Brett Volume 2: Chapter XV - St Leonards 1836
- 1 Transcriber’s note
- 2 Chapter XV, St. Leonards 1836
- 2.1 Coastguard Station built on St. Michaels Rock - Parade Wall breached by the Sea
- 2.2 Encroachment on Neptune's Domains - St Leonards Trade going to Hastings
- 2.3 A jail ordered to be built - Royal Challenge Archery Prizes
- 2.4 Archway to York Buildings in 1836 - Destructive Hurricane
- 2.5 The Great Snow Storm of 1836
- 2.6 The Great Snow-Storm of 1836 (contd)
| 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.
Generally the transcription follows the guidelines set out by the National Archives. Work is in hand to identify and annotate hand-written sections and other annotations within the transcriptions, the main difference being that hand-written sections are indicated by a Cursive font on screen. If any portions are
Readers should be aware that Brett’s narrative was written some forty to fifty years after these events (the typeset portions being perhaps 20 years earlier) and his memory has occasionally been found to be at fault by later historians.
Chapter XV, St. Leonards 1836
But the road to which I have alluded in Chapter XIII was not the only one in course of construction at that time, as the following advertisement will show. It runs thus:- "The public are informed that a considerable improvement is now taking place in the turnpike road from Hastings and St. Leonards of London through Battle. A new road from Battle to John's Cross is now actually commenced, by which a saving of one mile will be made and other improvements effected; and, whereas plans and proposals for another road have been laid before the public, leaving out Battle, a public meeting will be held to consider the best means of preventing the road being thus diverted."
Two new Road-bills were thus before Parliament in the month of March, 1836, and an additional project was started to cut a road from near the Hare-and-Hounds, at Ore, to Sedlescombe Bridge, thereby forming a junction with the intended new cut from the Harrow to Whatling Hill. Another project was mooted for a new road from Hasting to Rye, under the East Cliff. This, of course, was never carried into effect.
Coastguard Station built on St. Michaels Rock - Parade Wall breached by the Sea
One of the last buildings removed from the Priory ground was the Coastguard Station, whose site was near the centre of what is now the wall which spans the front of Carlisle parade and Robertson terrace. A more commanding position was obtained for it on Cuckoo Hill, or, as it was sometimes called, St. Michael's rock. The first stone of the new building - the still existing station - was laid on the 14th of April. Nine silver coins were deposited beneath the said stone, but in the following night the stone was raised from its bed and the money carried off. On the following day Mr. George Clement gave an entertainment to Lord Gage the Hon. Mr. Craven, and a number of other gentlemen, in honour of the event. The festivities commenced with a public breakfast, followed until dinner time by fishing, shooting, etc. At the dinner his lordship proposed Mr. Clement's health in a complimentary speech, and while returning thanks, Mr. Clement proposed "The Trade of Hastings."
Another building of the period which even more than that of the Coastguard Station united St. Leonards with Hastings was that of the Union Workhouse, already referred to. It was commenced in the early part of 1836 by Mr. George Luck, the contractor who, ere the work was completed, became insolvent. In the first year after the Union was established the parish of St. Leonards contributed two separate sums of thirteen and fourteen pounds, or a total of £27, as against £91.15s 10d which the same parish paid for the relief of the poor under the old system in 1833. The saving thus effected afforded considerable satisfaction to the ratepayers as a body, although - as before intimated - the new system gave rise to bitter complaints among those who, contrary to their idiosyncrasies, discovered that they were better able to work without parish relief than with it. But the alleged hardships of husbands separated from their wives, and children from their parents, continued to be severely commented upon by a portion of the press as a cruel provision of the new law; and on account of this stringency being attacked with increasing vehemence Mr. Walter, in the following year, moved in the House of Commons for a select committee to enquire into the working of the new Poor-law Act. During the discussion, however, it came out that the saving to the nations generally had been in similar proportion to that which was effected at St. Leonards. Comparing 1836 with 1834 it was shown that ratepayers had been relieved to the extent of £1,794,990; and Mr. Walter's motion was defeated by a majority of nearly two to one. During that year the St. Leonards parish contributed only £40 to the Borough-rate, which sum when compared with the thousands now contributed by the two western parishes, clearly shows to what a giant or giantess the town has grown.
Turning again to imperial as in connection with local matters, it occurs to me that the Parliamentary session of 1836 was opened By King William in person, and with a speech remarkable for the number and variety of topics. Amendments to the address were moved - the one in the upper House being carried without a division, and the one in the Lower House, by Sir Robt. Peel, being rejected by a majority of 284 to 243. Some excitement was caused by these results, and political questions for a time appeared to be uppermost in St. Leonards, both in the fashionable and commercial circles. On the 8th of February, Lord John Russell moved for a select committee to enquire into the causes of agricultural depression; and, a few days later, his lordship introduced three very important measures. One was a Bill for the Commutation of Tithes in England; the second was for a general registration of Births, Marriages and Death; and the third was for the Amendment of the Law of Marriages.
Lord John Russell was more than once at St. Leonards, and during his visits he conversed familiarly with a few of the Resident Reformers. It hardly need be doubted that Mr. Elphinstone, who was then a representative of the borough, gave his whole support to the several reforms proposed by his lordship, bearing in mind that one of Mr. Elphinstone's notices of motion during the session was for the introduction of a Bill to render the register of electors in England and Wales final; and that another of his motions was to disfranchise (sic) the freemen of Great Yarmouth.
I have before referred to Mr. Elphinstone's efforts to benefit his constituency, and to that may be added that in 1836 he obtained from the Lords of the Treasury a grant of £250 for the British Schools in Waterloo place; and, with the aid of Sir Eardly Wilmot - a frequent resident at Pelham Place - he succeeded in his efforts to get off the impost of a penny additional to the ordinary postage on letters delivered in the St. Mary's district of Hastings 0 that is to say such part of the parish as lay westward of George street, commonly called "off the stones."
At the Epiphany Quarter-Sessions of 1836 a presentment was made by the Grand Jury that the highway at St. Leonards from Stanton Noakes's house (The Fountain Inn) to the New Market, lately built by Mr. Burton, was "narrow, dangerous, and improperly left. that it ought to be 30 feet wide, and that a proper hand-rail or fence ought to be made on the north side, to prevent danger in passing over the raised causeway where the road had been lately diverted; also a rail or fence on the north side of the road from the Sussex Hotel and the new houses recently erected eastward of the same." The new houses here referred to were Nos. 65 to 70 Marina, between which and the hotel, space was left for the forty additional mansions which were built at a later period, and for which the area vaults were constructed when the new road was formed. For a considerable period, these vaults served as receptacles for all sorts of refuse, and some of them were used by the chimney sweepers as depositories for soot.
On the top of the arches was an unpaved footpath, level with the road, and which being without any kind of protection to the public, there was danger - especially on a dark night - of pedestrians, and even vehicles - falling over to a depth of nine or ten feet on to the debris of a crumbling cliff. The other dangerous space named in the presentment was what is now the site of Nos. 128 to 146 Marina. It was, in fact, the old disused road, on the land side of the new road, and averaging about eight or nine feet below the latter. Of course the nineteen houses here named were not then built; and when I say that at spring-tides the sea used to flow over the new road and form an almost perpetual pond on the old road, so that boys and men could exercise themselves with boars and rafts, my readers will be able to judge the risk of flooding which the owners of that extended line of houses encountered when, with a knowledge of this condition, they put basements to their property right upon the low ground so constantly or so frequently under water. It was a want of prudence for which they paid many subsequent penalties, yet in this they were but the prototypes of the Hastings builders, who at a later period, exhibited similar indiscretion on the St. Andrew's Brook Estate. When I say that the then unbuilt houses were 128 to 146, I mean as they are now numbered; for as it was afterwards judged desirable to build eleven houses more between the church and the hotel than the ground was first laid out for the house which is now 127 was 116 in the year 1836, and was also the farthest house then existing in that direction. But nearly all that range of houses remained more or less untenanted for considerable periods, in consequence of the inroads of the sea, and such was also the case with those in the rear, which constituted what was then known as the New Market, but now more familiarly recognised as the Old Market, in contradistinction (sic) to some houses and shops which, under the name of the New Market were built two years later, and close to the late Archway. The said New Market is now known as Market street and Market terrace.
To the credit of the St. Leonards Commissioners it should be noticed that they lost no time in attending to the grand jury's presentment, instructions being at once given to fix a guard of poles all along one part of the endangered traffic, and tenders being invited for widening and protecting the other. At their meeting on the 1st of February the general-purposes committee accepted Mr. Putland's tender for the work which acceptance was afterwards duly confirmed.
Not so expeditious were the Commissioners of Filsham Level in repairing the bridge for which default the St. Leonards Commissioners had threatened them with an indictment. Mr. Bellingham, of Battle, who had been written to on the matter, did not deign to reply, and it was imagined that the presentment at the Quarter Sessions was made as a counter move against the St. Leonards Commissioners. The latter, it was quite certain, had no money to spend in litigation, for their clerk was still unsuccessful in obtaining the £900 loan which had been so repeatedly advertised for, whilst the outlays became more and more necessitous on account of the frequent visits of burly Neptune.
Encroachment on Neptune's Domains - St Leonards Trade going to Hastings
Impelled by a fierce gale on the 15th of January, and again on the 23rd of August, the sea made some ugly breaches in the parade wall, and thus added to the many items of trouble and expense which it had similarly inflicted. The first breach was opposite to the seven houses above referred to, westward of the church, to remedy which, Mr. Carey was employed to put down a raddle fence, with oak piles, 4 or 5 feet in Pg.132 front of the damaged wall, parallel thereto, and six rods in length, the charge to be 5/3 per foot run. For the repair of the wall itself a tender £47 (??? see below) was received from Messrs. Scott and Homan, but its execution was to be deferred until the more general repairs were fully considered. Mr. Carey paid £30 towards his charges for groyning operations, and Mr. Barnes was paid £51 for similar work. Scott and Homan's offer was also accepted to repair the first breach for a sum of £23, whilst instead of executing their previous contract, an order was given them to take down what was left of the damaged wall and to safely deposit the materials until some economic plan could be devised for using them to preserve a line of path parallel with the road between the seven houses and the Sussex hotel. Another sum was to be paid to them of £65 for work already done, and a further sum of £23 17s 3d was to be handed over to Messrs. C. & R. Deudney for bricks and faggots.
But the Commissioners' troubles with "Old Davy were a long way from being at an end. The truth is that the founder of st. Leonards had committed the same error in his desire to have a St. Leonards on the sea instead of by the sea, as the several founders of Hastings had done in their attempts to rebuild their Premier Cinque-Port on the beach instead of by the beach. They had all encroached upon the domains of Neptune, and the briny deity made them pay the penalty of their folly whenever the turbulent mood came upon him. Thus it was that as soon as they had fenced him in at one place, he broke through at another. But the battle once begun, the land-lubbers could not retreat with honour until every manoeuvre had been tried or their forces exhausted. In the last conflict, they had been woefully worsted and a more serious breach than usual had been made in their defences. Their next move, therefore, was to collect the scattered fragments of the shattered breastwork and to temporarily repair damages. For this work they had again to draw from their almost empty treasure-chest as follows :- £10 17s to James Hyland, for the carting of stone saved from the debris; £2 2s to Stephen Eldridge, for a temporary groyne, and £4 8s 9d to Deudney & Co., for faggots. Then at their meeting, on the 26th of September, Messrs. Scott and Homan presented an additional account of £26 6s 8d for underpinning and repairing the wall further eastward. These builders, together with Mr. Carey were also taken into consultation as to what was the next thing to be done; and it was decided to drive down a number of piles, 6 to 8 feet long and 18 inches apart, from the "return" wall, near the church, to the Sussex hotel, the same to be backed up with the loose sandstone then lying by the roadside, so as to form a slope up to the level of the road, and distant therefrom about five yards. It was further proposed to build a "dry" seawall, between the same points, inclining at an angle of 45 degrees, and about ten feel high. These works were not completed however; for at their next meeting (adjourned from Christmas Eve), it was decided to suspend operations until a more convenient season. In the meantime, Mr. George Scott had been employed to form a double fence of faggots, three and six feet, respectively, southwards of the wall; and the beach had accumulated as far as the fence reached, to the top of the faggots. An order was then given to extend this means of protection to a distance of about 600 feet.
Money, Money, Money! was still the cry in 1836, and at length an arrangement was made by Messs. Burton and Fraser with Mr. Duckworth for the loan of £600, which enabled the Commissioners to repay, with interest the £250 which the treasurer had repeatedly demanded during the two preceding years. But a difficulty awaited the Board in the fact that Mr. Leave, the surveyor, had tendered his resignation. His services were more than ever needed just at that time, but the resignation had to be accepted, and the office was afterwards temporarily filled by Mr. Charles Deudney. Another difficulty - and not an uncommon one - was that of securing payment of the rates. Only half the assessment had been collected, notwithstanding that a threat of summoning the defaulters had been repeatedly made. The arrears of rates, so considerable, were chiefly among the tradesmen and shop-keepers of the Marina, South Colonnade, East ascent and the Mercatoria - persons who have not now a habitation or a name in the town - and several of whom had to be excused on account of their alleged poverty; an allegation which was unfortunately supported by subsequent failures. When my readers learn - as they will do further on - that the town was fuller of aristocratic visitors during the autumn of 1836 than it had been before they will wonder why the commercial situation was so disappointing. There is but one explanation, and that is the one which I have before given; namely, that whilst the majority of the visitors and inhabitants went to Hastings to make their purchases, the shop-keepers (butchers, poulterers and greengrocers excepted), having also to draw their supplies mainly from Hastings, were unable, with their slender stocks and half profits, to compete successfully with the tradesmen of the old town. The fact was as palpable as the light of day that commercial reciprocity between the two towns was practically unknown. I could show, by numerous examples, that whilst from the relations of the two towns as well as from the dispositions of the inhabitants, the money flowed fast and freely into the old town, there was no turning in the current to carry it back again. The West went continually to the East to buy, whilst the East never went to the West except to sell. Many changes have necessarily taken place in a period of sixty years, yet the commercial relations here described still exist, although in a greatly modified form. It would have been well for a late member of the Town Council if he had realised this fact, rather than to have uttered the erroneous statement that "St. Leonards had always been a millstone on the neck of Hastings." It would also have been a reasonable request that some few other persons who had charged St. Leonards with having been a burthen (sic) to Hastings to recognise facts and reverse their verdict.
But, to return to the difficulty of collecting the rates, it should be stated that during the off-season of April. May, June and July, many of the houses were empty, and for these the proprietors or their agents refused to pay the assessment. Several unsatisfactory interviews took place, and at length a case was submitted to Mr. Earle for Counsel's opinion. This opinion was that half-rates should be demanded in such cases. The demand being resisted by Mr. Scrivens, Mr. Watson and others, on behalf of themselves or their clients, Mr. Fitzroy Kelly, another K.C., was applied to for an opinion, who more than confirmed Mr. Earle's opinion. The objectors still demurred, but on being threatened with an action at law, they accepted Mr. Earle's decision of half-rates, and immediately settled the matter. The Commissioners who mostly attended the meetings during 1836 were Major Jeffries, and Messrs. J. Burton, D. Burton, A. Burton, Wood, Greenough, C. Deudney, R. Deudney, J. Rock, and C. H. Southall. Two or three of the meetings were also attended by Mr. Howard Elphinstone, when that gentleman was released from his parliamentary duties.
Among the minor transactions of the Commissions in 1836 was the relinquishment of the beadle's tenance at the East gate, or Archway lodge. Bumbledom had been invaded by the police force, and the occupation of Harman, the high and mighty beadle of St. Leonards, was gone. At the May monthly meeting of the Hastings Town Council the Police establishment was decided on, and on the first of July following, the policemen, 13 in number, went on duty for the first time. This force, which included the Inspector, was regarded as being too small for a borough of the size of Hastings, even in 1836; and if, with greater efficiency and more than four times that number in the present day, the force is deemed to be barely sufficient for its requirements, the opinion then expressed may have been well founded. One thing was quite evident, namely, the necessity for the better protection to life and property. It was only a few nights before the police were appointed that a fire broke out at the shop of Mr. Walmsley, a hatter, in Commercial road, whilst on the same evening, a lodger of Mrs. Jordan's, at 4 Beach cottages, accidentally set the curtains on fire, and when it arrived, those who were in charge of it knew nothing of its construction. Had there been no prompter and more efficient manual assistance at hand the house might have been burnt to the ground, and the adjoining property have suffered a similar fate. It was then said "Surely, as we are now to have policemen, they will be taught the use of fire-engines; otherwise, the several parishes will have to combine to engage a set of firemen for the town." Very little, however, was done in this way until the St. Leonards Commissioners and townspeople moved in the matter, which movement will be described in the proper time. But even this was excelled, many years after, by Mr. Glenister, Superintendent of the Police-force, who at the suggestion of a few men, mainly of St. Leonards, initiated a Volunteer Fire Brigade, which has since become the model for numerous similar organizations in different parts of the country.
Yet there was something more, as may be supposed, for the Police-force to do than that of assisting to put out fires. It was on the 10th or 11th of March, in that Year, that Messrs. Pittock's drapery warehouse at Wellington place, was forcibly entered during the night and £400 worth of silks and other goods carried off. The burglary was effected by taking down a shutter and breaking a square of glass. Many other burglaries and robberies were committed about the same time, some of which might probably have been prevented, or the guilty parties detected, had a police system been sooner in vogue. It was hardly possible, however, that twelve policemen and an inspector - still less the beadles and watchmen previously existent - could have prevented the many other ills to which flesh is heir. They might lessen the number of offences, but they could have little or not control over occurrences of an accidental nature; to whit, they had been about two months installed in the new office when a young lady visitor fell over the Castle cliff, and when - on the same day- Mr. Hughes, of St. Leonards, sustained a fractured leg and other serious injuries though a fall whilst in the act of getting upon one of the coaches, and the wheels of the coach passing over his body. It may be mentioned, incidentally, that a singular series of accidents befel the family of Mr. Hughes,43 years after the accident here described, the singularity being in the fact that his widow, his son and his daughter, fractured a wrist each, by variously accidental means. Pg.133
A jail ordered to be built - Royal Challenge Archery Prizes
As a kindred subject, it may be mentioned that the founder of St. Leonards was made a magistrate in the same year that the borough-police-system was established, although he did not live long to enjoy the honour thus conferred. It was in the month of March that Government sanctioned his appointment, together with that of Major Jeffries, Musgave Brisco, Wastel Bisco, F. North and W. Duke, senr. Another subject connected with the police and the magistracy was that of the jail. On the 22nd of June a letter was received from Lord John Ruseell to the effect that the Quarter Sessions were not to be held at Hastings in future unless a jail were built for the use of the Cinque Ports; it being urged by his lordship that it would effect a great saving of expense if all prisoners were sent to Lewes, Maidstone or Dover. I have no record to show when the county prison was built, nor do I remember the precise date, but as it was just before the end of 1836 that the St. Leonards overseers made their first contribution (£1 17s 6d) to the "Lewes House of Correction rate," I assume that the mandate of Lord John Russell was at once obeyed.
It was only in the preceding year that the same parish contributed precisely the same sum for the enlargement of the Hastings jail, whose erection, in 1820, I very well remember. But the enlargement of that (ig)noble edifice is still more indelibly fixed on my memory in consequence of it having been the only occasion in which I have been locked up in a prison. The story is a short one, and the telling of it will but slightly delay the more important items of the general narrative. I was sent by my employer with some articles of bedclothing, and being invited in by the jail-keeper to see the alteration, the door was locked behind me and with a feigned expression of regret for my unfortunate position, I was made to believe that the intention had succeeded admirably, and that I must consider myself a prisoner until I could prove my innocence. I could not call to mind any crime of which I could possibly be suspected, much less accused, for I could never boast, as did once a very young acquaintance of mine, that I liked to be wicked because it was pretty; yet I could not, for the life of me, get rid of an uncomfortable feeling. I shouldn't like to say that I did not look paler than usual, and I wouldn't swear that one or other of my peepers didn't drop a little - a very little tear. The jailor saw that his words and gestures had made a great impression on my timid nature, and he at once exclaimed, "No, no! my boy; it's only a joke of mine!" Whether this fright ever had the after effect of improving my morals I cannot now say, but I can vouch for it that if every person had as much dread of a prison as I had, I don't believe that there would have been any necessity for prisons or policemen from that time to this.
Paradoxical as it may appear, the year 1836 was both a year of commercial activity and depression. Money was cheap, trade was brisk, speculation was rife, and manufacturers were doing well; but as regards the agricultural interest of the tide of its affairs was at a very low ebb. The weather, by which it was so much affected, was almost as conspicuous for its ungeniality as was the year 1879. There was a cold, wet and unsettled spring, with a great deal of frost and snow, the latter material lying on the ground a foot thick on Good Friday and during Easter week. This was followed by rains and floods; and although the summer was comparatively fine, the autumn again set in wet followed by a heavy fall of snow, as a prelude to the unprecedented fall at Christmas and the destructive hurricane of November 29th. Farmers at that time were doing badly; a fact which, doubtless, could have been attested by Mr. Alderman Deudney, the then tenant of the Gensing lands at St. Leonards, whose brother Chas., together with Messrs. Edward Farncombe and Chas. Overy (two other local farmers) discussed the "situation" when they constituted the vestry meeting which, on the 25th of April, was held at the "New England Bank."
It may be imagined that additional zest was imparted to the discussion in consequence of the news received that morning of the defeat of Lord Chandos's motion. The said motion was, "That in the application of any surplus revenues towards the relief of the burthens of the country, due regard should be had to the necessity of a portion being applied to the agricultural interest." The debate on this motion took place on the 27th of April, but the majority of 36 by which it was rejected was not known in St. Leonards, until the morning of the 20th, as just intimated.
We had no railways nor telegraphs in those days, and it never entered into the imagination of the two overseers and one parishioner who formed the meeting at that humble-looking hostelry, "The New England Bank," that, in nine years time that very site would be occupied by the West-Marina station of the South-Coast Railway. Equally unconscious that St. Leonardensis that during the next two years it would be his duty to furnish returns from the Hastings and St. Leonards post-office to assist Mr. (afterwards Sir) Rowland Hill in his calculations for a scheme of Penny Postage. Even newspapers in those days were expensive luxuries, and were almost exclusively enjoyed by those who could afford a London daily at 3s 6d per week, or a subscription for a larger amount at Southall's Library. But a great change in all these matters was on the eve of being effected.
In the month of May, 1836, Mr. W. M. Eldridge, who had been proprietor of the Saxon Hotel for about four years, removed to the Swan Hotel, at Hastings, he having purchased the latter ancient hostelry for £5,000. Being a coach proprietor, Mr. Eldridge set about building some new coach-houses on an improved plan, whilst he expended a considerable sum of money in fitting up the hotel in a luxurious manner. For this latter purpose the furnishing department of Messrs. Clement and Inskipp's establishment was largely patronized. Mr. Eldridge was accompanied from the Saxon to the Swan by his faithful servant, Mr. George Potten; who, some years later returned to St. Leonards to become the landlord of the Horse-and-Groom Inn; where, during the long subsequent period, his industry, orderly management, genial nature and good attention gained for him a host of friends and patrons. Mr. Potten was twice married, and in 1884, died at the age of 73. Mr. Eldridge's successor at the Saxon Hotel was Mr. H. P. Hutchings - the tenant, I believe, of Mr. Wood, a brewer of Lewes. Mr. Hutchings had barely got settled in his new house when the news arrived of General Evans's gallant achievement at San Sebastian. The General was so well known in this neighbourhood, that the news of his success was received with lively satisfaction; and it was additional welcome to those who were intimate with Dr. MacCabe, of Hastings, in consequence of the promotion of that gentleman's relative (Major MacCabe), who, being wounded in action, was made a Brevet Lieut.-Colonel. In a letter to the Globe newspaper, it was stated that, for the first time, the principle of rewarding merit had been acknowledged in a British force.
It was in the same month (May 24th) that the Princess Victoria's birthday anniversary was celebrated by a meeting of the "Society of St. Leonards Archers" to shoot for prizes. The society was then in its fourth year of existence and as its royal patroness had not yet ascended the throne the more distinguished appellation which by royal authority the society adopted, could not of course have been applied. Two new challenge prizes were on this occasion presented by the Princess and her mother, in addition to those already described as having presented in the previous year; and as these were deemed of higher value, they were degreed to take precedence of the others. One of these was a jewelled tortoise-shell comb and ear-rings for ladies; and the other was a large silver winding-horn for gentlemen. The winners of these prizes on that occasion were Miss Ellen Wood and C. G. Eversfield, Esq. The meeting was attended by a very numerous company of nobility and gentry; and the event was further signalized by a sumptuous repast in the evening, the viands being supplied by Mr. Edlin, of the Victoria Hotel. Among the "arrivals" of that day were four Parliamentary Representatives, namely, Howard Elphinstone, M. Phillips, Richard Potter and J. T. Leader.
The autumn and winter seasons of 1836 were marked by great commercial activity and a tendency of over-trading. This, unfortunately led to several failures, and in the category of bankrupts was Mr. B. H. -, a builder, of St. Leonards, whose creditors met at the Swan Hotel on the 17th of Nov. The accounts showed that although the immediate claims on the estate did not exceed eleven-hundred pounds, the property was mortgaged in first and second securities of £14,000 and £7,000, respectively, and that it would not realise sufficient to clear even the first. This, be it remembered, as a condition which existed 60 years ago; and although the value of the bankrupt's property still further declined a few years later, until some of the houses were purchasable (subject to ground rent) for a few pounds only, the subsequent rise in the value of all kinds of house property has been so considerable that what was formerly one man's misfortune must have been latterly another man's benefit.
When Mr. Eldridge was negociating (sic) for the purchase of the Swan Hotel he was the colleague of Mr. W. Waghorne as overseer for St. Mary Magdalen, whilst at the same time the latter was busily engaged in rearing the mansion at Seymour place, afterwards occupied by the Dowager-Queen Adelaide. Thus intent upon their own private affairs, it would appear that both gentlemen found it inconvenient to attend to their parochial duties. They were consequently summoned before the magistrates with Mr. Peerless (the collector) to show cause why their balance-sheet for St. Mary Magdalen had not been duly delivered to Mr. T. B. Baker, an auditor, for his approval. Mr. Waghorne was adjudged to be the principal defaulter, and on his promise - a promise which was observed- to produce the accounts in a week's time, the matter was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
I have said that Mr. Waghorne was busily engaged in erecting his mansion at Seymour place. This house which is now 23 Grand parade, and still known as Adelaide house, was at that period the largest private dwelling in St. Leonards. In common with numerous other houses, it had many squares of glass blown in by the destructive hurricane of Nov. 29th, which to repair was a less expense to its owner than it might have been to others, in consequence of his being by trade a painter and glazier. When this house was receiving its furniture it was the privilege or the duty of St. Leonardensis (whichever you please, good patrons!) to cut out and assist in laying down the Brussels carpet in the immense drawing room which by arrangement could, if necessary, be separated into three rooms. It happened to be a white-ground carpet; and the seeming puerility of this description, together with the incidental details and personal allusions which follow may be accepted without too severe a criticism, if only for the domestic hint which they are intended to convey. A few years after this occurrence, Mr. J. Austin, who had also built a house in Seymour place, sent for the present writer to advise him in the choice of a carpet. I recommended the selection of a white ground from among several others, but the recommendation was at once scouted as an ill-conditioned one; and although my advice was ultimately acted upon, it was taken with reluctance, and with the terrible threat that if it proved to be wanting in wisdom, I should "never hear the last of it." Years rolled on, and I had the satisfaction of receiving from Mr. Austin a special "vote of thanks" for what he was pleased to call my "judicious recommendation." But to return to the Mansion - the Marine Mansion as it was first called - one of its earliest tenants was Lady Elizabeth Dutton and her family, who made a stay of six weeks previously to the occupation of it by the widowed Queen. This occupancy is well-remembered from the fact that - shy as I have always been of all sorts of speculative hazards on my own account - I was deputed to take a chance in a raffle for a valuable gold watch which Lady Dutton's butler had arranged to dispose of in that manner. I was to have had a half sovereign if I carried back the watch; but alas! I neither got the watch nor the money; for of all the chances - good, bad and indifferent - mine was quite the worst.
Archway to York Buildings in 1836 - Destructive Hurricane
I will now give my readers an idea of Pg.134 what, in 1836, the front line of the borough was like between the Archway at St. Leonards and York buildings at Hastings, Firstly, there was Adelaide place, consisting of thirteen houses, inclusive of the Saxon Hotel; secondly, Saxon house, now known as "Hempsted & Co.s"' thirdly the cliff, on whose site are now the houses 15 to 22 Grand parade; fourthly, the seven houses then constituting Seymour place; fifthly, the enclosed gardens of Warrior square where was exhibited a handsome lithographic view of intended square, terraces, crescent and church; sixthly, Cliff cottages, which are now 5 and 6 Eversfield place; seventhly, a long and lonesome space, with a rugged cliff, now occupied by 7 to 67 Eversfield place; eighthly, the ten houses at Verulam place; ninthly, a range of cliff, a portion of which had been cut down in levelling the White-rock; tenthly, six buildings in White-rock place, commencing with what is now No. 20, and finishing with what was then Deudney and Fagg's Brewery; and lastly, a new parade, a new road, plenty of lamp-posts, but no lamps nor lights. This was the eastern limit of St. Mary Magdalen parish, and still farther eastward of the property just enumerated were, Albert place, Stratford or Precursor place, and the "Desert," now covered by Robertson street, Robertson terrace and Carlisle parade. Before me is a view (published, I believe, by Mr. George ooll, of High street), showing the East Lodge, Harold Hotel, 20 to 15 Marina, Adelaide place, Saxon Hotel, and cliff cottages. From this as compared with my description, it will be easy to fix the date of its publication to two or three years before 1836.
In describing the frontage of the borough as it existed in 1836 between the Archway and York buildings, I included the Government Ground which was familiarly spoken of as the Desert; and although in a topographical sense, what I have further say about the last-mentioned spot, may take me again from a restrictive history of St. Leonards, its association therewith is almost unavoidable. It was in the last week of March, 1835, that Messrs. Walker and Driver, from the office of Woods and Forests, with the assistance of Mr. George Thwaites, of Hastings, surveyed the said ground, and decided to recommend the erection of a stone wall and wooden groynes, as necessary barriers against the tidal action of the sea. This wall - which has not immediately begun, but at a later period built by Messrs. Hughes and Hunter, of St. Leonards - was regarded as the best work of its kind along the cost; and the fact that it withstood the buffetings of the sea for some forty years without the displacement of a single stone, may be taken as proof of its excellence. I am referring, of course, to the wall at Carlisle parade, of which it was further said at the time of its erection, that next to a harbour or a pier, it would be a very noteworthy improvement. But it was urged that a harbour and pier were greatly wanted, and that a very favourable opportunity for getting one at the Priory then presented itself.
I have already described the great and gay meeting of the Society of St. Leonards Archers on the 24th of May, and I have now to report a similar gathering on the 17th of August - the respective birthday anniversaries of the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria. It was a splendid affair; and, as St. Leonards and Hastings were overflowing with visitors, the meeting was very numerously attended. It was said, indeed, that the borough was never so full of aristocratic and other influential people, the season being earlier and more brilliant than even that of the previous year. This and a considerable period of beautiful weather made the condition of the place doubly cheering. A public writer at that time in expatiating on the advantages afforded to visitors, remarked - "If they want to enjoy the ocean's breeze, the country air, an Italian sky, and good society, they will hasten to St. Leonards or to Hastings." But it is St. Leonards (continued the writer) that is again taking the lead with an unsparing hand. Will the old town follow so bright an example? This strain of writing by a Hastings man might seem to evince just a touch of that native jealousy which on many occasions was unfortunately exhibited; but, for myself, I would rather believe it was the outcome of a generous impulse towards the younger town. It is not unlikely that the Archery meeting received an accession of competitors and visitors in consequence of it having become known that the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria, had presented two additional challenge prizes to be shot for - a jewelled tortoise-shell comb for ladies, and a silver winding-horn for gentlemen. These being of greater value than their Royal Highnesses' first prizes, they were decreed to take priority. The winners of these prizes were Miss Ellen Wood and Mr. C. G. Eversfield. The event was celebrated with a grand ball in the evening.
On the following day, (Aug.18) the inhabitants, with Mr. Burton at their head, arranged a very good (almost impromptu) regatta. The weather was favourable for the sports, and equally so for the races of another sort in the following month. A finer period could not well have been than the greater part of september, and especially that of the 21st and 22nd of the month, when the populations of Hastings and St. Leonards poured forth in dense masses to the Race-course near Bopeep. There on the grand-stand were assembled the Mayor and other officials of the borough; there was the town-crier, and there was the town-band. There, also in the lower circle of the course which formed a figure eight, were the nobility, gentry, and other well-to-do people of the towns and neighbourhood, in double and treble lines of carriages, some of the equipages being drawn by four comparisoned steeds, preceded by outriders. This was the scene in Filsham Valley, whilst on the slopes of the hill between such valley and the site now covered by the West-Marina railway station, were rows of humbler vehicles, and above them the thousands of pedestrians who there did congregate to see the horses run. A prettier course or better racing could hardly have been found in any part of England. The principal prizes for 1836 were the Town-place, Ladies' plate, Mr. Green's plate, and the Hunter's stakes, each of £50 value. The running was good each day, and the dinner at the Swan hotel at the conclusion of the first day's sports, as well as the ball at the St. Leonards Assembly-rooms on the evening of the second day, was numerously and fashionably attended.
The attempt which was made in 1836 to get the meetings of the St. Leonards Commissioners and the Hastings Commissioners thrown open to the representatives of the Press was not attended with the same success as that which in the same year accompanied the efforts to admit the public to the monthly meetings of the Town Council. The failure of these efforts evoked a remonstrance, the question being asked "How long will it be before the ratepayers are permitted to know how their funds are expended by these private juntas? Why are not their meetings thrown open as at Brighton, Worthing, Tunbridge Wells, and other places?" A similar failure attended the application for admission of the Press to the meetings of the Board of Guardians. I have reason to believe that the non-compliance with the requisition was in each case cause of considerable ill-feeling against the personality of those public bodies, and of no benefit whatever to the ratepayers. It helped to enlarge the outcry against the new system of poor-relief as administered by the Unions, whilst in the case of the St. Leonards Commissioners it not only perpetuated the general discontent, but it probably gave that body more trouble in providing the requisite funds than would have been the case if the ratepayers had been taken into their confidence. This supposition is supported by the fact that on two or three occasions - the failure of the Hastings Bank being one of them - the inhabitants contributed a voluntary rate in addition to the shilling rate to which the powers of the Commissioners were limited.
The large extent of roads to be kept in repair, the frequent breaches and the partial demolition of the walls and parades by a boisterous sea, the constant repairs of badly constructed drains, the watering of roads, the laying down of new pavements, and the many other requirements for money by a new town which poets and press-writers had described as having no equal on the south-coast, all contributed to burthen the Commissioners with liabilities beyond their means; yet, this fact was but little known to the majority of the ratepayers, who not unnaturally suspected the Commissioners of mismanagement.
The front of the town on Friday, the 15th of January, was so furiously assailed by a turbulent sea as to cause a yawning brach in the parade wall opposite to the seven houses westward of the St. Leonards church. Then on the 11th of April, the brig "Collingwood", of Sunderland, foundered westward of St. Leonards, but her crew fortunately reached Hastings in safety. On the 5th of May the melancholy news arrived that a schooner has passed the new fishing-boat "Hastings" bottom upwards, which was supposed to have been blown over during a gale. This was a boat mainly owned by Mr. Winter and the crew of which consisted of Stephen Bumstead, John Bumstead, Hy. White, sen., Hy. White, jun, and Thos. Coppard, jun. On the 23rd of August, the weather was again very turbulent, and another large portion of the St. Leonards parade was swept away by the sea. During the years that St. Leonards had been a town it had not experienced so terrific a wind as that which occurred on Tuesday, 29th of November, 1836; nor am I aware that there is any person living who remembers so violent a hurricane on the south coast during the present century. I have no means of ascertaining the measure of its turbulence, but by adopting a mental process of comparison with two or three later gales by which it had been approximated, but not equaled, I am led to believe that its velocity exceeded 100 miles per hour, and that its force was 70 or 80 pounds upon the square foot. It commenced at about 11 o'clock in the forenoon, reached its maximum force about 1 p.m., and continued with but slight abatement until two or three. It then ceased, after having proved itself the climax to a week's boisterous weather which had preceded it During the height of the hurricane, the damage which resulted was unparalleled. Chimneys were toppled over, roofs blown off, corn-stacks and hay-stacks carried completely away, trees uprooted, horses and carts upset, and coaches blown over. By one of the last-named casualties, the father of the late Mr. John Peerless, of St. Leonards, sustained a fractured leg. Nearly all the windows of Mr. Waghorne's new mansion at Seymour place were destroyed, and a similar fate befell the Albion Hotel at Hastings. The scene of my daily occupation at that period was near to the latter place, and I well remember the destruction which was taking place all around. Imagining that the Marine parade, on the windward side of the houses, would be the safest place, I cautiously wended my way thither, and felt that I had almost miraculously escaped the danger with which I was menaced by the falling tiles and chimney pots. Whilst holding on to the painted posts and chains (afterwards replaced by iron railing) I witnessed the havoc before me, and felt that unless the danger were soon averted everybody would be made homeless. This was one feeling, and another was that of bravado - mistaken at the time for courage. Thrusting my head as far as possible into a cloth cap, and securing the two with my handkerchief, I afterwards pulled myself westward by means of the chains and posts already referred to, but in doing which I was frequently obliged to turn my face to leeward to gasp for breath or to avoid getting it cut with the sharp gravel which was blown up from the beach on to the parade. The tides were at their neap, and not much danger was therefore apprehended from that source; but the sea itself was quite phenomenal in its appearance. It seemed to boil with rate; and as far as could be compassed by the range of vision it was one vast mass of seething and foaming fluid. Six of the large elm-trees were up-rooted at the entrance to Hastings, a barn at Bohemia was blown down, a Government galley was carried off the beach into the sea and never recovered, and at a hop-sweepstakes dinner, in the Royal Oak hotel, the party were seriously alarmed at the intrusion through the window of a number of slates in their descent from the roof. These are but a few instances of the wreckage caused by the November tempest of 1836, for my memory serves me not to recount a tithe of the widespread havoc even in St. Leonards and Hastings. A similar effect was experienced all along the south coast and over an area of many miles inland. Chimneys, roofs, barns, out-houses, stacks and trees were destroyed in all directions, and the total loss was perhaps beyond the means of calculation. Rye sustained several thousand pounds' worth of damage, and Lewes a still larger amount, whilst at Brighton the destruction was immense, including the loss of the Chain Pier, with several human lives.
The Great Snow Storm of 1836
If what I have already narrated respecting the hurricane of Nov 29th, the deep snows of Good Friday and Oct. 29th, the cold and wet period from January to May the remarkably fine but brief summer, and the unusually wet and turbulent autumn, be not enough to prove the phenomenal character of the weather during 1836, then the description which follows of the deepest snow within memory will I opine, be sufficiently convincing. On the 24th of Dec. the weather was extremely mild until the approach of evening when it became suddenly cold, and during the night the temperature fell as much as 25 degrees. This was accompanied by the commencement of a snowstorm of a magnitude and intensity the equal of which if not on record. It continued throughout the night until the breakfast hour of Christmas Day, when it abated until about two o'clock in the afternoon, just as the majority of people would be sitting down to their Christmas dinner. It happened that I was one of those sorry wights whose parents, a year previously, were evicted by the Woods and Forests Commissioners from squatter-land at the Priory; and on the day of days now under consideration, I rejoined the family circle in the "old house at home" at St. Andrew's terrace (now Queen's road), which had been reconstructed with the materials from the original site. Scarcely, however, had my appetite been whetted by the luscious odours of roast-beef and plum-pudding when a Job's messenger in the person of Mr. Ives, came to acquaint me of a disaster which required my attention in another part of Hastings. The habitation of my employer at that time was in the neighbourhood of George street, and my own dormitory facing the east, and overlooking other houses, was exposed to the merciless blast, which carried away the window casement, and filled the room with snow, so as to block up the door on the inside against all comers. Incompetent to devise a remedy, and not particularly refreshed with the loss of my dinner or with the wading through a mile of deep snow, it became my duty to seek my master's whereabouts and to hurry him also away from friends whome he and his lady had joined away from home on that snowy, frosty, festive occasion. He was not very well pleased- and I should like to know what "manner of man" is he who would have been in any way delighted under the like trying circumstances. Albeit, away we went together, and having provided ourselves with a hammer to knock out a panel of the bed-room door, a spade to cut a passage across the floor, and some canvas to take the pace of the absent window, we soon effected a temporary remedy, and I was desired to secure my next night's lodgings at the Cutter Inn. This art of my personal experience will prepare the younger portion of my readers for what is to follow. I slept - or rather tried to sleep - at the Cutter, as desired, and in conformity with my habit of early-rising, I dressed myself next morning long before daylight, and whilst pacing the cold room, longed for an opportunity of getting out of the house. But how was the desire to be gratified? At peep o' day I beheld the snow which had fallen unceasingly during the night nearly up to the first floor windows; thus making prisoners of all the inmates until, a few hours later, when some fishermen had cut a passage up from the beach to the front door of the inn in question. Once disincarcerated (sic), I strove to get into George street, but the thing was totally impossible of accomplishment. Every avenue was blocked - some to the height of ten or twelve feet, and my only chance was to walk along the beach near the edge of the water until I could find a place that had been partially bared of the fleecy mass by the action of the wind. This was at the western end of Marine parade, near to the ship-building yard of Messrs. Thwaites and Winter (now the site of the Russian gun and ornamental enclosure). By that time, however the morning was pretty well advanced, and although the roadways were totally impassible for either horse or vehicle, men and boys were abroad; and, by compressing the snow, had begun to track out a path, varying from two to six feet above the pavement, yet at some places as many feet below the untrodden mass in the centre of the streets. Following this track, I managed to get to my employer's house about noon, where I obtained a spade and commenced cutting a way up to Burdett place, where was imprisoned the business partner of the gentleman referred to, together with his family. With the latter, according to arrangement, I was a boarder, and when I say that it was nearly three o'clock when I completed the passage whither a breakfast was to be obtained, my readers will imagine how welcome was the refreshment to my weary and hungry corporeality.
The Christmas Day of 1836 fell on a Sunday, so that the day in question was a day of abstention from work in a two-fold sense; but it was the unprecedented snowstorm more than anything else which fixed it upon peoples# memories. I have already stated that it commenced on Christmas Eve; that it ceased for a few hours, and that it re-commenced at about 2 p m., to continue uninterruptedly throughout the following night. My own personal encounters with the hoary giant have also been narrated, the interest of which might probably pale before the more luminous experience of that memorable storm by many a living townsman. Mr. Golding, Mr. Burton's toll-gate keeper, just above North Lodge, could have told that as his cottage was buried, he had to let in daylight by knocking out some portion of the roof. Mr. Samuel Steers, shepherd to Mr. E. Milward, could also have described his difficulties in getting out of his buried cottage on the West Hill, at Hastings, whilst many another person could each have told a tale of rare adventure.
The Hastings police force had been at that time only six months in existence, and it is possible that Inspector Campbell could have told of hair-breadth escapes or of some ludicrous predicaments occasioned by the rigorous atmospheric phenomenon. He could also have told the name of the policemen who was found on Monday morning in an almost lifeless condition on the snow-buried steps at East Ascent, and who was restored to consciousness at the Coach-and-Horses, in Mews road, which was then kept by one William Kirby. If I mistake not, the said William Kirby was one of the employees of riding-master Stevens, in whose mews the mail-coaches were housed, but from which the up-coach could not be sent out for several days, and to which the down-coach could not return until it had been dug out of the Ore-hollow portion of the London-road. It was there that the horses, coachman, guard and passengers were all abruptly precipitated into the already deep snow, and were only extricated with the assistance of about forty men. Among these deliverers were Messrs. Foord, Hyland and others, and it was only after very severe exertions that they accomplished their purpose. As the up-coach could not proceed even on the Sunday night, an attempt was made to carry the mail-bags on horseback, but so blinding was the storm and so utterly traceless was the road, that ere the site of Warrior square was reached, both the horse and the guard, together with Mr. Thos. Ranger - who had volunteered his assistance - found themselves on the steps and railings of the houses. After an arduous, not to say perilous, journey, which occupied one hour and three-quarters, the mail-bags were got from St. Leonards to Hastings. It was then judged to be impracticable to proceed further; but as the Post-master was chary of his own authority to veto the attempt, the guard was sent back to Breeds place, where an Inspector from the General Post-office happened to be staying. This gentleman had just retired to rest, but after consultation with the guard, he left it to the latter's option whether the journey should be undertaken. The red-coated courier declined the hazardous journey; and, as it turned out, his decision was a wise one. From that time until December 30th - a period of five days and nights - there was no post to or from London; but on Tuesday, the 27th, five men undertook to convey to the metropolis some important despatches from gentlemen who had come to St. Leonards to consult Mr. Burton on business matters and had got snow-bound. The names of the intrepid messengers were William and Thomas Ranger (brothers), Robert Brazier, "Fox" Prior, and - Gasson. They had also to deliver some letters from Mr. Elphinstone to a banker and to some other persons, en route. They started from the Horse-and-Groom at about three, p.m., and by dint of pluck, caution, topographical knowledge, and physical endurance, they managed to get to Battle before the refreshment houses were closed. There the wants of the inner man were supplied, but not till the outer man had received some attention, for, what with their saturated garments, their lacerated hands, their bleeding cases, and their generally rough appearance, these wayfarers might have been mistaken for a band of footpads just emerged from some murderous conflict. After they had partaken of their much needed refreshment, they resumed their weary way, not over a partly trodden course, hardened by frost; now through the drifted snow, with the crystal fields towering over their heads; and now over hidden hedges into rivers, ponds or swamps. The foremost man had a rope tied round his body, and whenever he came to grief, he was hauled back by his comrades, and the course was diverted.
In the way thus described they traveled throughout the night, passing Robertsbridge, Lamberhurst, and other towns or villages, and arriving, after many hair breadth es- Pg.136 capes, at Tonbridge on Wednesday morning. On delivering a letter to Mr. Pawley, a chaise, with four horses, was got ready for the use of the men, who, after conquering a host of difficulties, secured the honour of making the first communication between St. Leonards and London.
The Great Snow-Storm of 1836 (contd)
Although the snow-storm of 1836 was most severe in the south and west of England, it was pretty generally felt throughout Great Britain and Ireland. The number of mails delayed were almost incalculable, whilst the stage coaches and wagons were blocked in every direction. The first mail received from London was on the 30th of December, after an interval of six days. The "White" stage-coach also arrived from London on the evening of the same day, drawn by six horses, and its appearance after a week's absence was hailed with cheers. The cross-post mail from Dover did not succeed in forcing its way until New-year's Day. Many coachmen and guards were nearly frozen to death, and several poor wayfarers were found in a lifeless condition. In the metropolis, as well as in the provinces there were many ludicrous scenes, and not a few personal mishaps, but the only fatality in the neighbourhood of Hastings which came to my knowledge was that of a poor woman frozen to death or smothered by the snow in a barn at Crowhurst. Perhaps the most disastrous occurrence was the avalanche at Lewes, which as it precipitated itself a distance of 150 feet down the cliff, carried with it a number of cottages with an appalling crash. Fifteen of the poor tenants were buried beneath the snow and debris, eight of whom were got out dead. Warning had been given to the unhappy cottagers, but so loth were they to leave their homes that only a few of them were saved from the impending catastrophe, and that by sheer force. The place was known as Boulder Row. A notice was immediately put up at the Lewes southern gate, warning people of the danger, but the warning was scarcely needed. The snow ws from 8 to 12 feet deep, and except where a clearance had been effected by dint of great exertion, traffic was hardly possible. The spectacle, however, was enough to make the stoutest heart quail. From the verge of a precipice there was a full view of the havoc caused by the avalanche, and whilst looking upon the scene below, it was painful to think of the destruction of life and property which had taken place. It was feared that some of the gipsies who pitched their tents upon the waste lands had fallen victims to the severity of the storm, and it was certain that the sheep and cattle in Pevensey and Romney marshes had suffered to an immense extent by the "phenomenon of Nature," so-called by Mr. Rickman Godlee (a gentleman who, three months later, was presented with a valuable pair of globes, for his having done more than any other man during his five years' residence in Hastings, to promote education). It was said that of the sheep in Romney Marsh, 800 were lost by Mr. Jeremiah Smith alone, while the entire loss of animal life in the marshes east and west of St. Leonards amounted to nearly 2,000.
People with minds that can treat of events in a philosophical strain tell us that most of our ills have their concomitant benefits; and the maxim may be regarded as having a verification in its application to the great snow-storm of 1836. But for the necessity of clearing the streets and roads for the resumption of traffic, there would doubtless have been much enforced idleness just at a season when in addition to the tendency to keep high holiday, the frozen-out workmen could hardly labour at their regular calling even if they would. how many men were set to work by the St. Leonards Commissioners and the Hastings authorities I have no means of knowing, but when one remembers that thousands of cart-loads of the frozen mass were deposited in heaps upon the beach, and when one also finds it stated that even in the small town of Rye, 70 men were employed for five days in the work of clearing the streets, one can form a rough estimate of what had to be done to remove the snow from the thoroughfares of Hastings and St. Leonards. Even in the outbounds of the latter town as much as £24 was paid by the surveyors (Messrs. Deudney and Farncomb) for clearing a way through the snow sufficient for vehicular traffic, whilst an additional sum of £30 was disbursed for the carting of beach to be distributed over the roads of the said outbounds. Other parishes were, no double, proportionably taxed for similar work, and the employment thus given to labourers was perhaps as welcome as it was exceptional. I remember walking from Hastings to Battle on New-year's Day, which was just a week after the storm, and throughout the whole distance of eight miles, except one small area near the tan-yard, nothing met the eye but two high walls of snow, dazzling in their whiteness as they reflected the rays of a resplendent sun.
This description receives corroboration (several yeas after its first publication) in a contemporary's notice of Mr. James Soane, who has died at the age of 91 yeas, and of whom it is said he came to Hastings to be married, during the deep snow of 1836, and that he and his intended wife walked from Battle over the toll-gate at Powder-mill lane, te snow at places on the route reaching a height of 20 feet. The experience of another Hastings man is shown in the following communication to the editor of Brett's Gazette:-
Dear Sir, - It is a great treat to be enabled to refresh one's memory of so many things in the long past that had become oblivious until brought back again by such a first-rate reminder s that which St. Leonardensis is giving us "Old Folks." The great snow-storm of 1836 - which which so graphic an account appears in the Gazette - I have cause to remember, for I helped to build the Hustings mde of the snow within the walls of the Old Fleet, for the election of the different officers which yearly took place on the 1st day of January; and I came down as far as Battle in the night mail-coach the first time it was enabled to go out of London after the storm. I can also very well remember the pulling down of the very old Town Hall which St. Leonardensis has described. Many a tale have I heard related by the grandfather of Mr. Alderman Williams of things which occurred when he lived close to the said Town Hall, and many a laugh I have since had over one event in particular which he used to describe with great glee. The mention of schoolmaster Stone has also brought to my recollection many things which took place at that time. I knew Mr. and Mrs. Stone quite well; also Mr. Stone's parents who lived at the "New Warm Baths", as they were called at the time. I send you an engraving of the said Baths, which St. Leonardensis will, no doubt, recognise, but which it would puzzle Young Hastings to find. Thanking you for the pleasure which the many reminiscences in the History of St. Leonards has afforded me, I remain, yours truly, E.M.
I must now conclude my notice of this memorable storm with the remark that some of the snow remained under the hedges in the vicinity of St. Leonards for three months, and was augmented by a rather heavy fall in the month of March. On the 26th of the said month, a party of young men, including the present writer, played cricket in the midst of a snowstorm at Pett, and on Easter Sunday, the snow on the ground averaged a depth of about nine inches, whilst during the preceding night the thermometer registered a minimum temperature of 17 degrees. It should be noted that the great blizzard at Christmas was not confined to England, nor even to Europe, but extended to many parts of Asia. It is well to observe, however, that exception as was the storm of 1836, it was in some of its aspects nearly equalled by one that visited us in 1879. On the later occasion, during the first week of December, the snow was so deep in Paris as to require 12,000 extra labourers to clear the streets, at a cost to the Government of 500,000 francs. But it was fortunate for the Parisians that the storm of 1879 was not followed by an epidemic of influenza, as was that of 1836.
Transcribed by Jan Gilham