Brett Volume 2: Chapter XVI - Hastings 1836
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Chapter XVI - Hastings 1836
Mechanic's Institution - The Irish Question - Newspapers
Pg.137 On the 11th of February, a deputation consisting of Dr. Birkbeck, Mr. Hume, and other gentlemen, waiting on Lord Melbourne to ask for an entire abolition of the stamp duty on newspapers,and his lordship promised to give it his most serious attention. How faithfully and generously he kept the promise will be shown further on. But the name of Dr. Birkbeck - honourably associated as it was with the Mechanics' Institutions - calls to mind the gratifying prosperity of the Hastings institution of that ilk, and of which I was proud to be a member at that time.
It was in January, 1836, that a new series of lectures and discussions was commenced, the principal members taking part therein being Messrs. Hawkins, Jolly, Bean, Pictor, Melrose, Edwards and Banks. The prevalent belief was that Mechanics' Institutions would be a national plant productive of good fruit, and that the efforts of a certain class to restrict its growth would in the end prove abortive. "Knowledge is power" was the adopted motto, it being argued that riches make not the man, unaccompanied by a rich store of knowledge. That the Hastings Mechanics' should many years afterwards, decline, and ultimately become defunct, was greatly to be deplored, but that Mr. Womersley, Mr. Ransom, Mr. Huggett, and a few other persons are still amongst us to testify to the good which was effected by some fifty years' existence of that institution is at least a source of gratification. Mr. George Hawkins, who was one of the successful debaters at the Institution in 1836, became the proprietor, in the same year, of a shoe-shop in George street, previously in the possession of Mr. Roberts, and at a later period, was many years Traffic Manager to the London, Brighton and South-Coast Railway Company.
Turning again to local associations of imperial matters, it will be remembered that during the election contest in 1835 between Messrs. North, Elphinstone, Planta and Brisco, the almost paramount questions were those concerning Ireland. These continued to be debatable topics in 1836, and as the non0solution of the problems was due to the anti-Catholic feeling of the Upper House, the irritation of the Reformers even in aristocratic St. Leonards was very strong. It was boldly declared at some of the social gatherings that the sooner the House of Lords was abolished, the better. Quite early in the session, the then Irish Attorney-General (Mr. O'Loughlin) introduced a Bill for the Better Regulation of Irish Corporations. There will remain, he said, 71 corporations which included within their territories a population of 900,000, while the number of corporators was only 13,000. So exclusive had been the system that although since 1792 Roman Catholics had been eligible, not more than 200 had ever been admitted as Members. He contended that there was only one way by which to pacify Ireland and promote a real union, and that was to ameliorate her institutions, to treat her fairly, and to give her equal rights and privileges with England. This sentiment was largely shared by the Dissenters, as well as by others among the middle and lower classes of Hastings and St. Leonards. The Liberals at that time were in the ascendant, and their friendly feeling towards the land of Erin - real or affected - was very pronounced. The Conservatives, however both here and elsewhere, were quite appalled at the prospective evils which were threatened by Mr. O'Loughlin's proposed measure; and, on their behalf, it was moved in the Commons by Sir Francis Egerton that the Irish Corporations be abolished, rather than that their privileges should be enjoyed by Roman Catholics. This motion was lost, and the Bill was ultimately carried by a majority of 61. But on being sent to the Lords, several new clauses were added, whilst as many as 106 out of 140 were so altered as to destroy their original character and purpose. Lord John Russell afterwards carried a motion by a majority of 66 that the Lord's amendments be rejected. Then came the tug-of-war betwixt the two Houses, in which Lord Stanley, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Lyndhurst, Mr. Shield, and Mr. O'Connell, distinguished themselves in the debates by a flow of oratory that has rarely been equalled since that event. Many excited meetings were held throughout the country and Mr. O'Connell from that time became especially popular.
He visited Hastings, and to me, among others, was afforded the pleasure of hearing him as he addressed the people from the balcony of the Marine Hotel. The agitation continued for a period of four years, and the bill, even in its greatly modified form, was not finally passed till 1840. But its provision as now read by the light of history, were barely of a nature to effect the pacification of which its framers were so sanguine; and the fact brings to mind an evening's gossip on that subject which, a few years later, I had with an Irish gentleman who, during one of his visits to St. Leonards took up his abode at East Ascent. In politics whis gentleman was a Liberal of the first water; but whilst he deplored the evils of "absenteeism," and advocated such legislation as should give to the English and Irish an equality of political and civil rights, he nevertheless feared that many generations would come and go before tranquility and contentment would take root in Ireland. So easily excited, he remarked, were the majority of his countrymen against English rule, and so impulsive was the national temperament, that grievances would be always laying hold of the imagination, and popular discontent, with agrarian outrages, would be sure to follow. One has only to think of the rebellious acts of 1848, the Fenian conspiracies of a later period, and the late Home-rule propaganda, to be convinced of the accurate "forecast" of the gentleman to whom I have referred. And as immediately bearing upon this spirit of disaffection and lawlessness it may be mentioned that a great sensation was created at midnight of the 8th of February, 1836, by the blowing up of the King's statue on College Green.
I have stated that Lord Melbourne promised Dr. Birkbeck, Mr. Hume and other members of a deputation to give his most serious attention to their application for a repeal of the stamp duty on newspapers. That promise was made on the 11th of February,and during the following May the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech (after placing in a strong light the long-standing anomaly of agricultural distress in contrast with the general commercial prosperity), proposed to reduce the duty on first-class paper from 5d to 3 1/2d., to remit the duty altogether on stained papers, and to reduce the duty on newspapers. This important measure came into operation on the 15th of September, when the newspaper stamp was reduced from 3d with its 20 per cent. discount, to one penny. The net reduction was therefore 2 1/2d: and an agreeable sensation was at once created by the fact that the London dailies were to be obtained post free, for 5d. instead of 7d. Many of the weekly papers, however, were only reduced by a penny, but in most cases they were considerably enlarged. Previously to this mitigation of duty there was no provincial paper published oftener than once a week, and the ordinary price of a provincial weekly even after the remission of duty, was 4d. or 5d., including the penny stamp. Without such stamp no paper could be published oftener than 26 days. There was at that time no newspaper published in Hastings or St. Leonard the first Local paper Hastings and Cinque-Ports Iris and St. Leonards Chronicle, which came into existence on Saturday, Oct. 23rd, 1830, having ceased to exist after July 2nd, 1831, and its successor (Cinque-Ports Chronical) not having made its appearance until Sept. 8th, 1838. During this interregnum of the local literary monarchy, the sceptre of the press was conjointly swayed by the city of Canterbury, the royal-pavilioned Brighton, the county-town of Lewes, and the ancient port of Dover. The sayings and doings of the good and bad folk of Hastings and St. Leonards were meagrely reported in those days notwithstanding that nearly a dozen papers professed, more or less, to cater for our information or amusement. These, with their ages in 1836, were the Kentish Gazette, 119 years; Sussex Advertiser, 91; Kentish Chronicle, 68; Kent Herald, 44; Brighton Herald, 30; Brighton Gazette,15; Dover Chronicle, 11, Brighton Guardian, 9; Kentish Observer, 4; and the Kentish Telegraph, 2. Of the journals here enumerated, the three best known in Hastings were the Sussex Advertiser, the Dover Chronicle and the Brighton Guardian. The last-named was spiritedly conducted by Mr. Cohen, who on one occasion was sued for libel, but on whose behalf a subscription was energetically got up, both in Hastings and Brighton. Mr. Cohen was very persistent in asserting the rights and privileges of the public as represented by the press, and I remember on one occasions when he was ordered out of the Hastings Government House during the investigation of a smuggling transaction, he stood his ground manfully, and dared the coastguard officers to expel him. He had, if I rightly remember, an able backer in the person of the late Mr. Langham, who was at that time the smugglers' trusty advocate. But what a change in the price in the number, and in the character of newspapers if we compare those of 1836 with those of 1896! I am almost tempted to enlarge upon this theme, but will forbear until I have to note the further removal of restrictions in 1855. Yet, having made special allusion to the Brighton Guardian, it may be apropos to note that when I first knew it its price was sevenpence, but, like the other provincial papers, it came down to fivepence after the reduction of the stamp duty, and since then its prices has been further reduced to a penny. The years-ago local agents were successively Messrs. Glandfield, of George street; Perry, of ditto; Foster, of the Pelham Arcade; Mose, of George street; Payne, of Wellington place; and Brett, of Norman road.
Having referred to Mr. O'Connell's popularity in 1836, and to his visit to this locality, it may not be out of place to mention that of the £9,000 subscribed by Liberal politicians to recoup him for his expenses in defending his election, some few of the Hastings and St. Leonards people were known to have contributed rather liberally. So important at that time was O'Connell held to be to the Liberal party, that after his election and that of his colleague for Dublic had been declared void by the Committee appointed to try them, a friend of the "Great Agitator" placed his own seat for Kilkenny at his disposal.
The only other incidental allusion to Parliamentary matters of 1836 which I shall make is that in which Hastings and St. Leonards shared the interest with the whole country. It was the passing of two very important measures - one for the marriage of Dissenters without the formality of the church ritual, and the other for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. The first had been long demanded, and the second had been long desired. The Marriage Act enabled parties to be married before a public officer in any registered place of worship or in the office of the Superintendent-Registrar. These measures were passed in the month of August, but they did not come into operation until July 1st of the following year, at which time Mr. Samuel Smale, a grocer, of George street, obtained the appointment of Registrar for Hastings.
Opening Dinner at the Swan - Government Petition for a Recreation Ground
Having described in Chap. XV the purchase by Mr. Eldridge of the "Royal Swan," and his removal thither from the "Royal Saxon," together with his efforts to restore the former to something like its ancient significance, I will now add that after several months spent in the alterations and improvements, the new tenancy was celebrated by an opening dinner which took place on the 20th of Dec. The chair was occupied by the Mayor, who was supported by the Borough Members (Messrs. Elphinstone and North), and about ninety other gentlemen. In the same year and at the same house a well-conducted Harmonic Society was established whose first meeting was held on the 14th of March, when the large room was occupied by about 100 gentlemen, presided over by Francis Smith, Esq. Pg.138 Among the singers on that occasion were the brothers Richardson, who at that period were vocalists of considerable celebrity in the counties of Kent and Sussex. The weekly meetings of this Society continued until April 26th, when they closed for the summer months, to be re-opened on the 15th of November. They were always numerously attended, and in those days,when amusements were not as plentiful as blackberries, they afforded to the tradesmen and others of both towns an opportunity for social enjoyment.
I need hardly remind my readers that separated from the Swan by Swan lane is St. Clement's Church; and perhaps I have as little need to trouble them with the assurance that my reminiscences of that ancient edifice and some of its surroundings are somewhat copious. This would arise from my having spent a considerable portion of my boyhood within twenty years of its walls, and at a period when "Parson Whistler" was the rector, "Crier Cox" was the clerk, and "Old Tom Collins" was the sexton; when also, long ere the later grand improvements and restorations had been made, the graveyards were choked up to the ears, and it was almost impossible to walk through them in consequence of the rank weeds and nettles which rose above the tops of the walls and in some parts hid from view the tablet-memorials of the dead. To enter into these reminiscences would, however, take me back from the chronological course which I am endeavouring to follow, and I shall, therefore, confine myself to one or two occurrences of the year which is at present engaging my attention. At that period it was in contemplation to call upon the inhabitants generally, and the parishioners especially, to light the church with gas, but subscriptions for that purpose were objected to on the ground that the Rev. J. G. Foyster - who, as rector, held the united benefices of St. Clement's and All Saints - should first arrange for two Sunday services at both churches, instead of only one, as had theretofore been the custom. At the first blush, one seems hardly to realise the fact that when one came to man's estate there were only two Sunday services in the old part of the old town, three in the newer part, and two in the still newer district of St. Leonards; and that at the present time whilst one is still in full possession of his working powers, there are something like sixty or seventy Sunday services in the churches of the two towns, exclusive of those at the many Dissenters' places of worship. It is thus satisfactory to know that we have made great strides in the facilities for religious exercises as well as in other matters
But as concerns the gas in St. Clement's church, the arrangements were not completed for its introduction until about two years after the subject was first agitated, the church having been in the mean time renovated and supplied with a new gallery. It was then that the application of a new light was credited with having thrown a light upon a transaction which many persons regarded as being morally unworthy of all who were concerned in it. The said transaction resulted in altercations and recriminations at one of the vestry meetings; and although a report of the proceedings might be amusing to my readers, they must be content with learning the mere facts, and by the shortest and simplest method. Let me say, then, that the modern means of illumination having superseded the light of other days, it was decided that there was no longer a necessity for the elaborate chandeliers to remain suspended from the roof of the church, and so an offer was accepted from Mr. Penfold to purchase them as old brass at 6d. per lb. It came out, however, that Mr. Joseph Brown had previously bargained for them at a penny a pound less price; and the result was that Penfold deemed it prudent to relinquish his purchase in favour of his rival. But the sale of the church furniture was held to be strictly illegal by those who professed to know the law as applying to ecclesiastical property.
During the first week of September an Admiralty survey of the Priory ground was made, and an idea was generally entertained that a Bill for a harbour and pier would be introduced in the following session. It might be that the hope was the more strongly indulged in in consequence of the previous rejection of a petition of the inhabitants to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to grant the ground for public gardens. The reasons set forth in the petition were given in the following works:-
It having been formerly derelict and unenclosed, and served as a place for Hastings people to play at cricket and other games, and served for fishermen drying nets; that a public fair was held there from time immemorial; that no owner having asserted or maintained any claim to the land. Some part, in course of time, was taken possession of by ship-carpenters, for laying timber on the building vessels; other parts for rope-walks and lime-burning; and eventually, and particularly during the last 20 years, other arts were enclosed by individuals, who built dwelling-houses and warehouses to a considerable extent. That the Crown having since, by inquisition, at Battle, in 1827, and by subsequent proceedings obtained possession of the land, the whole of the buildings and erections thereon have been removed, and the land is now again unoccupied and waste. That the land in question was surveyed in 1806 by the late Sir John Rennie, for the purpose of reporting on the practicability of a harbour, and who was of opinion that it formed an eligible site for such purpose. That the neighbourhood of Hastings has lately very much increased in buildings which have been greatly injurious to those who have speculated therein. That whilst from the depreciation in the value of property and the badness of the late seasons, yet from its situation between the two towns of Hastings and St. Leonards it presents an excellent spot for recreation and amusement of those towns, and would, if properly enclosed and laid out as public gardens, greatly contribute to the advantage of residents and visitors. That there is no place for amusement or exercise in the open air requiring space in Hastings, or within a considerable distance of both towns; nor is there any level ground accessible for such purpose except that at the Priory. Your petitioners knowing the anxiety of the Legislature to produce such places, and feeling assured that the Crown would not willingly encourage fresh building speculations in this neighbourhood to the ultimate ruin of those engaging in them, to the serious injury of the present owners of houses and property for the sake of a remuneration which to the Crown must be of very small consideration, have ventured to propose to your Honourable Board to enclose and lay out the ground for the public purpose herein described until it may be required for a harbour or some national object, when possession may be retaken. Your petitioners therefore, most humbly pray, &c.
This petition was ordered to be adopted under the seal of the Corporation, and to be signed by the Mayor, R. M. Wilmott, Esq., M.D. The reply was to the effect that there was no Act of Parliament which gave them power to grant the land for the purpose required, but that when the land had been laid out as intended a communication would be made to Messrs. North and Elphinstone.
After that reply, Mr. Rock requested the Council to memorialize the Woods and Forests Commissioners respecting the bad state of the road leading through the Priory ground, which he had beached, and had placed a lamp to prevent accidents at his own expense, which had cost him over £15. This memorial was also forwarded, but with what result I never learnt. Pg.139
The Corporation Criticised - Council Meeting
In its criticism on the foregoing petition, the Brighton Guardian remarked that :-
"It was but a few weeks before that they scouted such an idea when informed by Mr. Elphinstone that they might have a portion of the ground in question for such purposes. Oh, no! said they, the ground was too far westward, and a pleasure-ground at that spot would be as likely to benefit St. Leonards as Hastings. Houses and shops, they contended, would soon be erected around it, and then it could not fail to injure, perhaps to ruin, High street and George street. That the up-town party were serious in the reasons which they urged for their objection, need not be doubted; but they had a further motive which they did not think it wise to make known, and that was, that the suggestions was made through the wrong channel to be acceptable. It being thought probable, however, that a new town would spring up there, under any circumstance, and it being whispered, moreover, that a party, with whom was associated Mr. James Burton, of St. Leonards, would probably purchase or lease the ground from Government the memorials above referred to was immediately got up. But it was either too late, or the inhabitants were asking for too much. The answer from the Woods and Forests Commissioners, received about the 2nd of July, was to the effect that the prayer of the petition could not be complied with. The old "Shadwell's party" - as a certain school of politicians were called - were too proud to accept a portion of the Priory land for a public recreation ground or pleasure gardens through the instrumentality of a certain Member of Parliament, because they thought it would increase his popularity; but rather than it should get into other hands, they would try to get the whole of it by direct communication with the Government officials. Alas! they grasped at a shadow and lost the substance. The splendid new town of St. Leonards, as well as the grand new parade reaching from the Archway to the White-rock, have up to the present time, been opposed by the old Corporation party, because they are aware that as the borough is enlarged, their power ceases."
The Corporation began the year by re-electing Dr. Wilmot till the 9th of November, thus extending his services from the 11th of May, 1835, in conformity with the date named in the new Municipal Corporation Act. It was ordered that the Mayor be the officer before whom the Court of Record shall be held, and the Town Clerk to continue to act as registrar of such Court; that J. G. Shorter be Town Clerk during the pleasure of the Council, George Scrivens, banker, to be treasurer, and that all quarterly meetings be open to the public from the 15th of January. Mr. Ransom, of Blacklands, shipwright, was elected a councillor of the East Ward, and Edward Farncomb, of Filsham, yeoman for the West Ward in place of Wm. Scriven and Jas. Burton, respectively, who had been made Aldermen. At the same meeting, the Finance Committee reported:-
Finance Committee's Report on the general Position
That the sums and fines annually due to the Corporation were £58, but for the last three years only £40had been collected; that £24 had been annually received for publicans' licences; that the pierwarden's receipts had averaged £60 per year; that from such sources (amounting to £233 14s) had been paid £42 to the Council, £12 9s 2d Pg.140 to the Town Clerk, to Chamberlain £10, to Sergeants-at-Mace £10, to Town Crier £7 70s, to Water Bailiff 6/8, to Street-driver £2 2s, for Corporation seats at church £2 - altogether £86 4s 10d. That there is a County rate raised in Hastings of £400,and that Mr. Shorter, as treasurer, has £125 4s 3d; that from this fund has been paid gaoler's salary £30, prisoners' three years' average subsistence £41; to Lewes £49, and to Dover gaol £10. That they found the property of the late Corporation consisted of the Town Hall, two warehouses under the same (late the meat market) let respectively to George Clement at £19 and William Ellis at £6, two tenements and stable at Bourne's mouth let to Jas. Winter at £40, a pier-shop occupied by the pierwarden, a warehouse over the same let to Jas. Mann at £7, a tenement (late the Town Watch-house) let to Geo. Hook at £19 10s, and a tenement (late the lower lighthouse) let to John Mitchell at £18 4s. That there is a fee-farm rent of £25 payable to Mr. Milward, and that the rents have been collected by Mr. John Bevins at a salary of £2. With respect to the Charitable trusts of the late Corporation it is submitted whether under the Municipal Act (Sec. 71 and 72) the Council have at present any authority over them, but have thought it advisable to enquire into the nature of the charities - 1st a charity called Parker's, of 133 acres of land in Ore, now let on several leases which will expire in 1839, at rents amounting to £211, which after deducting such rents, &c, is paid to Mr. Geo. Rubie, schoolmaster. 2nd a charity called Saunder's, consisting of a farm-house and 75 acres of land in Wittersham, let to John Cane at £100, and certain lands called moiety lands, let to Mr. Goble at £12 10s, and other lands called Drowned lands for which the Commissioners of Sewers pay £4 11s 8d. These rents, after deducting for repairs, &c, are paid £11 15s to each of two schooldames, £11 15s twice a year for apprenticing poor children, and the residue to Mr. John Banks, the schoolmaster. 3rd, a charity called Lasher's, of £3 10s charged on lands in All Saints belonging to Mr. Milward, and payable yearly to 7 poor families of All Saints and St. Clements. 4th, The Magdalen Charity, consisting of a barn and 55 acres of land in St. Mary Magdalen parish, on lease to Ransom and Ridley at £105, distributed by churchwardens of St. Clement's and All Saints among such of the poor of those two parishes and the parish of St. Mary-in-the-Castle as they may think proper, subject, however, to magisterial approval.
The Watch Committee reported at the same time that to establish a sufficient watch would cost £649, with Chief Officer, superintendent and 10 policemen, and that Parliament be petitioned to amend that part of the Municipal Act which imposes the establishment of a Watch &c. to extend the power of raising the means.
It was also ordered that a committee be appointed to watch the proceedings of Government and communicate with them as to their throwing out sea-walls or groynes on the frontage of ground in their possession at Holy Trinity, which may materially injure the property and stade of the Corporation, the committee to consist of W. Lucas, - Shadwell, Wastel Brisco, Chas. Deudney, and Wm. Ransom.
Also Resolved to petition the King in Council for a separate Court of Quarter Sessions in and for the Liberties of Hastings as it ever had been; that the Mayor preside at the Court of Record, that the Town Clerk continue Registrar of such Court, and that Sergeants-at-Mace continue to execute the processes thereof. New magistrates were also recommended in the persons of F. North, B. Smith, M.P., Sir C. M. Lamb, W. Brisco, J. Burton and J. Jeffries.
At the February meeting of the Council, it was ordered that in lieu of perquisites, the salary of the Sergeants-at-Mace be increased from £5 to £12, and that henceforth the ringers be paid only for their services on the birthdays of King and Queen.
The Finance Committee reported that having examined the Chamberlain's Pg.141 book, they deemed that there were certain rents amounting in the aggregate to £8 12s 9d (all of which were described to be) wholly unrecoverable, some from lapse of time since they were paid, and others the sites of which were not known. Some of these sites (73 in number) the present writer believes he could have pointed out at the time had he known aught of the difficulty.
Lord John Russell censured - E. Strickland re Waste Beach - Municipal Elections
Whether the Secretary of State declined to sanction to entire list of magistrates sent to him because it contained the names of two brothers, Musgrave and Wastel Brisco, was, perhaps, only known to himself, but it is presumable that he was not moved from his purpose by the following rebuke passed on the 5th of April:-
"Resolved that in erasing Wastel Brisco's name from the list of proposed magistrates, Lord John Russell has committed an act of injustice to the Council and an injury to the town, and that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Secretary of State."
At the June meeting a letter was received from Lord John Russell which stated that he would recommend, as desired, a separate Court of Quarter Sessions for the borough, on condition that the Council first put the gaol into a fit state, or build a new one, or contract with the county for the reception of the borough prisoners. It was resolved that the third proposition be adopted.
It has been shewn in a preceding chapter that Mr. Strickland's application for a piece of stone-beach opposite to Breeds place was not granted by the Corporation. The applicant probably thought that he was as much entitled to purchase a site for his coal store near to Mr. Camac's stables as was the latter gentleman to similarly acquire a site for the housing of his horses; or he might have contended, as others had done, that the Corporation has no legal right to the ground. In either case, he made use of a spot immediately in front of some of the best houses in the borough, which under any circumstance was objectionable both to the owners and occupiers. Notice was therefore given to Mr. Strickland to remove within 7 days the coal he had deposited on the stone-beach near to Mr. Bisby's office. This order not being readily complied with, the Council at their August meeting ordered that a case then prepared by the Town Clerk relative to the title to the land called Stone Beach opposite Breeds place be laid before Counsel for an opinion thereon. It being a fact that at sundry times throughout a period of two or three centuries, the Corporation had obtained Counsel's opinion on the Stone-beach question, one would suppose that they were never thoroughly satisfied of the validity of their claim. Commenting on the November municipal election, the Brighton Guardian - a journal of advanced Liberal sentiments - rejoiced to see the "Old Corporation and Shadwell parties" disjointed, and described them as in "absolute rage" at the result of the East Ward elections. It, however, regretted the election at St. Leonards of Mr. Charles Deudney, and the consequent rejection of Mr. Putland. The proceedings, it contended, were a farce, and the overbearing dictation of Mr. Deudney as well as the conduct of the time-serving Harman, were strongly condemned. The former, although he was the chosen one in a mock-election, was alleged to be ineligible to sit in the Council, and the party to be liable to a heavy fine. At the last meeting of the municipal year the Councillors present were Messrs. Shadwell, Thrope, Ranking, Camac, Deudney, Fermor, Foster, Hannay, Hickes, Amoore, Harman, Inskipp, Mannington, Eldridge, and Putland, all of whom, except the last three, were regarded as Tories. The outgoing Councillors for the East Ward were all defeated in the following November, except Mr. W. Amoore; those losing their elections being Foster, Murray and Hickes, and the new members taking their places being Dr. MacCabe, Thos. Breeds, and J. D. Thwaites. At the meeting on the 9th November, the elect the Mayor and to transact other business, a debate took place on the question of throwing open the meetings to the public. The Conservatives, almost to a man, opposed it, but they were ultimately obliged to capitulate; the new Liberal members, the influence of the Press, and the general pressure from without, being too strong for decent resistance.
It is thought that with the majority of Englishmen a good dinner has a wonderful tendency to soften asperities, and this, perhaps, was the case on that occasion; for, although the cordiality at the Council meeting was not of the best, the Mayor, while dining at the "Swan" the same evening, was supported by about fifty of his friends and opponents.
But the rejection from the Council board of three Conservative members caused a re-awakening of the party to their own interests, and on the 21st of December they endeavoured to establish a new club, under the appellation of "The Hastings and St. Leonards Constitutional Association." There were present Mr. Sutherland-Graeme, Robert Ranking, Wm. Shirley, Joseph Hart, Nelson Williams, C. Shepherd, Rev. - Snowden, Hy. Edlin, Wm. Amoore, T. White, Stephen Welfare, John Russell, George Wingfield, Rev. - Fenner, and others.
Before the close of the year, the question of a harbour was ventilated by a few energetic persons, who wanted the Town Council to take the initiative in getting an engineering survey made of the Crown land. It was argued that the borough funds could not be applied to such a purpose, and that the preliminary expenses must be met by a subscription. In furtherance of the project, a meeting was held at the Royal Oak hotel, when Messrs. Elphinstone and North promised £10 each, and Messrs. S. Putland and G. Thwaites offered to carry the subscription list round the town. What was called the up-town party did not seem to acquiesce in the scheme, and it was known that the Conservative members of the Council were not favourably disposed towards it. Party politics, as some of my readers will remember, were as spicy in those days as they are in the present, and the flavour was not unfrequently a good deal stronger. In the November contests of '36 the so-called Tory element of the Council was considerably diluted, but it was still contended that the harbour proposal would meet with no encouragement until the Council Board became more thoroughly Liberal. This, however, was hardly a charitable view of the case, for, the Council at their December meeting, whilst admitting that they did not feel justified in using the borough funds for such a purpose, resolved that a harbour for small vessels would conduce to the advantage of the borough, and that with a view to ascertain how far such was practicable, a subscription be entered upon, and as soon as it amounted to £100, the Mayor call a special meeting for the further consideration of it. Then, notwithstanding their dubiousness about the legality of spending the borough funds for such purpose, the Council voted £30 towards the expense of a survey.
Political Jeu d'esprit - Capt. Daniels Death - Old Town Commissioners
In the exuberance of party feeling, an endeavour was made to persuade the public that the "Loyal and Constitutional Association" which the Conservatives established as above stated, was but a nine day's won- Pg.142 der, or that in nine days after its birth the "Tory bantling" ceased to live. This information was conveyed in the following political skit:-
Died on the 30th of December, in Mr. Henry Williams's shop, the Loyal Constitutional Association. It is supposed that the deceased swallowed, in the afternoon of the above-named day, too strong a dose of the Pillula Guardiance which caused almost instantaneous death. A post-mortem examination of the body has been forbidden, lest by the corrupt habits to which the deceased was known to be addicted, the contagion should be imbibed, and its fatal consequences spread around. Its friends, fearing also the expense of an inquest, declared that it died a natural death, and hurried the loathsome remains into their hiding place before the Coroner or the public got scent of it - Requiescat in Pace.
To the chagrin of the "Rads," however, the said Association grew into a substantial reality, a fact which will speak for itself when the time arrives for me to describe the grand banquet which its members held on the 31st day of March, 1837 - day that was additionally, but sorrowfully, memorable for the death of the founder of St. Leonards.
As Christmastide approached there was a rumour of the probable dissolution of Parliament, and Mr. Richard Denne was spoken of as a likely candidate. It was also stated that there were forty parishioners of All Saints bent on losing their votes in the event of a contested election. This they hoped to do by refusing to pay the shilling which was then demanded for registration; but they were reminded that the overseers might summons them, and that their intentions would be thus frustrated.
On the 21st of June, the sad tidings of Capt/ Daniel's death reached Hastings and St. Leonards, and a general feeling of regret prevailed throughout the borough that so noble a member of his professions should have come to so untimely an end. Capt. Daniel was a son of Mr. Thomas Daniel, of the Anchor Inn, George street, and he had been several years in the Honourable East India Company's service. He had made several voyages to New South Wales, and on his last voyage home from Sydney, his good ship "Hercules," during a storm, was struck by a terrific wave which carried away her poop-deck, mizenmast, etc. The master the mate, the surgeon and two passengers were at the same time washed overboard. On a previous voyage Capt. Daniel was attacked by a pirate, and for the gallant conduct he then displayed he received the formal thanks of the Government and the colony.
The foregoing notice of the unfortunate Capt. Daniel brings to mind some other noteworthy deaths of Hastings people during the same year. On the 8th of April, the death of Mr. Henry Stone, a much-respected schoolmaster, took place. He had for several years been deprived of one leg by amputation, and at the time when the Hastings Theatre was in course of erection close to his residence, the present writer was one of Mr. Stone's scholars, he having been transferred from the rudimentary establishment of an abecedarian kept by Mrs. Stone's sister, and where he had for schoolfellows two younger brothers of the lamented Capt. Daniel. A fortnight after the demise of Mr. Stone, the widow of Mr. Nicholas Wingfield was removed by death, after 22 years of suffering; and within four days of the latter event the death was announced of Mr. John Coussens, sen., at the age of 86. Mr. Coussens was highly respected, and before his death he was said to be the oldest Hastings man then living. I will close these memorials of the departed by adding to them the death of Dr. Ryder, Bishop of Litchfield (sic) and Coventry, which also occurred at Hastings in 1836. The prelate's remains were deposited in the catacombs of St. Mary-in-the-Castle.
On the 4th of July the Hastings Commissioners appointed their officers for the year, and on the 19th of December, their committee reported upon a scheme for improvements by pulling down several old houses. They also recommended £50 to be applied towards the expense of thoroughly draining the Priory water. This gave rise to contention in the following year as to the legality of applying such money, the Recorder being ultimately appealed to to decide the matter. The Commissioners present on this occasion were Messrs. John Mannington (chairman), Alfred Vidler, John Dengate Thwaites, John Risby, W. L. Yates, Hy. Beck, John Tree, Joseph Beal, and John Murray. Where now are all there members of a corporate body when with that of the Town Council held the divided and not very well defined command of the old town? Alas! they have long since gone to their final account, although both their names and their features must be as familiar to many who survive them as they are to myself.
Equally well remembered by the older inhabitants of both towns must be the form and fame of Lieut/Mann, of the Government House Coastguard-station. To such persons the following jeu d’esprit may be an acceptable reminiscence. “On Saturday, the 26th of November, in the year of grace One-thousand-eight-hundred-and-thirty-six, was witnessed a never-to -be-forgotten Naval Achievement. A valiant lieutenant in MANNLY uniform met a girl in the street with a basket covered with a cloth. This excited the suspicion of the watchful son of Neptune, who proceeded with great gravity to lift the concealing article of drapery, when, lo! he discovered an entire bottle of spirits! The redoubtable coastguard poured forth a broadside, carried the smuggling craft sword in hand, and bore away with her in the full consciousness of having captured a valuable prize. It was said that so gallant an exploit deserved the highest recognition, and that he there been any other than a Whig Government, this meritorious officer would have been elevated to the rank of Admiral of the Blue."
During the unparalleled snowstorm described in Chapter XV, the wind being violent from the N.E., the schooner "Hastings" that had been lying in the roadstead, drifter westward, with only two apprentices on board, of whom one was mere boy, the master and mate being ashore at the time. It was a dreary night when this occurred, and in the morning when the absence of the vessel was discovered, a large boat was despatched in pursuit, but without success. The recovery of the vessel was thought to be impossible, but on the following Saturday, as soon as the week's mails could be got through the deep snow, a letter arrived reporting the vessel to be safe at Weighmouth, into which port the youth and the boy, unassisted, had gallantly sailed her.
Transcribed by Jan Gilham
- ↑ An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022