Hastings in old picture postcards

Hastings in old picture postcards

:   Anne Scott
:   Sussex, East
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-5582-3
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Hastings in old picture postcards'

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Hastings is a seaside town in East Sussex. known throughout the world for the battle which taak place nearby in 1066. The modern resort is set against the backdrop of the only range of high sandstone cliffs in south-east England. Here the wooded ridge of the Weald runs into the sea, with flat marshlands to cast and west. Archaeologists have found flint tools up to 10,000 years old in the area, evidence of a substantial pre-historie population. The East and West Hills on either side of the OId Town were bath fortified during the Iron Age, about 2,000-2,500 years aga. The Romans had important iron working sites in the countryside around Hastings in the 2nd-4th centuries AD, especially at Beauport.

The origins of the actual town of Hastings are obscure. It appears to have been named after Jutish invaders in the ninth century. It was a regionally important town in late Saxon times, with its own mint. But the site of the settlement then is unknown. The most likely location is somewhere to the south of today's Old Town or the Castle, with the evidence having been swept away by the sea. Burials from the tenth century have been found on the edge of the East Hili, ne ar the cliff railway, but most of the site has been lost byerosion.

Much of the town was granted to the Norman Abbey ofFecamp by King Cnut before the Norman conquest in 1066. It therefore se ems natural th at Duke William should make for Hastings as a safe base to launch his claim to the English throne. He re-fortified the West HilI and until the 14th century his CastIe was being strengthened and repaired. Natural erosion and the cutting away of the cliff in the 1820s to build Pelham Crescent has reduced the CastIe remains considerably. The Priory Valley to

the west of the CastIe is named after the 12th century Augustinian Priory that stood where Cambridge Gardens is today. The monks rnoved to Warbleton near Heathfield, at the beginning of the 15th century, after the Priory was said to have been damaged by storm and flood. The buildings later became incorporated into the Priory Farm. The medieval town of Hastings was concentrated in the Bourne Valley, and this is known as the 'Old Town' today. The oldest surviving building seems to be St. Clements Church daling from about 1380. The town was probably established here soon after the Battle of Hastings, although possibly nearer the sea. Bath All Saints and St. Clements Churches were originally nearer the sea. From late Saxon times Hastings was a leading member of the Cinque Ports whose duty was to provide ships for the King until the Royal Navy was created in the 16th century. This gave Hastings a special status and power in England, with the Crown granting its inhabitants valuable privileges in return for their military service.

Hastings declined from the 16th century because it had na sheltered harbour. Only ports with this facility could take part in the newage of overseas trade. Hastings became primarily a fishing port, albeit an important one at times. Roads across the We aId were notoriously bad. The sea remained a major transport route right up until the railways were first established in this area in the early 1850s. In 1839 themail coach was still taking eight hours to reach London from Hastings.

Old Hastings was transformed in the early 19th century when it suddenly became a fashionable seaside resort. Demand for housing grew and house plots were at a premium in the con-

fined space of the Bourne VaIley. The town was therefore forced to grow westward under the Castle Cliff from about 1810. The population of Hastings was 3,175 in 1801,6,300 in 1821 and by 1901 it had risen to 65,528. The first bank was opened in 1791 and the first guide book produced in 1794. Hastings had many famous visitors; some in the line of duty like the Duke of Wellington, some seeking inspiration and a healthy elimate such as the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The tewn's 19th century expansion gave Hastings and St. Leonards some architectural gems. The beautiful Regency Pelham Crescent, designed by Joseph Kay, was begun in 1824, Wellington Square in 1815, and James Burton's St. Leonards from 1828. Throughout the 19th century development spread inland. Eventually the villages of Hollington and Ore became part of the Borough. The building of the tram system in 1905 opened up much of the rural hinterland to speculative house building.

The railway came to Bo-Peep, St. Leonards in 1846. In 1851 the town's main station was built in the Priory Valley confirming this area as the tewn's future centre instead of the Bourne Valley. The heyday of seaside Hastings came in the 1860s-1880s. In 1881 Hastings had the second largest population of any seaside resort in Britain. But the town gradually declined from the 1890s as new attractions were not provided. The photographs in this book show a popular seaside resort in slow decline during the earlyyears ofthe 20th century. In 1926 Sidney Little was appointed Borough Engineer and this marked Hastings' last period of major tourism investment.

The demands of the visitors and those of the fishermen have

caused conflict over the years. Changes in the coastline and opportunities taken for sea front development on reclaimed shingle can be c1early seen from looking at old postcards. The area ofthe fisherrnen's beach today is much reduced from even 100 years ago. ft is now occupied largely by attractions aimed at tourists. Nevertheless the fishing industry survives, and Hastings still has the largest beach-launched fleet of fishing boats in Britain. A new fishmarket was recently built on the beach. lt seems sad that visitors to Hastings cannot take to the water. The excitement of a trip on one of the hu ge pleasure yachts or a steamer to Brighton are things of the past.

A major change in the last fifty years is the disappearance of many small shops and trades. The demands of the motor car have destroyed the he art of the 'Old Town', now split by the Bourne road. The pictures give little idea of the crushing poverty which existed alongside the fashionable resort. The world of Robert Tressell who wrote 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' in the light of his experiences as a house painter in Hastings, was not immortalised in any holiday postcard. However now, as then, Hastings depends on visitors for the greater part of its economy. Today the town's chief attractions are its beautiful natural setting, some fine period architecture and the 'Old Town' with its fishing fleet. lam grateful to the following people for their help in preparing this book: David Padgham, Steve Peak, Brion Purdey. Pa ui Reed and Brian Scott.

Anne Scott

Old Eon don Jfasfings .

.;Road !J J'ftofol' ,;}dus.

1. c1904. This junction of High Street, Old London Road and Harold Road was known as the 'Top of the Town'. Trams came to Hastings in 1905 and this was the terminus for the eastern side of the town. The streets of the Old Town were too narrow for trams, so the motor bus seen waiting here would conneet th is end of the Old Town with the Memorial. 'Mastins' , a Iocal department store, gave customers tokens that could be used on the trams. When the 'trackless trolley' buses replaced the trams in 1929 they ran through the Old Town, The 'marker cross' seen here commemorates the accession of Edward VII, but was not the site of a market.

2. Torfield in the foreground is now allotrnents and wild life habitat. ft was owned by Major Carlisle Sayer until1934 when he gave it to the town on condition it would remain permanent open space. The 'marker cross' can just be seen in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture. The correspondent on this card in 1918 mentions the decrease in drives out from Hastings, presumably because of the First World War.

3. When Hastings became fashionable with visitors, at the end of the 18th century, every available space was built on. This picture c1905, gives some idea ofthe density ofhousing in the Old Town prior to the clearances which took place between 1923-1960. At the top left fishing nets are drying on the hillside. This supports the theory th at the land on the slopes of the East Hili called the 'Minnis' , was common land. Nets were dried here because of lack of space on the beach.

4. Taken about 1930, from the East Hill looking towards Priory Raad. This picture shows the fields of Bembrook Farm before they were covered with houses to accommodate those displaced in the Old Town clearances. St. Clements Church Halton, demolished in 1970, can be seen in the centre on top of the hilI. The church on the right of the picture is All Saints. The church just left of centre is St. MaryStar-of-the-Sea, designed by Basil Champneys and built in 1882183.

5. All Saints Street in about 1910. The high pavement was obviously not considered a danger then, as th ere are no railings. At this time there were twenty shops, three coal merchants and three schools in this street. This was the poor side of the Old Town, not the much sought after residential area it is today. In late August it was common to see carts being loaded up with household goods for the move out to the hop fields. Hop picking provided a much needed souree of income and a welcome change of scene.

6. c1930. Bourne Walk was laid over the Bourne Stream after it was culverted in the 1830s. This area between High Street and All Saints Street was largely destroyed wh en the community was split by the clearances which began in the mid-1920s. These culminated in the construction of the Bourne Raad in the early 1960s almost along the route of Bourne Walk. The tewn's prosperity had declined since the 19th century; the houses were small, old, crowded and in need of repair , but many fine vernacular buildings were lost in this great town planning blunder.

7. Bourne Street about 1890. The two houses outside which the pram is standing are said to be the oldest in Hastings. The building on the extreme left is the baths and wash house, opened in 1865.

8. High Street c191O. As in All Saints Street there were no railings on the high pavement before the Second World War. The sign on No. 93 'apartments', indicates a popular souree of income. The building on the extreme right is the Roebuck Inn. The message on the back of the card reads: 'Great excitement here over the U-baat. The Town Crier says people may go aboard this aftemoon.' Dated 16th April 1919.

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