Brett Volume 7: Chapter LIX - St. Leonards 1858
| 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.
Volume 7 - Chapter LIX - St. Leonards 1858
The Boundary Controversy continued 1
A Busy week
Royalty Passing & visiting
The Mechanics' Institution
Accidents & Fatalities
Storms & Tides
Death of Lady Boothby
An address to the King of the Belgians.
The Boundary Controversy continued (“A Dream”)
Pg.1 The following appear in the St Leonards and Hastings Gazette and visitors’ Vade Mecum of Jan 2nd 1858:
“Mr Editor, - I have heard it said that dreams if told before breakfast are sure to come true. Well, do you know: Last night I had a remarkable dream, and as I am very superstitious, you may suppose I hastened to make known my dream to every member of my family before a morsel of the morning meal had been partaken of or even the new year’s greetings had performed their circuit. ‘Twas only a dream, but they all said that my dreaming it three times over was so marvellous a circumstance as to be absolutely press-worthy. This idea was highly suggestive and after the imbibition of a cup or two of strong aromatic mocha, I became sufficiently plucky to act upon it, I therefore determined that if you could make it fit one of the corners of the Vade Mecum you should have it. But don’t forget ‘twas only a dream, and the dreamer nobody of consequence. The vision was thus: A certain number of persons called Councillors, (mis)representatives of the east ward of a certain borough to take from the west warders of the same borough an immense amount of valuable property, but which the latter strongly protested against as an unjust and unlawful appropriation. But the thing they said, had to be done and they were the men to do it. They seized the said property and the stupendous achievement was signalized by the handwriting on the wall. Yet, strange to say! their inglorious victory was of the briefest duration; for, by some secret agency, their dexterous manipulations were rendered abortive, and their arrogant manifestations became as so many “dead letters”. Speaking of letters reminds me of the other part of my dream, and the only portion of which the realization is still at all doubtful. Even that is the merest shadow of a doubt; for, don’t you see: I told my dream before breakfast. Well, then, these wise men of the east discovered that it was impossible to carry out their nefarious designs without the assistance of the chief of the letter Department; and they consequently resolved that a deputation consisting of Alderman Hails, Mare and Exmare should be sent to confer with that exalted functionary. Arrived at the official residence the subject was thus broached: “My Lord Duke, we approach you with all impudence of which we are possessed. We desire that every place in Her Majesty’s dominions shall be called by its right name, and that every tub shall stand upon its own bottom. Having recently passed resolutions to that effect, we are much pained and grieved by your stubborn refusal to abolish a post office in the next town to us, which is a perpetual eyesore and a stumbling block in our path. Since, however, this act of justice is denied us, we do hope you will see the necessity of extending our own post-office, so as to comprise, if possible, the largest half of our neighbour’s territory. It may appear a little inconsistent to seek, firstly, the destruction of a rival and secondly, his preservation; but a moment’s consid- Pg.2 -eration will convince you that the two propositions are perfectly harmonious. Utter extinction is our ultimate aim, but the secret has oozed out, and the clamour against us is presently too strong. The immediate object of this deputation is to demand at your hands the extension of our own Post Office and the contraction of our neighbour’s, so that the latter may become small by degrees and beautifully less, and by which scheme we shall be adding three more councillors to our own side of a certain boundary, giving us a preponderance of 15 to 3 – a power amply sufficient to remove not only the Post-office but even the Leviathan itself. His Lordship who, as I saw in my vision, was getting impatient, suddenly started up, and said that as his decision had already been given and made known, he could not waste his valuable time in listening to such twaddle. At this cutting remark the deputation grew furious; said his Lordship had violated the rules of common courtesy; had trampled upon the rights of Englishmen; had broken the laws of his country; should answer for it elsewhere and-and-and, but here I was aroused by my interesting dream by the denunciations of the injured aldermen and the tumultuous vociferations in the street of “Bundle ‘em out, turn ‘em out, rout ‘em out!”’— “Yours etc.,
The Drowsy Dreamer”
“Slumberland” Jan 1st 1858"
“A word for St Leonards” The following letter of the same date appeared in the Hastings News –
Sir – as I am one of those affected by the proposed alteration in the local postal district, perhaps you will allow me to trespass on your valuable space. I cannot help at the outset expressing my deep regret that the present dispute should even have arisen. We – I mean the people of St Leonards and Hastings alike – were, a short month ago, at peace with each other; friendly acts were reciprocated, and mutual benefit was resulting from the good feelings existing between the two towns. But in an evil hour, for his own reputation and his townsmen’s good, Mr Deputy-Mayor, like another Nicholas of the North, cast a longing eye on the fair provinces of what he probably thought to the case of another “sick man”. Grand Parade, Eversfield Place, Warrior Square must be annexed to his empire. They – as the town and port of Hastings has long done – must own his despotic sway. O Hastings! How long wilt thou submit to this dictatorship? Tempora Mutantur. The battle of the rival paint-pots has, I trust, ceased. If Mr Ross, as he acknowledged yesterday in his speech, did put the first brush of paint on St Leonards, let him be satisfied; for the people of St Leonards will not allow him to put the last. The question Pg.3 now is whether the St Leonards Post-Office as at present regulated is to be perpetuated. Few, who are not blinded by party strife or whose judgements are not overruled by pig-headed prejudice, but will admit that the inhabitants immediately interested are the judges of the expediency of the proposed alteration. Now, I believe there are only two individuals west of Verulam Place who have expressed themselves favourable to Mr Ross’s proceedings, Mr Ross well knows this fact. He and his party in the Town Council, therefore, did not entertain the fair and reasonable proposition advocated by Messrs Eldridge and Putland to call a meeting of the inhabitants of the district proposed to be lopped off from St Leonards. This course would have been a just one, but it did not accord with the ideas of the Peacock Club members, whose motto is “Might is Right”. Another question that occurs to my mind is this: Are we, the ratepayers in the West Ward, in addition to the insult and injury already experienced, be subjected to the injustice of having to furnish funds to treat the deputation elected yesterday with a jaunt to London? If so, what can be said of the honesty of the individuals in question? We may well affirm that we are treated like children, and very scrubby children too! If Mr Ross and his friends wish for a trip to London, let them have it by all means, and much good may it do to them! But do not “pay the piper” out of the pockets of the ratepayers, many of whom can ill-afford it at the present time. Much of the “sound and fury” of Mr Ross’s long-winded oration at the Town Hall, was, no doubt, the result of the wholesome castigation administered to him at the St Leonards meeting by the Rev. W. W. Hume. He was evidently smarting from it. If his manners improve, a second dose will be unnecessary; if otherwise, he will, doubtless in due time, receive for his benefit another flaggelation from the friendly hand of the same Reverend gentleman. When I Iistened to the speech of our worthy friend, I was almost tempted to ask if he had, in his antiquarian researches, stumbled upon a letter from the Swedish Ambassador to this country in the time of Cromwell. This personage succeeded in obtaining a place in history by informing the Court from which he came that a Mr Milton, a blind man, was the only person in England that could write good Latin. By seizing the present opportunity of pinning his name to the coat-tails of a Mr Hume or a Mr Harwood perhaps Mr Ross is under the fond anticipation of thus acquiring a cheap by ficticious reputation. I greatly fear that Mr Pg.4 Ross has been actuated by personal feeling in the past which he has taken on the matter in dispute. To the last edition of his local guide I observe appended a page and a half containing a gross misrepresentation of the proceedings and the feelings of the Burton family, to whom Hastings owes so much. I shall, however, say no more on this head, as the subject referred to may probably be discussed elsewhere. I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant J.G
The Postmaster’s Reply
A communication was received at St Leonards and also by the Mayor of Hastings by the Postmaster General, stating his Lordship’s determination not to alter existing arrangements of the postal districts. The St Leonards people were triumphantly excited on receipt of the news, and parade the streets with a band of drums and fifes. His Lordship referred to the settlement a few years before and saw no new circumstances to justify a reversal of that decision. The Council, however, determined to try the effect of their deputation, and, if that failed [as it was bound to do], they threatened to go still further to substantiate the legality of their proceedings. The St Leonards people were, however, determined not to be far in the rear of their opponents in any additional movement that the latter might make; they too asked the Postmaster General for an interview by deputation, if such should be granted to the deputation from the Town Council. The reply came quickly to both parties, the letter addressed to the St Leonards Committee being as follows:
“General Post Office, Jan 4th 1858. In reply to the letter of the 29th ultimo and signed by you and the inhabitants of St Leonards, I am directed by the Postmaster General to inform you that his Grace has no intention of receiving a deputation from the Town Council of Hastings on the much vexed question of the postal arrangements there, which will remain undisturbed. I am, Sir, your obedient humble servant J. Tilley”
The Legal View of a Barrister and Geologist, who wrote to the Editor of the Hastings News as follows:
Sir,—It was not my intention to take any active part in the "vexata,questio" that is just now is agitating the borough, but in consequence of what appears in the last number of your Paper, I avail myself of my right, as an interested party, and send you the following expression of my opinion.
I would premise that my whole knowledge of the affair has been derived from the columns of your journal. I have received no private communications on the subject I should be sorry to make use of any expressions that may be construed as offensive to the Town Council; I do not wish to speak of persons, but things — not of men but of measures. It is true that measures are carried by men, and that our estimate of the latter must be formed by our opinions of the former; but it is not my wish to indulge in any personalities not required by the nature of the case.
It appears to me, sir, that this unpleasant disturbance may be referred to a misapprehension of, or at least a disregard of, that broad policy upon which all representative bodies are based. A member of the House of Commons, although representing a particular constituency, from the moment of his election becomes a member for the whole country; and it is his duty to act with as direct a reference to the wishes and interests of constituencies in general, as to his own constituents in particular. So the Council is a representative body, and each and every member should act with a due regard to the whole, and to every part of the borough; and the members representing the town of Hastings, should consult the feelings and wishes of the "West Ward" constituency, as much as if they were its direct representatives.
But, sir, how completely the reverse has this been. At the very last meeting of the Council it was properly suggested that the sense of those most interested should be taken on the subject. This was a common sense and a constitutional suggestion, and certainly a courtesy due to that populous district which is now the subject of discussion. But how was this proposition received? Why it was rejected with an obstinacy that looked like a pugnacious determination to hurl defiance at that influential community that is most nearly, if not alone, interested in the result.
I will not recapitulate or dwell upon the numerous reasons why the present name of the debatable district should be retained; I will repeat only three of them. Firstly, for medical reasons. I speak not in a sanatory, but in a climatal sense; I do not speak in a sense that would be eulogistic.of one part at the expense of the other; each place is better than the other, according to the nature or stage of the malady; I speak advisedly, but I believe I ,am correct in stating that there is more than one degree in the difference of temperature, and that upon this recognised difference, the opinions and advice of physicians are founded, when Hastings or St. Leonards is selected as the destination for a patient : a circumstance, by the way, that renders the question one of particular interest to visitors, with especial reference to whom the majority of houses are built. Secondly, for legal reasons, the present name should be retained; and, in virtue of my profession as a barrister, I at least have the privilege to entertain an opinion upon the subject. Thirdly, last and not least, the wishes of the people who are most immediately affected ought to be considered sufficient for non- interference in a matter. which substantially affects them, and affects no one else. But as is usual in such cases as the present, those who will not yield to the wishes of others, are anxious to the wishes of themselves, forgetting that like Members of Parliament they are but employees of those with respect to whom they are exercising, not consideration, but authority. "Tis true “ The rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and my deep appreciation of the old and venerable, fills me with respect for the old name of Hastings; but it is obvious that for important reasons, that of St. Leonards should be retained.
One word as to whether or not the district in question is entitled to its present name. There are different ways in which localities may legally acquire names, and it appears to me that the district east of the Bar is legitimately entitled to the designation of St. Leonards. I will not recapitulate or dwell upon the point, but it does appear to me that those gentlemen have advanced judicious and unanswerable arguments upon the subject. It is true that St. Leonards to the east of the Bar is not within the St. Leonards Local Act, the operation of which is limited to the Bar; but if this local act so circumscribes St. Leonards as to exclude from its name every house that may be built, even in juxtaposition to it, then we are at once furnished with a reason why the district in question should not be called Hastings. The history of the past. few years is still fresh in our minds. A year or two before the introduction of the Sanatory.Act into the borough, which, I would observe.in passing, as Mr, Putland justly remarked, had no other effect upon the district in question than to embrace it as a district – I say, before the introduction of the Sanatory Act, I. purchased a house in Grand parade, and it was absolutely necessary, for the preservation of my property, that I should unite with a few persons who were in the same predicament as myself, and from my own purse to contribute to the restoration of a dilapidated groin, to prevent the total demolition of a disgracefully neglected parade, because the district in question hap Pg.5 pened not to come within the operation of the local act of Hastings.
I will employ the following legal fact, not as an analogous case, but to illustrate the “process by which “St. Leonards” to the east, became entitled to that name.
Picture to yourself two estates, the property of two gentlemen, A and B, and situated on the opposite banks of a channel or gigantic river, and let the river be the property of the Crown; if the waters of that river were suddenly to subside, and leave the space over which they flowed permanently dry land, that dry land would be the property of the Crown; but, instead of an abrupt termination ofthe stream, let us suppose a gradual dereliction of the water, and a consequent gradually laying bare of the base as dry land, and let this slow subsidence take place only on one side of the river, and on that side occupied by A’s estate; then the bottom of the river, as it becomes dry would become the property of A, and not of the Crown-and if this dereliction were to continue until at length it should reach the opposite bank, and leave the land dry even in juxtaposition to B’s estate, the whole would become the property of A. Now this is not a creature of imagination, but a legal truism, and I adduce it to shew that as this newly-acquired property would have been cared by the name of A’s estate, althougn not included in his original title deeds, so by gradual annexation, the district in question has, with strict propriety, received its present denomination, and has a legal right to retain it. I am aware that the space between the towns was not Crown property, but it does not appear to have been included in the Hastings Act, and if it had been, it would not materially alter the case, for I doubt not that if the intervening river in the case alluded to had been the property of B, he would as gradually have lost his ownership in it, as I conceive that Hastings has lost an absolute right to the district in question.
“If they could get this alteration,” says a member of the Council, alluding to the measure proposed respecting the Post Office, “every other alteration which they thought necessary could easily be carried.” First, then, an attempt is made to obtain a postal alteration on a large scale, for the whole borough; this having failed, a limited alteration in the same direction is asked for, and this not because of any postal inconvenience, for the reverse is alleged by those to whom alone an inconvenience could arise. I must say, sir, that this reminds me of the anecdote of-a celebrated artist, whose favourite subject was a lion.” A publican, wishing to embellish a public room, requested this artist to paint a fine subject in a large panel on the wall to the surprise of the publican, the artist suggested a large lion; the publican then begged that some choicer design should be selected for a small panel over the mantelpiece; tho artist, after much deliberation, thought nothing would do half so well as a small lion. Now, sir, we do not wish to have even the small animal, for once admitted, it would be so pampered and fattened, that soon the whole menagerie would follow. It does seem to me that the resolution of the Council was pushed with that intemperate haste which belongs to a bad cause. Suppose a member ‘of the House of Commons to propose a motion, and in despite of remonstrances and entreaties of the people, to hurry the question through Parliament to prevent a failure that would inevitably result from delay. What, in such a case, would the people think?
I trust, sir, that the Council will re-consider the question—will vindicate their high character as a calm, deliberative body, and relinquish a question that can be of no practical good, and must be of much practical harm,
I remain, sir, your obedient servant,
Southsea, Jan. 4, 1858. SAMUEL H. BECKLES.
Another Letter to the Editor of the “News” from a professional gentleman was as follows:
THE VISITORS AND THE EX-MAYOR. SIR, - I trust to your carefully-preserved neutrality to give insertion to a few lines in reply to some "complimentary" remarks affecting the visitors of St. Leonards in general, and my poor self in particular, which fell from Mr. Alderman Ross at the last meeting of the Hastings Town Council, as reported in your impression of Friday last. As old Horace has it, "difficili. bile tumet jecur," and, instead of immediately sending for his able St. Leonards friend, Mr. Gardiner, the worthy ex-Mayor doubtless thought that the cheaper and easier remedy would be to take, on his own responsibility, a gentle emetic, and, behold the acrid and unsavoury result. "He did not know anything about Mr. Harwood, any further than that he was told that he was a manufacturer of diaries, or something of that kind. He thought the visitors should not come down to dictate to old inhabitants of the town. They were glad of the visitors’ company, but did not want their dictation. The Town Council were quite capable of managing their own affairs without the dictation of Mr. Harwood, or any other gent." Now, as respects that part of this atrabilarious effusion which touches the right of the visitors in general to interfere in this "pretty little quarrel," I most distinctly claim that right for them, as well as for myself, as one of them. A public watering place differs essentially from a provincial town. It is constructed almost exclusively for visitors, and it is almost, exclusively supported by them. Its hotels, its lodging-houses, and its shops are filled and maintained by the visitors, and, therefore, any proposed diminution of its respectability and importance, or any derangement of its existing conveniences, whether postal or otherwise, gives the visitors a perfect and an absolute right, both to pronounce upon and to protest against any such measure, notwithstanding the histrionic musings of any local Roscius, to the contrary. In fact, no one but an alderman would ever have dreamt of giving utterance to so discourteous and so flimsy an objection. With reference to the personality affecting myself, I feel that it is somewhat compromising the dignity of my cause to run a tilt with any "Mr. Deputy-Mayor" — aquile non captant muscas; but I cannot refrain from assuring his quondam worship that, unfortunately for the success of his pop-gun artillery, his globulic ammunition fell very wide of the mark. Although my time is gratuitously, and very largely given up to the public weal, yet I am not, in the remotest degree, connected with the manufacture of diaries, or, indeed, of anything else, save, perhaps, occasionally, a few somewhat, I fear, prosuical platform-platitudes. It does, however, so happen that I regularly keep a diary on my library table, and I shall cortainly not fail to enter in that, for the year 1857, as a remarkable fact, the following note :—
“In the month of December, the highly-fashionable and rapidly and extensively increasing town of St. Leonards-on-Sea, where I have already spent and still hope to spend many pleasant, because amicable, and peaceful hours, had it's tranquility seriously invaded, and was sorely ‘frightened from its propriety’ by the reckless spurring after popularity on the part of the ex-Mayor of the adjoining old township of Hastings. This notable worthy, having been puffed into mid-air during the too fleeting continuance of his official honours, dreaded to reinhale the lower atmosphere which previously had been so pre-eminently his congenial element, and strove, therefore, at all hazards, to lengthen out, if possible, his satellitic existence. His wiser and abler neighbours, however, perceived that the meteoric character of his recent position had evidently induced a strong tendency on his part wildly to flare about the scene of his civic distinctions scintallations of a highly inflammatory and igneous desccription, and they apprehended that the safety of the neighbourhood would be thereby seriously imperiled. They, therefore, resolved, although with some friendly compunctions of heart, promptly to obfuscate him in his own smoke, and they forthwith proceeded, in the dominant spirit of a lofty local patriotism, finally and irrecoverably to ‘snuff him out.’ It is almost needless to add that peace and good will were immediately restored."
Moral: "Pigmies are pigmies still, though perched on Alps."— I remain, Mr. Editor, your obedient servant,
H. HARWOOD HARWOOD.78, Marina, January 4, 1858.
An Archaeologist’s View of the Boundary Question
“Sir – I have seen in the communications in your paper various reasons for, and some against the retention of the name of St Leonards in the district to the east of the archway; but I have seen no allusion to one which strikes me to be of some interest now-a-days when every effort is making to preserve the memorials of olden times, especially those in connection with our churches. Now, Sir, I know of hardly any question of greater interest in this neighbourhood than the whereabouts of any churches or chapels which existed in these parts before the encroachments of the sea washed away their glebelands and denuded them of their population. That the lands, studded with fine timber, reached far into what is now covered by the sea we know from the existence of what is called the submarine forest, which may be traced off Hastings and St Leonards to Bulverhithe, as far out as the lowest tides, and how much further into the deep we know not. And although it is by no means easy to find evidence of the exact sites of any churches or buildings which may have been submerged or may have fallen into ruins from the destruction of the glebe and the removal of the inhabitants, it is of not less importance to endeavour by all possible means to make them out. To verify especially the site of the ancient parish church of St Leonards, the patronage of which rests in one of our colleges (though long in abeyance from the non-existence up to a late period of any population to require its exercise), may become of ex Pg.6 treme interest now that a new town is growing up, requiring every effort to be made to build or rebuild the churches necessary for the rising community; and, above all things, it is highly desirable that no record or memorials whatever connected with any pre-existing church or chapel in the vicinity should be lost sight of or obliterated? It is in this view that the appellation of St Leonards given to the houses east of the Archway (whether designedly or not does not matter) becomes of importance; inasmuch as it serves to perpetuate the remembrance of the Ruins of St Leonards Chapel[Notes 1], which were situated in that locality, and which, within the recollection of those now living, were still to be seen on the edge of the cliff east of the present Archway of St Leonards. Those ruins are mentioned in the Hastings Guide, published by Stell in 1794. Speaking of the walks in the vicinity of Hastings, he says - “Pass the bathing room under the cliff and over the White Rock, a little beyond which are the remains of a ruin on the edge of the cliff, supposed to have been St Leonards Chapel”. When they were removed for the new buildings, many skeletons and bones were dug up, thus leaving no doubt that there was once a burial place also there; though whether the ruins were those of the parish church or of an outlying chapel, so called, may, perhaps, be a question. [The site of the St Leonards Free Chapel, was, almost to a certainty, on the cliff between Grand Parade and the Wesleyan Chapel in Norman Road. The human bones, sculls etc were found when the cliff was cut down for the foundation of Adelaide Place (now Grand Parade) houses, and the steep incline behind (now Norman Road, Shepherd Street etc) was known as the Chapel Field]. The existence there of any such sacred ruins does, I think, afford strong grounds for exhortation to all good churchmen and honest archaeologists (amongst whom, I hope, I may number the ex-Mayor, Mr Ross, himself) seriously to pause ere they talk further of obliterating the name of St Leonards from a locality to which that name once gave a special sanctity and protection. If nothing else is left to us of these consecrated remains, let us at least be able to say “stat nominis umbra”. “A member of the Sussex Archaelogical Society” Jan 1858”
“Hastings v. St Leonards”
“To the Editor of the Hastings and St Leonards News”
“Ne sutor ultra trepidam” “A little learning is a dangerous thing” Sir – my first impulse was to take no notice of a correspondent who could give such a false colouring to my letter as “Via Media” has done; but that my silence may not be misunderstood by the good people of Hastings (for whom and Pg.7 for whose town I have quite as much respect as has “Via Media” himself), I must apologize for intruding once more upon your time and patience. And first, Sir, I must find fault with your correspondent for misrepresenting me. “Via Media” accuses me of saying that St Leonards is more healthy than Hastings, and actually gives the following words as if quoted from my letter – “In a similar point of view, St Leonards is preferable! This is monstrous!. Why, Sir, I ask every reader of your paper if such a sentence is to be found in any part of my communication. So anxious was I that my meaning should not be misunderstood, that I first stated distinctly that I did not speak in a sanitary but in a climatal sense. I stated further in what I thought was unmistakeable language that I did not speak in a sense eulogistically of the place at the expense of the other; and to place my meaning, as I thought, beyond the power of even party feeling to misinterpret it. I further added that each place is better than the other according to the nature and state of the malady. Is there, Sir, any meaning in the English language? Where shall I look for that felicity of expression which will bring my meaning within the comprehension of “Via Media”? Why, Sir, I particularly stated that I would say nothing about the sanitary condition or cleanliness of the two places. Hastings may or may not have the advantage in that respect. What I stated on medical authority was that Hastings was milder and better for some patients than the climate of St Leonards, and vice versa. A London physician would select Hastings or St Leonards by name according to the stage of a person’s disease. Therefore, Sir, I meant to imply that if a medical adviser were to send a patient to Hastings, and that patient were to go to Eversfield Place, he would not go to the place intended. “Via Media” misrepresents me either intentionally or through ignorance of my meaning. Now, Sir, if I were to adopt the language and personality of “Via Media” I ought to accuse him of the former and add fie!, fie! I will not do this, but believe the latter – that is he did not understand my meaning. But, what then? Why, I must say that a person who does not understand a few simple sentences in a letter – who cannot comprehend a few facts, and to state them perspicuously, is certainly not the person to talk so loudly about facts, and to dictate to an entire district on the question now agitated.
The injury should at least have been done with civility, and without that addition of insult Pg.8 against which the universal voice would inveigh. A wise man once said he respected others because he respected himself. It is “Via Media” who sneers. My demeanour towards the Council was one of respect. The allusion to the Corn Law is unfortunate. Does your correspondent think that the House of Commons ought to carry measures in opposition to the wishes of the people? Is it not known that Mr Cobden delivered countless appeals to the millions, and that throughout the length and breadth of the land the trumpet of repeal was sounded until the voice of the many was at last so unmistakeably echoed within the walls of the senate as to bring forth a response, not in despite of the peoples’ wishes but in accordance with them? That the measure was opposed to the wishes of some does not alter the case. The wishes of the people were consulted and the members for particular constituencies (and this, after all, was the drift of my observation) considered the interest of others as though they had actually represented them. I am, once again, misunderstood with respect to the parade wall. The whole that my observations under this head were intended to convey was simply that the mere fact of exclusion of a local Act proved nothing; because as Hastings had a local Act as well as St Leonards, if the latter was to be circumscribed, the former must be also. But I do not mean to say that the boundary line in any such Act is to be a permanent limit to either place. The objects principally contemplated by Acts of this kind are internal regulation, self-government etc.; and as Acts of Parliament are necessary for the purpose, it is obvious that their operation cannot extend beyond the line actually drawn in their provisions. My illustration of the Channel or gigantic river would, says “Via Media”, be most valuable but for the fact that over the imaginary river exists municipal authority; and he asks me, with an air of triumph, to answer that question. But what, Sir, if the municipal authority does not alter the case? What if I tell “Via Media” that whether there was royal, manorial or municipal jurisdiction, the gradual annexation of which I spoke, would as effectually and as legally change the name to that of B’s estate as if it had always borne it? Your correspondent said that in his last letter he challenged a reply to matters of fact. First, I reply, the onus probandi, or burden of proof, not upon those who oppose the measure (this is law), but upon those who bring Pg.9 forward the question. These are required to prove their case, and not until this has been well-attempted, are defensive facts deemed necessary. Secondly, if “Via Media’s” letters have not been answered, it is, perhaps, that personal epithets were supposed to disentitle them to notice; for he assails those who differ from him as having wilful blindness and as being rabid St Leonardsphobians. He also reflects upon country justices, game-keeping parsons, and makes an attempt to give the question a political complexion; when, Sir, he must know that it is opposed by Liberals and others, not on grounds at all political. But thirdly, if the facts have not been noticed, it may be because they are so self-evident as to have rendered it unnecessary that others should answer them, or that “Via Media” should address them. The question as it now stands, is simply this: the inhabitants of the borough up to somewhere about Verulam Place, receive their letters through the St Leonards Post Office. This is what – with the exception of about two persons, I am informed – that populous district wishes, and the Postmaster General complies with their wishes. I ask then, in the name of common sense, in the name of common justice and liberality, what more is wanted. The people have a wish, and the governing party concedes it; and this without inflicting any inconvenience on those parties who desire an alteration. But for a brief review of the proceedings in Council, persons of distinction having arrived in the debateable part of the borough, the question was taken up in Council and, if I understood aright it resolved itself into three heads – a wish, a reason and a motive. First, the wish that the district should be called Hastings; second, the reason given, which was because the district was Hastings; and, third, the motive – that visitors would go to the hotels at Hastings, instead of the Victoria at St Leonards. I have nothing to say against the wish, and upon the motive I shall make no comment; the opinion on this must be delivered by those whom it most concerns. All that I had to do with this was the reason – that is, whether or not the debateable district is really Hastings. I grant that it is not within the local Act of St Leonards. I believe, but speak advisedly, that it is not within the local Act of Hastings. I acknowledge that it is within the borough of Hastings, and so is every house, the householder of which has a vote for the Members of the borough. But I say that by lapse of time, and Pg.10 for other reasons, the debateable district is St Leonards. I do not say that it is the property of St Leonards to the west of the Archway, either in a municipal or in any other sense: but that for a period of more than twenty years it has acquired the name of St Leonards. Under this appellation it is widespread; under this appellation it has given adherence to the Mechanics Institution; and with this appellation the Postmaster General and the people of the district wish it to remain, even to say nothing of Mr Putland’s allusion to the Turnpike [and the deeds of conveyance]. If I have been personal, “Via Media” should do me the justice to acknowledge that it has been in self-defence. I have assailed the letter of a merely anonymous writer, and, perhaps, after all, irrespective of this business, the individual is one between whom and myself there is much personal respect.
With many apologies,
I remain, Sir,
your obedient servant,
Samuel H Beckles”
Sir,- I was somewhat surprised to see in your columns that one “In Via Media” vauntingly makes the assertion that certain questions put to him in a former letter are up to the present unanswered. I, for one, saw not the knotty points. Admitted that I might have been rather “obfuscated” and might have been “snuffed out” for a time; at any rate I will try to relight by rushlight by the aid of your correspondent’s coruscations, when I hope to have a little more light on the subject. We all admit it to be hard to convince a man against his will; yet we find a writer condemning another for liking and using those things which seem best, in preference to those which are worse. If one “In Via Media” were building a house with two kinds of stone, good and inferior, would he not face it with the better kind. Again “Mr Vidler’s deed of property in this disputed district is of infinitely more value than anyone’s statement”. Perhaps so; yet I have seen several deeds connected with the district in which the person is said to be of St Leonards-on-Sea – not of Hastings. An old Act, too, empowering Trustees to grant leases, speaks – as many persons, perhaps, know – of St Mary Magdalen and St Michael being not in Hastings but near Hastings; others also as near Hastings. Surely, if on no other grounds, we may also say the same – viz. that we are near the ancient and patriarchal Hastings, but not in it; St Leonards being our nucleus, and we its adjunct. Yours, truly, Young St Leonards “Jan.26/58”
Pg.11 The Archaeologist’s Rejoinder –
Sir, I see that Mr Ross, in replying to my letter, which appeared in your paper of the 22nd of January, infers, from the passage I quoted from Stell’s old Hastings Guide, that the ruins of St Leonards Chapel[Notes 1] therein alluded to were those situated a little to the westward of White Rock Villa. This, however, is a mistake which I feel the more bound to set right, as it appears to have originated in my own omission to give the whole of what Stell says upon the point. The entire passage runs thus: Pass the Bathing Room under the castle cliffs, and over the White Rock, a little beyond which are the remains of a ruin at the edge of the cliff, supposed to have been St Leonards Chapel. About a quarter of a mile further on at a place called the Old Woman’s Tap is the rock on which it is supposed William the Conqueror dined after his landing. It hangs over a pool of water, and still retains the name of the “Conqueror’s Table”. It is quite clear from this description that the ruins referred to were those which stood near the present site of the Saxon Hotel, from whence to the “Old Woman’s Tap”, now covered by the Victoria Hotel, the distance is very nearly that stated by Stell, viz about a quarter of a mile. As to Mr Ross’s observation that he cannot see what claim St Leonards can have to any religious house built in St Mary Magdalen’s, I have only to observe that I made no allusion to any such claim or to any other part connected with the subject than the simple archaeological view of it, the consideration of which, in my opinion, afforded strong grounds for calling on all good churchmen and archaeologists to preserve the name of St Leonards in a locality to which a chapel bearing the name, did, according to tradition, in olden times give sanctity. [Supported also by the name “Chapel Field” on which much of the property eastward of the Archway was built, and by the discovery of human bones when digging for the foundations of such property]. Mr Ross says he cannot think that anyone in the Borough of Hastings has any desire to obliterate the name of St Leonards; and if that observation is intended to apply to the locality in question – the only one referred to by me – it will, doubtless, tend to remove much of the irritation which has been caused by a different impression. The existence of remains of other religious buildings in the vicinity to which he alludes, certainly gives additional interest to the archaeological view of the matter; and if further investigation should bring to light any new information regarding them, it may, perhaps, be some compensation for the less interesting discussions which have lately been forced upon the inhabitants of Pg.12 neighbourhood. I will conclude by repeating some old verses quoted by Mr Ross in his History and Antiquities of Hastings, which have especial reference to the ruins of this description, every fragment of which, as he truly says, can be regarded as part of the ecclesiastical history of the country.
“I do love these ancient ruines;
We never tread upon them but we set
Our feet upon some reverend historie;
And questionless herein this open court
(Which now lies naked to the injuries
Of stormy weather) some men lie enterred,
Loved the church so well, and gave so largely to it,
They thought it should have canopied their bones
Till Dombesday; - bit all things have their end;
Churches and cities which have diseases like to men,
Must have like Death that we have”.
“30th January 1858”.
“A member of the Sussex Archaeological Society”
The Postmaster General’s Ultimatum
The following communication, dated Feb. 18th, was received by the Chairman of the St Leonards Committee:
“Sir – I am directed to inform you that the Postmaster General has gain had under his consideration the subject of the postal arrangements at Hastings and St Leonards. His grace has duly weighed the statements contained in several letters that have been addressed to him upon this subject, and he has felt bound to pay especial regard to two considerations – first, that it is the duty of the Post Office in a question of this kind, primarily to consult the wishes of the persons most directly interested, viz the owners and inhabitants in the district to be served; and secondly, that it is also its duty, so far as may be practical and consistent with the general arrangements of the service, to forward and deliver letters in conformity with their directions. Applying these rules to the case now before him, His Grace has determined that the proper course for this department is to leave undisturbed the existing arrangements for Eversfield Place and the adjacent localities, unless it can be shewn that the persons above indicated as being most nearly concerned, or such of them as receive a clear majority of the correspondence desire that the letters be forwarded to and delivered from Hastings instead of St Leonards, and will take effectual means to ensure their being properly addressed to Hastings accordingly.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant J. Tilley.
- These ruins are now generally recognised as those of St Margaret's Church - Editor
Transcribed by Jenny Pain