1850 – Throughout this year extensive work was carried out on building the Bopeep-Hastings-Ashford railway line. On the western part of the line, work had started in February 1849, digging two tunnels through St Leonards to Hastings Station, while in the east a huge embankment was laid across the Priory Valley and two tunnels were dug, under Mount Pleasant Road to the Ore valley, and then under the Ridge. All this work was more-or-less finished by December 1850. The Bopeep-Ashford line officially opened on 13 February 1851 (cf).
1850 Jan 3 – An eagle was shot under the cliffs near Pett Level. It had a wingspan of 6½ feet, was three feet long and weighed 8½ pounds. Historian Thomas B Brett reported seeing an eagle in the Hastings area in 1844.
1850 Feb – An 11-day official public inquiry under the 1848 Public Health Act found that 795 of the 2,209 houses in Hastings were in ‘the worst condition as to private drainage’ and that a good sewage system was urgently needed. Many people were living in utter squalor in All Saints parish, with large families crowded into decrepit tenements, with no drainage or water supply. Sewage was discharged into the sea via a series of short outfalls all along the seafront. In 1849 sixty five people died of cholera, which was generated by dirt, bad drainage and overcrowding in sleeping compartments. Hastings Council implemented the recommendations of the act in 1857 and 1866-68, building a proper drainage system; St Leonards Council managed to evade the responsibility (and expense), but eventually this was one of the main reasons why it had to merge with Hastings in 1872.
1850 April 13 – An auction took place of the Belmont Estate, the area around what became Belmont Road in Clive Vale; nine acres of building land and two Italian villas were on offer, but it did not sell.
1850 April 19 – The Hastings News carried the first Hastings newspaper advert from a photographer: ‘Portraits taken in a few seconds.’
1850 Early May – Hastings Council agrees to make the bottom of All Saints street useable by vehicles by lowering the road and raising the pavement.
1850 May 5 – St Clements Church re-opened after its renovation.
1850 Early June – The police found many railway navvies sleeping regularly in net shops, so 11 were arrested, with nine being sent to Lewes Gaol for one month’s hard labour.
1850 June 24 – The foundation stone was laid for the first permanent building to go up on the ‘Priory Ground’, the former America Ground that had been cleared of all buildings in 1836 when the Crown took possession of it. On 8 February 1850 a wealthy London merchant, Patrick Robertson (1807-1885), took a 99 year lease on much of the land and soon began making the layout. This first building was probably in Robertson Street or Carlisle Parade (the reports said ‘Waldegrave Place’). Carlisle Parade was named after the Commissioner for Woods and Forests whose inquiry at Battle in 1827 had awarded the America Ground to the Crown. On 5 October 1850 the first shop opened: Mr Henry Polhill, pork butcher, at No 4 Robertson Street. Mr Robertson was a ‘liberal’ Tory Hastings MP from 1852-59 and 1865-68. He lived at Halton House, off Old London Road, where Hardwicke Road is today.
1850 July 23 – The Hastings benefit societies funded an excursion to Brighton and Shoreham by train, with 1,247 passengers in 37 coaches, drawn by two engines.
1850-51 – Fairlight Hall was built, off Martineau Lane, by William Drew Lucas-Shadwell (1816-75). He was the nephew of William Lucas-Shadwell (1766?-1844), the solicitor and property conveyancer, who left Drew his estate of thousands of acres between Fairlight and Rye Harbour. The Milwards and Lucas-Shadwells jointly through much of the 19th century gave a great deal of help to local charities and carried out local improvements, including the upgrading of Old London Road from the High Street to Mount Road in 1815 (cf).
1851 – The national census found that Hastings and St Leonards had a population of just over 17,000, compared with just under 3,100 in 1801, 6,200 in 1821 and about 10,150 in 1831.
1851 – Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt painted his greatest landscape, Our English Coasts, later known as Strayed Sheep, looking west across Fairlight Glen from Lovers Seat.
1851 Feb 13 – The Bopeep-Hastings-Ashford railway line was officially declared open, after two years construction, and at great expense. The Lord Mayor of London, Thomas Farncomb, had laid the final brick in the Ore tunnel on 28 October 1850. On 14 February 1851 there was a blockade on railway lines at Bopeep and conflict at Hastings Station, being a conflict between South Eastern Railway (owners of the Bopeep-Ashford line) and London Brighton and South Coast Railway (users of the SER tunnels); there was a court settlement.
1851 March 31 – The Duke of Brunswick, on the run for committing perjury in a libel case, flew by balloon to Neugchatel in France from a field by the gasworks (where Morrisons is today).
1851 May – Hastings was running short of water, so the council persuaded Countess Waldegrave to lease them three acres of farmland at the top of Ecclesbourne Glen to build a six million gallon reservoir, plus a tunnel, 470 yards long, feeding the water into the two Clive Vale reservoirs. Work started that May, and was completed in March 1853, at a cost of £2,500. In 1921-4 the council raised the height of the reservoir’s dam, doubling its capacity. The council required another two acres of land for this, and in 1924 it purchased all five acres from Edith Sayer-Milward. Officials liked to call it the Ecclesbourne Reservoir, but its local name was the Spoon.
1851 Aug 4 – The last meeting of the Hastings Commissioners took place. They had been carrying out the terms of the 1832 Improvement Act. They had been superseded by Hastings Council under the Public Health Act 1851. This act set up a local Board of Health, which St Leonards managed to get itself excluded from. The Hastings Commissioners sold their fire engine to Hastings Council. The act came into force on 15 August in Hastings, from Ecclesbourne to Bulverhythe, but excluding Burton’s St Leonards.
1851 Oct – The old lighthouse (the Upper Light) in Hill Street was replaced by a new lighthouse on the West Hill close to the Caves entrance (still in use today). The Lower Light built in 1827 still stands opposite the boating lake, next to Simply Italian, although it is not used now. The original purpose of the lights was to guide fishing boats ashore between two ledges of rocks which today lie under the boating lake and the shingle nearby. When the Upper Light was seen on top of the Lower Light, the boat could run ashore.
1851 Dec – The first-ever large-scale maps of all of Hastings (but not Burton’s St Leonards) were completed by the borough surveyor, William Gant (1824-1906), in order to implement the public health improvements. Gant was also an architect, and he designed the 1856 Fishermens Church.
1852-55 – The Black Mill was built at the top of Middle Road, Ore. It was smock windmill on a three storey brick base, which fell out of use in the 1890s and was mostly dismantled around the end of the First World War. Its base is part of a house.
1852 Jan 31 – The Tunbridge Wells-Bopeep railway line was opened, giving Hastings a more direct connection with London than via Lewes or Ashford. Work had started at the Tunbridge Wells end of the 27 mile line in 1847. At the Winter Fair on 28 November 1851, at the Fishmarket, 70 horses from the railway works were auctioned, being no longer needed. The line was built on a low budget, resulting in the flimsy poor-quality tunnels having to be layered with more bricks to stop them collapsing. This narrowed the tunnels, and meant foot-narrower engines and carriages had to be built, exclusively for this line. Initially there was no station at Bopeep; the West St Leonards station was built there in 1887 to serve the westward expansion of St Leonards.
1852 Feb 11 – The Hastings and St Leonards Rifle Corps was formed.
1852 March 27 – The high court ruled that the benefits of the Magdalen and Lasher Charity should remain as understood for many centuries, i.e. that they were for the sick and poor of the parishes of All Saints and St Clements alone. About 57 acres of land had been bequeathed for that purpose. But that land lay between what is now Bohemia and Warrior Square, and in the early 1850s development was beginning there, St Leonards parishes had sought some of that benefit, led by Decimus Burton. They were unsuccessful, but later in the 1850s the Magdalen’s trustees helped open up their land for roads and houses, adding greatly to the charity’s value.
1852 Summer – Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt painted his greatest landscape, Our English Coasts, later known as Strayed Sheep, looking west across Fairlight Glen from Lovers Seat. Then aged 25, Hunt had heard of Hastings through one of his pupils, Robert Martineau, whose parents were living at Fairlight Lodge (on the corner of Martineau Lane). Early in 1852 Martineau introduced Hunt to the ‘nonsense’ writer and artist Edward Lear. As Hunt had a commission to paint a picture with sheep in it, he decided to do it near Fairlight, and Lear found him an ideal place to stay: Clive Vale Farm. This was sited in Clive Vale, where there are houses south-east of the junction of Saxon Road and Alfred Road today. Hunt and Lear stayed at the farm for several weeks, and were contacted there by John Millais, William Rossetti, Coventry Patmore, Arthur Hughes and William Thackeray. Hunt and Millais also stayed and painted at Fairlight Lodge.
1852 May 7 – A large new yacht, the Skylark, 30 tons, had been built by George Tutt at his premises under the East Cliff.
1852 Aug 13 – Warrior Square Gardens opened to the public, with a band playing three times a week.
1852 Sept 14 – The new St Mary Magdalen Church on the corner of Church Road and St Margarets Road was consecrated. Its foundation stone was laid on 30 June 1851.
1852 Sept 29 – HM Customs surrendered the lease of their condemned yard (for the boats of smugglers etc) under the East Cliff, the site of what are now the Fishermen’s Museum and the Shipwreck Heritage Centre.
1852 Dec 27 – The Hastings Homeopathic Dispensary opened at 8 Hill Street.
1853 Jan – The last stocks for punishing minor offenders were removed from their site next to the Kings Head pub (in the middle of today’s road The Bourne). They were last used in 1848.
1853 March 1 – About 80 carpenters were on strike, seeking a wage rise from 4/- a day to 4/6. Over 40 had left the area, having ‘found work easily elsewhere at the higher rate’.
1853 April – The new All Saints National School for Girls opened, being a large room off All Saints Street, close to the boys school. Countess Waldegrave was the principal donor.
1853 May – Hastings Council decided to pay landowner Mr Eldridge £75 in order to acquire a right of way over Crown Lane, which connected All Saints Street with the rough track called Tackleway. This enabled the Council to make Crown Lane a public roadway, thereby opening up Tackleway for development. The Council meeting also then agreed to spend £380 on building a retaining wall on one side of Tackleway and a pavement on the other, and improving the path to the top of the East Hill. This created the Tackleway we know today.
1853 May – Hastings Council agreed to allow the construction of a new Custom House, measuring 14 feet by 17 feet, at the seaward end of a group of net shops opposite the Lower Lighthouse.
1853 July 6 – A trade body – the Operative Painters Association – was formed in the Royal Standard pub, ‘to discuss and study the scientific principles inherent in the profession’. The 40 painters were seeking a 6d pay rise, to 4/6 per day, as were many workers in the local building trades. Mr E Mose chaired the meeting.
1853 Aug – Large scale development was reported as being planned on 400 acres of the old Eversfield Estate, around the existing central St Leonards and Burton’s St Leonards. Roads, terraces, villas and gardens were being considered.
1853 Oct 3 – The 110 ton schooner John Weavel was wrecked on the beach at Eversfield Place. The day before she had unloaded coal on the beach at Warrior Square, but the weather deteriorated while she was trying to get off, driving her onto a groyne and wrecking her. The crew were saved.
1854 – Until this year there was not a proper road between the bottom of High Street and Castle Street, with traffic having to use George Street for some of the route. But in 1854 various obstructions were removed, including the old Warm Baths in front of Pelham Crescent which the Council had bought in 1853, and the parade was improved west of George Street, creating a seafront road from Castle Street to High Street.
1854 Jan 3 – Carlisle Parade was embellished by a lion and unicorn from Buckingham Palace, given by Patrick Robertson MP.
1854 March 26 – The first service was held at the new Fishermen’s Church of St Nicholas in Rock-a-Nore Road. The foundation stone had been laid on 26 August 1853, and was on part of the site of the former boat cut-up yard of HM Customs. It was erected as a ‘chapel of ease’ to the two parish churches of All Saints and St Clements, aimed specifically to the fisher folk, who did not attend the two churches. The author Charles Kingsley preached there on 17 May 1857. The church became the Fishermen’s Museum in 1956.
1854 Aug 1 – The town’s post office moved from 4 George Street to 2 Wellington Place (where the former Woolworth’s store is today) to improve its coverage of the new town centre and St Leonards. It had been at 4 George Street since 1831; prior to that it had been in a succession of different places in High Street.
1854 Dec 4 – The National School for Boys opened in Tackleway.
1855 Feb 12 – The newly-formed Hastings Mendicity Society opened its lodging house, in Bourne Passage, off Bourne Walk, Old Town. It consisted of two small adjoining cottages knocked into one, with beds for ten men and five women crammed into small rooms. The society aimed to clear the streets of the great number of beggars that had been a source of annoyance, and to give a respectable night’s lodging and food to really deserving persons. It received some support from Hastings Council because it was saving ratepayers’ money by keeping down the number of people using the workhouse. The society was set up following a meeting in Dr WA Greenhill’s house on 22 December 1854. In the next 50 years it helped 90,000 people.
1855 Feb 23 – The sea froze, out to a hundred yards offshore. The temperature was 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
1855 June 30 – The Act of Parliament legalising unstamped newspapers became law, prompting Mr TB Brett to turn his monthly Hastings and St Leonards Penny Press into the weekly Hastings and St Leonards Gazette, which he published for the next 40 years.
1855 July 6 – The old Baldslow windmill had been pulled down and was being rebuilt. The News of 13 July said the new one was nearing completion. The Pictorial Advertiser of 6 April 1916 reported that on 28 March the mill had been badly damaged in a gale. The sweeps were smashed beyond repair and the falling parts damaged the adjoining flour shed. The Advertiser said it would cost £200 and take six months to repair the mill.
1855 Aug 10 – A bye-law was to be made that no person should undress on the seashore or beach except in a bathing machine.
1855 Aug 31 – Roman coins were found by Mr John Howell’s workmen building the west side of Warrior Square.
1855 Late – Launch of the Hastings and St Leonards Gazette by Thomas Brandon Brett, a famous local personality in Victorian Hastings. He renamed it the St Leonards and Hastings Gazette in 1860 and is said to have produced it single-handed for many years. He was still writing history items for local papers when he died in 1906, although the Gazette had closed some years before (probably in October 1896).
1855 Dec 16 – Consecration of the new Ore Cemetery, on Winchelsea Road, on an acre and a half of land donated by the Countess Waldegrave. It was the burial place for the workhouse dead. It closed in 1909, but remains as an open space.
1856 March 10 – The gaoler in the Courthouse Street gaol, James Welland, was murdered by an escaping prisoner, John Murdoch (alias Joseph Willis). He was throttled on a narrow staircase. Murdoch hid on the West Hill, but was captured that evening. He was hanged in front of the new Lewes Prison on 5 August 1856. Hastings gaol had never been satisfactory, and after this episode it was closed and only used as a lock-up; prisoners were sent to Lewes.
1856 May – Land on the top of the West Hill, by Priory Road, was bought from Sarah Countess Waldegrave by Hastings Council for £262 as the site for a water reservoir and waterworks.
1856 Aug – Hastings mayor Thomas Ross carried out the earliest recorded archaeological excavation on the East Hill, at the south-west end, close to where the lift is today. He found an east-west aligned wall footing, approximately 100 feet long, with a second wall joining it at right angles at the western end and extending to the cliff edge. Within the walls he excavated a Caen stone coffin, and at least 40 inhumation burials. It is possible that this was a Saxon site.
1856 Sept 13 – The first stone of the big new town drainage system was laid by the mayor, Frederick Ticehurst, in a big ceremony at the East Well in Rock-a-Nore Road.
1856 Oct 6 – Opening of the new St Mary Magdalen School, Magdalen Road. There was much development of the Magdalen Road area at this time.
1856 Dec 2 – Consecration of the new Borough Cemetery on the Ridge, by Dr Gilbert, Bishop of Chichester. This followed the parish cemeteries being closed by the 1847 Act of Parliament, and now the town’s only cemetery. There had then been a strong row in Hastings Council (and the establishment) circles about where the new borough cemetery should be built, how much it would cost, who would get the contract and who would make money out of it. The first burial, on 2 December, was that of the well-known local builder John (Yorky) Smith, who died 23 November. Ironically, he had strongly opposed the cemetery being on this site. He was born in Leeds 1788; came to Sussex 1805 to work on the Martello Towers; moved to Hastings 1815. He was employed in taking down the cliff face of the West Hill. He worked on Wellington Square, Pelham Crescent, 57 Marina (the first significant house to be built in St Leonards) and many other important sites.
1857 – In response to the 1850 Board of Health criticisms of Hastings drainage, a new system was built, but it still discharged via separate outfalls, where the Queens Hotel and Warrior Square are now, resulting in a continuation of pollution. An improved system was built in 1868-88.
1857 Jan – The Hastings Cottage Improvement Society was founded by local physician William Greenhill (1814-1894) to improve the sanitary accommodation of existing housing for artisans in the Old Town by buying rundown housing, and to build houses to a higher standard for them. The initials ‘HCIS’ were put on the frontage of new properties. By April 1860 the society owned about 100 Old Town properties with 110 tenants.
185’7 Jan 23 – Excavations for drains in George Street revealed the remains of former fortification. A drawing was being made by town surveyor Mr Laing. A copper groat of Henry VIII was found nearby.
1857 May 17 – Famous author Charles Kingsley preached a sermon in the Fishermen’s Church, Rock-a-Nore Road.
1857 June 24 – Opening of the new Congregational Church in Robertson Street. It was enlarged in 1864.
1857 June 26 – The Hastings Old Bank, the first Hastings bank, suddenly went bust. It had started in 1791 (cf). The News of 10 May 1861 said that a special report on the banruptcy had just been published.
1857 July 12 – The first service was given at the newly-built Silverhill Chapel.
1857 Oct 7 – A small collier, en route from Newcastle to Falmouth, was wrecked in a gale on the rocks at Rock-a-Nore. Many people try to rescue the four crewmen, but the sea was too rough and the gale too strong. After an hour, the four men died in front of the large crowd of horrified onlookers. The feeling was that they may have been saved if Hastings had a lifeboat, and this tragedy set in motion the acquiring of one. A local branch of the Royal Humane Society was set up later that month and discussions were held with Hastings Council and the RNLI. A local branch of the RNLI was formed, and its committee met for the first time on 29 January 1858. The boat, the Victoria, was built in Forrestt’s shipyard at Limehouse, and arrived by train on Easter Monday, 5 April 1858, and was launched from Harold Place. She cost £300, had a crew of 13 and was an open rowing and sailing boat. She was kept in the first lifeboat house, which had been built at Rock-a-Nore, where the aquarium is today. The Victoria had only one life-saving rescue, on 19 May 1863 when a Ramsgate fishing boat ran onto the rocks at Rock-a-Nore, and the crew of two men and a boy were rescued. She was rplaced in 1863 by another lifeboat also called Victoria.
1857 Mid-Oct – A Russian cannon captured in the Crimean War was to installed on the seafront opposite Pelham Arcade.
1858 – Founding of the Hastings and St Leonards Philosophical Society.
1858 Sept 29 – Opening of the Holy Trinity Church, Robertson Street/Trinity Street. The architect was the famous Samuel Sanders Teulon who designed many other churches, including Rye Harbour. The builder was John Howell. The site cost £2,300. Its foundation stone had been laid on 22 July 1857. The chancel was completed 1862. It was not formally consecrated until 13 April 1882, because it retained some debt.
1858 Nov – A Mr Jeremiah Skinner took a 99-year lease on a large plot of land on the east side of Western Road, where he built stables and coach houses. By the end of the century this was a motor business as well, and soon became a well-known car dealer – Skinners.
1859 – Storms seriously damaged the Coastguard station standing on a plateau just above the beach, a few yards east of Ecclesbourne Glen stream. By 1864 a new station, of two brick-built blocks, had been built on the clifftop on the west side of the glen. The station closed in 1908-09, but remained in use by non-Coastguards until it was demolished in 1963 because of undermining by cliff-falls.
1859 Jan – An important new map of the town was drawn by borough surveyor John Laing. At 12 inches to the mile (1:5280), it was the first large scale map to cover all of Hastings and St Leonards.
1859 Jan 12 – Opening of the big new Music Hall, fronting Robertson Street and backing on to Havelock Road. It was on the first floor, above shops and pubs. It was renamed as the Public Hall in mid-1883, as it was being used for many different purposes. Eventually it became the Orion Cinema. The pub Yates now occupies the ground floor.
1859 Jan 31 – The new Hastings Bank opened at 5 Pelham Place. It was a branch of Messrs Beeching’s Tunbridge Wells Bank, meeting the town’s need for a bank following the collapse of the Hastings Old Bank in 1857 (cf).
1859 May 5 – The First Company of the Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteers was set up when it seemed there could be war in Europe. Their first rifle practice took place on 31 May at Rock-a-Nore, with targets fitted to the bottom of the cliffs. Initially they used the Market Hall in George Street for lectures and drills, and most had to provide their own rifles. The company had to supply its own uniforms, and grey cloth with red facings was bought. By mid-summer there were 70 members. Then Lady Waldegrave, owner of Ecclesbourne Glen, gave permission to set up a range firing across the valley, which was to remain in use for many years. It ran for many years, with ranges in Ecclesbourne Glen. A Volunteer Artillery Corps was set up in February 1860, with a battery near the eastern cliff edge in Warren Glen.
1859 Sept 3 – The 160-ton schooner Harbinger was wrecked at the fishmarket after unloading coal from Seaham. While trying to haul off in rough weather the lines broke and she was driven ashore. The crew ere rescued.
1859 Sept 9 – IK Brunel’s huge steamship Great Eastern suffered an accident off Hastings in her trial voyage, when a funnel exploded, killing six people.
1859 Oct 15 – The largest vessel built at Hastings since at least Napoleonic times was launched. This was the three-masted 220-ton sailing yacht New Moon, measuring 129 feet on the keel and 140 feet overall. She was built by local boatbuilder George Tutt in his yard at Rock-a-Nore by the East Well for Lord Willoughby D’Eresby, for whom he had already built two large yachts. In 1866 Yachting Magazine said New Moon was considered ‘the ablest sea boat of her class and tonnage in the world’.
1859 Nov 4 – Hastings Council decided to rename the road between the bottom of All Saints Street and the eastern groyne (then known as East Beach Street) as Rock-a-Nore Road. The name ‘Rock-a-Nore’ is probably derived from ‘rock to the north’. In 1581 the area was called ‘the Mayne Rock against the north’, indicating that in medieval times the town of Hastings was further south than it is now.
1860 – Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rosetti married his main model Elizabeth Siddall at St Clements Church. She inspired much of his finest work.
1860 June 2 – Ten Hastings fishermen were lost at sea in what was said to be the worst gale for 44 years. Seven drowned at Shoreham, when the big lugger Endeavour was driven ashore. Another two died off Newhaven and one at Brighton. This was one of the worst-ever Hastings disasters. A trading ship was beached at the Priory, laden with bricks, coal and coke. Other ships were damaged and men lost at sea. The mayor held a public meeting on 8 June to discuss ways of raising money for the three widows left after the 2 June losses. By 23 July about £250 was raised. A severe gale at Yarmouth on 28 May killed 186 mainly East Anglian men; 22 boats were lost, leaving 70 widows and 172 children.
1860 Aug 31 – A municipal system of public drinking fountains was completed. They were at the Priory Obelisk, Fishmarket, the bottom of Old London Road and Warrior Square.
1860 Sept 2 – The new Christ Church in London Road was opened. It was a Chapel of Ease of St Mary Magdalen Church, St Margarets Road, and today is the small building a few yards from the big Christ Church. On 9 September the foundation stone of the new St Matthew’s Church, London Road, Silverhill, was laid.
1860 Oct 12 – Laundry women still trying to get shorter working hours walked through the streets in protest, with fife and drums.
1861 – The passing of the General Pier and Harbour Act 1861 made it financially easier for piers and harbours to be built in Britain. This probably helped prompt Britain’s leading pier-builder, Eugenius Birch, to form a company, the Hastings Pier and Harbour Company Ltd, in 1862. This company obtained the legal power to build a combined harbour and pier in front of the Old Town, but it came to nothing because of local opposition and other problems. However, Birch’s company had exclusive rights for five years to build a pier in Hastings, thereby preventing local businesspeople from constructing one until 1867.
1861 Jan 18 – The News reported that the severity of the winter had lead to much suffering of workmen thrown out of work. The men formed a marching band, appointed a committee and canvassed the town for help. The News also said: ‘Mr G Tutt [Hastings boatbuilder] has just launched a new fishing lugger, the Paragon, which has taken her departure for the western mackerel voyage. She is said to be the largest of our boats afloat.’
1861 Feb 14 – A stained glass window in All Saints Church, designed to commemorate Earl Waldegrave, was unveiled. On 30 March 1861, Miss Sayer laid the first stone of the Waldegrave drinking fountain, next to the Holy Trinity Church, on the corner of Robertson Street and Trinity Street. It was opened on 24 May 1862.
1861 May 17 – Launch of the St Leonards Temperance Institute.
1861 May 31 – A meeting of nearly 250 people took place on 24 May in the girls school room, All Saints Street, to talk about and set up a Penny Bank. It was soon operating, with 150 people depositing by late July.
1861 June – A new drill hall was created in Middle Street for the Volunteer Artillery Corps and the Volunteer Rifle Corps.
1861 June 28 – On one of the wettest days ever in the history of the town, 2.18 inches of rain fell on Hastings, causing extensive flooding.
1861 July 3 – A meeting of about 50 people took place at the Town Hall at 7pm on 3 July to form the Hastings Volunteer Fire Brigade. This is said to have been the first such brigade in Britain (a similar meeting was taking place in Coventry on the same day, but that started at 7.30!). It was largely the initiative of William Glenister, who had come to the town in 1857 to take charge of the Hastings police force. It was set up over the next few days, with the backing of the Council, which donated the existing three engines. It had three sections, of 13 men each: Bourne Street, the town centre and central St Leonards. On 2 August, the new brigade mustered for the first drill. Patterns of the firemen’s helmet and axe had been procured. Following Hastings, talk of a similar enterprise took place in London. Glenister was the captain until 1889. Hastings took delivery of its first motorised fire engine in August 1920: a 60hp Leyland, equipped with a 65-feet escape and a turbine pump.
1861 Aug 9 – The new Eversfield Waterworks was officially inspected by the Council on 1 August. Two new reservoirs had just been opened, on the West Hill on 21 June and at Halton on 7 August.
1861 Sept 20 – Anti-slavery meetings were held, with John Anderson, the runaway slave, speaking. The American Civil War had begun in April 1861. Also: On this day, the large schooner Midge, 130 tons, was wrecked off the Saxon Hotel by a sudden storm.
1861 Nov 6 – The famous author Charles Dickens gave readings from Christmas Carol and Pickwick Papers at the Music Hall, Hastings.
1862 March 9 – The big Hastings fishing lugger Crystal Palace sank in a gale off Plymouth and all eight lives were lost: George Page, George Sargent, Joseph Cramp, James Peters, William Down, Edwin Chatfield, Henry Swan and William Bates (aged 14). A widows fund for the Crystal Palace fishermen was started by the Church, and by the beginning of May it had raised over £500. There were six widows and 11 children under 12 years old.
1862 March 24 – At an auction in the Havelock Hotel, six acres of meadow of part of the Great Brook Estate north of the Cricket Ground was sold for £5,520 to local builder George Clement. In 1863 work started there erecting St Andrews Square and the streets around it, including South Terrace and Waldegrave Street.
1862 May 31 – The Clive Vale Farm (60 acres) was sold for £7,900, opening the way for the development of the new Clive Vale suburb. Until this point there had been only a handful of buildings in all of what is now Clive Vale.
1862 July 5 – The small trading vessel Milward was wrecked while unloading onto the beach at Warrior Square.
1862 Nov 10 – The mayor, Thomas Moss, laid the foundation stone of the Albert Memorial clock-tower. It was erected in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, who had died of typhoid in 1861. It was built at the heart of the town centre, where eight streets radiated from, on the site of the old Priory Bridge. The 65 feet high tower, designed by Edward A Heffer of Liverpool, was completed by December 1863, except for the clock and dials, installed in 1864. The Memorial, as it was known, soon became the popular meeting place for reisdents and visitors. It gave its name to the town centre, and became perhaps the best-loved landmark in Hastings. But the convergence of the eight streets soon became a significant traffic problem. During the 20th century several traffic management schemes, involving traffic islands and lights, were tried, all with limited success. Then on 28 April 1973 there was a small fire in the woodwork at the top of the tower, and Hastings Council demolished the building in November 1973. Many people believe this demolition was unnecessary, and that the Council was simply looking for an excuse to remove it in order to improve traffic management.
1862 Dec 19 – Work on the construction of the Queens Hotel, on the corner of Harold Place and the seafront, had been completed. It opened on 29 November 1863.
c1863 – The old gaol in Courthouse Street was demolished and replaced by a police station.
1863 Feb 12 – There was an extensive fire in Marina; several house around No 120 were gutted. It was the biggest blaze for years.
1863 March 27 – The foundation stone of Hurst Court College, the Ridge, was laid. It was formally opened on 23 February 1864.
1863 June 2 – Forty acres of the Vine Farm Estate, Ore, were sold in 153 development lots sited in the valley between Mount Road and the Ridge (Frederick Road, Clifton Road area).
1863 July 10 – The just-formed Co-operative Cottage Building Society had purchased a field at Tivoli and land adjoining the Halton Tavern, Old London Road, for 13 houses.
1863 Aug 7 – The five-year old Hastings lifeboat Victoria was replaced by a new boat, also initially called Victoria. The boat was 36 feet long and eight feet wide, with 12 oars double-banked. She was renamed as Ellen Goodman in 1867, in memory of a Midlands woman, with no connection with Hastings, who left £500 to the RNLI. She was replaced in December 1881 by the Charles Arkcoll.
1863 Aug 7 – The Hastings News reported on the ‘rage for building in the Borough’ which was quickly eating away the green of the town. The newspaper said there needed to be preservation as well as prosperity. Many building plots were sold at Clive Vale and Hollington in the following weeks.
1863 Oct 29 – Opening of the new Ragged School in Tackleway, in the presence of the Countess of Waldegrave. It cost £652. The Boys British School in Bourne Walk opened in late July 1863 and was renamed the Bourne Walk Board School from 1874, after being taken over by the new Hastings School Board.
1863 Nov 30 – The School of Art and Design opened, in Robertson Street.
1863 Dec – The 65-feet high Albert Memorial clocktower was finished, but it lacked a clock, which was installed in June 1864.
1863 Dec 15 – The well-known local trading brig Pelican was damaged in collision with the Prospect.
c1864 – Warrior Square was completed.
1864 Feb 23 – The large, newly-built Hurst Court College on the Ridge, at the junction with Chowns Hill, was formally opened.
1864 June – Hastings Council took over the large site of a former nursery and opened it to the public as St Andrews Gardens (being the southern end of the park which was opened as Alexandra Park in 1882). This was the first public park in Hastings. From 1872 the gardens were extended up the valley. In October 1877, when the garden covered 77 acres, Robert Marnock was commissioned to design a ‘New Park’ for Hastings. His design was laid out from 1878-82.
1864 July – The Hastings Rock Fair, the town’s longest-running celebration, held on 26-27 July annually for many centuries, took place for probably the last time. Better-off people did not like its common air and had been trying to quash it for many years. From time immemorial it had been held on what became the America Ground in the 1820s, and was the biggest of the borough’s three annual fairs (the others were the Whit Tuesday Fair and the Winter Fair on 23-24 November, both held on the beach in front of the Old Town). These three events all combined funfairs, trading markets and social meeting places. But from the 1830s the Rock Fair became a big festive event, with much imbibing, game playing and jollity, which increasingly appalled the pro-temperance local establishment. So as the town expanded through the 1840s and ’50s the Fair had to find a new site, but landowners refused to help, and in 1861 magistrates imposed laws on drinking at the Fair.
1864 July 20 – The new ‘Central Cricket and Recreation Ground’ was officially opened on what been the Priory marshes (now the Priory Meadow shopping centre). Sinve late March 1864 the ground had been levelled, turfed and fenced off, and the ditch running through the marsh was filled up, with a pipe in lieu. The existing cricket ground on the East Hill had been improved recently but was difficult of access, and the Priory site quickly became the town’s main cricket pitch. The ground would be used for cricket, circuses, booths, flower shows and similar things. Initially the site was leased from the Cornwallis family for £25pa, but in August 1872 was bought from them for £5,000. It was conveyed to the ground’s trustees on condition that it remained a recreation ground, and that it was open to the public free of charge on one day each week.
1864 July 29 – The News reported that progress on the St Leonards Turkish Bath, at the junction of West Hill Road and Quarry Road, was going well, and should open in August. It was being built on the site of the Russian Bath and Spa, a ‘slight building’ which was destroyed by fire on 12 March 1863. There was a main hall, with many compartments off it, with temperatures up to about 130-140 fahrenheit. ‘A profuse perspiration having been induced, the visitor is next conducted into the shampooing or rubbing room, where the body undergoes a dexterous but careful handling, especially useful in cases of rheumatism, and producing a most pleasant sensation throughout the frame.’ Changes were made in 1871, and that date was put over the entrance door. The building still stands.
1864 Aug 5 – Tenders were invited for the erection of a Memorial Chapel in Bank Buildings, near the new Albert Memorial. The corner stone was laid on 3 November 1864, and it opened for divine worship on 30 August 1865.
1864 Oct 27 – The newly-built St Leonards Congregational Church, at the junction of London Road and Pevensey Road, opened for divine service. Its foundation stone had been laid on 23 February 1864.
1865 – The Friends Meeting House, South Terrace, was built.
1865 – Britain’s leading pier builder, Euegenius Birch, produced plans for a pier at White Rock, having abandoned his 1862 scheme. But this project was also strongly opposed locally, and nothing happened over the next two years, except in 1866 a group of businessmen obtained the legal power to build a pier at St Leonards; nothing came of it, however.
1865 Feb 18 – The Tivoli windmill belonging to Mr Draper, situated on the turnpike road from Silverhill to St Leonards Green [Sedlescombe Road South], was destroyed by fire.
1865 June 8 – The new Bourne Street wash-houses and baths on the corner of Winding Street and Bourne Street were opened by the benefactor Countess Waldegrave, who had paid for it all as a ‘gift to the poor’. The building provided facilities for the women of the Old Town to wash, dry and iron their own clothes, and also to be laundresses for other people as a way of generating income. In October 1866 bathrooms were added, open daily from 10am-9pm. Most poor families in the Old Town lived in low quality overcrowded houses, which did not have laundry facilties, baths or gardens in which to hang up washing. The drying of clothes on the beach among the fishing boats was a common practive until the Second World War. The wash-houses were to play an important role in the health and working lives of many Old Town people.
1865 Summer – A new large sailing yacht, the 42-ft Albertine, began taking passengers on sea trips from the beach next to the newly-built Queens Hotel. The Albertine, built by Henry Kent at Rock-a-Nore, was the first of a succession of similar pleasure craft that were to operate from this spot until 1924, capable of carrying up to 100 people. The same-size Livonia came soon after, then Skylark in 1884 and a slightly larger replacement Albertine was built in 1885. In 1891 the New Albertine was launched, the largest of the beach boats, carrying 130 passengers. It worked until 1924 and then was sold to Newhaven in 1927.
8565 Aug 21 – The foundation stone of St Thomas’s Catholic Church in Magdalen Road was laid, and it opened on 24 May 1866. But it was burnt down on 3 January 1887; its replacement church opened on 10 July 1889.
1865 Aug 29 – A large section of the north end of the Priory Valley was sold for development, comprising 78 plots between Stonefield Place and the railway bridge. By 1873 Queens Road had been built there, with houses on both sides, plus on the west side of Stonefield Road.
1865 Oct 3 – The Countess of Waldegrave lay the foundation stone for the new church at Ashbrooke Park, Hollington, ie St Johns Church, Upper Church Road.
1865 Nov 13 – A 75 feet long Greenland whale weighing nearly 70 tons was washed ashore at Pevensey in an easterly gale. The Customs sold the whale for £38 to Hastings fishmonger Mark Breach and some other dealers. By late December all the flesh had been sold and the skeleton was brought to Hastings and put on display in a specially erected building on the Cricket Ground. The skeleton was bought for £55 on 29 May 1866 by Cambridge University Museum, where it is still on display today.
1866 – Two newspapers were merged by Isaac Parsons to form the Hastings Herald and Observer. Parsons’s son Frederick took over the paper in the early 1870s and in 1873 it became the Hastings Observer, which is still published. The Parsons printing and publishing business expanded rapidly from the 1870s onwards, with the company being called FJ Parsons Ltd. In 1877 the Observer built new premises at 14 Claremont, and then expanded by building large new adjoining premises, 53 Cambridge Road, which came into use in 1924. By then the company owned several newspapers and printed many magazines
1866 April 12 – The foundation stone of St Pauls Church, Church Road, was laid by Hastings MP Patrick Robertson; it opened on 27 August 1868. It was demolished in the late 1960s and replaced by a block of flats.
1866 April 20 – Hollington Old Church re-opened after being restored by Miss Dampier in memory of her mother.
1866 May 24 – The St Leonards Green turnpike toll gate and cottage, Sedlescombe Road South, were burnt down.
1866 May 25 – The Hastings News reported on the large amount of building work taking place near the town centre. Areas included Blacklands, Mount Pleasant, Quarry Road and St Andrews Square.
1866 June 14 – The memorial stone was laid for a new Wesleyan Chapel to be built on the corner of Clifton Road and the Ridge. The land was part of the Vine Farm Estate and the chapel was an improvement on the previous building.
1866 Autumn – The Board of Customs closed its Customs House because Hastings was no longer considered to be a trading port. Hastings had probably had a Customs House for over a century. The last such building, built in 1853, was owned by Hastings Council and stood on the beach-side of East Parade, just east of the Cutter pub. It was washed away by a gale in August 1881 and a new lifeboat house was built on its site in 1882.
1866 Oct 12 – Work started on building the new sewage and drainage system through Hastings, with its main works at Rock-a-Nore, costing £25,640. The contractor was the prominent local builder and Liberal councillor John Howell, who was instrumental in having a pier built at Hastings in 1869. They were completed in June 1868 and formally opened on 27 July, marking a major improvement in the town. Until then sewage had been pumped onto several parts of the beach in front of the town, especially Warrior Square and Harold Place. The new system had a major sewage pipe, 6ft by 4ft, running from the bottom of London Road along the seafront to a 1.5 million gallon tank, 210ft by 100ft, at Rock-a-Nore. This discharged into the sea via a three-quarter mile long pipe, ending at low water mark off Ecclesbourne Glen (parts of this are still visible). All other sewers drained into this main pipe. St Leonards was building its own separate sewage scheme, costing £8,000.
1866 Nov 18 – A rough gale caused the wreck on Hastings beach at Harold Place of the 125-ton Lamburn, a collier brig bringing coal for the Hastings gasworks. Messrs Kent, the principal owners, were heavy losers. She was built more than 30 years ago at Thwaites and Winter shipyard on the beach opposite Pelham Crescent.
1867 Jan 18 – Severe weather threw many working men out of employment and put severe hardship on their families. The News on 26 January said that a special Council meeting considered distress amongst the unemployed. Over 900 had applied for relief. A door-to-door collection was being made and the relief would consist of bread, soup and provisions (not money).
1867 Feb 2 – The News reported that the Silverhill Reading and Recreation Club had recently been founded.
1867 March 14 – The old corn mill at Bachelors Bump was burnt down. Over-heating was supposed to be the cause of the fire, aided by a strong wind. There was rapid destruction of the building. It was occupied by Messrs A Amoore and Thomson. The mill stood in Mill Lane, on the north-west side of where it does a 90-degree turn from north-west to north-east, overlooking where Hillcrest School is today.
1867 June 21 – Mr Thomas Brassey’s new house, Normanhurst, on a very large estate north of Catsfield, was nearly complete.
1867 June 26 – The memorial stone was laid for some new borough council offices on the corner of Middle Street and Bank Buildings.
1867 July 12 – Halton House, off Old London Road, was up for sale. It had been built for the prominent local MP Patrick Robertson, who had built Robertson Street. The large house, with a good view to the sea, stood where the east end of Hardwicke Road is today.
1867 Aug 12 – The 1867 Hastings Pier Act was passed, giving Eugenius Birch the legal power to form a statutory company, the Hastings Pier Company, which could build a pier at White Rock. This Act, like Birch’s 1862 Act, gave him exclusive rights to build a pier at Hastings. But there was still strong local opposition to Birch and out-of-town business interests owning a Hastings pier, and Birch decided in the end to compromise. In May 1869 local builder and politician John Howell held a special meeting at the Castle Hotel where he persuaded Birch and Hastings investors to run the pier company together.
1867 Oct – 149 acres of the St Helens Estate were sold.At least 96 acres of the land was bought by two London men, a Mr Brown and a Mr Lea of Sackville Street. Until the mid-1860s there had only been a few houses and farms in the area between the Hastings-Ore railway line, Blacklands and the Ridge. This sale of the St Helens Estate helped open up the whole area and spur on the development that was just starting.
1867 Oct 8 – The workhouse board of guardians received a letter, dated this day, from the Poor Law Board in Whitehall saying there were ‘serious defects’ in the workhouse, especially its low quality accommodation for the sick. Over the following months the board had a new two-storey block built adjoining the original building, on the Cackle Street side, which became the infirmary.
1867 Dec 26 – The old Hare and Hounds pub in Ore, then let out as apartments, and an adjoining woodshop, once its old Theatre, burned out. It was insured, but the main sufferers were the tenants whose goods were destroyed by the reckless manner in which overzealous persons pitched the articles out of the window. and its small theatre annexe were burnt down.
1868 Feb 7 – In drainage excavations, between the Prince Albert Tavern and Tamarisk Steps in Rock-a-Nore Road, the workmen came across some immense timber work, at a depth of about 20 ft from the surface. The work seems to have been in the nature of a groyne, running from south-west to north-east.
1868 April 29 – The new St Johns Church, Hollington, was consecrated by the Bishop of Chichester.
1868 May 6 – Opening of the new Unitarian Christian Chapel, South Terrace.
1868 June 1 – The new borough council offices on the corner of Middle Street and Bank Buildings were opened and the office at 86 High Street abandoned (the new building is still there).
1868 Late June – The first Australian cricket team to come to England played one of its matches at the Central Cricket Ground. This was a team of Aborigines, not whites, and the three-day match finished early so that they could give a public demonstration of their native skills (including boomerangs).
1868 July 1 – The Hastings and St Leonards Amateur Athletic Club was founded. Although it was not committed to any particular sport, it quickly became the first Hastings football club, attracting hundreds of supporters in a few weeks after some matches were played on the Central Cricket Ground. But the ground’s committee did not like the-then rugby-like game of football, compared with the gentlemanly pastime cricket. This enmity, and lack of finance for the new football club, led to its demise at the end of 1868.
1868 July 3 – There was a dinner for John Howell, the contractor, when the new drainage was completed. Nearly £30,000 had been spent. It ran from St Leonards Archway via the Priory (near the Memorial) to a large arched tank at Rock-a-Nore holding 1½ million gallons, then to the mouth of an iron outlet pipe off Ecclesbourne Glen.
1868 Sept 15 – The Eagle Brewery in Courthouse Street, owned by Mills and Sons, burned down.
1868 Oct 6 – The Hastings Rowing Club was established.
1868 Oct 7 – The dismantling of Martello Tower 43 on Bulverhythe Cliff, opposite the Bull Inn, began.
1868 Nov 16 – The first general election was held on 10 December 1868 under the new Reform Act 1867. At the nomination hustings on the Central Cricket Ground on 16 November, there was a show of hands in favour of Liberals Frederick North and Thomas Brassey jnr. A poll was demanded; and this was held the next day, Tuesday. It was a Liberal victory: Brassey 1,446 votes, North 1,508. Conservatives Calthorpe and Thruston had 967 and 873 respectively. The new members were dragged round the town in a coach, and a coffin labelled Toryism was paraded by the hustings. On 11 December the Conservatives petitioned against the result of the general election, alleging bribery. But in April 1869 their case was found by the High Court to be unprovable. On 28 July the Liberal Party held a special day of celebrations in the town centre, culminating in a dinner for 600 people in the Music Hall in Robertson Street. But the accusations had had a negative effect on North, and he died on 29 October 1869.
1868 Nov 23 – The new St Leonards British Schools opened, at the junction of London Road and Kings Road.
1869 Jan 2 – In a storm, the schooner Fairy, 110 tons, broke her back on the groyne at the unloading slipway at the bottom of London Road. She was 20 years in the coasting trade and regularly used the London Road slipway. Captain Eastland, who had half shares in her, lost everything, as there was no insurance for vessels that were beached to unload. The brig Pelican drifted broadside on, but survived. She needed a thorough overhaul.
1869 Jan 29 – In two days of storms, the fishing boat Dove lost a man overboard at the East Groyne. Power Love lost her entire crew of four off South Foreland: George (Tonser) Adams, George Sutton, John Boreham and a pensioner, Woods. There were four widows and 17 children fatherless. Subscriptions were opened.
1869 April 21 – The Fairlight windmill, a famous landmark visible for many miles around, was burnt to the ground. The large mill, built 1819 and owned by the Countess Waldegrave, was completely destroyed, along with a large quantity of grain, flour and meal, and three granaries. It was never replaced, and North’s Seat, in memory of Frederick North, was erected in April 1870 on its site at Fairlight Down.
1869 June 6 – Ore Church, the town’s oldest church, at St Helens, held its last service. The Rector, the Rev WT Turner, said the centuries-old church, parts of it Saxon, was unsound and, as the building was closely surrounded by graves, rebuilding would disturb the graves. Work started that month building the new St Helens Church nearby on the Ridge, and the Countess of Waldegrave laid the memorial corner-stone on 30 June.
1869 June 29 – The town’s new main post office opened in a newly-built government-owned building. It had moved from 2 Wellington Place, where it been since 1854, to 1 Queens Road, where the Halifax Building Society is today. On the upper floor were offices for the Inland Revenue and Surveyor of Taxes. The Telegraph department would be there when the post office soon took over the telegraph service. Most of the ground floor was one large room, used as the post office, where the eight ‘letter carriers’ prepared for their walks. It moved to Cambridge Road in 1930.
1869 July 2 – The News reported that the improvements that had long been promised were at last being carried out at Gensing [Warrior Square] Station. The platforms were being extended and a footbridge was being built over the line.
1869 July 10 – Mr T Spalding, owner of Ore Place, organised a meeting there of neighbouring freeholders to improve the ‘disgraceful state’ of the privately owned Ore Lane (now Elphinstone Road) and St Helens Park Road.
1869 Oct 29 – Death of Frederick North, aged 69, the highly respected Liberal MP, whose home had been Hastings Lodge in Old London Road. His daughter Marianne became the world-famous botanic artist. The News said that the unproved charges of corruption in the 1868 general election had deeply wounded ‘the honourable and sensitive mind of our late friend and representative’ and had hastened his death. He was the son of Frederick F North Esq (of Hastings and Rougham, Norfolk) and of Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev W Whitear (of Hastings). He was born in 1800, and was MP for Hastings in 1831, from December 1832 until July 1837, from May 1854 until July 1865, when he lost his seat, but was re-elected in 1868. The following by-election on 17 November 1869 was the last election in Hastings to be held with open-air hustings, at the Central Cricket Ground, prior to the 1872 Ballot Act bringing in polling booths. Liberal Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth won. In April 1870, North’s Seat (a seat for 12 people) was erected in his memory on the site of the burnt-down Fairlight windmill.
1869 Dec 16 – The iron church in St Andrews Square opened. The Rev EJ May had bought the land and built the church, with a galvanised iron roof. But it was little used, in 1880 it was effectively abandoned and became semi-derelict. It was to become the home of the Salvation Army in 1883.
1869 Dec 18 – Work started on building the Hastings Pier, with first iron pile being screwed into the seabed on this day. The contractor was Laidlaw & Son, of Glasgow, and the contract price was £23,250. In July 1871 the piles that were being screwed at its seaward end struck many large old oak trees. In 1870 the St Leonards-on-Sea Pier Company was set up and obtained the legal right to build a pier to the east of the Royal Victoria Hotel, but local opposition in 1872 stopped it happening.
1870 Jan 25 – The Hastings and St Leonards Conservative Club opened its doors, in some rooms of the Queens Hotel in Harold Place. It later moved to a large building in Carlisle Parade.
1870 Jan 28 – The News commented on bicycles: ‘Complaints have reached us of the danger which passengers incur in our streets after dark from the velocipedes, which begin to abound here. These locomotives make so little noise and present so small a body to the sight that they almost run over anyone before they can be seen. They should carry lamps. They might, at all events, be kept off the Parades, particularly where the footway is narrow, as it is opposite White Rock.’
1870 Feb 5 – At 8am the head Post Offices at Hastings and St Leonards commenced transmitting telegraphic messages, in common with some 800 other offices. There was a uniform rate of a shilling (5p) for 20 words.
1870 June 6 – ‘Terrible gloom’ was cast over the town by the drowning of eight people when the pleasure yacht Royal Albert capsized half a mile off the Fishmarket on Whit Monday, 6 June. The ketch set sail from the beach about 4pm, with 16 people aboard. Strong gusts of wind blew over the boat, which witnesses believed was carrying too much canvas. There should have been a lifebuoy aboard, but there was not. The survivors were rescued by fishermen in rowing boats. The boat belonged to Thomas Tutt jnr and George Wenman. It was raised and brought ashore on June 7. The verdict of the inquest on June 17 was accidental death by drowning; but with the rider that lifebuoys should be carried in all boats.
1870 June 24 – The Hastings Sewage Manure Co’s newly-built sewage works at Rock-a-Nore was attracting visitors from all over England, said the News. Its 64ft by 34ft building had opened on 3 June, recycling human sewage into agricultural fertiliser. Hastings could ‘boast of having been the first watering place in the kingdom that had entirely deodorised the sewage and prevented discharge of offensive matter in its neighbourhood’. But on 12 August 1870 three men were killed when they suffocated in the large underground sewage tank; one of them was the company chemist. The tank was cleared every tide. The scheme was unsuccessful, and Hastings Council in 1876 turned the building into a mortuary and a ‘disinfacting station’.
1870 Sept 2 – The new St Helens Church, Ore, was consecrated by the Bishop.
1870 Sept 6 – The Prince Imperial, having fled from France, arrived at the Marine Hotel.
1870 Nov 1 – All Saints Church re-opened after nearly 14 months work. The old fashioned bow pews had been replaced by open seats, the font moved westward nearer tower and the floor relaid at a lower level with heating pipes. There was new woodwork, tiling and glass. The ceiling of the nave had been moved to show rafters and the walls of the belfry plastered. The beauties of the groined roof had been exposed and 16th century murals discovered. There was a new vestry room outside on the north and a new screen inside the west door.
1870 Nov 7 – A new octagonal retail fishmarket, with 12 stalls, opened at the bottom of the High Street, removing all the fish stalls from the beach. It was demolished in 1928 and replaced by a turning circle for the new trolleybuses (it is now a car park).
1870 Nov 30 – The new St Andrews Church, Queens Road, was consecrated 12 months after the foundation stone was laid. Ten years before this, there was not a single building in its parish, including Blacklands; by 1870 there were probably 250. In the early 1900s the inside walls of the church were decorated with murals by Robert Tressell, author of the influential novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. The church was later replaced by Morrisons’ petrol station.
1870 Dec 8 – Death of Thomas Brassey, the famous railway engineer, who by the time of his death had built 5% of the world’s railways. Born 7 November 1895 near Chester, he was initially a land surveyor, then a civil engineer, based at Birkenhead. In 1837 he completed his first railway contract, a viaduct near Wolverhampton. He then quickly took up many other railway construction contracts in Britain. This was followed by four French railways totalling 437 miles. By 1847 he had built about a third of the railways in Britain, and by 1870 had built three-quarters of the lines in France, plus major lines in many other European countries and in Canada, Australia, South America and India. He also built the structures associated with those railways – bridges, stations, tunnels etc – and was also active in the development of steamships, mines, water supply and other engineering schemes. He was an exceptional man in many ways, expecting a high standard of work from his employees but treating them in the most humane and dignified manner (and financially at times of need). He died at the Royal Victoria Hotel, St Leonards, and was buried in the churchyard at Catsfield. He was the father of Hastings Liberal MP Thomas Brassey (1836-1918) who lived at Normanhurst, Catsfield, and who did much for the town. Thomas jnr was a prominent freemason and a Hastings MP from 1868 to 1886, when he became a peer, and was governor of the Australian colony of Victoria from 1895-1900. He was the owner of the large three-masted topsail schooner Sunbeam, in which he circumnavigated the world in 1876-77, said to be the first-ever circumnavigation by a private yacht. Thomas jnr and his first wife Anna collected many artefacts from around the world, many of which were donated to Hastings Museum, inlcuding the Durbar Hall in which they are on display today.
1870 Dec 25 – A rare bird, a buzzard, was shot after being seen in Warrior Square.
1870 Dec 25 – At the Hastings Workhouse, Mr Pearce, the Master, had a ‘family’ of 254 on Christmas Day, the largest for 30 years. There were 280 lbs of good meat, 340 lbs of capital plum pudding and 24 packs of potatoes. Weekly relief was: indoor 250 (204 in 1869), outdoor 1,712 (1,363); total 1,962. There had been snow at Christmas, with skating at St Andrews Gardens [Alexandra Park], Bulverhythe, etc. On 6 January the News reported that there had been heavy snow falls, and under the direction of the borough surveyor work had been found for the unemployed, who had been carting snow from the roads. The cost of labour was borne by the Relief Fund.
1871 – The artist James Whistler painted his best-known picture, showing his mother Anna seated in a chair. Late in life she moved from London to 42 St Mary’s Terrace, Hastings. The picture is titled Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1.
1871 Feb – The Hastings and St Leonards School Board was established with the purpose of delivering universal provision of elementary education, as required by the 1870 Education Act. George Scrivens was chairman.
1871 May 5 – The News reported that an 1871 census report by the local registrar showed there were many more women than men in the borough – 58% of the population against 42% – due to the large number of servants in lodging houses.
1872 Jan 12 – The Council voted to abolish fairs held 23-24 November and Whit Tuesday – an “abominable nuisance” – to prevent the assemblage of a class of people who were no credit to the town or to anybody else. The annual fairs had been held for time immemorial, usually at the bottom of High Street.
1872 – Local workmen held a successful two-month strike, increasing their daily rate from 4s 6d (22½p) to five shillings (25p).
1872 April – Martello Tower No 38, at Cliff End, the nearest to the east of Hastings, was blown up (plus nearby to the east No 35; No 36 was blown up in May 1870).
1872 May 24 – The steamship Baltimore, of the North-German Lloyd’s line, from Baltimore to Bremen, was in collision off Hastings, and was beached opposite Government House, at the end of George Street. It was 350 feet long, in 8 feet of water at low tide. There were 130 passengers, 80 seamen.
1872 July 3 – Gensing Gardens, between London Road and Church Road, which were owned by the Council, were officially opened.
1872 July 18 – St Leonards School Chapel in West Hill Road opened for worship. It was made of iron.
1872 Aug 5 – The new Hastings Pier – the ‘Peerless Pier’ – was officially opened by the Earl Granville, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, on a very wet and windy day. It was unique, as it was the first pier in Britain to be built with a large entertainments pavilion as part of its design. It was 910 feet long and 45 feet wide in the middle. The last 300 feet holding the pavilion were 125 feet wide. The pier attracted 482,000 people in its first year.
1872 Aug 7 – The Central Cricket and Recreation Ground was officially founded by the signing of a deed whereby the Cornwallis Estate sold for £5,000 to the cricket trustees the 6¼ acres which they had been renting since 1864. The ground closed in 1989 and the Priory Meadow shopping centre was built on its site.
1872 Sept 1 – The Hastings Liberal Club formed.
1872 Oct – Hastings Council agreed to spend £5,500 on the ‘East End Springs’ scheme: extracting water from the streams in Fairlight and Warren Glens. Over the following months, both glens had a 700,000 gallon reservoir built near where their main stream went down onto the beach, plus a 50,000 gallon on a side stream, totalling 1.5 million gallons. This water gravitated to Rock-a-Nore water pumping station via a cast iron main laid along the bottom of the cliff. By 1875 the scheme was supplying 78,000 gallons a day, and other springs in the glens were added to the system soon after. The system closed in 1892 when other water supplies had been set up,
1872 Nov 28 – New, tougher wards for the ‘casuals’ (tramps) had been built near the gates of the workhouse, reported the News in a long feature. It said: ‘During the past few years it had been discovered that an astonishingly large number of people are incessantly travelling through the country and living on their wits. The better-disposed turn up at the time when a particular industry is rife in a district, such as haying, fruit picking. They stayed in lodging houses and, if hard up, the tramp wards of the workhouses. The migrations were mostly along the coast, Brighton – Dover; not one in 50 went inland.’ The Poor Law Officials, five or six years before, had awoken to the fact that the migratory class of the poor had increased in astonishingly large proportion. ‘It was felt that the treatment of the class had been too lenient.’ It was generally agreed that a ‘separate system’ was needed, which was then being introduced all over Britain.
1872 Dec – Negotiations began on the merger of the towns of Hastings and St Leonards following the passing of the Public Health Act 1872. This had created the Hastings Urban Sanitary Authority (a new arm of Hastings Council), and had said that as the St Leonards commissioners were unable to meet the new requirements of the act, the town should come under the authority of the HUSA. This would effectively merge the two towns and more than two years of discussion took place, as the well-off St Leonards ratepayers successfully fought for a reduction in the rates they paid, while at the same time receiving an improved service. The St Leonards Commissioners were dissolved on 8 October 1873. The St Leonards Improvement Act 1832 was dissolved on 29 September 1875, bringing St Leonards into the Borough of Hastings.
1873 Jan 31 – It was decided that a new shed would be the HQ of the 7th Cinque Ports Artillery Volunteers. On the corner of Hatherly Road and Southwater Road, it was 90 ft x 60 ft, with an inside drill hall 80 ft x 40 ft. Thomas Elworthy was the architect. On 14 March 1873 the News reported the CPAV dragged two 40 pounder Armstrong guns from Hastings Station to their new depot.
1873 March 21 – The first block of buildings in the borough to be made from concrete was inaugurated. Scrivens Buildings, in Crown Lane, off All Saints Street, with 30 flats, had been built for poorer people in the Old Town by the Hastings Cottage Improvement Society. They were named after the late mayor. They stood on the site of some old stabling on the south side, and comprised three semi-detached blocks, one facing Crown Lane, with the others being ‘wings’ at the ends of it. Access to the two upper floors was by open iron staircases at each end of the central block, and exterior balconies. The Builder magazine commented in 1880: ‘Whatever else these buildings are, they do not constitute cottahe improvement,’ reflecting the widespread criticism of HCIS for its high rents and poor quality housing. Crown Court now stands on the site of Scrivens Buildings.
1873 March 21 – The News reported that prominent local builder John Howell was carrying out major development on the former Cornwallis Estate. He was laying out what was to become Cambridge Gardens, on the site of the old Priory Farm farmyard. He was also undertaking work on upper Cambridge Road and on laying out Cornwallis Gardens and Holmesdale Gardens. The road bridge that was to go over the railway, becoming Linton Road, and opening up that area for development, was still not built.
1873 April 18 – Death of Sarah, Countess of Waldegrave, in her 87th year, one of the most generous of the town’s benefactors ever. She had inherited the large Milward family estate, then covering over 2,300 acres, mostly to the east and north-east of the town. She was the youngest daughter of Rev William Whitear, Prebenadry of Chichester, Rector of All Saints, St Clements and Ore. Born St Clements Rectory 17 January 1787. Married March 1817 Edward Milward and on his death in 1833 she inherited the West and East Hills, Fairlight Place and much other property. Married December 1846 as his 2nd wife William 8th Earl Waldegrave in Royal Navy, who died October 1859. She established one of the earliest Sunday Schools over 60 years before her death and founded the infant school in Cavendish Place. She laid the foundation stones of many churches: Halton 1838; Fairlight 1845; St Mary Magdalen 1851; Holy Trinity, Robertson Street 1857; Christ Church, Ore 1858; St Matthew, Silverhill and Slinfold 1860; and new parish church Ore 1869. She gave sites for the boys and girls school in All Saints Street and Halton schools. She erected the public baths and washhouses in Bourne Street for almost £2,000. For the Rifle Corps, she gave £250 to clothe the men, and provided the rifle ranges in Ecclesbourne Glen, and gave £1,000 to purchase the Central Recreation Ground. She was a strong Protestant. As she had no children, the family estate passed first to Edward Henry Sayer-Milward (1835-90), a grandson of Sarah Collier who was a sister of the wife of Edward Milward Snr, and then to the Rev William Sayer-Milward (1837-1913).
1873 May 2 – Opening of new showrooms at the much improved Rock’s Carriage Works at White Rock. There was a new Gothic building by prominent local builder John Howell; architects Jeffery & Skiller. It was a big architectural feature of the Front line, with a bold archway 22′ wide and 20′ high, plus a chimney 80 feet high behind the works.
1873 Summer – The first school to be built by the new Hastings School Board was completed. It was the elementary school for the Old Town, in Waterloo Place and Bourne Walk, initially for infants and girls (now demolished).
1873 Sept – The last two of the three West Hill windmills, plus the steam mill, were soon to be demolished, making way for Alpine Road and Gordon Road, it was announced. The three mills were all on or between Priory Road and Plynlimmon Road, and had formed the town’s main mill complex for many years, being on a site very exposed to the prevailing south-westerly winds. The steam mill was about 25 years old and had a tall chimney. The smock mill adjoining Plynlimmon Road was sold for £116 in March 1874 and soon taken down. The second was sold in October 1874 and demolished on 28 November that year.
1873 Oct 2 – Founding of the Athenaeum Debating Society at a meeting in the Castle Hotel. Many members of the local establishment took part in the debates, held weekly through the winter.
1873 Oct 4 – What is believed to have been the first debate in the borough on women’s sufferage took place in St Leonards. It was chaired by the Rev Andrew Reed, and the main speaker was Millicent Fawcett ‘in language of no common order’. At the new Athenaeum’s first-ever debate, on 16 October at the Castle Hotel, a Mr WW Fawcett (Millicent’s husband?) gave a lengthy speech on extending the parliamentary franchise to women. A large majority of the audience voted in favour of suffrage.
1873 Nov – The tender of £1,770 from Messrs Hughes was accepted for building new roads, drains, etc on the south-east portion of the Eversfield estate, becoming Kenilworth Road, Carisbrooke Road and Stockleigh Road.
1873 Dec – Martello Tower No 40, to the west of the Bathing Pool site, was blown up by the Royal Engineers, as the sea was undermining it.
1873 Late Dec – The vestries of the parishes of All Saints and St Clements condemned the trustees of the Magdalen Charity for trying to divert a large part of the benefit of that charity away from those two parishes to the western parishes of the borough. The trustees had proposed a scheme whereby two other local charities, the Parker’s and Saunder’s, would create a ‘good middle class school’ aided by a portion of the Magdalen’s income. This income came from the 57 acres of land that Magdalen’s owned between Bohemia and Warrior Square, which was rapidly increasing in value because of the development taking place there. But the two Hastings parishes were solely entitled to the benefit of Magdalen Charity, which had started in 1294 in order to help the sick and poor of Hastings, then covered by just the two parishes. The All Saints and St Clements committee put forward an alternative scheme to the trustees, which would spread the Magdalen’s benefit further in the borough, but did not include the middle class school. This was turned down by the trustees, who finally got the go-ahead for their scheme in March 1878 (cf).
1874 April 10 – The St Leonards Rowing Club was set up.
1874 July – The new University School (private) opened in Holmesdale Gardens. It was a large building, with a tower. In 1932 it was bought and demolished by the Royal East Sussex Hospital, which opened a nurses’ home on its site in July 1934 (now demolished). Its site is now the entrance to Redmayne Drive.
1874 Sept 18 – A meeting of agricultural labourers was held at the Millers Arms, Winchelsea Road, Ore. Mr Simmons, founder of the Kent Agricultural Labourers Union, said he had come here to establish a branch in this part of the country, as when labourers in Kent applied for an increase in wages they were discharged, and imported Sussex men replaced them.
1874 Sept 22 – Consecration of the newly-built Emmanuel Church, on the corner of Priory Road and Plynlimmon Road. The church was funded by Mrs Mendham, sister of the Rev WT Turner of Ore, and built by John Howell.
1875 – Opening of the new Holy Trinity School, in Braybrooke Terrace (no longer a school).
c1875 – St Clements Church was restored.
1875 Feb 5 – The News said that roller skating was the latest fashionable pastime, coming from America, and a skating rink had just been built. The rink was a quickly-built, large iron-framed shed, with wood panels. It was 120 feet long, 60 feet wide, 27 feet high, and stood behind the east side of Cambridge Gardens, on the site of today’s ESK warehouse; it was soon to be called the Cambridge Hall.
1875 May 13 – Opening of the new Christ Church, on the corner of London Road/Silchester Road. It replaced the much smaller Christ Church, standing a few yards down London Road. The tower and spire were added in 1894.
1875 May 25 – The memorial stone for the new Central Wesleyan Church was laid, on the corner of Cambridge Road and Cornwallis Gardens. The then-existing Chapel in Bourne Street was inconveniently situated and too small. The church opened on 14 July 1876 and was demolished in 1980 and replaced by flats .
1875 July 1 – The Hastings night mail train started running.
1875 Sept 16 – The Hastings School of Science and Art opened, on top of the Music Hall, now Yates pub in Cambridge Road. It moved to the Brassey Institute when that opened.
1875 Sept 29 – From this day, all St Leonards merged with Hastings. In 1832 a local act of parliament had given legal powers to local commissioners to manage the new town of St Leonards, then being built by James Burton on his own land. But this authority did not cover the much larger township of St Leonards that soon developed all around Burton’s St Leonards, and which came under the control of Hastings Council. This created a confusing and financially complex situation, highlighted by the 1872 Public Health Act, which prompted the 1875 Local Government Board’s Provisional Orders Confirmation Act. This dissolved the 1832 act and brought Burton’s St Leonards into the Borough of Hastings.
1875 Oct 10 – The Hastings Battery of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers was formed, thanks to the support of Lord Brassey. It was based in Rock-a-Nore Road, but was disbanded after several years.
1875 Nov 1 – The turnpike road system was gradually being brought to an end because of its great inefficiency and the problems it was causing on managing roads. On this date the two local turnpike trusts serving Hollington/Battle and Sedlescombe were abolished and their turnpike gates were removed. Their ‘pay gates’ inside the town had been in London Road, at its junction with Tower Road; in The Green, between Filsham Road and Hollington Park Road; and in Bohemia Road, between Tower Road and Newgate Road. The trust running the main London road via Flimwell, with a gate at Mount Road/Old London Road, was abolished on 1 November 1881.
1875 Nov 14 – One of the worst-ever storms battered the seafront and flooded much of the town. It was the worst disaster in living memory at that time. Many shops, businesses and lodging houses were severely damaged by the sea. Fourteen net shops were destroyed and others damaged. There was another heavy gale and high tide causing great damage on 12 March 1876, with George Street and Queens Road flooded, and what was thought to be a storm even worse than November 1875 on 1 January 1877. These storms prompted Hastings Council to improve the sea defences west of the Old Town, but with only one groyne in front of it (this was at Rock-a-Nore, in 1878, to protect the sewage woprks there). By 1880 the exposure of the Old Town to gales had brought the sea up to the buildings on the seafront and had washed away much of the fishermen’s beach. This was part of a Council plot to make the fishing fleet move to Rye so that their beach could be used by the tourist businesses.
1876 – The first edition of the annual Pike’s Blue Book and Directory of Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill was published. It was created by a Hastings tradesman, Mr WT Pike, and within a few years he was publishing similar directories for other south coast towns. The last edition was 1939. The other long-lasting Hastings directory was Kelly’s, which ran from 1888 until 1974, being published roughly every other year after the Second World War.
1876 April 7 – A serious collision occurred when the steamer Savernake collided with the steamer Vesuvius; the Savernake managed to beach ashore at the Fishmarket whilst the Vesuvius sank. No loss of life occurred. The Savernake was bound from Sunderland to Plymouth, laden with coal, 16 crew. The Vesuvius was a Dutch steamship bound from Odessa to Rotterdam with a freight of 7,500 qtrs of wheat and 35,000 boxes and barrels of raisins. The central part of the hull of the wreck of the Vesuvius was blown up on 11 August. Most of the wreck had been disposed of on 18 August, and 2,000 lbs of gunpowder or 600 lbs of cotton powder were needed. There had been a considerable destruction of fish. The cargo was composed of 7,500 qtrs of wheat and 35,000 boxes and barrels of raisins.
1876 June 3 – Hastings Council decided to rename the roads until then called Queens Buildings, Meadow Road and Bedford Place, as Queens Road.
1876 June 4 – The last service was held in the wooden Croft Chapel, on the junction of the Croft and Croft Road, built in 1820. The new Croft Congregational Church on the same site opened on 1 May 1877. In 1973 the church was replaced by a block flats.
1876 June 28 – The foundation stone of the White Rock Baths was laid by Thomas Brassey.
1876 July 7 – Martello Tower No 39 at the west end of Grosvenor Gardens (the one built nearest to the west of Hastings) was demolished after being damaged by the sea in gales.
1876 July 28 – The steam-powered Buckshole water pumping station was opened, in the extended St Andrews Gardens (that became Alexandra Park in 1882).
1876 Oct 27 – The Alexandra Hotel, in the middle of Eversfield Place, reopened as a good quality hotel after it originally had been a first class lodging house.
1877 – Construction took place of Old Humphrey Avenue, on the site of Hastings House and its garden, in the Old Town.
1877 Jan 1 – The highest tide on record and a gale caused the worst damage then on record, partly washing away the parade and some of the pier. George Street and Queens Road were flooded. One man was killed and others were seriously injured. There was particularly severe damage to the fishing boats, net shops and Old Town seafront properties as Hastings Council had not built proper sea defences there, hoping to force the fishing boats to move to Rye.
1877 Jan 19 – The town’s first Ratepayers’ Association was set up.
1877 March 20 – The memorial stone of the new Congregational School in Priory Street was laid. It opened in 1878, with many rooms for various functions. In later years it vecame a cinema, snooker club, night club and bingo hall, before demolition in 2008 to make way for Priory Square.
1877 May 1 – Opening of the new Croft Congregational Chapel, in Croft Road on the corner of The Croft. It was on the site of the church built in 1805, the first Noncomformist place of worship in Hastings. The chapel was demolished in 1972 and replaced by flats.
1877 June 17 – The new St Helens Church, replacing the old Ore Church, held its first service.
1877 June 22 – The new offices and print-works for the Hastings Observer opened in Claremont. In the early 1920s they were linked in to the bigger new offices then built on the corner of Cambridge Road and Portland Place.
1877 Oct 20 – Launch of the Hastings Times weekly newspaper by wealthy Liberal businessman Halley Stewart. In late 1883 it was taken over by Joshua Macer Wright, who also edited it. The Times was always openly Liberal, but there must have been some party problem, for in April 1898 a new Liberal-backed paper was launched, the Hastings Weekly Mail. From March 1899 the Weekly Mail and the Times ‘merged’, although it was in reality a takeover by Mail publisher William Laite, buying out Macer Wright. The Hastings Weekly Mail and Times was the last surviving Liberal Hastings newspaper, and when it closed in December 1911, the Observer/Parsons/Conservatives had a monopoly of the Hastings media (apart from the Evening Argus, cf) until the 1973 Hastings News.
1877 November 16 – The Hastings and St Leonards Omnibus Co Ltd was set up, the town’s first bus company. Services began on 9 April 1878, running hourly from the bottom of the High Street aong the seafront to the Bopeep Inn, using two new buses pulled by two horses. In November 1877 Mr Stanley Kerridge said that about 17 years ago he had begun a bus service from the Swan Hotel in the High Street to Bopeep, but it did not then pay. By 1900 the company had 25 horse buses, 182 horses and over 100 employees.
1877-8 – The Brassey Institute (now the public library) and the Observer printworks were built in Claremont. Thomas Brassey opened a free public library in the Institute in 1881, and donated ownership of the whole building to Hastings Council in 1887.
1878 – The first parts of Blacklands Church were built on the corner of Laton Road and St Helens Park Road. This was part of the still largely-rural Blacklands Farm Estate area, owned by the Frewen family, and the church was initially little more than a mission hall. The vicarage was completed in 1882 and the church tower was erected in 1889 when much development was taking place. Laton Road was named after Colonel Frewen Laton and Elphinstone Road after General Sir Howard Elphinstone, who bought Ore Place.
1878 March 26 – The Charity Commissioners agreed that a Hastings Grammar School could be set up, by merging the Parker and Saunders charities and by giving £6,000 funding from the Magdalen charity. The first governors’ meeting was on 9 July 1878. It moved into its first premises, Bleak House, John Banks’ schoolroom (still standing) at the southern end of Stonefield Road, on 2 May 1880.
1878 May 28 – The first part of the new White Rock Baths was opened by Thomas Brassey MP, who had helped fund it. It was a 180′ x 40′ men’s pool, said to be the largest swimming pool in England. The construction of the baths had greatly improved and extended the promenade. The 90′ x 40′ women’s pool, on the east side of the men’s pool, was opened on 14 July 1879 by Lady Brassey. Private baths and other facilities opened on 16 August 1880. Turkish Baths were built across the road, behind the buildings in front of St Michael’s Place, with a 121 feet high chimney and a tunnel under the road. These opened on 30 April 1882, and half the chimney is still in place.
1878 June 12 – Opening of the new West Marina esplanade, in front of what were to be Grosvenor Gardens. The new parade was 2,000 feet in length, with an average width of 50 ft. The wall on the sea side was 15 feet thick at the foundation.
1878 Aug – The construction of a new groyne at Rock-a-Nore was completed, It was built to protect the sewer works, and is the most easterly of the town’s groynes. The date 1878 can be seen in one granite brick.
1878 Nov – St Johns Church, Maze Hill, was destroyed by fire; it was rebuilt.
1878 Nov 29 – The News reported that building workers had gone on strike following a notice issued by 17 of the town’s 76 building firms that they were going to cut the hourly rate of pay. Plasterers would be cut a penny to 7d, and carpenters, labourers etc a halfpenny to 7d. A meeting of employees took place on Friday 22 November at the Cricketer’s Inn, South Terrace, where the reduction was described as ‘most unjustifiable’. Another meeting, mainly of carpenters, was held on 23rd in the Carpenters Arms Inn, in Cambridge Road. About 100 people attended. It was felt that the wage-cut was the result of greedy over-development of the town. ‘That was said to be the fault of capital, and the town would continue to be overbuilt so long as such exorbitant rents and rates were exacted.’ On Monday 25th, as the employers refused to back down, the workmen ‘struck’. The News of 6 December reported that the strike was continuing, but had not extended, and the employers were saying they had no trouble finding replacements.
1879 Jan 13 – The new Silverhill School, in Strood Road, was opened. It replaced Silverhill’s only school, the cramped quarters adjoining St Matthews Church in London Road. It was Gothic design, built of local red bricks, and would hold 378 children. The News said: ‘From an educational point of view the neighbourhood of Silverhill and Silverdale [south Hollington] can no longer be described as ‘No Man’s Land’. It is a growing district, and the population at present is comprised chiefly of the working classes, among whom much poverty at times exists.’
1879 Feb 28 – The first steam fire engine was brought to the town. It had been purchased by the St Leonards Steam Fire Brigade who did not think the Hastings brigade’s machines were adequate. It was housed in Kings Road.
1879 April 2 – A new drinking fountain had been installed at the top of High Street and All Saints Street, set in a large and expensive new wall connecting the two streets. It was on this day by Mrs Shepherd, in memory of her late father, Francis Willian Staines, a resident in the borough for 36 years. The cost was nearly £1,000. The News said it looked ‘very formidable’.
1879 April 15 – The new Mount Pleasant Church, on the corner of Hughenden Place and Mount Pleasant Road, was opened. It was demolished in 1872 and was replaced by flats, with a much smaller church in the block of flats.
1879 Oct 14 – Opening of the large Royal Concert Hall, Warrior Gardens, which immediately became the leading centre of entertainment and social functions in St Leonards. Before the buildings were erected the site was for a short time an open-air roller skating rink. Many famous artistes appeared at the Hall, and it was the venue for large meetings, circuses, balls, banquets, speeches and exhibitions. Speakers were to include Winston Churchill, Captain Scott, Sir John Herschel and Horatio Bottomley. After the First World War it was given a new lease of life from 1921 by becoming a cinema as well: the Elite Picture Theatre. It suffered bomb damage in 1940 and 1942, and was the used as an Admiralty store for the rest of the war. On the day the Elite Cinema was due to re-open after the war, Monday 23 June 1947, it was burnt down by a mysterious fire – one of the biggest and most spectacular in the history of the town – which destroyed most of the building. It was never rebuilt, and flats were later put up on its site.
1879 Nov 11 – A well-known local sailing ship, the brig Pelican, was seriously damaged after unloading coal on the beach in front of the Old Town. In the evening when a stiff breeze was blowing she was being hauled off when the hawser broke. She was knocked broadside and waves dashed against her. After the tide receded it was found that she was much strained, with her baulwarks on one side washed away, and the water pouring through her in streams. It then emerged that the hawser had almost certainly been cut, and the police issued a notice offering £10 reward on convicting the villain. The vessel was further damaged on 12 November, and it was feared she would become a total wreck. But on 14 November she was successfully launched and towed to Rye Harbour for repairs. She was owned by Messrs Ginner & Co. and was built in 1838 at the Thwaites and Winter shipyard in front of Pelham Crescent. It is believed that she ceased trading after this disaster.
1879 Dec 8 – The local branch of the St John Ambulance Association was formed, with the help of Lady Brassey.
1880 Feb 6 – Hastings Council agreed to widen and improve the lower part of Barley Lane. On 7 May 1880 they agreed to rename the bottom section Harold Road.
1880 March 30 – Launch in Brighton of the Evening Argus, the only serious journalistic rival to the Hastings Observer from the First World War until 1973. An eastern Sussex edition, based in Hastings, was set up in 1889. It moved in to a large printing and publishing building in Castle Hill Road in 1899, from where a popular and widely-read paper was produced until the Second World War, after which Hastings coverage was gradually reduced. It is now called The Argus, focusing mainly on Brighton and Hove.
1880 April 17 – The former privately-owned St Leonards Subscription Gardens (behind the Royal Victoria Hotel) were officially re-opened as the public St Leonards Gardens, following their recent purchase by Hastings Corporation. Previously one had to be a subscriber to enter the gardens, but now they were free, and had been greatly improved. The nearby Archery Gardens were very popular.
1880 May 3 – Hastings Grammar School opened, in temporary premises at Bleak House, Stonefield Road. For over two years a Board of Governors had been trying to sort out the problems in carrying out the grammar school scheme, not least finding a suitable site. It had been decided, in the meantime, to open a temporary school in what had until about two years before been Parker’s Endowed School that had been managed by the well-known John Banks, who retired in 1878. The school stood at the top of Stonefield Road, in the former chapel [still standing]. It would teach reading, writing, arithmetic, French, Latin, mathematics, geography, history, English grammar, and composition, ‘with German and book-keeping for any boys who may be sufficiently advanced’. Fee: £3 per term (30 shillings extra for Greek). Admission from age eight upwards.
1880 May 7 – Hastings Council renamed the bottom of Barley Lane as Harold Road, having just widened that part of the lane. This was at a time when dvelopment was rapidly taking place to form the part of the town that became known as Clive Vale. As part of this expansion, Edwin Road Congregational Chapel opened in early June 1880.
1880 Oct 13 – The Hughenden Hall opened at 97 All Saints Street. This was an alcohol-free public hall, meeting place and soup kitchen, built by wealthy local builder Henry Chapman for the poor people of the Old Town. But it was little used, and in December 1882 it was converted into the Fishermen’s Institute, offering ‘refuge from public house temptations, and … a decided religious and moral influence for good.’ Today it is the Fishermen’s Club.
1880 Oct 21 – The respected Miss Mary Sayer died, aged 79, at her residence, Parade House [where Marine Parade runs into George Street]. She had been in a feeble state for some time, and had just returned from her country residence at Chailey. She was the daughter of the late Edward Sayer, and the aunt of Edward Henry Sayer-Milward, the owner of the large Milward Estate. This comprised the East and West Hills, much of their surrounding land, what is now the Country Park and much other property in and around Hastings. Miss Sayer’s death prompted the gradual break-up and sale of this important estate. She and her sister Miss Maria Jane Sayer donated to many local causes, charities and churches.
1880 Dec 31 – The new Hastings lifeboat, the Charles Arkcoll, arrived, replacing the Ellen Goodman. She was named after a local benefactor, who left £2,000 for a new Hastings lifeboat and for facilities, including a lifeboat house, which was built in 1882. She was an engineless, open 10-oared rowing and sailing vessel, 34 feet long. But she was only launched five times in her 20 years at Hastings, and saved no lives.
1881 Jan 7 – A Council meeting threw out a proposal to examine the cost of using electricity to power street lighting rather than gas. Electric lights had first come into large-scale use in 1879 and by 1881 were in use in most cities. Many of the councillors were shareholders and/or directors of the highly profitable Hastings Gas Company, so they threw out the suggestion, leaving the town in the dark. The Council’s agreement with the Gas Company was to run until 1883.
1881 Jan 15 – A free reference library for all the people of Hastings was opened on the ground floor of the Brassey Institute in Claremont. It was a gift to the town from Mr Thomas Brassey MP. A recent act of parliament had given local authorities the power to start libraries, but Brassey thought it would be too complicated for him to help Hastings Council create one, so he gave all the books, and he made the premises available free of charge. He also saw the reference library as not being in conflict with the two lending libraries run by the Hastings and St Leonards Mechanics’ Institutions, in Cambridge Road and Norman Road respectively. At that time the basement was being used by the Hastings Rowing Club and the was an Assembly Room on the first floor. Brassey was knighted later in 1881. In 1886 he was rewarded with a peerage for his public services.
1881 April 1 – Hastings Council agreed to create a new road, to be called Nelson Road, from the junction of Waterworks Road and Stonefield Road up to the planned site of the Grammar School, on the Milward Estate.
1881 May 23 – The first part of the new Mount Pleasant School opened, on the corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Manor Road. This was for infants. The News said: ‘During the past five years it is probable that no locality in the whole borough has made such rapid strides in regard to building operations and increase of population as that known as the West Hill district. … The whole locality is becoming a mass of bricks and mortar. Most of the houses are of the character inhabited by mechanics and working people generally, and therefore, the need of necessary machinery for the training of the young will at once be admitted and understood.’ Two new blocks for older children opened on 15 January 1883.
1881 June 11 – The Jenner’s Lane windmill at Bachelors Bump, Winchelsea Road, Ore failed to sell at an auction. An advert of 25 May described it as a ‘valuable and desirable flour mill property” built about 22 years ago. It was a ‘large, well-built smock windmill’ with a house, gardens, cottages, engine house, commodious granaries, well water etc. It was let to Mr PD Stonham on a £120 pa lease, expiring Michaelmas 1883. It was up for sale by order of the legatees under the will of the late Mr John Saxby. The mill had been withdrawn at £1,775, but wassold for £1,000 at an auction on 22 April 1882.
1881 July 25 – St Johns Church, St Leonards, was consecrated.
1881 Aug 12 – The Hastings Customs House was destroyed by a storm.
1881 Sept 7 – The new town hall in Queens Road was officially opened, having moved from the High Street. A new town hall had first been proposed in 1864, but little happened until 1878, when discussion began on this project. £15,000 had been borrowed to build the new town hall, but in April 1881 another £5,000 had to be borrowed to pay for fixtures and fittings. Following the celebrations, there was a ‘first-class luncheon’ in a large, well-decorated marquee in the cricket ground. All councillors were said to be drunk. The building included a magistrates court room, and a police station with cells.
1881 Dec 18 – Hurricane-force winds drove the German barque Sacitta onto the rocks near the Haddocks Coastguard Station, Fairlight Cove, killing five men. She was carrying a large mixed cargo, which was washed up all along the coast between Fairlight and Rye Harbour, and was then taken away by many parties of local people. The cargo included much alcohol which Hastings Old Towners removed and consumed, often in dangerous amounts. Two of them died as a result.
1882 Jan 31 – A group of prominent local businessmen and councillors met to discuss setting up a local electric light company, given the recent emergence of electricity as a rival power supply to gas. Many of these people were also shareholders in the local gas company, but the gas contract with Hastings Council was due to end in 12 months time. They agreed to hedge their bets, and so set up the Hastings and St Leonards Electric Light Company in early 1882. They were to use the ‘Brush’ system of lighting, and they acquired a site for a power station in Earl Street (the building is now a carpet and furniture warehouse). In August 1882 the Council gave the go-ahead for a trial of some electric street lights, which on 12 November 1883 were switched on. In January 1884 electric lights were installed on Hastings Pier.
1882 Feb 20 – A large meeting of working men called for the reduction of work hours so that they could have Saturday afternoons free. The crowded meeting took place in the Market Hall, George Street. It had been arranged by a joint committee of the various trade societies of the town. The normal labouring week was 58-and-a-half hours, and the meeting unanimously called for it to be cut by two hours, ending 1.00 Saturday. There were thought to be about 3,000 working men in Hastings, which was about ten years behind other places in shortening the week.
1882 May – A serious gale destroyed two net shops and damaged several others because of Hastings Council’s refusal to build sea defences in front of the Old Town, part of their aim of forcing the fishing fleet to move to Rye. Storms in late August and on 23 October caused further severe damage, and this was repeated in 1883 and 1884, at which point the Council was forced to change tactics. A groyne was built 1885-87.
1882 May 10 – Hastings Station stables were burnt, killing many horses.
1882 June 2 – Death aged 74 of teacher John Banks, who for many years ran the school that became Hastings Grammar School in 1880.
1882 June 8 – The Marianne North Gallery of over 600 natural history paintings opened at Kew Gardens, London. She painted the pictures all round the world, following her inheritance of the fortune of her father, Hastings MP Frederick North.
1882 June 26 – Alexandra Park was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra). It then covered 77 acres. The area near the railway line had opened as St Andrews Gardens in 1864. The grand opening ceremony took place on a dais on the large flat lawn opposite St Helens Park Road. The park was closed, but about 3,500 school children were watching from the slopes to the south-west of the park, and the workhouse inmates were on the north-east slopes. In August 1901 the former White Rock bandstand was installed in the park, and refreshment rooms were built c1901. A bowling green was laid out in 1907, and a clubhouse was built the following year.
1882 June 28 – Founding of the Hastings Chess Club at a meeting of gentlemen in the Temperance Hotel, Queens Road.
1882 July 3 – The new lifeboat house on East Parade was opened, and the new lifeboat, the Charles Arkcoll, was christened. Both had been ‘provided as a monument of esteem and honour to the late Mr Charles Arkcoll of Maidstone, who was born in the neighbourhood of Hastings, and who always looked upon the town with a great deal of favour.’ The Corporation of Hastings granted the site of the old Custom House in East Parade, opposite the Lower Lighthouse, and Charles Arkcoll jnr paid for the new building and boat in memory of his father, of the same name. Until then, the lifeboat house was at the east end of Rock-a-Nore Road. The new ‘very commodious and imposing stone building’ had a tower with a light in it. This was to replace the Lower Light, which it was obscuring. The boat was taken to the slipway at the Queens Hotel, where Miss Kittie Arkcoll carried out the christening, and the vessel was launched, with the help of Sir Thomas Brassey. This was followed by a banquet in the hotel. The lifeboat house was demolished in 1959 to make way for road widening..
1882 Aug 1 – The new, spacious and well-appointed Gaiety Theatre opened in Queens Road, with Mr D’Oyley Carte performing the opera HMS Pinafore. Until then Hastings had lacked a good theatre, but this compared favourably with any of the provincial houses in the kingdom. There were eight boxes, orchestra stalls, pit stalls, pit, dress circle, upper circle, amphitheatre and gallery. It was built by George Gaze, and could seat 1,400 people. Today, the Gaiety is the Odeon Cinema.
1882 Oct 23 – Official opening of the new Queens Avenue arcade of 14 shops, between Queens Road and York Buildings, adjoining the Gaiety Theatre. At that time, it was one of only two such arcades in Kent and East Sussex.
1882 Dec 19 – Opening of the Fishermen’s Institute, 97 All Saints Street. It was a new charity hoping to give fishermen an alcohol-free alternative venue for social events, mending nets, etc. It still exists, mainly as a club – with a bar.
1883 Feb 20 – The Hastings and St Leonards Omnibus Company should be wound up, the adjourned annual meeting decided. A large gathering of shareholders in the Provincial Hotel, 17 Havelock Road, heard that the company had lost £1,000 of their money since it was set up in January 1878. The great bugbear of the company were the 90 season ticket holders, who often took up all the 12 inside seats on the buses. The meeting was in favour of a new company being formed to take over the business. The plant of the old company (including the buses and horses) would be bought for £1,000. The new company held its first meeting on 31 May 1883.
1883 April 11 – Opening of the new Baptist Church on the corner of Chapel Park Road and Ellenslea Road.
1883 May 31 – The annual meeting of the Hastings Electric Light Company heard that the directors had purchased a long lease of a piece of ground on the corner of Earl Street abutting the railway. Here they had erected the ‘very commodious and substantial premises’ where the meeting was being held. Coal would be discharged directly into the works. Two 40 horsepower engines by Robey had been installed, and sufficient piping and electric wire purchased for lighting a distance of two miles. The work of laying down mains and running the wire was actively being proceeded with. They hoped to have the works in operation in a few weeks.
1883 July 4 – The new Grammar School, in Nelson Road, was opened by the mayor. The foundation stone had been laid on 6 September 1882. There was considerable controversy, for the school was aimed at middle class children, but the building had been paid for by the Magdalen Charity which was set up exclusively for the benefit of the poor in the parishes of All Saints and St Clements. The first headmaster was William McGill. The school moved to new buildings in Parkstone Road in the autumn of 1964; the old premises were demolished and replaced by houses. In 1978 it became a comprehensive school, named the William Parker School.
1883 July 6 – Opening of the first Roman Catholic church to be built in Hastings, the St Mary-Star-of-the-Sea, in High Street. Work began in May 1881 and its foundation stone was laid on 22 March 1882. It was largely the result of the initiative of poet Coventry Patmore, in memory of his late wife. He was then resident at Old Hastings House, and he provided £5,000 of the £15,000 total cost.
1883 July 29 – The Phoenix Brewery in Courthouse Street, owned by Messrs Burfield, was severely damaged by a major fire. Many hundreds of people thronged the streets and stood on the East and West Hills to watch the blaze, and 30 policemen had to control the crowds. The chief part of the engineering plant were saved, allowing business to resume in a few days.
1883 Aug 4 – The foundation stone of St Peters Church, on Chapel Park Road near Bohemia Road, was laid.
1883 Aug 8 – 363 fishermen were taken to the Fishermen’s Exhibition at Earls Court, a landmark in the development of the national fishing industry, as it appears to have lead to much greater capital investment. The first iron steamer tawlers were being brought into use in the early 1880s. The trip by the Hastings men was paid for by public subscription and included food and tobacco. The smartly-dressed men marched to the station, led by the band of the Rifle Volunteers.
1883 Aug 29 – Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor of medicine in modern times and a resident of Hastings, chaired a meeting of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage in the Assembly Rooms above the recently-opened Queens Avenue arcade. Dr Blackwell (1821-1910) lived at Rock House, at the top of Exmouth Place, which has a plaque on it. Her family emigrated to the USA in 1832, where she succeeded in becoming the first ever woman anywhere to gain a medical degree, in 1849, after fighting major male hostility to her. She returned to England temporarily in 1850, where she became the first qualified woman doctor to be listed on the British Medical Register, in 1859. She actively promoted medical education for women throughout her career. In 1879 she leased Rock House, where she lived with an Irish orphan she had adopted, aged six, in 1853. She purchased Rock House in 1883, dying there in 1910. During her three decades in Hastings Dr Blackwell took much interest in many local issues, especially poverty, the environment and conservation. She often wrote letters to the local papers and attended public meetings. A Hastings branch of the National Society was set up on 17 December 1883.
1883 Sept 20 – The foundation stone of the new Beaulieu House was laid. It was called Beaulieu House until 1918, when it became Hydneye House after it had been taken over by the well-known boys preparatory school of that name in Willingdon, Eastbourne, which moved here. Much investment was made, creating a very well-designed large house with many outstanding features. It had spacious playing fields, woodland, a swimming bath and a Greek theatre. It was one of the leading such schools in the country and one of the most attractive buildings in the Hastings area. It was forced to close in 1969 when the the Hastings Observer reported that the Hastings Council was planning to build a comprehensive school on its site. In 1974 East Sussex County Council demolished the school, despite public opposition, and built the new Maplehurst School there.
1883 Oct – A prominent and attractive bandstand for the Town Band was put up on the new Baths Parade on the seafront, by the White Rock Baths.
1883 Oct 10 – The major new waterworks at Filsham came into operation. It was a new pumping station, with a half million gallon reservoir on the hill above. The water came from a deep well in a geological fault, and was pumped up into the reservoir, which was entirely covered, the top being supported by 135 brickwork arches.
1883 Nov 12 – The first electric street lights in Hastings were switched on during this evening of Monday 12 November, after a trial on part of the seafront on 9 November. They burnt steadily and were ‘much appreciated’. This followed a Council meeting on 7 September which had agreed to experimental lighting of part of the town. This was to be the seafront, from the east end of Carlisle Parade to the west side of Warrior Square. It was to be for one year, using fifteen 2,000 candle-arc lights, from sunset to 11pm. The Council would pay £375.
1883 Dec – The new Police Station and Fire Engine House in Bourne Street, next to the Kings Head pub, came into operation. The old gaol house had been demolished.
1884 Jan 31 – The All Souls Parish Room in Athelstan Road opened. All Souls Church was built almost opposite, opening on 16 July 1891.
1884 March 27 – The Buchanan Ophthalmic and Cottage Hospital in Springfield Road opened. It was designed mainly for people suffering from injuries to or diseases of the eye. In late 1880 a woman had donated a large sum for such treatment, and this money was used to open a small house in Southwater Road as a ‘cottage hospital’ on 11 April 1881. This prompted more donations, leading to the building of this bigger Buchanan Hospital, with 17 beds.
1884 May 8 – The first building plots in the Stonefield Estate, owned by the Sayer-Milwards, were sold, starting the development of the Milward Road and Nelson Road area.
1884 June 13 – Hastings Council approved a scheme for the construction of a subway under the railway line, from Waterworks Road to Lower Park Road. Until then there had been a footway over the line a few yards to the west of the site.
1884 June 18 – The foundation stone of St Matthew’s Church, Silverhill, was laid. The church took the place of an earlier and smaller building,which was subsequently reconstructed into the parish room adjoining the new church, which was consecrated in 1885.
1884 Sept 2 – A three-week trial by a fairly large pleasure steamer using Hastings Pier was a success, leading to the setting up of the Hastings and St Leonards Passenger Steamship Company in early 1885 to run Hastings Pier-based steamer services. This was to be the first of a series of four locally-owned companies with similar-sounding names that ran in succession from 1885 to 1907.
1884 Sept 10 – The Hastings Hydropathic Establishment opened in the mansion and grounds of Hastings Lodge, in Old London Road. A large wing was going to be added to the Lodge, and the gardens of nearly five acres would become pleasure grounds, with tennis courts, walks etc. There would be accommodation for upwards of 70 people. But it was unsuccessful, and several years later the project was abandoned.
1884 Late Sept – There was strong local opposition to the Salvation Army, a national protestant church and charity set up in 1865. In 1878 it had been reorganised nationally as a military-style mission whose forceful and noisy street marches and parades seriously annoyed many people. The Salvationists were based in the ‘Iron Fort’ church in St Andrews Square, which they had moved into on 25 March 1883. On 14 December 1883 three local Army officers were convicted by magistrates of disturbing the peace in a procession on Sunday 2 December, from the beach near the Albion Hotel to the Iron Fort in St Andrews Square. Along the route a large crowd assembled. The bench also fined four men for taking part in an anti-Army serious disturbance on 3 December in St Andrews Square. ‘Stones were thrown, bad language used, shouting indulged in, and rough processionists perambulated the locality.’ In mid-September 1884 a widely supported ‘Skeleton Army’ was set up in Hastings, staging rival processions aimed at stopping the Salvationists. On 27 September hundreds of ‘skeleton’ supporters marched round the town with banners, and attacked the metal-built Fort, throwing stones at it, making a sound like gunfire, and breaking windows. A shop in Wellington Place was stoned and large numbers of police had to break up the near-riot.
1884 Oct 27 – The chief stone of the big new groyne at Rock-a-Nore was laid. Hastings Council had been forced to build the groyne because their failure to do so in previous years had resulted in major sea damage to front-line buildings in the Old Town, prompted by their attempts to make the Hastings fishing fleet to move to Rye. The public outcry forced the Council to change its attitude and obtain £20,000 for this project. The designer was Sir John Coode, the marine engineer. Major work started in June 1885 and the groyne was finished in August 1887.
1885 Late October – The new Ore Penny Dinners fund started giving the poor children in Ore a dinner for a penny. In the first week 370 children paid the penny for soup, pudding, bread and jam at the school off High Bank. The system had been set up that month by the chairman of the Ore School Board, the Rev DA Doudney, and it was to provide a valuable public service in the many years of serious poverty in Ore that followed.
1885 March – The new bridge over the railway, connecting South Terrace to the new Priory Avenue, came into use, and opened up the Avenue area for development. The iron lattice girder bridge had been built and paid for by the Cornwallis Estate trustees, who gave it (free of charge) to Hastings Council that September.
1885 Summer – To accommodate the forthcoming use of Hastings Pier by large steamers, work began on building a bigger and stronger landing stage on the east side of the pier. This was completed in March 1886, but was soon found to be too short for the increasing number of steamers wishing to use the pier, so this landing stage was extended round the seaward end of the pier from June 1889 to April 1890.
1885 July – The town’s first telephone exchange was set up in 12 Claremont (upstairs, at the back) by the South of England Telephone Company, under license from HM Postmaster General. An advertisement in the Observer said: ‘Conversations can be carried on as easily by persons miles apart as between those in the same room.’ In June 1894 the exchange moved to 52 Cambridge Road (now No 47).
1885 Oct 7 – The new Robertson Street United Reformed Church opened, replacing the one that had been on that site. The previous building had been erected in 1856. The new church was designed by local architect Henry Ward, who designed many prominent local buildings, including the town hall and Debenhams.
1885 Nov – The number of Hastings MPs was reduced from two to one from this general election onwards.
1886 – At about this time, the St Leonards Coastguard Station on the beach opposite the Bopeep pub was closed to make way for the new large terrace of Grosvenor Gardens. The Coastguard Cottages along Bexhill Road became the St Leonards Station, and remained so until 1904-05, when a new Station was built on the corner of Cinque Ports Way and Bexhill Road.
1886 Feb – The Hastings Mechanics Institute closed.
1886 Late Feb – There was serious unemployment and near-starvation in the town, with soup kitchens in Ore, Old Town and Silverhill. On 22 February there was a big rally on the West Hill, followed by a march by 700/800 people through the Old Town to the town hall to meet the mayor, and then through St Leonards to The Green. The distress was caused mainly by a depression in the building trade.
1886 March 1 – A big new steam laundry, on Bexhill Road near Bridge Way, came into use. The building still stands.
1886 April 2 – The foundation stone of St Paul’s Church, Church Road, was laid.
1886 Sept – The St Leonards-on-Sea Pier Company was formed.
1886 Dec – The Palace Hotel, White Rock, opened. It was built on the site of the White Rock Brewery, built in 1831, and the Seaside Hotel. The Palace was considered to be the best hotel in town. It had a frontage of 125 feet and depth of 80 feet, and was 125 feet tall in eight storeys. It had 140 rooms with three entrances. When the foundations were being dug human bones were found, being from the graveyard of St Michael’s Church on top of the hill behind the Palace.
1886 Dec 4 – The St Augustine’s Nursing Home in Upper Maze Hill opened. The Augustinian Sisters from Paris had bought Gensing Lodge from James Burton. The home quickly became very popular. It was given to the St Michael’s Hospice in 1986, which opened there in April 1987 as a combined hospice and nursing home.
1886 Dec 8 – The Hastings fishing boat Jane and Elizabeth RX 3 was wrecked off Dymchurch in a severe storm. The vessel had been riding out the storm in the lee of Dungeness when the anchor dragged. Six of the crew drowned: William Bumstead (captain), Charles Brasier, William Brasier, George Dunstan, John Veness and William Lepper.
1887 Jan – The Hastings Workhouse board of guardians bought 18 acres of land called the Pilot Field in Elphinstone Road on which to build a new workhouse, following criticisms by the Local Government Board of the existing one. But the project was strongly opposed by the influential middle class residents of the area, bringing it to a halt. More than four years arguing and preparatory work then took place until the idea was abandoned in October 1891. The whole scheme was denounced as a major scandal, as the guardians had spent £5,420 on the land and over £8,000 on related items, a total which could have improved the existing workhouse sufficiently. The board of guardians retained ownership of the Pilot Field until 1920, when Hastings Council took it over and it became the town’s football ground.
1887 Jan – The Hastings and St Leonards Co-operative Society was formed, but it went into liquidation in July 1901.
1887 Jan 9 – The Clive Vale Congregational Church, on the corner of Edwin Road and Githa Road, was officially opened. A memorial stone was laid on 25 May 1886. It is now replaced by flats, apart from the church hall which still survives.
1887 July 9 – The first paper napkins were introduced to Britain by international stationery manufacturers John Dickenson at the company’s annual dinner, held in 1887 at the Castle Hotel.
1887 Aug 10 – An opening ceremony took place and a memorial stone was laid on the new giant groyne at Rock-a-Nore that has played a key role in sea defences since then. Construction had started in JOctober 1884 following a major public outcry over the sea damage caused to the fishing industry and Old Town by gales in the early 1880s. Hastings Council’s refusal to build groynes at that time was an attempt to force the fishing fleet to move to Rye, freeing their beach in Hastings for development.
1887 Sept – The first railway stations at Ore and West St Leonards were opened. West Marina Station (built 1846) on the Brighton line, just to the west of the Bopeep pub, was rebuilt and made bigger in 1889, reopening on 1 June. The cliffs were cut back, and the archway over Bexhill Road to the west was replaced by an iron girder bridge. Today the only surviving part of the station is some of the southern platform.
1887 Oct 13 – The new East Sussex Hospital at White Rock was officially opened, on the site of the 1841 Infirmary. Work on rebuilding the Infirmary as a ‘hospital’ began on 24 August 1885. Lord Brassey had laid a memorial stone for it on 24 August 1886. The hospital had four floors, a basement and a lift. But it was to have a short life, being replaced by the Royal East Sussex Hospital in Cambridge Road from 14 May 1923. The old hospital was then demolished and the White Rock Pavilion was built on its site, opening in April 1927.
1888 – Under the 1888 Local Government Act, the 27,000 different boards which had been running the many services outside towns, were replaced by 62 elected county councils, including East Sussex. In addition, Hastings (with St Leonards) became a county borough, with the same powers as the county councils, which it was to retain until 1974. The 1894 Local Government (Parish Councils) Act subdivided the county councils into urban districts and rural districts, each with an elected council. Rural districts were further divided so that each village had a parish council. The two acts brought a marked improvement in the quality of local government and reduced the power of the landed gentry.
1888 March 1 – Work started on building St Leonards Pier, just to the west of the Royal Victoria Hotel. The first pile was screwed into the seabed on this day.
1888 April 21 – The East and West Hills were purchased for the town from the Sayer-Milward Estate for £24,000. The two-year sale was criticised because of the high price paid for the 24 acres on the West Hill and 60 acres on the East Hill, land that had been considered for many years to be common land and therefore not available for development.
1888 June 9 – The Brassey Institute, with its reference library and school of art, was presented to the town by Lord Brassey. He received the freedom of the borough on 15 October 1888. But Hastings Council did not adopt the Public Libraries Act to support and enlarge the library, and the building did not become a proper lending and reference library until 1927.
1889 – Hastings Council built a Refuse Destructor (or ‘Dust Destructor’, as it was better known) on top of the sewage tanks at Rock-a-Nore, immediately adjoining the 1870 sewage manure works. Until then rubbish had been dumped in many places and had been burnt on the beach near the end groyne. The Destructor had four furnaces, which could each burn 9-10 tons of rubbish a day. The hot gases from here went through two cremators, then to two 30hp boilers, and then to the 130′ high octagonal chimney, with foundations going down 30′ to rock. There was also an inclining roadway from the top of which rubbish could be tipped into a pit. The total building cost was £4,127. The steam generated in the boilers drove an engine that pumped water to reservoirs in the town and for street cleansing, sewer flushing and power station use. In 1893 the Council bought a steam-powered stone-breaking machine which the Destructor drove to create road stone. From 1902 the Destructor powered the water-operated new East Hill Lift. The Destructor also fed steam into the Disinfecting Station, and operated both a mortar mill and a fishmeal plant which produced manure from the fishmeal from the fishmarket. The Destructor closed in 1937 when the tipping site at Pebsham was opened. Some of the Destructor’s cobbled roadway survives, plus the inclined roadway and some brickwork in the cliff.
1889 Feb – The historic Swan Hotel in High Street was sold to the London Distillery Company, who then sold it to local builders John and William Taylor. They had demolished it by late August 1889, building a smaller pub on the corner, plus about 20 houses on the vacant space. But this proved a bad speculation, and they lost £2,000. They built several other properties, including the Palace Hotel. But in June 1893 the Taylor brothers were declared bankrupt. The replacement Swan pub was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War and the site is now a public garden.
1889 March – The Children’s Relief Fund reported that the past winter had been the worst for a decade, giving out 16,740 free breakfasts to the ‘deserving poor’. The Old Town Free Dinner Fund had provided over 50,000 meals. The Ore Penny Dinners Fund, which started in 1884, had supplied many meals (it charged boys a penny for their dinner, if they could afford it). Three boys, aged 9, 10 and 11, appeared before the magistrates bench, charged with being without visible means of subsistence. They were living under a net shop.
1889 March 15 – A public meeting decided that Hastings should have a harbour built in front of the Old Town, and a committee was set up to investigate the scheme further. A second meeting in October 1889 agreed to go ahead with an 18½-acre project, using the new 1887 groyne at Rock-a-Nore as the east arm. The Hastings Ahabour Act came into force in the summer of 1890, giving 12 commissioners the legal power to obtain the required land and build the harbour. The scheme came to fruition in 1896, with Old Town grocer Cllr Richard Idenden as the key figure.
1889 May 10 – The Hastings and St Leonards Co-operative Society, formed in January 1887, opened its first shop, in Mount Pleasant Road. It then had 292 members, and had bought a pony and cart. By the end of the year it had moved to 41-42 Salisbury Road, off Bohemia Road.
1889 Mid-June – There was great excitement when the Hastings Observer gave a demonstration to special guests in its office of Edison’s phonograph, ‘the wonderful “talking machine’”.
1889 July 20 – The Hastings Observer reported that during the previous four years the amount of housing built in the town was ‘simply enormous’, especially in Clive Vale, the Bopeep area, Filsham Road, Sedlescombe Road South/Springfield Road, Hollington and the new Milward Road. But in the following winter house orders went down and there was much unemployment.
1889 Nov 2 – A former coal store under the Fishermen’s Institute at 97 All Saints Street was converted into the Fishermen’s Church Coffee Room. Set up by the church, it dispensed coffee, cocoa and soup to people in need. For many years it was to be the Old Town’s main soup kitchen in times of hardship. Its entrance was in The Creek, at the bottom of the steps.
1889 Nov 2 – The foundation stone of All Souls Church, in Athelstan Road, Clive Vale, was laid by designer architect Sir Arthur Blomfield on this, All Souls Day. It stood close to the Clive Vale Mission Room, built in Athelstan Road in 1883. The extremely large brick-built All Souls Church closed in November 2007 and now stands empty. It was listed in 2015 by the Victorian Society as one of the top ten buildings in need of urgent help.
1889 Nov 7 – The Brighton-based Evening Argus published its first Hastings edition, from Central Hall in Bank Buildings. This paper, covering all eastern Sussex, was a success, so in 1898 the Argus moved into 14 Castle Hill Road, where it stayed until c1950. Its site is now part of the car park.
1889 Late Nov – The Borough Association was formed at a large public meeting. Its aim was to bring back the prosperity of 25 years before, as the town had been going backward for the last 8-10 years.
1890 – Founding of the Hastings and St Leonards Museum Association. Its museum opened in August 1892 in the Brassey Institute, and was donated to Hastings Council on 1 March 1905.
1890 May – The Hastings Conservative Party acquired a new long-term headquarters: 12 Carlisle Parade. This was the to be the Tory Party headquarters in Hastings until at some point in the 1990s, when the building had to be sold because of some financial ‘difficulties’.
1890 July 16 – The memorial stone of the Wesleyan Methodist Church on the corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Calvert Road was laid; it was formally opened on 24 May 1891.
1890 Aug 30 – Death of the famous botanical artist Marianne North, aged 59.
1890 Sept 17 – A cross-party meeting of ratepayers created the Hastings Ratepayers Union because of their anger at the way the Council and the town were being ‘fearfully mismanaged’. Harry J Morgan had called the meeting, in the Provincial Hotel. He ‘complained that in Hastings they were now suffering very severely under their present political wire-pullers’. A Mr Tassell said the great thing they had to contend with was not the parties but the ‘ring – composed of men interested in every company in the town, and some of them, although not in the Town Council, had great influence’.
1891 – West Marina Public Gardens opened.
1891 March 9 – A great great north-easterly blizzard sprang up when many fishing boats were at sea. Many ran ashore but some could not, and had to lie offshore as the blizzard worsened. Eventually they had to try and run ashore, but two boats, the Linnet and the Henrietta, were wrecked on the beach, and five others were damaged. Three fishermen drowned: Robert Adams, Charles Phillips and Henry Brazier.
1891 March 25 – Official opening of the West Hill Lift. Work had started in January 1889, but met many difficulties, making it take much longer to complete, and greatly increasing its cost, to £18,800. This was not profitable, and in early 1894 the owning company went bust owing £7,000, and the lift was sold at auction for £5,575. It was built by a Liverpool-based company which later constructed the Snowdon Mountain Railway. The lift’s gradient is 1:2.9, and 80% of its 500 feet length is in a cylindrical tunnel built with 1.75 million bricks. Its Crossley gas engine was replaced with a Tangye diesel engine in 1924, and in 1971 it was converted to electricity. Hastings Council owns the lift, having bought it in 1947.
1891 June 3 – The Convalescent Home of the Chelsea Hospital for Women, at 119 West Hill, St Leonards, overlooking Grosvenor Gardens, was opened by the Countess Cadogan.
1891 July 14 – The largest pleasure yacht ever to work off Hastings beach was launched. The New Albertine, about 45 or 46 feet on the keel and 55 feet overall, had been built at the Kent’s shipyard in Rock-a-Nore. She could take up to 130 passengers to sea each time from the beach in front of the Queens Hotel, and she was in many seafront photos until she stopped work in 1924. Other large pleasure yachts at work that year were the Albertine, Livonia and Moss Rose.
1891 July 16 – Consecration of the new All Souls Church, Athelstan Road, built in memory of Thomas Mason by his widow Elizabeth Mason. The site had been donated by the Milward family, who owned much land in that area. Its foundation stone was laid on 2 November 1889. It closed in late 2007.
1891 Sept 18 – Opening of the new Priory Road School for boys, on the corner of Croft Road (now flats). It replaced the two School Board schools in Bourne Walk, both on the site of today’s Bourne roadway, which were too small. The new girls’ and infants’ department were officially opened on 9 January 1899. This completed the group of schools there.
1891 Sept 18 – The schooner Esperance was wrecked off St Leonards on 18 September, journeying from Rochester to Guernsey.
1891 Oct 28 – Lady Brassey official opened the new St Leonards Pier, 50 yards to the west of the Royal Victoria Hotel. The pier was hailed as a masterpiece of design and construction, with its main feature being the 750-seat semi-Moorish pavilion at its landward end. It was 900 feet long, but only 25 feet wide along its central section. The mayoress, Mrs Stubbs, wife of the Cllr Stubbs, had screwed in the last bolt of the 22,500 in the ironwork substructure of the pier on 9 October 1890.
1891 Nov 11 – During a dramatic storm, the large three-masted German barque JC Pfluger, bound from San Francisco to Bremen in Germany, was driven ashore at Bopeep. Her 24 crew were rescued by Coastguards using breeches buoy equipment. The schooner Nerissa, bound to Norway, was wrecked on Hastings beach. The 1,000 ton JC Pfluger was later refloated and towed to Tilbury Docks, on the Thames.
1892 Feb 26 – Opening of the new schools for boys and girls in Clive Vale, in Githa Road, adjacent to the existing Clive Vale Infants School which had opened in 1886.
1892 April 28 – The Railway Mission Hall in Portland Steps, off Portland Road, was opened. The foundation stone was laid on 11 July 1891. After the Second World War it was renamed the St Mary-in-the-Castle Parish Hall.
1892 Aug 16 – Hastings Museum was officially opened, on the upper floor of the Brassey Institute in Claremont.
1892 Sept 26 – The Hastings Technical School in Bourne Walk opened, giving technical instruction to local elementary pupils. It was in what had been the Bourne Walk Board School until Priory Road School replaced it in September 1891.
1892 Oct 26 – The former naval volunteers shed at Rock-a-Nore was given to the 2nd Cinque Ports Artillery Volunteers as the new headquarters for the Hastings battery. It was not a large building, but it was more convenient that mustering in St Leonards. In February 1896 it was replaced by a much bigger new drill halln in Rock-a-Nore Road, on the site of today’s aquarium.
1893 Jan 14 – The largest workshops in the town were burnt down in a major fire. The Grosvenor Works lay behind Bexhill Road, opposite West Marina Station, backing onto Seaside Road. The owner, Peter Jenkins, was a builder, contractor, monumental mason, carman, smith and wheelwright. The vast four-storey workshop caught fire in the afternoon, probably from a gas defect, and within an hour the roof had fallen in. The shops and contents were totally destroyed, causing damage of several thousand pounds, far more than the £2,000 insurance. Thousands of people watched the spectacle.
1893 March 8 – The Hastings Golf Club was formed at a public meeting in the town hall. Its course was on the East Hill. The key campaigner was the ‘clever caricaturist’ Harry Furniss, who had done much work before the meeting. He was the first speaker, saying that golf was becoming increasingly popular in fashionable circles, and he was surprised links had not been established in Hastings long ago. The course was set up in April 1893, prompting complaints at the ‘devastation’ of the East Hill by the sweeping away of the gorse bushes, and the way it was forcing football matches off the hill. In March 1895 its clubhouse opened, at the junction of Barley Lane and Rocklands Lane.
1893 July – Hastings was attracting many thousands of working class people to the town on excursions. An Observer reporter said that, although these people had spent lots of money, ‘the conduct of many – both men and women – was shameless to a degree such as I never before witnessed.’ The ‘monster excursion’ on 8 July ‘left something to be desired for the town in the way of peace and propriety. … The only way of dealing with these people in the interest of the town is through the police.’
1893 Aug 22 – Fishermen and boatmen formed the Rock-a-Nore Football Club at a meeting in the London Trader pub.
1893 Sept 8 – For many decades Hastings Council liked to claim that it owned all the foreshore in the borough, but the Crown had always contested this, and the passing of the Hastings Harbour Act in 1890 had revived the long-running dispute. In 1893 the Council had to concede that the Crown was the rightful owner, and on this date the Crown ‘conveyed’ (sold for £400) all the land between the high and low water marks in the borough between Ecclesbourne and West Leonards. But the conveyance contained strict conditions, which the Council failed to keep, which was to cause major trouble for the Council from the late 1980s onwards. It then emerged, amongst many other things, that the Council had been running a car park at Rock-a-Nore ‘illegally’ – ie, it did not meet the terms of the conveyance. The Foreshore Trust had to be set up to run all the 1893 foreshore (much of which had become dry land by the 1990s) in a way that met those terms.
1893 Sept 12 – The new iron chapel erected in the ground of the Hastings Workhouse was officially opened.
1893 November – Hastings Council agreed to build a concrete wall for 210 feet along the bottom of the cliff from the end groyne at Rock-a-Nore, to prevent cliff erosion. Part of the wall is still visible.
1893 Late – The commercial slipway at the bottom of London Road where vessels unloaded their cargoes was closed and the parade was made continuous over it. The main users of the slipway were given large sums as compensation.
1894 Jan 20 – At a meeting in the Provincial Hotel, 17 Havelock Road, local postmen agreed to set up a Postmen’s Federation, seeking a ‘living wage’ of £2 per week. On 19 February compositors and machinemen in the printing industry met at the Carlisle Hotel and decided to create a branch of the Typographical Association. At a packed meeting in the Clarence Hotel in Middle Street on 21 April the Hastings branch of Amalgamated Society of House Decorators and Painters (set up in June 1893) launched a campaign to raise the hourly pay rate to sevenpence. A formal notice was served on employers on 1 May.
1894 June 24 – The town’s telephone exchange moved into new premises at 52 Cambridge Road (now No 47). The first exchange was at 12 Claremont (upstairs at the back) from the summer of 1885. In July 1930 it moved to the new post office in Cambridge Road.
1894 June 30 – The entire seafront, from the fishmarket to West Marina, was illuminated by electricity for the first time. Until then there were only 15 lamps, lighting the front between the Queens Hotel and the pier, but from 30 June there were 52.
1894 Summer – A tea cafe, designed especially for women, was erected at the seaward end of Hastings Pier.
1894 Dec – The 189 feet high spire and tower of Christ Church, London Road/Silchester Road, were completed. It was the tallest building in the town.
1894 Dec 31 – New parish councils, including Hollington and Ore, and the Hastings Rural District Council, which had all been created by the 1894 Local Government Act, met for the first time. The 1894 Act followed the 1888 Local Government Act, which had created Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council. Since then, it had been found that the new county councils were having difficulty in coping with the mass of detail involved, since the counties were so large. The 1894 Act subdivided the counties into urban districts and rural districts, each with its own elected council, such as Hastings Rural District Council. Rural districts were further divided, so that each village had its own parish council. Hollington and Ore were outside the Hastings Borough Council boundary, so they had parish councils. District councils became important bodies, but parish councils were never to be of any significance, as their powers were very limited. Hastings RDC held its first meeting in the Council-owned building 11 Wellington Square, which was to become its offices, along with other local bodies.
c1895 – The Hastings Literary and Scientific Institution, founded 1831, was wound up.
1895 – The late Patrick Robertson’s Halton House and its estate had been unlet for a over decade, but in early 1895 the estate was at last sold. It was then split into about 120 building plots and in June 1895 Hastings Council gave planning permission for two roads: May Road (now called Rotherfield Avenue) and Evelyn Road (now Hardwicke Road). Halton House was demolished in the summer of 1897, and its building materials – bricks, tiles, slates floorings etc – were sold by auction on 30 September. The many trees on the estate were then felled and sold in December. But no development took place, and in November 1898 the estate was described as ‘an unsightly wilderness’. The estate was finally bought by Mr GT Kellog-Jenkins in December 1900, and he obtained planning permission for development in October 1901 (cf).
1895 Jan 23 – The large St Leonards Archway, across the seafront just west of the bottom of London Road, was covertly demolished during the course of one night by Hastings Council. The demolition had been strongly opposed by many people, so it was done without prior publicity, and at high speed by the Borough Engineer and twenty labourers. The Archway with its four stout piers had stood on the seafront just west of London Road, on the west side of the seafront’s junction with Market Street. ‘The Borough Engineer and his assistants had kept the secret thoroughly, and nobody appeared aware that the order of demolition had gone forth. … At 11.30 at night [on 22 January] men mounted the roof of the arch, and with pickaxes commenced the task of pulling down. … At noon only a foot of the piers remained above the pavement, and the debris had been carted away.’ The Archway, first known as East Lodge, had been built by James Burton c1830 as the symbolic entrance to his new town of St Leonards. It was a beautiful architectural feature, but caused traffic problems, being only 17 feet wide between the arches. The more influential people in the local establishment forced through the demolition,
1895 March 22 – Two golf competitions were held to mark the opening of the club house of the newly-formed Hastings and St Leonards Golf Club, at the top of Barley Lane.
1895 June – No 3 Shepherd Street, St Leonards, was bought by Hastings Council as the site for a new fire station.
1895 July 5 – The Hastings and St Leonards Angling Society was formed.
1895 July 12 – There was a farewell banquet and presentation in the Queens Hotel to Lord Brassey, who was taking over as governor of the state of Victoria in Australia.
1895 Aug 5-31 – The first Hastings Chess Tournament was held from August 5-31 and was a major success, making it an annual event, known around the world. It was held in the Brassey Institute, Claremont. Adverts said its competitors were ‘The strongest players in the world’. Its first prize was £150.
1895 Aug 26-29 – The town’s first carnival was held. Celebrations took place in four days of ‘constant amusement’: fetes, processions, displays, fireworks, fancy dress dances, vocal concerts and many other festivities. The main event was the floral carnival along the seafront on Wednesday 26th. The organiser was Henry Cousins.
1895 Aug 30 – The new West St Leonards School, at the junction of Bexhill Road and Filsham Road, was opened. There was a central hall, plus six classrooms, holding 400 pupils.
1896 Late Jan – The commissioners of the planned Hastings Harbour make available £200,000 of bonds to pay for the construction of the 24 acre two-armed harbour, with its landing stages, wharves, railways and offices. But the advertisements had the deceptive heading ‘Borough of Hastings’, giving the impression that Hastings Council was running the scheme, which it was not. There was widespread local opposition to the plan because there would not be enough trade, it would cause problems for the fishing industry and it would almost certainly silt up.
1896 Feb 27 – The new Rock-a-Nore Drill Hall for the 2nd Position Battery of the 2nd Cinque Ports Auxiliary Volunteers opened (on the site of today’s aquarium). The battery had started at St Leonards with the No 3 Company. It was then sent to Hastings as a half-battery in an old shed belonging to the Admiralty, with no weaponry. They then had two 40-pounders leant to them, later four. There was a turnout of 60-70 at their drills. At this time, there were also in the town the 1st Position Battery, at Hatherley Road, and the 1st Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteer Corps (A and F Companies) in the Drill Hall in Middle Street.
1896 March 30 – The Hastings Provident Dispensary was wound up at its AGM in the town hall. After 22 years in existence, smaller private medical clubs had become more attractive to patients and doctors, so the dispensary was not viable.
1896 May 4 – The new Tower Road School was officially opened. It replaced the condemned London Road building (built c 1869), and cost £14,000, a somewhat high price because of the cost of the big retaining walls that surrounded most of the building. This was the seventh school erected by the Hastings School Board. The first was Waterloo Place, then Silverhill (1879), Mount Pleasant (1880), Priory Road (1891), Clive Vale (1892) and Bopeep.
1896 June 1 – Work began on building the harbour, the remains of which are still in place. Its ‘foundation stone’ was laid in a big ceremony on 16 June 1897, aimed at attracting more investment. Lord Dufferin, the former Lord Warden of’ the Cinque Ports, lightly touched the stone with a silver trowel. Large crowds had watched Lord Dufferin’s cortege, and there were celebrations, followed by luncheon at the Queen’s Hotel. But the company had only raised £81,000 of the £200,000 costs, so in July 1897 another misleading appeal for investment was made, bringing the total raised to £118,400. This was not enough, and the company effectively went bust in December that year. In early 1899 the Financial Times described the harbour scheme as a ‘piece of grievous stupidity’.
1896 July 9 – The foundation stone was laid for the new Portland Place School. The old boys’ school and master’s house had been pulled down. The girls had been using a nearby house.
1896 Aug 10 – Members of Hastings trade unions, spent a ‘merry time’ in the Hastings Arms, George Street, to unveil their new banner. It was ‘the first of its kind in connection with such unions in Hastings’. It was plain, with white lettering on a red ground, with wide blue bordering. It said Hastings and St Leonards Branch of the Navvies’, Bricklayers’, Labourers’ and General Labourers’ Union and was surmounted with a pair of hands clasped and the motto United we stand, divided we fall.
1896 Sept 10 – The captain of the Hastings steamer Bonnie Princess, William Hurdman, was charged with overloading on 17 August. He sailed from Hastings Pier to Dungeness with 901 passengers, 247 more than allowed. He was fined £10 plus a shilling per head extra.
1896 Oct – Gale damage to the new St Leonards Pier smashed its timber landing stage into pieces. Some of the beams were driven along the shore to hit Hastings Pier, damaging the pier’s ironwork structure.
1896 Nov – Both piers stage ‘animated picture’ shows, making them the first cinemas in the town. St Leonards Pier had them on display a week before Hastings Pier.
1897 – Grosvenor Crescent was built.
1897 March 4 – The Bulverhythe Congregational Church was opened.
1897 March 30 – The Hastings-to-Hawkhurst horse-drawn mail cart overturned at Johns Cross, near Robertsbridge, and its driver Mr Lavender died underneath it.
1897 April – The government authorised the extension of the borough boundaries to take in Ore, Hollington and some other areas, as requested by Hastings Council. This had been under debate for many months, with many people opposed to it. Ore and Hollington would be now taken into the town, against their wishes. It was rumoured that one of the reasons why the Council officers had pushed through the scheme was because the senior ones would receive significant pay rises. There would be ten wards, instead of six, based on the old parish names. The first elections of the new Hastings Council were on 1 November 1897, for the ‘Forty Thieves’ (30 councillors, ten aldermen).
1897 June 16 – Lord Dufferin, the former Lord Warden of’ the Cinque Ports, laid the foundation stone of the harbour works. In a ceremony he lightly touched the stone with a silver trowel. Large crowds had watched Lord Dufferin’s cortege. There were celebrations, followed by luncheon at the Queen’s Hotel.
1897 June 29 – Benjamin Tree, the Council’s rate collector in St Mary Magdalen parish, was sentenced to 12 months hard labour at Lewes Assizes. He pleaded guilty to stealing £600 of the rates he had collected, plus embezzlement, forgery and falsification of accounts in 1895/6. Tree came from a respected local family, was a teetotaller, had at one time been registrar for births and deaths, and had been rate collector in St Mary’s for 32 years until caught in early 1897. His job was to collect the rates for the parish and then bank them, which he had not done.
1897 July – Hastings Council started taking over the Hastings Electric Light Company, with its Earl Street works, for £58,000, which was condemned as too high a price. Many councillors were shareholders in the company and would therefore benefit from the overspending. The News said: ‘Most business men consider that it was ‘disgraceful’ to buy a business of this kind without an accredited valuer being engaged, and many think that the Corporation gave far too much money for the whole bag of tricks.’ In early December 1898 the Council was given official approval by the Local Government Board for the purchase of the company. In October 1898 the Board had held an inquiry into the takeover, and there had been opposition to the Council’s proposed expenditure of £58,000. This was said to be exorbitant, with the true value only £40,000. The company, set up in 1882, had not been a great success initially, with only £27,000 of the £50,000 share capital subscribed,
1897 Dec – As ‘the whole of the District of Ore is without a water supply’, Hastings Council decided that £3,094 would be spent on laying on a water system there. It was also decided to supply water to the developing parts of the St Helens Estate, such as Hoads Wood Road, and to improve the supply in the Silverhill area.
1898 – Hastings Water Committee bought land from the Rev Sayer-Milward for £500 at Fairlight Down to construct the Fairlight Reservoir.
1898 Jan 7 – The go-ahead was given by Hastings Council to lay a large stone apron (still in situ) on the east side of No 1 groyne at Rock-a-Nore, which was suffering severe erosion by the sea. It was also agreed to improve the steep slope between High Bank and Old London Road, near Mount Road, because it was now ‘in a very dangerous state’.
1898 Feb 22 – A new Freemasons’ lodge was set up: the Hastings Lodge No 2692.
1898 March – Hastings Council agreed to greatly increase the number of horses it owned and used, from 36 to 66. This was to involve building new stables at Ore, Silverhill and Rock-a-Nore Road (the last of which is now the Shipwreck Heritage Centre).
1898 April – Hastings Council gave the Rev Sayer-Milward permission to lay out a road on the West Hill for a new housing development. The 360-yard long road, between the top of Croft Road and the junction of Alpine Road and Priory Road, was to be called Collier Road, after the 18th century Collier family from whom the Reverend had inherited the land.
1898 April 16 – A new newspaper was launched, the Hastings Weekly Mail. In March 1899 it merged with the Hastings Times to become the Hastings Weekly Mail and Times, which closed in December 1911.
1898 May 16 – The new infant school at West St Leonards was formally opened, reflecting the rapid development taking place in that area. It was built on the west side of the West St Leonards boys school at the junction of Filsham Road and Bexhill Road that opened two years before. There was a gap between the two buildings where a girls school would be sited (the boys school was currently mixed). The new school replaced the old Bopeep Infants School, which had been built because the nearest one otherwise was at Mercatoria. The whole school was built on a concrete slab because of the nature of the ground.
1898 Aug – Hastings Water Committee bought land from the Rev Sayer-Milward for £500 at Fairlight Down to construct the Fairlight Reservoir.
1898 Aug 15 – At Hastings Borough Bench, a man named John Benge was jailed for seven days for begging on the East Hill on 13 August. The policeman who arrested him said that Benge had approached a gentleman and ‘asked for a copper’. The prosecutor said: ‘And he got one!’. At the hearing on 17 August, Thomas Garrick, ‘an antiquated looking specimen of humanity’, was fined five shillings for begging and threatening a woman with a broom-bat in Western Road the previous evening. He was drunk at the time.
1898 Aug 17 – The famous Earl de la Warr was acquitted of alleged contempt of court at the High Court Bankruptcy Division. This followed an order for committal to prison of the Earl and Messrs Broadley, Bradshaw and Rucker on the ground that they had offered Mr Hooley money to give false evidence at his public examination for bankruptcy. Hooley was tied in with all four. The case involved large sums of money changing hands amongst people involved in several large companies, including Humber (cars), Bovril, the Cycle Manufacturers’ Tube Company and Dunlop (which the Earl was chairman of). He had received over £8,000 for the flotation of Dunlop, plus similar sums for other business deals he had been involved in, with Hooley providing the money in some of these. The four were cleared of giving false evidence, but the judge said he ‘could not wholly absolve Lord De la Warr of blame’ on claims of bribery in the background of the large-scale wheeling and dealing. The Lord was the key figure in the major development then turning Bexhill into a fashionable seaside resort.
1898 Nov – The brick-lined St Andrews Archway tunnel under the railway line at the top of Queens Road was demolished and replaced by today’s lofty iron bridge. The tunnel-like Archway had been described by some as a ‘hideous hole’.
1898 Late – Construction began of the Castledown estate of blocks of flats in the garden of Castledown House on the West Hill. The house remained in use until it was demolished in 1985.
1899 – The Hastings Pier pavilion was reroofed and enlarged in early 1899, reopening on 15 May. A large clock was installed on top of the north frontage.
1899 – On the open space between the Drill Hall and the Fishermen’s Church in Rock-a-Nore Road, the Council built stables for the horses working the refuse carts, and for turning the capstans on the beach that pulled fishing boats out of the sea. The stables are now the Shipwreck Heritage Centre.
1899 Feb 2 – In one of the largest known scandals in the history of the town, the Hastings Gas Company shareholders decided they wanted to increase their profits by moving their gasworks out of Hastings, thereby not having to pay £4,000 in coal dues to Hastings Council. A special meeting of the shareholders was in favour of obtaining a parliamentary bill for the additional legal powers needed to buy nine acres of land at Glyne Gap, a few yards outside the borough boundary. They also wanted to take over the Bexhill Gas Company, and supply Bexhill and the Crowhurst area. The shareholders, as always, included many councillors and council employees who would make money for themselves, while ratepayers would have to bear the major burden of losing their largest single ratepayer, the Gas Company. It was then paying 2s 6d for each ton of coal it brought into the town, but this would be lost when Glyne Gap was completed. On 13 July 1899 royal assent was given to the gas company’s bill seeking power to build the works. They were eventually built where the Ravenside shopping centre is today.
1899 Feb 6 – The Financial Times made a ferocious attack upon the financial aspects of Hastings harbour. ‘Hastings, if we are not mistaken, has furnished some remarkable specimens of this kind [being in the hands of complete amateurs] in the past, and now it provides a further example of peculiar interest. A certain section of the inhabitants of the place made up their minds a good many years ago that they wanted a harbour. They agitated for it with energy and persistency and a great noise.’ But the Financial Times agreed with the opponents who had said it was not required and would never pay, and the site was ‘altogether unsuitable’ because it was too far from a station and the roads were bad. The newspaper also condemned the way that the bond-seeking prospectus issued in February 1896 had mislead investors by wrongfully giving the impression that the scheme was part of the public works of Hastings Council. An engineering expert’s report published on 21 February said that another £236,552 was needed to complete the harbour, on top of the £121,768 already spent, taking the final cost to £358,320. The Financial Times had another crushing article 3 March, calling it a “disastrous undertaking” and “a piece of grievous stupidity”.
1899 March – The National Telephone Company was said to be busy putting down main telephone lines in the streets of the town.
1899 March 14 – Demolition of the Marine Parade Coastguard Station (the 1759 Government House) started. A year later, the Weekly Mail of 23 March 1900 reported that the new station was nearly complete. Work had been delayed by the need to sink deep foundations. The building was 280 feet long, with flats for 13 men and one officer. At the east end was the boathouse, with the watchroom above it. Arms and ammunition (including cutlasses) were stored behind. In the top centre was the watch-house. It was initially the main Coastguard station in the Hastings area, but was closed and replaced by the much smaller Fairlight Coastguard Station (rebuilt in the early 1900s) in 1927-28, when that part of Marine Parade was also renamed as Sturdee Place, after Admiral Sturdee. Also in the early 1900s a new Coastguard station was built on the corner of Bexhill Road and Cinque Ports Way (now housing).
1899 March 30 – Opening of the Empire Theatre of Varieties, Pelham Place, which accommodate 1,000 people. It was built of local bricks, faced with terra cotta, and with an iron roof.. It had a frontage of 131 feet, and was on the site of the Royal Marine Hotel and two adjoining houses to the west. It was soon renamed as the Hippodrome, and became the De Luxe Cinema in 1910. It is now the De Luxe amusements centre.
1899 Aug – The new Hastings waterworks at Brede was first turned on for the town.
1899 Sept – The Hastings Winkle Club was formed at a meeting of some fishermen in the Prince Albert pub (now the Mermaid cafe) in Rock-a-Nore Road. They wanted to raise money to give the poor children of the borough, especially the Old Town, a happy time at Christmas. Funds were raised by subscriptions and donations by well-off people in the town. The first children’s party took place in 1900, and they became annual events every new year (except in wartime) until the 1970s. The Winkle Club still exists, raising money for a variety of local charities.