As the summer months draw on you may be tempted to picnic outdoors if you haven’t done so already. This month our spotlight image, a coloured lithograph print from the Fine Art collection, shows Victorian picnickers on Devil’s Dyke.
Devil’s Dyke is an historic beauty spot on the South Downs Way named after the huge dry valley that carves its way through rolling chalk grassland. The ladies and gentleman of the picnic party can be seen, seated around the edge of their rug, sharing food and drink. They looked relaxed, the gentleman at the left lying stretched out along the length of the rug , and a lady on the right reclining slightly. Earlier in the day one of them may have been engaged in painting the scene themselves as an easel sits on the grass to the bottom left.
Many sources speak about the rise in the popularity of picnics as an outdoor activity in the 19th century. Jane Austen’s Emma, published in 1815, mentions a picnic outing and later on in the century Queen Victoria made the picnic much more fashionable by picnicking with her family on her various estates.
The building seen behind the picnicking group was a hotel designed by local builder George Cheesman and was erected in 1831. A building on this site is mentioned as early as 1818 and , according to Bruce’s History of Brighton, by 1827 it had begun to be referred to as ‘Dyke House’.
Dyke House stood on the site of the current pub at Devil’s Dyke and much like now offered refreshments to visitors ‘breezing up to the Dyke’.
You can order a digital or print copy of this image by emailing: