Steine House: Old Steine

Commissioned by Prince Regent in 1804

By Jennifer Drury

The Prince Regent and Maria Fitzherbert

The Prince Regent, later George IV, married Mrs Maria Fitzherbert, a widowed Roman Catholic in December 1785. Although viewed as a canonically sound marriage by Roman Catholics, the union was deemed illegal as it was counter to the  provisions of the Royal Marriages Act 1772. Maria first visited Brighton a year later, and it is believed she stayed in a house which was part of a terrace called Marlborough Row. This was located near the present North Gate of the Royal Pavilion. Throughout their time in Brighton, Maria and George did not live together but kept separate houses, even when the Royal Pavilion was built.

Photo:Maria Anne Fitzherbert(1756-1837)

Maria Anne Fitzherbert(1756-1837)

By ("In the manner of") George Romney (1734-1802) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A permanent home for Mrs Fitzherbert

The Prince wanted Mrs Fitzherbert to have a permanent home and in 1804, Steine House was built by William Porden, the Prince of Wales's architect.  The house was considered by Brighton society to be the second in importance after the Royal Pavilion; Maria lived there until her death in 1837. It originally had an Egyptian-style colonnade, but this was blown down in 1805 and the facade was rebuilt in Italian style with a trellised verandah and balcony supported by pillars.

Listed for its historical associations

The interior was substantially altered when the house was taken over by the Civil and United Services Club in 1864. The Young Men's Christian Association acquired the building in 1884, and in 1927, the building was entirely refaced and brought forward; a new floor of bedrooms was also added. There have been so many alterations over the years, that the building is now listed for its historical associations, rather than its architectural qualities.

Photo:Mrs Fitzherbert's house post 1805

Mrs Fitzherbert's house post 1805

Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove

Photo:Steine House: post 1884

Steine House: post 1884

Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove

Photo:Steine House: 2014

Steine House: 2014

Photo by Tony Mould

 

 

This page was added on 02/05/2014.
Comments about this page

There was a story that there was and still is a tunnel that joined up the house with the Royal Pavilion but was blocked up many years ago. Does anyone know anything about this?

Editor's note: A romantic notion I fear Ken. When in the late 19th century the building passed out of private residential use, a blocked stair was discovered in the cellar. Of course the suggestion that it led to the Royal Pavilion made a good story. It is considered more likely that the stairs gave access to Brighton's sewer network.

If you look here you will see a video made by the Royal Pavilion and Museums which explains that there is a tunnel at the Pavilion - but it leads to The Dome - then George IV's stables - not Mrs Fitzherbert's house.

By Ken Ross (02/05/2014)

I was fortunate to be shown around the inside of Steine House last year. Sadly there is barely anything left to associate it with times gone by. We were taken down this old staircase though which led down into the kitchen. We were also told of the story of George IV riding up the staircase on his horse which I'm sure is a story which has been very distorted over the years. As for a tunnel, although there is no evidence of one now I can't believe there wouldn't have been one for Maria and George to meet up in secret. I read that when she died almost all evidence of their marriage was covered up and she was made to burn her letters from him. So had there once been a tunnel maybe that was covered up too? Possible I guess. I'd love to see Steine House be turned into a museum dedicated to the life of Maria Fitzherbert. She was such a well liked lady in her day and deserves to be remembered much more than she is.

By Carol Homewood (04/05/2014)

There is a tunnel that runs from the Pavilion to the Dome, and at the Pavilion end of the tunnel the end is blocked up which did run to Steine House. When I worked for the Council I had to carry H/S inspections and used to go between the Pavilion and Dome  as a short cut.

By John Eaton (04/05/2014)

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