Other than the fishing harbour situated on The Stade, Hastings almost certainly had a natural harbour at some point. There is quite a degree of conjecture as to where this was situated; at the mouth of the Bourne Stream, the Priory Stream or further west at (the confluence of the Hollington Stream and the River Asten). The valleys carved out by these numerous waterways have been silted up over the centuries and the eastward drift of the shingle banks making up the Beach have ensured the closure of the waterways to navigation.
Record exists of the Priory Stream being navigable at least as far as Hole Farm and Step Meadow is listed as being possibly where William made his camp prior to the Battle of Hastings, implying his vessels were moored nearby.
During the height of the Cinque Ports and around the time of the Battle of Hastings, there are recorded visits of presumably large vessels; the Royal Ship was moored at Hastings whilst Henry the 1st was on the throne
In the late 1890s, £50,000 was set aside to construct a harbour around The Stade area of the beach. A novel form of concrete was poured, giving a homogenous foundation and a monolithic concrete arm took shape A wooden trestle bridge completed the western arm and the groyne to the eastern side of The Stade was extended to effectively 'enclose' the harbour. The western arm was completed by the installation of a narrow-gauge railway to facilitate unloading of vessels. Storms in 1911/12 destroyed the bridge and the eastern arm was subsequently demolished.
- The Antiquities of Hastings and the Battlefield (Thomas Cole 1864) Pg. 47 Google Books - 1864 ESCC Library. A later edition is also available: ESCC Library - 1884
- Harbour Arm
- Hastings and St. Leonards Observer: Early views of Hastings harbour captured in time - Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, accessdate: 2 December 2019