Brett Volume 2: Chapter XVIII - Hastings 1837
- 1 Transcriber’s note
- 2 Chapter XVIII - Hastings 1837
- 2.1 Groynes and Drainage of the Priory Stream - Discussion re the Charities
- 2.2 Guestling and Icklesham - The Harbour Project
- 2.3 Conservative Banquet - Great Speeches
- 2.4 Conservative Banquet & Speeches
- 2.5 Conservative Banquet and Speeches
- 2.6 Conservative Banquet - Formation of Liberal Association
- 2.7 The Castle Ruins before the Excavation
- 2.8 Ready made Coffins - Rev. W. Whistler's Eccentricities
- 2.9 An economical couple - Severe Punishments - A blow to the Liberals
- 2.10 Election of Hollond and Planta - Politics in 1837
- 2.11 Lavish Expenses of the Candidates - Bishop & Thorpe's great failure
- 2.12 Mrs. Milward re. the East Hill - Sunday School Centenery Celebration
- 2.13 Loyalists and Hanoverians - Beach Cottages Parade dispute - Sea-beach wasteland
- 2.14 Sea-Beach Waste Land
- 2.15 Foreshore Disputes - Corporation Changes - Bankruptcies
- 2.16 Smuggling - Regatta Funds Missing - Enormous catch of Mackerel
- 2.17 Powell & his library
- 3 Footnotes (including sources)
| 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.
Pg.161 The Priory Stream the Commissioners' western limit - The town's liabilities £1,650 and Income £1,000 - Additional polling places - Warm debate on the Charities - Misapplied bequests at Guestling and Icklesham - Criticisms on Mr. North's political conduct - Mr. Holland's political address and general liberality. Banquet and oratory of the Loyal Constitution Association - An opposition Liberal Association - The West Hill path dispute (with view of the hill, castle and windmills) - Mr. Brisco turned back - Memoirs and eccentrics of the Rev. W. Whistler - Amusing anecdotes - Elphinstone's retirement & North's withdrawals - Election of Planta and Holland - Heavy election bills - The political position in 1837 - Numerous commercial failures - Selling of Poorhouses - Mrs. Milward's character misunderstood - Church-rates contention - The Rev. Satterley's conduct - Municipal elections - Rivalry of the Commissioners and Town Council - The waste beach sales and contentions (from 1596 to recent times) - Election of W. Duke as Mayor - The gaol question. - Female smugglers - Death of William Woods (the emigrant son of the Postmaster) - Mr. Sutherland Graeme's political letter - Mr. Dowell and his library - Fatal accidents by fire - Sudden death of Mr. Arthur Deudney, and reference to his brothers and sisters, fourteen in number - Memoirs of Pearce Egan - Three artists at Hastings Prout, Hunt and Varley) - The effects of groynes complained of - The Town Crier's fees - A view of the West Hill before the excavation of the Castle ruins. -
Chapter XVIII - Hastings 1837[edit | edit source]
Groynes and Drainage of the Priory Stream - Discussion re the Charities[edit | edit source]
Pg.162 The Priory Stream being the western limit of the town under the jurisdiction of the Commissioners for the Hastings Improvement Act, the said body held a meeting on the 3rd of January to determine what works should be undertaken at the outlet of such water against the encroachment of the sea. Mr. Dumbrel, of Eastbourne, had made a survey, and in his report he stated that a strong gale from the south-west often obstructed the descent of the water at the outlet, and the combined action of the two waters swept away the shingle from the buildings on the east side. He recommended a sluice to be constructed of 240 feet in length, to commence at 220 feet from the Bridge (now the Albert Memorial), at an estimated expense of £320, or with a cast-iron culvert, £505. His opinion was that the sea-walls at St. Leonards and the White-rock were a cause - direct or remote - of the encroachment at the Priory; and that whatever other effect the groynes might have, they were constructed on a principle which tended more to a waste than to an accumulation of shingle on the coast eastward of them. It was generally supposed that the Office of Woods and Forests would add to the series of groynes already in use with a view to protect the Crown land, and if so, said Mr. Dumbrell in his report, it was desirable that the new ones should be of an improved construction. This could be best effected by forming them not less then 150 feet nor greater than 250 feet in length, and at a little above high-water mark, with a gradient of one foot in twenty. The Ordnance groynes at 50 and 55 Towers, he said, were specimens of the improved principle, and were strikingly different to many others along the coast. There was at that time £179 in the hands of the Chamberlain - a small part truly of the £505 which the sluice or hutch was estimated to cost - and the Mayor (Dr. MacCabe) suggested that the question should be postponed. Mr. T. Breeds said he should not submit to anything of the sort, as the nuisance at the Priory ought at once to be removed. Mr. North doubted whether the money, as forming part of the borough fund, could be so employed. Mr. Shorter thought it could, and Mr. Mannington was of opinion that if the water were covered in, the Corporation would gain considerable territory. The discussion ended curiously by Mr. North carrying a proposition for £30 to be devoted towards the expense of the harbour survey. At the next meeting, however, of the newer public body, yclept[Notes 1] the Town Council, the Clerk stated that although it was thought that no part of the £179 left by the old Corporation could be applied to the Priory-water scheme, the Recorder was of the opinion that £100 might be so applied. And now as I have poached upon the preserves of the Hastings Commissioners, I may as well suffer for two misdemeanours as for one. I therefore bruit it that at the February meeting of that august body it was shown that whilst the liabilities were £1,650, the income was only £1,000. It was therefore resolved to borrow £600 to get out of debt, as it was paradoxically stated, and a further resolution, signed by Rickman Godlee, Chas. Duke, Will Ginner and Major Vidler, was to the effect that in future the strictest economy should be exercised.
Two days after the Commissioners' meeting referred to, Mr. Elphinstone, M.P., brought before the Bench of Magistrates the proposition which he had made at the Lewes County Sessions "that Hastings, Rye, Cuckfield and Brighton be appointed additional polling-places for the Eastern Division of Sussex." It was, he said, agreed to at Lewes, and he promised to bring the matter before the Hastings Bench. Mr. North, M.P., raised some objections, and contended that nothing could be decided at that session. Certainly not, was Mr. Elphinstone's rejoinder, but an application would be made to the Privy Council, and he had no doubt that it would be successful. He should be glad if Bexhill were included, as it would benefit the town by forming a good circle round it. Voters of the Rye Union, he suggested, might vote at Rye, and thus no voter in the extreme end of the county need travel more than eight miles to record his vote. The proposition was ultimately agreed to.
But the question of additional polling-places was not the only one of which the Borough Members were divided in opinion; for at the same meeting was discussed the propriety or otherwise of a recent petition in connection with the Charities, and in which the feeling of Messrs. North and Elphinstone were shown to be wanting in harmony, if not in actual courtesy. In reply to a question by one of the magistrates relative to the Charities and the trustees thereof, the Town Clerk explained that a report had been made out by a Master, and the same had been confirmed by the Lord Chancellor, but that it could only be completed by the petitioners. The joint expenses were only about £130 and the court had ordered the same to be paid. Mr. North with some warmth, described the proceedings as intolerable, and declared that had he known it he would have petitioned himself, even if it had cost him £30 or £40, as the Town-clerk assured him it would. As to the intolerableness of it, Mr. Elphinstone said he could see none. Both the petitioners and the gentlemen they recommended were, he observed, respectable men, and he must say that the opposition got up by the Town Council was an ill-judged one. The petitioners prayed (continued Mr. Elphinstone) that the Charities be not suffered to remain in the hands of the Old Corporation. Mr. North contended that such could not be the case, as the Old Corporation had ceased to be in office. Elphinstone was aware of that, but it was necessary, in his opinion, to keep the Charities from falling into the hands of the Town Council. Messrs. Jolly and Russell, he contended, were respectable men, and when they sent up their petition and their list, the Town Council also sent up a petition and a list. At this stage of the discussion, whilst the disputants were waxing warm, a cry of "fire" was raised at the Hall door, and immediately there was a rush from the building, followed by a stampede to the house of butcher Weller, in High street, where it was ascertained that some of the soot had ignited in one of the chimneys. After some humorous remarks all round at their instantaneous response to what appeared to be something like a hoax, the magistrates and the borough members separated in a more friendly mood than they were likely to do had not their contentions been cut short by the "house afire" episode. The appointment of the Charities' Trustees was, however, confirmed, and at their first meeting which was on the 25th of January, another "scene" was witnessed. In opposition to Mr. Henry Thatcher's nomination, Mr. North proposed Messrs. Phillips and Shorter as joint secretaries to the Trust, but not finding a seconder, he next proposed Mr. T. B. Baker. On the votes being taken, it was found that Mr. Thatcher had a considerable majority, and was thus elected.
Guestling and Icklesham - The Harbour Project[edit | edit source]
A good deal has already appeared in these columns about the local benefactions, pro et con the alleged misapplication of the funds in bygone times; and, to complete the story, more will have to be told further on. Apropos, however, of other charitable bequests at the very time when the discussion just alluded to was taking place, a discovery was made of an alleged extensive misappropriation or neglect of charitable bequests to the parishes of Guestling and Icklesham. In a council paper, of February, 1837, it was stated that there were few parishes more liberally endowed with bequests for charitable purposes than Guestling. Property had been left sufficient to educate and keep clear of poverty the whole juvenile poor of the parish, and yet there had not been a school there for 17 years. In an examination, only a year before, Mr. Henge, one of the Charity Commissioners, it was discovered that in addition to between five and six thousand pounds left 100 years ago, from which the parishioners were deriving no benefit, there was one acre of marsh land, part of the Lidham Estate given by someone to the Rector of Guestlng which some years ago was sold, to redeem the land-tax on the Glebe lands. Also that Mr. Fletcher, who died in 1712, left 30s a year to the poor of Guestling, charged on Coghurst Farm, which sum was received and distributed by the Rector. There being no recognised trustees, the Commissioners suggested that in future the churchwardens and overseers for the time being should be appointed as such, and all sums received and expended by them be kept a book (??) in the church for that purpose up to the year 1837. However, this had not been done. Also, Mrs. Elizabeth Cheyney, of Guestling, gave, in 1610, about eight acres of land with a house thereon, in the parish of Fairlight, called Cork Fields, to the Pg.163 poor of Guestling and Icklesham, and at present let to Sir Wm. Ashburnham at £17 per ann. The same Elizabeth Cheyey also gave two dwellings, situate at Shellhouse Green, Guestling (to be occupied by two poor persons), together with the rent of a field called Hilliards, consisting of 1 1/4 acres, and let to Mr. Hawkins at £2 2s per ann. Also an annuity of 10s each from the rents arising from Cork Fields, to be paid quarterly. The Rev. Robt. Bradshaw gave a farmer Sir W. Ashburnham's £50 in trust, the interest of which was to be paid to the occupiers of the above-named cottages. A balance of £6 10s of the interest of this £50 remained unappropriated. Mrs. Cheyney further gave half an acre of land, with two tenements thereon at Icklesham to be occupied by two poor unmarried men or women of Icklesham, with an annuity of 10s each, to be charged on Cork Fields. These tenements having been destroyed by fire many years ago, new ones were to be built as soon as possible, and the cost to be paid out of the £350 balance of unappropriated rents of Cork Fields.
Since the time of that enquiry matters have been entirely altered, and of course for the benefit of the parish. This charity, which has been in abeyance for many years, was taken in hand by Mr. John Smith, an energetic builder, who during the early years of the 19th century, migrated from Leeds to London, from London to Rye and from Rye to Hastings, at which last-named town he was employed in 1816 by Mr. Breeds to erect Nelson Buildings, and afterwards by the Earl of Chichester to cut down the Castle Cliff, and to build St. Mary's Chapel, Pelham Arcade, and houses in Pelham place, Pelham crescent, Breeds place, Bohemia House, &c &c. Mr. Smith was an ardent Liberal and a staunch Reformer. He was also a true friend to the poor, and having in some casual manner heard that there were benefactions of which it was believed the people of Guestling were being deprived he hired a house in Guestling to become a parishioner to investigate the case. This he did with uch perseverance, and then filed a bill in Chancery in which his success was attested by the establishment of an endowed school in the parish and a house for the master and mistress. Mr. Smith died suddenly of heart disease in 1857 at the age of 69 years, and after a residence in Hastings of over forty years. He was really one of the Hastings worthies, and as such a biographic (sic) sketch is reserved for the year in which he died.
(This, which has since been written, appears in "Historico-Biographies" Vol. III, pp 109 to 113.)
Some particulars of the proposed harbour at Hastings were given in the preceding chapter, to which the following may be added:- At the meeting of the Town Council on the 7th of March, it was "resolved that the survey of the harbour being now out of the hands of the Council their subscription to the fund [£30] be represented by the Mayor." At the same meeting, a borough rate at 4d in the £ was agreed upon - a rate which the inhabitants who are now quintupled in the rating, and with higher assessments, would probably like to see revived. But, as regards the harbour, a subscription list which lay at the Bank for two months, only obtained promises of about £20. That sum was raised to £200 by means of circulars and personal applications, and Mr. Cubit promised to get out a plan and estimate for £150. His attention was drawn to the Fishmarket as being probably a more eligible site. The plan and estimate, a copy of which is before me, was produced on the 24th of June, and embraced an area of 40 acres, extended from where is now the Queen's Hotel to the Cutter Inn. The cost was estimated at £150,000[Notes 2], the work to be completed within 7 years, and with a maintenance and management of £500 to £750 annual expense. It is needless to say that the scheme was never carried out.
It cannot be denied that the Borough Members possessed divergent views on many points, although on most occasions they were less conspicuous in political principles than in matters of detail. The misfortune was that Mr. North's cautious moderation was not only insufficiently appreciated by the ardent Liberals, but was positively distasteful to them; and on every convenient opportunity the attempt was made to goad him into an open avowal of Radicalism. As a means to this end, the worthy gentleman was continually taunted with his alleged allegiance to his family connections and traditions, and his name was ever and anon associated with the "Old Corporation Party." Yet, all the while the said Old Corporation party were opposing him for his advanced views, which they regarded as little better than rank Radicalism. "Civil and Religious Liberty" was Mr. North's watchword, but this article of faith, while it was viewed by the Conservatives as embodying revolutionary ideas in respect to Church and State, was regarded by the Liberals as a meaningless phrase when judged of by the want of unanimity in the acts of himself and his colleague. Thus prejudiced, the self-styled Reformers sought to damage Mr. North's political status by making the most of every little difference of opinion which the two representatives might chance to entertain whether the subject was of imperial or of local importance. It is possible and even probable that the views expressed by Mr. North respecting the Charities petition were not the wisest yet it seems to have been unequally wise - because ungenerous - to be continuously setting him down as an anti-Reformer merely because he was not at all times prepared to second the efforts for sweeping innovations. The following is a newspaper criticism which appeared immediately after the meeting which I have described.
Thanks to a free press and a Liberal Government, we are enabled to expose and in that way to reform abuses; and in no part of the United Kingdom is there a town which has been more abused by a few persons who have for years made it subservient to their purposes, until they have at last worked up their imagination to a belief that Hastings, with all its natural advantages was made for their exclusive benefit. Happily for the rest of the inhabitants, the Reform Bill was destroyed half their influence by enabling the independent electors to return Mr. Elphinstone; and we trust they will complete their work at the next election by the return of two independent members, and finally wrest the borough from the weakened grasp of the Old Corporation party. The least reflection on the struggle which the country engaged in to obtain the Reform Bill must be sufficient to induce every well-wisher to the cause of good government to consider himself called upon to complete the work so auspiciously begun; and if the electors will but look around them and compare the old corrupt corporate towns of Hastings, Rye, Winchelsea, Sandwich, Folkestone, etc., with the free and independent towns of Brighton, Worthing, Margate Ramsgate, &c., the comparison will fill them with regret for having so foolishly permitted the corrupt influences of such a party to mar the prospects of the rest of the inhabitants. We regret to hear that one individual in particular appears to have an idea that his long connection with the borough entitles him in his capacity of magistrate to express his caprice against anyone who presumes to question the unjust influence which his party have hitherto exercised. Upon such conduct we have only to remark that it is the best index of the mind of a person guilty of it, and makes him an object of pity rather than of contempt, because such men defeat their own object by exposing their lack of all honest principle.
Thus attacked, and finding that he could do nothing right for either party, one does not wonder that Mr. North declined the doubtful honour of representing the borough in the next Parliament. This resolve had a very important bearing on the result of the election which so favoured the fortunes of the Conservatives. Early in the month of February, Mr. Elphinstone signified his intention of retiring from the representation of Hastings, a ruthless expenditure being his sole reason for not again offering himself for election. At the same time he introduced Mr. Hollond to the constituency as a gentleman who has both the means and the leisure to devote to the interests of the borough. It was not long before Mr. Hollond published his address to the electors which was a rather lengthy document, and of which the following is a brief summary:
I rely for your support on the soundness of the political principles which I profess in common with the majority of yourselves. If I am honoured with your confidence I shall best do your work in the Commons' House by giving generally my support to the present Reform Administration, and more particularly to the liberal and pacifying policy on which they have governed Ireland. I shall support the Bill for Municipal Reform in Ireland, as I can entertain no doubt that the prosperity of that country will be advanced by giving to the inhabitants of her corporate towns those popular rights and privileges which you have been taught by your own experience to appreciate. It is also desirable for the best interests of the Protestant Church of Ireland that the Church question should be settled without delay on the principles adopted by the House of Commons. The essential principle of the Reform Act is that the Government is to be a Government of the people for the people; and that principle I shall hold it my duty faithfully and zealously in all things to work-out, and especially to protect the poorer voters from intimidation by an endeavour to secure the means of voting by ballot. If the Liberal electors should deem me worthy to receive their support, I shall march under the pink flag with the certain victory which again awaits the cause of Reform and Liberal Government in your borough. I have, &c.— ROBERT HOLLOND.
Mr. Hollond began at once to show his liberality as well as his Liberalism, by subscribing to the local institutions, and among his many contributions was one of £200 to the Fishermen's Fund, with the promise of a similar amount as an annual subscription. He also contributed largely to the fund for the harbour survey, and on Monday, the 27th of February he gave a dinner to his political supporters and their friends. As no one room in the borough was sufficiently capacious to accomodate (sic) the number of guests, it was arranged that they should be entertained at four different hotels - two in the old town and two in the new. These were the Swan, the Oak, the Saxon, and the Conqueror. At the first-named house the meeting was presided over by Mr. B. Smith, M.P., supported by Dr. MacCabe (both of whom had only just recovered from an attack of influenza) and Messrs. Elphinstone, J. Mannington, W. Duke, W. R. Hollond, G. Duke, E. L. Richards, D. Cooper, etc. The after dinner speeches were numerous, lengthy and racy. After Mr. Hollond had spoken, he visited the other three parties, and repeated in substance his speech at the Swan, which was received with much enthusiasm all round. It was openly stated by the Liberal party that through the introduction of Mr. Hollond by Mr. Elphinstone, the borough would be saved from being bought by Mr. Brisco's long purse; whilst by the opposing party it was insinuated that the town had been sold by Mr. Elphinstone to Mr. Hollond.
Without attempting to be the umpire in this matter, it is more my province to say that an active canvass was immediately commenced all round, and in a short time the several candidates or the friends of such, persisted in asserting that their chance of winning exceeded their most sanguine expectations. Mr. Brisco, it was said, was indefatigable as far as he knew how to be; but the want of "gumption," as Mr. T. B. Baker termed it, made it necessary for the latter to be prompter on all occasions to his principal, and it thus "knocked him up," as he confessed, long before the task was finished. According to the cue which was given, the accommodating mr. Brisco was Whig, Tory or Radical, and the varying tactics necessitated by these several assumptions made it harrassing (sic) work for the prompter; but with the exemplary perseverance - which it was thought would find its way into the little bill - the painstaking lawyer slaved it through the streets from morning till night, and from night till morning. Of Mr. Planta it was said that he was more than merely safe, for the promises he had received from those who voted against him on the previous occasion made him absolutely certain. The honourable gentleman published in a pamphlet form a speech which he delivered during the preceding election, but which his opponents declared bore only a slight resemblance to the viva voce address. From what I remember of the scene of uproar and confusion which prevailed on the occasion referred to, I should wonder if either friends or foes could say what the address was really like. The shameful treatment which was then shown to Mr. Planta had the effect of securing for him the sympathy and support of the more moderate men in the Liberal ranks when he again solicited their suffrages. Mr. Planta, was, undoubtedly, a Tory, but he was also a perfect gentleman in his conduct, and in many ways had exerted himself for the benefit of the borough. To have been hissed and hooted by the Radicals was bad enough, but to have been spat upon and pelted with unsavoury missiles - as I can myself testify - was enough to move the hearts of those among his opponents who could appreciate his appeal to them for the exercise of British manhood. Yet his opponents continued in the belief that he had not the ghost of a chance when the day of election should come. They urged that Messrs. Hollond and North were sure to be chosen in spite of all the power with perhaps the aid of a few "turncoats," that the Tories could bring against them. The supporters of Mr. Planta, they said, might be very sanguine of success, but they required to be reminded that because people were more civil than usual to a gentleman who fancied he had been unfairly treated in time past was no reason why they should vote for him in time to come. There appeared at the same time a paragraph in a county Liberal journal as follows:-
A fracas of a somewhat extraordinary nature took place on Wednesday between Col. Gant, Sutherland Graeme, Esq., Mr. W. Watson and Mr. W. Breach, in which - so we are compelled to hear - the two first-named came off only second best. We are pleased to know this, for (these gentlemen will pardon the plagiarism) 'When Tories fall out good citizens obtain their rights.'
The Col. Gant here alluded to was the father of Major Gant, now of Chiddingly, and at the time resided at 9 Maze Hill. The second gentleman mentioned in the newspaper paragraph - Mr. A. Sutherland Graeme, was also residing in St. Leonards at the time, his mansion being 12 Maze Hill. Both gentlemen exerted themselves to secure the return of Mr. Planta, but the latter more particularly. Mr. Graeme, who died in November, 1894, was, in fact, a principal actor in the electioneering drama of 1837, and was one of the very few persons who could lay claim to that political distinction. I venture to think that the venerable gentleman regarded the success of his exertions with the greater complacency in consequence of an agreement between himself and his party that, whatever might be the result of the contest, Mr. Planta should be put to no expense. Some of the "brothy boys" among that gentleman's old supporters having been informed of such resolve began to shake their heads in an ominous fashion, and at a meeting held at the Anchor Inn on the 24th of February, Mr. Planta was heard to say that his friend Roper had told him that there was no chance of winning the election without "lush." Well, he could only tell them as he had told Roper that although "lush" could not be commanded to be present on such occasions as that, he had no doubt that "lush" would come at the proper time. Another meeting of Mr. Planta's friends was held at the Arcade on the following Friday evening with Sutherland Graeme, Esq., in the chair, when assurances were given of the satisfactory nature of the canvass. The election did not come off until August, but each party kept well on the alert, and no opportunity was missed that was likely to forward the one and to impede the other. On the 28th of March, it being Easter Tuesday, Mr. Hollond in- Pg.165 vited the ladies to a ball and supper; and on the 31st of the same month - the day on which the founder of St. Leonards died - a great Conservative dinner took place at the Swan Hotel, presided over by Mr. Sutherland Graeme. This banquet was the result of a resolution passed at a previous meeting of the "Hastings and St. Leonards Loyal and Constitutional Association," that they would dine together, and extend invitations to persons in the borough and neighbourhood who professed opinions in accordance with the Association.
Conservative Banquet - Great Speeches[edit | edit source]
The large ball-room and ante-room were tastefully decorated with evergreens and banners the latter bearing suitable mottoes. On the wall, over the head of the chairman was a large portrait of Sir Robert Peel, surmounted by a silk banner with a crown and the words "Church and State." The party numbered 170, and among those who sat on the right and left of the chairman were the Rt. Hon. Joseph Planta, G. Darby, Esq., Capt. Sweeny, Major Willard, Col. Gant, Rev. H. Rush, Rev. G. G. Stonestreet, Rev. E. Rust, Rev. C. Snowden, F. Stonestreet, Esq., C. Wale, Esq., R. Rankin, Esq., Hon. H. Ellis, H. R. Reynolds, Esq., Robt. Kay, Esq., J. C. Grenside, Esq., Fredk. Ticehurst, Esq., R. Smpson, Esq., H. Collett, Est., and H. Pidcock, Esq. The vice-chairman was Mr. Jos. Hart. The dinner was served up under the superintendence of Mr. W. M. Eldridge, whose accession to the "Royal Swan" and extensive improvements there effected, have already been described. I believe I also stated when referring to the formation of the Conservative Association, four months anterior to the dinner that Mr Sutherland Graeme was chosen President of the same; but I did not then say that Mr. Frederic Ticehurst - a Liberal, of later years - was the energetic Secretary. The Radical politicians of the time spoke disdainfully of the little "hole-and-corner" meeting, and prophesied that nothing would come from a clique of sixteen (the number was forty) of second and third-rate men. How they must have been undeceived when they read in the newspapers the numbers, names and superior oratory of that influential assembly which gathered round the festive board of the new Association! There was much in the speeches that could not fail to be of interest even to politicians of the present day.
To show the general harmony and completeness of the arrangements I will summarize the proceedings from a report in the Brighton Gazette.-
At 4.30 the band played "O the Roast Beef of Old England," after which 170 persons stood up at the tables whilst the Rev. H. Rush, of Crowhurst, said Grace. On the removal of the cloth, the chairman (A. Sutherland Graeme, Esq.) proposed the "Health of His Majesty, William IV." This was supplemented by the National Anthem - solo by Mr. James Hart, and chorus by the company. The chairman next gave "Our Gracious Queen Adelaide," to which, after the response, the band played "The Lass that loves a Sailor." Then the chairman said - I am sure you will feel it to be unnecessary that I should dilate on the next toast, so near as we are to the place which their Royal Highnesses the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria made their residence for some time. During their abode amongst us, Her Royal Highness Victoria must have gained the respect and attachment which all those who have the interest of the kingdom at heart must feel towards the young heiress who, under Divine Providence, is destined to sit on the throne. I am convinced that during her residence at St. Leonards you had an opportunity of witnessing that affability which is the distinguishing characteristic of their Royal Highnesses; and I am therefore certain that you will drink with much pleasure to the health of the "Duchess of Kent and the Heiress-Apparent of these Realms." - 3 times 3, and "My Love she is but a Lassie yet." The chairman then said, "Since by your kind partiality I am placed in the honourable position of chairman, I feel it to be in accordance with my duty and inclination previously to submitting the next toast, to preface it with a few observations which you will not deem inappropriate. The fundamental principle upon which this Association is formed is declaratory of our inviolable attachment to the Church; and you will agree with me in thinking the present a most fitting time at which to declare our determination to abide by such principle. On the first night of our formation, I endeavoured to point out the serious blow which the Protestant Church would receive by the appropriation clause in the Irish Tithe Bill, and drew attention to the shuffling conduct of Ministers, who, to drive from power one of the ablest statesmen this country ever possessed, introduced the clause which, six months before, they had strongly opposed. Since then Parliament has met, and I have anxiously awaited the announcement of the Ministerial measure for the settlement of the Tithe question in Ireland, without which the present House of Commons is pledged not to be satisfied. No such announcement has been made, but another deadly blow has been aimed at the Church, as if it alone was the Government's object of hostility. I allude to the measure for the Abolition of Church-rates, which has been aptly termed by Sir W. Follett, the "English Appropriation Clauses." And how, gentlemen, has the measure been received? The venerable heads of our Church have denounced it as inefficient in detail and unjust in principle; the people have petitioned in vast numbers against it; and a large majority is firmly opposed to any measure calculated to weaken the foundation of their much-loved Church. [Here the Chairman related instances of that affection and fidelity to the church which he had affirmed was the case, and among other anecdotes was one which related to a leading Dissenter being in the habit of occasionally attending the parish church, and when asked why he did so replied, "I conscientiously dissent from the Establishment, but whenever I hear that any attack is meditated on it, convinced that if it were done away with there would be an end to all religion I feel it my duty to testify by my presence my determination to uphold it with all its rights and privileges untouched."] The feelings, said the chairman, which animated this conscientious Dissenter as participated in by many others; and if there has been this strong manifestation of resistance to the spoilation of the Church from without the walls of Parliament, how has the measure been dealt with from within? How triumphant have been the arguments of the Opposition; how flimsy have proved the financial details of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and how completely are the rights and privileges of our venerable Church vindicated by those who stand up in her defence. After all the clamour which has been raised, after all the specious endeavours to impose on the minds of the people, after straining every nerve to swell the ranks of the majority, of how many and of whom has this majority consisted? Twenty-three; and these twenty-three men had sworn previously to taking their seats in the House "I, A. B. do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement and arrangement of property in this country as established by the laws now in being; and I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment. And I do solemnly swear that I will not exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb and weaken the Protestant Religion and Protestant government of this Kingdom. So help me God." Now, gentlemen (continued the chairman) it is not for me to say how far these Roman Catholic members, who have subscribed to this oath, could consistently vote in the manner they did for the abolition of church rates. They must be the best judges; but I could not have so voted myself consistently with the solemn obligation. But, gentlemen, this measure has not become law; it has yet to receive that dignified discussion which awaits every measure in the House of Lords, and it has yet to receive the sanction of a King, sworn to defend the best interests of the Church. Let us trust that it will be rejected; let us, in the impressive language of our Liturgy - let us trust that it will please Almighty God "to direct and prosper all their consultations, to the advancement of His Glory, the good of His Church, the safety, honour and welfare of our Sovereign and his dominions; that all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavours upon the best and surest foundation that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations." Join with me then (said Mr. Sutherland Graeme, in conclusion) in one long responsive cheer to the good old constitutional toast of "Church and State.
The toast, as might be supposed, was responded to with much enthusiasm, and was immediately followed by long and able speeches from the Rev. G. Stonestreet, Mr. Darby, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Planta, and Mr. Ellis. In these addresses there was much useful information, and much - if only from the now altered condition of things - that would commend itself to serious reflection. There was also in some other speeches by the chairman much that may be worthy of attention even in the present day, and especially as there appears just now to be a re-awakening of the old political rivalries. By many it is thought that the term Liberal-Conservative is either a myth, or at the best, only a term of modern growth; but the further extracts which I intend to give from the report of the Conservative banquet of 1837, will demonstrate the fact that not only were Sir Robt. Peel and some of his colleagues Liberal-Conservatives, but that the chairman of the banquet now under consideration, was himself an avowed Liberal-Conservative, and one who was in favour of the Reform Act.
The chairman's speech at the Conservative banquet of 1837 with which he introduced the toast of "Church and State," was followed by one of greater length from the Rev. G. G. Stonestreet, in which that gentleman dealt with the Church-rate question in a very lucid and argumentative manner. To myself, individually, his arguments would not be so conclusive as they appeared to be to Mr. Stonestreet's hearers on that occasion, and perhaps for the reason that my prejudices were so strong in an opposite direction as to induce me to say that I would never pay church-rates as long as I lived. Well, it happens that I have been able to carry out my resolve; and there is no irrelevancy in recording the fact here, because it is very probable that the present History would not have been written were it not that the leading motive for taking up my abode in St. Leonards, now 58 years ago, was to avoid the payment of church-rates. I must confess, however, that in Mr. Stonestreet's address on the subject there was much that appealed to a sense of justice, and much that was worthy of consideration at the time. But the day has gone by for a reproduction of the reverend gentleman's speech to be of much value; and I shall therefore confine my extracts to such portions as may seem to me to have the least restricted interest. In the course of his speech Mr. Stonestreet remarked that although he had not the honour at that moment to be a member of the Association, he could not allow a toast accompanied by such sentiments as those of their chairman to pass without his own particular acknowledgment. He thought they could trace all the best parts of the English character, both as shown in private life and as related to what constituted the dignity of the State to that constant communication which took place between those who had been responsible for the religion of the country and those to whom the interests of the State had been committed. He knew that he was labouring under disadvantages in introducing such a subject into a convivial meeting, but there were times when the solemnity of feeling could not be shaken off even in their festive moments. This was the case with him then. He felt that it was not untimely for them to avail themselves of public support for that which had produced so much public good. They would remember that one of the earliest feelings at the passing of the Reform Bill was that all the evils of the country, whether civil or ecclesiastical, should be deeply probed' and it was soon signified to everyone who held office under the Church that the test would be a close one. The clergy, to the number of 9,000, sent an address to their Archbishop, in which they stated that whatever conditions might be proposed to him, which he thought proper to accept, they would agree to; and he went accordingly to the task assigned to him of examining into all church abuses. A commission was formed of the principal members of the Government and four or five of the Bishops or Archbishops, and as proof that there was no unwillingness on the part of the Church to relinquish anything which to the good sense of the country seemed necessary, a pamphlet was published by the Rev. Sidney Smith, one of the oldest of the Whig party, in which he sta- Pg.166 -ted that the Bishops had actually done more than was required. The result of their labours was four reports, after which it would be expected that any measure relating to the Church would be founded on such reports; instead of which, a measure which had been rejected by the Commissions, was introduced in Parliament, and under it all those estates which they said were inexpedient to touch were to be made away with. Lord Melbourne, it was said, had yielded to pressure, but the case was not much improved by his lordship not agreeing in his heart with that to which he had subscribed with his hand ...
Conservative Banquet & Speeches[edit | edit source]
Thus they consented to yield the property of the Church which they had just before determined to assign to the building of churches and filling them with useful ministers ... He would treat the conscience of Dissenters as tenderly as he would his own, but when it involved questions of taxation related to property and charges on property which had been purchased or inherited subject to this taxation, he thought the question of conscience somewhat absurd. He was expecting to be called upon in a few days for taxes to meet an expenditure many items of which he could conscientiously object to. The charge on Dissenters for church-rates was stated to be £30,000, and out of the proceeds of the general taxation this year there would be 17 times that amount, or 17 years' purchase of the Dissenters' rates paid towards the warfare now being carried on in Spain. [Hear, hear!] For the cold-blooded vanity of one individual, £500,000 was now going out of England to maintain a cruel, unmanly and un-English war. Seventeen times the purchase of the Dissenters' rates was to be spent for that purpose' and if exceptions were to be made on account of scruples of conscience, his own conscience forbade his giving one farthing to the warfare of Col. Evans' yet he would obey the edict of the State, and pay his share of the money. - The reverend gentleman concluded his remarks with a telling peroration, and resumed his seat amidst a fervent round of applause.
Mr. Stonestreet's condemnation of the part taken by the English in the dynastic was of Spain reminds me of the satisfaction with which General Evans's achievement was received by Hastings and St. Leonards Liberals a few months previous to the Conserviative banquet. I have already alluded to this event, but I have omitted to state that whichst the Conservatives were almost to a man opposed to the part played by English Liberals in that sanguinary affair, there were also not a few even among the avowed supporters of a Liberal Government who openly denounced it. For myself I may say that, although not an absolute optimist, and having, moreover, strong peaceable proclivities, I am one, nevertheless, who believes that under certain conditions war is a dire necessity, and that it is mostly permitted by a higher Power than either monarchies or governments for ulterior benefits. I am also of opinion that during the last half-century at least, the majority of wars which have been entered upon by British Governments have not been wantonly nor revengefully undertaken, but that, after due consideration, they have been reluctantly engaged in as the only alternative to a prospective evil of greater magnitude. This I hold to have been the case as regards the late wars in Zululand and Afghanistan; and I can only look upon the merciless censures of a Conservative Government by Liberal partizans as less the outcome of serious reflection than as a political weapon to be used against opponents. Nor would I exclude the Conservatives from a similar practice when wars have been undertaken by Liberals - which, unfortunately for the "Peace and Retrenchment" shibboleth of the latter have been the most numerous and the most expensive. I have already shown that the Conservatives generally were opposed to the active sympathy shown by a Liberal Government towards the questionable rule of the spanish Queen and Ministry, it being contended that the cause of Don Carlos was one of legitimate right; and with the hope of dispelling some of the illusive mists in which historical facts are too often enshrouded, I must keep my readers waiting a short time for the other speeches which followed the Conservative dinner in 1837, among which was one of great historical interest by Mr. Reynolds, a personal friend of the chairman. When in 1840 the Melbourne Ministry proceeded by force of arms to settle a dispute with China, their war policy being supported in speeches by Mr. Gladstone, Lord Palmerston and others - that policy was warmly attacked by Sir James Graham, Sir robert Peel and other debaters on behalf of the Conservatives. Also in 1841 the debate on the Address evoked a strong protest against the interposition of the Melbourne Cabinet on behalf of turkey, which was even then denounced as the most depraved Government in Europe. That calamitous war with Russia in 1854-5 was a comparative exception in the attitude of political parties, the whole nation, exclusive of the Peace-at-any-price men, being nearly of one accord as to the necessity for such a conflict of forces. The chief complaint of the Conservatives was the unreadiness and lack of vigour exhibited by the Aberdeen Government in the prosecution of a war which cost the country fifty-three millions of money and twenty-two thousand men. During that administration, in addition to borrowing £16,000,000, Mr. Gladstone had to double the Income-tax and to impose other burthens. Two years after, fresh strictures emanated from the Conservatives in consequence of Lord Palmerston's Government having interfered with the domestic affairs of a foreign country by remonstrances addressed to the King of Naples for the manner in which he governed his subjects. In 1856, a second war was waged by Lord Palmerston's Government against the Chinese, the said war being supported by Mr. Gladstone and Lord John Russell. The war policy of the Government was again opposed, and by the help of the Tories, Mr. Cobden's proposal was carried for a Select Committee to enquire into the commercial relations of England and China. Lord Palmerston then appealed to the country, and the latter through the elections proved itself to be in favour of the Government policy - Messrs. Cobden, Bright, Fox and Gibson being among the defeated candidates. In 1859, under the Government of Lord Palmerston, Mr. Gladstone was obliged to propose an additional fourpence to the Income-tax. Five years later - aided by an abundant harvest and a greatly improved condition of the nation, the same finance Minister took a penny off the income-tax, in addition to other remissions. in 1867, after a serious financial panic, depression of industries, a bad harvest, and a war with the King of Abyssinia, during the Government of Lord Derby, a penny was again added to the Income-tax to meet the current expenditure.
It was now the turn of the Liberals - an opportunity which had been a long time coming - to upbraid the Conservatives for their war policy. But in 1873 the tables were again turned by Mr. Gladstone's Government having to make war upon the King of Ashantee. After that, the Beaconsfield Government had two wars upon their hands, and carried them on with unparalleled vigour at a comparatively small cost; yet for their three wars, as against seven wars conducted by the opponents, the former were stigmatised by the latter as being a party "whose delight is in remorseless war." I think I shall be able to show before this history comes to an end that there has been, and still is, a great deal of what is vulgarly called "clap-trap" in all political creeds; and that the terms "Constitutional Party" and "Champions of Peace Retrenchment and Reform" are too often empty assumptions which have a tendency to mislead the unwary. I am of opinion (sic) that in these days of progressive enlightenment neither party is justified in arrogating (sic) to itself the exclusive right of pre-eminence either as constitutionalists or as the people's benefactors. Men do not usually attain to the exalted position of senators entrusted with the Executive of a nation like Great Britain without having first given proof of administrative capacity or worthy aspirations; and although there must be a diversity of talent even among the equally deserving, and mistakes may be made even by the wisest, the trust is too sacred for the holders thereof to trifle with their responsibilities; and the justification is entirely wanting when one party uses towards the other epithets of the most offensive character, as it too frequently done by one that is out of office to one that is in. But, to return to the Conservative banquet of 1837, over which, as before stated, Mr. Sutherland Graeme presided, the speech of Mr. Reynolds came next in order to that of the Rev. G. Stonestreet, and was as follows :-
Gentlemen, I have obtained your excellent Chairman's permission to propose to you a toast, but I own that it is with unfeigned diffidence that I rise to address you, - standing here among you as I am, a stranger, unknown to most of you - unconnected with any of you, without property, interest, or influence among you, to entitle me to trespass upon your attention for a moment. Gentlemen, I have the honour to be here as the friend and guest of your most worth Chairman, who in the exercise of his duties this day, and especially by the able manner in which he has proposed to you the toast which you have drunk with so much enthusiasm, - the toast of the Church and State, - has (if I may be permitted so to say) exhibited those qualities which have so especially fitted him to be your Chairman, and the President of your Association, those sound and moderate constitutional principles, that zeal tempered by discretion, those kind and candid manners, so calculated to soften animosities, and to conciliate confidence. I am desirous, gentlemen, of relieving him from some part of that burthen which the duties of this day have imposed upon him, and of submitting to you a toast which I am sure that he would have been desirous to proposing to you, and you most willing to receive with honour. My toast, gentlemen, arises immediately out of that which you have already drunk - that of the Church and State. From the manner in which you have received the mention of that toast, I am persuaded that our Church in all its integrity is safe. You echoed in your enthusiasm, I am convinced, the sentiments of the whole British nation; your church is enshrined in your hearts; she shall be preserved inviolate! Still shall she raise her mitred brow on the summits of our British Lion, preserving in her sacred sanctuary whatsoever is pure, permanent, and holy; girt around protected and adorned by her triple fortresses of the King, the nobles, and the people. Gentlemen, in the second branch of that union, whose banner is displayed against your walls ``The State." The King as the executive; the King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, as the legislative power in these realms. These constitute "The State." Gentlemen, it is the second name in this our constitutional unity that I now call upon you to honour. Gentlemen, - the Lords! The House of Lords!
But do not think that I could propose to you to do honour to that august assembly, if it were composed of men invested with peculiar privileges, immunities and rights distinct for those of the community, if those privileges, immunities and rights were held by them for their own benefit alone. No gentlemen, I am one of the people, and I address you as one of the people, and I call upon you to support the House of Lords, as established for the people - for the community - for us. The whole frame of our constitution is constituted with a view to the preservation of liberty; it is for this that our monarch has an hereditary throne, our nobles hereditary rights. The House of Lords is established to operate as a bulwark for the people against the encroachments of the Crown as a bulwark for the Crown against the encroachments of the people; as a protection for the people against themselves. The Peers form a connecting link, by means of which the King is united, by an insensible gradation, to the meanest peasant of the land. The King, the nobles, and the people form in their union a pyramid of which the nobles are the centre, of which the people are the basis, and the monarch the apex; the emblem of stability and strength!
Gentlemen I will beg of you to cast your eye back upon the ancient history of this country, and you will perceive that it is to the Peers we owe the possession of some of our dearest liberties. In the most early ages we find the nobles acting as the counsellors and advisers of the Crown in all matters of State emergency; and in those times when the Sovereigns of Europe were united in their endeavours for the establishment of arbitrary power it was here and by the nobles that our kings were resisted. It was by the nobles of the realm that on the banks of the Thames, at the famous field of Runnymede, a base and perjured tyrant was compelled to sign the first great charter of our liberties, by which the right was recognised to have Pg.167 members summoned to Parliament. In the reign of this monarch's son, by the intervention of the nobles, the first Act of Parliament passed, from which the origin of our present House of Commons is to be traced. And in those times, when the principal enemies of civil and religious liberties were the Popes of Rome, when they had spread their power over the whole of Europe they were resisted here; the nobles of this realm rejected an alteration in the laws proposed to them by the Pope, an alteration gratifying to their own wishes, but inimical (as they thought) to the liberties of their country, and they rejected that insiduous (sic) proposal in the memorable words "Nolumus leges Angliae mutari"' "we will not have the laws of England changed." And again, at a somewhat subsequent period they emphatically declared on a similar occasion, "This realm of England hath hitherto never been, nor by the consent of our Lord the King and his Lords of Parliament, shall it ever be ruled and governed by the Papal law." Gentlemen, it was the Peers who when a ill-fated monarch had yielded to the demands of this people every privilege essential for their liberties, was compelled at length to resist their unconstitutional demands that he should surrender to the Commons his first prerogative, that of the appointment of the officers of his army, - It was the Peers who first rallied round the standard of their King which he was compelled to set up at Oxford against the Parliament. Gentlemen, in these our later times the Peers have never opposed the real interests or sober wishes of the people.
Witness the great alterations which have been made in our laws during the last few years; our commercial relations have been placed on a new basis, the criminal code has been mitigated and consolidated, the Catholic Disabilities have been removed, the Test and Corporation Acts repealed, slavery abolished, and several other liberal measures passed, with the consent and co-operation of the House of Lords; and if on some late occasions, the Lords have not thought fit to yield at once to some measures proposed to them by the House of Commons, you, I am sure, will not condemn them, if on measures in the opinion of so many, affecting our dearest interests - the interest of our religion, of our Church, the Lords have given you time to consider, to reflect. I am sure you will not blame them, if they have, for a time, placed themselves boldly forward on the only spot where could be successfully repelled the hasty rush of immature and inconsiderate legislation.
Gentlemen, in this, their conduct, they have given you time for deliberation, and for this they are entitled to your gratitude. But, gentlemen, there are other advantages accruing to you from the institution of an hereditary nobility, invested with peculiar privileges and rights. Such an institution operates as the spur to honourable enterprise as the reward of virtuous exertion. For it is so constituted that the lowliest now among you may, by aid of virtues, of talents, and of fortune, obtain for himself and his posterity a place in that assembly, which is composed of all that is illustrious in birth, exalted in piety, and eminent in wealth, in learning and in valour. Let us then, gentlemen, preserve this part of our constitution; let us preserve all the chances of our constitution in their own integrity, and be assured they can never be preserved but by sedulously securing the equilibrium of all its parts, in which the efficacy of our national establishment consists. If the time should ever come when one part of this establishment should successfully encroach on the territories of the other, irreparable confusion will ensue. If the people should ever become discontented with the station in which God has placed them, and madly rush across that boundary along which the hand of the Almighty has written as with a sunbeam, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther"; if they shall rush on to pull down those pillars which support the throne - that throne, and those pillars will be destroyed, but they, themselves, will be crushed under the ruins they have made. Then will Liberty, the tutelar deity of the structure, lie prostrate and destroyed, and desolation and anarchy reign triumphant through the land. The excellent rector before me brought forward an illustration from Shakespeare, in the course of an address to you; and how forcibly, how nobly does that immortal poet describe the miseries that would ensue from the destruction of order, subordination, and degree.
This, gentlemen, is no mere flowery effusion of poetry, although expressed in all the colours of the imagination, and the most exquisite harmony of verse; it inculcates the deep and serious truth, that without order subordination and degree, neither the course of nature, nor the institutions of the State, nor each man's own individual rights can be preserved; and that if they are destroyed, we shall not have remaining to us even the merest shadow of liberty. You, gentlemen, I am persuaded, will rally round the Constitution of your country, whenever you shall see her assailed or threatened; for she is the great nursery-house of our rights, our liberties, our wealth, our wisdom, our valour, and our glory. Draw tighter the triple cord which binds together his majesty the King, his illustrious nobles, and his faithful people, nor suffer any sacrilegious hand to loosen it, or tear it asunder; for these are our bulwarks against foreign invasion and domestic broil - these our own inalienable birthright; the proud inheritance which has been transmitted to us from a long line of ancestors; and by the blessing of Heaven we will preserve them. Gentlemen, with a view to that preservation, I give you the "House of Lords.
After the excellent speech the band played "Britons strike Home," followed by a toast proposed by George Darby, Esq., who was just after, and for several subsequent years, one of the Members for East Sussex.
Mr. DARBY commenced by observing that the name of Hastings had been famous for one battle, and the meeting had assembled to-day to fight another in defence of the Constitution. The toast which he was about to propose was the health of the great champion of that Constitution. But the gentlemen who had preceded him had spoken on so many topics, that there was scarcely anything left for him to say on the subject which brought them together. Still he would offer one or two remarks. Sir Robt. Peel - how was he met when in office? A gentleman who had for years filled an office with credit to himself and with advantage to the country - he spoke of the present Lord Canterbury - was proposed as Speaker to the House of Commons; he had previously been Speaker of the Reformed House, and that at the particular request of the Reform Ministry. But no sooner had Sir Robert Peel been called from abroad to the councils of his Sovereign, than that gentleman was opposed by the very party who had previously proposed his appointment. The next act was the appropriation clause of the Irish Tithe Bill; - so that the first two acts of the present government were, to reject the Speaker they themselves had chosen, and adopt the appropriation clause, which they had rejected. On the appropriation clause Sir Robert Peel was left in a minority; and with his high-mindedness and honour he unfortunately resigned the reigns of government. He (Mr. Darby) asked where was the appropriation clause now? and where were the ministers who turned Sir Robert Peel out of office? They found that they could not remain in office without making an unholy compact, discreditable to themselves and to those who joined them - discreditable to those who formed the compact with ministers, because it was upon the securities which were given to the Protestant Church that the Roman Catholics were admitted into Parliament. The price paid for their emancipation was security to the Protestant Church; and these securities were indorsed with the solemn pledges of the leaders of the Roman Catholic party. The securities were now without value, the pledges had proved worthless, but the debt was still due to the Protestant Church and religion. To Mr. Eneas M'Donnell, the agent of the Roman Catholics before the passing of the Emancipation Act, to the nobles in the House of Lords, and to some in the House of Commons, who had refused to vote on questions affecting the Church, he would appeal; he would also appeal to the evidence taken before a Committee of Parliament, from which it would be shewn that the now leading Roman Catholic agitators solemnly pledged themselves that if Emancipation were granted, they would uphold the Protestant Church. As those securities were worth nothing, the debt was still owing to the Protestant Church; and from what he saw of English feeling, Englishmen would take care that it was paid. Now let them look to the real state of the majority on the Church-rate question. One party, namely, the Ministry, said "We bring in the Church-rate question on Conservative principles; we do it to support the Church." This was the principle on which the Conservative party said such a measure must be brought forward, and therefore, with regard to the principles on which it ought to be brought in, the Conservatives had a majority. Mr. O'Connell and his party, on the other hand, declared "We support the Church-rate question, because it will destroy the Established Church." The Conservatives, too, said "that will be the effect of the present measure"; so that they had a majority also as to the effect of it. And the actual majority in the House was composed of persons differing as to the principle of that which ought to have been brought forward, and differing also in the effect of the particular measure. From what did the Whig majority arise but from the unholy compact formed at Lichfield House, where the Government chose to join a party whose principles they professed to oppose? This was the state of things at home; now let them look abroad. There they saw a British vessel seized, and in the Peninsula a band of troops, brave as Englishmen always were, unfortunately covering the retreat of their own countrymen, who were fighting in an intestine war with a foe against whom our Sovereign had not declared war; and this was done by a ministry which came in upon the principle of non-intervention. When he (Mr. Darby) looked to the Peninsula, and remembered that Wellington at Torres Vedras, with the olive branch and sword together in his hand, was ready, in the name of his country, to offer the one to the world when he should have sheathed the other in triumph; and when he contrasted this with the present state of affairs in that place he felt that the glory of England was on the wane. Let them then come to the rescue, unless they thought that England, which was wont to conquer others, should make a shameful conquest of herself. Mr. Darby proceeded to say that the declaration of a Dissenting Minister of this town, that the conscientious and religious Dissenters should not be mixed up with the political Dissenters,had been received at Lewes with great approbation. He (Mr. D.) thought the religious Dissenter had a right to demand that the political Dissenter should not be confounded with him; the political Dissenters were short-sighted, and doing great mischief. How many had tenants and labourers who were Dissenters; and was any distinction made on account of religion? But there was danger that the agitation of political Dissenters would force on religious distinction; and we should then have all the misery entailed on us that exists in a sister country, the consequence of religious jealousy. Mr. Darby proceeded to say that he believed there were in the room many persons who were called Reformers; and what right had any person to charge them with inconsistency? Had not Lord John Russell, who introduced the Reform Bill, written a defence of rotten boroughs? Had Lord Melbourne never been a member of a Tory Government? Had not the noble Secretary of War been in almost every administration that had been formed since the commencement of his public career? If the Ministry objected to the appropriation clause, and then introduced it, the Reformers had no right to follow them. If Dr. Lushington, in the ecclesiastical report, recommended not only church-rates, but a more summary mode of collection, yet afterwards spoke against them, the Reformers had no right to follow him. If Ministers refused to have an appropriation of English Church property, and then forgot that they had signed the refusal, the Reformers had no right to follow them. It was they who had deceived the Reformers, and not the Reformers who had deceived them. He would point out to Lord Stanley, Sir James Graham and Sir Francis Burdett; who all felt that they had been left, that the question was not now one of party, but between good and evil, between destructiveness and conservation. The Reformers, instead of being ashamed of their position in the Conservative ranks, were bound to come forward and lead on the Conservatives, because when the Reform Bill was proposed, the Conservatives said there was danger, but the Reformers said there was none, and that if there was they would not support it. The danger which was then prophesied was not apparent; Pg.68 and the Reformers were pre-engaged to assist in averting it. He would tell those present to go forth and say to others, "Show now your mended faith, and instantly return with me to push destruction and perpetual shame out of the weak door of our fainting land." How could they do this, except by rallying round the Constitution? But they must have a leader and where could they find a better than Sir Robert Peel? Did they ever find Sir Robert Peel voting against a particular measure for the purpose of harassing the administration? Did they not, on the contrary, find him throwing aside all factious motives, and assisting his Majesty's present Ministers? The country required a man of talent, capable of repairing the mischief done by his predecessors in office. Such was Sir Robt. Peel. If then they wished to enjoy the blessings handed down to them, and transmit those blessings unimpaired to their children, it behoved (sic) every Englishmen to choose the good side. After a few more observations Mr. Darby proposed the "health of Sir Robert Peel," which was received with the most enthusiastic demonstrations of applause.
Conservative Banquet and Speeches[edit | edit source]
The Chairman then rose to propose the Members for the Borough, and said he was sure the meeting would be equally reluctant with himself that any public dinner should take place without paying that mark of respect and attention to those gentlemen to whom the interests of the borough were confided. It was with deep regret he felt that the political opinions of one of those hon. gentlemen, Mr. Howard Elphinstone, were in direct opposition to his own, and he believed to the greater portion of those whom he had the honour to address. They might, however, pay him that respect to which he was entitled as a gentleman and a neighbour. With respect to the other, whose opinions more nearly coincided with theirs, that gentleman had stood forward as the defender of the Protestant Church; he had recently given a vote in his place in Parliament, for which he (the Chairman) now publicly offered his tribute of respectful gratitude; he gave a conscientious vote against the Ministerial measure for the abolition of Church-rates. (Cheers.) As one of his constituents he (the Chairman) felt bound to tender this public testimony of respect. It was with much regret that he had heard of his indisposition; whether it would have been in accordance with his inclinations or disposition to be with them to-night, it was not for him (the Chairman) to say; but his indisposition was an additional claim on them to show that attention in this absence which they would have been happy to pay in his presence. If ever there was a moment when he (the Chairman) deeply regretted his lack of eloquence, and when he most fervently prayed that every word he might utter should sink deeply into their hearts, it was now, in proposing to them the next toast, which was headed by the name of one, of whom he hardly dared trust himself to speak, such was the opinion he entertained of nearly every act of the life of that excellent nobleman, who was one justly entitled to a tribute of respectful and affectionate attachment from every Englishman - The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, prosperity to those ports, and success to the new harbour proposal. (Loud cheers.) It was far beyond his powers to speak of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, in a way commensurate with the gratitude he owed him, and which all, as Englishmen, felt they ought to pay to that great man. Though a man might have errors, they might not be errors of the heart; and whatever he might have said at one time, which might be deemed imprudent, still they found him straightforward and honest in every action of his life; and while they condemned the error of the head, they were convinced of the honesty of his heart. They could not be ignorant of what he (the Chairman) alluded to; and he believed that they would generally go with him in his expressions of regret that the noble Duke should have declared himself against all reform. But if the noble Duke had made one mistake, he had run up against them such a debt of gratitude, that they could very well afford to blot out that little error. They had now obtained what the noble Duke honestly set his fact against; but they had yet to reflect upon the straightforward conduct which since that period had characterized every act of his Grace's public life and upon his former brilliant career, into one action of which it would be presumption for him (the Chairman) to enter. The Chairman then alluded to the proposal for making a new harbour for the port of Hastings, which, if it could be carried into effect, would, by a nearer communication with France, by its probably becoming the post-office station for the continent, and by steamers plying to and from all parts, bring trade and commerce to the town, and advance its prosperity, of which they should all be partakers." The toast was received with enthusiasm, supplemented by the band playing "See the Conquering Hero Comes."
It will have been noticed that in proposing the health of the Borough Members, Mr. Sutherland Graeme spoke of Messrs. Elphinstone and North in gentlemanly terms, and at the same time paid a compliment to the latter representative for having given a conscientious vote in favour of the Established Church. My readers will remember how, throughout the years of 1835 and '36, the moderate views and sometimes apparently adverse votes of Mr. North laid him open to the bitter censures of the extreme Liberals, and led them to express strong doubts whether there was really anything of a Liberal character about him. For his conduct in Parliament the honourable gentleman had to offer explanations to his constituents, reminding them, on one occasion, that although in Hastings and St. Leonards there were men of extreme views among political opponents, his own votes, he had reason to believe, had been approved by the moderate men of both parties; and if these were the most numerous - as he believed they were - then he had fairly represented the majority of the constituency. It is another of the coincidences which have cropped up during the writing of this History that in noticing the local anniversaries, the rhyming contributor to the GAZETTE referred to one of Mr. North's political explanations in the following doggerel:-
In Eighteen-thirty-five our M.P. North
From Hastings Lodge- his residence - came forth
And met his amis politiques, a score,
To talk, as 'twere, a party grievance o'er.
Thus met, he begged his liberal friends to note
The reasons for his anti-Irish vote.
It will also not have escaped the reader's notice the Mr. Sutherland Graeme expressed his regret that Mr. North was indisposed. This happened to be also in the month of April, and alluded to in the following anniversary rhyme :-
In Eighteen-thirty-sev'n, F. North, M.P.
Could not leave home, so very ill was he;
And though his views caused many to dissent,
He had their sympathy in this event.
There are phases of the political situation in 1837 other than those already glanced at, comments upon which will be more in place when I have to treat (sic) of the general election. I must again direct my readers attention to the Convervative gathering of 1837,because of its important bearing on subsequent events, and because of the allusions to the political past no less than to the political future. The CHAIRMAN, in rising to give the next toast, said:-
“On the night when the Association was first formed he had the pleasure of delivering his sentiments to those forty gentlemen who composed its first members, and in the course of those observations he said, as nearly as he could remember, the following words - "That as an Association, we were desirous of considering ourselves perfectly independent of all party, but that when the proper period should arrive, either by the dissolution of Parliament or by a vacancy occurring in the representation of the borough, we should have an opportunity of seeing the addresses of the different candidates, and of then judging which of those candidates professed opinions most in accordance with those of the Association." They (the Association) had strictly acted up to those observations; but the contingency then alluded to had actually occurred. One of their hon. members had stated that it was not his intention at the next Dissolution to again solicit the honour of their suffrages; and three other gentlemen had declared their intention of becoming candidates for the vacancy. The principles and conduct of one of those gentlemen were strictly in accordance with the principles which they as an Association professed to maintain; but while he said that, he was most anxious to guard himself and them against the thought for a single moment that he was about to propose the health of the Rt. Hon. Joseph Planta as a candidate. Understand me, gentlemen (continued the Chairman), I am desirous of proposing his health as a guest of the Loyal and Conservative Association. (Great cheering.) This has not been a meeting to promote the interest of Mr. Planta. There is no one in Hastings or St. Leonards more anxious to further his interest than myself, but let us guard ourselves against the impression that he is invited here to make party speeches. I hope it will go forth to the world that this is no party dinner, but a dinner of the Hastings and St. Leonards Loyal and Conservative Association. We were desirous of paying compliment to the members and their friends; that has been extended to the utmost limit, and among others invited is the gentleman whose health I now propose to you. We have all known him as a neighbour and a friend; we know his character, and we also know - for he has never shrunk from the avowal - what his straight-forward, honest political principles are. Therefore whether we find him as a neighbour and a friend, or whether it shall please the enlightened electors of the two towns to return him to Parliament in either capacity - private or public - I am sure that you, in common with myself, are happy to take the opportunity of testifying your esteem of that gentleman. I therefore call on you to fill a bumper to the health and long life of our excellent friend, the Rt. Hon. Joseph Planta."
The response to the toast, as described in the report, and as might be imagined, was very enthusiastic; and in return, Mr. (afterwards Sir Joseph) PLANTA spoke as follows:-
"Mr. CHAIRMAN and GENTLEMEN, I am indeed placed in a very difficult situation. I have heard you do honour to the first authorities in the land; to the first principle by which our land is governed and sustained; to everything firstly, that which is sacred, and, secondly, that which is great in the Monarch and the State; and after drinking all these toasts with the honour that is due to them, you are pleased to come down to drink the health of the humble individual who is now endeavouring to express to you his thanks. To do this adequately is almost a task for which I feel myself unfit. I entreat you therefore, to take the will for the deed - that is, if I cannot express the heartfelt gratitude which I entertain towards you, you will give me credit for what I am not able to speak. I confess my worthy and excellent friend the chairman, relieved me of what would have been an unpleasant feeling when he fairly and openly told you that my health was proposed, not as a candidate, but as a friend and neighbour, and as a person well known to support Conservative principles. And now let us consider what are those principles - whether they are really so shocking, and contain so much evil as some persons would lead us to believe. Those principles, as they have existed in Hastings, have been characterised as Liberal-Conservative. The subject has been intimately connected with Pg.169 myself. The support which was kindly given to me at a former election when I did not succeed, and the testimonial which was presented to me by voters - many of whom I believe to be present now - were so given, as it was said, on Liberal-Conservative principles. Well, gentlemen, now we have got to Liberal-Conservative principles, what are they? Why, simply those of maintaining the constitution of King, Lords and Commons, and a Church Establishment in connection with the State. [Cheers.] People may say what they please and my traduce as they think proper, but that is the sole bent of Conservative-Liberal principles. Such being the case, I cannot express the joy with which I have seen so large an assembly brought together in this place and at so short a time after the formation of a Society of this nature; and when I add, that at a meeting like this my humble name has been brought forward with the kindness - I might also say the affection - which I have witnessed, I have a happiness at heart which could not be exceeded by any other that I could feel on earth.
[Prolonged applause, followed by "Should auld Acquaintance be forgot," by the band.]
Conservative Banquet - Formation of Liberal Association[edit | edit source]
The CHAIRMAN having next proposed, in some well-chosen words, "the Health of the Rt. Hon. Henry Ellis, and other Visitors,"
Mr. ELLIS returned thanks, and in so doing, remarked that he was there accidentally, but he should always consider his short stay at Hastings a fortunate one. Contemplating, as he did, in the event of a Dissolution, to offer himself as a candidate in another place, he was glad to be instructed as to the feeling of the voters of England' and the manner in which the topics had been discussed at that meeting would be a good lesson to him. He regretted that a distinguished member of the House of Lords had been prevented attending the dinner by the death of one member of his family and the illness of another. Had he come he would have presented a splendid instance of men raising themselves to the Upper House. Trade and Law were branches from which the House of Lords was filled, and character and ability guided the selection. Mr. Ellis then alluded to the remarks of Mr. Darby relative to many supporters of the Reform Bill having since dissented from the measures of his Majesty's Ministers, and confessed that he himself had looked on the Reform Bill more as an end than as a means to an end. He had felt that a measure of reform was necessary, and that if evil had resulted from it, it was not from the use but the abuse of it. He submitted that those who were loyal Reformers were now bound to stand fast and uphold the constitution.
Mr. SUTHERLAND-GRAEME, who on rising to respond was warmly greeted, said he was desirous of addressing the meeting in no common-place language, but in that of pure heart-felt honesty. He deeply appreciated the enthusiastic manner in which they were pleased to receive the name of one who could certainly lay but little claim to their kindness; and if he had been instrumental in propagating in these towns sentiments which, from a child, he had believed to be right, he claimed no honour and no reward. He had long thought that there were many in the two towns who were desirous that some expression of their opinions should go forth. There were many who were anxious to hold up their heads as a party and to stand in a position which their intelligence and respectability entitled them to. He heard, casually, that there were some gentlemen anxious to join in an association, and, in uniting himself with them, he said he was not desirous of placing himself in a prominent position, but of working with them in common for the success which they all had at heart. For the position which by their courtesy he now occupied he had thought that there were many better qualified persons, but they declined taking a public part in the business. So with diffidence and humbleness of spirit, he allowed himself to be placed in the position of President, stating at the time that he would accept it only until a more influential person should be found to fill the office. He still held it on that condition, but he held it with the greatest possible pride. They met on that occasion to celebrate, as it were, the anniversary of their Association, and it was his object in rising to express to them his heart-felt thanks for the really kind and affectionate manner in which they had been pleased to receive the toast in compliment to himself, and to conclude his remarks by proposing "Success to the Association."
Mr. H. N. WILLIAMS returned thanks for the Association, and proposed "The health of Mr. Darby, with success to him on a future occasion." Mr. DARBY responded, and concluded his speech with "Prosperity to Trade, Agriculture, and Fishery of Hastings." The chairman gave "The Secretary and Treasurer, Mr. Ticehurst and Mr. Joseph Hart," the compliment being respectively acknowledged by those gentlemen. The chairman vacated his seat at about ten o'clock, when Mr. Ticehurst was called upon to fill it, and the festivity was prolonged for another two hours.
Thus ended a banquet which the newspaper report declared would be long remembered in Hastings and St. Leonards for the order and regularity which prevailed, as well as for the entire absence of anything approaching to violence or party animosity. That the dinner in question and its amenities were long remembered admits of no doubt; but as most of those to whom the remembrance was a pleasure have gone to their account it may not be altogether unseemly that I should have revived the fading memory of the few participators who are still living, and have brought before a younger generation an event which might not otherwise have come to their knowledge.
But a topic of greater interest to politicians of the Liberal school it may be taken for granted was the formation on the 14th of April of a Hastings and St. Leonards Liberal Association at the Royal Oak Hotel. The success of the Loyal and Constitutional Association had put the Liberals upon their mettle, and their enthusiasm to establish a rival club was similar to that which in the later year 1880 took hold of the Liberals after a partial defeat, to establish district Liberal clubs. The society thus organised in 1837 was styled "The Hastings Liberal Association," and its principles or rules were those of the "Lewes Bundle of Sticks." One is reminded that it required not a little political zeal in those days to urge the St. Leonards members to the meetings of the Association over a mile and a quarter of unlighted road, the lamp-posts which had been erected some two or three years previously on the new parade being still without lamps and there being no property, except Nos. 1 and 2 Cliff cottages, between Seymour Place and Verulam place that could be rated to pay for a gas service. The esplanade which had been constructed between the Archway and White-rock place was regarded as a grand one, and as justifying the newer appellation of Grand parade being given to the ranges of houses previously known as Adelaide place and Seymour place. But how much more grand has that extensive esplanade become of late years, with its glass covered seats, its "Peerless Pier," and its "Largest Tepid Swimming-Baths in the World." And apropos of the latter they were so nearly finished in May, 1880, as to allow the concrete roof and spacious seats thereon to be publicly used, and the remainder of the narrow parade at White-rock and Stratford place to be added to the road; thus effecting a really grand improvement. How different, too is the immediate neighborhood of Stratford place and Claremont with their elegant shops, the Brassey Institute, the Reference Library, the School of Art and the Museum, from the old lime-kilns, pig-pounds and chalk-lumps of other days! Yet one is wont to sigh over the long-lost pathway which led so pleasantly through the Step-Meadow to Bohemia, and round to "Ginger-bread green" and St. Leonards. But this will be more than compensated for by the public park in the near vicinity, and which with similarly curvilinear form will also connect the two towns.
Having, however, been incidently (sic) led out of my course by my thoughts reverting to the old pathway at Step-meadow, it suits my whim to go further afield, even to the three wind-mills which used to be prominent and picturesque objects on the West hill at Hastings, whose site is now occupied by Plynlimmon terrace. In proximity to these mills used to be a pleasant footpath - as there still is, by which, when a boy, I used to find my way to the Halton barracks, to see the soldiers exercise. On or about the 24th of April, 1837, this path across the fields was closed against the public by order of Mrs. Milward. There was just then a little mania for that sort of thing which, having commenced on the West Hill, soon after extended to the East; and it was argued that if the public submitted to it, they might soon expect to see a match made between Mr. Wyatt and Mrs. Milward to stop up every pathway and outlet in the borough. Mr. Wyatt had already challenged a Member of Parliament in the person of Mr. North, and had dared him to cross the fields between the former's residence at Mount Pleasant to the latter's seat at Hastings Lodge; but the challenge in that case was accepted and the mandate disobeyed, even at the risk of the disobedient M.P. having a dog set upon him. Mr. North and his ancestors had lived too long in the neighborhood, and had used the tracks too frequently between their out-lying garden at Ore Valley and Croft House to heed the threats of a comparatively new-comer. But what could induce Mr. North's own aunt to join as it were, in such a movement I cannot say; I only know that it was distasteful even to me, a mere youth of menial birth and fortune, who, as I have stated, had used the path across the hill some years before on my way to the barracks. But, behold! I had just come to man's estate - a very homely estate, it is true, but as the song says, "though ever so lowly, there's no place like home." And as just then my home was beyond[Notes 3] the Barrack-ground, whither it had been forcibly removed from the ground at the Priory which the Government had claimed, and which was being at that time surveyed for a harbour, I myself harboured some feeling of waywardness or wilfulness against the further curtailment of privileges, which, as a lineal descendant of mayors, jurats and freemen, I had fancied were my birthright. I therefore persisted in the said path against all orders to the contrary, and notwithstanding that one occasion I had to argue the case with two gentlemen whose vigilance I was unable to elude. The following anniversary rhyme which appeared in BRETT'S GAZETTE for April 24th, denotes the date of the event.
In Eighteen-thirty-sev'n a path was stopped
Where present writer frequently had hopped;
And which said stoppage, he - the right to try -
Did all the printed notices defy.
'Twas Mrs. Milward’s arbitrary act
Which soon she found it prudent to retract.
If thou wouldst know where was this pathway found
It led from West-hill mills to Barrack-ground.
The view which follows shows the position of the said mills as seen from the Castle ruins before the interior excavations of the ruins were made in 1825.
The Castle Ruins before the Excavation[edit | edit source]
Between the Castle and the mills is a portion of the West Hill across which are now to be seen the paths leading from Wallinger's Walk to Plynlimmon Terrace and St. Mary's Terrace. Sloping down from the same is the descent formerly known as the "Steeps", but which now is the site of Milward Crescent and the gardens up from behind. Near to the right-hand mill in the engraving is the shepherd's cottage, (now non-existent) in close proximity thereto is the pathway to which reference has been made.The path in question remained closed until the 13th of June, when the Hastings Commissioners at one of their ordinary meetings received a letter from Mrs. Milward, in which she acknowledged the right of the public to the use of the path leading from the mills to Halton. The admission was not received as a very graceful concession, Mr. Langham contending that the way could not be legally stopped, and that it could not even be diverted without the consent of the magistrates, and after a formal notice.
It curiously happened that just a week later, Mr. Wastel Brisco notified his intention to ask permission to close or divert the very footpath which has led me to this digression, namely, the one through the Step-meadow at the back of the Priory Farm. Mr. Brisco being himself a magistrate, succeeded in his application, but not without a protest from Dr. MacCabe, who was also a magistrate, and one to whom residents and visitors were much indebted for his exertions to keep open the rural walks and pathways to the use of which by a prescriptive right the public felt themselves entitled. But this particular path was generally regarded as the prettiest out of Hastings, and the townspeople strongly objected to its being diverted. They contended that if that delightful walk was a nuisance to Bohemia House, the house had come to the nuisance, and not the nuisance to the house. As a trifling set-off, however, to Mr. Brisco's acquisition it may be mentioned that, some years later, when the railway tunnel had been formed in close proximity to the diverted path, and instructions had been given to a railway official not to allow anyone to use the Company's enclosed ground as a thoroughfare, Mr. Brisco attempted to do the very thing that was forbidden. The wealthy trespasser was immediately accosted by the official, when something like the following dialogue took place -
Hulloa, sir! you musn't (sic) come this way."
"But I'm Mr. Brisco,"
"Perhaps you are, sir, but this is the Company's private ground."
"But I'm a gentleman, and I live here at Bohemia."
"I don't doubt what you say, sir, but my order is not to let anyone get over here."
"But I'm a magistrate, and you can't prevent me."
"Very sorry, sir, to turn you back, but I must do my duty.
Finding himself thus baffled by the unswerving fidelity of the official to his instructions, the Squire of Bohemia had to retrace his steps for an outlet in another direction' and so for once, he discovered his own path diverted by a public company with even less formality than he had been obliged to observe when he diverted a path to the inconvenience of the public.
And now that I have again been discursively led as a sort of "pathfinder," I may as well disburden myself of a few other events of the place and period of which I have cognisance. On the 2nd of May the death was announced of one Daniel Wimble, at the age of 56, and by the cause of apoplexy. Poor "Old Dan!", I knew him well; and what native or resident of Hastings and the country round did not know him either by features or by name? It is now over 70 years ago - bless me, how the time has flown! - that, with my grand-dad, I first entered a comparatively small, old-fashioned corner house in Great Bourne street, when the new jail opposite to the angle of such house had only just been completed, and when the "Great Bourne" itself was only covered in to a small extent of its course. At a small table, almost in the chimney-corner of that old-fashioned house, screened from public gaze by a curtain of green tammy, I sat for a while sipping my coffee and munching my cake, little thinking that from thirteen to fifteen years later, when the said house had undergone sundry enlargements and improvements, it would be one of my own selection wherein to take my daily meals, read the Dispatch and the Sussex Advertiser, and laugh over the Caricaturist. So famous had this establishment become at the time as "Wimble's Eating-House" that on all ordinary days it was almost a rarity to find half-a-dozen empty seats between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., whilst on market-days and high holidays large crowds would sometimes be seen collected at the doorway, waiting for a chance to get in. At this later period, however, the proprietor had apparently withdrawn himself from any part in the management of that busy hive of industry, to betake himself to too frequent libations of greater potency than the fluids which were dispensed at his own house. The business was thus left to the more regular conduct of his family, prominent among whom was his son John. Of John Wimble, in this capacity, a gentleman visitor, who figures as Euphymus in the Cinque Ports’ Chronicle, wrote thus:-
“Adieu to John Wimble, who keeps a cook-shop,
And cuts up a joint from the bottom to top;
The man ought to thrive, for he sells the best meat,
And his hams almost say - Come and eat, come and eat."
Mr. John Wimble carried on the house with continued success after his father's death, in conjunction with his mother, and after his mother's death, on his own account, relinquishing it, at length, as I understood, to take a less profitable business near the Crystal Palace. And now, without any further wandering from the particular date and object, I will close my notice of Mr. Wimble, senior, with another quotation from the Pg.171 anniversary rhymes in BRETT'S GAZETTE:
One Daniel Wimble died, in 'Thirty-seven,
Whose spirit, let us hope, is gone to heaven.
Before that spirit was on earth laid low
No greater spirit did the writer know -
Id est, whose love of spirits was so great
That hardly could he find an equal mate.
Night after night, of brandy-grog or flip,
A dozen glasses he could sip and tip.
Ready made Coffins - Rev. W. Whistler's Eccentricities[edit | edit source]
On the tenth of March a certain boniface whose house of call was also in Bourne street, ventured to joke with a carpenter upon his charge for coffins, and offered 20s. for "a full-grown one." Taken at his word, the publican was presented, next morning, with the very article for which he had stipulated, but which he said he had not the remotest idea would be forthcoming. The coffin had been made, however, according to proposal, and the maker demanded his money. What was to be done? There were witnesses to the bargain,but as the purveyor of beer was not ready for the other bier, and as the undertaken had undertaken a contract upon alleged false issues, the latter must keep the coffin until he could find a tenant for it. As the story was bruited, however, a compromise was ultimately effected; and although it was literally a grave subject for amusement, it served thereafter for many a laugh that the publican's verbal joke should have been turned against him in such a practical manner. The occurrence reminds one of the coffin that was made for the Rev. Webster Whistler, some years before, and which was possessed by that generally intelligent but somewhat eccentric clergyman for several years ere the necessity arose for its use. Mr. Whistler had even provided himself with the coffin boards before they were worked into shape; but, after a time, by some mysterious means, these boards were found to have disappeared. A guinea was offered by the venerable rector to whomsoever should discover the whereabouts of the lost boards, but a considerable time elapsed before the discovery was made. Mr. Whistler's residence was at 22 High street, and in it rear was a garden which extended to the Bourne. One day, at the bottom of this garden, a youth named Edwin Mose, the son of a neighbouring tradesman, was working with a man named Ben. Butchers - the well-known "dog whipper" at the church - when the lost boards were found at a few inches below the surface of the ground. The old rector was much affected by this discovery; and, taking out his tobacco-box, extracted from beneath the narcotic week a guinea, which he urged the youthful finder to accept "for my word's sake." Master Edward, by his mother's advice, declined to take the reward. But, much as the venerable pastor cherished the possession of his guineas, he continued to combat the youngster's scruples with the same forcible argument, "For my word's sake!" The tobacco-box, it may be explained, was an old-fashioned one of polished iron or steel, in which it was Mr. Whistler's custom to carry a gold coin or two beneath a piece of paper which separated the money from the legitimate contents of the box. It should also be stated that the reverend gentleman had to undertake occasional journeys to Newtimber, near Brighton, where he was rector both before and after he received the Hastings benefice; and as he lived in days of footpads and body-snatchers, the wisdom of carrying a few coins secretly in his tobacco-box for casual requirements will not be questioned. But, to return to the coffin boards - which if they came not from Newtimber, were certainly cut from new timber - their rev. proprietor sought to lessen the chances of a second disappearance by having them at once made into a coffin, which, it used to be said, he kept under his bed. In this singularity no one who knew Mr. Whistler's practical and unsophisticated piety would judge him to be actuated by a spirit of levity; no! not even when replying to the question, "What if the coffin be not long enough?" he suggested decapitation as an expedient. If anyone challenges the accuracy of this story of a coffin, his challenge will be met by the rector's own reference to it. In an epistolary correspondence with his son, on Dec. 18th 1829, he wrote, "With respect to your remark as to a new outfit of clothes (which I take as was meant very kindly), I am rather stagnated! for although at this age (81) I must not look forward to providing more than a wooden case for clothing (which I have done), yet I have been induced (to look well as you say) to have a handsome great coat and a body suit which I have not yet tried on, though brought home more than a month ago; so that I may fairly presume I am fully provided with all the materials necessary to carry me from this world to a better."
That the son's reminder of the necessity to look well was not altogether out of place is shown by the following anecdote. A gentleman, one morning, led his affianced to the hymeneal altar at All Saints' church, and after the rite had been performed he tendered the fee of a guinea to Mr. Whistler with the remark that if he (Mr. Whistler) as the officiating clergyman, had worn a clean shirt on that auspicious occasion, the fee would have been voluntarily doubled. Now, although in his old age Mr. Whistler was less studious of his toilette than might be desirable, methinks that had he been able to foresee the consequence in this particular instance, he would have made an exception. Albeit, there are several marriage tales in connection with the ministrations of the Rector of Hastings, from which I select the few following. - On the 12th or 13th of February, 1817, Mr. Edward Milward (originally Mileward) was married to Sarah, daughter of the Rev. William Whitear, and on the Sunday following, Mr. Whistler alluded to the event in a letter to his son thus :- Nothing material has happened here but Mr. Milward's marriage. The town is all alive about it. They gave the ringers £5 and the strewers £5. We all went to visit the Miss Milwards and eat cake, for they sat in state to receive congratulations." As the happy couple took their departure for London, the Rector further says, "The complimentary fee, unfortunately, will be deferred until I see him (Milward), but better late than never." Milward's marriage with the lady who was afterwards destined to have the Earl of Waldegrave for a second husband, was, of course, a fait accompli, but what now follows relates only to a possible marriage in prospective. When, in November, 1824, the "Suburbs" of Hastings were inundated by the greatest spring tide of the present century, and George street was temporarily converted into a river, Mr. Whistler was conveyed on a man's back to Messrs. Mannington's (now Alderton and Shrewsbury's) shop, and there set down on the steps above the reach of the water. Being asked "Are you married?" the volunteer carrier replied in the negative, and was assured that if such an event should happen in the life-time of the Rector the marriage service should be performed gratuitously. At a later period, when being called upon to marry a couple of Hastings people Mr. Whistler displayed both his sense of propriety and his liberality. One or more of the wedding party on presenting themselves at the church, having exhibited indications of intoxication, the clergyman desired them to go home, get themselves sober, and come to him next day in a sensible and reverential condition. The order was complied with, and Mr. Whistler showed his approval by refusing to allow any fee to be paid either to clergyman or clerk.
So much for marriages; and now for a few christening anecdotes. An uncle of mine, when he was a comparatively young man, promised to be sponsor to his sister's child, and when the morning came for the christening to be done, the young man was at hide and seek in consequence of a smuggling transaction in which he played an important part. The child and its parents were present at the church, and parson Whistler - as it was the fashion to designate the rector - had been kept waiting at the font, when the belated sponsor hurried in with an apology upon his lips. "There, never mind," said the old gentleman, "I know all about it, but don't do it again." I am not sure that an Easter offering or some other offering did not find its way after that to the Rector's residence, nor am I certain that the said offering met with a refusal merely because it had been imported by "Freetraders" free of duty. But the term Easter Offering brings to mind another little story connected with the worthy Rector. Not far from his residence was a house of business from which he drew his supply of tobacco and several other necessaries or luxuries; and on one occasion, after watching with apparent interest the unpacking of a set of handsome jugs with metal lids (at that time quite a novelty), he suggested their fitness as an Easter Offering, and personally conveyed them to the Rectory, apparently on the supposition that silence gave consent. But such consent was found to have been negatived when in due time the articles were charged for in the account.
There was at most times a smack of honest bluntness about this clerical celebrity which did not always find favour with those who preferred softness to sincerity; but, as a rule, the humbler sort of his parishioners paid deference to his judgment or listened to his advice. Such was not the case, however, with the parents of the youth who found the boards. I had described him as Edwin, but I learn that that was not his baptismal name; for, when in the youth's infancy the name was uttered at the font, Mr. Whistler declared that Edwin was not an English name, and he should therefore christen the child as Edward. He was as good as his word but despite the baptismal record, the parents' wish was practically observed, and their offspring was known as Edwin during the rest of his life. Another objection of this character was made at a later date, and this time, perhaps, with a greater show of reason, when it was proposed to give to a child the name of Charlotte Cordelia Blades Burfield. "I shan't christen the child all those names," said the aged rector. "But I insist upon it," retorted the sponsor. "Whose youngster is it and who are you?" rejoined the parson. On being informed that the child belonged to Mr. James Burfield, of White-rock street, and that the sponsor was the daughter of Col. Blades, of the Croft, Mr. Whistler gave in, and muttered as he proceeded to the baptism, "Oh! its old Jim Burfield, is it? I suppose I must then."
Having mentioned the name of Butchers in connection with the coffin boards, I will now describe a little scene in which he and the clergyman were the only actors. Butchers had been employed to white-wash the belfry of St. Clement's church - a sort of work to which he was not unaccustomed - and whilst thus employed, he whistled a secular tune of quick pulsation, the time being marked by a corresponding movement of the brush. Being admonished by the Rector with a reminder of the inappropriateness of whistling a tune of the "Money Musk" character in a place of worship, Butchers apologised for his inadvertence, and immediately reduced his time-beating stroke to the measure of the "Old Hundredth." "Oh!" exclaimed the economical Rector - who was himself a Whistler - "if work and whistle are to go together, you had better resume your old tune." The old gentleman, I believe, never claimed to be better than other men merely on the ground of his profession, and hence the saying was attributed to him, "Don't do as I do, but as I say you are to do." And really some of his sayings, if not altogether terse, were certainly not without a dash of wit; which last word, if I might be permitted to repeat, I would say the following to wit:- On being told by an officer of the Old Friendly Society - for which he used to preach an annual sermon - that a clergyman in another town only charged a guinea for his club-sermon, whilst he charged two guineas, the facetious Rector replied "Oh! you can have a guinea sermon you know, but it will be wretched stuff." In that case I presume it would not have compared favourably with the sermons of Mr. Whistler's contemporary at Crowhurst, who, as the latter's wife informed some of her friends always bought the very best of sermons.
I could describe a few other eccentricities of the late venerable pastor of Hastings, who continued his ministrations (mostly without assistance) until he was 82 years of age, but I must hasten on. It may be here said, however, that for the strict accuracy of every anecdote that has been given I do not hold myself personally responsible. Most of them have been culled from my lumber room of memory, where they were stored many years ago, as being commonly current in social conversation even before Mr. Whistler's demise; whilst some of the circumstances were related to me by ear or eye witnesses whose veracity I have no reason to doubt. My own habitation, moreover, was for several years in close proximity to St. Clement's church, and I was, therefore, not altogether a stranger to some of the scenes here depicted. I conclude my notice of Mr. Whistler with a brief enumeration of a few principal events in that gentleman's career.
1747 - Born at Stowood, near Oxford.
1770 - Took his B.A. degree at Cambridge.
1774 - Presented with the living at Newtimber, in Sussex.
Pg.172 1776 - Appointed Chaplain to the Earl of Harroby.
1803 - Succeeded the Rev. William Coppard to the rectory of Hastings, while still holding that of Newtimber, his patron being Sir Whistler Webster, of Battle.
1804 - Appointed Surrogate for granting of marriage licenses in the Archdeaconry of Lewes.
1807 - Whilst baptising a child on the 25th of January, he discovered it to have died in his arms.
1807 - Witnessed in the month of October, the completion of a privateer vessel of 14 guns; also an unprecedented quantity of herrings on the beach, which sold at 1s. the long hundred.
1809 - Preached a sermon on October 25th, when the Jubilee of George the Third was celebrated, and contributed a guinea to the £400 raised for providing a treat to the poor. Many other persons gave two guineas, several gave five guineas, and some gave ten guineas; but a single guinea was, perhaps, as much as the Rector could afford out of only three livings, and bearing in mind that on the occasion of £10 being given him to distribute a month the poor, he assured the benevolent donor that he knew no one poorer than himself.
1810 - Preached a sermon on the death of Mr. John Thring, the Battle organist and Hastings dancing-master. Also in the same year, on the 10th of August, preached a special sermon on behalf of the Deaf and Dumb charity.
Same year, on August 6th or 7th, attended the consecration, by the Bishop, of a piece of ground, 40 yards square, at Halton, for the burial of soldiers who died at the Hastings barracks.
1811 - Read the burial service at the interment of Edward Milward, who died at the age of 89, and had been alternately Mayor and Deputy-mayor for half a century.
1813 - In the month of March was informed of the birth of his ninth child.
1814 - On the 8th of April, married two of the daughters of Mr. Charles Deudney, of Gensing farm - Jane to Mr. Tucker of London, and Cordelia to Mr. Arckoll, of Herstmonceux.
Same year - Married, at St. Clement's church, on Sunday, May 1st, Sarah Plumley, to Mr. Beal, a marriage that afterwards was made noteworthy by the fact that Mrs. Beal lived until Aug. 5th 1883 (also a Sunday), when she was 100 years and 4 months old.
Same year, on July 9th, preached a thanks-giving sermon for the restoration of peace.
1815 - Preached a sermon, on July 23rd, for the widows and children of those who fell at Waterloo, the offertory amounting to £80.
1816 - On August 31st. married Mr. James Lansdell, a noted builder, to Miss Martha Breeds, daughter of Mr. Thomas Breeds, a Hastings merchant.
1817 - In the 1st week of January, when the weather was very trying, buried Mrs. Sargent, aged 80; Thomas Crouch, 90; and another person, 82. Later in the year, was very ill himself, being at that time 70 years of age.
1817 - Married, on the 13th of February, Edward Milward, Esq. to Sarah, fourth daughter of the Rev. W. Whitear.
Same year, preached a sermon on the death of the Princess of Wales.
1818- Believed to have gone to Chichester on the 23rd of June, to vote for his friend Sir Godfrey Webster, who was returned for the county with a triumphant majority.
1818 - Had announced to him on the 18th of October, the birth of his 10th child; 48 years after the birth of his first child by his first wife. [See GAZETTE, June 25, 1882, for family memoirs.]
1818 - Preached in All Saints' church, on December 2nd, the day of Queen Charlotte's funeral.
1819-20 Experienced two excellent harvests and a period of severe frosts and heavy snows.
1820 - Preached at St Clement's on the several deaths of George III,. the Duke of Kent and the Duke of York.
1821 - Had overflowing churches during the extraordinarily mild but tempestuous autumn and winter.
1821- Noticed, in some correspondence, the death of F. F. North, Esq., by which his eldest son, Frederick, came into possession of £5,000 a year.
1825 - Was assisted, on January, 16th, by the Hon. and Rev. Dr. Wellesley (brother of the Duke of Wellington), who preached an eloquent sermon; and on March 13th, by the Rev. H. Wynch, whose sermon realised an offertory of £59 for the Hanoverians, suffering by inundations.
1825 - Administered the sacrament to 80 communicants on Good Friday.
1826 - Went to Chichester on Rock-fair day (July 26th), with 1100 others, to "plump" for Sir Godfrey Webster, against Mr. Curteis.
Same year, on April 17th, dined with the Corporation, as usual, after the election of Mayor.
Same year - Preached the annual sermon for the Friendly Society, from Matt. v, 7.
Also 1826 - On June 26th, attended the Archdeacon's visitation and dinner.
Same year - Was assisted, on July 1st, by the Rector of Warbleton, and on August 13th, by the Rev. Dr. Knox, of Tonbridge.
This 1826 was altogether an inportant (sic) year to Mr. Whistler. On the 29th of August we has censured by the Corporation in a printed reply, for having announced to his congregation that although it was his wish to have both churches open at that crowded season, it was discouraged by the Corporation and principal inhabitants, and as the small value of the living for which Queen Anne's bounty was obtained a few years before would not allow him to do it, it must depend on the contributions of the congregation themselves. In the counter statement of the Corporation it was shown that in 1822, £120 was subscribed by the principal inhabitants, irrespective of his own collections, specially for a curate, so that both churches might be opened twice each Sunday, Mr. Whistler himself giving a solemn pledge that the whole of such money should go to the curate. A further subscription was entered into, but as the rector had withheld a portion of the money, the subscribers declined to continue their contributions. After that, several clergymen offered their gratuitous services, which were sanctioned by the Bishop, who was then at Hastings, and these were actually commenced, but after the Bishop's departure, the services were objected to by Mr. Whistler, he contending that one service in each church was sufficient. In this embroglio (sic) it will be seen that the Corporation had not only the best of the contention, but as their published reply was not contradicted, it placed the rector in an unenviable position.
1827 - Was annoyed on the 24th of June by some mischievous wags ringing the St. Clement's bells at two o'clock in the morning.
Same year - Preached the annual Whit-Monday sermon for the Friendly Society and afterwards dined with the club.
Also in 1827, some time in October, buried the old "body-snatchers" (Mr. and Mrs. Hamp, once a London sexton and his wife), who died suddenly at High Wickham, and who, with their helpers, had been a terror to the town and neighbour-bourhood (sic - hyphenated at end then start of column) in consequence of their unholy traffic in the exhumation of the dead.
Also on Christmas Day of the same year, when 80 years old, had 300 communicants, when he was assisted by the Rev. Dr. Wellesley, the Rev. G. G. Stonestreet and the Bishop of Carlisle.
1828 - Wrote to his friends concerning disastrous commercial failures in Hastings, and the commencement of St. Leonards town by the enterprising Mr. Jas. Burton.
Same year - Read the burial service over the remains of Mrs. Anson, aged 98.
1829 - Selected a fine day in August of a most unpropitious year to pay a visit, with his family, to "The New Town," but was not followed by a large crowd of people, as was Mr. Thwaites, on his first visit, ten years later.
Same year - Held divine service on the occasion of the death of the Princess Elizabeth.
1830 - Made several allusions in his epistolary correspondence to the dissolution of Parliament, to the local election in July, to the opposition offered to the Corporation nominees, to the unavailing petition against the members, and to the declaration of the House of Commons that Mr. Planta and Sir H. Fane were truly and duly returned.
1832 - Died on Friday, the 2nd of March, at the age of 85, after active duties as Rector of Newtimber for 57 years and of Hastings conjointly, for 28 years. He had expressed a wish, in 1831, to see the borough thrown open by an extended franchise, and he died on the day that guns were fired from the Castle in consequence of the receipt of false news that the Reform Bill had passed. His remains were preceded to the grave by those of Mrs. North (grandmother of Mr. Frederick North), who died on January 19th, at the age of 80, and by those of Miss Maria Milward, who died in the first week of February, at the age of 77. In the same week, during the general fast on account of the cholera, the deaths occurred of Mrs. Dunn, aged 88; Mrs. Baker 89; Mrs. Lock, 81; Mr. Lock, 71; and Mrs. Diprose, 77.
Although living, as Mr. Whistler did, in times of excitement as well as of importance, and dying, as he did, at an advanced age, he was by no means exceptional in the latter particular; and when it is borne in mind that the Hastings people drank freely of the polluted water of the Bourne, and that sanitation was a word practically unknown, it can only be concluded that even in those days Hastings was an exceptionally healthy place.
When alluding to St. Clement's church in connection with some events of 1896, I mentioned the name of "Old Tom Collins," as the sexton of that church; but I said nothing of his appearance nor of his manners as being in the one case anything but attractive, and in the other as the reverse of amiable. But let that pass, so that I may the more expeditiously relate one of the practical jokes which was played upon that grave functionary, who was undivinely addressed as "Muzzle-the-bear." In a certain part of High street, just below Smith, Hilder and Scrivens's Bank, there lived a fellow of infinite jest, who rejoiced in the nomen of Nicholas Wingfield, but of whom the said Tom Collins used to speak of as "Old Nick." Once, the latter engaged the former to go on an errand to Fairlight Down, for which service he was to receive a small sum of money at starting, and some refreshment on arriving at his destination. The prospects were apparently good, and Old Tom set out with a light heart. He was the bearer of a note to Mr. "Barnacle" (William) White, a well-known and somewhat facetious farmer, grocer, wheeler and inn-keeper. To this note Tom was to wait for a reply - a reply which was verbally given thus:- "Well, Tom, the note says I am to muzzle the bear and send him on." I cannot attempt to pourtray (sic) the amiability of Collins after that, and must leave my readers to imagine it.
Just opposite Mr. Wingfield's (originally Burchatt's and afterwards Burchatt and Wingfield's) was the grocery and china store of Mr. Jonathan Mose, who used to receive a weekly supply of excellent butter from a dairy at Ore. There was nothing uncommon in that as a mere fact, but the novelty was this:- The butter-woman (whose name, I think, was Cramp) used to ride on horse-back, with her husband, pillion fashion, carrying her basket of butter in one hand whilst she held on with the other to a strap that was buckled securely round her husband's waist. He, too, would carry a basket on one arm, containing fruit or other garden-produce; and thus, as Darby and Joan, they would jog along together. Fortunately for them, the Cruelty to Animals Society did not then exist, simply, I suppose, because horses and asses in the second decade of the nineteenth centuury (sic) were too unemotional to feel anything of cruelty. But the gist of the story is this:- Some of Mrs. Mose's customers wanted the butter in half-pound pats, and when asked to comply with that request, the dairy-woman replied that she couldn't think of such a thing. Her mother and grandmother before her time always made it in pound parcels, and she should do the same. Thus acted Mrs. Butter-woman on the principle of "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." She might indeed have sung with heart an voice,(sic) "It was my father's custom, and so it shall be mine."
An economical couple - Severe Punishments - A blow to the Liberals[edit | edit source]
One more reminiscence before I withdraw my retrospect from this immediate locality. Adjoining the grocery and china store alluded to was a house of "more exalted mien," that was built for a thrifty couple, like Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Gilpin, of credit and renown, and of whose cuisine it was avowed Pg.173 that it was so much the reverse of extravagant that a pudding might have served the double purpose of gracing the dinner-table and of being used as a foot-ball. As a further illustration of frugality, it was said that these tradespeople purchased only one ball of string, and that the remnant of it was exhibited under a glass shade after they had retired from business. It was generally credited as a fact that this couple, when they united themselves in holy matrimony, also united their moderate sums of money, with a determination that their united expenses should never exceed their united income. This determination was completely realised; and the moral is that if this principle had been more generally adopted most of those numerous and disastrous failures, both in the old town and the new, might have been prevented. Of the thrifty couple here alluded to, some memoirs are given elsewhere, and I here close this allusion with saying that the name was Kelland; that Mr. Kelland was a draper, a commissioner, a member of the Board of Guardians, and a Liberal politician. He died, in retirement, at the age of 58, and his widow lived until she was over 90.
In many ways the year 1837 was a memorable one, and the events even of a local character appear to be of sufficient interest to justify the appropriation of not a few additional columns to a description of them. The Conservative dinner brought me to the end of March:- a March for which its wintry character, and coming after the unparalleled snowstorm of the previous Christmas, is worthy of special remembrance. I have already stated that the spring of 1837 was the latest on record, and I may now add that on the night of Easter-Sunday (March 26th) the thermometer recorded 15 degrees of frost, whilst snow fell to the depth of about nine inches. In many parts of the country it was much deeper, and the mail-coaches were several hours behind their usual time. At Jersey a snow-depth of several feet ws experienced, and it was said that such a storm at the end of March had not been known since 1799.
As one looks back to the Hastings Quarter Sessions of that year he is inclined to regard the sentences as of a more severe type than that which is now observed. One finds, for instance, that a Piper was sentenced to two months hard labour for taking a few cigars; that a Summers was similarly punished for stealing a shilling; that a Beany was put to six months' hard labour of appropriating a slightly larger sum; and that a Newling was transported for seven years for obtaining from Mons. Boffi a watch under false pretences. Poor Boffi! I knew him well, and many were the pleasant strolls I took with him though the ozier beds[Notes 4], the hop-gardens and the corn-fields, where are now the Alexandra Park and surrounding dwellings. He was kind-hearted and agreeable, and was sometimes rather amusing with his imperfect English. I could give several anecdotes concerning him, but let this one suffice. He was one day wanting to tell or ask me something about the Mayor, and finding me dull of comprehension, he quickened my perception of that dignitary's civic appellation, and which he could not think of, with the interrogation of "What you call the horse's wife?" Mons. Boffi had a shop in George street, and was married to a woman who, like myself, was born here. They afterwards removed to France, where, ultimately, they finished their earthly pilgrimage.
When the writs were issued for the election of a new parliament, Mr. Elphinstone a politician of advanced Liberal views, had declined the contest on account of the ruinous expense which it was alleged such a contest involved, and Mr. Hollond - as heretofore stated - had come into the field in Mr. Elphinstone's place, and had already given proofs that mere lack of money should in his case be no barrier to success. But in the mean time (sic) a terrible blow had fallen upon the Liberal party in the unexpected retirement of Mr. North. That gentleman had been suffering in health and that suffering had doubtless been augmented by the taunts and censures of the extreme Liberals, for whom he could do nothing which they would admit to be right. It was then his opportunity to show them the error of their ways in so constantly attacking his moderate views and steady advances in the cause of Reform, and in his desire to act upon his avowed principles of "Civil and Religious Liberty," if possible, without unnecessary violence to the traditions of his family and other connections. No sooner was his determination to retire made known than a change of tone and temper among the Liberal ranks began to manifest itself; and instead of the strong language which had been so abundantly applied to him, his virtues were extolled, and his retirement ws viewed with profound regret. Referring to the position of parties at that time, a Liberal organ thus expresses itself:-
The retirement of Mr. Elphinstone has been almost immediately followed by the withdrawal of Mr. North from public life. This excites our sincere regret, as it will perhaps neutralize the opinions of a majority favourable to Civil and Religious Liberty. These are those who should support Mr. Hollond the Queen and the Government, while the Tories array themselves on the opposite side. It is, we fear, too true that one Tory will be returned at the ensuing election. It will be an untoward event for Hastings and St. Leonards, as he will always be a stumbling-block to Mr. Hollond.
The feeling among the Radical section prior to the election of 1837 was very similar to what it was before the election of 1880. The Liberal position was held to be so strong as to be capable of repelling any assault from an opposing force, and no idea was encouraged that the moderate men would swerve from what was thought to be their allegiance to those who claimed to be in the van of progress. But, with Mr. North out of the contest, many of his supporters felt that the tie was loosened; and being impressed by the ill-treatment of Mr. Planta at a previous election they, with personal sympathies, as well as with political inclinations, supported the candidature of Mr. Planta. It was a fact that after the great Conservative dinner in the month of April, the members of the "Constitutional Association" largely increased in numbers; and, notwithstanding the sarcastic inuendos (sic) of their opponents about "an insignificant batch of nobodies," that Association played a very important part in securing a majority for the Conservative candidate. It is partly for this reason that I devoted so much space to a report of the banquet which was held by that Association.
The Right Hon. Joseph Planta having acceded to the wishes of an influential deputation from Hastings and St. Leonards, no time was lost in canvassing the electors on his behalf. Equally alert were the friends of Mr. Hollond, which gentleman, together with E. L. Richards, Esq., and E. Kendall, Esq., engaged No. 2 Breeds place for his residence. The friends and agents of Mr. Brisco were also on the qui vive, and nothing was left to mere chance by any one of the three competitors. A gentleman who took an active part in that election has kindly supplied me with an interesting account, which agrees in all its main features with what I myself witnessed, added to other information already in my position. I purpose (sic) giving that account, verbatim, after my own description has appeared; and, as the two accounts have been written from opposite standpoints, I shall be able to preserve that impartiality which I have endeavoured to exhibit from the commencement of this History.
Monday, July 31st, was selected as the day of nomination, and from an early hour of the morning all was bustle and excitement. The houses were decorated with flags and colours of one or more of the rival candidates, and shortly after ten o'clock, Mr. Hollond, with a host of friends, a splendid array of flags and mottoped banners, and a band of music, marched from the Swan hotel to the hustings. The procession extended from High street to the western end of George street. Hollond's procession was followed by that of Brisco's, which was also a magnificent display; and that in turn, was followed by Planta's equally long and imposing train of supporters. When assembled at the hustings, Mr. Hollond thanked the company for the warmth of his reception, and hoped that all the candidates would have a fair hearing. Mr. Durrant Cooper, with his usual good humour remarked that at present the Pinks were juniors, but by to-morrow evening they would be seniors. Whilst the Brisco-ites were taking up position with their grand array of orange-and-white banners, they were greeted by the Pinks with the tune of "Yankee Doodle," and as soon as Planta's Blues entered the field, they were declared to look very blue already, and would look bluer still a day hence. After the usual formality on such occasions, A. SUTHERLAND GRAEME, Esq., of St. Leonards, came to the front, and said he had never before addressed so large a body of persons, but he appeared before them in the performance of what he considered a public duty, it having devolved on him to propose as their representative the Rt. Hon. Joseph Planta. In consequence of the death of his later Majesty a new House of Commons was called for and the electors were about to exercise an important privilege which he hoped they would do in a calm and deliberate manner. He would call attention to a fallacy which had been promulgated throughout the country, that Her Majesty had appointed her present advisers, and that she alone had dissolved the late Parliament. It should be understood that in former times a law was passed that on the demise of the crown an election should take place within six months but on the present occasion they had not to wait so long a period. He trusted that during the canvass he and his friends had pursued a course which had secured the great civility that had been shown them by all persons, and he hoped that the election would be carried through with the same good humour. Mr. Sutherland Graeme next referred to a placard reflecting on Mr. Planta as accepting a knighthood of the Guelph order from the King of Hanover which he stigmatised as a foul calumny, and concluded by proposing Mr. Planta as a fit representative for the united borough of Hastings and St. Leonards. The proposition was seconded by F. SMITH, Esq., who "being unused to public speaking," asked for the indulgence of his brother electors. To second M. Planta's nomination was to him a pleasing duty, because he believed that the majority of electors were of the same political opinion. [Dissent and applause.] At all events, if all who had pledged their votes performed their promises, Mr. Planta would be highest on the poll.
W. CAMAC, Esq., of Hastings, (another gentleman "unused to public speaking") came next, and said he proposed Mr. Musgrave Brisco whose ancestors had lived among them for centuries past. His father they knew well [Too well!] and as for his politics he would tell them all about them when he addressed them. He was an independent gentlemen (sic), and was spending a large fortune in their neighbourhood. He (the proposer, a brother-in-law) had also built a house in the town, and Wastel Brisco (the candidate's brother) was living among them. - JOSEPH HANNAY, Esq. (a retired schoolmaster and jurat) seconded Mr. Brisco's nomination, saying that he was 84 years of age, and could not talk so loud as some people could; but he knew all Mr. Brisco's family well, and that they were to be depended on. He was an advocate for reform as far as it would benefit the people, but he was not in favour of the ballot. [Here the old gentleman's hat dropped which caused much amusement, in which Mr. Hannay himself joined, exclaiming "There, my hat is down, but I am not down-hearted."] He knew how much good the Brisco family were doing in the neighbourhood, and had much pleasure in seconding Mr. Musgrave Brisco, who, he was sure, would not attach himself to any particular party or faction.
JOHN MANNINGTON, Esq., was the next speaker and in his remarks he observed that it was necessary on that occasion to choose a representative who would support the best interests of the country and at the same time uphold their glorious Constitution in its purity. If there was one thing more than another that had tended in that direction it was the Reform Bill; but they must remember that they had those amongst them who would have placed a negative on that Act. He was there to propose Robert Hollond, Esq., who was able and willing to work out that valuable Act both in its spirit and its letter. - Mr. S. PUTLAND, of St. Leonards, seconded the nomination of Mr. Hollond, remarking that he was at first unwilling to accede to the request which had been made to him, not from any fear that the honourable candidate would carry out all that he had promised in his address, but from a conviction of his own insufficiency Pg.174 to do him and his cause justice. Mr. Hollond in his religious views was anxious to keep sacred and secure the Established Church, and at the same time was willing to give to conscientious Dissenters every credit for their honesty and discretion. While he supported the ministers of his own religion, he deprecated any attempt at forcing the consciences of others. Locally he was capable of advancing materially the interests of the borough. He had already done more for the towns and their institutions than any one of his opponents; and if they did Mr. Hollond the honour of electing him he would be residing among them and spending in their neighbourhood the great wealth he possessed; thus adding much to their comfort and welfare.
Election of Hollond and Planta - Politics in 1837[edit | edit source]
Then followed the speeches of the three candidates, those of Messrs. Planta and Hollond being both lengthy and eloquent, and that of Mr. Brisco less lengthy and less eloquent. A show of hands was taken by the Mayor, and declared to be in favour of Hollond and Planta. A protest was made by a gentleman (whose name I withhold) on the ground that it had been intimated that the vote of Mr. Sutherland Graeme would be objected to. Mr. Richards replied that no objection of that nature could be made on the hustings, and the Mayor refused to accept the protest. A poll was then demanded on behalf of Mr. Brisco.
On the 1st day of August, that is to say on the Tuesday following the nomination, the Radical party were astir as early as four o'clock, their band and pink colours being then set in motion to parade the thoroughfares of the borough and collect the voters, a large number of whom were marched to the polling booth at eight o'clock; thus making an imposing demonstration at the very beginning, to the no small astonishment of their opponents. At the close of the poll the votes recorded were for Planta 403, for Hollond 383, for Brisco 312.
Thus it would appear that the Conservative candidate was elected as the senior member by a majority of twenty; but it was asserted on behalf of the Liberals that by a careful analysis of the poll it was discovered that Mr. Hollond had 25 more good votes than Mr. Planta, and therefore that Mr. Hollond was the senior member by a majority of five. On account of this contention it was agreed to by both parties that in the next day's chairing - which was a magnificent affair - the Blues and the Pinks should alternately take first position in the procession; but as it was imagined that the Blues were determined to take precedence throughout, the Pinks turned off to St. Leonards, leaving the Blues to follow them. I will now add to this narrative the interesting account of this election which, as I have said, has been kindly forwarded to me by a gentleman who took an active part in the same.
MEMORANDA OF THE POLITICAL POSITION OF HASTINGS AND ST. LEONARDS IN 1837.[edit | edit source]
Immediately after the great political dinner which took place at Hastings in April - so fairly and amply described in BRETT'S GAZETTE - the members of "The Loyal and Constitutional Association" largely increased and the Conservative party in the two towns began to make itself felt. A strong desire prevailed that it was entitled to a share in the representation, and that the Right Hon. J. Planta should be invited once more to be a candidate for the same. With a view to this result a public meeting of the Association was called, and a committee was formed, for the purpose of instituting a rigid house-to-house canvass of the two towns, in order to ascertain how far the Conservative party would be justified in inviting Mr. Planta to offer himself. An influential committee was nominated, with Mr. Sutherland-Graeme as chairman. Most closely and carefully the borough was canvassed; and, without seeking unduly to overrate the strength of the Conservative party, it was ascertained that a very strong feeling existed among the electors generally that Mr. Panta had been much ill-used, in addition to his having been put to a disgraceful expense, at the previous election; also that if that gentleman should be again induced to come forward, he would meet with a very general support. The canvassing committee thus assured, continued their work, and with so much success that, allowing a very considerable margin for possible defaulters, a sufficiently large majority was left to warrant a requisition being made to Mr. Planta to stand for election. Accordingly, a deputation of the electors of the two towns waiting upon Mr. Planta in London, and laid before that gentleman so clear a case that he at once acquiesced, and put out his address. The favourable feeling towards Mr. Planta appeared to gain ground, whilst the Association met once a fortnight in the Pelham Arcade to talk over political matters and keep the party together. There was one special and perhaps remarkable feature in connection with these meetings, and that was the entire absence of "treating." All persons met upon a perfect equality, and every man paid out of his own pocket for whatsoever he called for. Mr. Sutherland-Graeme generally presided at these meetings, and conducted them in the most orderly and satisfactory manner. It was early determined that, so far as was possible, Mr. Planta should be put to no expenses beyond those which were legitimately connected with an election. This idea was extremely popular, and it became a point of honour to keep down all unnecessary costs. Upon the death of the King, the Parliament was dissolved, and in the early autumn all political parties in the borough prepared for action. The majority against Mr. Planta at the previous election was so very large that to those who were well acquainted with the details, the attempt to return so decided a Conservative was deemed to be a rash one; and Mr. Sutherland-Graeme was repeatedly told that he was mad, and that when the day of polling arrived his eyes would be opened. It may here be mentioned that Mr. Sutherland-Graeme has perfect faith in the promise of those voters who had pledged themselves to support Mr. Planta, and that he was fully justified in that faith by the subsequent result of the election, which placed the Rt. Hon J. Planta at the head of the poll. A majority of Mr. Planta's supporters gave him an undivided vote; and it may be mentioned to the credit of many a "small voter," to whose interest it would be to split his vote, that he was most unwilling to do so. It was as late as three o'clock on the day of polling that several voters went to mr. Sutherland-Graeme, seeking to know if Mr. Planta was quite safe, in which case they would like to bestow their second vote elsewhere, but on no account would they do so unless fully assured of the safety of Mr. Planta. Such assurances Mr. Sutherland-Graeme felt himself justified in giving. Well,being thus safe to win, as it was believed, the next thing sought was to be at the head of the poll. Robert Hollond, Esq., was the extreme Liberal candidate, and was also very popular, notwithstanding Mr. Brisco's (the third candidate's) great wealth and local influence. During the greater part of the day Messrs. Planta and Hollond were polling very evenly - sometimes one and sometimes the other being a few votes ahead. By-and-by a scheme was proposed, and immediately adopted by Mr. Planta's friends as follows:- About twenty plumpers for Mr. Planta agreed to shut themselves up in a room until summoned to vote, and the polling went on as previously described until 3.30 p.m., when Mr. Hollond was about half-a-dozen votes ahead, and the polling became very slack. The chairman of the Radical committee came to Mr. Sutherland-Graeme and remarked somewhat gleefully that the voters were nearly exhausted, and that Mr. Hollond was leading! It was then time to call upon our friends who had shut themselves up. The band and banners were ordered to the place, the men arranged themselves in twos and twos, and with the band playing "Hurrah for the Bonnets in Blue," marched steadily to the polling booth and plumped for Planta; thus passing Hollond and placing their man at the head by a small majority. It was thus proved that if Mr. Sutherland-Graeme was "mad," there was a great deal of method in his madness. I must add that an extremely good feeling, considering the energy of the competition, prevailed throughout the borough - a feature that redounded to the credit of all concerned, and one which served to rectify in some measure the acerbity which, according to report, was too greatly exhibited on a previous occasion. The state of the poll was officially declared on the following day, immediately after which the "chairing" took place; and rarely had such a sight been witnessed. The cortege left the Marine Hotel, with Mr. and Mrs. Planta, Mr. Sutherland-Graeme, and Mr. Smith, in an open carriage, drawn by four grey horses, with postillions in blue jackets. Being in the height of the autumn season the gigantic procession was joined as it went along by the carriages of visitors whose political opinions accorded with those of the newly elected M.P., added to which were many gentlemen on horseback from neighbouring towns and villages. What with flags, banners, streamers, rosettes and bands of music, the whole procession was a gorgeous one; and some idea may be formed of its length when I say that its head was entering the Archway at St. Leonards, when its rear was leaving the Marine Hotel at Hastings.
I must now relate an interesting anecdote. There resided at 52 Marina an aged lady, the Dowager Lady Lubbock, who, when she heard the procession was about to pass her house, came to the carriage, bearing a silver goblet filled with "claret-cup," and with much spirit proposed "The healths of the new M.P., and the electors who returned him." This event was prior to the days of photography, or such a striking scene would have made a fine subject for the artist. So much space would be occupied if I were to attempt to narrate the numerous and varied incidents connected with this remarkable election, that I will only further describe it as having had many points of resemblance to a political contest more recently witnessed. It may be seen that even in such matters, history, to a great extent, repeats itself. It is indeed curious to find how similar are some of the incidents of the 1837 election to those of the 1880 contest. Then, as in 1880, the Conservatives had been beaten at a previous election by a very large majority; then, as in 1880, the zeal and tact of the Conservative leaders led to victory; then, as in 1880, the political positions were reversed; then, as in 1880, the Conservative cause was not a little assisted by the charming manners of the candidate's wife (for Mrs. Planta was as affable and industrious as was Lady Anne Murray); then, as in 1880, the Conservative candidate obtained the largest number of undivided votes; then, as in 1880, the competitors were three in number; and then, as in 1880, the Conservative candidate was returned at the head of the poll. Thus a lesson may be laid to heart that however clouded the prospects of a cause may be, zeal, energy, tact and courage may achieve success, even though the difficulties to be overcome would appear to be of an insurmountable magnitude.
A few days after our own election, the news was received of Mr. Elphinstone's defeat at Liverpool, for which place he had been put in nomination after he had declined a renewal of the contest at Hastings. It was said "What a pity he did not again stand for Hastings; for, seeing that Mr. Hollond had 147 plumpers, two Liberals might have run together with almost certain success." Remembering, however, that 236 of Mr. Hollond's supporter's (sic) divided their votes between him and one or other of the Conservative candidates - for, after all, Mr. Brisco was but a disguised Tory - Mr. Elphinstone's chance after introducing to his late constituency so wealthy a man as Hollond, would, methinks, have been very small indeed. But Mr. Elphinstone's defeat was not the only unwelcome news received by the Hastings people at that time. My readers will remember that, in seconding the nomination of Mr. Brisco, Mr. Hannay stated he was 84 years of age; also that the proposer was Mr. Camac - a gentleman who did not allude to his age, but who might have said he was 75. These ages, then, even without the plea of "not being used to public speaking," would have been a sufficient apology for the brief and pointless speeches which those two gentlemen inflicted on the electors. It is possible, however, that the efforts which Mr. Camac put forth to serve his brother-in-law, combined with the disappointment of defeat, told upon the not too robust frame of a man whose years were advancing closely to the eighth decade of life, and thus hastened its dissolution; for within a fortnight of the election Mr. Camac's death was announced as having taken place at Harrogate. The exact day, I believe, was the 11th of August. This unlooked-for event naturally cast a gloom over the borough; for, what with the unique equipage of Mr. and Mrs. Camac and their splendid dinners, suppers and soirees dansantes, they seemed to be the moving spirits of fashionable society, and must have exerted considerable influence in the maintenance of those brilliant seasons which were so frequent at that period.
Lavish Expenses of the Candidates - Bishop & Thorpe's great failure[edit | edit source]
Yet, general as was the sorrow of the townsfolk to learn that Mrs. Camac had lost her aged and devoted husband, the depression soon wore off in the midst of other excitements. The 17th of the same month was the 51st birthday anniversary of the Duchess of Kent, and this occurrence was celebrated at St. Leonards with a grand archery meeting, followed by a dinner and a ball. In those days of loyal demonstrations and fashionable reunions the prize-meetings of the St. Leonards toxophilites were of a gay and enthusiastic character, and were sometimes attended by now fewer than from four-hundred to five-hundred persons. One of such meetings was that of 1837, as as neither St. Leonards nor Hastings could boast of a local newspaper at that time, the following report, with emendations by the present writer, may help my readers to imagine what those meetings were like, whilst the meeting itself may be thus made to put forth a claim to be numbered among the numerous demonstrations of that eventful year.
The assembly of electors and non-electors at Coghurst Hall on Nov. 13th (described in Chap. XVII.) reminds me of the still larger gathering at Fairlight Hall, which, by invitation of the Rt. Hon. J. Planta, M.P., had there assembled on the 8th of August. It was my privilege to be one of the guests as the humble representative of one of Mr. Planta's political supporters; and even at this distance of time the enjoyment which I experienced is as fresh as ever in y memory. Dinner, tea, music and other entertainments were provided for nine-hundred persons, but it was estimated that at least a thousand partook of the hospitality, whilst several additional hundreds were allowed on the grounds as spectators. The right honourable gentleman and his lady were almost ubiquitous in attentions on their guests, and their general affability and kindness were acknowledged by all. The expenses of that fête must have been very considerable, and it must have required much time and labor thereafter to restore the house and grounds to their normal condition. But all that expense and trouble paled before the enormous expenses to which the several candidates had been put during the previous election. Even Mr. Planta's election bill, notwithstanding the resolution of his committee to return him with as little expense as possible, was said to be £2,400. That Mr. Planta was betrayed in this respect, not by his real friends, but by those pseudo-friends - those "hangers-on," who sought to obtain pecuniary benefits wherever there was a chance, will be shown by-and-by.
And here let me repeat in other words what I have before intimated in the earlier part of this history - namely, that my own Liberal proclivities and personal associations together with the opposite Toryism of my family and their associates, gave me an insight of political movements on both sides which have not only tended subsequently to keep my own political views within moderate bounds, but also to restrain me from running into excesses of opinion on one side or the other when treating of the political portions of this history.
It was said by the liberals that Mr. planta had been assured that his expenses would not exceed £500, whereas - if the sum here stated was correct - the total was nearly five times that amount. It was further stated that Mr. Planta's ribbon bill would make a considerable inroad on £500, one claim alone - that of an All Saints' draper - being for £86. The Radicals were by no means surprised to hear of this, because they knew too well the large amount which had been levied on their own candidate by the same draper on a previous occasion. Not to go further into those expenses at present, it should be satisfactory to find that in the recent equally sharp contest and in an immensely larger constituency the candidates' expenses are declared to be only about £1100 and £1400 respectively. This would seem to show that the Hastings of 1880 has made great strides in electioneering economy over the Hastings of 1837.
There may still be a few persons living who have cause to remember one event in 1837 with sadness - namely the failure of Messrs. Bishop and Thorpe, the then well-known solicitors of High street. Their liabilities were of large amount, and as many of their creditors were comparatively poor people, the occurrence was looked upon as of serious import. Mr. Anthony Harvey, I believe, was appointed to assist Mr. Scrivens in arranging the complicated affair, but with a result, as I understand, that brought little relief to the sufferers. A question obtruded itself on my mind. Had my deceased father any part or lot in the affairs of Messrs. Bishop and Thorpe? If it were so, the answer ought to have come that the money transaction between the parties had taken place too many years anterior to the break-up of the establishment not to have nullified all chance of such a result; and an answer of that character should have been strengthened by the knowledge that the gentleman to whom the amount was to be paid through the agency of Messrs. Bishop and Thorpe (or Mr. Bishop alone), was too great a gambler and too often in quest of the "needful" to allow his money to remain long in the hands of solicitors. To go into trivial details of this sort may seem to be hardly in keeping with the title of my subject; but as a "picker-up of inconsiderate trifles," I must relate the associations as they occur to me, even at the risk of their relevancy being questioned. A document lies before me, from which I make the following extract:-
MEMORANDUM - That Mr. T- B- - on the 6th day of March, 1824, paid Mr. Bishop, attorney, Hastings, - pounds and - shillings, for Sir Godfrey Webster, the Lord of the Manor of Barnhorne, in the Parish of Bexhill, in the County of Sussex, for the Common of Pasture or Run of 22 acres of Bexhill Down, - for ever.
Whether Sir Godfrey never received the money from Mr. Bishop's office, or, by some, hocus-pocus, the engagement was cancelled, two years later, by the death of him to whom the above acknowledgment was given, it hardly comes within my power to decide; but the one thing certain is that neither the latter nor his heir have enjoyed the "Run of 22 acres" thus covenanted for "for ever," and the lesson learnt from such miscarriage of justice is that of "the glorious uncertainty of the law".
The name of Bishop recalls to mind a curious coincidence which was related in a newspaper paragraph in the same month and year as the occurrence of Bishop and Thorpe's bankruptcy. It is this:- "The late W. Bishop, Esq., of this town, and the late Mr. Edlridge, of Sedlescombe, were both born on the same day in the same parish; they were both baptised on the same day and in the same church; they both died on the same day, were buried on the same day, and were carried to the same churchyard in the same hearse." This, of itself, is a remarkable cluster of coincidences, but to me it receives an additional interest in the fact that whilst I am revising this portion of my story, it is made known to me that another member of the Bishop family died only a few days before - namely, June 4th, 1896. Her name was Mary Ann, the widow of Nicholas Henry Rowsell, solicitor, and the last surviving daughter of John Bishop, Esq., of 7 The Croft, Hastings, and late of great Saunders, Sedlescomb. A sister of the deceased lady - Miss Fanny Bishop, died at her residence, 7 The Croft, Hastings, on Jan. 14th, 1891, where also the father ended life on the 5th of October, 1870. The ages at death of the father and two daughters, were 79, 76, and 73, respectively. Great Saunders at Sedlescombe was the seat of Mr. Bishop for a good many years, and that parish was their home from before the commencement of the parish register in 1588. The William Bishop first alluded to as the Hastings attorney, was married to Miss Puttick, of Tillington, in 1798, and it was also from Tillington that Mr. Shadwell, another Hastings solicitor, married a lady in 1788. Henry Bishop, also a Hastings solicitor, was married to the eldest daughter of William Thorpe, of the same profession; hence the connections of the two families. William Bishop died on the 6th of June, 1837 - the year now under review - and Henry Bishop died at Islington on May 2nd, 1866.
Thus a reminiscent connection of the Bishops of Hastings and Sedlescombe as the outcome of a curious coincidence in the births, lives, deaths and burials of Messrs. Bishop and Eldridge; and as this coincidence has carried my readers metaphorically on their wings to Sedlescomb, it will not be far, either geographically or imaginatively, to pass from Sedlescomb to Battle. At the latter place, then, on the 19th of June, there was a terrific explosion in the bowing up of Mr. Charles Lawrence's powder-mill. The roof of the building was carried away and the fragments were scattered in all directions. The explosion was accidental, and as the workmen were all away from the mill at the time, there was no sacrifice of life. The report of the explosion was so loud as to be heard at St. Leonards and Hastings, and much was the general wonderment as to the cause of it. There had been even a worse explosion of the kind some nine or ten years before, the exact date of which I do not recollect. I was at the time on the Priory Farm, witnessing the gathering in of the wheat harvest, and like many other persons, was startled by what seemed to be a heavy stroke of distant thunder or the booming of some mighty gun. Having thus alluded to two notable events at Battle, and previously to a notable gentleman in the person of Sir Godfrey Webster, who lived at Battle, it will be convenient here to briefly notice another striking event connected with that place and personage. On the 3rd of July, 1837, there were grand doings at Battle as a celebration of Sir Godfrey's birthday. The bells of the church rang merry peals, and salvoes were fired from some brass cannons belonging to Sir Godfrey's mother. The town band played its best music, and Lady Webster entertained all the work-people. The festivities closed in the evening with a grand display of fireworks at the Abbey, to witness which all the townspeople had a free invitation.
I have said that during harvest time, nine or ten years previous to the explosion of the Battle power-mill on the 19th of June, 1837, there was even a worse explosion of the kind at the same place; and although I could not at the moment of writing extract from my memory a more precise date, I am now enabled to fix the period as ten years by the following items which appears in my collectanea or imperfect diary of events.
"Saturday, Sept. 1st, 1827, - A little boy, named Mannington, run over by a waggon, near Carswell's mill, on the West Hill, Hastings. His mother was sister to one of the men who was killed a few days previously by the terrific explosion at the Crowhurst powder-mills, the report of which I heard whilst I was gleaning in Foster's field." This field, I may explain, was that which is now the site of Devonshire terrace.
When, in the preceding chapter I noticed the resolution to sell the St. Leonards poor-house, it would have been apropos to notice a similar resolution in connection with the poor-house of St. Mary-in-the-Castle, which was situated on the opposite side of York buildings, and immediately contiguous to the timber or ship yard of Messrs. Ransom and Ridley. It was on the 15th of November - a month after the St. Leonards meeting - that the parishioners of the Castle parish met to take into consideration the best mode of disposing of the old poor-house and ground. A resolution was then passed restricting the purchaser to build only one storey above the ground floor. As soon as this arrangement became generally known there was an outcry against the resolution, it being argued that such a foolish restriction reduced the value of the ground to a moiety of its otherwise prospective value. This gave rise, I believe, to a second meeting, when it was determined to transmit the resolution to the Poor-law Commissioners, with a prayer for their approval. A counter-memorial was then sent by the aggrieved parishioners, and the answer returned was to the effect that the Guardians might exercise their own discretion as to whether Pg.176 the restriction should be maintained or not. That it was maintained, a mere glance at Nos. 12 to 16 Wellington place will be sufficient to prove; and now that the property all round that spot is getting to be so generally enlarged and improved it tends on one hand to dwarf by comparison those two-storey houses, and on the other hand to exhibit the unwisdom of the overseers in proposing such a restriction. The St. Clement's and All Saints' work-houses were similarly disposed of about the same time, and the former, being taken down, made way for the Literary Institution, the foundation stone of which was laid with suitable formality some four months later. This ceremony will be noticed further on.
Mrs. Milward re. the East Hill - Sunday School Centenery Celebration[edit | edit source]
But ere I take leave of the poor-house associations I must just make one allusion to the religious intolerance which at that date exhibited itself in strong colours. A poor widow who had with some difficulty kept herself from being an inmate of the parish asylum, and who had been receiving the gift of a cwt. of coals from the dispenser of another's charity, was told that the gift would in future be withheld because it was discovered that she attended the meetings of the Wesleyan Methodists. The ill-feeling against the Dissenters was probably intensified just at that time in consequence of their having sent petitions to the Legislature for the abolition of church-rates; an Act which provoked counter-petitions from those who sought in their religious duty to uphold the existing system. It was, perhaps, natural that the Rector should head the list of the latter party, he being at that time both the Rector of All Saints and St. Clement's. But even he was reminded that the two parishes had formerly constituted separate livings, and had only been amalgamated, as shown by the Church books, in 1770, and by consent only of a part of the Corporation. The plea for the consolidation of the livings might have been the smallness of the population, which was probably not much over two thousand; but that state of things had long passed away. Years before that, the Rev. W. Whistler, in his letters to relatives and friends, spoke of the crowded state of the churches, and before his death it became necessary to provide extensive gallery accommodation in both edifices. The act of uniting the two benefices was to restrict the Sunday service in each church to one only, which restriction, apart from the question of church-rates, was held by the inhabitants to be wrong. It was said that towards the repairs of one of the churches the Corporation granted certain fee-farm rents, allowed under a statute of Elizabeth, and that as matters stood, with a part of the town's money devoted to such object, the petition of the Rector and his supporters against that of the resident Dissenters could not be sent with any show of propriety. One of the active promoters of what was called the Rector's petition was Mrs. Milward, a lady who was just then about to erect at her own cost a chapel-of-ease (since known as Halton Church), and who also on later occasions contributed munificently to similar erections from the great wealth accumulated by her late husband and his ancestors. It was under the incumbency of that lady's father (the Rev. W. Whitear) that the two livings were united in 1770; and it is therefore not at all surprising that in 1837 the daughter should be a firm supporter of the existing arrangements. It should be stated, however, that the Rev. J. C. Foyster again separated the livings after a period of seventeen years from the latter date.
It is sometimes said that ladies have conservative proclivities, but whether that be so or not, there was no doubting Mrs. Milward's political bias being of an ultra type in that direction. She was displeased at what she regarded as the uncalled-for innovations of the Radical Dissenters, and at the period of which I am writing she exhibited a more arbitrary spirit than had usually been her wont. I have before alluded to her stopping up a certain footpath over the West Hill, and I will not add that in the same year, with an appearance of pique at being obliged to re-open that path, Mrs. Milward intimated her intention of restraining the cricketing, dancing and other sports which at Eastertide and Whitsuntide were indulged in on the opposite hill. In some comments on this threatened restraining, a writer in the Brighton Guardian remarked that "Considering the obligations which the lady is under to the town of Hastings, such an act would be simply a gross specimen of ingratitude. It is not enough (continued the writer) that Mrs. Milward should luxuriate in wealth, the source of which is open to serious question, but she must also now threaten to deprive the inhabitants of the means of healthy recreation which they have hitherto enjoyed." As to the "source of wealth" here obliquely questioned, it is more than possible that St. Leonardensis himself has a right to complain of the manner and the persons by which and by whom certain properties had been kept from legitimately descending to his own family; yet as regards Mrs. Milward's own attitude towards those who engaged in sports and pastimes on the East Hill, it is only just to the memory of that lady to say that there were other motives than those which were alleged for her interference. Several years before that time I was an interested witness to what has been described at page 74 of My Father’s Portfolio, and I had seen with my own eyes even greater immoralities than those which were associated either with the conventional pitch-and-toss by juveniles at the "Black doors," or the more compact toss-ring in a hollow of the hill where veteran gamblers did congregate. Yes! I had seen far worse than that. I had witnessed in fact, more than it would be prudent to describe, and I feel constrained therefore to put it on record that whatsoever might have been the immediate provocative of Mrs. Milward's threatened prohibition, the scenes of revelry and immorality which were unfortunately - though not ostensibly - associated with the otherwise harmless amusements of cricket, tennis, quoits, dancing and drop-handkerchief, were of themselves a sufficient justification for the enforcement of Mrs. Milward's authority. Some of my readers will remember how, in later times, that lady (as the [[Countess Waldegrave) had to make her voice heard when she found that the fêtes in the Recreation Ground were degenerating into a kind of Rock-fair type.
But what a change has come o'er the scene! Instead of those immoral pastimes on the East hill meeting the gaze of impressible (sic) youth, we had on the 30th of June, 1880, when these remarks were first penned, an army of young folk assembled for pure enjoyment such as has never before been witnessed in this ancient borough; and instead of the bickerings and unchristian animosities of churchmen and chapel-men over the question of church-rates, we had the Episcopalians and the Nonconformists - although their demonstrations were not made on the same day - in more wholesome rivalry to celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of Sunday Schools.
The foregoing reference to Church and Dissent, and their relative positions in 1837, reminds one that in the autumn of the same year a site was purchased for the present Baptist Chapel in Wellington Square; also that in the following spring the clergymen of Hastings and St. Leonards exerted themselves in a special manner to prevent Sunday trading. The latter movement will be noticed in its due order of time whilst of the former it may be said that previously to the erection of such chapel the Rev. Mr. Saffery conducted religious services in the Swan Assembly Room, to which at that time there was a private entrance from the Oak Pavement. .And here I must make a short digression to show my own familiarity with these services. I was but twenty-one years of age, but I had witnessed many events to which succeeding generations had been strangers, and I had also experienced not a few vicissitudes. From 1829 to 1826 I attended the Sunday school in connection with St. Clement's and All Saints' churches, which for a time was held in the old Town hall previously to that building being taken down in 1823. During the next four years I was successively a scholar choir-boy and teacher in the Croft Sunday-school, after which - for reasons already stated - I attended the services at Ore church as often as meteorological and other conditions would permit. I now come to 1837, a year which found me "on Her Majesty's service" at the Post-office, number 4 George street. My duties extended from a quarter-past four in the morning until eleven at night; and the only difference between week-day and Sunday was that the latter entailed the greatest amount of labour. I shall have much to say on post-office matters, some of which will be entirely new to my readers, and the whole, I trust, not without interest; but for the present, I only desire to show that the office work on Sunday was of such a nature as to preclude my going to a place of worship more than once a day, which on one Sunday was in the afternoon and on the other in the evening. Even then the church or the chapel must be near at hand, and my sitting must be near the door, that I might be within call in case of ship-letters being landed - an event as likely to occur on a Sunday as on any other day. Where then could there be a more convenient place for religious instruction and congregational devotion than Mr. Saffery's meeting-room, which could be reached in a walk of two minutes? These meetings were enjoyable to one who, with all his faults, has ever striven to feel a due veneration for God and goodness, yet there was one saddening circumstance in connection with them, the telling of which should afford a simple but salutary lesson.
Mr. Saffery was in the habit of calling for his letters at the Post-office, and in so doing was always pleasantly chatty with the post-clerk, whilst he was slightly morose to the post-master. This difference of behaviour was attributed to the fact that for the time being the former was a worshipper at the Swan meeting-room, and the latter at the church of St. Mary-in-the-Castle. As master and man had a regard for each other which could only have been exceeded by a relationship of father and son, Mr. Saffery's apparent slight to the one and attentions to the other were mutually noticeable. Matters went on in this way for some time, when, chancing to meet the reverend gentleman close to Mr. Phillips's theological library in George street, I was asked to accept as a present a copy of Our Young Men, a new prize-essay by the Rev. Dr. Cox. After a little diffident hesitation I acquiesced, and was then complimented for my devout demeanour and vocal assistance at the religious meetings, and was pressed to allow myself to become an acknowledged member of the Baptist persuasion. To this I objected; firstly, because I still had an affection for the Church, from which I did not desire to be divorced, and secondly, because I had a natural disposition to avoid any entanglements that would restrain my liberty of action. This objection, however, was evidently displeasing to Mr. Saffery, for he thenceforth treated me with the same coolness as that which he had shown towards my official superior. Seeing that the reverend gentleman, with all his professional piety, could not bear defeat with equanimity, I requested permission to return the present, but the permission not being granted, I have retained the book for about 60 years as a memento alike of the donor's generosity and mistaken deportment. I was present at the opening of the new chapel, the contemplation of which betrayed me into this digression; but a durable impression was made upon my mind that its first minister was probably a good and earnest man, but that like many other good and earnest men, was not infallible.
My readers may not care to have the narrative of events too frequently interrupted by reminiscences of a personal type, yet I cannot wholly banish the thought that when the reader has learnt something of the antecedents of the writer he is in a better position to judge how far that which is written bears the stamp of authority, as having been derived from personal experience. Therefore until someone exclaims, Hold, enough! I must continue the occasional infliction, even though it should be at the risk of betraying the identity of St. Leonardensis.
Loyalists and Hanoverians - Beach Cottages Parade dispute - Sea-beach wasteland[edit | edit source]
A municipal election took place on the 15th of August when Mr. Stephen Putland was returned unopposed, for the West Ward, in the room of Mr. W. M. Eldridge. At the same time Mr. Will Ginner was elected for the East Ward, in the place of ex-Mayor Thorpe. He was opposed by Mr. T. Hickes, but gained his election by 211 votes against his opponent's 143. At that time the Liberals and Conservatives were playfully designated Loyalists and Hanoverians, the former arrogating (sic) to themselves the right to be considered the sole champions of the young Queen, and looking upon their political rivals as siding with the Duke of Cumberland, who was an inveterate Tory, and who although entitled to rule over Pg.177 Hanover on the death of his brother, had been suspected of a desire to supplant his niece in the succession to the English throne. This little fight for municipal honours was therefore regarded as a signal triumph for the Loyalists and an equal discomfiture for the Hanoverians. The gossips bruited it that a smartish breeze thereupon sprang up between Anthony Harvey and "Joey" Brown, the former having blamed the latter for bringing Mr. Hickes out at an inopportune moment, and without due consultation. The disaster, however, had to be repaired if possible; and so a week later, at a meeting of the Council, Mr. Grenside, a "Hanoverian," was pitted against Dr. MacCabe, a "Royalist," and was elected an alderman. Mr. Deudney - himself a "Hanoverian," - complained that no alderman had been elected from St. Leonards, nor from any other part of the West Ward; and he considered it to be anything but right to elect a gentleman whose residence even was scarcely known to them, and who had only been a burgess about twelve months. A good deal of bitterness was also expressed by a certain section of the non-official public, whose indignation was rather freely bestowed on Messrs. North and Shadwell for the part they took in the proceedings. By the Hanoverians, however, with a few exceptions, the victory was regarded as a set-off against the success previously achieved by the Royalists.
At about that time, too, the rivalry between the Commissioners and the Town Council was not of the most amicable character. It was a feeling, however, that would be almost sure to exhibit itself at one time or another between two bodies of local rulers whose functions, in one sense, would be conflicting, and whose interests in another would be identical. In this instance the Commissioners complained that the Councillors received the rents and dues of the stade, yet refused to repair the groynes. The latter body, however, claimed to have jurisdiction over the groynes, as the following case will show. There was a Council meeting on the 16th of November, when a stormy discussion ensued which lasted for three hours. Orders had been given to the ship-builders and owners of property at Beach cottages to lower the groyne at that place to the extent of a single plank, which order the said shipwrights and proprietors had refused to comply with, and had dared the ruling authorities to touch it. This was a sore subject, for it was contended that the property having been placed on the beach, the possessors had no more right to the unpurchased site than had those persons who built property on the Priory beach and lost it; but especially had they no right to protect their property by means which endangered other property more valuable and legitimate. The irritation continued after the meeting had closed, and even intensified as the winter gales set in, and the houses eastward of Pelham Crescent appeared to be in still greater danger. Another stormy discussion took place after Christmas, when it was argued that Thwaites and Winter, having been permitted to construct a groyne on the stipulation that they were to remove or lower it if it should prove inimical to adjacent property, and having refused to do so they ought to be compelled to obey the order. Mr. Shadwell said he had had fifty years' experience of the town, and had never seen so little beach between that spot and the battery as there had been since the construction of the groyne. The piles of the old pier which had not been seen for a century, were then entirely bare. Dr. MacCabe, however, wishing, apparently, to serve his political friends, described Messrs. Thwaites and Winter as having great interest in the town, as highly useful to its trade, and as being entitled to a little further indulgence as to time. The discussion continued with considerable warmth, and the recalcitrants were at last sent for, when Mr. Thwaites made his appearance, and explained that to remove or alter the groyne would enable the sea to sweep under the vessel which they were building, and thus endanger its stability. The vessel, he said, would be launched in March, after which the groyne should be lowered, but until which time he would not suffer a plank to be touched.
It ought to have been remembered by those who contended that the owners of Beach-cottages and occupiers of the ship-building-yard had no more right to the property and the protection of the same than had those who built on unpurchased ground at the Priory and lost it, that although the said owners had built without purchase or permission on the waste beach, they were afterwards compelled to pay the Corporation for the several sites thus appropriated. It was in January, 1825, that the Corporation, on receiving the sum of £20, granted to Samuel Nash a piece of the beach waste-ground in front of the "Condemned Hole" which he had enclosed and built upon some years before. A similar grant was made to P. M. Powell, a librarian, on payment of £20, of a piece of ground on which Richard Chandler had built a house several years before, the same to be Mr. Powell's and his heirs or assigns for ever. Another grant was made to the owners of Beach-cottages, 24 feet of ground at the east end and 20 feet at the west end of that row of houses wherewith to make a parade in front, but the sea wall not to be higher than three feet above the ordinary level of the beach. A further grant was made to Solomon Bevil (if other parties did not object) of 17 feet on the north side of Condemned Hole and 32 feet on the east and west sides, on payment to the Corporation of £100.
Also in 1825, the Corporation sold to William Camac, Esq., for £70, a site on the beach, near Beach-cottages, whereon Wm. Golden, some years before, had built a cottage. Again in 1826, the Corporation sold another piece of stone-beach to Mr. Camac adjoining his previous purchase, for £50, the size being 53 ft. by 10ft. 8in. The same gentleman had purchased, in 1823, a smaller piece then in the occupation of Thomas Thwaites, for £30, thus making a total of £150 paid by him for the site on the beach for his stables. This was where is now the covered seat near to Beach terrace; and, much as might seem to be the money demanded by the Corporation for a bit of waste beach, it was little in comparison with the exorbitant sum demanded of them in return by Mr. Arnold, when, in after years, the town desired to remove the obstruction.
But, as regards the parade in front of Beach-cottages, there seems to have been a misconception. The owners of the houses - or some of them at least - thought that if they built a wall and made a parade for the protection of property which contributed £200 to the rates - a parade which would be used by boatmen and the general public as well as by themselves, they ought not to be called upon to pay for the mere beach on which that parade was made. Permission, as before shown, was granted in 1825, and I suppose the original claim, if such there was, remained in abeyance for eight years, and then, in 1833, the Corporation resolved that the owners of Beach-cottages should pay for the waste beach enclosed by them in forming the parade. William Jordan, George Prior, and Mr. Ansted were called upon to pay £20 each, under a threat of legal proceedings being entered upon in case of non-compliance.
Then came the question - Was the parade public or private? - If the former, it was held to be an unjust proceeding of the Corporation to demand payment for the site which could not possibly have been made to yield a revenue in any other way; and if the latter then the public by using it would be guilty of trespass. To put this question to a practical test, Mr. Ansted, who owned the easternmost house, put up a fence at his end of the parade, whilst Mr. Thwaites barred the approach to the parade at the other end. I do not quite know how the affair was settled, but it may be presumed that the Corporation either rescinded or modified their demand, for at a later meeting they ordered the removal of Mr. Ansted's fence, and a suspension of the demand on Mr. Jordan.
But the parade itself did not afford the wished-for protection from the flow of the sea in rough weather, and so, on the 6th of December, 1836, the Corporation was applied to for permission to construct a groyne by Beach-cottages of 150 feet in length, by the then owners of the houses - namely, Thomas Thwaites, John Gill, J. Phillips, George Prior, Samuel Nash, Thomas C. Hutchinson, George Wingfield, Geo. Reeves and William Jordan. The application was complied with on condition that each owner pay 1/- a year and remove the groyne if required. There was no stipulation about taking off a plank and this was the point in dispute at the December meeting in 1837. Messrs. Thwaites and Winter had a brig on the stocks, to be named the Diamond, which would be launched in the following March, but which in the interval would be endangered by lessening the height of the groyne. Therefore Mr. Thwaites's refusal to do so until after the launch was very reasonable from his point of view. But, on the other hand, the said groyne was thought to be withholding the shingle which might afford protection to the Pelham place wall and parade which at that time were also private property, although used by the public, and for the site of which the Earl of Chichester paid the Corporation no less a sum than £200. And here, before returning to the year '37, it may be well to cite a few more demands of the Corporation and compliance therewith, if only to dispel an illusion which still exists in a traditional form that the original owners of property nearest the sea stole the ground above the ordinary high-water mark whereupon to erect it. Centuries ago by some convulsion of Nature the sea had overrun the land, and had afterwards receded to a considerable extent. Then came a time when the fishermen, from a conception of chartered rights, used the beach not only for drying their nets, and constructing depositories for their fishing gear, but, ultimately converting some of their so-called rope-shops into dwelling huts and backing the same with more substantial houses; thus forming streets and alleys outside of the town wall under the general name of "The Suburbs." In some cases an application was made in due form to the Corporation, and the price of the grant readily paid, and in other the ground required was taken under the belief that the Corporation had no legal right to the foreshore, and that it might be acquired by anyone who chose to risk a habitation in dangerous proximity to the sea. That the Corporation were not always consistent in their dealings with applicants and non-applicants for the waste beach is shown in the fact that no charge was made for that portion on which the Marine parade was first constructed, whilst, a few years later, £200 was charged for a smaller piece on which the Earl of Chichester constructed a parade in front of Pelham place. Also that the Corporation were not always certain that their claim to the sea-beach waste-land could be legally substantiated, will be shown in what follows.
Elderly natives are familiar with the fact that even in their time by far the largest portion of the Bourne stream was uncovered, and that it descended towards the sea in open form onto the waste beach at the foot of Bourne street. On one side of the Bourne mouth (more often called "Gut's mouth") were the Watch House and other buildings, and on the west side there were two tenements and some fishermen's rope-shops. It seems to have been not far from this locality that in the 38th (SIC) of Queen Elizabeth (1596) the Corporation granted to an ancestor of the present writer, then a jurate and afterwards Mayor) as thus worded:-
Sea-Beach Waste Land[edit | edit source]
At this assembly is granted to John Brett a piece of waste ground lying at the Pg.178 north side of his brewhouse in the parish of All Saints, Hasting, adjoyning or being on the east syde of the Bourne, which piece of waster ground, after a survey thereof has been staked out by Mr. Maior, Mr. Calveerley, Mr. Lake, Mr. Isted and Mr. Byshopp, shall be according to such survey, confirmed unto him under the common scale on payment to the said town of Hasting, four pounds yearly.
In the same year Messrs. Edward Pelham and William Ffermor, together with the Mayor, were appointed a commission under the common seal to survey the waste lands at Pevensey Sluice, in the liberty of Hasting, "and to deal with all such as should clayme any title thereunto."
In 1674 the waste-ground between the West Forte (now Government House) and the Priory Bridge was let to Thomas Went, for rope-making, and in the following year it was ordered that vessels should only be built within the same locality.
In 1678 a decree was issued for all persons having shops and tenements in the Suburbs to appear before the mayor and jurats to show their deeds of grants from the town, and there to agree for rents, &c.
In 1687 an order was promulgated by the Corporation for no barque, hoy or other vessel to be "drawed or winded upp upon the beach (excepting those which yearly goe to Great Yarmouth for fishing) between the Feast of St. James and Candlemas Day, upon the penalty of £10.
In 1691 permission was given to John Waters to enclose the ground on the south side of his house on the sea-side over which there was a pendant supported by pillars, he submitting to a fine set by the mayor and jurats.
In 1703, John Humphrey was fined 40/- and ordered to pay 1s. a year for an encroachment at the corner of his shop in the Queen's High Street.
In the same year, William Evernden was ordered to pay XXI for his encroachment if not removed in four days.
#As showing that some of the townspeople held to the opinion that the Corporation had no right to the control of the stone-beach, one Joseph Grayling, in 1717, stated on oath in court, that "Stephen Perigoe, Senr. this last week, when at the Bell declared that he will be pierwarden next year, and will call the Mayor and Jurats to account for selling any of the ground, for they have nothing to do with it." Perhaps the case was conveniently "not proven."
In 1724, Thomas Gyles, a jurat, was granted a piece of waste land in the Castle parish 23 x 15 ft. to build upon at a yearly rent of 4d. The said Thomas Gyles was in the next year elected Mayor, his qualification being probably something else than his fourpenny rent of ground.
At a quarter sessions in 1768, a complaint having been made against Jeremiah Thwaites for depositing chalk on the stade to the annoyance of fishermen it was ordered that in future not any should be placed between the East Well and the new fort (now East Parade) under a penalty of £20.
In 1778, at the Hundred Court the waste ground between the Fort and the Priory Bridge was let by auction by the Common[Notes 5] Crier to the highest bidders as follows: Lot 1, called the Bathing Room, on the parade, 150 feet [from opposite to where now is Pelham Cottage] to John Hutchings at £1; lot 2, called the Saw-pit Yard, 150 ft [next to lot 1], to Mark Sargent, at £3 16s; lot 3, called the Building Yard, afterwards the ship-building yard of Mr. Beeching and of Thwaites and Winter whose refusal to lessen the height of their groyne has been the incentive to recollect these details], to John Lee, at £1.12.; lot 4, adjoining lot 3, being 157 feet in length [where was afterwards Beach Cottages, the dispute about which in 1825 and 1837, further urged me to search for precedents], also to John Lee at £1 12s; lot 5, next to lot 4, called the Timber Yard, 150 ft., to Thomas Milward, at 23/-; lot 6, next to lot 5, also to Thomas Milward, at 20/-; lot 7, extending from Chalk Road [now between Castle street and Wellington place ] to the Priory Bridge, to Edward Milward, at £3. These several lengths of waste beach were "bounded on the north by the high road, and on the south by the sea." The Chalk road was what led up from the sea to Milward's lime kilns (now Wellington square). In the following year (1779), lot 1 was let to John Hutchings and Edward Cornwell for bathing purposes; the saw-pit to Mark Cousens; the next two pieces again to John Lee ship-builder; lots 5 & 6 again to Thomas Milward; and lot 7 west of Chalk road to the Priory Bridge to the Lime Company, [of whom Edward Milward was the principal, and whose kilns were in the Castle field where now is Wellington square.] The total amount of rent proffered on this occasion was £10, which was three Pg.179 guineas less tender than in the preceding year.
Two years later (1781) the 7 lots were severally let to Mark Sargent, John Lee, Thos. Milward and William Pollard, the total amount of rents offered being £10.11s. But in the next year there was an entire change, the several pieces of so-called waste land being let to Thomas Deeprose for £17.10s. It is presumed however, that Deeprose over-reached himself in this speculation, for in 1784 the whole of the ground from the Bathing house to the Priory Bridge only realised £7, Mr. John Polhill being the highest bidder.
During the next two or three years an agitation was renewed against the Corporation as claimants to the ownership of the waste beach, much of it being that which the sea had overrun and receded from. Some of the disputants contended that the fishermen had a chartered right of free use, and others that the Government, if so minded, could claim the foreshore on the strength of an Act of Parliament passed before the time of Queen Elizabeth. During this contention - not the first nor the last - at an assembly on the 14th of August, 1789, Mr. Milward opened the business with the information that he had received a notice from Mr. Acton (an attorney and ex-Town Clerk) importing that if he or the Corporation made any encroachment on the waste land an action would be brought. Mr. Milward remarked that by oral testimony as well as by several deeds and leases it appeared that for almost a century the waste land had been let to divers parties, and he believed the right was vested in the Corporation only. The assembly then by a majority resolved that they believed the right was still in the Corporation, and a motion was carried that Edwd. Milward be granted a lease of the waste sea beach between the Bathing-house and the Priory Bridge at £10 per year.
Apparently strengthened by the foregoing representation and resolution, the Corporation, in 1791, gave notice to Willm. Brett and William Carley that they had encroached on on (sic) the Corporation ground, opposite the battery. The said Wm. Brett (grandfather of the present writer) built what is now known as 10 East parade, but of what the alleged encroachment consisted, but whether of the entire ground or only a few inches, does not appear. In the same year a grant of land was made to surgeon Samuel Satterley for the erection of what was afterwards known as 1 to 5 Marine parade.
It is presumed that Brett set his house back to its present position, whilst Carley (who was an auctioneer) disregarded the notice and continued a recalcitrant until 1795, when at the Quarter Sessions on Jan 15th, Richard Edwards, Thomas Hutchinson and John Sargent gave evidence that they believed the ground on the south side of Carley's house, lately erected, belonged to the Corporation, and that they recollected capstans to have stood on the saw ground between the lower lighthouse and the fort, nearly opposite Carley's house and Wingfield's warehouse; also rope-shops standing thereon. One, who like myself, remembers even at a later period, the capstans placed within a few feet of the houses and other property in that district, might reasonably suppose that the evidence of these three witnesses told more for the claims of the fishermen than for the Corporation. But, perhaps, a little enquiry into the position or character of the witnesses may help us to judge the value of their testimony. Edwards, being a freeman, might have been biased in favour of the Corporation. Hutchinson might have been free from that taint, all that I have learnt of him being that he was one of a Hastings crew, who were seized at the entrance of Portsmouth harbour, and taken to Barfleur, in France, and there imprisoned. Sargent, however, appears in a very different light. In 1792, he was ordered to be prosecuted for refusing to act as overseer for St. Clement's parish, and in 1798, he was fined 10s for declining to act as a juryman. Also, later in the same year, he was sentenced to a month's imprisonment and to stand in the pillory two market days for committing an unnatural assault.
In 1798 there appears to have been a more than usually strong determination to wrest from the Mayor and jurats their authority over the sea-beach waste. Forty persons were sworn in as constables, the junior Edward Milward surrendered his lease of the ground between the bathing room and the priory, and certain persons were appointed as a committee of management for the said waste. One of the arguments of the disputants was that, being out of the town, the western limit of which was George street, the ground in question did not legally belong to the Corporation. It was, however, ordered by the latter, that proceedings be taken by the Town Clerk against James Halloway for an alleged ursupation (sic) of waste ground belonging to the Corporation. That there was not an amicable feeling between the prosecuting body in this case and the defendant may be Pg.180 assumed from the fact that Halloway had been several times fined for selling bread of short weight.
Then followed several adjourned meetings of the Hundred Court, and the outcome of their deliberations was that the said ground should be again let; that it should be measured and a plan taken; that a wharfinger should be appointed for the unlet portion; that a shilling should be demanded for every load of timber laid thereon; that Robt. Ball should have 20 by 14 ft. east of Bourner's lodge at 5/- per year; that Bourner himself, (of Battle), be asked if he intended to become a tenant at 10/- a year for the ground whereon his lodge was placed; and that the Town Clerk draw up a case for Counsel's opinion. Whether such an opinion was ever obtained is not within my knowledge, but for the Corporation evidently continued to act on its assumed rights; for, on the 22nd of May, 1800, John Hadden was ordered to remove his encroachment on the sea-beach. This was at 11 Marine parade, in front of which there was no parade and no public road, and where had been residing as visitors the heroine of Lovers' Seat and her mother, the latter of whom died there in the year just named. It is not traceable that this order was complied with at the time, but about eleven years afterwards, the same John Hadden paid the Corporation three guineas for a piece of ground 7 feet by 3 "at the east end of his lodging-house on part of the site of the old pier-shop in the Castle parish for an entrance into the lower part of his house." This entrance is still to be seen after the lapse of 87 years.
Also in 1800, it was resolved that the piece of ground known as the "Town Walk" be sold or let by an appointed committee. The site and other conditions of the said Town Walk are described at another place. It may, however, be here stated that it was a thoroughfare on the north or inner side of the Town Wall, leading from Winding street to the lower part of High street, between what are now 57 and 58, nearly opposite the old Swan Hotel.
At a meeting of the Hundred Court in 1805, it was resolved that in future no building be erected or enclosure made on the stade or sea-beach between the East Well and the West Fort without consent of the Corporation: Also that no building when erected shall be assigned without such consent. At the same meeting leave was given to William Ball, Surveyor of Customs, to erect a house or shed for the Custom-house boat, eastward of the Watch-house, for a size of 29 by 10 1/2 ft. on payment of 5/- a year.
In 1808, James Bell, of the Cutter inn, was ordered to remove an encroachment opposite to his house.
In 1810, a lease of 21 years, at 40s. a year for a piece of ground 14 by 31 feet was granted by the Corporation to the Hastings Commissioners to build a watch-house at Mercer's Bank, 6 feet east of Wenham's stable and 3 feet south of Wm. Ball's stable. In 1812 the Corporation granted to Mr. P. M. Powell a 14 years' lease of land near the battery, opposite the west end of a stable belonging to Samuel Satterley, 16 feet east to west, and 4 feet semicircle, south to north, at a rent of 1/- a year. A grant was also made "to Richard Diplock, stationer, for a bow window, 17 ft. north to south, and 8 ft. east to west, for 21 years at 3/ per year; in front of a building lately used as a pastry-cook's shop and billiard room belonging to Eward (sic) Milward and at the time occupied by Joshua Bragg and Francis Henbury."
In 1818 another authority appeared upon the scene, it being then ordered at a vestry meeting of the Castle parish that the vestry clerk (Mr. Tompsett) give notice to James Brazier, Thos. Thwaites, jun., James Mann, William Gallop, Henry Prior and John Weston not to build on the beach.
At a meeting of the Corporation in the month of March, 1823, it was resolved:-
"That as the grants to applicants for the several plots of ground on the stone-beach belonging to the Corporation have already realised £1265, and that sum being now in the hands of the Mayor; and whereas at an assembly on the 18th of Nov. 1820 it was ordered that the sum of money arising from such sales should be applied to the purchase of Pg.151 real estate or for the erection of some public building for the use of the Major, Jurats and Commonalty and their successors; and whereas the present Town Hall and Market are in a very ruinous state and not sufficiently commodious for the rapidly improving town and port, and is, moreover, an obstruction to the footpath by projecting beyond the line of houses, the said Mayor, Jurats and commonalty, consider that the money so raised cannot be expended in any manner more beneficial than in erecting a new Town Hall, with a convenient Market-house under the same, according to the plan and elevation proposed by John Goldsworthy Shorter, Esq., do hereby order that a new Town Hall be erected on the site of the present building, and that the sum of £1265 of so much thereof as may be necessary, shall be appropriated." etc.
In the same year the Corporation directed that notice be given to Thos. Justin to remove an encroachment on the sea-beach, so that a footpath might be formed while the Castle cliff was being taken down.
In 1824 the piece of land which in 1812 was leased to Francis Heubry was sold outright to Edward Milward by the Corporation for £50, clear of the yearly rent of 5/-. It was that on which Powell's Library (now the [[Belle Vue Hotel) partly stood, and this addition afforded a private entrance to the house thus:
Another small piece was leased by the Corporation for 99 years to the Misses Elizabeth and Honor Sargent, as what is now 7 East parade, at an annual rent of 10/-. It was for a bow window to their house, the projection being 2 ft at the sides and 4 feet in the centre. The joining of the brick work for this small addition is clearly traceable even now, 1898.
On May-day of 1824, an application of the Hastings Commissioners was granted by the Corporation to set back four feet, the lighthouse and three small shops (Jassell's, Phipp's and Heubry's) to improve the road, but with the understanding that the road was not to be dedicated to the public, as it was "likely to be obstructed at times by capstans, ropes, &c., as it had hitherto been immemorially by fishermen and others." By this admission, it would appear, after all, that the "fishermen and others" had some sort of claim to the use of the sea-beach waste. But that they, perhaps, exceeded that "immemorial" right is indicated by the following narrative. It was only ten days after the permission was given to the Commissioners to set back the lighthouse and shops that a violent scene took place in the Fishmarket in consequence of the fishermen placing two additional rope-shops on the beach claimed by the Corporation. The Town-clerk and four constables displaced them, but no sooner had they done so than the fishermen (one of them axe in hand) put them back. John Campbell, as one of the constables, took from "Old Tom" Tassell the said axe, whilst the old fisherman was secured by Campbell's father. Campbell had the axe in his possession many years after, when he was 83 years of age, as a souvenir of that event.
At the Michaelmas quarter sessions, the fishermen were adjudged guilty of a violent assault on the constables, and were ordered to enter into sureties to keep the peace in future. Thomas, William and John Tassell in bonds from Eighty to a hundred pounds each, and William Simmons, Edward Ridley and Richard Ball in bonds of £40 each. Judgment was only given after two adjournments, thus shewing the intricate nature of the case. Anyway, the sentences were lenient when compared with that of seven years transportation on an All Saints' labourer named Watson, for stealing two hats and some satin from Pg.182 James Wenham. Also, as compared with the 7 years transportation of a Mrs. Dean for stealing four yards of oil-cloth from Mr. Eaton.
Whatever disputes there might have been over the sea-beach sites it is presumable that there could be no questioning the right of the Corporation if, without inconvenience to the public, money could be made in any way with what remained of the old Town-wall. Curious as it may appear, a fragment of the said wall, 21 feet by 5, near the lower end of Bourne street, was let to James Mann in 1824 at a charge of 1/- a year.
The several sales of beach-ground to Mr. Camac, realising £150, for the erection of his stables, west of Beach terrace, have been already noticed, and it may now be stated that in 1825, William Kirby Simmons paid the Corporation £100 for a site near the same spot of about 32 by 16 1/2 feet, where he and Mr. Justin were occupying a house that had been built in Castle Street without leave, several years before, and which, as an alleged encroachment, the owner refused to remove.
Also in the same year (1825), the Corporation granted to William King, a carpenter, the piece of waste ground near the Priory Bridge, on which his house was built, for the sum of £40.
On the 25th of March in the same year, a grant was made to Richard Chandler, dealer in marine stores, of a piece of stone-beach whereon he had built a house some years before in what is now Pelham street. The same was to be conveyed to him for the sum of £20. Another piece, 16 by 20 feet near to his own house, on which he had built a tenement, occupied by James Catt, was also sold to Mr. Chandler for £20.
Next, as coming more within the precincts of the town, a grant of ground in fee simple, 16ft by 4ft,near to the Battery, was made to Thomas Satterley, whereon to construct a bow window to the house occupied by the banking firm of Mitchell, Ward, Miles & Co. The purchasing price was £40. All this and other parts of the town as they appeared in Mr. Powell's picture, were fully described in Brett’s Gazette, and have since been transferred, for more permanent record, to the "Premier Cinque Port", Vol. I, pp 9 to 14.
Not far from the last-named spot, and next to the Cutter inn, was the "Manchester Warehouse" of Messrs. Clement and Inskipp, and nearly opposite to that drapery establishment was a small triangular piece of waste ground, which in 1829, was required as a shelter for the shop shutters. This small piece of stone-beach, which it fell to the lot of the present writer to make use of daily, was sold by the Corporation to Mr. Clement for £40.
Foreshore Disputes - Corporation Changes - Bankruptcies[edit | edit source]
But the "encroachment" system was still in vogue, and equally so was the demand for reclamation or satisfaction; thus, in the same year, (1829), the Corporation gave notice to Thomas Thwaites to pull down the buildings erected by him on the ship-yard ground in front of the Pelham Arcade, and to remove the encroachment he had made contrary to the covenant in his grant. Mr. Thwaites, thereupon, apologised for his tenants (Thwaites and Winter) building the blacksmith's shop and the boiling aparatus, (sic) at the same time acknowledging the right of the Corporation, and hoping that the building might be allowed to remain by his paying rent for the encroachment. His request was granted on condition of paying 20/- a year for the shop and 5/- for the boiler. These adjuncts and all other appliances of the ship-building yard have long ago disappeared, and in their place are the Russian gun and ornamental enclosures.
In the same year (1829) that the new arrangement was effected with the shipwrights, the Corporation consented to the retention of ground already Pg.183 built upon without grant on condition that Thomas ("Trewyer") Mann, pay £40; William Golden, £15; William Kirby, £25; Maria Rogers (on behalf of her brother, Thomas Davies), £20; William Brazier, £30; Edward Stevens, £25; and Thomas Thwaites (for 22 by 23 1/2 feet adjoining south side of the Royal Oak Hotel) £5. At the same time the Corporation gave notice to W. Lucas-Shadwall to remove an encroachment on the Beach terrace adjoining Mr. Camac's stables.
In the following year (1830) the Corporation demanded and obtained payment for other sites already built upon - namely £30 from Jesse Furner, a sawyer, for the stone-beach that his house was built upon at the west end of what is now Pelham street, £50 from Thomas James Breeds, for ground at the east end of Castle street on which he has built a coach-house and billiard-room; £20 from James Rock, for ground on which a work-shop was built and occupied by Thomas Beaney (afterwards by Joshua Huggett) between the Chalk road and the Priory water (now Pelham street), and £1 a year, as rent, from Samuel Nash, for a piece adjoining the Priory water which he had permission to enclose in 1822, but on which, without leave, he had since built upon. Also £5 from Samuel Satterley for a piece of formerly stone-beach at the back of a small dwelling at the north-west end of West street. Among the minor grants in the same year was one to Mr. George Clement to put down a paved footpath round his house, adjoining the Cutter, on payment of 1/- a year, and one to Thomas James Breeds to make two openings in the stade for getting casks into the cellars of the Queen’s Head, on payment of 2/- a year.
In 1831, the Corporation declined to grant Edmund Strickland a piece of sea-beach, 30 feet wide, adjoining the west side of Camac's stables. Mr. Strickland afterwards appropriated some waste ground near the same place, but in 1836, he was served with a notice to remove within seven days the coal which he had deposited on the stone-beach in front of Breeds place. At the same time all persons who had placed timber and other materials between Mr. Camac's stables and the Chalk Road were warned to remove the same within a month.
Then followed refusals and further contentions, whereupon it was ordered by the Corporation that the case then prepared by the Town Clerk relative to the title to the land called stone-beach opposite to Breeds place be laid before Counsel for an opinion thereon.
#This serves as a reminder that the parochial officers of St. Mary-in-the-Castle obtained Counsel's opinion as to what were their powers with respect to the workhouse and workhouse yard, and that opinion not being favorable to their views, the Corporation was approached for the proposal of ascertaining the purchasing terms of a conveyance to them of the ground as a freehold whereon to build. The price named was £200, which sum was agreed upon by the overseers and parishioners at a vestry meeting in 1832.
In 1833 the Corporation received from the Town-clerk a report that he had searched for entries relating to the three shops (presumably rope-shops) which Thomas James Breeds intended to convert into dwelling, but owing to the loose way in which the records were kept from 30 to 60 years ago, he was unable to find any. It was therefore decided to take Counsel's opinion on that matter also.
Having stated that the sum of £200 was paid to the Corporation for the freehold of the workhouse yard of St. Mary-in-the-Castle, it should be here added that at a vestry meeting on Sept. 7th, 1837, it was resolved that the workhouse and ground be sold, the site to be built upon to the height of two storeys only, the proceeds to be applied to paying a quota towards erecting the Union Workhouse at Cackle street, but the residue, if any, to be employed for the permanent benefit of the parish. The result of this resolution was the erection of the three houses, with shops, opposite York Buildings, dwarfed in appearance by the limitation of two storeys.
I have thus traced the contentions re the rights to the ownership of the stone-beach waste ground from 1596 to 1837, without attempting to be umpire in the matter, preferring to leave that point of the dispute in the Pg.184 hands of my readers. I might have extended the details and comments thereon to an almost indefinite length by going into the question of groynes and other means of protection mainly to the property rightly or wrongly erected too near to the sea. I might have given extracts from the many articles published in Brett's Gazette in connection with such protection in some of which articles were suggestions which if acted upon might have saved thousands of pounds, one of which, as it occurs to instant memory, was a concave surface to the parade walls, years before it was partially and wisely adopted by the present Borough Surveyor. I might have referred to the several litigations on the beach and foreshore, questions of later years, in which the Corporation came off only second best, and I might have dwelt on the negotiations of the town authorities with the Government officials to show that there was another and more potent claimant to certain foreshore rights than any of the local litigants or disputants. Happily, all that is now satisfactorily settled, and what I have penned is a matter of History. Suffice that I have shown in what way certain inhabitants "stole the ground" they built upon, and afterwards redeemed their character by pecuniary compensation. And now, after this lengthy digression, I return to the year 1837 for a further narrative of its events.
I have before this alluded to the bankruptcy of Messrs. Bishop and Thorpe, but I did not say that Mr. Thorpe was Mayor of Hastings at the time, and that on the 18th of July, Robert Ranking, Esq. was elected to to (sic) fill his place for the remainder of the official year, whilst Mr. Grimes, porter merchant, was elected on the Council in place of Mr. Ranking. Then, Mr. Ranking being made an alderman, Thomas Foster was elected a councillor in his place, and Frederick Ticehurst in the room of Edward Fermor, another bankrupt. In the West ward Mr. Stephen Puttman was elected on the Council Board in place of Mr. W. M. Eldridge, also a bankrupt. It often happens that one bankruptcy causes others, and this was, doubtless, so in 1837. I know of one instance in which the failure of a tradesman was attributed to such, and, besides the bankruptcy of Mr. Edlridge and Mr. Fermor, already mentioned, as well as of Bishop & Thorpe, the Council at their meeting in September, consented to a certificate of Thomas James Breeds, a bankrupt, on a debt due to the Corporation for pier dues. Also at the November meeting it was resolved that the Council consent to the Corporation seal being attached to the certificate of Mr. Charles Burfield, a bankrupt, for the debt due on the stade a/c.
The names of that Council Board were W. Duke (Mayor), Dr. MacCabe (ex-Mayor), F. North (ex-M.P.), W. L. Shadwell, W. L. Yates, J. Mannington, J. Emary, J. Harman, W. Amoore, W. Scrivens, W. Ransom, W. Ginnner, (sic) W. Brisco, C. Grenside, C. Deudney, R. Deudney, J. Thwaites, S. Putland, and T. Foster.
On the ninth of November the choice of Mayor fell upon Mr. William Duke, who, with about forty officials and friends, Kept up the time-honoured custom of dining at the Swan hotel; but there was a subject broached at the Council meeting of that day which it may be worth while to notice. I have already stated that
In Eighteen-thirty-six a letter came,
With Lord John Russell's venerated name,
That non-provision of a Cinque-ports gaol,
Would make the Hastings Quarter-Sessions fail.
It was at the meeting now referred to that the Rev. William Russell delivered a lengthy address to the Council on the subject of building a new county prison at Hastings. He was one of the Gaol Commissioners, and was sent by Lord John Russell to confer with the Council on this matter. He advocated what he called the separate system; but, as my present readers well know, the county prison at Lewes is proof that Hastings did not strenuously covet the honour of being head and chief in prison establishments. Of the twenty-one aldermen and councilmen present at that particular meeting it was twenty to one that they would not be living at the time when this was written. All, but the one exception (Alderman Deudney) has passed the bourne whence no traveller returns.
Having mentioned Lord John Russell's name in connection with the gaol, I may here say that the names of Dr. Wilmott and John Mannington having been sent to him for magistrates in the place of James Burton, deceased, his lordship replied that he could only recommend Mr. Mannington.
But gaol or no gaol, the authorities had no difficulty in finding a cage for smuggling birds, and it was on this species - not a carrier-pigeon,but a carrier without pigeon - that had his wings metaphorically cut by an old fowler belonging to Her Majesty's Customs. The bird thus caught rejoiced in the name of Syms, and hailed from the town and port of Rye. He was seen delivering to Mrs. Nash, of All Saints' street, a box which he said contained candles, but which turned out to be two casks of contraband spirits. Syms was afterwards adjudged to pay a fine of £100, but on the application of Mr. Langham, the smugglers' advocate, his sentence was commuted to six months' imprisonment. This reminds me of another smuggling affair, which took place in the same year, and had a curious and almost fatal termination. A lad, with a horse and cart, was going up the Swan Lane, when a Custom-house officer, having his curiosity excited by suspicion, overhauled the cart and discovered a tub of spirits therein. Some words which he addressed to the lad had such an effect on him that the poor little fellow's terror brought on a fit, which continued for several hours, and his life was despaired of. Dr. Dutton attended the poor boy, and at length succeeded in restoring him to consciousness. He was then set free, but the horse and cart were taken to the Custom-house yard, in High street, and there publicly sold. A few years earlier a similar case would not have been without the pale of possibility even with the embryo St. Leonardensis, for he had been the joint bearer of many a concealed keg of spirits unburdened with duty, and had never been cognizant of wrong other than that it was not desirable to expose such a commodity to public gaze.
Smuggling - Regatta Funds Missing - Enormous catch of Mackerel[edit | edit source]
Pg.185 At a time when almost every body was either a practical or a theoretical smuggler, it would be a phenomenon for a woman to marry a man, or a man to marry a woman whose friends were strangers to "free-trade," yet it would be hardly regarded as the right sort of thing for the sons of bold smugglers to unite themselves to the daughters of Revenue-officers. To my own intimate knowledge, however, one such case occurred, in which the officer who seized the boy-smuggler and his cargo, being father to the one was, against his will, made a father-in-law to the other. The newly made husband in this case was he whose many smuggling exploits have been given in detail under the title of "The Last of a Family of Smugglers" and will probably appear further on in this History.
#I hardly know whether, in the writing of this History - much of it against time, and with only partially arranged materials - I have already described the curious smuggling and pseudo-smuggling practices of the Mrs. Nash above referred to as the receiver of the "box of candles," and those also of her relatives, Mrs. Jerry Curtis and Mrs. "Minny" Mann; but if I have not done so, I must reserve the narrative for another occasion. These portly and presentable dames had no pretension to a superior education, but their lingual attainments were of a persuasive character, whilst their chances of becoming acquainted with visitors were heightened in consequence of their husbands being connected with the pleasure-boat interest.
And this again reminds me that there was no regatta in 1837 in which the boatmen could compete for prizes. The fact is worthy of note in consequence of a balance of £49 left over from the regatta of the previous year being, as it was declared, not to be found. Well ! if there was no regatta for the boatmen, there was something quite as good for the fishermen, the mackerel catches being so enormous as to enable them to realise considerable sums of money. The one great drawback was the limited means of conveyance to the London market, and this was so much felt on Sunday the 9th of July, that excellent fish were purchasable at 3/- the long hundred (132). Money was therefore plentiful for the customary squanderings at the Rock-fair toss-ring, and not much perhaps was laid by for use during the severe and trying winter which followed.
Turning again to political matters, I find that on September 6th the "Liberal Association" met at the Pilot Inn, and enrolled several new members. At the same time a denial was given to what was termed an infamous falsehood which had been propagated that Hollond had voted with Planta against the proposal of voting by ballot. These meetings continued to be held, first at one house, and then at another; and superlative efforts were made to keep the Liberal party well in hand with the view of turning out the Conservative representative on the first opportunity that might present itself. Meanwhile, the "Loyal and Constitutional Association" was equally vigilant in the Conservative interest, as will be shown by an address which near the close of the year was given to it by its President, A. Sutherland Graeme, Esq., which will appear in the next column.
Having incidentally associated the religious services at the Swan Hotel in 1837 and the building of the Wellington-square Chapel in 1838 with the clerkship of St. Leonardensis at the Hastings Post-office as a preliminary to more important matters yet to be introduced, I now delay for a moment the notice of other subjects which should come in datal order, to notice the death of Mr. William Woods, the announcement of which arrived just as my so-called preliminary allusion to the Post-office had been made. The deceased gentleman was the eldest son of Mr. John Woods, who in 1837, and for many years thereafter, was Postmaster for Hastings. In that year the said William Woods was in a large house of business in London, and in 1839 he came home to take the situation vacated by myself, and with the ulterior object of joining his two younger brothers in America. It was my own ambition also to become a free, roving yankee, but the Fates decreed that I should be a humble St. Leonardensis, instead; and with the help of blustering Notus, sent me back in a shattered condition to again try my luck in old England. Mr. Woods was more fortunate, for after continuing his Post-office duties for five or six years, he set sail for the "Land of the West," which he reached in due course, and pursued his way up country to Chicago. Like many another emigrant, the subject of this notice experienced not a few vicissitudes in his new home, and was one whose premises were consumed by the ravages of the great Chicago fire. And, as misfortunes rarely come singly, the cruel war which raged so fiercely between the northern and the southern states of the Union, deprived him in some way of his brother Charles and a son of his brother Bartlett. Then in 1867 his father died - the good old man who had been successively a grocer and draper at Winchelsea, a draper at Hastings, a publican at St. Leonards, and for about thirty-five years the highly respected Postmaster of the premier Cinque-Port. And now the grave has closed over the remains of the son as well as those of the father; and although they are separated by thousands of miles, our hope is that their spirits will be as affectionately united in another sphere as we know that they were in this. Mr. William Woods died at Chicago on the 19th of June, in the 88th year of his age, leaving behind him a widow and family, one brother (Bartlett) and his family, and one sister (in England) and her family. The deceased, I believe, left Hastings on St. Swithen's (sic) Day, 1843, whilst his brothers took their departure from the same town on Whit-Monday, 1836. The latter traveled to London, not in two hours, as may now be done by railway; not even in seven house, as might then have been done by the St. Leonards fast coach "Dispatch," but in thirteen hours by the "Old Blue" Van, which carried a promiscuous freight of fish, flesh and fowl, and at the lowest possible rate compatible with "comfort and safety/" It was a capacious conveyance which left Hastings every afternoon at three o'clock; and, like the Vicar of Wakefield's piece of furniture that served the double purpose of a chest of drawers by day and a bed by night, it was equally subservient to the requirements of humanity and merchandize. Perhaps, however, if the elder Woods had known what he learnt at a later period, that the attempt to make one thing serve a two-fold purpose was sometimes a failure, he would have hesitated before he arranged with the "Old Blue" to take his sons the first portion of their very long journey. His after experience was this:- He was a rather stout man, and as he had some difficulty in donning and offing his overcoat, he conceived the idea of having a thick out-door coat that should, per se, obviate the necessity of wearing two coats. "A very good plan," said the wife; "a capital idea," ejaculated the tailor; and "the very identical" exclaimed the wearer. But, lo! when-ever he made a call on his friends, and yielded to the invitation to stay a little while, he was immediately solicited to take off his coat. This, of course, he politely declined to do; but on one occasion a lady, who would not hear of his keeping on his overcoat - as she supposed it to be - in a warm room, and afterwards go out and not feel the benefit of it, laid hold of the garment to pull it off, when she quickly discovered that the wearer had no coat underneath. Nonplussed at the incident, Mr. Woods, amidst the irrepressible mirth of his friends, entered into a somewhat awkward explanation, whilst the conviction that his one coat could at the best but badly serve the purposes of the two, and that his conception was really a misconception. And now again to politics. I promised to give a reprint of Mr. Sutherland Graeme's address to the "Loyal and Constitutional Association," and here it is.
"GENTLEMEN, - On the 21st of this Month our Association will have existed one year, and not doubting but that you will meet to celebrate the first Anniversary, I avail myself of the present mode of addressing you, regretting that circumstances will deprive me, of being present and personally congratulating you upon the signal success which has hitherto attended the formation of a Society founded upon "Loyal and Constitutional" principles. I should indeed but indifferently appreciate the honorable post which your kind confidence assigned to me, on the first night of our Meeting, could I permit the present occasion to pass away unnoticed; and though unavoidably absent from that post, yet I would prove by my present address to you, that my earnest and heart-felt interest in the increasing prosperity and ultimate success of our good cause, is as warm and energetic as ever. It is in accordance with established usage for a Committee of Secretary to make a Report upon each Anniversary, of the progress and results attending the labours of an Association: for such Report I must look to you; but I hold it to be part of my province to draw your attention to passing political events, with the view of ascertaining whether the principles which we profess, and under the animating impression of which we originally determined to associate ourselves together, have not made such an advance among the intelligent and well-disposed classes of Society as to warrant the renewed expression of our anxious hopes, that they will eventually prevail to such an extent in the Great Council of the Nation, as to secure the re-establishment of a wise and efficient Government, founded upon strictly constitutional principles in "Church and State." Since we first met, great events have taken place, the most important of which has been that appeal to the Electors of the United Kingdom which has recently been made in consequence of the lamented death of our late Sovereign William the Fourth; and it is upon the result of that appeal, we should in the first place cordially congratulate ourselves. Before, however, entering upon that subject generally, permit me to remind you that in the course of the few observations which I made on the first night of our meeting, I thus spoke, with reference to the position in which our own Borough was then placed. "When the proper time shall arrive, the members of this Association will possess the usual opportunity (through the medium of the different addresses), of becoming acquainted with the political sentiments entertained by the respective candidates, and we shall then be able to judge whose are most in accordance with those principles upon which it is proposed to form this Association." I have seen no poll book, and of course must of necessity be ignorant of the vote which each individual member of our Association gave upon occasion of the late Election, but I have every reason to believe that all tendered their suffrages in support of that candidate who did most undoubtedly profess, and who has never shrunk from the profession of, principles, in accordance with those entertained by the Association; and if it should unfortunately have happened that in one or more instances this should not have been the case, it can afford no triumph to our opponents, because then, either undue influence must have wrought upon the mind of the Elector, or he could never have been originally honest in his desire to co-operate with ourselves. To return to the General Election, and in the language of those who supported the Reform Bill, in the belief that "through its medium the real wants and wishes of the people would be made known," I unhesitatingly declare that the result of the late contest throughout the country has been of a nature to diffuse joy and satisfaction in the minds of all real Conservatives. I well remember upon more occasions than one, telling you that the majority of the reflecting people of this country were not in favour of the destructive measures introduced by Her Majesty's Government; I well remember, while addressing you, calling upon the Noble Viscount at the head of Her Majesty's Government to dissolve the Parliament, and by so doing ask the people these questions: "Are you willing to sacrifice your Church? Are you willing to destroy the Institutions of your Country?" And I also well remember using these prophetic words, little imagining then that the truth of them would so shortly become apparent "Then shall the united voices of the people of Great Britian (sic) reply in the negative; through the months of their Representatives, they will say, they are not content to do this great wrong, and that they Pg.186 have proved their sincerity by sending men to Parliament who shall oppose those Ministers who have insulted their Sovereign and outraged the feelings of the people of this Country." And has it not been even so? From a careful analysis, drawn up by an ultra Radical weekly paper, the Spectator, I find it thus stated, "The Liberal Majority elected to the Peel Parliament was 356 to 302, - the Majority elected to the Melbourne Parliament is 336 to 322, the balance against the latter, or the difference of the majority being 40 votes!" But I will not rest satisfied with this mere numerical difference in our favor. Look to the counties of England and Wales; in one only has a Liberal displaced a Conservative, East Cumberland. Whereas in the following Twenty-one counties, Conservatives have displaced Liberals: Carmarthenshire. East Cornwall, North Devonshire, North Durham, Flintshire, Glamorganshire, North Hampshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, North Leicestershire, Middlesex, West Norfolk, South Nottinghamshire, West Somersetshire, North Staffordshire, East Surrey, West Suffolk, East Sussex, North Wiltshire, East Worcestershire, and East Yorkshire! In the large towns also, there has been no lack of Conservative feeling manifested; Liverpool, Hull, Bath, Brighton, Beverly, Greenwich, Hereford, Lancaster, Preston, and Wakefield, have all elected Conservatives in the place of Liberals, and the altered state of the polls for the City of London, and the great West Riding of Yorkshire, most forcibly demonstrate the change of opinion among those large constituencies. At the contest for the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1835, the numbers stood thus at the close of the Poll: - Lord Morpeth 9066; Mr. S. Wortley 6259, At the election just over, - Lord Morpeth 12576; Sir George Strickland 11892; Mr. S. Wordley 11489; giving to Sir George Strickland a majority of 403 over Mr. Wortley out of a Constituency of twenty-five thousand voters. At the close of the poll for the City of London in 1835, Mr. Grote, the lowest of the Liberal Candidates, had a majority of 1356, over Mr. Lyall, the highest of the Conservative candidates. - At the Election just over Mr. Grote obtained a bare majority of 6 votes over Mr. Horsley Palmer, and the Conservatives have presented a petition to the House of Commons with the veiw (sic) of substituting Mr. Horsley Palmer in the place of Mr. Grote, with every prospect of success. I repeat again, am I not therefore fully justified in expressing my unfeigned satisfaction at the result of the late appeal to the people. You cannot fail to observe, that I am altogether silent upon the subject of Ireland; but believe me, I am not so because I conceive the spirit of Conservatism has retrogaded (sic) in that country, but rather, as the mode in which the elections have been there conducted, has caused very numerous petitions to be presented, it would be premature to offer any opinion upon the returns made, until the decisions of the tribunals appointed to try their validity shall have been made. Upon those decisions will rest the question, whether the Government or the Opposition possess a majority in the House of Commons; but whether the Conservatives shall possess a majority or not, they are sufficiently powerful effectually to resist the carrying any measures which shall be subversive of the principles of the Constitution. The Ministers are well aware of this fact, and therefore availed themselves of the earliest opportunity to declare their adherence to the principles of the Reform Bill, "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." But though they have mad this anti-Radical declaration on the first night of the Session, they have since displayed such a servile disposition to cringe to their former allies, the Ultra Liberals, and such gross and shameless apostacy from their former professions, that it will be imperatively necessary for the Concervatives (sic) as a body to watch their proceedings, and to view with a jealous and scrutinizing eye, every measure which shall be brought forward by them, or which shall receive their support. At the close of the "Address" which our Association adopted, and published, is the following passage, to which I now again particularly invite your attention. "We have in common with others formed ourselves into an Association for the purpose of upholding the Prerogatives of the Crown inviolate, and the preservation of the Protestant Established Church as an integral part of the State; for preserving the application of Church Property to none but Protestant Ecclesiastical purposes alone; for maintaining integrity and independence, and freedom and boldness of deliberation and decision, not only to the House of Commons, but equally to the House of Lords, as equally constituent parts of the Legislature, for securing still for every voter in the Kingdom, the free, bold, and manly declaration of his political sentiments, and the right of recording his vote at elections, as an Englishman - openly and in the face of day; - and lastly, for diffusing among the people at large, a healthy and honest regard for such healthy and honest principles as are best security of their prosperity and happiness, and firmest bulwark of their liberties." That we shall finally secure these great and glorious results, upon a foundation never to be again shaken, I confidently expect; and when that happy period shall arrive we will dissolve our Association upon the same principle on which we originally founded it, but until such time, I earnestly call upon you my friends, and brother members of our Loyal and Constitutional Association to continue to advance its success by every lawful means in your power, firmly convinced as I trust you all are, that by so doing, you are promoting the true happiness of your fellow countrymen throughout all classes of society, and strengthening to the utmost of your ability those Institutions of our Common Country to which we look up with respect and attachment. - I have the honour to remain, Gentlemen, In all sincerity,— Your most obedient Servant,
ALEXANDER SUTHERLAND GRAEME.Cossington House, Bridgewater, Dec. 16, 1837."
Powell & his library[edit | edit source]
- Yclept is an archaic term meaning 'in the name of' - Editor
- This figure seems too high, but is transcribed verbatim from the original - Transcriber
- Brett lived in Church Street, Ore in his youth - Editor
- Ozier Beds are a marshy land where willows are grown for basket making etc. - Editor
- Brett's writing here is difficult to decipher. It is likely that Brett meant town crier, but wrote common in error. Common Crier's were more associated with cities as opposed to towns which had a Town Crier see Wikipedia for more - Transcriber
- Caption from Transcriber