Brett Volume 7: Chapter LIX - St. Leonards 1858
- 1 Transcriber’s note
- 2 Volume 7 - Chapter LIX - St. Leonards 1858
- 2.1 The Boundary Controversy continued (“A Dream”)
- 2.2 Natural Phenomena
- 2.3 Adnormal(sic) Temperatures
- 2.4 A Busy Week
- 2.5 Royalty Passing & Visiting
- 2.6 An Address to the King of the Belgians
- 2.7 Archery Meetings
- 2.8 The Mechanics
- 2.9 Accidents and Deaths
- 2.10 Storms & Tides
- 2.11 Municipal Election
- 2.12 Various Events
- 2.13 Death of Lady Boothby
- 2.14 Town Council Meetings
- 2.15 The Postal Question
- 2.16 Town Council Meetings (Postal Matters)
- 2.17 Erroneous Statements Corrected
- 2.18 Town Council Meetings (annotations)
- 2.19 A Possessory Title - Confirmatory Cases
- 2.20 No Proof of Foreshore Rights
- 2.21 The Corporation & The Woods & Forests Commissioners
- 2.22 "No Animus" but very much like it
- 2.23 "No Animus" but direct antagonism
- 2.24 No animus against Hastings
- 2.25 The Eversfield Waterworks
- 2.26 "No animus against St. Leonards"
- 2.27 No animus against Hastings
- 2.28 No reply to articles in the St Leonards Gazette
- 2.29 Returning Reason
- 2.30 Town Council Meetings
- 3 References
| 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
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:
“A word for St Leonards” The following letter of the same date appeared in the Hastings News –
“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"
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(sic) 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(sic) 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 ReplyA 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:
The Legal View of a Barrister and Geologist, who wrote to the Editor of the Hastings News 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”
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, prosocial platform-platitudes. It does, however, so happen that I regularly keep a diary on my library table, and I shall certainly 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 description, 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
“A member of the Sussex Archaelogical Society” Jan 1858”
“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”.
“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.11The Archaeologist’s Rejoinder –
The Postmaster General’s Ultimatum
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 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.
Solar Phenomena – The great solar eclipse on March 15th was but little seen at St. Leonards, and the same, of course, at Hastings, in consequence of almost constant masses of cloud; but there had previously been observed unusually large sun-spots by unassisted vision. The writer of this history, whose practice it was to view the meteorological indications from a mound on St. Leonards Green almost daily at about the time of sunrise, saw those immense sun-spots, two successive mornings, and having communicated his discovery to Mr. J. E. Butler (who had been giving astronomic lectures) and Mr. Jacobs (a scientific student), was credited by those gentlemen with having allowed the eye to mislead the judgement. Three days later, however, the London Times informed its readers that sun-spots were to be seen without telescopic aid.Mild Weather. In a letter to the London Times, dated Jan 2nd 1858, Dr. Garrett (who had just come to Hastings) wrote
“Letters have reached me from various parts of England, describing the weather as wet, cold, gloomy and foggy; whilst at Hastings and St Leonards we have had such a continuance of bright, sun-shiny weather as has never been paralleled here, not in this island at this period of the year, as far as I know. Strawberries and raspberries are not only in flower and their fruit full set, but positively ripe, as I myself witnessed this morning. Mr. Broad, a respectable chemist here, dug young potatoes here a few days ago in his garden on the West Hill, 3½ inches in circumference. Geraniums and fuchsias are also in full blow in the open air, not only in this protected square, but on the highly exposed air of Fairlight, while young flowerets of all descriptions are peeping through their sleepy eyelids, and opening their packed up fineries to join the gay and unexpected festival”.
“I am, Sir, your obedient servant C.B. Garrett, M.D.”
“Rain fell on November 26 and on December 20, and on no other day up to this date. An occasional slight fog but a dry atmosphere.” In this statement of the Doctor there was about an equal amount of truth and untruth. It was true that the two months referred to were very mild, and upon the whole, very dry for the season, but it was not true that there was rain only on November 26th and December 20th. Rain was greatly under the average of those months, but there were, nevertheless, slight showers or drizzle on the 10th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 26th and 28th November, also on the 25th there was rain (with hail) of a dashing character. For the first eleven days the temperature ranged from over 52 to over 62 degrees, but from the 11th to the 18th the temperature was under the mean, and at times really cold. After that period the air was again warm, and the temperature for the entire month was six degrees above the mean. December was even more abnormal, and was the warmest winter month within memory, being seven degrees above the average. It was Pg.14 also remarkably dry; yet, instead of there being rain only on the 20th, there were slight showers within the 24 hours of the 5th, 6th, 7th, 16th, 17th, 19th and (larger quantity) on the 20th. “An occasional slight fog, but dry atmosphere” said the Doctor; and here again he was decidedly inaccurate, both months being as remarkable for the number of foggy days and nights as for their mildness. During November, fog (more or less) prevailed on the 3rd, 6th (with lightning), 7th, 8th (very dense), 9th, 13th, 14th, 20th, 21st, 23rd and 26th. In December, also, fog was prevalent on the 7th, 8th, 12th, 26th and 30th. These instances and hundreds of others which the compiler of this History has recorded entirely controvert the notion that Hastings is always free from fog, albeit its fogs are not of that smoky, sooty, and unwholesome condition which applies to the fogs of London and some other places. Fogs usually make their appearance with calms and a high barometric and thermometric register, and such was the case in the months of November and December 1857. The last named month had a temperature that was 7 degrees above the average, as before stated, which was even a greater excess than that of November. But, mild, and even warm, as the weather was at Hastings during November and December, it was equally so in other parts of the country, and our own locality was by no means exceptional in the growing of strawberries and the budding of flowers, as Dr. Garrett’s letter to the Times endeavours to show. In the Gateshead Observer was a paragraph which stated “A plate of raspberries was gathered on Christmas Day in the open air in the garden of Mr. John Wood of Kingsthorpe near Northampton. In our own more northern county of Durham we hear of birds that have built their nests in the hedgerows, and an old farmer, who had four ploughs at work on the 28th of December, said his land was in April order. Pansies and polyanthuses are reported by our Sunderland Correspondent to be in full blow. On the 29th wild strawberries were gathered between Shildon and Sedgefield. Roses and woodbines are ready to blow”. The Times, also of Jan. 2nd, said “After an unprecedented season of mild weather at this period of the year, during which flowers have bloomed in the open air, and birds have carolled as in Spring, a sharp frost has set in”. The frosts, however, even in January, were intermittent, and the month upon the whole was about 2 degrees above the average temperature. But, as is usually the case after mild winters, February and March were very cold months, the former having over twenty frosty nights, and the temperature of both months was 3 or 4 degrees below the mean of such months. I sought to point out to Dr. Garrett his misconception by showing him my own almost hourly record and the daily accounts obtained from other districts. He told me the source from which he drew his inference, Pg.15 and from that time until his death – years afterwards – we were always on friendly terms. This case is referred to more particularly because since that time I have had several occasions to correct misstatements in connection with local meteorology, believing, as I do, that even in such matters, truth is the surest passport. The weather in a general way is sufficiently favourable to Hastings and St Leonards to require no exaggeration, and, as I - rightly or wrongly – never read fiction except by accident, my mentality is too unbiased to tolerate misstatements of local conditions, even though it might seem to indicate a want of loyalty to my native town, the reverse of which my long career as a public writer is sufficient to prove. Pg.15
More Abnormal Temperatures
Not only were the months of November and December, 1857, and January, 1858, so much above the general temperature of those months as to produce strawberries and flowers out of their season, but the later months of September, October and December, 1858, were even more extraordinary; for, except November, which was so unusually cold as to be 6 degrees below the average for twenty years, the period indicated by the months here named was from three to four degrees above the general average. Strawberries were again gathered at the Bunger Hill garden at Ore and at the Cumbersome Hill garden in the Parish of All Saints. But, as shown in other volumes of “Local History”, there have been winter months of even greater mildness, when fruits, flowers and vegetables have been produced as in summer. On the present occasion, a great comet was visible during September and October, which has often been the occasion of abnormal heat during the passage towards the sun and of cold after its perihelion, and the present cometary visitation was no exception; hence the cold and even frigid days and nights in November. But the greatest curiosity was the production of three crops of strawberries within thirteen months.
A Busy Week
A Busy Week
Such was the heading of a column in the St Leonards Gazette of January 30th, 1858, under which heading was as follows: “It sometimes happens that events occur of which we have exclusive information, or which by some means escape the cognizance of our abler contemporaries. The present week has been unusually fertile in matters of a public nature, some of which as appertaining to St Leonards, where our sheet is published we proceed briefly to describe. On Monday at sunrise, in honour of the royal nuptials the pleasure boats were rigged out in their gayest fashion and the Pg.16 royal standard which had done duty on many occasions, was again to be seen flaunting in the breeze at Allegria, while, as if blushing for its fellow, grown old in the service, a newer and a brighter one spread out its rich tints to the admiration of those who thronged the esplanade. Other preparations were in progress, but which were arrested by the unlooked for bereavement of Mr. Southall, whose wife had been abruptly summoned to yield up her spirit to God who gave it. During the after part of the day a treat was given to a number of children and their friends; and in the evening a ball took place at the Assembly Rooms. Illuminations were also talked of, but the only one that we observed was that by Mr. R. Gausden, at 48 Marina, whose house, lit up by a variety of contrivances, from the simple candle to the elaborate lamp, presented an unusually gay appearance, at the same time exhibiting a neat transparency, with portraits of the bride and bridegroom.
As a befitting celebration of the royal marriage, the school class of St. Mary Magdalen, to the number of 300 and upwards, were regaled with a suitable repast, by means of subscriptions collected for that purpose. The elegant school house recently erected, a short distance from the church, was the appropriate rendezvous, the interior of which was profusely decorated with mottoes, evergreens, flags etc. The tea – such it was considered to be - commenced at four o’clock, and a most animating sight it was, to behold so large an assemblage of youthful smiling faces gathered round the festival board. This merry throng of juveniles having partaken of the good things set before them, were further entertained with music and an exhibition of dissolving views. At six o’clock they were dismissed to their homes, highly delighted with their afternoon’s diversion. An hour later, the parents and friends of the children, to the number of 230, were sitting at the same tables, discussing in a practical mood the merits of a bountiful supply of roast beef and plum pudding, together with a moderate amount of beer. Supper being over, and grace becomingly responded to, the company were then addressed by the Rev. W. W. Hume in the most friendly and agreeable manner, during which allusion was made to the auspicious event which had led to the entertainment. The reverend gentleman also sought to improve the occasion by calling attention to the great work of education, and exhorted the parents to second the efforts of the teachers. Three cheers having been given for Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick, the remainder of the evening was devoted to music, in which some excellent part-singing was introduced. Two very large plum-cakes were exhibited, richly ornamented and surmounted with a very pretty Pg.17 boat and a lilliputian Princess Royal in her bridal robes. The first of these was to be given to the best behaved male scholar, and the other to the best behaved female, each under a certain age; whilst the cakes were equally distributed to the entire school, Mr. Hume and other persons who had literally contributed to this entertainment were loudly cheered by the company, after which the singing of the National Anthem brought the proceedings to an agreeable termination.
A Grand Public Ball took place on the same Monday evening in honour of the royal nuptials in the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms and was graced by a brilliant assemblage of 140 persons. The spacious ballroom, in addition to recent improvements, was specially decorated for this occasion, and presented a very imposing appearance. At the top of the room was crown lit up with gas, surmounting the initials V. F. composed of flowers, while overhanging the whole was the Royal Standard on the one side and the Prussian Eagle on the other, both of which appeared to be quite new. Around each of the lamps projecting from the walls was a wreath of laurel, and suspended from each side of the room was a large festoon of roses. The covered approach to the building was completely lined with flags and the vestibule exhibited the Prussian Royal Arms incorporated with the English Royal Standard. By ten o’clock the room exhibited a complete galaxy of beauty and fashion, and the night was far advanced ere the gay company bade adieu to the fairy scene. Of the twelve influential stewards, at the time this account is reproduced in an abbreviated form, Sir Anchitel Ashburnham is the only survivor.
Also on the same Monday a party was entertained at dinner by Arthur Knose Esq. at his private residence, 8 St Margaret’s Terrace.
On Tuesday evening, the ballroom, with its special decorations, was engaged by tradesmen and others for a second ball, under the superintendence of Mr. W. Payne and a middle-class quadrille party. The company consisted of more than 100 persons, and dancing was kept up with unabated vigour until a late hour.
On the same evening an interesting lecture on Astronomy was given in the rooms of the Mechanics’ Institution, which being illustrated by beautiful transparent diagrams and a revolving orrery[Notes 2], as well as being lucidly expounded, afforded to a large audience a considerable amount of pleasing instruction.
On Wednesday another school treat was given, this time to the children of the St. Leonards National Schools, 331 in number. After perambulating the principal parts of the town, the young folk were permitted to partake Pg.18 of an unlimited number of buns, cakes and tea, which had been industriously prepared for them in the Assembly rooms. These rooms, with their special decorations unremoved, were additionally ornamented with four large Christmas trees and a mimic representation of the royal wedding; and being filled with about 400 persons (including visitors) had a very imposing effect. Tea being over, the children commenced singing a number of little pieces in two parts, which they accomplished in a manner quite astonishing. After this some stereoscopes were seen to be passing from hand to hand, while the Christmas, being rapidly denuded of their varied fruit, began to assume a desolate appearance. The increasing barrenness, however, was more than compensated by the happy smile that played on the cheeks of the youthful recipients of the produce of the overladen trees, who in their turn had been transformed, as it were, into a vast multitude of living branches. After an address by the Rev. Tilson Marsh and sundry cheers for the Royal Family and others, the proceedings closed with the National Anthem.
On Thursday morning a marriage in fashionable life was effected at the church of St. Mary Magdalen between Alice Anne Doncaster, only daughter of Richard Doncaster Esq. of Whalley Range, Manchester, and Richard Haswell Thursby Esq., of the Coldstream Guards, youngest son of the Rev. W. Thursby, of Ormerod House, Lancashire. It having become known that extensive preparations were making for this wedding, and that a number of military and other friends of both parties were expected from a distance to be present at the ceremony, the event created an unusual amount of interest among the people of the neighbourhood, who flocked to the church in such numbers as to exceed, probably, any gathering in this locality. The church was so crowded as to render it difficult of access even to the bridal party themselves, whilst several hundreds, unable to gain admittance, thronged the approaches and every available point from which they were likely to catch a glimpse of the happy couple. The cortege of 9 carriages, each drawn by a pair of grays, conveyed the party to and from the church, the names of whom were given in the St. Leonards Gazette of the time. Suffice it here to say that an elegant breakfast was prepared at the bride’s residence, and after the departure of Mr. & Mrs. Thursby in a carriage-and-four, a grand ball was given in the evening to nearly 100 of the haut ton.
On Thursday afternoon a third school treat was given, this time to the children of the Infant School, to the number of 90. The simple fact that, at the commencement of 1858 the two schools of Pg.19 St Mary Magdalen and St Leonards consisted of no fewer than 720 of the rising generation, and being thus cared for, sufficiently indicates their rapidly increasing importance and the general interest manifested in their welfare. But, above all, was their acknowledged successful training in wider and higher branches of education than was pursued in any other parochial school in the borough.
Friday – a Royal Visit
A telegraphic message having conveyed to J. Gibbs Esq. of Maze Hill Cottage, that the Lord High Admiral, H.R.H. Prince Adelbert of Prussia, intended paying him a visit, the first-named gentleman, in the most creditable and dexterous manner, made preparations for the reception of his distinguished guests. His Royal Highness arrived at the St Leonards Station of the South Coast railway by the 1 p.m. train, and was there received by Mr. Gibbs in person, who immediately accompanied him, together with Baron Von Richthoven, and Lieut. Chüden, to his residence, whilst the numerous suite of the royal visitor were conveyed to the Victoria Hotel, where apartments had been provided for them. On arriving at Mr. Gibbs’ residence, the St. Leonards German Band, which had been engaged for the purpose, struck up a Prussian air, and a magnificent Prussian banner, with crown and eagle, was opportunely hoisted on the flagstaff. Having partaken of luncheon, the royal visitor was conducted round the principal parts of the two towns, and to whom was shewn the castle, the seat and grounds of F. North Esq., M.P., the Russian trophy gun, the Subscription Gardens, the Archery Ground and as many more things and places as the limited time at his disposal would permit of his seeing. His Royal Highness appeared to take a deep interest in all he saw, and expressed his gratification in being able to assure himself by personal inspection of the existence of interesting objects and the beauty of a place of which he could faintly imagine from a distant view while passing up and down Channel. The dinner party consisted of the Prince himself, Baron Von Richthoven, Lieut. Chüden, Major Ogle, Rev. W. R. Tilson Marsh, A. Burton Esq., J. Gibbs Esq., Mrs Gibbs and R. D. Hale Esq., M.D. Every delicacy that the season in the shortness of time could produce was set before the distinguished guests and nothing that could administer to their comfort was neglected. The band continued playing on the lawn until 9 o’clock. After dinner the part received the following additions: F. North Esq., M.P., Capt. Parish, J. Grenside, Esq., the Rev. H. Nussey, - Neville Esq., Mrs Hale and the Pg.20 Misses Wagner. A most agreeable evening was spent by all parties, and by no one, it appeared, more than the Prince himself, who expressed in warm terms his gratification at the reception unexpectedly accorded him, and his only regret at being able to pay but a flying visit, his presence being required in Berlin on the 7th of February.
A brilliant company of about 70 of the fashionable portion of the community assembled by private invitation at the Assembly Rooms, where their terpsichorean abilities were exerted till the night was far advanced. The refreshment tables, under the management of Mr. Vickery, contained many delicacies, while the band, under the leadership of Mr. B. Wood, imparted by its spirited performance an air of animation to the glittering. Among the company (which was composed almost exclusively of the inhabitant gentry of St. Leonards) was Baron Von Richthoven, one of the suite of Prince Adelbert of Prussia.
The distinguished visitors left by an early train on Saturday morning for Newhaven, en route for the Continent. Too much praise could hardly be given to Mr. Gibbs, the gentleman through whose personal friendship, St. Leonards was honoured by his exertions to entertain his guests in a becoming manner; nor ought there to have been a withholding of thanks to those by whose assistance Mr. and Mrs Gibbs were the better able to prepare within a few hours a banquet equal to the occasion. Among the table decorations and dinner service there was a rich display of gold and silver, some of which was lent by Sir Woodbine Parish and one or two other persons.
The Busy Week Realised
Thus, in celebration of the nuptials of the Princess Royal of England and the Crown Prince of Prussia, as well as in honour of the visit of Prince Adalbert of Prussia, the phrase “A Busy Week” was thoroughly realised. Every day and every evening from Monday morning till the early hours of Saturday morning were devoted to festive gatherings, which included three balls, three school treats, a fashionable marriage (concluding also with a ball), several evening parties and a right royal banquet. It was afterwards believed that this display of loyalty was partly the means of inducing the visit of the Princess with her family to St Leonards at a more recent period. The peculiarity of this week of festivities was that they were wholly confined to the two parishes known as St Leonards, the only movement on Hastings to signalize the event being that of ringing the church bells and firing the town’s small cannon as on ordinary returns of the Queen’s birthday. If the St. Leonards people - visitors as well as resi Pg.21 dents – were unanimously zealous in the opportunity thus afforded of exhibiting their means of combination at a time when some members of the Town Council were striving their utmost to deprive them of their Post Office, and to call a certain district Hastings which had never been and could not be other than St. Leonards, their “show-off” as the unsuccessful aggressors called it, was, at least, excusable; and if the present writer was invited to be present at some of the private, as well as the public gatherings, to the exclusion of other note-takers, it was because he had honestly thrown in his lot with those who, at all costs, were determined the defend their legally acquired possessions.
Royalty Passing & Visiting
Other Balls, School Matters and Royal Visits
In the so-called “Busy Week” narrative the leading topics were those of balls, schools and a royal visit. We will now follow up those associative events for the rest of the year. The only other public balls in St. Leonards were those of the Queen’s St. Leonards Archers, on the 17th of August, and the Annual Christmas Ball on the 28th of December. The former was very numerously attended, chiefly by members and subscribers, and the latter had a company of over 100 of the nobility and gentry of both towns.
For the National Schools three sermons were preached at St. Leonards Church on the 9th of May, which resulted in the rather small collection of £26. 13s. At the day schools 380 children were in attendance, and about 30 others attended the Sunday School. Sermons were also preached for the St. Leonards schools on Sunday October 19th, when the wealthy residents of the town were mostly at home, and the collections were then £41. 4s.
Prince Albert passed through St. Leonards and Hastings per railway on the 27th of May, on his way to Prussia. He was warmly greeted by people on the platforms.
An Address to the King of the BelgiansThe King of the Belgians paid a second visit to the ex-Queen of the French at the Victoria Hotel on Monday July 5th. Among his numerous suite were the Duke and Duchess de Brabant and Count de Flandres. Several of Queen Amelie’s attendants met the Belgian party at the Station; and on Tuesday morning, July 6th, the Mayor and several members of the Hastings Corporation waited on His Majesty at the Victoria Hotel and presented the following address:
“As representing the Corporation of this borough of Hastings and the Magistrates in Her Majesty’s Commission of the Peace for the same place, we respectfully approach your Majesty to express the great pleasure which we feel in welcoming your Majesty to our ancient borough. Your Majesty’s long connection with this country and immediate relationship with our beloved Sovereign, leads us to regard your Majesty Pg.22 not as much as a stranger as one of our own Princes; whilst your Majesty’s personal character and abilities, as shown in the government of a neighbouring country, which, though often competing with England in friendly rivalry in many a field of industry, has never been arrayed in hostility against her, establish so strong a claim to our regard, that we feel it a duty to the towns over which are called to preside. Given under the common seal of the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses, this 6th day of July 1858”.
His Majesty received the deputation most graciously and expressed his thanks for the great honour shown him during his short stay. He had been connected with this country for forty-two years, and during that period he had had frequent occasions of admiring the ardent feeling of respect exhibited toward himself. He could fully assure the deputation that he fully reciprocated this feeling towards the people of England. The address had eulogized the Queen, but he felt that nothing which could be said of her could exceed her merits. His august niece was always impelled by the highest patriotism in the execution of her duty. And her trusted she would long be spared to rule over a loyal and affectionate people.” The deputation then retired. At the doors of the hotel a considerable crowd had congregated to witness the departure of His Majesty, who left with his suite shortly after the presentation of the address and proceeded to Dover from the Warrior Square Station. After leaving St Leonards the king of the Belgians sent a donation of £10 to the Infirmary.
Queen Amelie, the ex-Queen of the French, also presented the Warrior Square stationmaster (Mr. Boorman) with a gold pin, as an acknowledgement of his attentions.
At the first of the season’s meetings of the Queen’s St. Leonards Archers, which was, as usual, on Her Majesty’s natal day anniversary, prizes were won by Miss Jane Brown and Miss Bond.
At the second meeting, which was held on the 26th of June, the attendance was very slight, both of shooters and visitors, where only one prize was won, and that was by Miss Mackay.
At the annual “Grand Fete,” on the 17th of August, in honour of the Duchess of Kent’s birthday, there were upwards of 700 persons present. On that occasion the coloured flags, the white marquees, the gay company, the lively music, the archers’ picturesque attire, and the beautiful grounds, aided by fine weather, made up a tout ensemble of an imposing character. Prizes were won by Miss Mackay, Mr. Everett, Miss Fenton, Mr. Kenrick, Miss Morris, Mr. Collis, Mr. Mackay and Mrs Bosser[Notes 3]. The proceedings closed with a ball at night. Pg.23 At the last of the season’s archery meetings, on the 1st of October, prizes were won by Miss Brown, the Rev. J. Simpson, Miss Glennie and Mr. Gipps.
The Mechanics’ Institution At the quarterly meeting held on the 11th of February, it was shown that the number of members was 180 – an increase of 8 during the quarter. There was, however, a balance of £6.15s.6d due to the treasurer, and £16.12s.6d outstanding liabilities. The report stated that the committee, with the assistance of friends, were making an effort to raise by subscription £100 for liquidating a deficiency caused by an insufficient income, and for paying off a portion of the mortgage on the property, on the understanding that the Institution be made self-supporting in the future. The committee had added, by purchase, 33 volumes to the library and Mr. Hampden had given 10 volumes.
At the next (adjourned) quarterly meeting on the 20th of May, it was shown that there was a further falling off of members, with a treasurer’s balance of £6.3s.11d against the Institution and other liabilities amounting to £18.5s.
At the quarterly meeting on the 12th of August, the report showed a further decline of members to 120, being a decrease of 18 from the previous quarter, of whom eight gave it as their reason for withdrawing, the raising of the quarterly subscription from 2/- to 2/6 per quarter. Much the greater number of declensions, however, took place before the fee of membership was raised. The treasurer’s balance against the Institution £10.17s.6d and the outstanding liabilities were £16.10s.
The position of the Institution at the quarterly meeting on the 18th of November was still of a discouraging character, although signs were not wanting of a coming turn of the tide. The members had further declined to 109 with quarterly tickets, whilst the life-members remained at 35. The Treasurer wanted £12.11s.11d to balance the current a/c and £15 to pay off the other liabilities. A French class was in operation under the superintendence of T.B. Brett and R.F. Davis, and a drawing class, under the superintendence of Mr. Filmer. Alfred Burton, Esq. was re-elected President, T. B. Brett re-elected Treasurerr, S Putland jun and R. F. Davis re-elected Secretaries; and the following gentlemen as Vice-Presidents: Rev. W.W. Hume, G.H.M. Wagner, Esq., J. Rock jun, Esq., Rev. J.A. Hatchard, H. Selmes, Esq., and Messrs. Putland, Stoneman, Hatchmann and Hayden.
During the year Mr. Dawes gave a concert, which financially benefited the institution to the amount of 12s; Mr. Butler gave two excellent lectures on astronomy, which realised a small profit; the Rev. H. Piggott gave a lecture on “High Miller” and another on “Milton” which did not quite meet the expenses; Mr. Carpenter gave an entertainment entitled “The Road, the River and the Rail”, the receipts of which were £3.4s, and the expenses not stated; Mr. Grossmuth gave an entertainment, for which £5.17s was taken and £5.19s 6 Pg.24 was paid as expenses; and Mr. Anderson have a reading of Dickens’s “Christmas Card”, which cost 9/6 without assets. P.F. Robertson Esq., M.P. gave £5.5s to the Institution, £3 of which was for the payment of two years’ purchase of Blackwood’s Magazine, and £2.5s to be retained as a donation. The Rev J. A. Hatchard presented a chess-board and men, a backgammon board and men, and the game of German Tactics and Solitaire.
Accidents and Deaths
Edward Hunter, who, a few weeks before, swam out and saved a person from drowning, and so injured himself that his own life was despaired of, has now recovered from his dangerous inflammation. Edward was a good lad, and it rejoiced the heart of the present writer, his schoolmaster, to be assured of his recovery; also to know that his act of bravery was afterwards rewarded by a Bronze Medal from the Royal Humane Society, to which was added £5 by the local Committee. The person saved was a lad named Thorn, and the rescue was effected on the 24th of June.
Death of Samuel Glaisher. On the same day (June 24th) an inquest was held on the body of Samuel Glaisher, formerly a librarian, who had died suddenly. The enquiry was held at the Wheatsheaf Inn, Bohemia, and the verdict was “Fatty degeneration of the heart”.
A child named Garroll, while at play in Mr. Carey’s timber yard, had a leg fractured by a piece of timber falling on him.
On the same day, two men were injured by falling from the scaffold of the house there being erected on the Marina for Mr. Mann. These accidents were in October, and in the same month, William Roper, 26 years of age, ruptured a blood vessel at Warrior Square, and died before medical aid could be procured.
Robert Legge, drill-sergeant in the Scott’s Fusiliers, had been unwell for a considerable time, and had been sent to this locality for a change. He had borne a good character and had never been known to be intoxicated, Surgeon Ticehurst had attended him daily, and had sometimes found him to be incoherent. The sufferer, however, committed suicide by cutting his throat, and the verdict given at the inquest on the 23rd of November was “Temporary insanity”.
Henry Howse’s death> caused another inquest to be held, two days later, at the Old England Tavern. Howse was 66 years of age, and while, with Thomas Cruttenden, he was deepening a well for Mr. James Ranger, a bucket of earth fell upon him which had been drawn up by means of a rope attached to a common hook instead of a spring-hook used on such work. Verdict “Accidental death caused by the deceased’s own want of care”. Pg.25
Harriett Dugnall’s sudden death caused an inquest to be held at Bulverhythe, on the 6th of December. She was 22 years of age and the wife of a coastguardsman. The evidence showed that in lifting some heavy pails of water while in a pregnant condition, she ruptured a blood vessel which caused internal haemorrhage.
A Remarkable Accident. On the afternoon of Christmas Day, as the wife of fishmonger Ball, of the South Colonnade, was going towards Hastings, accompanied by a little girl, the two were met by a terrific squall of wind, which compelled them twice to turn back. Judging the squall to have passed over, a third attempt was made, but they were soon carried off their feet by a sort of whirlwind. Mrs Ball was lifted and borne across the road against the parade rails, where she was deposited in the gutter. She was greatly frightened and shaken, and had one arm severely grazed. The girl, at the same time, was carried completely over the railing onto the parade, thus getting bruised knees and other hurts. The said squalls were a part of wind-up to a stormy week.
Storms & Tides
The stormy week above mentioned as ending on Christmas Day was one of strong winds and high tides, the latter being frequently such as to give people on the St. Leonards and other parades a remembrance by way of a shower bath. On the Thursday the wind and sea increased in turbulence, and a large quantity of shingle was thrown upon the parade and into the roads. On the following day the sea ran higher than it had done for some years. It was, however, more demonstrative at Hastings than at St Leonards. The waves dashed over the parades with great force and against most of the houses in exposed positions, more particularly those at East Parade, Marine Parade, Beach Terrace and Carlisle Villas. The York slabs were dislodged from the Marine Parade, and some of them carried through by the Albion Hotel into George Street. Several of these houses were inundated, and after the recession of the tide, the roads were like the beach itself.
Remarkable Hail and Rain. On the 26th of August, during a thunderstorm of short period, a violent shower of hail and rain, lasting only ten minutes, took place at Fairlight. As measured in a rain gage the depth of water was 0.61 of an inch, about half as much as was measured after a whole day’s rain on the preceding Saturday (see also next page).
The West Ward election of a councillor in the place of Mr. James Mann, deceased, took place on the 24th of November, and was a Pg.26 pretty tame affair. It resulted in the return of Mr. John Peerless, with a poll of 41, against 12 votes recorded for Mr. John Kenwood. The deceased Jas. Mann had only been in the Council for a short time, his (unopposed) election being to supply the place of W. M. Eldridge, deceased.
The two poor rates paid during the years by St Leonards were each at the rate of 6d in the pound. The highway rate was 2d.
At a vestry meeting on Dec 10th, when Mr. W. Hatchman was nominated for overseer, in place of Mr. Jas. Mann, deceased, it was resolved that the parish be resurveyed, as the boundaries were but little known.
Licenses endorsed during the year were for the “Warriors Gate” from G. Cuthbert to Hy. Lamb; the “Old England” from W. M. Eldridge to Geo. Porter; Norman Hotel from Edwin Rice to Alfred Holland; the Pilot from Hy. Lamb to Jos. Davis; the Commercial (now the British) from James Mann to Jos. Le Beauvois; the Railway Hotel (Havelock Road) from Hy. Solomon to Geo. Reeves.
Fashionable Marriage. On the 14th of December Miss Emily Wagner, daughter of G. H. M. Wagner, of 77 Marina, was married to F. G. Simpkinson, Esq. Much rejoicing was betokened by outward as well as by inward manifestations. Other fashionable marriages at St Leonards are described in the Memoirs of Rev. W. W. Hume.
A Thunderstorm visited St Leonards as well as Hastings on Saturday morning, June 5th. At about 6 o’ clock dark clouds gathered in the south, and travelled up against the wind, increasing in darkness as they approached the land. An hour later a dense rolling mass came over in a semicircular form, and presented a curious sight. The wind then flew round from north to south, and the clouds emitted a heavy downpour of rain, while the lightning played continuously.
Marine Phenomena. On the 13th, 14th and 16th of June the sea at night was resplendent with phosphorescent light; as the display was witnessed by hundreds of persons with great interest.
The Brilliant Comet of this year was also watched at night and morning with much curiosity[Notes 4].
The Parcel Post. In this year’s month of June the St Leonards Mechanics’ Institution supported the Society of Arts in a move for getting small parcels carried by post.
Death of Lady Boothby
Pg.26½ Those persons who were at all familiar with the stage will have learnt with feelings of sorrow the death of the famous actress. After a short illness her ladyship expired on Saturday the 26th of January. The deceased (Louisa Cranston Boothby) was the eldest daughter of Lieut. Frederick Hayes Macnamara, of the 52nd foot, and his wife, Jane Elizabeth Williams. She was born on the 1st of April, 1812, in the parish of Islington, and was, consequently, in her 46th year. She early evinced that talent for the histrionic art for which she was afterwards so celebrated. Misfortune having overtaken her family, she, at the age of 13, appeared for the first time before an audience in the provinces, on which occasion her success was such that she decided on taking to the stage as a profession. For several years she continued to play in the provinces until, at 17 years of age, she made her first appearance at Drury Lane. Her fame had already reached London, where she soon took rank as one of the first comic actresses of the day, and this position she maintained through life. Whether on stage or off, her manner was most fascinating, and in January, 1831, when not quite 19 years of age, she married John Alexander Nisbett, of the Life Guards, who, within a few months, was killed through an accident in his endeavour to train a vicious horse. On the death of her husband, Mrs Nisbett felt herself compelled to resume her professional career, in which for several years she delighted the public with her brilliant acting on the London stage. She next married Sir William Boothby, of Ashbourne Hall, whose death occurred about three years later, and Lady Boothby, with her relatives in great measure depending on her, again took up her professional avocation. This she ultimately abandoned, and came to St Leonards, where the residence known as Rose Mount was built by her own desire. Here she lived with her mother and eldest brother until the deaths of her mother, brother and a beloved sister so wrought upon an already weakened constitution that she never thoroughly rallied from the shock. But her more serious illness was only of two or three days’ duration, its first manifestation being on Wednesday or Thursday, preceding her death on Saturday. Her death was deeply regretted by a large circle of friends. Her remains, and those of her relations, were deposited in the St Leonards Cemetery. Further interesting memoirs on pages 55 and 58 Vol 1 of “Local History”.
Town Council Meetings
Pg.27 The Postal Question. At the Council Meeting on the 1st of January, the following communication was read: “General Post Office, Dec 30th, 1857. Sir, the Postmaster General, having had under consideration the letter from the Town Clerk of Hastings and also your letter of the 18th instant, I am directed to inform you in reply that the question of establishing one chief Post Office for the towns of Hastings and St Leonards was carefully considered and discussed some years since, when it was decided that the present plan of having a separate and distinct chief Office for each place was the best arrangement, having regard to the postal accommodation of the inhabitants of both places generally. His Grace directs me to add that there does not appear to be any new circumstance in the case which would justify a compliance with the request of the Town Council of Hastings. I am, Sir, your obedient servant J. Tilley.”
The foregoing letter was addressed to the Mayor (Mr. J. Rock jun), who remarked that the matter still remained open.Ald. Ross wished it to be understood that the Council did not intend to let the matter drop. The Postmaster’s reply was hardly courteous. Most persons who read that official’s communication, and the Town Clerk’s letter to which it was a reply, will be of opinion that the latter whilst being even less courteous, also exhibited a commanding and imperious attitude of the Town Council. That letter of the Town Clerk’s was as follows:
“My Lord Duke: At a meeting of the Council of the Borough of Hastings held on the 4th day of December the following resolutions were passed: Resolved that the calling of the town of Hastings by any other than its proper name is injurious to its best interest as a watering place and that this Council do agree that all that portion of the Borough of Hastings which lies to the east of the Archway, which is the boundary of the township of St Leonards, shall henceforth be styled Hastings, and the names streets and places written up accordingly; Resolved that the foregoing resolution be forwarded to the Postmaster General, requesting his lordship to take into his consideration the necessity of making an alteration in the postal regulations of this borough, and that there should be only one post office for the whole borough.
The Postal Question
“The reason of the last resolution being passed is because there is great confusion in the delivery of letters owing to a certain proportion of the Borough being styled St. Leonards, which is quite wrong, as all the property on the east side of the St. Leonards Archway is strictly Hastings, and nothing can be legally shewn to the contrary. Therefore the Council Pg.28 intend for the future to leave all that portion of the borough on the east side of the archway and which is not included in the township of St. Leonards by act of Parliament, called “Hastings”. The Council therefore desired me to ask your lordship to make an alteration in the postal regulations, and to make only one general post office for the whole borough, and so to regulate the delivery of letters that all those directed to any houses on the east side of the archway to be directed to Hastings. Robert Grouse, Town Clerk”.
In the above quoted resolutions the assumption of the Town Council appeared to be on a par with its errors; for, in the first place, the town of Hastings was not called nor wanted to be called by any other than its proper name. Secondly, to call a certain portion of the borough St. Leonards was not “wrong”, seeing that it was not in the town of Hastings but only in the borough, and had been named St. Leonards for between twenty and thirty years. Thirdly, it was untrue that “all the property east side of the archway is Hastings and nothing can be shewn to the contrary”. Every legal opinion that was obtained did shew it to the contrary; and notwithstanding that “the Council intend for the future to have it called Hastings” it has retained its name of St. Leonards to this day, which would not have been the case if the Council’s “nothing to the contrary” could have been substantiated.
After the decision of the Postmaster General not to alter the existing arrangements, he was asked if he would receive a deputation. To this he replied in the negative, in a letter which was read at the February Council meeting. Coun. Putland asked if the letter could be read which called forth that reply, and was told by the Mayor that it was his own private letter. Ald. Ross did not think the matter was yet settled to the satisfaction of the Council, as there were certain persons [the inhabitants within and without the archway] who were not responsible, who were being listened to, whilst the Council received no attention. He had no doubt that eventually the postal district would be extended down to the archway; for he was sure that the town of Hastings would never allow things to remain as they were. Coun. Putland had hoped that the affair was dead and buried. He was himself, as a representative of the West Ward, as much as any other one person in the East Ward, and he only asked for equal responsibilities. They would accord everything to Hastings that really belonged to her by way of rates etc., and he did not think that the Hastings gentry and visitors would thanks them for again agitating this question. He believed the dispute was an evil, politically, Pg.29 socially, commercially and religiously. It was one of the greatest curses ever brought into the Council since he had been a member. Their time could be far better spent than in promoting dissension and ill-feeling. If ever he regretted having a seat in the Council, it was during the last two months. Many persons regarded the status of the Council as being 75 degrees lower than before. [Hisses]. He was speaking the truth; as regarded the Postmaster General, he could not change the name of a place any more than he could change the name of his (the speaker’s) own house. He would still call it St. Leonards. As the oldest councillor present, he would advise the Council not to keep the quarrel open; for the sooner they healed the sore the better it would be for all concerned. Councillor Vidler hoped they would not give it up until they had been defeated in the House of Commons. Ald. Ross said that it [the debateable district] was the finest watering place in the kingdom, and they were determined it should be called Hastings, and not St. Leonards. He would move that the Mayor call a public meeting.
Town Council Meetings (Postal Matters)The above stated debate on the postal and boundary dispute was at the Council meeting of Feb 5th, and, on the 20th of the same month, a further communication was received from the Postmaster General which was evidently intended as an ultimatum. It was not addressed to the Mayor or the Council, but to the chairman of the St. Leonards public meeting held two months previously, and was worded as follows:
“Sir: I am directed to inform you that the Postmaster General has again had under his consideration the subject of the postal arrangements at Hastings and St Leonards. His grace has duly weighed the statements contained in the several letters that have been addressed to him upon this subject; and he has felt bound to pay special 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 – namely the owners and inhabitants of the houses in the district to be served, and, secondly, that it is also its duty, so far as it may be practical and consistent with the general arrangements of the service, to forward and deliver letters in conformity with their direction. 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 adjacent localities Pg.30 unless it can be shown that the persons indicated above as being most nearly concerned in the matter, or such of them as receive a clear majority of the correspondence desire that the letters should be forwarded to and delivered from Hastings accordingly. I am, Sir, your obedient humble servant, J. Tilley.”
A similar letter was received by the Mayor, which on being read at the Council meeting on the 5th March, Ald. Ross said that the communication was quite what he expected after the way in which the chief officer in Hastings had been treated by the Postmaster General in refusing to meet him and a deputation from the Council. He considered that refusal was a decided insult, both to the Mayor and to the borough at large. It wasn’t at all likely that the town of Hastings would give way to the 2000 at the western end, and that quite a modern portion of the borough. The Postmaster General said that he did not intend to alter the present arrangements. It was a most inconsistent thing to suppose that the Postmaster general had the power of changing a name. [Certainly! Hence his unwillingness to be instrumental in changing the name of St. Leonards to that of Hastings]. It was a curious position to be in to ask leave to post letters in their own town. [Curious, indeed if such had been the position, but such was not the case]. It was right now to go to a higher authority. He knew why the borough of Hastings wanted two post offices. It was on account of private influence; but he knew the House of Commons would not allow private influence to ride over the borough. It was well known to be back-door influence. They ought to take shame to themselves that they ever allowed for one moment for such a thing to pass current. He was determined not to rest till the matter was thoroughly sifted. The Council had not hitherto wished to interfere with St. Leonards [Strange statement in the face of facts!]. All they asked for was to deliver letters in their own town. [And they were not debarred from so doing]. But if they had only one post office in the borough he did not see what inconvenience it would occasion. They put a boundary and erected a wall from the Arch to Lavatoria Square, and at first allowed only one tradesman of a sort in St Leonards. But Mr. Burton found that this exclusiveness did not suit the prosperity of St Leonards, and so the wall was knocked down. But this was done to suit his own benefit. He (Mr. Ross) did not see what right the St. Leonards people had to come out Pg.31 of their own boundary. [And, by the same mode of reasoning, St. Leonards might have retorted that she did not see why Hastings should come out of her own boundary, the western portion of which at the time referred to by Ald. Ross was at the Priory Bridge (now the Memorial). The truth was that Ald. Ross and those who sided with him, being foiled at every point in their unfortunate scheme, allowed their zeal to overrun their discretion, and to give utterance to many inaccuracies. They also mixed up in indiscriminate confusion the town of Hastings with the borough of Hastings and the town of St. Leonards within the archway (by Act of Parliament), with the St. Leonards east and north of the same (by right of unpreventable prescription). Hence, they were curiously contending with Mr. Burton’s St. Leonards, not only for the abolition of its post office, but also for changing the name of the people’s St. Leonards. They were, of course, sturdily met by the former for the retention of postal facilities, and by the latter (which they ignored) in defence of their long-cherished name. Ald. Ross’s accusation of “back-door influence” was as erroneous as it was uncharitable, and equally so was the statement that “St Leonards only allowed one tradesman of a sort”. At the time referred to there were at least three bakers (Beck, Vine and Hubbard), two butchers (Parker’s predecessor and Waghorne), two drapers (Pearce and H. Beck), two grocers (Lempriere & Jolly and Viner), two confectioners (Vickery and Williams), three tailors (R. Gausden, Minister senr. and Minister jun.), two fishmongers (Stapleton and Price), two chemists (B.P. Smith and G.A. Murton), two upholsterers (Honiss and Mitchell), two greengrocers (Walter and Beaney), and so with other shopkeepers – hatters, to wit (Gausden and Phillips), and shoesellers (Knight and Philpott). So, largely, however, did the St. Leonards visitors, and especially mechanics and other workmen, many of whom resided at Hastings, spend their money in the Old Town, that, with few exceptions, the tradesmen of St. Leonards were unsuccessful, and bankruptcies were frequent. Seeing this, and knowing how the welfare of the town was thus injuriously affected, it may be admitted that, although Ald. Ross’s statement of only one trade of a sort being permitted was untrue, yet to their credit, rather than otherwise be it said, both the Burton family and the St. Leonards commissioners did what they could to prevent strangers from turning private houses into shops for the purpose of competing with the already struggling tradesmen.
Erroneous Statements Corrected
It is somewhat painful to have to make these correctional interpolations and annotations, yet it is the more immediate if not the better way of putting facts in the place of fiction which has too long remained unmolested. In this case, as in many others, to a writer who endeavours to be impartial has fallen the duty of emending that which, by tradition and other means has hitherto passed for correct history. Pg.32 Another error into which Ald. Ross was incautiously led was that of stating that to suit his own benefit, Mr. Burton knocked down the wall which he first erected from the Archway to Lavatoria. Mr. Burton did nothing of the sort. The communities inside and outside of that wall had become so commercially and socially interwoven that Mr. Burton was appealed to by the “outsiders” to throw open to vehicular traffic that which before was only a narrow thoroughfare for humanity. His consent having been obtained in 1841 (17 years before Mr. Ross started his boundary campaign), Mr. Putland, Mr. Voysey, the present writer and several other persons, subscribed the necessary funds, and by that means was the work of demolition accomplished]. Alderman Ross concluded with moving that a committee of five be appointed to draw up a petition to both Houses of Parliament for only one post office in the borough, and to take the necessary steps for presenting the petition. Coun. Picknell seconded the motion, and hoped that the Council would not let the matter drop until they had carried their object. Coun. Putland said that he must enter his protest once more. He had hoped that the last letter from the Postmaster General, being so truly an English letter – so constitutional and so consistent with common sense – leaving the matter to the inhabitants themselves, would have been satisfactory to the people of Hastings as well as to those of St. Leonards. If that was not satisfactory he despaired of anything being so. There was no inconvenience in the present arrangement. The mover had alluded to 2000 inhabitants; but he would tell Ald. Ross that he was entirely wrong in such an estimate. He (Mr. P.) had taken care in numbering and classifying the houses, and he believed that on a fair calculation there were 5000 persons in the district mostly concerned, and 4000 within the Archway. [What then was the meaning of his argument, nearly the whole of which was against St Leonards and Mr. Burton, its founder?] The district in question (continued Coun. Putland) would continue to be St. Leonards, and the Council could not prevent it; nor could they make the people of St. Leonards have their letters addressed Hastings. To attempt it was both an unfeeling and an unmeaning action. As soon as any Government acted contrary to the wishes of the people, down it would come. The Council were now urging their suit against 99 out of every 100 of the inhabitants concerned; and he hoped that the Mayor in his official capacity would not encourage what he (Mr. P.) believed would place him in a painful position. For a chief magistrate in a central position to be in direct opposition to another part would be Pg.33 lamentable; and if they sent a petition to the House of Commons, where was the Borough Member who would dare to support it? [Ald. Ross, certainly not!]. Then, as neither of their members would dare to support it without the loss of his seat, who would they get to present it? And in what position would the Council stand, either in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. It was the most despotic thing introduced since he had had a seat in the Council, and he very much regretted it, because it divided the borough. The effects of it were growing far worse than he would like to express. By not yielding when they were beaten, their conduct was as childish as it was brutal. He would move as an amendment that the Postmaster’s reply be considered satisfactory. Coun. Vidler was deeply indebted to Ald. Ross. He had himself a house in the district, and was not at all afraid the proposed alteration would bring him to the workhouse. [Wonderful argument!]. Ald. Ginner had not been present since the subject was first introduced, when he advised the gentleman who brought it forward to drop his proceedings, and appeal at once to the House of Commons. He was quite satisfied that it was useless to appeal to the Postmaster General. The Council would have been willing to let the post office alone if they could only have got the Hastings district altered, but they had done wrong. The letter which they got from Mr. Tillard was what they deserved. It was uncourteous and the tenor of it showed that no Cabinet Minister dictated it. It was quite impossible that that letter could have been seen or known anything about by the Postmaster General. It struck him as strange that the Duke should not have had a gentleman for his secretary. [Not so fast, please, Ald. Ginner! The present writer’s Clerkship in the Hastings Post Office enables him to tell you and others who shout Hear, hear! To your averment, was a gentleman and knew his business, but would not have dared to use the Postmaster’s name without his sanction, especially in a matter of so much importance.] Coun. Neve seconded Putland’s amendment under the conviction that it was the wish of the inhabitants that the postal arrangements should remain as they were. Ald. Ross, in reply, said that the subject had been so well ventilated that but little more remained to be said. Hastings had fully made up its mind. He would refer Mr. Putland to Deuteronomy XXVII: "Cursed is he who removeth his neighbour’s landmark”. [Seeing that the Alderman was St. Mary Magdalen’s neighbour who was endeavouring thus to act, this reference was rather infelicitous]. The motion was, of course, carried. The six West Ward members were never at any time a match against the East Ward twelve.
Town Council Meetings (annotations)
Pg.34 At the meeting on the 7th of May, the Clerk said that the committee appointed on the postal arrangements had no report ready. They had drawn up a petition, but in consequence of the alteration in the postmaster general it had not been sent. Coun. Putland hoped that the petition would be printed, as he wanted all the inhabitants to know what it was the committee had put in the petition. The Mayor had no doubt that the committee would make it public, but there was nothing now before the meeting. Coun. Putland asked to be allowed to copy this “secret petition”. After some humorous remarks by different members, the subject dropped. [And dropped it was, for a time at least, altogether, the Council having played its last and lost the game]. Mr. Putland’s words that “the district in question would continue to be St. Leonards, and the Council could not prevent it” were already discounted by the fact that the inhabitants – supported by the visitors - of the district in contention, were practically unanimous in their determination to retain for it the name of St. Leonards, and which they well knew could not be changed by any existing Act of Parliament. The only persons to be excepted from this all but unanimous voice of the people mostly concerned were Messrs. Vidler, Winter, Bromley and it may have been one or two others who had built houses in Eversfield Place. These were the men in the Council, who with the assistance of Mr. Ross, the prime mover – members of the H.I.P.S. – who thought they could carry all before them. As will have been seen in their Council speeches, Mr. Ross was especially severe on the defendants and Mr. Vidler – a generally crotchety and unruly member – was dogmatic beyond par. “It is Hastings”, said he, “and it shall be Hastings”. These big words from a little man illustrated the saying “Little men sometimes air their assumed importance with strong utterances”. One phase in the dispute which should not go unnoticed was that during the controversy and when the word Hastings was written on most of the corner houses, under a threat of prosecution for defacement, the inhabitants, knowing the strength of their position, not only repeatedly daubed it out or added to it so as to make it read “one mile to Hastings”, but also the printed or written word “St. Leonards” was exhibited in almost every shop window. Whilst “St. Leonards House” was written by the owners on several private dwellings].
A Possessory Title - Confirmatory Cases
Thus much by way of annotations of the Council utterances on that momentous question of postal and boundary alterations, but there still remaineth something more to be said against a lingering belief among descendants of those who commenced the strife that the proper division of Hastings and St. Leonards is not at the hospital and the opposite Pier, but at the piece of granite which marks the site of the demolished Archway. In vol VI of this Local History, the St. Leonards case was shewn to have been well and ably represented by Sir Woodbine Parish, Pg.35 A. Burton, Esq., the Rev. W.W. Hume, Mr. S Putland, H. Harwood, Esq., H. Selmes, Esq., F.W. Staines, Esq. (a Hastings magistrate), Cooper Gardiner, Esq. (surgeon), Mr. R.F. Davis, W.P. Beecham, Esq. (of the legal profession), J. Gibbs, Esq., “Young St Leonards”, S.H. Beckles, Esq. (a barrister), “An Archeologist”, the “St Leonards Gazette” and others. And here, it may be added, while the circumstance is remembered, that at a casual meeting at the British Hotel of a few St. Leonards men and Mr. Growse the Hastings Town Clerk, the latter said that he knew that the Council has no case from the first, and he also knew that certain members had made up their minds not to listen to anything that he might say; he was their servant and must do their bidding. You have, said he, a possessing title, and that alone would have been sufficient if the case had been carried further. In justice to that gentleman it should be said that this opinion was drawn from him during a little jocularity; and, as may be supposed, after the Council has “ceased from troubling”; and the affair had been quietly buried. As regards a possessing title a few facts may be pertinent.
No Proof of Foreshore Rights
In 1851 a fisherman named Spice having obtained a freehold right to a rope-shop by undisturbed possession for a certain number of years, and its site being wanted by the Council for improvement, Spice declined to give it up, and dared anyone to remove it. He, probably, had been one of those who are different times in a long succession of years, contends that the beach did not properly belong to the Corporation, and on the strength of that contention, refused to pay rent. The Council finding they were powerless to remove the obnoxious rope-shop without purchase, gave Spice £40 for the ground and removed the building to another spot at the town’s expense. Spice first demanded £80. Mr. Ross having been in the Council at the time should have remembered this practical illustration of a possessory title when, six years later, he commenced to dispossess St. Leonards of a similarly acquired title. Also in the same year, 1851, Mr. Ross himself moved that the persons in Eversfield Place and Grand Parade who had placed seats on the parade (before Mr. Eversfield passed the parade over to the Council) be requested to remove them or else apply to the Council for permission to allow them to remain; or, said he, in the course of time, they would be able to claim the ground on which they stood as their freehold. And yet, with these conditions before him, Mr. Ross would not admit that a certain portion of St. Leonards, which included the said Eversfield Place and Grand Parade, with its undisturbed possession for over 20 years, had such a right, although for that period there had been no legal power either inside or outside of the Council which could have taken away that title. In Spice’s case respecting his rope-shop, Mr. Ross referred to the Elizabethan charter in which “all that our stonebeach” was given to the Corporation; but the Town Clerk (Mr. Shorter) said it was of no use to consult the Elizabethan charter, as there were no means of defining the limits of Pg.36 the places there mentioned. The contention of the fishermen was that they had always used the beach from time immemorial, and that instead of paying rent as some of them had, of late years, if they had refused, as Spice had done, no demand could have been legally enforced.
In the same year the provisions of the Elizabethan charter were again questioned as affecting some recent claims of the Woods and Forest Commissioners, apparently without remembering how the Corporation and its deputation were put out of court in 1827 and 1828 by the said Commissioners, when an untenable claim was made for the Priory waste ground as belonging to Hastings. Here again, the Clerk said the charter would be of very little use in contending with the Woods and Forest Commissioners. He had on previous occasions examined some references to the charter amongst the Ministers Rolls kept in the Tower, but it was a work of time and an expense must be incurred if the Council demanded an enquiry. It was, however, resolved that the Clerk obtain such information as might be necessary to determine the rights of the Corporation. The motion was seconded by Mr. Ginner, notwithstanding that at a previous meeting he asserted that the Corporation had no jurisdiction over that territory. The Town Clerk had also stated at a previous meeting of the same year, when Mr. Ross suggested the petitioning against the movement to obtain a local Act for the three parishes of Holy Trinity, St. Michael’s and St. Mary Magdalen eastward of the Archway, that the Council would not be permitted to oppose the Bill, because their interests were not immediately concerned. They might petition, but they would not get a Standing Committee of the House of Commons. Coun. Harvey also contended that it was a question for the three parishes themselves, and not one to be entertained by the Council. Mr. Ross, however, urged a petition and a resolution to that effect was carried by 7 to 5, the remaining councillors declining to vote either way.
At a later meeting (Aug 1st in the same year) the Clerk reported that he had searched the records in London as directed, and found that they only referred incidentally to the subject of enquiry. They appeared simply to embrace certain Roman Catholic charities called chantries. Coun. Ross said he was not satisfied to let the matter just rest, and would take another opportunity of calling attention to the subject. On another occasion the Clerk stated that he had not found in the local or any other records that the foreshore between the Priory Water and Bulverhythe had ever belonged to the Corporation.
The Corporation & The Woods & Forests Commissioners
And still another occasion on which the Council (this time as a Local Board) sought to enforce their suit was with respect to building operations on the Crown lands. Messrs. Reeks and Humbert objected to the Surveyor’s report which referred to their building plans, and particularly to Pg.37 the request for the road at Claremont to be made 30 feet instead of 27 feet. This in itself was a very reasonable request; but the Crown lessee said he should not comply with such an order, and dispute the jurisdiction of the Local Board in this case, as the street was not a new one. The Town Clerk allowed the exemption thus claimed as that which he had suspected from the first. The street in question was at least 29 years old [the road was made in 1822], and the ground which the Board had ordered to be added to its width had been sold for building purposes before the Local Board existed. Several members advocated the enforcement of their demands, while others regarded a conflict with the Woods and Forest Commissioners as likely to lead to great expense without success. The road in question remains to this day only 27 feet wide, notwithstanding that legal proceedings were taken, which cost the town £36 before the case was withdrawn. To this expense Coun. Harvey drew attention as having been caused by Messrs. Ross and Putland (the latter being the surveyor) as against the Town Clerk’s advice.
Another matter in which Mr. Ross was found at fault was again in the beach question. The Town Clerk suggested the propriety of taking a lease from the Woods and Forests Commissioners between the Priory water and the St Leonards Archway, but the suggestion was strongly opposed by Coun. Ross, as an admission that the beach belonged to them, instead of, as he believed, to the Corporation. The Clerk said he could not find any trace of jurisdiction exercised by the Corporation over that portion. Subsequent necessity of purchasing a right to the foreshore proves that Mr. Ross’s contention could not be sustained.
"No Animus" but very much like it
Also, in the stone-beach case, Mace against Philcox, otherwise the Town Council, an adverse decision was given by the Court of Common Pleas on the 25th of January 1864. The substance of this decision was that the foreshore of Carlisle Parade was the property pf the Crown, and, consequently, for the time being that of the Plaintiff Mace as the lessee of the Crown land; and that the defendant had no right to place his machines there although licensed by the Town Council. This unfortunate suit also cost the town a considerable sum of money, as did the unsuccessful action at law (initiated by Mr. Ross, contrary to the advice of his friend, Ald. Ginner) against Earl Waldegrave in the case of what was called the Ellsworth’s Charity. Be it said of Mr. Ross that in none of his public movements did there appear to be any craving for personal advantages. In many he was an excellent member of the Council; as Mayor his impartial conduct was worthy of praise. His industry too, as an antiquarian and archaeologist, entitled him to Pg.38 the highest post of honour. But every man has failings as well as virtues, and, according to Bismarck’s dictum, the greater the man the greater the mistakes he will sometimes make. A leading trait of Mr. Ross’s mind appears to have been that Hastings as a town should be co-equal with Hastings as a borough, and that the former had been surrepticiously deprived of its chartered possessions; hence his feverish activity on every opportunity for reclamation, notwithstanding that each successive effort proved the attempt to be both expensive and abortive. When discussing the postal and boundary question, Mr. Ross said he had no animus against St. Leonards, but a review of his conduct against that town for a long series of years would prove that statement to be incorrect. As early as 1837, when the large house in Seymour Place (now 23 Grand Parade) was occupied by the Dowager Queen Adelaide, Mr. Ross, as a bookseller in Castle Street, published a view of the house as “the Residence of the Queen Dowager, Hastings”. This was a source of annoyance to the Queen’s attendants, the Queen having been medically advised to take up her winter residence at St. Leonards, and the said house being professedly in St. Leonards although not within the jurisdiction of the St Leonards Commissioners. It was, however, within twenty houses of their boundary and a mile away from the town over which the Hastings Commissioners had control. Mr. Ross’s published view was equally an annoyance to Mr. Waghorne, who built his “Royal Mansion” and to all others whose property was in the same neighbourhood. In consequence of this, Mr. Southall, the librarian, was applied to to(sic) get out a view of “The Queen Dowager’s Residence, St. Leonards”, which was quickly done, and the two sets of inhabitants, east and west of the Archway became more socially united than before.
In one edition of his Hastings and St Leonards Guide Mr. Ross referred to St. Leonards as having obtained its position by “backdoor influence”, and he repeated that uncomplimentary sentence, at the Council meeting (vide page 30) when censuring the Postmaster General for declining to alter the postal arrangements. In another edition, published in 1843, there is a statement, under a line of capitals “Grand Parade Hastings”, that “the most modern part of the town consists of a splendid range of buildings between the gate of St. Leonards and the Victorian parade”, whilst, on the next leaf of the Guide says “About two miles to the westward of Hastings is situated the new town of St. Leonards”. In a later edition the Guide informs its readers that “Adjoining the west end of Hastings is the new town of St. Leonards, commenced by Mr. Burton in 1828”. These several sentences speak for themselves; but, to show that Mr. Ross was not so free from animosity as he professed to be, the following extracts are from pages 116 and 117 of the last-named edition of his Guide: “The Health Pg.39 of Towns Bill is now applied to Hastings, and consequently, the management of the whole proceedings of the borough is now vested in the hands of the Town Council, except the small portion of it called St. Leonards – Mr. Burton having, unfortunately, for that town succeeded in getting it exempted from the sanitary measures consequent upon the introduction of that Act. The proceedings in this case and the jobbing influence apparent in all its stages, deserve, perhaps, a record in this simple history of the town; both because it will give some notion of how things are done at the Woods and Forests and how great is the fear and enmity of Mr. Burton towards Hastings”. It then goes on to describe briefly what in these pages have been given in detail, respecting the House of Commons proceedings in connection with the application by Hastings for the said Act of Parliament, and of its being referred to a committee to report. “By that committee” says the Guide, “St. Leonards was expunged, and that town now stands forth as the only part of the borough which private interests compel it to be proclaimed not subject to proper sanitary control. It may here be remarked that Mr. Burton, in trying to prevent Hastings from having a clean bill of health, because he objected to St. Leonards having one, is only paralleled by Lord Seymour who set the law at defiance at the instance of the same family”.
Mr. Burton did not object to the Health of Towns Bill except in so far as it included his own town, for which, as being more recently built and for other reasons, there was not the same necessity. He distinctly stated at the Council meeting on July 26th, 1850 “I have nothing to say against the Act being applied to Hastings, but I demur to any attempt to force it upon St. Leonards against the wish of the majority of its inhabitants”. In connection with this subject, Ald. Scrivens (a native of the Old Town and one of the most intelligent members of the Council) said although he would like to see the Health of Towns Act applied to the whole borough, if he were in the place of Mr. Burton he should most likely do as Mr. Burton did. The same gentleman, when he was Mayor, in 1850, presided at the Trade Protection Society’s dinner, and proposed “Prosperity to St. Leonards”, expressing at the same time his gratification at seeing both towns gradually advancing towards each other, and hoped that ere long the union would be complete. In the following year (1851) when the Hastings Corporation attended by invitation the solemn service of laying the foundation stone of the St. Mary Magdalen Church (see Memoirs of Rev. W. Hume) Mr. Ross and his party, instead of joining the clergy and West Ward Councillors at the Saxon Hotel, where luncheon was specially prepared, took themselves off in a body to the Castle Hotel at Hastings. Such Pg.40 was the ascerbity engendered by the refusal of the six West Ward Councillors and five Aldermen into the acceptance of the Health of Towns Act, that even the religious aspect and other bearings of that day’s ceremonial had no effect in bringing the two parties into harmony. There were two worthy exceptions, however, in the persons of Ald. Scrivens and Coun. Hicks – one a Liberal and one a Conservative member of the East Ward who chose the more commendable part of lunching at the Saxon with the Church Committee and others.
"No Animus" but direct antagonism
The foregoing references to Mr. Ross’s published writings, speeches and actions must convince any impartial reader that the otherwise worthy alderman was not so free from animus against St. Leonards as he declared himself to be. There was really not a movement of any sort that involved the interest of the St. Leonards people, on both sides of the Archway in which he was not an opponent. It may be admitted that, with his wonted energy, he joined the majority of the West Ward inhabitants in opposing the movements of Mr. Eversfield’s party to obtain a local Act under the title of “West Hastings”, which would have included the parishes of Holy Trinity, St. Michael’s and the greater part of St. Mary Magdalen, all of which were then only governed parochially. Such an Act of Parliament, which provided for a body of Commissioners as the ruling power, would not only have done away with the name of St. Leonards between the Archway and the Infirmary, but would also have limited Hastings proper to the old boundary at the east end of Robertson Street. This would have been manifestly unfair to both east and west. By an unwritten law the said Infirmary had become the dividing object of the two towns, St. Leonards having extended its buildings from the Archway eastwards to Verulam Place, and Hastings having extended its area of architecture westward from where is now the Memorial to White Rock Place. By united action the object of this proposed Act was defeated (see pp 85 to 87 Vol. IV), and such inhabitants westwards of the Infirmary as were not within the jurisdiction of the St. Leonards Commissioners, immediately assisted Hastings in its application for the Health of Towns Act. This was important; for, without this help of the “Via Media” the prospect of getting that Act applied even to the Old Town itself (which most required it) would have been more remote. Little did Pg.41 the St. Leonards people between the Archway and Infirmary imagine that the very party with whom they co-operated for sanitary purposes would turn against them in an attempt to abolish their post-office and their long acquired name; but so it came about; and Mr. Ross, who strongly objected to the “West-Hastings” Bill when promoted by Mr. Eversfield’s party, and even formed one of the deputations to London to oppose it, was afterwards imperatively energetic in the endeavour to change the district from St. Leonards to his then own definition of “West Hastings”. He would not object to the front line being called “St. Leonards Road, Hastings” but he and his part would not hear of its being called “St. Leonards, Borough of Hastings” – its real topographical position – which the St. Leonards Committee very generously suggested as a compromise.
No animus against Hastings
Another matter in which Mr. Ross’s “no animus to St. Leonards” did not come out with clear proof was when, at a Council Meeting in 1853, Mr. Deudney suggested that the separately named clusters of houses between Warrior Square and Verulam Buildings should be known and numbered under one designation. He had, he said, seen the several owners, all of whom were willing to adopt the title of Eversfield Place, the name which Mr. Tree had given to his nine or ten new houses. This Mr. Ross strongly opposed, and characterised any desire that Mr. Eversfield might have for his name to be associated with the property as lowering him in his (Mr. Ross’s) estimation at least fifty per cent. This, perhaps, would seem to be an indication of a personal rather than a general animus – a dislike to the gentleman who had given the site for the Infirmary, the site for the St. Mary Magdalen Church, and the Corporation the Eversfield Parade; but the said gentleman was a St. Leonards man, and the seconder of the same was a St. Leonards man. To an impartial observer, there would seem to be no valid objection to the name; and even Mr. Ross’s own party voted in sufficient number to carry the motion, as against the objector.
The Eversfield Waterworks
Another St. Leonards or Eversfield man who did not find favour with Mr. Ross was Mr. Charles Clark. The former gentleman appeared to have at least something that did duty for an animus against the latter and all his works, or in other words, his waterworks. Hastings was spending thousands of pounds in the vain endeavour to obtain an adequate supply of water, and at a Council Pg.42 meeting Mr. Ginner expressed his belief that it would be best to come to terms with Mr. Clark and Mr. Eversfield respecting the waterworks which those gentlemen had established; but Mr. Ross did not think they were worth treating for. In reply to the remarks made at the Council Board, Mr. Clark published a statement in which it was positively asserted that he could supply throughout the year an abundant quantity of water which for pureness and softness he was permitted to refer to Dr Blakiston and Dr Duke, the two most eminent physicians in the borough. It was also stated that use was wanted for the thousands of gallons that daily ran to waste. At a later meeting, however, whilst the water consumers in the district supplied by Mr. Clark were satisfied with the supply, Mr. Ross still spoke against it and said it was quite a farce to dignify Clark’s reservoirs by the name of waterworks. In a few months’ time, however, the Council were glad to accept Mr. Clark’s offer to supply Hastings with water daily from 6 to 12 a.m., at the small sum of £3 per week, and an order was given for the purchase of iron pipes to connect the Eversfield mains with those at York Buildings. Even Mr. Vidler, who usually sided and voted with Mr. Ross, at a later meeting expressed his belief that Mr. Clark had got the best supply of water. After that another offer was accepted from Mr. Clark to supply water for the roads at the moderate price of 2d per budge. Mr. Clark might not have been the most amiable man in the world, and the fact of his being a water provider did not make him personally a great water consumer, at least not in its primitive state; but as this History proceeds it will show that there came a time when Mr. Clark and his Eversfield waterworks had to be in other ways reckoned with.
"No animus against St. Leonards"
Then there was the Cemetery question, the Burial Board for which was composed of an equal number of representatives of each parish, and who, after an immense difficulty in the search for a site, selected a portion of the Magdalen charity estate as being the best and most convenient for all the parishes. The whole of the members, both of the eastern and western parishes were in favour of this site except Mr. Ross and Mr. Vidler, who exerted themselves to the utmost for a less suitable site at Blacklands instead of that, the purchase of which would have enriched the funds of a charity which Mr. Ross had previously professed to see benefitted. But it was too near to St. Pg.43 Leonards, although equally near to Hastings, whilst the Blacklands site could not be approached from St. Leonards except by going first to Hastings. But of course Mr. Ross had in this, as in all others of his contentions, “no animosity towards St. Leonards”. It must have been St. Leonards that was continually naughty-naughty even in the long contention to avoid paying its share of £150 for a map that was not ordered by or for itself, but exclusively for the Local Board district. It must have been by “back-door influence” that barristers and arbitrators all gave their decision in favour of St. Leonards. It was such “back-door influence” – so stated by Mr. Ross – that got St. Leonards exempted from the Health of Towns Act, albeit, that although as a modern and particularly healthy town, its sanitary appliances were also much more modern than those of Hastings; yet even without the said Act, its Commissioners continued to improve its drainage as requirements arose, whilst the Town Council at Hastings were wrangling among themselves over drainage matters for three years after obtaining the necessary powers before anything was effectively done.
No animus against Hastings
The successful resistance of the inhabitants west of the Archway to their inclusion in the Health of Towns Act, the equally successful resistance of the residents east of that landmark to the demand for a change of name, and the no less successful efforts of both west and east St. Leonards to retain their post office facilities, bring to one’s mind another phase of Mr. Ross’s profession of “no animus against St. Leonards”. The Rev. W. W. Hume, at the request of members of his congregation and other persons attended the public meeting to protest at the action of the Town Council re the post office and boundary question; and speaking of that action having been taken without consulting the St. Leonards people he said was like treating them “as children, and very scrubby children too”. At subsequent meetings of the Council, Ald. Ross asked “Why should to Council go to such men as Mr. Hume to ask what they should do? Mr. Hume had an animus against the Council, and was at all times very anxious to depreciate it, and had done everything he could against it”. Mr. Ross had a perfect right to criticise Mr. Hume’s speech, but he had no right to stigmatise the character of one of the Pg.44 best and most useful men that ever came into the borough. As a curate at Hastings for three years, he laboured constantly and indefatigably for the temporal as well as the spiritual welfare of the town. He assisted in establishing night schools for young people of the fishing industry; he worked with the Mayor in a movement for the mitigation of Sunday Post-office labour; he was president of the Early Closing Association; he gave encouraging advice at the local meetings in connection with the Great Exhibition; he was one of the helpers of the Mechanics’ Institution; he supported, as chairman at a vestry meeting the counter position at a Court of Equity, to one whose aim was for other parishes than St. Clements and All Saints to share the revenue of the Magdalen Charity; and, as a preacher, his popularity was great. His constant labours for the public good when he became the Incumbent of St. Mary Magdalen are fully described in the memoirs of the reverend gentleman on pages 21 to 87 Historico Biographies, vol. 3; and, consequently, what is here set forth is a mere enumeration of some of his labours for the benefit of Hastings, both before and after his removal therefrom. A few months before Mr. Ross’s action to deprive St. Leonards of its name and its postal privileges, Mr. Hume spoke at a Hastings meeting for getting better railway accommodation; also at a meeting (presided over by Mr. Rock as Mayor) when he seconded Mr. Ross’s own motion for establishing a net manufactory, remarking that having had three years’ experience in Hastings and among the fishery, he had some knowledge of the importance of the proposition, and was willing to assist in any scheme that would ameliorate the condition of that class of people. If they could connect with the proposal some educational plan that would arrest the laziness of boys about the beach it would be an immense benefit, even if done at a loss. Also immediately before the outburst of the contention, in consequence of a sad wreck and loss of life eastward of Hastings, Messrs. A. Burton, Cooper Gardiner G.H.M. Wagner and Capt. Parish all St Leonards gentlemen) with the Rev. W. W. Hume at their head, raised a sum of about £300, to begin with, for the purchase of a life-boat for Hastings. How this Lifeboat Committee, with Mr. Hume as spokesman, attended a special meeting of the Town Council, and were complimented for their generous offer of money and services in co-operation with the Stonebeach Committee of the said Council, together with other arrangements, are all described on pages 86 and 87 of Local History vol. VI. Mr. Hume afterwards became the local President of the Lifeboat Institution and Royal Pg.45 Humane Society, which position he held until his death. How then, after all the foregoing examples of Mr. Hume’s active good will and benevolence towards the Old Town, Mr. Ross could accuse him of having an animus against the Council and of always doing what he could against Hastings, is only conceivable on the hypothesis that the immense array of intelligent opposition to his designs had made him oblivious to facts.
No reply to articles in the St Leonards Gazette
That the proprietor of the St Leonards Gazette, who vigorously supported the opposition, albeit with reasonable argument and sentiments of amity, should have escaped the invective of Mr. Ross and his party, was a little surprising. True, his newspaper was debased the town’s advertisements, and for ten years Mr. Ross passed him by without the slightest recognition. But this kind of contempt had been going on for some years previously – in fact ever since at Mr. Ross’s solicitation, he had joined the “Hastings Independent Liberal Society”, - and left it after his first attendance, at which the Society’s proceedings were repugnant to his own ideas of fair liberalism. In 1866, however, after the said proprietor of the Gazette had rambled for five or six days with the British Archeological Association and reported their proceedings in detail, he was approached by Ald. Ross in the most friendly spirit. That ten years had helped to soften the asperities between east and west, notwithstanding that during the interval the post-office question had once more come to the front, more to the discomfiture of Ald. Ginner than anyone else; for, although usually an astute man, and a good councillor, on that occasion he was proved to have greatly blundered. This will be shown in later chapters. Also, it is intended to deal with the brighter side of Mr. Ross’s character in a later portion of this History, as manifested in his sayings and doings when freed by experience from certain prejudices, and especially when out of the trammels of the H.I.P.S, which as a political engine had been worn out by the frictional overbearings of its own machinery. The condemnation of this society by both moderate and advanced Liberals was shown on pages 48 and 49 of Local History, vol. 6, a volume which treated of the two years preceding the one now under review. Before even the present year (1858) had come to a close a political change in the Town Council was being effected – a change than cannot better be told than by the Liberal editor of the Hastings News.
Returning ReasonOn Nov. 5th, under the heading of “Returning Reason” appeared the following:
“Hastings is coming to its senses, and has shewn the first sign for many a year of municipal independence and common sense. Taken as a whole the East Ward contest last Pg.46 Monday may be considered a satisfactory evidence that the good people of this part of the borough are shaking off the incubus of club dictation, and are beginning to choose their Councillors for what they are municipally worth, and not at the bidding of the H.I.P.S. The reasons why the elections should be deemed satisfactory are these: - first, because a man chosen by independent suffrages is placed at the head of the poll; and next, because the other successful candidates, all of whom were in before, have been returned in those positions on the poll which correspond with which they have attended to the business of the town. Mr. T. B. Williams, who had attended but two Council meetings during the whole of the past year, is excluded altogether, a fate, which certain infallibles laughed at us for foretelling. In regard to what is called in election slang the ‘proud position of Mr. Wingfield at the top of the list’, we have two things to say. The first is that we believe he is deserving the place which on the first trial for the honour, he has been able to get. He is a man well acquainted with the town; has plenty of leisure time; is well up in public business; and is not likely to be under party control. For these reasons we have supported him, and for these - reasons we rejoice at his success. The other thing we have to say is this – Mr. Wingfield does not owe his position to the fact of his being a Conservative. There are politicians in the town of a different class from the H.I.P.S., who are crowing at this success as a victory over the Liberal Party in the borough. They have loudly censured, as we have done, but on different grounds, the mixing up of politics with municipal contests, and yet they are the first to imitate their opponents by vaunting this event as a Conservative triumph. We can assure them it is no such thing. It is a victory gained by the independency of Hastings over the despotism of an extreme section of the Radicals; a victory which the voting papers will prove has been gained quite as much by the liberal Liberals as by their political antagonists. We know that very many of the Liberal section of politicians, wearied of the long despotism of their noisy and self-elected representatives, to whose unscrupulous dictation they had submitted too tamely, have now resolved on asserting their freedom and maintaining their right to unfettered action. All the while nearly the whole of the Liberals put their necks under the feet of the indomitable H.I.P.S, every isolated Pg.47 freeman might, with impunity (and with impudence also) be branded as a renegade. But it is not so now. Popular feeling has been quietly rising, and we see unmistakably the result of it in having a new candidate and a Conservative put at the top of the poll; and put there, too, partly by Liberal voters. Let the H.I.P.S. be warned. If they limit their operations to objects purely political, and abstain from applying their test of faction to all offices and men in the borough, they will have a legitimate power, and may be respected and helped by many who now despise their practices and shun their alliance. Political club-ism is a fair thing enough if kept to its own work, and not made a thing of terror and of scandal in things not political. It is legitimate enough when used to forward political ends, and not employed to elect mere tools to municipal offices for which local knowledge and business habits are fitter qualifications than a political creed or a party badge. We hope the future will witness a more decided advance in the direction of municipal freedom than the late election has given us, and that the day may yet come which we have long laboured to hasten - when the right men shall be put in their right places in offices of local trust without reference to their political designation, and when an honest man shall not be called a traitor to his Liberal profession by every pot-house time-server who envies the freedom and scoffs at the honour which he himself has long since sacrificed at the shrine of a blind and reckless partisanship. If the election of Mr. Wingfield be an indication of a ‘good time coming’ in this sense of returning reason to our borough we may well rejoice. Mr. Vidler’s position on the poll in the second place of honour is also a proof of the existence of some rational ground of choice being at last acted upon by the burgesses in general. We are no special favourites of Mr. Vidler, nor has he always done justice to our motives or cared to understand our remarks upon him and his party. We have a decided conviction that he and his friends have said more evil of our journalistic labours than we have deserved. But we can better afford to be wrongly judged and to be evilly spoken of than to speak evil ourselves of any man. We have done Mr. Vidler the justice to notice his assiduous attention to the duties of his office, and we know that it is on this ground alone that many have been induced to support him. We have supported Mr. Vidler in a spirit of Pg.48 fairness with this principle of action, irrespective of editorial wrongs or H.I.P. malevolence; and doing this as a public duty and nothing more, we neither expect thanksgiving nor ask for it. . . . . . . Mr. T.B. Williams lost the day by a considerable number - a proof of one of two things; either that H.I.P influence is much less powerful than it was or that H.I.P. wisdom is prevailing over its intolerance; or it may be a proof of both. The poll showed the following results: Wingfield, 393; Vidler, 302; Gutsell, 281; and Emary, 242; Williams (the unsuccessful candidate), 169”
The publisher of the News at this time was Mr. John Ransom, and the editor was his brother, Mr. William Ransom.
Town Council Meetings
Although as shewn in the above quoted article, a modicum of check had been given to the sway of the H.I.P.S. it had not altogether destroyed the power of that dominant clique. They had succeeded in returning Mr. Vidler, one of their most active members as the second-best man on the poll, and although the election of a Tory at the top by so large a majority was a surprise, his sturdy independence, as it was called, they thought might be of service to them in the matter of voting. In any case, the energetic spirit of Ald. Ross had not been greatly subdued, if his own words might be taken as an index. At the time when he objected to Eversfield Place being named after the lord of the manor and owner of the ground, he likened what he called the “petty pride” of Mr. Eversfield to that of Mr. Robertson, who had been instrumental in the erection of Robertson Street. The success of this “petty pride” was all the more obnoxious as being the means of perpetuating the names of Tories. An early settler in Robertson Street, in a facetious strain that was peculiarly his own, declared the condition to be “well-balanced”; for whilst there was petty pride on one side there was petty spite on the other”.
In addition to the movement against St Leonards, Mr. Ross’s proposition (contrary to the advice of the Town Clerk and others) for a legal tilt at the Woods and Forest Commissioners, re the Claremont road was also a failure; and the Council’s case as defendants in the bathing license case – (Mace against Philcox) shared the same expensive fate. Under such conditions it was, perhaps, not unnatural for a feeling of irritation in Mr. Ross’s active Pg.49 mind to find vent at the December meeting of the Council. The question of paving the north side of Robertson Street having been broached, the Clerk said that Mr. Mace (the lessee of the Crown property) would give up the ground where the posts were erected if the Board would pave it; he would also give a right of road into Bohemia Road if he were permitted to put up an archway. This called up Ald. Ross, who, in an energetic strain, said he was determined to oppose any encroachment, by whomsoever made.
Transcribed by Jenny Pain