea: Hastings Museum, 1956; reprinted 1990).

The Literary Lives of Mary Elizabeth Braddon by Jennifer Carnell (Biography)

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