Brett Volume 1: Chapter XI - St. Leonards 1834
| This is a verbatim transcription of Brett’s work, which comprised both manuscript and typescript cuttings, and therefore reproduces Brett’s variations in style, capitalisation, punctuation and spelling. The only alterations made have been to the pagination and images whereby both page titles and images have been moved to the most appropriate paragraph as opposed to where they were pasted into the texts by the author. Where possible, personal names have been checked against census, parish records and the Central Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths. A number of footnotes have been inserted by the transcriber when this has been thought to be useful.
Readers should be aware that Brett’s narrative was written some forty to fifty years after these events and his memory has occasionally been found to be at fault by later historians.
Chapter XI St. Leonards 1834[edit | edit source]
Pg.96 Rating protests — Mackerel caught at the water's edge by hand — An additional sea-wall — A winter without frost-Destruction of the new wall — Removal of. pig-pounds from East Ascent - Further infringements of the Local Act — Abnormal temperatures and their effects — Pecuniary difficulties of the Commissioners — Reminiscences of "Tubal Cain" — Destructive gales and tides — White-rock brewery and Rock's factory undermined — Rope-walk houses swept away — Destruction of Batty's Circus — ‘Arrival of the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria (full particulars) — Sad accidents and incidents. during the royal visit — Great storm and maritime disasters — Royal patronage of the St, Leonards Archers - Drowning of Lieut. Gilly and five preventivemen — Rare doings at the Horse-and-Groom — Fashionable gaiety at St. Leonards — Pre-railway customs — The old workhouses — Overseers arrangements — Specimens of parish-book orthography — Poor-rates at 10/6 and 23/- in the £ — Commissioners’ doings — Wheat at £40 per load - Loans not obtainable - Rates in arrears - Length of roads - Discovery of hidden money - The rich beggar Bennett - Establishment of All Souls' - Chapel-Barn Farm - Successive owners and occupiers of Bohmia - Princess Sophia thereat - the Whyborn brothers and centenarian sister - Addition to the Charity estate by an exchange of lands — Searching of records — Committee's report — Gensing House and its predecessor — Reminiscences of St. Mary Magdalen parish — Pre-historic St. Leonards — Old parish a/cs. - "Old Sarah” and her son — The Royal George steam-ship passing Hastings in 1821 — The White-rock battery — "Shepherd's Hole" and smuggled brandy — The two Ropewalks — An aged cicerone — Dame Dabney, Dame Fowler, Old Jan Whyborn, Tom Standen, Ned Burchatt and draper Cossum - The eccentric doctors, Satterly and Dutton — Queer orthography - The new Commissioners — Mr. Chester's movements — No offers for an eight-hundred pounds loan — Road-crossings - Clothing the beadle - The tailors’ strike — Espousal of Chartism -Tailors superceded by tailoress.
Commissioners doings - A Mild Winter - Pig Pounds in East Ascent[edit | edit source]
...[Notes 1] The first in order of date would be the Commissioners’ meeting of January sixth. The members present at that meeting were Messrs. Jeffries, Wood, T. Brown, H. W. Brown, J. Burton, R. Deudney, Musgrave Brisco, C. H. Southall, H. Farncomb, and W. Waghorne. The two offices of Town Surveyor and Rate Collector had been held by Mr. Tom Leave, who found the latter post a very troublesome one, and having tendered his resignation of the same, such resignation was accepted on condition of his collecting the arrears of £31 18s. 1d within a week. He was then to be paid £7 10s. for extra services, not for collecting rates, but for his work as surveyor. Mr. John Peerless—who, in subsequent years, was honourably connected with the schools, the church, and other institutions of the town—was then appointed a rate-collector in the place of Mr. Leave, and for which post he gave sureties to the amount of £400. This amount of sureties was considered at that time to be very large, taking into consideration the smallness of the collections. But the low condition of the Commissioners’ funds, and. the constant drain upon them, together with the extreme difficulty of borrowing money, made them, perhaps, all the more precise in exacting ample securities from persons holding offices of trust under them. The Act of Parliament required the formation of a Sinking-fund, and the clerk on this occasion, as on many others, reminded the Commissioners of such requirement. No action was, however, taken in the matter, for the simple reason that there was no money with which to establish such a fund.
It was sometimes a hard matter to find money, apart from other disbursements, to pay the Gas Company for lighting the public lamps, which at that time cost about £150 a year. The Commissioners had no "Bobby-blues" in their service to draw money from the exchequer, but they had the wages of their solitary beadle to pay; and as it was cold weather just at that time, they ventured to tax the public purse for the purchase of a great coat and a truncheon for the use of their sole representative of Bumbledom. Mr, Burton lodged a protest against the rating of the Subscription-gardens and the Assembly-rooms, and the Commissioners, taking a favourable view of the protest reduced the rating of the former from £60 to £20, and that of the latter to one-half. The quarterly meetings of the board were again changed to the last Mondays in March, June, September and December.
The next occurrence that suggests itself as worthy of a passing notice is that of a large shoal of mackerel which on the 12th of February attracted the attention of the inhabitants. This was looked upon as quite phenomenal, both on account of the time of year and the floating of the mackerel close to the shore. Many of them were caught by hand, and one of the fish was got hold of close to the water’s edge by a lady and gentleman, which on being put into the scale was found to weigh 3lbs. I remember a similar scene.at Hastings about 10 years previously, but that was in the summer time, and the weather was very warm. In the later instance too, although in the winter time, the weather was abnormally mild for the time of year, there having been a remarkable absence of frost all the season. This circumstance might, therefore, have had some effect in bringing our piscatorial visitors before their usual time. And the general mildness of the winter does not appear to. have been succeeded, as is sometimes the case, by any noticeable re-action of temperature in the spring. Indeed, the latter - or at least a portion of it seems to have been as unseasonably warm as the former, for I find I have a note that on the 12th of May the thermometer at St. Leonards registered the extraordinary temperature of 85 degrees.
Whether this unusual heat exerted any influence on the temper of the inhabitants it would be difficult to determine, but I have it on record that some of them waxed rather warm at about that time when called upon for the rates; they alleged that they were unduly and unfairly assessed. One of the complainants was a Mr. Gill, of 32 Marina, (who was also a lodging-house keeper at Pelham Crescent and Beach Cottages) who being also a Commissioner, remonstrated with his brother officials against what he thought was an exorbitant tax. Similar representations were made by other property holders, the effect of which was not so much to reduce their assessment as to increase the rating of those who were supposed to have been too highly favoured. Thus it was that Mr. Norsworthy’s assessment for 1 and 2 West Ascent was raised from £40 to £70 each, and Capt. Davies's to £67. The meeting at which this particular stir was made was attended by Messrs. North and Warre, who at that time were the two Parliamentary Representatives as well as two of the St. Leonards Commissioners.
On the 11th of March the Commissioners held a special meeting to receive tenders for the construction of an additional sea-wall, to extend 300 yards westward of the then existing wall. The only tender received was that of Messrs. Homan and Scott's which was £735. This was accepted with the understanding that Mr. Burton would undertake to pay interest on that sum until the rates should amount to £800.
Among other business transacted was the giving permission to Mr. Burton to lower and otherwise reduce the footpaths under the Archway of the North Lodge. Also, in consequence of the sea breaking over the new wall whilst in progress of construction by Messrs. Homan and Scott, the contractors were to be instructed to build the said wall three feet higher, with twenty counterposts to be added for the better security of the west-end, and two step-ways to be made. The estimate for this additional work was £124 1s. 2d. This 300 feet of wall extended from nearly opposite the church to the Sussex Hotel, and was about five or six feet
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