John Banks (1807-1881)
Born in Russell Court off George Street in 1807, John had many diverse interests that included land surveying and from 1833 onwards he produced a large number of maps and plans of the town as required by the Improvement Act of 1832. He also kept the weekly weather record that was published in the The Hastings & St Leonards Observer and recorded one of the wettest days to occur in the history of the town (June 28th, 1861) when over 2 inches (over 50mm) of rain fell and parts of the town were flooded.1
Banks was a founder member of The Hastings Mechanics Institute in 1834 and was involved with it for the rest of his life, for a long period as secretary and also as president. He gave lectures on all subjects from astronomy to chemistry; “Without the least pretension to eloquence or finished rhetoric, he stands before his audience a plain-speaking man, thoroughly understanding his subject and telling his hearers in plain Saxon what he knows”.
He was also involved with the town's first museum although the contents were later dispersed. He took part in the early days of a similar institute at St. Leonards, and contributed to an exhibition of works of art and models of inventions at the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms in 1853 (The Masonic Hall) that included many of his own exhibits and diagrams.
In 1858 when the Hastings Philosophical Society was formed , Banks was again one of the founder members and no local scientific gathering would have been complete without him; he had supported the Volunteer movement from its formation in 1852 and became Band Major in the Hastings Rifles.
He died at his home on June 3rd, 1882.