The Victoria Hotel, And Dorman's Library, St Leonard's
Photographer: Frith, Francis (1822-1898)
Medium: Photographic print
“There was, amongst other things, a ‘large, rude, unshapen mass of stone, which tradition records was used by William the Conqueror as his breakfast-table, after landing at Pevensey; but it is more probable that this stone was that which was placed over the body of Harold, when he was buried on the shore.’ ( I quote from Dorman’s guide-book.) ‘A goodly structure now marks the tomb of Harold, for the “Royal Victoria Hotel” is built over the spot from whence this stone was removed.’ The stone itself may be seen ‘on the right hand upon entering the Subscription Garden…The Royal Victoria Library, Reading-Room, and Baths, are arranged under one simple, but handsome, elevation, purposely kept low, not to intercept the sea view from’ – the Royal Victoria Hotel. If I were the Queen, or the Queen Dowager, or Louis Philippe, or his affable and business-like son, the present princely Duke de Montpensier, I would ‘put up’ at the Victoria, as they have been used to do.”
Descriptive letterpress by Francis Frith from his book 'The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings'
This view by Francis Frith (1822-1898) of the Victoria Hotel and Dorman’s Library at St Leonards, East Sussex, with striped bathing machines in the foreground, is one of sixteen photographs of views of Hastings, Winchelsea, Rye and St Leonards illustrating his book ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’, published in 1864. Frith was a pioneer in the field of travel photography, beginning his career with three trips to Egypt and the Holy Land between 1856 and 1860. In 1859 he founded his own publishing firm in Reigate, Surrey, which issued albums and postcards of views throughout Britain. The firm was very successful and became the largest of its kind in the 19th century, continuing to be run as a family business until 1971. In Frith’s first album, ‘Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Described’, he also wrote the text that accompanied his photographs and this form of dual authorship is continued in ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’. Its text is notable for the gently satirical attitude which he adopts in his travelogue of the 19th-century seaside resort and its sister towns.