Rock-a-Nore – Key Events


1834 The first Hastings groyne was built, opposite the last building on the north side of Rock-a-Nore Road. It was 275′ (+ 20′). The groyne was started in 1833 as stone, but failed. So in 1834 it was built of wood. It was heightened and lengthened in 1844.

1843 The Council agreed to build a 350′ groyne, 280′ east of the first. This was probably built in 1846/7.

1850 The Board of Health survey of water supply and drainage throughout the town said major improvements were needed to all drains and sewers, including stopping discharging sewage via a series of short outfalls along the seafront. In 1857 a new drainage 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.

1856 Opening of the new Fishermen’s Church.

1859 East Beach Street was renamed Rock-a-Nore Road.

1860 The artillery ground was leased for the first time.

1866-8 The inadequate 1857 drainage system was replaced by another, bigger one. All sewers were linked into a new egg-shaped main sewer, 6′ by 4′, which was laid from the St Leonards Archway along the front to Robertson Street, then the Memorial then Castle Street and Rock-a-Nore Road. This terminated at Rock-a-Nore in a 1.5 million gallon tank, capable of holding two days waste. The tank was brick-built, arched, measuring 210′ long by 100′ wide. This discharged down a pipe into the sea off Ecclesbourne Glen when the tide was going east. The new system cost £25,640, and it was constructed by the well-known local builder John Howell. St Leonards then implemented its own scheme, at £8,000. As part of this, a new groyne was built against which the tank abutted, very close to where the existing end groyne is.

1867 The No 11 Waterworks Pumping Station was built next to where the sewage manure works was to be built. It pumped sea water around the town for baths and street watering. This was replaced by fresh water in 1895. The station closed in 1946.

1870 The Hastings Sewage Manure Co Ltd was formed in March 1870 by the well-local businessman James Rock jnr, who Rock-a-Nore a carriage building works at White Rock. He was backed by the Leamington-based Native Guano Co Ltd, which owned the HSM Co, and which made the ‘ABC’ mixture of Alum, animal Blood, animal Charcoal, clay and various sulphates to break down sewage, deodorise it and turn it into manure. Hastings Council gave Rock a 21-year lease to use the sewage tank for just £1 pa. A large building works was erected in less than three months, April-June 1870, complete with all plant and machinery. It was two-storey, 64′ by 34′, of red brick relieved by bands of yellow and black bricks, with many windows on the ground floor and a line of ventilating louvres all along the upper floor. The roof was corrugated iron, and a 60′ high round brick chimney was built against the cliff. The builder was John Howell, and it cost £4,200.It was formally opened on 3 June 1870. Hastings seems to have been only the second British town to have such a works, after Leamington (the Native Guano Co was formed in 1869). In the following months it attracted many representatives form other places considering a similar venture, although the ABC mixture was not considered perfect. Immediately after opening it was calculated that the HSM Co could make a profit of over £2,000 form the citizens’ sewage after paying just £1 rent. The Council began discussions on a new arRock-a-Noregement, seeking a royalty of 2/6 per ton, when on 5 August 1870 three workmen died in the Sewage Works after being overcome by fumes. This prompted widespread complaints about the smell from the works covering a wide area. However, the Sewage Works was unsuccessful, and in March 1874 the HSM Co was wound up by the Native Guano Co because it had received insufficient return to cover its capital outlay. Mr Rock said “I object to being skinned” by Native Guano, which had used him as their ‘fall guy’. The Council had only received £1 pa. In September 1876 the Council decided to turn the building into a mortuary, and a ‘Disinfecting Station’ which until then had been at the workhouse in Frederick Road. It was equipped with hot water medical baths and baking facilities for clothes etc, powered by the adjoining waterworks pumping station. The chimney seems to have been demolished between 1898 and 1905. The Native Guano Co was liquidated in 1926. The Disinfecting Station closed in 1946, moving to St Helens Hospital (the renamed workhouse!).

1876 Sir John Coode’s report recommended replacing the 1847 groyne, and building another, smaller groyne to the east of the 1868 end groyne. The Council agreed to build the new groyne (today’s end groyne), in order to protect the sewer works, but refused to replace the 1847 groyne, as they wanted to get rid of the fishing boats.

1878 The end groyne was finished in August. The date ‘1878’ can be seen in one brick. It cost £8,000, and took 70-80 men one year to build. The shingle that built against it was taken by builders, and this became a serious issue.

1880-2 Very serious encroachment by the sea because of the lack of a big groyne at Rock-a-Nore.

1882 The 1847 groyne was at last replaced, by a wooden one, but it was not big.

1884 The sea damage was so bad, and public pressure so forceful, that the Council abandoned their attempt to force the Hastings fishing fleet off the beach, and agreed to build a big groyne at Rock-a-Nore. Work began in late 1884 and was finished in August 1887. It had an immediate beneficial effect, and it soon became a popular parade.

1889 Various councillors and local businessmen decided that a privately-owned harbour could be built in front of the Old Town, using the new publicly-funded 1887 groyne as the main part of the eastern arm of the harbour. The Hastings Harbour Bill 1889 gave this the go-ahead.

1889 Hastings Council’s new Refuse Destructor (or ‘Dust Destructor’, as it was better known) was built on top of the sewage tanks, immediately adjoining the 1870 sewage works. Until then rubbish had been dumped in many places and 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 raised all the salt water used in the borough for street cleansing, sewer flushing, etc. 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, with the intention of creating a municipal airfield.

1893 The sea was eating into the cliff immediately to the east of the end groyne because of the swirl it created, so a 210′ breast wall was built of concrete along the bottom of the cliff, starting from the groyne. Parts of it can still be seen.

1895 A large new Drill Hall was built near the end of Rock-a-Nore Road, on the site of the old one.

1896 Work began on building the harbour. The 1887 groyne was heightened at the seaward end to collect the shingle needed to make the concrete for the harbour.

1899 On the open space between the Drill Hall and the Fishermen’s Church, the Council built stables for the horses working the refuse carts.

1899/0 The large Ice House was erected opposite the new stables.

The Ice House – demolition begins in 2007

After World War Two (c1950?), the entire area was cleared, except for the No 11 Station. In 1954 this was repositioned in a new building almost exactly where the Sewage Works had been. Later a floor was added on top of this, becoming the HMBC. The adjoining compound to the west became the stray dogs home.

Still there today:
The 1868 underground tank.
Part of the railway line, plus concrete wall on groyne edge.
Brick dated 1878.
Parts of sewer pipe to Ecclesbourne.
The sloping ramp.
Brickwork in cliff face.
Some cobbled roadway inside compound.
Three small tank traps.
Parts of 1893 sea wall at bottom of cliff.
Ash and clinker under cliff.

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