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  • 9/25/2004

Decimus Burton

(30 September 1800-December 1881)

Decimus Burton was a prolific English architect and garden designer, particularly associated with projects in the classical style in London parks, including buildings at Kew Gardens and London Zoo, and with the layout and architecture of the seaside towns of Fleetwood and St Leonards on Sea and of Tunbridge Wells. (His first name, Latin for 'tenth', denoted his position as the tenth child in his family.)

Regent's Park

Burton initially trained in the architectural and building practice run by his father James Burton (1761-1837), and then with John Nash for whom he elaborated on the designs of Cornwall Terrace, facing London's Regent's Park. His first major project (1823) was nearby: an enormous domed exhibition hall, the Coliseum (no longer standing – it was demolished in 1875 and the site is now occupied by the Royal College of Physicians). After this, he was appointed to design the gardens and buildings at the adjacent new London Zoo (the llama building (1828), complete with clock tower, no longer houses animals but is used as a shop, and is a Grade II listed building – as is his later (1834) Giraffe House).
He was responsible for planning the lay-out of Hyde Park (1825), and, at its south-east corner (Hyde Park Corner), designed the triumphal arch, the Wellington or Constitution Arch, to form the main western entrance to St. James's Park and Green Park.


He had a 30-year association withKew Gardens, starting initially with the layout of gardens and paths before moving on to major buildings. With iron founder Richard Turner, he designed the glass and iron Palm House at Kew (1844-1848); at the time, this greenhouse was the largest in the world at 363ft long, 100ft wide and 66ft high. He then designed the even larger Temperate House, but did not live to see the project completed (although a section opened in 1863, lack of funds meant it was not finally completed until 1898). Other projects at Kew included the Victoria Gate (1848) and the Water Lily House (1852).


The other major concentration ofBurton’s work is at Fleetwood on theLancashire coast.Burton's work with his father on theEast Sussex town ofSt Leonards on Sea (1827-1837) had impressed wealthy landowner Sir Peter Hesketh and he commissioned Burton to lay out his new port and seaside resort.Burton's buildings include the North Euston Hotel, Pharos Lighthouse and Lower Lighthouse, Queen's Terrace, St Peter's Church, the Town Hall and his own house on Dock Street (where he lived until 1844).

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