Brett Volume 3: Chapter XLII - Hastings 1849
| This is a verbatim transcription of Brett’s work, which comprised both manuscript and typescript cuttings, and therefore reproduces Brett’s variations in style, capitalisation, punctuation and spelling. The only alterations made have been to the pagination and images whereby both page titles and images have been moved to the most appropriate paragraph as opposed to where they were pasted into the texts by the author. Where possible, personal names have been checked against census, parish records and the Central Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths. A number of footnotes have been inserted by the transcriber when this has been thought to be useful.
Readers should be aware that Brett’s narrative was written some forty to fifty years after these events and his memory has occasionally been found to be at fault by later historians.
Chapter XLII - Hastings 1849[edit | edit source]
Transactions of the Hastings Commissioners[edit | edit source]
Pg.333 In commencing the story of 1849 there are reasons present to my mind why I should give the first place to the resuscitation of the Hastings News after being defunct for a brief season and for causes already explained, The said journal originated and edited by Mr. W. Ransom—was the first paper established in the borough that has continued to the present time, for, although the founding of two separate journals had been previously attempted, they had but a very short existence; thus showing that they were unsatisfactorily managed or that Hastings was not ready for a weekly supply of literature and news. There was much in the tone of the News with which the present writer was in accord, and there is much also in the following extract that will be endorsed by advocates for municipal élections to be effected on non-political lines. In its issue of Jan, 6th, the News says :—
“We have again the pleasure of presenting the Hastings and St. Leonards public with a paper which they may call their own; and we trust that they will ever find pleasure in giving it that title. That the interregnum in the existence of this journal was a matter of regret to the inhabitants of these towns we think we may honestly assert; and we rejoice to find the result justify our expectations that they can and will appreciate a journal which has for its object—not the aggrandisement of a party—not the carrying out of a commercial speculation; but which aims, with a single heart, though perhaps with a feeble hand, at advancing the interests and conducing to the well-being of the whole community. . . . A town without a journal is, in one sense, a town unrepresented; since its inhabitants are without a voice in public movements. The past existence of this journal has at least effected one result to which we can appeal with confidence—our ancient town and her modern companion once screwed up into a narrow niche in the columns of the county press, with hardly room to breathe, much less to speak, have now suddenly risen to sufficient importance to be deemed worthy of more than a mere local habitation and a name allowed them in those columns wherein they were wont to 'hide their diminished heads.' A reporter has ceased to be a phenomenon in the towns."
During the three months interregnum referred to by the News, a special edition of the Sussex Advertiser was issued under the title of the Hastings and St. Leonards Chronicle, and the present writer—who had been for.several years in the habit of sending news paragraphs and literary morsels to that and another county journal—was consulted by the late G. P. Bacon on the propriety or otherwise of bringing out such special edition. Not knowing that the News was likely to be re-issued and opining that the borough, with its Literary Institute and two Mechanics' Institutions was bemeaning itself by not having a local paper, he, with whom the Lewes journalist held consultation readily fell in with the proposal, and promised to lend an ‘even more hearty support to the suggested special than he had hitherto done to the original, of which, as a county paper, he had been the local agent. He was then asked by Mr. Bacon to undertake the duties of local sub-editor and reporter, as well as sole agent, but which he declined on the ground of being at the time a pedagogue, bandmaster and shopkeeper, he had as many heats in the fire as could be properly managed. "Who then shall I get as a local reporter?” was the next question, and it was quickly answered, “Get Mr, Dittar, late reporter of the News; he being now disengaged, will be the man for you.” 'Will you see him and get him to come to Lewes?' "Yes!" That gentleman went to Lewes and accepted the post, but when the News re-appeared, he transferred his services to his old love. The Chronicle has, however existed side by side with the News' since then - for some years as a fourpenny, and afterwards as a penny paper under the several reporterial or editorial labours of Messrs. Tyrie, Bates, Tendall, Cogswell, and Hutchings, whilst the News has kept very fairly to first principles enunciated as above under the literary work of the Ransoms, Pittar, Cogswell, Tendall, Simpson and others. These principles are further set forth in the re-issue editorial of the News, from which we make another extract. It says:-
“In the course we have marked out for ourselves, we intend studiously to avoid party politics, by which term we mean the advocacy of any measure. because it may happen to be the battle-cry or the bantling of this or that party without regard to its intrinsic merits. . . We shall endeavour to keep as far distant from that Radicalism which consists of eradication, as from that Conservatism which by its rigidity engenders revolution. . . These are points of view from which measures of social regulation may be regarded that suggest consideration of infinitely greater importance to the well-being of a people than the success of a party."
That the honour or privilege of being a Hastings Commissioner when the government of the town was divided between them and the newer body of Councilmen was not severely coveted may be inferred from the fact that there were no fewer than 23 persons disqualified by non-attendance. There were two of the parish of St. Clement — namely, Edward Lloyd Robinson, a draper of George street, and Henry Sinden, a butcher of High street. The disqualified men of the Castle parish were Richard Bayley, jun., of Castle street; John Benjamin Moor, of the Pelham Arcade (who died in the following year, aged 65); and Edmund Elford, organist and music seller. The disqualified of All Saints parish were 18 in number, including Charles Rolfe, of High Wickham, and John Snaith, of All Saints street. Mr. Rolfe, a native of Cranbrook, was a retired innkeeper from Newberry, in Berkshire. He had just recently died (Jan. 30) suddenly from the rupture of a blood vessel on the chest, aged 56 years. Mr. Snaith, originally from France, was a gardener, and died a quarter of 8 century later at the age of a centenarian all but two months.
At the present time (1897) when the townspeople are within a few months of seeing the ugly railway arch near the Alexandra Park transformed into something more respectable as well as more convenient, it may be of interest to know how it came to be built. At the Commissioner's meeting on June 25th, with Mr. Matthew Kelland presiding, an application was received from the South-Eastern Railway Company to divert the public road called Ore Lane in the Castle parish a length of 400 feet by turning the same near the late Ashyard about Pg.334 100 feet to the south of the greatest point of diversion. Capt. Barlow, who was present, with plans, stated that the advantage to be gained by the public would be the having a straight road through the archway on level ground instead of an oblique road through an archway of greater length at the foot of a hill also in having a road 20 teet wide instead of 17. A portion of the road, 137 yards in length, would be superseded by a new route of 152 feet in length. The advantage to the Company would be the substitution of a common arch for an oblique one, the latter having less strength and more expense. Commissioner Harvey moved that the application be complied with on condition that the Company keep the road in repair for 18 months, This was agreed to and the motion was carried.
Commissioner's Meetings - "Ghost" of the Old Commission[edit | edit source]
At the July meeting of the Hastings Commissioners permission was given to Mr. John Strong to make shop-front alterations at 42 All Saints’ street, for the purpose of modernising an old-fashioned outfit-shop kept by an honest tradesman of an old-fashioned type. After a statement by the Clerk that he had obtained £5 from Weekes, of Robertsbridge, by a County-Court process, a long report was presented from the committee appointed to act in the matter of the Flimwell and Hastings Turnpike Bill. Although the said Bill was opposed for 11 days, it had passed through the committee atage of the House of Commons, the decision being that one-third of the tolls should be devoted to the repairs of the road, and two-thirds to the interest at a reduced rate. Lord Shaftesbury was said to have been very obdurate, and though he reluctantly consented that so much of the road as lay within the All Saints’ parish should have the benefit of the sum set aside for repairs, he would not consent to the removal of the gate. The report further stated that Earl Waldegrave, in an interview with Lord Shaftesbury, endeavoured to further the interest of the borough, and succeeded in getting some modification of the Bill. The next business was a passage of arms in which two Tory commissioners suggested improvements und two Liberals opposed it. Anthony Harvey proposed and Matthew Kelland seconded that the Marine parade be paved with an additional width of stone; but Messrs. Bromley and Womersley opposed it, arguing that it would cost £100, and that the parade had done in the past and would do in the future very well without it. The proposition was then negatived, but that the opinion of the opponents has not received modern endorsement may be inferred from the fact that the said parade is now paved all over. Mr. Bromley then reverted to the inscription on a Post office lampas an insult to common sense, and moved that the surveyor be instructed to remove the words "Post Office". These were the words Post Office written on a piece of transparent glass over the lamp at No. 4 George street which when read from the other side appeared to have the letters in reversed order. This was referred to in Mr. Pitter's Hastings Revisited by the Ghost of the Old Commission, after the Commission had become defunct, and the Post Office had been removed to Wellington place. In those satirical lines was the following passage:-
The waggish ghost then turn’d and strode
Adown the middle of the road,
The pavements laid on either side
Not being aliogether wide,
And Old Commission being shy
Of being mark’d by passers by.
His step broke not the silence still
As on he went straight down the hill,
Then took the right and would have gone,
Without a pause, some distance on,
But something seem’d to startle him.
Quoth he—The light is somewhat dim,
And yonder lamp, once bright and full,
Now burns most marvellously dull;
But certainly ‘tis number four,
And this should be the office door,
But where, oh horror! where are flown
The scarlet board and yellow crown?—
The ‘ tsoP eciffO’ on the lamp,
And all that bore th’ imposing stamp
Of royalty and Rowland Hill!
Does Mr. Woods not live here still?
What means all this? Tho’ I’m a ghost,
I must enquire to find the Post.
Turning again to the Commissioners' meeting. Mr. Duke complained—as people even now sometimes do - of the manner of watering the streets, to which the surveyor replied that it was impossible to satisfy all parties, seeing that all could not have it first, and the difficulty being increased by the railway contractors damming up a stream for the purpose of making bricks. The water rents, it was stated amounted to £777—twenty-six pounds more than in the preceding year, and the Commissioners would soon be abl to pay off £100 for the reduction of the £10,500 on which they were paying interest at the rate of 5 per cent. Mr. Farncomb's tender for ashes at 2d. per bushel was accepted, and street-rates were levied on All Saints' and St. Mary's at 3d., and on St. Clement's at 4d.
At the Hastings Commissioners meeting on Sept. 3rd, Mr. George Clark Jones, acting for the Surveyor, had commenced repairing apath from French’s Pond (Croft road) into Wyatt's field (leading to Mount Pleasant and Ore Lane), but was stopped by Mr. Wyatt. He was authorised, however, to proceed with the work, the path in question being a public one. This reminds me that the same urbane (?), gentleman on another occasion endeavoured to arrest the progress of Mr, North while travelling the same path from his family’s strawberry gardens in Ore valley to his home at North Lodge. Wyatt was then reminded that the said path had been a public one from time immemorial and that he (the replicant) as a Hastings M.P., would use the path as often as it pleased him. Wyatt's rejoinder was that M.P. ought to mean Musn’t Pass, and if he continued to do so, he would have a dog at his heels. The threat was unheeded, and the bark of both the dog and his master was more than their bite. At the same meeting, £151 per annum was tendered by John Sims for a three years’ lease of the Market tolls, he stating that he had lost money on his previous three years at £180. He was outbid by Philip Saunders, with the offer of £180, and consequently lost it, The resignation of Mr. Catley, as Town Surveyor, was tendered by letter, with thanks to the Commissioners for their kindness to him during the 22 years he had been in office. An application for the surveyorship was made by John Dungate Thwaites, and what followed this application should be of peculiar interest at the present time. H. Winter proposed a “high rate of salary ” (£100), so as to secure a really efficient surveyor ; J. C. Womersley proposed £80; and A. Harvey proposed £75, as before, remarking that it could be raised as it was found that the surveyor deserved it. This amendment was carried. A Harvey (for the third time) proposed an additional width of stone on the parade, but he was opposed by Messrs. Beck, Womersley, Dunk, Duke, and Vidler, the last named remarking that the proposition was monstrous, and no one but Harvey. would have made it. He talked of £100 for the parade, and another of £100 for & new surveyor, and a third of £5,000 for drainage; did they really know what they were about? Yes, retorted N. Wingfield, he thought they did, and he also thought that the additional pavement was wanted, both for convenience and for protection against the sea. He regretted that the Radicals so often supported men in preference to measures unless the latter were proposed by their own party. What had Brighton just done? Why, purchased the Pavilion for £55,000.
Mr. Harvey’s motion being lost by 26 to 22, the proposer declared he would repeat it at a future meeting. Then came another tug of war. Mr Paine proposed that to drain the town effectually it was necessary for the Health of Towns Act to be introduced This was opposed by Harman and Harvey, the latter expressing an opinion that it would deprive the Commissioners of all authority and put it into the hands of the Town Council, a body that had enough to do already. They would then be able to borrow thirty or forty thousand pounds, whilst the salaried officials would cost £600 a year. He could not pin his faith to the Town Council although he was one of them, It cost a good deal to get into that body of officials, and he always found that when a man had to pay for his office, he generally took care of himself when he had the chance, An amendment to postpone the matter for six months was carried.
At the next meeting of the Hastings Commissioners, Which was in September, Elias Coussens and William Picknell were initiated as new members. Out of 24 applicants for the Borough surveyorship William Winter was a day too late; George Clinton, George Hunt, Thomas Measum, Stephen Putland, and William Sowerby were ineligible because of the absence of testimonials, and Henry Wrigg because he wanted a larger salary. Then, after much deliberation, the committee selected for recommendation Mr. William John Gant, 26 years of age, formerly a pupil of Professor Donalson, University College, and latterly 4 1/2 years in the employment of Mr. Tite, architect to the Royal Exchange, and in that of Mr. Mosely, county surveyor for Middlesex. He produced excellent testimonials and specimens of his work. Mr. Harvey objected to the report because the committee had exceeded their powers by recommending one man instead of bringing all the candidates before the meeting. The recommendation was rejected by 24 to 13, and then Mr. Harvey proposed John Dangate Thwaites, whose recommendation was signed by a large number of inhabitants The two candidates were allowed to address the meeting, after which an animated and protracted discussion ensued, which terminated with the election of Mr. Thwaites by a large majority. Mr. George Clark Jones was thanked for his services during the vacancy of the surveyorship, and declined the proffered remuneration of £10 The notification was received of the dedication of St. Andrew's terrace and Spring Gardens (now, with Meadow Cottages included in Queen’s road), Russell street and Prospect place.
At the meeting on Nov. 6th, it was announced that the Earl of Waldegrave, Thos. Catley, Jas. Ives, A Thorpe, John Dowsett, Alf'd Chatfield, J. Goddard, Wm. Dobell, G. G. Gray, R. Martin, J. Brown, C. F, Hardman, Wm, Wellsted and R, Urquhart had been elected as new Commissioners. J. D. Thwaites, after tendering his thanks for his appointment, said his attention had been called to the Bourne, which being in some of its parts too narrow, had, during the recent flood, damaged the premises of Mr. Langham, Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Welfare. He had also been called to notice other evils, and he had put on extra men and horses for breaking and carting hard stone, instead of flint, for road-making. He found the Commissioners horses were aged and quite worn out. On the strength of this statement, it was resolved that veterinary-surgeon Jones be empowered to purchase two fresh horses; also, on the motion of Mr. H. Winter, that a portion of the parade be covered with gas tar, as an experiment. Apropos of the parade, it was resolved that the Earl of Chichester’s offer to give up the Pelham-place parade be accepted with thanks, the Commissioners binding themselves to pave and use the said parade in all respects the same as the old parade, and to fulfil all those conditions on which the Earl originally received the ground from the Corporation; in default of which the Earl to have the right of entry as though no agreement had ever been made between them.