Jubilee History of St Leonards (St Leonardensis) 27 December 1879

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Removal from America Ground[edit | edit source]

Among the persons and families who removed from the Priory Ground to St. Leonards at the general clearance of the former in 1836, or within a short period prior thereto, were the following :—

Valentine Levett, Stephen Milstead, Joseph Naylor, Wm. Strickland, Jas. Hyland, Richard Starnes, Wm. Russell, 'Chas Neve, Stanton Noakes, Wm. Kirby, Mrs. Fitzgerald, Samuel Chester—Morris, Thos. Beaney Sinden, Geo. Savage, Jno. Prendergast , Thos. Thorne, Sam. Sinden, Thos. Barden, Jas. Murdoch, Wm. Shaw, Robert Shepherd Fulford, Chas. Chapman, Edmund Chapman ,Geo. Lee, etc.

Many of these located themselves in Shepherd Street, Norman Road, London Road, and North Street; and, in consequence, an additional impetus was given to the building operations which had already been begun in those districts.

New roads were also being opened out, and the one from the Saxon Hotel, now known as London Road, was commenced, under the survey of Mr. Walter Inskipp, and the contractors Messrs. Tester and Marchant, of Tuubridge Wells.

Like many other parts of the parish, the locality was redundant in beds of sandstone, and much of this was employed for building purposes immediately contiguous to the spot for which it was quarried. Fortunately for those of limited means, materials and labour were comparatively inexpensive at that time, and the dwellings and workshops were run up with but little cost and little architectural finish. Some few of these remain in almost their primitive simplicity, but the greater number have lately undergone considerable alterations, additions, and improvements, whilst their ratable and commercial value has been greatly augmented.

From the Old Town to St Leonards[edit | edit source]

In alluding to the formation of the London Road, "St. Leonardensis " is reminded of incident his own career, which, as a race 'a la Gilpin', may be worthy of a passing notice.

His employer had recently purchased a horse, described as a three-part thorough-bred hunter, whose vices and virtues there had barely been time to put a practical test. The new owner of the said hunter desired his assistant to fetch his horse from the Swan Mews, and in the execution of this mission, the assistant, who was never a valiant among horses, got astride of the animal when the latter, though sensible of having an awkward rider upon his back, gave him no time to out his feet in the stirrups, but bolted off with him full speed. To where should St. Leonardensis be conveyed but to St Leonards? It was away, then, in that direction that the horse galloped, regardless of the shouts from score of voices, "Stop him!" " Pull him up " " Rein him ! " etc. Away he scampered through George Street and Castle Street, over the Priory ground, along the new road between the White Rock and St. Leonards and up the new road by the Saxon Hotel. This might have been fine fun for the horse but his rider did not share the fun an equal degree. Albeit, with uncertain proportions of fright and muscular exertion, he retained his hold of the mane and the bridle; and although his seat was a moveable one, which oscillated between the saddle and the shoulder, he stuck to it like a Briton, and had the satisfaction to find that the ascent of the new and rugged road leading to the Harrow had sufficiently tamed the runaway to make him amenable his rider's will. Many had started in pursuit of the fugitive horse, and with fear that he had thrown his inexperienced rider, but they were all out-distanced in the race; and, as luck would have it, the biped and the quadruped both found themselves home via a circuitous route, riot much the worse for their venture.

Turnpikes[edit | edit source]

This was the manner in which, perforce, "St. Leonardensis" first travelled over the new road out of St. Leonards, and it was a scamper which has since served a reminiscence of that new road associatively with the year 1836. But the road to which I have alluded was not the only in course of construction at that time, as the following advertisement will show.

It runs thus :—"The public are informed that considerable improvement is now taking place in the turnpike road from Hastings and St. Leonards to London through Battle. A new road from Battle to St. John's Cross now actually commenced, by which a saving of one mile will be made and other improvements effected; and whereas plans and proposals for another road have been laid before the public, leaving out Battle, a public meeting will be held to consider the best means of prevention the road being thus diverted.'

Two new Road Bills were thus before Parliament in the month of March, 1830, and an additional project was started to cut a road from near the Hare and Hounds, Ore, to Sedlescombe Bridge, thereby forming a junction with the intended new cut from the Harrow and Whatling Hall.

Another project was mooted for a new road from Hastings to Rye, under the East Cliff. This, of course, was never carried into effect.

Coastguard Station[edit | edit source]

One of the last buildings removed from the Priory ground was the Preventive or Coastguard Station, whose site was near the centre of what is now the Government wall in front of Carlisle Parade and Robertson Terrace, a more commanding position was obtained for it on Cuckoo Hill, or, as it was sometimes called, St. Michael's rock.

The first stone of the new building—the still existing Coastguard Station was laid on tho 14th of April. Nine silver coins were deposited beneath the said stone, but during the night the stone was railed from its bed, and the money carried off, On the following day, Mr. George Clement gave a sumptuous entertainment to Lord Gage, the Hon. Mr. Craven, and a number of other gentlemen. The festivities commenced with a public breakfast, followed until dinner time fishing, shooting, etc. At the dinner, his Lordship proposed Mr. Clement's health in complimentary speech and in returning thanks, Mr. Clement proposed "The Trade of Hastings."

Workhouse[edit | edit source]

Another great building of the period, which even more than that of the Coastguard Station, united St. Leonards with Hastings, was the Union Workhouse. I have already referred to this erection, and have corrected my first statement as to the date. It was commenced the early part of 1836, by Mr. George Lock, the contractor, who, ere the work was completed, become insolvent. In the first year after the Union was established, the parish St. Leonards contributed two separate sums of £14 and £13, or total of £27, as against 15s. lOd., which the same parish paid for the relief the poor in 1833 under the old system. The saving thus effected, afforded considerable satisfaction to the ratepayers as a body, although, as before intimated, the new system gave rise to bitter complaints among those who, contrary to their predilections, discovered that they were better able to work without parish relief than with it. But the alleged hardships of husbands separated from their wives, and children from their parents continued to be severely commented on by a portion of the Press as a cruel provision of the new law and on account of this stringency being attacked with increasing vehemence,

Parliamentary News[edit | edit source]

Mr. Walter, the following year, moved in the House of Commons for a select committee to enquire into the working of the new Poor Act. During the discussion, however, it came out that the saving to the nation generally had been in similar proportion to that which was effected at St. Leonards. Comparing 1836 with 1834, was shown that the ratepayers had been relieved of £1,794,990; and Mr. Walter's motion was defeated by a majority of nearly two to one. During that year the St. Leonards parish contributed only to the Borough rate, which sum, when compared with the thousands now contributed by the two western parishes; sufficiently shows to what giantess the town has grown.

Turning again to imperial in connection with local matters, it occurs to me that the Parliamentary session of 1830 was opened King William in person, and with speech remarkable for the number and variety of topics. Amendments to this address were moved, the one in the House being carried without a division, and the one in the Lower House Sir Robert Peel, being rejected by 284 to 543.

Some excitement was caused by these results, and political questions for time appeared to be uppermost in the fashionable and commercial circles of_ Leonards. On the 8th of February, Lord John Russell moved for the select committee to enquire into the causes of agricultural depression : and, few days later, his Lordship introduced three very important measures. One was a bill for the Commutation of Tithes in England; the second was for general Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths and the third was for the Amendment of the Law of Marriage.

I may say, in passing, that Lord John Russell was more than once at St. Leonards, and during his visits he conversed familiarly with a few of our resident Reformers. It hardly need be doubted that our representative, Mr. Elphinstone, gave his support to the several reforms proposed by Lord John Russell; especially when is borne in mind that among Mr. Elphinstone's notices of motion during that session was one for the introduction a Bill to render the register of Electors in England and Wales final, and another to disfranchise the freemen of Great Yarmouth.

St. Leonardensis, in Brett's Gazette.[1]

  1. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 27 December 1879 pg. 2