Brett Volume 2: Chapter XIX - St. Leonards 1838
Chapter XIX - St. Leonards 1838
| 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, contemporary newspaper reporting 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
A trying winter
Much distress Coronation festivities
Extension of the parade,
Serious breach by the sea and doleful report of the Commissioners' committee
Bondholders appealed to
Money not to be had
The Battle and Sedlescombe roads impeded
Abortive attempt to obtain a new lighting and paving Act
Burials and extraordinary longevity at Bexhill, and instances of equally long life at Hastings and St.Leonards
Musical dirge on a tombstone "Intercepted letters" from L.E.L.
Grand Archery meeting
Racing matches – perilous position of Lady Hampden and party
Flimwell and Hollington Turnpike trusts £40,000 in dept
Delimitation of boundaries at the Priory Bridge
Proposition to reduce the policemen from 13 to 9.
[ 191 ]
Severe Weather - Coronation Celebration of Queen Victoria
The year 1838 was ushered in with weather of a trying character, there being severe frosts and snows until the latter part of February, followed by destructive gales, and then a return to wintry weather in the spring; so that Easter Sunday, which occurred on April 15th, was of a snowy and stormy character. Building operations were almost at a standstill, and the labouring population were in great distress. Fortunately, St. Leonards continued to be patronised by a large number of aristocratic families, whose balls and reunions were of considerable assistance to the trading community, and who in turn, did much to relieve the necessities of their poorer brethren. Some special efforts in that direction were made by Mrs. Johnson, Miss Deudney, Mr. Southall and Mr. Chamberlin, as well as by members of the Burton family. To Mr. Putland also a good many labourers were indebted for keeping them at work on every possible opportunity in the formation of the Sedlescomb new road. Then the charitable donations of the Queen Dowager and her household were of great assistance, whilst the numerous gifts of coal by Mr. R. Hollond, the Liberal (and liberal) M.P., were of even greater value. Yet, notwithstanding all these efforts to mitigate the poverty arising from the inclemency of the weather and want of employment, the distress was unusually great, the Union workhouse was exceedingly full, and sheep-steeling (sic) was unhappily rife. Even the wild-fowl suffered by the severity of the weather, they being seen migrating to warmer regions, and not a few of them, including several swans, coming within range of the fowler's gun. Sad news was received on the 29th of January that a French boat had been towed into Dover with five men frozen to death, together with a boy who had singularly escaped from such fatality.
The winter was as remarkable for great fires as for the intensity of the frost, and among the world's conflagrations of that particular season may be mentioned the total destruction of the Italian Opera in Paris, the Emperor of Russia's Winter Palace at St. Petersburg, and Sir R. Sugden's splendid manson at Thames Ditton. To come nearer to home, there was an alarming fire on the 28th of January at Mr. Woodhams's farm, in the parish of Udimore. A barn, with nine quarters of threshed what and three loads of sheaves, together with stables and other buildings, were wholly consumed; also four fine horses and three pigs. Incendiarism was rife, albeit it served no better purpose than to make food more scarce for the incendiary himself. This fire broke out at 11 o'clock on a Sunday night, and at an hour anterior thereto a man named Hookham was seen to leave the premises. This man and another, named Sinden, were taken into custody on suspicion, but after magisterial examination they were discharged. A reward of £100 by Mr. Woodhams, and a like amount by Government were then offered for the apprehension of the perpetrators; but, so far as I know, without effect.
Amidst so much distress it might seem strange that in some other respects the season was a gay one. Probably it was thought that to forego the usual festivities of the season would only be making the gloom and depression more general. Anyhow, the interchange of fashionable amenities in St. Leonards was at a high value whilst the middle-class assemblies at Hastings were but little - if at all - below the normal standard.
The Hastings festivities during unpropitious weather are described in chapter XX., whilst the coronation celebration at St. Leonards has here to be (sic) related. A numerous dinner party assembled at the Conqueror hotel, whilst as to decorations and other demonstrations, the inhabitants were somewhat in advance of those in the sister town. Royal-standards, banners or buntings were hoisted at Mr. Hollond's residence, at the North and South Lodges, at Southall's Library, and at all the hotels. Many of the buildings were also illuminated in the evening. As regards the procession the children met according to appointment, but it was at once decided to disband them until the next day - a decision which turned out to be a wise one, as the weather was then favourable. They were marched round the town next day with mottoed banners, following the lead of Mr. Elford's Band, and finishing their perambulation at the Archery Grounds, where they were heartily regaled with roast-beef, plum-pudding, and ale; the last named accessory in a limited quantity. Each child was presented with a medal struck for the occasion, and in the day's amusements were comprised a regatta in the afternoon and fireworks, with illuminations in the evening.
I have said that the severe weather which ushered in the year 1838 was followed by some destructive gales, and I will now describe a few of the difficulties which the St. Leonards Commissioners had to encounter as a consequence before they had even recovered from those which were occasioned by similar disasters of the preceding year. At their quarterly meeting on the 19th of January they accepted the contract of Messrs. Towner and son for an extension of the sea wall; westward of 71 Marina, which at that time was the last of the seven houses built my Mr. Benjamin Homan beyond the Church, and the westernmost of the larger houses in that direction. The amount of Messrs. Towner's tender was £193, which was £39 less than the price given in by Messrs. Homan and Scott, and £66 less than that by Messrs. Tester and Marchant. The Commissioners, however, had no funds by which this new outlay could be met, and a statement was therefore made by Mr. Decimus Burton that, as he was in treaty for some building land in that direction, he would be willing to take their bonds on a loan of £250 at 5 per cent., but with the understanding that the extended wall was to be protected by a groyne. Estimates for a raddle groyne at five pounds and five guineas per rod, respectively, were therefore obtained, but the question was deferred until the absolute necessity for such a groyne had become apparent. At their next meeting, on the 26th of March, a letter was received from Mr. Burton, in which the writer stated that, thinking "prevention better than cure," he regretted the decision of the Commissioners, but to prevent further delay, he would withdraw his stipulation for a groyne on condition that the wall be built of additional strength. The work was then ordered to be proceeded with, and at the same time certain sums were voted for temporarily repairing the breaches which the sea had made in the wall at the Library and at the Conqueror Hotel. Concerning these damages and the means of future protection the following "doleful ditty" was embodied in the Committee's report will show how matters stood with the Commissioners at that time.
St. Leonards Improvement Act, 2nd Wm. IV., c. 45. - The Special Report of the Committee, 24th of March, 1838, regrets that a serious breach has been made by the sea in the wall opposite the Conqueror Hotel, and that the wall in other places has been much injured by the unusually high tides and gales which have visited the coast. Mr. Barnes, who at the time was superintending the erection of a groyne, having given it as his opinion that to protect the remaining portion it would be necessary to put down piles and faggots, the committee gave orders for it to be done. The emergency of the case rendered it absolutely necessary, but this was of a temporary character; and, fearing from the continuance of high tides that further injury would be done, they thought it proper to obtain various tenders for the work of restoration. These amounted to a much larger sum than the Committee felt justified in spending, and it being not practicable to complete the work during the equinoctial tides, they ordered only so much to be done as was for the time needful. In this they arranged with Thwaites and Winter [who were constructing the new groyne] to put down a short raddle groyne between the old and new groynes near the eastern end of the town, at a cost of £5 per rod. It is a matter of deep regret that these expenses should have come at a time when the Commissioners were incurring heavy, but necessary outlays in the erection of the new groyne and the continuation of the sea-wall further westward. Nor do your committee, in spite of all their efforts at economy, know from what quarter now to look for assistance to meet this additional expenditure unless the rates now in hand (and which should be reserved for the interest on the bonds) are allotted for that purpose. They suggest that the bondholders should be solicited to accept a less amount of interest than they at present claim. The urgency of the case must be apparent when it is stated that unless protection be forthwith given to the wall, there is little doubt that a great many houses now paying rates will be swept away, whereby the income derived from the rates and coal-duties must be decreased, and the bondholders' securities diminished. The Committee have looked to see if the assessments could be increased, but on comparing them with those lately made under Government direction, they do not think it could be done.
With the exception of Messrs. A. and S. Burton, and W. Rawson, the bondholders when appealed to were indisposed to take less than 5 per cent. interest; so that the Commissioners' Clerk (Mr. Fraser) was directed to advertise for a loan of £12,500, at 4 per cent., that those who had refused to take less than 5 per cent. might be paid off altogether. But, notwithstanding the Clerk's unremitting exertions and the publicity given to it by advertisements in the London and county papers, not a single offer was obtained. The same want of success attended the advertisements for tenders to restore the sea-wall; so that at their next meeting, on June 25th, the Commissioners received the Committee's Report in which it was stated that rather than run the great risk of delay, they had proceeded with the restoration of the wall by employing their own men and purchasing their own materials; and that they had thus paid £58 14s. to Jas. Homan, £36 15s. to Edward Smith, and £10 to labourers; the last-named chiefly for faggot work. To assist in this matter Mr. Decimus Burton had offered to advance another £150, which was accepted; and as a further means of augmenting the income the usual half-yearly rate of 1s. in the pound on houses, warehouses and shops, and 6d. in the pound on agricultural tenements and lands, was levied; but with an increased rating as far as circumstances would permit on the principle then lately put in force in St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen under Government direction. In many cases this increased rating brought on a conflict of parties which resulted in some instances in a compromise, and in others in a demand for the full amount within seven days. But the sea-wall difficulty was again present; for as soon as the great gap nearly opposite to the Conqueror Hotel had been filled up, another breach was made close to the Colonnade houses. This threatened to be more serious than any of the previous inroads which the sea had made, and the fear which the Committee had expressed that unless protection were forthwith given, many houses would be swept away, appeared likely to be realised. The basement of 13 Colonnade had been broken into by an abnormally sweeping tide, and the drapery goods on the ground floor belonging to Mr. Henry Beck, were hastily carried across the road and deposited for greater security in a room at the Conqueror hotel. To obviate further danger, there was no time to be lost in repairing this gap; so the Commissioners employed Messrs. Thwaites and winter (sic) to pile and plank the opening as a temporary barrier, and afterwards accepted a tender from Mr. James Homan for the more durable repairs. Whilst the temporary stop-gap was being applied, a boarded pathway was improvised, which, on the return of the tide, afforded an opportunity for venturesome youth to indulge in a new phase of maddest merriment.
Wonderful Diving - St. Leonards & Sedlescomb New Road
[a]This opportunity was seized by some of the juveniles of the period, among whom were Masters Charles Fuggle, Charles Smith and James Blundell; all of whom challenged the waves with a defiant mien as they ran across the planks and "ducked" their heads [ 192 ]beneath the projecting window that was now and again washed by the spray of the sea. They were not permitted, however, to continue the sport with impunity, for having to do battle with a wave of more than ordinary persistency, these would-be doughty champions found themselves coming out of the conflict with the gain of a douche and the loss of their caps. The incident is worthy of a passing notice, if only by associating it with an after event one is induced to regard their sousing as a baptism of pluck. During the following summer, while sailing their toy-boats near the Saxon groyne the two boys Fuggle and Smith rescued from a perilous position a girl named Colbran whom they had observed fall backwards into the sea. But although thus rescued, the poor girl at a subsequent date, came to a melancholy end which would seem to support the fatalistic aphorism, that "one who is born to be burnt will never be drowned." Sad to say, the girl was burnt to death. But, to return to the Commissioners, from what source were they to obtain the money with which to meet their ever-increasing liabilities? They held a special meeting on the 16th of August to devise the "ways and means." Five-hundred pounds was the amount required to pay off the interest due to bondholders, and as the exchequer was empty, the Clerk was desired to apply to Mrs. Matthews, and to Messrs. Greenough, Middleton, Naylor and Duckworth, to accept further bonds for the arrears bearing interest at five per cent., and also to obtain an additional £900 on similar terms. The application was complied with, and thus for a time the Commissioners' minds were again made easy The walls were put into thorough repair, the new groyne eastward of the Colonnade was completed, and the shingle collected on the "weather" or westernside in a considerable quantity; but the usual effect of the sea forcing itself in on the "leeward" or eastern side of the new groyne was observed, and which in a short time realised the prediction that damage would accrue in that direction. During the equinoctial spring tides a breach in the wall and parade was made in front of Adelaide place, and on the 28th of October - twelve months to the day after the destructive hurricane of 1837 - a terrific south west gale sprung up and lashed the Channel into a condition of abnormal turbulence. Additional destruction of the wall and esplanade ensued, and nearly all the piles of the groyne near the Saxon Hotel were torn up and carried away, besides other losses which the Eversfield Estate sustained. The same gale caused great destruction of property in London, the flood-tide in the Thames being of such a height as not to have been equalled since then until the year 1868. It occurred on Sunday, and it is a curious circumstance that nearly all the destructive gales and high tides on this coast within my own memory have been on Sundays.
It was only the day before this particular storm that an American sailor, named Scott, performed a feat which attracted an immense crowd of spectators to the very spot whence the groyne was next day carried away. He jumped, feet foremost, into the sea from a chair at the top of a ladder, 60 feet high, and swam ashore in gallant style Three years later, this American diver whilst practising hanging on London Bridge, as it was said for a joke, but as I surmise to get money, hanged himself in earnest. This fatality occurred on January 11th, 1841.
From ladders to steps, figuratively speaking, is but a step, and thus my readers are easily taken from Scott's flight or descent in front of the Saxon Hotel to Rawson's proposed flight, or ascent behind the Conqueror Hotel. It was a long way from the Colonnade to the top of East Ascent by way of the Mews-road steps or even by the Harold steps, and the Commissioners therefore accepted the offer of Mr. Rawson to build a flight of steps at his own expense to lead up to the top of East Ascent and Mercatoria. Permission was also given to Dr. Harwood to make alterations and improvements leading from his house at West Ascent towards Quarry cottage and the West hill, provided he got the sanction of the other interested parties, and contributed towards the expense of a brick drain across the bottom of the West-hill road. It was also ordered at the same meeting (Dec. 29th) that a proper conveyance be given to Mr. Alfred Burton, at his own expense, of the site of the old road on the West cliff, in exchange for the land which he was willing to give up for the formation of a new and more convenient road over the West hill.
One of the last acts of the Commissioners at their December meeting was to instruct their Committee to watch the proceedings of the Hastings people in their endeavours to obtain a harbour, and in the event of any proposition being made to levy a borough rate for that object to immediately summon a special meeting. This, of course, had reference to the meetings which were being held in Hastings to revive or to intensify the agitation for a harbour either at the Priory or at the fishmarket, for which see Chap. XX.
However much some of the Hastings people might have exerted themselves to keep the harbour scheme afloat, the public, as a whole, appeared to be quite as much interested in the opening of new roads. Nearly two years had passed since the project was started for a shorter road from St. Leonards to London and North Kent by way of Sedlescomb, and more than twelve months had elapsed since an Act was obtained for the same and the work begun. By avoiding the Hastings hill by way of Ore and the old road through Battle, a saving of three miles was to be effected. This having excited an alarm in the minds of the Battle and a few of the inhabitants of north-east Hastings and Ore, steps were immediately taken by them to obtain Government sanction for the Hastings and Hollington Road, to shorten the distance to Battle. Both schemes were sanctioned, and both were put into operation, but instead of both parties confining their attention exclusively to their own respective works, for the benefit of the two towns and for lessening the costs of construction, the promoters of the rival schemes sought in various direct and indirect methods to impede each other's progress. Thus it happened that notwithstanding the statement made at a meeting in 1837 that the St. Leonards and Sedlescomb road would be opened throughout in the following spring, the month of July had arrived without a fulfilment of the promise. The trustees required a small piece of land belonging to Lady Webster, who had obtained a legal injunction, which put a stop to the work. Against this act of her ladyship proceedings had to be taken, which after drawing their "slow length along" for several months, were again met by a petition to the House of Commons by Lady Charlotte Webster, which being presented by Mr. Darby and referred to a select committee, was ultimately rejected. Finally a Bill passed the Legislature for the removal of all obstructions on the St. Leonards and Sedlescomb new road. Yet, even then, the difficulties were not all surmounted, for as late as the 30th of October in the following year the dispute between Lady Webster came on for settlement by arbitration. The award for the piece of land was £286, of only £6 more than was originally tendered for it; and to obtain which, the Webster family had obstinately incurred an expense of several hundred pounds, whilst the Trustees had also been put to a legal outlay of over £1000. But, to increase the latters' vexation, it was discovered that in conveying the piece of land in dispute, Sir Godfrey could not make a good title; and it became necessary therefore to summons a jury, and to deposit their verdict in the Bank of England. Perhaps, after all, it was the knowledge of this inability to show a clear title that gave rise to Lady Webster's application for an injunction; but if not that, then the action favours the assumption that it was done to help the opposition of the Battle people, who very naturally wished to retain the traffic through their own town either by the old route or by the shorter road via Hollington, then forming in rivalry to the Sedlescome (sic) road. Anyhow, it had the effect of greatly delaying the undertaking and of increasing the expense, whilst it enabled the Hollington Trust to get their road opened first. This took place on the 20th of August, 1838, but it was not viewed with general favour; for the tolls were so enormous as to be ever after a source of annoyance and complaint. To have to pay eightpence for a carriage, five times repeated, between St. Leonards and Battle was thought to be a greater impost (sic) than was compensated for by the saving of distance, and it was held - justly so, in my opinion - that instead of families being attracted hither by the so-called improvements, they were repelled. The complaint was met by a statement that the Hollington trustees had been in a similar predicament to that of the Sedlescomb in having to accept a hard bargain from landowners; and that, consequently, the outlay had been much greater than the original estimate. In this dilemma it was publicly advised that an application be made to Parliament to consolidate the Trusts, or to take the roads under Government management. Several exciting scenes and stormy meetings took place in connection with these roads, but as they more properly belong to the history of 1839, a notice of them will be deferred until that period is reached.
As a correlative subject to that of the new roads leading to Battle and Sedlescomb, it may be stated that the attempt made in 1837 to force the inhabitants residing eastward of the St. Leonards Archway to keep in repair the new road and parade on the Eversfield Estate, was repeated in 1838. On the 7th of November a meeting was held at the Saxon Hotel, with Mr. Troup in the chair, to consider the necessity for supporting or opposing a Bill to be submitted to Parliament for relieving the trustees of the Eversfield Estate of certain liabilities by means of a "Lighting and Paving Act." There had been only a few days' notice of the meeting,but in that short time the inhabitants naturally took steps to protect themselves; and with that view, they appointed Mr. Briggs, a solicitor, of Lewes, to meet the Eversfield agents with themselves on the following Friday. The objects and conditions were then discussed; and after the said agents had withdrawn, by request, the meeting resolved that it was inexpedient to apply to Parliament for the proposed Bill. Thus did the inhabitants of St. Leonards-Without, resist, a second time, the attempted imposition of an incumbrance similar to that which the denizens of St. Leonards-Within felt themselves to be labouring under. They did even more - as will be shown further on - when by a bold attitude they took the initiative in putting the Eversfield agents on their defence.
It was a singular coincidence that on the same day and at about the same hour that the Halton Church or Chapel was consecrated, the St. Leonards Church or Chapel was partly demolished. A sudden fall of earth from the cliff in the rear, estimated at 200 tons, completely destroyed the chancel and the beautifully painted window therein. This was followed, four days later, by another landslip, which greatly shook the northern ends of the walls, and created misgivings as to the stability of the roof. Happily, those fears were not realised, but the first accident was so serious that a cost of £500, it was calculated, would be incurred in removing the fallen earth and effecting the repairs of the church. As this was not the only disaster of the kind, it suggests the unwisdom of Mr. Burton's compliance with the advice of his friends to erect the church under a crumbling cliff, instead of on a hill, as originally designed. The church was of course repaired, and during the operation the services, by consent of the Bishop, were again held in the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms, and not even then for the last time.
As my readers will have traveled with me to Bexhill (Chap. XX) in a mental journey, where the remains of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel were deposited, perhaps they will not object to be here detained a brief while to contemplate
That burial place, where rests the spirit's clay
Till God shall quicken at the last great day.
It is here that not a few of those who were once among the dwellers of Hastings and St. Leonards are now each of them
The occupant of some small mound of mould,
A mortal remnant of the young or old.
It is the resting place of the Cruttendens, one of whom opened the first butcher's shop in St. Leonards, but who, dying in 1834, left his assistant, Mr. Newton Parks, to be his successful successor. It was the last home of the Careys, John and Ann, and of Ann, the wife of John, the younger. The last named was among the first to build property in St. Leonards, where he served the office of Commissioner, was employed on many constructive works, took a somewhat active part in politics, and for 36 years conducted funerals to all parts of the kingdom. In 1837 Mr. Carey's first wife died at the age of forty, and was buried at Bexhill. In the same year and in the same ground were deposited the remains of Mr. Arthur Deudney, of the Marine Hotel, Hastings, whither those of his father, Mr. Charles Deudney, of Gensing Farm, St. Leonards, had been conveyed eight years previously. Here also is the sepulchre of Sarah, the relict of Arthur Deudney, who having survived her husband until 1863, attained to the age of 89 years. In the same ground may be seen a monumental stone erected to the memory of Elizabeth, the beloved wife of Mr. Newton Parks, the latter of whom was also there interred twenty years later, when in his 83rd year, and after an industrious career in St. Leonards of over half a century. In the south-east part of the ground is the grave of Jane, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Weston, of Hastings, who died at the early age of 25; and close to the church on the south side is a vault containing all that is mortal of Susannah, the widow of William Satterly, a surgeon, of Hastings. Mrs. Satterly died in 1860, at the age of 76 years. She had survived for 36 years her husband, William Satterly, who was buried in the same ground in 1824, his corpse having been conveyed thither from Hastings by a team of oxen. His cousin, the late John Savery, succeeded him as a surgeon at Marine parade, one of the five houses built by their uncle, "Doctor" Samuel Satterley, who died in 1838 (the year still under review), a nonagenarian, after a surgical practice in Hastings of 70 years. The elder Satterley was a sort of local Abernethy - at times facetious, at times sagacious, and at times eccentric. Our old anecdotists could, doubtless, tell many a good story of him, but the only one I know is his recipe for preparing and serving-up cucumbers. It is this :- "carefully pear (sic) off every portion of the rind; cut the cucumber into very even slices; smother them in vinegar, pepper, salt, and any other condiments you please; and when thus prepared, throw them on the dung-heap." [ 193 ]
Longevity at Bexhill - Wonderful Dinner Party
In the official accounts of the parish of St. Mary Magdalen Mr. Satterly is first mentioned in 1800, as the recipient of £5 13s. for medical attendance on the poor parishioners. From that time until 1810, when he was described as "Dockter" Satterly, he was paid various sums ranging from 4/6 to £5 13s. From 1812to 1814 two considerable payments were made to "Satterly and Wellings," and in 1818, the sum of £2 14s. was paid to "Satterly and Duke. "
These reminiscences are necessarily discursive, but they afford some varied information not otherwise obtainable, and whilst they contain any items of local history not heretofore published, it is hoped that they contribute some readable gossip to the literature of the day. To be still writing under the assumed date of 1838, and yet practically taking my readers backwards and forward to other periods, looks like a paradox; yet if it be borne in mind that it is a narrative of associations and reminiscences which grow out of the subject in its chronological progress, the anomaly become more apparent than real.
As I proved, I shall have occasion to add considerably to the longevity cases already given as applying to Hastings and St. Leonards, and shall show that the neighbouring town of Bexhill also shares in these long-life conditions. If the mural records of Bexhill, before its recent advance from a village to a town, be searched, it will be found that there are few, if any, places even among the health-resorts of the southern coast that can lay claim to greater longevity. It has more than once been told in story - and will bear telling again, with additional information - how, when George the Third was King, a party of "jolly old boys" met at the Bell Inn, Bexhill, there to celebrate the eighty-first anniversary of that monarch's birthday. It was so arranged that the average age of those who formed the dinner-party should be the same as that to which the King had attained. These were twenty-five in number, and their names and ages, together with the ages at which they subsequently died, as well as the years of their death, so far as I have been able to ascertain, are as follows :-[b]
|Coleman, Wakeham||78 -5||84+||1825|
|Clifton Henry||81 -6||91+||1828|
|Duke, William (chairman)||83 -11||90+||1825|
|Elliott, Peter||83 -11||-||--|
|Easton, John||78 -6||-||--|
|Freeman, Henry||80 -9||81+||1820|
|Godwin, John||83 -10||90+||1826|
|Godwin, Joseph||82 -3||84+||1822|
|Hammond, Jno. (vice-chairman)||82 -4||-||--|
|Longhurst, Thomas||87 -9||-||--|
|Mewett, Nicholas||86 -5||88+||1821|
|Page, John||82 -6||88+||1825|
|Reeves, Thomas||77 -9||87+||1820|
|Vidler, John||87 -6||-||--|
|Welfare, William||77 -9||78+||1820|
|Week, William||75 -3||-||--|
|Young, Joseph||80 -5||-||--|
There were also fifteen improvised waiters, and the average age of these was 71 years, or ten years less than the mean of those on whom they waited. Their individual ages, names, &c. , were as under :-
|Chatfield, William||73 -9||89||1825|
|Christian, John||72 -6||76||1822|
|Duke, John||73 -8||87||1833|
|Dunk, William||73 -3||103||1849|
|Edmonds, William||69 -6||73||1821|
|Easton, Samuel||72 -8||77||1822|
|Maplesden, John||69 -7||85||1834|
|Munn, Thomas||73 -1||81||1827|
|Sands, Thomas||69 -7||-||--|
|Spray, Edward||68 -9||85||1838|
|Tapp, John||74 -7||81||1825|
|Wimbourn, William||69 -3||84||1835|
There were also six men who rang the church bells in honour of the double event - the King's birthday anniversary and the local celebration thereof. These, as might be supposed, were younger men, yet the average was 61 years - ten years less than that of the waiters, and twenty years below that of the diners. Their separate ages at that time and at the after period of death were :-
|Burgess, Samuel||60 -0||75||1834|
|Fairway, Richard||55 -2||-||--|
|Lansdell, John||65 -9||83||1836|
|Lansdell, Wm.||62 -8||-||--|
|Roberts, Thomas||62 -9||94||1847|
|Sinden, Samuel||61 -8||-||--|
Omitting the thirteen names whose ages at death I have failed to obtain, the total of the remaining thirty-three is 2,691 years, or an average of more than 81 1/2 years, without taking into account the odd months, whatsoever they might be. When, therefore, it is borne in mind that the population from which this party was made-up did not exceed a thousand, and that there were also living at the time at least seventeen other males who, for various reasons, did not join the party, but whose average ages amounted to three-score and ten; also that there were twenty-six females whose united ages amounted to 1923 years, or an average of 74, I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find in any similarly small community so rare an example of longevity. This presentment of long life is still more apparent when the ages at death of those not included in the festival are arranged in the same order as those already placed before the reader. It will then be seen that whilst the ages of the excluded males and females averaged 70 and 74 respectively in 1819, the average was relatively increased to 80 and 82 at the time of death. It will also be seen in the whole set of figures that there were no fewer than three centenarians - one (Mrs. Mary Reeves) who had reached the age of 101, another (Mary Mitten) who lived to the age of 100 years and 11 months, and a third (William Dunk), who compassed the span of 103 years. He was the last survivor of the great dinner-party; and as a memento of the event and of his great age, the inhabitants erected a monumental stone to his memory. The following additional list of names, ages and time of demise, will probably not be without interest -
Lest it should be thought that the above specimens of longevity belong exclusively to the past, and that Bexhill may have since deteriorated in its life-prolonging conditions, I purpose to conclude this subject with a less formal notice of later interments. That there have been burials of children and young persons in the grave-yard at Bexhill, the same as in every other place consecrated to the dead, is but a natural condition; yet it is the preponderance of great ages out of so comparatively a small community that impels one to the task of pointing out what appears to be an exceptionally high rate of longevity. The following alphabetic enumeration of names, with their ages at the time of death, will, it is presumed, bear out what has been stated. In 1849 Mrs. Amberson died at the age of 81, being preceded by her husband at a less advanced age. In 1878 the remains of Louisa Ann Alsager there found an abiding place, after an earthly pilgrimage of 82 years. Another lady (Charlotte Attree), was buried in 1878 at the age of 81; but this lady, it should be stated, was conveyed thither from Hastings. Coming to the initial B, one finds quite a host of names and long ages presenting themselves. In 1860, Thos. Barnard died at the age of 83, his wife having preceded him some years before at the age of 68. The next is Mrs. Ann Brook, who at the time of her demise had passed the age of 92. Near the south-west angle of the church lie the remains of the Rev. Thomas Birch, D. C. L. , late Dean of Battle, Arch-deacon of Lewes, and Rector of Bexhill; he died in 1840 at the age of 74. Among the Bennett family are Elizabeth, 78; Mary, 62; William, 79; and Mary, 85. Then there is a William Breton (probably a surgeon, known in my younger days as "Dr. Breton," a Liberal politician of an ardent type). He seems to have died in 1867 at the age of 82. Ten years later, Hannah Breton, aged 84, was registered on the death roll as Hannah Briton, but this difference in orthography is by no means rare. Of the Beechings there are Thomas, aged 76, and Ann aged 84. Elizabeth Badcock appears to have died in 1853, aged 91, and her husband some years earlier, aged 76. It was similarly the case with Robert and Elizabeth Bristow, the former dying in 1847 at the age of 76, and the latter in 1852 at the age of 81. Edward and Elizabeth Barnes were each of them three-score and five, whilst Elizabeth Baker was 88, James Burt 83, Thomas Morley 88, and Thomas Bean 90. The deaths of William and Mary Burgess occurred in 1860 and 1864 respectively, at the ages of84 and 81, whilst those of Benjamin and George Butcher (father and son) took place in 1845 and '67, at the respective ages of 89 and 82. Still more recently (1879) the interment (sic) of Margaret Bray took place, the old lady having attained to the age of four-score and ten. I have not nearly exhausted the aged B's, but I will finish with the Britts or Bretts; for, as in the case of many other names, the orthography is convertible. James Britt died in 1842 at the age of 80, and ten years later, John Britt died at precisely the same age. A still greater length of life was granted to Samuel Britt and to Hannah, his wife, the former dying in 1870 at the age of 94, and the latter in 1878 at the age of 92. On their joint monumental stone are these lines:
"Speak gently to the aged ones,
Grieve not their careworn hearts;
The sands of life are nearly run,
Let such in peace depart. "
In 1867 grim Death found out the abode of another of the Bretts, even that of "Old George," a milkman of ancient days, and carried him off at the age of 84. But that was at St. Leonards; yet, as most of the Britts and Bretts of St. Leonards, as well as those of Hastings and Rye, appear to have sprung from two or three branches of an original Bexhill stock, the process of association is neither far-fetched nor inopportune. A brother of the George Brett, just referred to, (illegible text)[c] at Stream Houses, near St. Leonards, and died in his 91st year. Also in Hollington Lane there was a William Brett of the same age as that of Henry Brett, just named. Then there was another Brett, who lived many years in St. Leonards, who, in 1880, could boast of the age of 95, and who until a few antecedent years was noted for his delight and endurance in following a pack of hounds. This is the more remarkable because, as a sawyer, he, in 1839, was crushed by some timber, which fractured both legs, and inflicted other serious injuries upon him. Mr. Henry Brett, at Stream Houses, was also a sawyer, as well as a patten-maker, and even, at his great age, continues in a leisurely manner to follow his handicraft. He is apparently in easy circumstances, with land and houses about him, and being a hale old man, his appearance would not bespeak him to be a nonagenarian. The William Brett (or Britt) who lived in the same neighborhood was 43 years in the service of the late Edward Farncomb, of Filsham farm. His brother and sister, aged respectively 94 and 92, were those before mentioned as being interred at Bexhill. And this again takes me back to the spot whence a slight digression was irresistible.
It is hoped that there have been many Christians in quite the purest sense interred at Bexhill, but, irrespective of such an attribute, there is evidence that many nominal Christians have there found an abiding place. There appears to be about a dozen of these placed side by side, and the regard which has been paid to the preservation of their memorials indicates a praiseworthy attention on behalf of some surviving relative which would be worthy of imitation. They date as far back as 1768, in which year three of the family appear to have died. With exception, however, of the octogenarian before mentioned, the longevity of the Christians is not so great as that of many other families. There are John and Sarah (man and wife), 53 and 50; John and Elizabeth (man and wife), 76 and 66; Ann, the wife of Jesse, 72; and several children of the latter. Then there are eleven or twelve members of the Crowhurst family, who appear thus to have forsaken the adjacent village whose name they bear. Their seven monumental records are all in a row; and like those of the Christians, display the care which has been bestowed on their preservations. The dates range 1793 to 1854, but the average age of this family is not a very high one, the oldest members being John and John (apparently father and son), who both passed away at the age of 74. The next considerable family interments are those of the name of Cruttenden, of whom there are Everenden (before mentioned as having formed one of the great dinner-party in 1819), aged 84, and Elizabeth, his wife, 77; Thomas, 66, and Dorothy, his wife, 59; Hannah, 83; Henry, 83; Ann, 84; and Mercy, 82. The Cramps come next, all of whose memorials are commendably well-preserved. The lowest age amongst these is 54, and the highest is 86, the average being 72 1/2. From Cramp I go to Collins or Collings, for here again there are two ways of spelling the name. Their ages at death were: Mary, 70; Ann, 84; Thomas, 84; and William 88. Passing on to the initial D, there are George Duplock, 80, and Elizabeth, his wife, 91 1/2; Abraham Duplock, 80; William Dunk (before mentioned), 103; Mary Davis, 82; Hannah Davis, 85; Elizabeth Daw, 72; Edward Daw, 88; David Delves, 79; and Elizabeth Delves, 81. Under the next letter in the alphabetic scale the following names and ages occur: John Elliott, 83; Martha Elliott, 75; Thomas Eastwood,82; Elizabeth Easton, 92; Sarah Easton, 92; and Richard Earl, 86. There was also buried at Bexhill in the year 1833 Sir John Evelyn, Bart., at the age of 75, his remains having been removed from St. Leonards, where Sir John had resided. The families whose names have the initial F, who have found a resting place in the burial ground at Bexhill are neither few nor far between; but a dozen of their names and ages must here suffice. These are Elizabeth Furby, 74; Mary Furby, 80; Barbara Freeman, 84; John Freeman, 82; Sarah French, 71; Elizabeth French, 80; Sacket Farcey, 74, and Mary, his wife, nee Mary Brett; 78; Arthur Fuller, 83; Judith Ford, 79, John Foord, 81; and Richard Forde, 78. The last three names afford another example of the different ways of spelling. Among the G's are John Gander, 83; Naomi Gander, 88; Hannah Gander, 80; Elizabeth Gan[ 194 ]der (the well-known carrier), 85; Thomas Gower, 85; July Gower, 81; Anne Goldsmith, 74; Mary Goldsmith, 80; George Greata, 79; and Mary Greata, 86. The two last lived many years in St. Leonards. There are seven monumental stones applying to the Hammond family, whose ages range from 67 to 82; and among the other names beginning with H are Martha Howes, 89; George Harland, 84; Philadelphia Holland 83; Elizabeth Hayward, 88; William Hyland, 83; and Edward Head, 87. The letter J does not figure largely in the death memorials, the only persons of advanced age thus initialled being Jesse Jenner, 78; and Eliza Jefferson, 87. The letter K gives Anne Keene (of St. Leonards), 79; and Ann King (of Bexhill), 84. Among the L's are the Lansdells - Thomas and wife, 79 and 76; Anne and Ann (possibly cousins), 78 and 90; the Linghams - Joseph, Sarah and Hannah, 78, 87, and 71; and the Lennards - John and Mary, 87 and 88. The names initialled with M are many and mysterious. Taking twenty-five of these who have lived and died since 1819, when the veteran dinner-party assembled, and excluding all who happened to be guests on that memorable occasion, the singular result if obtained of the same number (25) producing the same average of years (81). This of itself must be regarded as a rare example of longevity among what it suits my whim to describe as the M's of a small community. The names and ages thus selected are as follow (sic). Thos. Mitten, 70; Jos. Mitten, 73; Eliz. Mitten, 75; Anne Mitten, 75; Jos. Mitten,76; Jno. Mitten,70; Mary Mitten, 101; Jno. Mitchell, 77, and Mary, his wife, 75; Mary Mewett,82; Robert Mewett, 85; Mary Mewett, 87; Ann Mewett, 84; Ann Maplesden, 82; Jno. Maplesden, 77; Thos. Maplesden, 80; Jno. Mockford, 77; Richd. Matthis, 88; Hy. Mate, 95; Hannah Mockford, 95; Jno. Manly, 81; Mary Morris, 84; and Richd. Mills, 80. The N's may be said to be nowhere in point of number, but they even exceed the others in the mean duration of life - namely, Sarah Noakes, 91; Sara, wife of Edward Noakes, 91; and Catherine Newington, 85. The O's also must not be omitted, for they claim an average of 80 years in the examples of longevity, and are as follows:- Ann Ockenden, 87; Lavet Osborn, 82, and Hannah, his wife, 70; Lucy Ockenden,73; Jane Ockenden, 78; Sarah Ockenden, 80; and Wm. Ockenden, 81. The P's are very plentiful, and are equally representative of long life, there being an average of 83 years derived from the first dozen taken from my list, thus - Dearing Pelling, 88, and Frances, his wife, 81; John Prior, 81; Wm. Prio, 80; Edward Prior, 92; Jas. Pearce, 81; Jas. Pepper, 80; Mary Pomphrey, 77; Jno. Pocock, 87; Jno. Parker, 88; Edward Parker, 75; and Martha Paul, 84. To go in quest of Q's would be quixotic, for they are unquestionably quiescent to one's enquiry. I will therefore pass on to the R's, of which there are a rare number of rare ages. Omitting all, save one, of those previously enumerated, the first twelve from my list gives a total of 980 years, or an average of 81 1/2 years. They are: Thos. Ransom, 81; Stephen Ransom, 79; Wm. Ransom, 82; Charlotte Ransom, 81; Edward Ransom, 78; Hy. reeves, the elder, 83; Hy. Reeves, the younger, 78, and Lucy, his wife, 70; Robt. Roberts, 78; Mary Rich, 84; Eliza Roberts, 84; and Mary Reeves, 101. Then what shall I say of the S's other than that they are simply super-numerous, and more than sufficiently subservient to my search. There are some sixty names with this initial altogether, but as the average age would be about 82 years, I will only select a promiscuous dozen, as in some other instances, for the same result. The first is the late vicar and rector of the parish, the Rev. H. W. Simpson, who died in 1876, aged 84. Then follows Jno. Savage, 87; Susan Smith, 86; Jesse Smith, 74; Elizabeth Stanley, 86; Thos. Stunt, 73, and Ann, his wife, 82; Jane Spray, 86; Joshua Shousmith, 83; John Shoosmith (probably "Blind John," the fidler), 73; Hannah Shoesmith, 90; and Thos. Shoesmith, 84. It will be observed that in the last four names there are three different modes of spelling, although, doubtless, the persons were all members of one family; thus supporting Sam Weller's dictum that "it all depends upon the taste of the speller." I perceive that the T's are a trifle more moderate in number, but they are none the less determined to die of old age. There are Stephen Thomas, 73; Cicely Thomas, 75; Mary Thomas, 81; George Thomas, 88; Joseph Ticehurst, 70; Nathanial Trotman, 82; and John Tester, 84. The U's appear to be used up elsewhere, and the V's are only two in number, namely Edward Vidler, 83; and Sarah Veness, 88. The double-v, or (not to be too antique) the double-u, represents the following average longevity of over 80 years:- Wm. Waite, 68, and Mary, his wife, 96; Richard Winbourn, 83; Thos. Wimbourn, 78; Mary Winburn, 80 (observe the three spellings); Wm. Weston, 73; Sarah Welfare, 82; Martha Wilson, 95; Henry Woollett, 82; and Mary Waite, 96. The letter X affords no examples of long-life at Bexhill; and the letter Y serves only to initial the youthful Joseph Young, of 80 summers, who dined with the "Old Boys" at the Bell, in 1819.
Longevity at Bexhill, St. Leonards and Hastings
The foregoing record, formulated in 1879, includes several aged persons from St. Leonards, as does also the following additional list of those who have since been buried at Bexhill. These later deaths are Sarah Archer, 78; Daniel Attree, 93; Stephen Adams, 82; John Avis, 72; James Burt, 80; Mary Barker, 73; Thos. Bristow, 75; An Bristow, 80; Samuel Brock, 77; Delia Britt, 86; Eliza Butter, 77; Benj. Baker, 71; Sarah Bennett, 76; Sophia Barden, 80; Eliza Backhouse, 81; Abego Burden, 79; Sophia Christian 77; Geo. Cruttenden, 73; Ann Cruttenden, 76; Sarah Crouch, 84; Geo. Cramp, 75; Eliza Cook, 79; Henry Matthew Clark, 81; Arthur Sawyer Brook, 79; Catherine Douglas, 91; Jane Dawes, 85; Harriett Dennett, 81; Henry Dennis, 71; Geo. Edmonds, 79; Frances Elliott, 72; William Freeman, 70; Ann Freeman, 84; Ann Godwin, 73; Ann Gibson, 87; Ann Geer, 83; Jas. Godden, 74; W. F. Goodwin, 70; Geo. Gates, 80; Jas. Harris, 82; Eliza Harriett, 91; Geo. Harland, 75; Annah Harland, 72; Wm. Haigh, 82; Ann Haigh, 78; Wm. Harland, 77; Hannah do., 72; May Isted, 73; Geo. Jackson, 71 1/2; Geo. Kent, 73; Hy. Lennard, 76; Wm. Munn(illegible text)[d], 79, Jas. Noakes, 80; Lucy Proctor(illegible text)[d], 79, John Pennells, John Pennells, 76; Adam(illegible text)[d] Prior, 80; Jane Prior, 91; Sally(illegible text)[d] Piper, 84; Geo. Perry, 84; Newton Parks, 83; Sam. Roberts, 82; Wm. Savage, 89; Jas. Spray, 82; John Sargent, 77; Thos. Shaw, 82; Steph. Shoesmith, 88; Sarah Stubberfield, 77; Hannah do.,81; another Hannah do., 88; Hy. Sheather, 72; Eliza Saxby, 98; Saml. Stevens, 83; Eliza do., 83; Ann Shoesmith, 85; Frances Smith, 72; Cordelia Sinden, 81; Henry Thwaites, 82; Sarah Thwaites, 89; Wm. Terry, 81; Sarah Wybourn, 77; Sarah Wilson, 82; Ann Ward, 76; Wm. Turner, 71; Sarah Wyborn, 77, Moses Veness, 81 and Dorothy Thomas, 89.
Still more recently, the Bexhill Chronicle stated that at an election of a County Councillor to represent Bexhill, four ladies were taken to the poll in Col. Lane's carriage, the united ages of whom amounted to upwards of 319 years - namely, Mrs. George Edmonds, 87 years and 11 months; Mrs. Stephen Thomas, 82 years; Mrs. David Cockett, 77 years 1 month; and Mrs. Jas Edmonds, 72 years 9 months.
The foregoing statistical deduction from the death roll of the Bexhillians has occupied a larger space than I had bargained for, but its approximate completeness, whilst it leaves not much more to be desired to prove the healthiness of Bexhill and its neighbourhood, also justifies to a certain degree the jaunty saying that "one may live as long as he likes at Bexhill."
And now, as a proof that the extraordinary longevity of Bexhill is equalled by that of St. Leonards, examples have already been given in Brett's Gazette, and to which it would be appropriate to append a paragraph which appeared in the same journal of Dec. 6th, 1884, for the purpose of showing a similar condition of longevity among the natives of Hastings. The paragraph was as follows :-
Correlative evidence of the general salubrity of Hastings as deduced from the successive reports of the Officer of Health, is found in the fact that of the persons still living who were either born or have resided a great number of years in one of the oldest parishes - that of All Saints - there are fifty whose ages, ranging from 80 to 91 years, amount to a total of 4,143, or an average of 83 years and a fraction. This, we repeat, is a fact, the writer, with the assistance of one of the hale and active octogenarians included in the number, having personally ascertained (and in most cases verified) the ages of the selected fifty who make up the surprising total and average thus shown. One of the nonagenarians (Edward Haste), who recently fractured his collar-bone, has got about again, whilst another (Mrs. Hide) exhibits an agility, combined with cheerfulness, both indoors and out of doors, that is really surprising.
Still more recently, the Bexhill Chronicle stated that at an election of a County Councillor to represent Bexhill, four ladies were taken to the poll in Col. Lane's carriage, the united ages of whom amounted to upwards of 319 years - namely, Mrs. George Edmonds, 87 years and 11 months; Mrs. Stephen Thomas, 82 years; Mrs. David Cockett, 77 years 1 month; and Mrs. Jas Edmonds, 72 years 9 months.
It should be borne in mind that the fifty persons here indicated were all living when the investigation was made, and all in one parish; also that when they afterwards died, several of them had reached an age of over 90 years. Obituary notices of these, as well as of the St. Leonards nonagenarians have appeared contemporaneously with those deaths; and here again I proffer the reminder that in pursuing this History it has been my practice to include an obituary notice of such of the older inhabitants as have died concurrently with the time of writing, as well as of those whose demise occurred within the year to which preceding events had reference.
Local Deaths - Poetic Correspondence
It was in the following up this plan that I had to lead my readers away, firstly to Halton, and secondly to Bexhill; and it is by a similar process that I bring them back again to St. Leonards. Three deaths occurred at the time when this was first written which not only connected the present with the past, but in two cases also [ 195 ]brought 1838 and 1880 into more direct association. On the 5th of October an old St. Leonards tradesman, Mr. Chas. Pain, died in Guy's Hospital, whither he had gone for advice, and after it had been found necessary for him to undergo a surgical operation. Being 75 years of age the chances of recovery were naturally not in his favour, although on leaving home, two or three weeks previously, he had no apprehension of a fatal termination. In 1838 the deceased occupied one of the few houses then existent in Gensing road, where he followed the occupation of a farrier. He had previously resided in one of the small tenements now known as Market Passage, and during the year 1839 or '40 he removed, with his family, from Gensing road to Norman road, where he commenced business as a grocer, with which was combined a few ordinary drugs and mineral medicines, whilst he also pursued his calling as a veterinary surgeon. It is a noteworthy circumstance that in every case of removal, Mr. Pain was the first occupant of a new house; and this premiership of occupancy was repeated for the fourth time when, in 1850, he built himself a house and shop on the south side of Norman road for the greater convenience of carrying on his grocery business. Favoured by fortune, if not by parsimony, and not being encumbered with a large family, Mr. Pain was enabled in the course of time to build or buy four other houses, into one of which, at a later period, he retired from active life behind the counter. Mr. and Mrs. Pain had not long enjoyed their retirement, however, when the latter died, and left her bereaved husband with no family around him, and with but few friends to cheer his declining days. If Mr. Pain was not highly educated, he was also not ambitious of distinction; and, save and except that he was several times elected on the committee of the St. Leonards Mechanics' Institution, I am not aware that his three-and-forty years' residence in St. Leonards brought him either emolument or honour in what may be called a public capacity.
Another of the deaths in 1880 was that of Mrs. Potten, the respected second wife of Mr. George Potten, of the Horse-and-Groom Inn. In the year 1838, or thereabouts, Mrs. Potten was barmaid at the Swan Hotel, where Mr. Potten was also employed; and after a long period had elapsed the two persons who had thus held service together when they were in single blessedness at one of the oldest hostelries in Hastings, again held service together when they were united in marriage at the oldest house of the kind in St. Leonards. The union was, however, only of a few years' duration, and many were there who sincerely sympathised with Mr. Potten on his bereavement. The deceased lady died on the 2nd of October, after a short but severe illness, at the age of 66.
My next obituary notice is that of the nonagenarian Miss Cotton, described in the ordinary death register as Philadelphia Letitia, daughter of the late Admiral Sir Charles Cotton, Bart. Miss Cotton was not one of the oldest inhabitants, but she had been a permanent resident at St. Leonards for twenty-one years, fifteen of which were passed at 40 Marina. She had also been a regular visitor to the town for several previous years, her name appearing in Brett's Visitors' List as at 8 Grand Parade in 1856. The deceased lady was a friend to the poor and was esteemed for her amiability and kindness to those about her. Her death took place on the second of October, in the 92nd year of her age. It was thought that her remains would have been taken to the family vault at Maddingley, Cambridgeshire. where those of her sister, the Dowager Lady King, were interred, but she had expressed a wish to be buried in the Borough Cemetery at Hastings; and thither her remains were taken, the burial service being read by a clergyman from the neighbourhood of Ely. The venerable lady had been driven for seventeen years by a St. Leonards coachman named Pulford, who paid his last respects to the departed by accompanying the funeral procession to the cemetery.
Another death was that of George Gipps, Esq., of Tower house, St. Leonards. As he was an ardent politician and a Justice of the Peace, I ought not, perhaps, to have omitted an obituary notice of that gentleman, but as the columns of the contemporary did full justice to him both in his public and private capacity, I will simply and reverently say Peace be to his manes! I may, however, add that besides his mansion at St. Leonards he had property at Beakesbourne[e], near Canterbury, an outlying limb of Hastings, as the premier Cinque port, and was, I believe the only voter in that district for a parliamentary representative of Hastings. It was customary at one time for an inhabitant of Beaksbourne[e] to be appointed at Hastings as a Deputy Mayor.
With my mind reverting to the events of 1838, there is one occurrence, and that partly of a personal nature, the reminiscence of which forbids my passing over it in silence. It is connected with a death which then took place, the melancholy nature of which, together with a knowledge of the persons concerned in it, made such a deep impression on my young mind that as soon as I had developed a musical education sufficient for the purpose I set about composing, in the key of E minor, what I thought was a suitable strain to the epitaph, which (with a little liberty I took in correcting the rhyme) reads thus:-
"Here lies an only darling boy,
Who was his widowed mother's joy,
The grief of whom, all else above,
Betrays her deepest, purest love.
In childish play he teazed (sic) a mule,
At which its owner, cross and cruel,
Dealt heavy blows in angry spleen,
And soon the child a corpse was seen.
His mother now who joys hath none,
Must ever mourn her darling son;
Yet, though her tears be shed in vain,
She hopes to meet her child again."
This little dirge, as already intimated, was effected in 1838, and it has ever since been remembered as my first effort in musical composition. But, lest my readers should be wanting to know who was the "darling boy of his widowed mother," and where was the place of his interment, it behoves me to say that preceding the lines above quoted are the words, "Sacred to the memory of John Archdeacon, son of John and Ann Archdeacon, who died June 5th, 1820, aged 9 years." The memorial stone may be seen close to the north-west corner of All Saints' church. The death of this young gentleman was aggravated by the fact (so it was related to the writer) that an annuity which fell to the mother during the son's minority, reverted after his decease to another member of the family, and so left the then childless widow in straightened circumstances.
The year 1838 recalls to memory two other deaths which I will only briefly allude to, the first being of local, and the second of national, interest. On the 18th of June in that year, Mr. Edward Honiss, auctioneer, &c., drew his last breath, and he having been one of the earliest members of the Victoria Lodge of Oddfellows, his remains were followed to the cemetery of St. Mary-in-the-Castle, by the members of that order in full procession. The other death to which I have promised allusion was that of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, better known as L.E.L. She was, I need hardly say, one of the most remarkable female-poets of her time, and her sudden and melancholy end was universally regretted. She married, in 1838, Mr. G. Mc Lean, Governor of Cape-Coast Castle. She landed at that place in the month of August, and on the 16th of October she was found dead, with a bottle containing prussic acid in her hand. Little did a Hastings lady-poet, who had adopted L.E.L's initials, imagine in the month of March that the real possessor of those charmed letters would be a corpse in October. But the pseudo-L.E.L. did not claim to be Letitia Elizabeth Landon; she professed to be Louisa Eliza Lovelore; and, as some folk say, she only did it in play. This play, however, was of an innocent character, and not altogether uninstructive, as may be seen in the following "Intercepted Letter," which was published in the Brighton Guardian, of March 14, 1838. It purported to be "A Letter from Miss Louisa Eliza Lovelore, at Hastings, to Miss Georgiana Seebright, at Kensington," and it describes one of the lectures which Dr. Cooke was giving in Hastings at that time. It ran as follows :-
Oh! dear Georgiana, why, why did you leave us?
You can't think how much it continues to grieve us,
For, very soon after, we had such a lecture
From dear Doctor C- as left nought to conjecture.
But, first in your mind's eye pray bring him to view,
In pontificalibus holding a cue.
He bowed, and the learnëd Professor began
In describing the noble formation of man,
From the birth - nay, before it - ere human life dawns;
All the while my dear mother was sitting on thorns.
His theory he carries to such perfection,
I assure you, my dear, it was past all conception.
It is too much to write; but, oh dear! it was sweet,
And I'll fully explain it the next time we meet.
But this was all nothing, compared to the part
Where the Doctor showed up the inside of his heart.
You know you call Ernest cold-blooded. 'tis true,
But the fault is not his; his blood is too blue,
For do not, dear Georgy, one moment suppose
That the blood of the heart is like that of the nose.
In the heart it's sky-blue, or a little bit duller;
'Tis the oxygen only that gives the red colour.
So with Ernest, if crossed, do not warm him; between us,
His blood smacks too much - not too little - of Venus.
When the Doctor took breath, and called out for cold water,
He was so overcome that he showed the aorta.
Drawn out upon pasteboard, 'twas just like a funnel;
In short, it resembled the Thames famous Tunnel;
And sends forth the blood to - I vow and declare
I've forgotten, but - all over, heaven knows where.
Yet, this I do know, so don't treat it with scorn,
It different was quite in the born and unborn.
To the lungs he next glanced, and to new regions soaring,
Like a tour through the Tyrol, its beauties exploring.
The bronchis (sic), the thorax, the larnyx (sic) we gain,
And higher ascending, to perch on the brain.
And then, what a sight of bumps, hillocks and vales
Are fed by the blood, and whose stream never fails.
I should have remarked on this theme when I started,
I now understand what is called single hearted.
For, cold-blooded creature - it's a hint, love, for you -
Have only one ventricle, auricles two.
So put the probe well to your Ernest and see
How his auricles stand; I suspect him of three.
Here the lecturer ended. And, wasn't it fun,
Except that the ladies were twenty to one.
On Tuesday we muster again at the Swan,
The syllabus tells you what there it's upon.
I'll write you again, if you like my narration;
We plenty shall see, for he goes through creation.
But what's to be done? I'm sure I don't know;
There seems to be likely a deep fall of snow.
My mother, I'm sure, will be happy enough
To keep me from hearing that which she calls stuff.
Some folk have no souls! And what poet was this
That in spite to poor women called ignorance bliss?
I may safely declare that exceed nothing can
My delight in acquiring this knowledge of man.
So, good night, my dear cousin, your loss I deplore,
And am yours with affection, LOUISA LOVELORE.
There is a postscript to L.E.L.'s letter - ladies, of course, always have a postscript, and Louisa Eliza Lovelore's is this :-
"I hope, my dear, you got my letter,
And that it found you all much better.
We here are almost killed with cold;
I've been, you'll say, extremely bold,
In braving all this frost and snow
T' attend the Doctor; but you know
I such a mania have for science
As sets discretion at defiance.
Last week we'd lectures on the eye,
Which my descriptive powers defy.
Yet, plain they were to one and all,
Though purely anatomical.
The hist'ry of a human tear
The Doctor also rendered clear;
Which when, poor thing! too fast it flows,
Goes down a backway through the nose,
And then what magic there is hid
Beneath the self-adjusting lid,
Which I had thought at rest we keep
Until we wish to go to sleep.
But here the Doctor put us right,
And showed us how it helps the sight.
'Tis wonderful as we advance
How catch we science at a glance.
Next to the insect tribe he went,
And added as a supplement,
That those on sight whose safety lies,
Have five-and-twenty thousand eyes.
But you who see so well would blame
(I mean no pun upon your name) [Seebright]
Were I too nicely to descant
On organs you so little want;
Yet on we go, the way is clear,
As by a passage through the ear.
So hear the Doctor; who begins
"Thus, ladies, eyes and ears are twins;
That is, they have one only mother,
Yet know they nothing of each other
Until they're born when adverse fate
Entirely makes them separate.
But in this day's address to you
I've solely with the ear to do;
You will excuse me then, mayhap,
From saying much about the flap;
Because as it is visible,
Enlarging makes it risible.
Let us begin, then, where my thumb
Rests on the passage to the drum.
But here I ought my wing to poise
And something say respecting noise.
Mark then what I to you declare,
Sounds come by pressure on the air;
For without air the tolling bell
Could not be heard, or not so well,
But then we say, the air will come,
To bear the sound upon the drum;
And then by some unerring rule
It enters next the vestibule.
Thence see we, passing thought the halls,
Three semi-circular canals,
Like those at Venice. This applies
To what we'll call the Bridge of Sighs;
A bridge not made of wood or stone,
But rather of the finest bone,
Just strong enough to bear a sound,
To send it somewhere under ground,
Where reaches it a certain spot,
The lab'rinth called just where I've got."
The Doctor here took breath and drank,
(My feeling heart within me sank),
For some ill natured people think
That our dear Doctor's giv'n to drink;
And all because he gives no quarter
To glass on glass of clear cold water.
And when the merc'ry is oh dear, oh!
In thermo-tubes near down to zero,
If water seems to him so fine,
What would he do if it were wine?
Tush! ill-bred critics, those, say I,
Who wot not that a throat gets dry!
As out o' the labr'ynth now we've got,
And into air-tubes and what not,
The Doctor states that "every sound
A whispering gallery goes round,
And speeds it to the cochlen well,
Which is a sort of spiral shell;
And here we might suppose at first
The noise would make the cochlen burst;
And so it would had Nature left
No little loophole, vent or cleft
By which opposing air comes in,
And modulates the noisy din.
But here we see that from the throat
A wave of air is made to float,
Preventing echoes and to serve
As envoy to th' acoustic nerve.
Thus have we traced the nave of beauty;
So ends my lecture and my duty."
Now, like the Doctor, Georgy dear,
I ask you, have I made it clear?
To me it is as clear as wax:
Your patience I'll not further tax.
But should you ask - Will good arise
From this dissecting ears and eyes?
At least one grand result appears,
That ladies are "all eyes and ears."
From Hastings there's no more to tell
By yours most truly, L.E.L.
It would be very ungallant of me to question the accuracy of "Lousia Eliza Lorelore's (there were no closing quotation marks) statement that she had nothing more to tell her Kensington friend, Miss Seebright; but it would be equally unworthy of me to lead my readers to imagine that there is nothing more for me to tell.
Archery Meeting - Annual Races - Boat Races
On the 6th of August a lady and gentleman of the name of Cox were returning from Robertsbridge to St. Leonards in a four-wheeled chaise, and when near the North Lodge, the gentleman alighted to put on the drag, but before he could accomplish it, the horse dashed down Maze hill at a rapid pace, overturned the vehicle and threw Mrs. Cox violently to the ground. The unfortunate lady was found to have sustained a fractured leg and other severe injuries.
There were great rejoicings in St. Leonards on a certain day in 1838, in consequence of the nuptials of Miss Browne and the Rev. G. J. Symson. The wedding festivities were held at the residence of the Dowager Lady Lubbock, as well as at the Conqueror Hotel, at which latter place the principal tradesmen were among the guests at dinner. Salutes were fired and flags were hosted on the parade, and the town may be said to have been almost en fête. It took place on the 14th of August, and within a fortnight of a similar event in which another clergyman and another lady were the principal actors. There was however, nothing specially noteworthy in this last-named union, except that some inconsiderate wag so plied the reporter of a county newspaper with "private information" as to enable the latter to concoct the following fictitious paragraph: - "On Thursday a marriage was consummated at St. Leonards Church between the Rev. Mr. Freeman and Miss Ann Green, after a courtship of 22 years; and so disinclined was the lady to change her state of single blessedness for the silken bands of matrimony, that it was not till the officiating clergyman had despatched two messengers, requiring her attendance, that she made her appearance". As may be imagined, this little piece of scandal afforded the quidnuncs some amusement, but it was of short duration, the joke having been discovered, when the simple facts, without the fiction appeared in the same newspaper a week later.
Three days after the celebration of Miss Brown and Mr. Sympson's marriage the Annual Grand Meeting of the Queen's St. Leonards Archers was held with unusual pomp. In addition to the "Royal Victoria Challenge Prizes" previously given to the Society by the Queen, a first annual subscription of twenty guineas was received from her Majesty, to be spent in the purchase of a gold bracelet. To this was added by the Society another twenty guineas, and with the whole amount was provided a gold medal of the value of twenty guineas for gentlemen, and for the ladies a bracelet and gold chain, each of the worth of ten guineas. Fine weather favoured the meeting, which consisted of a brilliant company of 460 persons, and the eclât of the whole affair was unprecedented. The proceedings commenced with a procession of Archers in uniform, preceded by the Right Hon. Joseph Planta, M.P. (the new president), and Robert Hollond, Esq., M.P., and headed by a page, bearing the elegant silk banner designed and embroidered by Her Majesty before her accession. The band then played the National Anthem, and the trumpet sounded "to arms." The competition for the valuable prizes was of an animated character, and the following were the winners:- Miss H Wood, gold bracelet; Miss Meyrick, gold Coronation medal; Miss Mackay, 1st Coronation prize; Mrs. Howman, 2nd Coronation prize; Miss Wood, 1st Victoria prize; Miss Mackay, 2nd Victoria prize; Capt. J. Norton, 1st Victoria prize for gentlemen; T. Knox, Esq., 2nd Victoria prize for gentlemen. After the shooting, some gentlemen amused the company by exercising themselves with the Australian boomerang. It was manufactured by Mr. Thos. Beaney, an ingenious artificer and coach-maker, and the evolutions of the curious yet simple instrument caused much astonishment. It may be mentioned that Mr. Beaney, in those days, manufactured all the bows and arrows for the Society, and that his work-shop - until he removed to St. Leonards - was in Pelham street, Hastings. The Queen's St. Leonards Archers continued their prize meetings that year as late as the 27th of Oct., when Miss Kightly won the Society's prize; Miss Mackay, the Rev. C. Martin's prize; and Mrs. Jerrard, the Rev. G. E. Howman's prize. The prizes were awarded in graceful terms by the Rt. Hon. J. Planta.
The annual races, together with the race-dinners and balls had already taken place, and a gay autumnal season had commenced. On the 29th of September, two days after the Races, a spirited boat-race was undertaken for a prize or a wager by Robert Hollond, Esq., M.P., and Twisden Hodges, Esq. The former gentleman sailed in his lugger yacht Queen of the Isles, and the latter in his Waterwitch, a boat of similar construction. Mr. Planta, the Conservative Member, also sailed in his yacht, the British Fair, to see that all was fair with his Liberal colleague, whilst Mr. Ephraim Bond, of the Marina, accompanied the race in the Sylph. The race occupied 3 1/2 hours, when it was declared that the Waterwitch had bewitched the Queen-of-the-Isles, and that Hollands, however strong in spirit, was not equal to Hodges's best. Five days later, Mr. Hodges was equally successful in a four-oared galley match, when, for a prize of fifty sovereigns, he backed La Lucia, of Sandgate, against the John Bull of Hastings. The distance was four miles, and the course was a double journey between the Hastings Battery and a point marked by buoys off St. Leonards. A strong N.E. wind was blowing at the time, yet the crews of both competing boats pulled away right manfully amist (sic) the cheers of an euthusiastic (sic) multitude, and covered the whole distance in 33 minutes. The John Bull - owned by George Tutt and others - was regarded as a remarkably fast boat of the period, but as the race is not always to the swift, so it was thought to be in this case, the Sandgate boat being declared the winner by 21 seconds. Albeit, Mr. Tutt's galley, many a time and oft, was destined to play a winning rather than a losing game; and although long, long ago, it ceased to "walk the waters as a thing of life," its builder (Mr. George Tutt) continued to live until he had reached the venerable age of 88 years.
Apropos of boat-building, it may be stated that of the numerous vessels constructed by Messrs. Thwaites and Winter, and Ransom and Ridley, one was launched from the works of the latter firm just before Christmas, and another just after. The first was a sloop named The Griffin, and the other a brig named Victoria. When fairly upon the water they both sailed past St. Leonards on their passage from the builders to the owners, and at about the same time, the wife of one of the builders (Mrs. William Ransom) at the age of 75, passed to that bourn whence no traveller returns. Her remains were deposited in the cemetery of St. Mary-in-the-Castle, where also were placed those of her husband, who died, fifteen years later, at the age of 83. There were two noteworthy events on Christmas Day, of that year, one of which was a treat of roast-beef, plum-pudding and a pint of porter to each adult inmate of the Union workhouse, and in defiance of the orders of the Poor Law Commissioners. The custom has been kept up pretty regularly from that time to this; and long, say I, may it continue, Governmental interference notwithstanding! The other noteworthy event of Christmas Day was one which caused considerable excitement, and was as follows :- Lady Hampson and her son and daughter, together with the young gentleman's tutor and the young lady's governess, took a stroll to Hastings and along the beach as far as Ecclesbourne, but on their way back they found themselves suddenly hemmed in by the flowing tide. To go forward was impossible, and to get back again to a place of safety appeared to be equally difficult. Every moment increased the danger of their position, and as prompt action was necessary, the young gentleman and the governess climbed the rocks and made their way to the coastguard station (since then moved higher up), and there succeeded in getting the Preventive-service galley manned for the rescue. In the mean time, (sic) however, some persons near the Rock-a-nore saw signals of distress or heard the cries for help, and immediately put off to render the needed assistance. They soon reached the beleaguered trio and took them on board, with their nether garments already saturated with water. All was now judged to be safe, but lo! on making for the shore at Hastings, the boat capsized, and the whole party were thrown into the sea. Fortunately for them, additional help was at hand, and nothing more serious occurred to them than the fright and the "ducking." How the Christmas dinner was enjoyed after so unusual a diversion, this deponent wotteth not.
By this time the population of St. Leonards had sufficiently increased to feel the need of garden produce in greater abundance and nearer at hand than that which was brought in from the neighbouring villages. Not only so, but there was a demand for vegetables of a different sort to those which were cultivated in the ordinary gardens at Bexhill, Hollington and other rural localities, such as beet-root, artichokes, vegetable-marrows, kale, asparagus, spinach, and herbs for salads. To meet this want, the lessees of the Victoria and Conqueror hotels, as well as several other persons, hired plots of ground on the west hill, and in a short time these private gardens multiplied to such an extent a to become a feature of considerable interest - to the visitor, as he climbed the hill for a "constitutional," and to the permanent resident as he indulged in his Sunday stroll. But Hastings was also growing in like manner, and its needs being of the same character as those of its younger rival, certain portions of another West hill were similarly appropriated to similar purposes. These were, however, rather more of the nature of market gardens than private gardens, although their produce was of the same description. My pen naturally reverts to these latter cultivations in consequence of my being employed at that time at the Post-office and in that capacity incidentally hearing many and loud complaints against Mr. John Pollard Crouch, for a course of proceeding which was judged by the gardeners to be unjust. "Not content (said the latter) with putting double tithes upon us for having brought into cultivation, at great expense and labour, a few ruts and ridges which were at one time sterile and valueless, Mr. Crouch, on behalf of his clerical employer, now threatens to further raise the tithe to treble the original amount. But this lesson how to live and not let live (continued the gardeners) will not gain popularity; nor shall we submit to the impost in silence." Thus it was seen that the Land Question, which, since then has assumed such vast proportions as to imperil the political and social relations of England and Ireland had a sort of embryo existence at Hastings even in 1838.
From the Land Question to the Road Question is but a step, and although I treated of the latter in earlier narratives of 1838, and promised to return to it in the relations of 1839, I will just here say that at a meeting on the 29th of September a branch turnpike was advocated to commence at a point somewhere near Cripp's Corner to join the road at or above Robertsbridge. I may also say that at this time the debts of the Flimwell and Hollington Trust amounted to £40,000. These facts, and others which I may allude to further on, will still have an historical interest, notwithstanding that the several turnpike trusts connected directly or indirectly with St. Leonards and Hastings have recently become things of the past. In what manner they ceased to hold their own was explained in an article on the "Abolition of Turnpikes" which appears in the ST. LEONARDS GAZETTE of Nov. 27th, 1875; and at what times the several toll-gates were removed was also shown in the same journal dated Dec. 11th 1877. The latter was arranged in chronological order for the decade 1867-77, the information having been mainly supplied to the Editor by a gentleman who has taken a lively interest in the subject, and whose friends have not been among the most indifferent spectators of the change. The same gentleman also contributed to the Gazette the dates of later removals, as follows:-
To the Turnpike Trusts abolished in 1877 you may add the one of Wadhurst and Lamberhurst. Then, on the 1st of May, 1878, the gates on the roads leading from Staplecross to Northiam, Beckley, and Bodiam were removed; whilst the Brighton, Shoreham and Lancing Trust, as well as the Lewes, Eastbourne and Hailsham, expired on the 1st November, 1879. Twelve months later, namly Nov. 1st of the present year, 1880, the Flimwell and Hastings Trust has ceased, and the gates have also been removed between Wadhurst, Hurstgreen and Flimwell. Thus the public roads are now clear of turnpike tolls throughout the entire distance between Hastings, St. Leonards and London, as well as on most, if not all, other roads in divers (sic) directions with which we have communication.
Turning from the subject of roads to that of stage coaches which ran upon them it may be tritely but truly said that they were associated with many disagreeables as well as with much that was pleasurable. Of the bright phase I have already descanted in a preceding chapter, whilst I have also named most of the coaches and those who drove them out of Hastings and St. Leonards during the earlier years of the latter town's existence. In doing this I am encouraged to hope that I fell not into so many errors as have recently beset the reminiscences of an old Hastinger who, in the columns of a contemporary of the Gazette, writes about Jonathan More (Mose), Sir Nathan Watten (Sir Wather Waller), Count of Devon (Compte de Vandes) John Holman (James Homan), and others; and then says, "Well, sir, you may say that my memory must be pretty good to recollect all this." My own reply - a charitable one I hope - is that Mr. Wenham's memory is something more than good; it is too transcendent for the comprehension of those whose faith is based on actual facts. This is especially the case as regards his reminiscences of St. Leonards; for, howsoever clear they may be to himself, they are surrounded by so impenetrable a fog as to appear utterly distorted to those whose whole lives have been spent in the locality of St. Leonards before and since the town was commenced. I have been urged to this digression by no fewer than three of such persons, who, more than once have complimented me upon the fidelity of my own memory, and for the immediate correction of the one or two minor errors which I fell into at the outset, ere I had marshalled my dates and arranged my materials. I may here repeat what I have before intimated, that I take no small amount of pains to prevent a perversion of local and historical facts; and I may also add that it will be a pleasure to receive from my fellow-townsmen any authentic information which they may possess, such information being addressed to the Editor of the GAZETTE.
The Priory Bridge Removed - Touting
As an associative subject to the formation of roads, it was proposed, quite early in the year, to remove the Priory-bridge, and to effect other improvements at the spot where the Government land joined the boundary under the jurisdiction of the Hastings Commissioners; and at the April meeting of the Town Council the expense of the contemplated improvements was estimated at £1,000. Dr. MacCabe there stated that, rightly or wrongly, there existed a strong prejudice against the open Priory water and the inefficiently drained brooks. It was believed by visitors and others to be prejudicial to health, and therefore on that ground it was desirable that the proposed improvements should be carried out. Mr. Putland, though not opposed to the removal of the bridge, and the filling-up of the water-course, was of opinion that the Woods and Forests' Commissioners ought to bear half the expense, as the Crown property would be benefited to the extent of at least two-thirds. If that were done, then, with the aid of the Hastings Commissioners and private subscriptions, £400 might probably be raised. From that time negociations (sic) were carried on with the Government officials, and these gentlemen, after four or five months' of "red-tapeism," promised to contribute the sum of £400 on condition that the town provide a similar sum, and that an iron culvert be laid down to carry the water into the sea. The offer was accepted, tenders were invited, Mr. Jonathan Reed's contract was accepted, and the work was immediately proceeded with. When completed, St. Leonardensis made it the subject of an innocent [ 197 ]but amusing joke. He was travelling from London with a young man named Fred. Tyhurst who had come home from a sea voyage, and as the coach - or, more accurately, the Royal Blue Van - approached Hastings via the new entrance, now known as Cambridge road, a small wager was laid with Tyhurst that in consequence of the altered appearance of the place he would pass over the Priory water without observing the bridge. "No, no!" said the young man, "the thing is impossible for me; I am too familiar with the old bridge for that." His confidence, indeed, was so great that he offered to double the bet. The Priory farm-house, cow-lodge and granary were passed on the left, Mr. Savage's weather-boarded hut on wheels and Mr. Long's blacksmith's shop (where Mr. Watson's bazaar now is[f]) were passed on the right, and the middle of York buildings (then a row of tile-fronted houses, but now a line of handsome shops) was reached, while the ship-building yard of Messrs. Ransom and ridley (sic) was in full view. The hitherto too confident Fred., losing heart, then appealed to the coachman with "I say, Jim, where's the bridge?" "What bridge?" responded Hammond. "Why, the bridge, the Priory bridge!" ejaculated the young man. "Pulled down, long ago!" shouted the coachman; at which the laugh went briskly round among all the "upper-deck" passengers, whilst the "knowing-one (no closing quotation marks) declined to pay the lost wager, on the plea that it was "a dead take in."
But, let me see! whither am I wending, or to what destination am I being led by the associations which almost involuntarily crowd upon my memory? I began this chapter with some account of the private gardens at St. Leonards, passing on to the market gardens at Hastings. From gardens I got to roads, from roads to turnpikes, from turnpikes to stage-coaches, from stage-coaches to the Royal Blue Van, and the priory bridge anecdote in connection with it. But in alluding to the drivers of the coaches I made a digression towards the "foggy" reminiscences of an old Hastinger, ere I had quite done with coaching affairs. It was on the 4th of September, that a lady from London to St. Leonards on the Regulator coach, had her clothes cut and her pocket emptied of £25 in gold and notes. The robbery was supposed to have been perpetrated by two "gents" who booked their places for the coach at Tunbridge Wells; but no proof could be given, and no charge therefore could be laid. Previously to that occurrence, the touting system, which was an intolerable nuisance in St. Leonards, led one of the touters to mount the Dispatch coach at the Tivoli, on its down journey to St. Leonards, to importune the passengers. As he would not desist when politely remonstrated with, a gentleman knocked off his hat, which caused him to get down to recover it. The coach drove on, and the gentleman, on arriving at the house he had taken, very properly forbade his family to deal with the tradesman whom the touter represented. This system was carried on for some years, it being no uncommon thing to see the tradesmen's assistants besieging the lodging-houses on the arrival of families, and even rushing into the rooms. In some cases fighting was resorted to between the rival trades, and on more than one occasion the parties appeared before the magistrates to "square accounts." Two tradesmen are still living who were respectively, plaintiff and defendant in a case of assault arising out of the reprehensible system of touting, the "pains and penalties" falling rather heavily upon the aggressor. Happily, such scenes have long passed away; and were any attempt made to renew them, I imagine the police would soon show the efficacy of their institution. But it might be asked where were the police in 1838, and the reply might be, anywhere or nowhere for they were not sufficiently numerous to be everywhere. Yet, strange as the statement may now seem to be, it was gravely proposed to lessen their number. At a Council meeting on the 3rd of April, Mr. Putland renewed his proposition to immediately reduce the police force from thirteen to nine. He was of opinion that nine-tenths of the population regarded the force as being too numerous. The taxes, he declared had reached such an enormous pitch that they could no longer be borne. [Yes! 4d. in the £, and since then over 2/-.]
The poor had been half starved during the winter, and the Guardians had no power to relieve them. Mr. Putland's motion was supported by Dr. MacCabe, and Messrs. Yates, Thwaites, Emary and Ginner; but it was defeated by the opposing votes of Messrs. Deudney, Foster, Shadwell, Brisco, Mannington, Ranking, Ransom, Farncomb, and Harman. Notwithstanding that five of the majority were magistrates, and as such, ought to have known something of the necessity for an efficient police force, Mr. Putland expressed his determination to repeat his motion before the Watch Committee.
Whether, in conformity with his threat, Mr. Putland ever moved the Watch committee to recommend the reduction of the Police force, I have no means of knowing, but I believe he did not again bring the subject before the Council as it was then constituted, nor after the 1st of November, when he might have supposed there would be a still larger majority against him. The new Councilmen were Messrs. Edlin and Farncombe, for the West Ward, and Messre. (sic) W. Ginner, G. Clement, John Bayley, jun., and Anthony Harvey, jun., for the East Ward. At the Council meeting on the 9th, Dr. Mc Cabe (sic) (a Liberal) and Dr. Ranking (a Conservative) were both proposed for the mayoralty, and as they obtained an equal number of votes, the casting vote of the retiring Mayor (Mr. James Emary) was given to Mc Cabe. [ 198 ]
The Centenarian "Bodle" Holmes & his long-life Family
Before I narrate the events of 1839, it suits my whim to notice a few matters which have been brought before me in connection with what has already been stated. An old friend, who was somewhat amused with the Priory-bridge anecdote with which was associated the name of James Hammond, tells me that he was well acquainted with the injudiciously good-natured driver of the "Royal Blue," and that during the eighteen years in which "Jimmy" handled the reins he never once wore gloves. Many a night of drenching rain, or of blinding snow, or of pelting hail, or of nipping frost it was his lot to encounter, yet he never flinched in his determination to do battle with the "pitiless elements" with gloveless hands. Another topic for a little extraneous gossip is that of long life. In a digressive chapter on extraordinary instances of longevity at Bexhill, I mentioned some ten or twelve persons of the name of Mitten whose ages ranged from three-score-and-ten to upwards of one hundred years. This statement having met the eye of a Mr. Mitten, of St. Leonards, induced him to communicate to me the fact that he had a great-uncle still living - not at Bexhill, but at Heathfield, and not of the name of Mitten, but of Holmes. James Bodle Holmes, it was said, would be 102 years of age if he lived till the 1st of May 1881. He was at the time in good health and capable of outdoor exercise. Some months before when his grand-nephew journeyed from St. Leonards to pay him a visit it was rather amusing to hear the woman with whom he lodged - who, by the bye, was 82 years of age, whilst her husband was 84 - express her solicitude for the centenarian in the following manner - "I told your uncle last night that I didn't like his getting so far away from home, because he is now beginning to get old." To the ordinary reader this remark might appear to be a piece of womanly wit; yet bearing in mind, as she doubtless did the disparity of twenty years between herself and her lodger, there is no cause to suspect that she spoke in any other mood than that of seriousness. With the remembrance also that a Lucy Luck had previously died in that parish at the reputed age of 108, she might have regarded her own age of 82 as juvenility itself by comparison. She might also have been thinking of the patriarchal ages to which most of the Bodle-Holmes's kith and kin had attained. His great-grandmother was buried at Heathfield in 1812 at the age of 103, and his grandmother at a later period at the same extraordinary age. His mother lived till she was 91, and he had two aunts who died at the respective ages of 99 and 97. He had also an uncle living at Burwash, bordering on 90. Mr. Mitten had an uncle living at Rushlake Green, who, during a residence of 66 years in one house, had only slept one night away from home. He had also a great aunt who was 82 years old, and who had constantly resided in her present habitation during a period of 51 years. She was the widow of George Keeley, and the name is a reminder that Richard Keeley, aged 94, his son George, aged 70, Mrs. Keeley aged 70, and Mrs. Runney aged 99, lived at one time all in the same house together. These are certainly remarkable instances of longevity and love of home; but there is still a more striking instanc (sic) of the latter idiosyncrasy in that which was reported in the London Times. It was to the effect that on the 21st of December 1880, a Mr. Joseph Hubard died at Seaford, Sussex, in his 99th year. He was the oldest inhabitant of that town, had died in the house in which he was born, and had lived there all his life. Fancy a man taking a long lease of his house and his life for ninety-nine years, and being permitted to carry out the engagement to the full! But in the same journal was reported a still later case of extreme longevity. "We have to record to-day, (says the Times of Jan 4, 1881) the death of a venerable lady, Miss Macleod, who has passed away almost painlessly, at Manners road, Hampstead, in her 101st year." The same paper states that the deceased lady was born on the 31st of December 1780, that she celebrated her hundredth birthday on New-Year's Eve with her nephew and niece - Major-General and Mrs. Douglas Hamilton, and that she died two days after.
But, to return to Bodle Holmes, his death occurred on May 5th, 1885, at the reputed age of 107 years, whilst the parish register showed him to be 102. His own contention was that he walked to the church to be christened when he was 5 years old. The annexed portrait is from a photograph taken shortly before his death. Interesting details of this remarkable man and his equally remarkable family will appear in a later chapter.
And now, as ' has again digressed, and "capital punishment" still wanting in one phase of its abolition, he thinks he may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. Indeed he can hardly avoid that metaphorical crime; for will-he-nil-he,(sic) the cases of longevity seem to force themselves upon him just now in an almost epidemical form. "Death of a centenarian" is the heading of a paragraph in the Evening Standard, the said paragraph being as follows :-
"A certificate of death was received on the 16th inst. at the Board of Health, New York, stating that a woman named Ellen Moriarty died at No. 1524, Second-avenue; at the advanced age of 111 years. Her maiden name was Ellen Hennessy, and she was born at Kilmallock, co. Limerick, Ireland, in the year 1769. Her age is well authenticated by her family. She had nine great grand-children, and was herself the mother of seven children, five of whom are living. Her eldest son is 76 years old, and a daughter, Margaret O'Brien, is 69. She came of a family remarkable for longevity. Her mother lived to be 96 years of age, and her grandmother died at the age of 106. Up to a few weeks ago she was able to go about the house, and retained the possession of all her faculties unimpaired. She came to this country in 1850, and had then been a widow for ten years.”
My record of centenarians (published and unpublished) amounts to over a thousand, the ages varying from 100 to 160 years; but just now I will instance only one more case of longevity, and I shall have then done with that subject for a season at least. By the kindness of a lady who knew the late Mr. Bramall, and has annotated the obituary notice in the Tamworth Herald, I am put in possession of some interesting facts in the life of that gentleman, who died on the 28th of November 1880, at the great age of 98 years. Mr. Bramall was the son of an ornamental gardener of Lichfield and was married to a daughter of George Robins, the celebrated auctioneer who had purchased from the Townshend family at Tamworth a residence known as the Castle Keep. He was born a few years after America had declared her Independence and several years before the French revolution, when neither Napoleon nor Wellington had entered upon their great military careers; also before the birth of that great statesman, the late Sir Robert Peel, with whom Mr. Bramall was known to have great influence, and from whom he always received the highest respect. At the end of last century, when quite a young man, Mr. Bramall was sent to Ireland as a Volunteer to assist in putting down the rebellion; and he has died at a time when Ireland is again on the verge of another rebellion. He took up his residence at Tamworth in 1822, and up to the day of his death he exhibited a constant thoughtfulness in the advancement and best interests of that town. He was thrice Mayor, and had the honour of presenting the keys to the Queen when Her Majesty visited Drayton in 1843. It appears to have been his object to make Tamworth a "model borough" both in sanitation and morals. He filled up an unsightly marsh and built thereon a handsome terrace. He next turned his attention, as a member of the Corporation, to the improvement of the public thoroughfares. He was one of the founders, and for 50 years an office of the Tamworth Savings' Bank; he was also joint founder and for 40 years a treasurer of the friendly Institution, and a hard-working Poor-law Guardian. He was also a church-warden and a Justice of the Peace. He filled the posts of director and treasurer to the Gas Company, and when he severed his connection with the undertaking he was presented with a costly piece of plate. Other testimonials were also presented to him in acknowledgement of his general integrity and worth. He not only went to Ireland as a volunteer but when only 17 years of age he raised a body of 600 Volunteers to assist in the defence of the country when threatened with invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte. For this loyal and chivalrous act he received from George III. a direct commission as captain and adjutant. Mr. Thomas Bramall is said to have done everything that came within the sphere of his energies in an honourable, benevolent and willing spirit, giving his time and services for the public good, and striving always to carry out the golden rule of doing unto others as he would they should do unto him. He was twice married, and had a family of about a dozen children, three of whom became clergymen. That a man should have lived to within two years of completing a hundred, and should have devoted so long a life to the benefit of his townsmen and his country, is, methinks, worthy of a passing notice in these allusions to instances of longevity, even though it be but an incidental and not very close association with the subject upon which I profess mainly to write. I conclude this chapter with the intimation that according to information received, Mrs. Button, who lived in the Hastings "Noah's Ark" many many years ago, completed her 92nd year yesterday, the 7th of January. The said "Noah's Ark" consisted of a double habitation composed of two boats, one upon the other the site of which is now occupied by Wellington place. This last item brings me nearer home, and to home matters my next chapter will be exclusively devoted.
- The paragraph-break here is introduced by the editor - Brett having given a new title here, but no convenient paragraph break
- Brett here annotates the figures separated by a hyphen from the age column as written in pen and that they represent the months, so age is represented Years - Months old - Editor
- The text here is illegible and/or missing - Transcriber
- The question marks here are where an ink-blot has obscured the copy - Transcriber
- Brett uses both of these spellings within the manuscript - Transcriber
- These six words were struck out when the type-set text was pasted into the manuscripts - Editor
Transcribed by Jan Gilham