Brett Volume 3: Chapter XXV - St. Leonards 1841
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Chapter XXV -St. Leonards 1841
Mr. Troup and his houses (pg. 238)
Parish officials (pg. 238)
A breach in the boundary wall (pg. 238)
Norman Road and Lavatoria united (pg. 238)
Erection of Commissioners' office (pg. 238)
Agitation for open meetings (pg. 238)
Local support of the projected new road (pg. 238)
The Bexhill burglary and transportation of the gang (pg. 239)
Planta and Hollond benefiting the borough
Political travesty of facts
The new Infirmary
Arrival of the steam carriage. Fatal accident to Joseph Mepham
(Deaths in 1841). Interpolatory.
Troup's first three houses in Warrior Square - Parochial and Turnpike roads
In chapter XX & XXIII, Mr. James Troup figured largely as a newspaper proprietor, in the question of roads, and in other movements of a public character. Incidental allusion was also made to the first three stately houses (now 23, 25 & 27) in Warrior square, which were built for Mr. Troup. In consequence of some misunderstanding, these remained unfinished for several years. Troup's idea was that a Mr. Ricardo would advance money tor the undertaking to any amount, and Ricardo’s contention was that the money to be advanced had an understood limitation. I mention this circumstance now because it is present to my mind, although its more appropriate place would be where I shall have to describe the further extension of buildings in that district. It was the same Mr. Troup who has already been a prominent figure in these historical sketches; and as he was one of the Surveyors of Highways in the early part of 1841, the leading incidents of which year I am about to relate, I may as well give a list of the town’s officials for that year, commencing, as was usually the case at about Ladytide.
For the parish of St. Mary Magdalen, Hy. Hughes and Stephen Stubberfield were overseers; John Austin and Nelson Andrews were surveyors; and Wm. Noon and Geo. Voysey were assessors.
For the parish of St. Leonards John Painter and Edward Farncomb were overseers, Chas. Deudney and Edward Farncomb were surveyors, and John Reed Harman and Wm. Longley were assessors.
The following gentlemen also constituted the board of the St. Leonards Commissioners: —Major Jeffries. Rev. W. C. Leshe, F. North, R. Holland, M.P, John Harwood M.D., C. Deudney, R. Deudney, A. Burton, and T. J. Rawson.
As the said Commissioners had no jurisdiction in St. Leonards-Without, it necessarily devolved, on the parish officers and the Trustees of the Eversfield Estate — two very different sets of functionaries — to provide for that portion of the town’s public necessities. One of these was the lighting and watering of roads; and in the month of May a special rate was made for the lighting of that part of St. Mary Magdalen’s which was not provided for by the St. Leonards Act, whilst in the following July, the visitors having complained of the dusty roads, another parish meeting was held, at which the sum of £20 was voted to be spent by the surveyors towards the expense of watering the roads, The continuous building operations, however, together with the do-little policy of the Everstfield Trustees, and the dislike of the rate-payers to taxation, had the effect of keeping the roads in an unsatisfactory condition, and it was no uncommon occurrence for tradesmen and others to water and beach the road in front of their own dwellings. In this particular the "outsiders" were worse off than the "insiders," for besides the disbursements of the St. Leonards-Commissioners for the improvement of the roads of both parishes within their jurisdiction, there was less stint in the outlay of the St. Leonards surveyors on the roads and highways under their special control. Over £150 was expended by them for road improvements in that one year.
While treating on the subject of roads, it may be stated that at a meeting of the St. Leonards Commissioners on the 27th of September it was agreed to comply with the application to take down the wall which separated Norman road from Lavatoria, and to make a carriage way through the same, provided that the consent of all other interested parties was obtained and that the Commissioners were put to no expense for the alteration. At the same meeting consent was also given to Mr. Greenough, the owner of 15 Marina, to make alterations at the east side of his house, according to a plan exhibited, the Commissioners stipulating that the consent of all parties concerned should be obtained, and that Mr. Greenough should lay out the ground as an ornamental enclosure,and restore the whole of the ground and premises to their former state whensoever required. It should be explained that the ground in question was a public thoroughfare leading directly down from. Undercliff terrace and Market terrace to the Archway, and that the consent of the public was never asked for. The place was walled in, a garden was formed, and the path was diverted. No remonstrance, however, was publicly made, notwithstanding that there was a general buzz of dissatisfaction, the malcontents not knowing under what rights and conditions the alteration was effected. More than 20 years subsequently passed without protest, and the public having thus lost their possessory and prescriptive title, the space, instead of being "restored to its former state," was utilised in the erection of rooms for the Commissioners’ meetings, and since that body became defunct, the building has been taken over by the Urban Sanitary Authority for the use of the rate-collector.
The original application of Mr. Greenough was on the plea that the continual running up and down the paved pathway immediately contiguous to his house by men and boys disturbed the inmates, and the granting of the alteration applied for was that it would be the means of removing a nuisance. As the inhabitants took no decided steps to avert this appropriation, it should be borne in mind that the Press at that time was excluded from the Commissioners’ meetings, and that the public were ignorant of what had been resolved upon until operations had actually commenced. In after years, when St. Leonards had a journal of its own in the founding of the St. Leonards Gazette, many of the inhabitants, growing weary of the meetings of the Commissioners with closed doors, made use of the new journal to express their indignation, which, being supported by. editorial comments moderately expressed, resulted (1st) in the publication of the Commissioners' accounts in the local journal and (2nd), in the admission of reporters to the monthly meetings. It is not generally known that when those meetings were privately held, the offer was more than once made as a special concession to the Gazette for its editor to attend those meetings, one gentleman expressing himself satisfied that, no improper advantage wonld be taken of the privilege, Just as little is it known that the offer was declined on the ground that the meetings of a public body ought to be open to the public press, and not to one member of it only. This argument was persisted in, and at a later period the question was raised by the Rev. J. A. Hatchard and the late Mr, Charles Savery, and by their warm advocacy, the meetings were at length thrown open.
As in 1840, so in 1841, the battle of the roads was quite a prominent feature. The transactions thereupon in the former year, have been narrated in chapter XXIII, which closed with the passing by a Parliamentary Committe the Bill for a new road through Hawkhurst and Cranbrook to Staplehurst. At that time only £3,000 had been subscribed of the £12,000 or £15,000 that were required. Slow was the progress of the movement for some time, and it was somewhat late in the year when the leading spirits of Hastings and St. Leonards began to stir themselves in its behalf. A a meeting of its promoters was held at St. Leonards on the 15th of October, when it was proposed by Sir Joseph Planta M.P., and seconded by Robert Hollond, Esq.,M.P., "that the proposed road called Hawkhurst Junction, will be a great convenience to the public, and will confer the most important benefit on the owners and occupiers of property in Hastings and St. Leonards." It was also proposed by Major Jeffries and seconded by Mr. Troup "that it is desirable that the said Hawkhurst Junction road should be made, and a local committee; be formed to assist in the same." The committee appointed consisted of Sir C. Lamb, Major Jeffries, F. Smith, Esq., Rev. J.H. Rush, A. Burton. Esq., G. Duke, Esq., Dr. Mac Cabe, Messrs. G. Clement, C. P. Hutchings, T. Hikes, W. Ginner, and J. Austin. As there have already been given a summarised report of previous proceedings, the following brief resume should be ample as a refresher. The proposal was to construct what was known as the "Hawkhurst Junction" turnpike, to receive the traffic from Hastings and St. Leonards for the South Eastern Railway for London and Dover, and to save three miles (or as some contended 1½ miles) between Hastings and Hawkhurst, as well as to connect more thoroughly the counties of Kent and Sussex. This was opposed by the parties interested in other roads, and on the Sth of April a petition was presented to the House of Commons from the creditors of the Hastings, Hollington and Flimwell Trust against the new project. A month later, the pros and cons of the Bill were argued at great length before a Parliamentary Committee, and on the part of the opposition it was urged that the communication with London from Hastings to Staplehurst was 24 miles and 3 furlongs, whilst of the 23½ from Staplehurst to Tunbridge Wells 12 would be railway, making in all 35½ between Hastings and Tunbridge, instead of 30, as by, existing routes. The evidence given in favour of,the promoters was, however, too strong for the opponents, and the preamble of the Bill was adjudged to have been proved. During the inquiry it came out incidentally that on the Flimwell and Hastings Trust there existed a total debt of £45,600 namely a mortgage of £21,380 a floating debt of £4,900, a Robertsbridge debt of £2,561, and arrears of interest £743. This indebtedness, and. particu- Pg.239 -larly the last item, would probably amount to the seizure of the Hollington gate at a later period by one of the mortgagee creditors, he having failed in all his efforts to obtain any interest under the late management of Messrs. Ellman & Co.
I will close my road "surveying" for thé year under notice with an item anent the proposed new road over the Government property to which I alluded when the preceding year’s events were being treated of. At a Town Council meeting on the 3rd of August, with mayor F Smith presiding, a letter was read from the Commissioners of Woods and Forests concerning a road over the Priory Ground, and a communication was also received from Lord Cornwallis and Mrs. Milward in which they adhered to certain objections and stipulations which they had previously made. A discussion ensued, which closed with a resolution to proceed at once with the new road, irrespective of the claims set up by the aforesaid nobleman and lady. Four months elapsed ere the resolution was acted upon, owing, it is presumed, to the obstactles interposed by the persons here named, and in the month of December the Council repeated the resolution to proceed with the road without further delay.
Fashionables in Bexhill in 1823 - Great Robbery at Bexhill - Travesty of Facts
Having descanted on various matters pertaining to roads, it will not be far out of my own road to conduct my readers in a mental journey to Bexhill, there to witness in imagination a desperate burglary and robbery which were there committed in the year now under consideration, and which created immense sensation at St. Leonards. But before recounting those nefarious exploits, let me quote the description of the place by a writer in the days of pre-historic St. Leonards. In the month of October, 1823, We are told that "The pleasant village of Bexhill, truly called the Montpelier of England, has the following visitors :—Earl and Countess of Ashburnham, Sir David and Lady Ogilvy and family, Sir John Evelyn, the Rev. Dr. Clarke, Canon of Windsor, the Rev. Mr. Brown, Chas. Pankhurst, Esq. and family, Thos. Drain, Esq., and family, Dr. and Mrs. Miller, Mr. Riddle and family, Mr Lutwyche and family, Mr. and Mrs. Moorme, Mr. Kent, etc." Only think what a list of fashionables the little village of Bexhill could furnish five years before St. Leonards was commenced!
No wonder that the late James Burton dreamed a dream, the result of which was the founding of a new town four miles distant from Bexhill! And what was the cause of so comparatively a remote locality, with its humble habitations, assuming a fashionable phase more than 70 years ago? It was, doubtless, two-fold — the well-known longevity of the place, and the overflow of visiting nobility and gentry at Hastings. The old town had been growing into a place of fashionable resort for some years, and it was said by travellers that they frequently experienced great difficulty in obtaining accommodation. Of the general salubrity of this locality in general and the longevity.of Bexhill in particular I gave a marvellous proof in chapter XIX of this history; and, as a kindred item, I may now mention that on: July 12th, 1825, Mr. Duke, of Bexhill, a gentleman well known in Hastings, celebrated his 90th birthday by a dinner to his friends, and by giving to the poor people of the parish 150 stone of beef.
Thus much for the fashion, the long life and the generosity of Bexhill; and now for the dark side of the picture. On the night of the 4th of January, 1841, six armed men entered the farm-house of Mr. Holland, and whilst one of them kept guard over the principal, the other five plundered the house of notes and cash to the amount of £120, besides a watch and other articles, An elderly man named Fuggle, who was on a visit, was knocked down, and the ladies were all secured in their rooms. The villains were afterwards caught tried, and transported for life. Their names and ages were Henry Easton, 28; Charles Foster, 19; James Foster, 23; James Martin, 26; Thos. Balcombe, 23; and Jonathan Thompsett, 30. After their conviction, Martin made the following statement :—
Sometime before Richard Wimborn was committed for robbing Mr. Holland’s relation [for which he was transported], some children went to his house and said that old Holland had got such a lot of money. Wimborn told me and Stubberfield of it, and agreed to go and rob the old man. We went, but Wimborn said there wasn’t wind enough, and so we didn’t do it. We broke into a wash-house and stole a fat hog instead. Wimborn got committed for robbing Mr. Holland’s relation, and Stubberfield [alias Easton] was committed for stealing iron. Stubberfield expected to be transported, and then he was going to clear Wimborn by saying that he did the robbery that Wimborn was charged with, and carried the things to Wimborn’s house ; and then Wimborn and I were going to rob old Holland, and then going to Portsmouth to see Stubberfield. But Wimborn got transported. Stubberfield and I went to rob old Holland twice, but we were fearful; we only looked at the windows to see how they were fastened. Mr. Holland may rest satisfied that none of his workmen had anything to do with it. When Wimborn, Stubberfield and myself went to do it, Wimborn was at work down stairs, and Stubberfield and myself upstairs at all hazards. I am certain that Tompsett, Stubberfield and myself drew the two Fosters and Balcombe into it. Stubberfield and I stole Holland’s fat show sheep about three years ago at Hooe, and likewise Holt’s hog at Mackham Down. Stubberfield has killed above fifty sheep, and I have killed twenty-five sheep myself. I think it is a good thing we are transported, for no doubt if we had been allowed to go on it would have come to murder. The £10 spoken of by Tompsett was only told to him to do him (Tompsett) out of the money. About two winters ago, I was sent from Hellingly County House to Lewes gaol for getting drunk. When I came out I went into the House for two or three days; got out and went home intoxicated ; demanded my clothes of the governor; kicked we row; got over the wall, went to St. Leonards and Hastings, and there roamed about. When I returned, Stubberfield and I broke open the shoemaker’s shop at the County House, expecting to get a good many pairs of half-boots, but they were gone; so we took, the leather. We took the tiles off the roof, got in and fastened the door with a gimlet; we also stole one of the governor’s pigs because he sent us to gaol. Tompsett, myself and Balcombe also stole Mr. Wood's lamb at Laughton this winter, and the poor man's rabbit who caught Tompsett poaching.
- Easton and then Balcombes also made a statement to the effect that none of Mr. Holland’s workmen had anything to do with the robbery, and all of them declared that Tompsett, the approver, was the chief and head of the gang. — I need hardly say that the conviction and transportation of such a desperate band of thieves was a great relief to the harassed minds of property-holders, not only of Bexhill, but also of St. Leonards and Hastings, the numerous robberies and depredations committed about that period in and about the places named affording an assurance that a lawless gang was at work.
In enumerating the St. Leonards Commissioners and the parochial officers of 1841, I was led on to the alteration of roads and footpaths under their jurisdiction, as well as to the proposed new road, under the resolution of its promoters, called the Hawkhurst Junction. I then stepped a little out of my ground to narrate some of the doings of the Bexhill gang of robbers, and I forgot the perhaps unimportant item of a cart and carriage way being granted to Mr. James Kaye into his premises at 23 and 24 East Ascent.
There was also another phase of road-maintenance with which the Commissioners were concerned in 1841, and which from its almost constant presence came to be looked upon as a matter of course. In the latter part of September the sea was again lashed into a turbulent mood by a southerly gale, and the sea-wall and roadway at the western end of the esplanade were undermined to a considerable extent. These had to be restored, and as the shilling rate on household property and sixpenny rate on agricultural property which the Commissioners were only permitted to levy twice a year were not sufficient to provide them with all they wanted, their funds were usually at a much lower ebb than the tidal waves which gave them o much trouble. How was this difficultv to be overcome?
Clearly, only by increased assessment. In the earlier years of the town’s existence, both the rates and the rents were comparatively low — a feature to which I have before referred, as helping to excite the jealousy of property-holders in the old town, who found it necessary to ask a much lower rent for the lodging-houses in Gloucester place, The Croft, Wellington Square and other fashionable districts in consequence. The last act, therefore, of the St. Leonards Commissioners in 1841 was to considerably increase the assessment of the property, more particularly the Marina houses Nos. 48 to 71, beyond which the larger mansions did not then exist. As might have been expected, the parochial authorities soon followed suit, the St. Leonards overseers, in vestry assembled, raising the assessment of the Silverhill and some other property, whilst the St. Mary Magdalen vestry also added to the assessment in that parish, and refused to abate one jot or tittle of Squire Brisco’s assessment at Bohemia which the "poor man" declared was monstrous. This means of adding to the local revenue was not, however, so effective as was desired, for the tradespeople — some of whom also speculated with the lodging houses — still suffered through the majority of the inhabitants and visitors making the larger portion of their purchases in Hastings, and the hitherto difficulty of "making both ends meet" was increased by the additional amount of rating. Hence, as a cause or a consequence, the collectors had a harder task to a consequence, the collectors had a harder task to secure compliance with their demands, the result of which was the issuing of summonses and distress warrants to a greater number of persons and for larger amount of arrears than before. This process, while it obtained from some of the defaulters the amount of their liabilities of from ten to twenty pounds, had also the effect of driving others into the bankruptcy court, and of relieving those with but little about them from payment altogether.
Albeit, the commercial condition of the borough was not bad, as compared with the state of the country in general, our two representatives, Messrs. Planta and Hollond, seeming to vie with each in their individual efforts to serve their constituents. The St. Leonards portion was perhaps considerably the lightest in the scale of moderate prosperity; yet, Mr. and Mrs. Hollond, with The Allegria as their country mansion, and with the weight of their purse and influence, did much to alleviate distress and to mitigate the effects of the stream of trade having a tendency to flow eastward, where Mr. Planta had his residence, and where his influence was thought to be more parmount.
On the 15th of October, Mrs. Hollond gave a fashionable quadrille party at Allegra; the house, I remember, being so crowded that the company could only move with difficulty. This event was after Lord Melbourne and his Cabinet had resigned, they having been beaten by 64 votes in the Commons and 72 in the Lords on an Amendment to the Address, and another Cabinet formed by Sir Robert Peel. Elated as Mr, Planta and his supporters must have been with the turn of the political tide, and at the accession to power of their favorite statesman, it is difficult to comprehend the meaning of a St. Leonards Radical in his letter to a Brighton paper, when he described Mr. Planta as a disappointed man. It appears that, as a set-off to the Liberal banquet, and to celebrate the triumph of Conservative principles, it was proposed that a big dinner should be arranged for, the same to be held on the 29th of October. This proposed demonstration was heralded by the writer referred to in the following facetious strain:—
The birth of the long-expected Tory monster of a dinner, which is to overwhelm us all with confusion, and under the tables of which the smaller voters who can't afford to largely spend their silver must hide their diminished heads, is at present only known to the select few; but it is certain that on Thursday morning our ever-grateful, but much disappointed Tory Member expressed in a letter under his hand and seal, directed to his well-beloved cousin, the chairman of the committee engaged in this Frankenstein, his will and pleasure that on the 29th of October next he will honour the christening of this monster with his presence, Great was the excitement caused by this announcement. Doctors and nurses were at once to be seen hurrying in every direction, spreading the glad tidings that they were really to have the monster on the table Accordingly, on the evening of the eventful 16th of September, there were assembled the most motley collection of would-be politicians ever known. Hogarth would have fainted with delight at the contemplation of such a group. By them it was unanimously resolved that as it is not probable that the services of the smaller voters will be again required for some time, there is no occasion to take further notice of them. particularly as they are easily gammoned when necessary by the wily tongue of the Tory serpent. Then, with regard to the small tradesman, he could not be fit company, except at election times for the aristocrats of the borough; so the price should be such as would exclude him, and thus permit the great ones to have it all to themselves. George Wingfield and Nelson Williams are even excluded because they have been too consistent, and in their room one has been called to the council who styles himself a gentleman, he being one whose variableness in religion and politics is proverbial.
My readers will, doubtless, rightly judge the foregoing quotation as a mere travesty of facts; yet I can assure them that there are still among us some old Liberals who, from having so often referred in their merry moments to some of the many burlesques of a similar kind which were rife in their earlier days, have come to believe in them as political truths, and will even now stand by them as such. Perhaps the same sort of illusion will haunt the minds of the present generation some forty years hence in the re-iteration that in 1882 the Conservative working-man was a myth. It is only fair to suppose that in the heat of political contention Conservative writers were sometimes equally smart with their bon mots, mystifications and distortions of facts; but I am bound to admit — as one who for half a century, had a better opportunity than most persons of simultaneously viewing opposite sides of political life — that the ideality of the Liberal partisan is, upon the whole, by far the most active. Perhaps it may be said of him that his intellect is keener, and that his vivid imagination is but the outcome of wit and wisdom. It is not for me to debate that question; and so, for the present, I will leave it, to the judgement of the reader when he has perused the following reprint of a letter by a St. Leonards scribe to a county paper.
It professes to pourtray the personal appearances and political principles of the committee to whom was entrusted the management of the big banquet which was to follow a similar demonstration already described as a dinner given by Mr. Hollond to his constituents. There are, perhaps, not many persons now living who will recognise these pen-portraits, but to as many as there are the overdrawn picture in each case can hardly fail to reveal itself. It is without a heading, but I have supplied it with one which to me at least appears to be sufficiently appropriate, as follows :—
CELEBRATING THE TRIUMPHS OF CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES “We last week partly promised to present to our readers sketches of the political career of the committee who had been most active in getting up this monster Tory dinner, for the purpose, as they declared on their placard, of celebrating the triumph of Conservative principles. This from such wholesale traders in politics is too bad. To hear such men prate of doing any public act for the sake of the virtues connected with it is like listening to a certain old gentleman quoting scripture to suit his develish purposes; or to a prostitute preaching up virtue to cover her own shame; or to a despot haranguing on the heavenly attribute of mercy while his victims are writhing in all the agony of refined cruelty. Out upon such hypocricy ! We will, however, now introduce our readers to the presence of these aristocrats of Hastings; these disposers of their fellow labourers in the political field; these pocket politicians who rejoice in the distress of the poor labourers and mechanics, advocating, as they do, dear bread and limited employment, and consequent destitution of the community. We must request our readers to ascend with us one flight of the noble staircase at the old Swan Inn, and to be seated in one of the neat and comfortable rooms with which the house abounds, and to imagine that round the Pg.240 table in the centre are seated from eight to ten persons. At the head of the table in an 'old arm chair' you perceive a gentleman in black, whose benign countenance and hairless sconce imply the most happy pliability of disposition, while the evidence of benevolence, sagacity and self-esteem are sufficiently developed to the scrutinising eye of a phrenologist. The first essay of this gentleman as a politician was under the then tottering and corrupt Town Council, when North and Warre, both staunch Whigs, were the successful candidates. The next election found him ratting; Elphinstone being rejected and Planta accepted. North and Planta were thus indebted to him for his support. At the last election he was the whole-hog Planta-genet.— The person on the right hand of the chairman is a being remarkable for singularity of countenance, and for the perpetual application of the contents of his snuff box, which seems to furnish constant employment for the scavenger. Mark him for.a man of deep cogitation and consequence! His easy address is an assurance that he in some way frequents good society, and his continual use of the pronoun I proves that at one period he must have been a steady reader of Cobbett’s Register. Like that voluminous writer, he is full of promises of what he will do. Why, if you were to ask him to procure for you at once 30 or 40 votes, ‘My dear fellow, it is no sooner said than done; I will do.it.’ And so he would; at least he would promise. We find him first ‘Elphinstone for ever!’ then North and Brisco (the latter. declaring himself no Tory)! and now, forsooth, Planta is his only man. The ears of the people are not attuned to his harmony. — On the left of the chairman you will observe one of the characters of Hastings as various in his polities as he is wayward in his temperament. At times he is ‘a fellow of infinite jest; at others he is taciturn to a fault. His first exhibition was one which had under it the school in which he had been cherished, and the master whom he had served. Then Elphinstone was his ‘only joy.’ When the next election came, he found the North wind had taken go great an effect upon him that from continually condemning the gentleman who bears that name, he could do nothing but shout 'North and Brisco for ever!' — At the last election the wind again shifted, and ‘a fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kind.’ As he has become buried in his obesity, dead to all political shame, and forgetful of those. under whom, he grew, he is to be found hand in hand with Mr. Planta. The people are not wine-bibbers. — A little further to the right you will see one whose red, rosy gills give ample proof of the ‘fair round belly with fat capon lined.’ That man now professes to adore Sir Robert Peel; and yet the time was (when sense prevailed over ledger accounts) that he contemplated the political horizon through a virtuous medium. Prospects, however, blunted ‘his fine feelings of patriotism; and when he obtained the first right of voting for a Member of Parliament he was so far steeped in political degradation as to declare he must consult his ledger before he promised his vote. That counselled him to become a Whig, and accordingly North and Warre obtained his support. Mrs. Camac was then carrying things with a high hand in Hastings and St. Leonards; and the next election found him trailing in Brisco’s wake. But now he has changed with other changlings, and has become a Tory. We must now direct particular attention to the gentleman in a wig, with a black coat too big for his shrunken corpus, buff waistcoat and white trousers. Mark that countenance, that restless eye, that half-averted look, those hollow lines, the self-conceit descending on the upper lip, and the projecting under one; in short, the whole contour of the countenance; and behold how he writes himself a gentleman! Hark! he speaks! Listen and catch his bated breath and whispering humbleness. Observe his modesty; mark his plain dealing. In him you see one incapable of ingratitude, detraction or deceit; a perfect gentleman, a man remarkable for his high and invariable bearing; in fact, a being so perfect that few dare trust themselves to associate with him, all being at once thrown into the shade by the splendour of his talents and virtues. To him works of the greatest magnitude are but peddling affairs. He will detail at a moment’s warning the exact cost of 100 miles of railway with as little trouble as you would dispose of a second-hand trinket. He will construct you a harbour on as short a time as a hawker would walk from hence to London: In fact, he was never known to fail in more than one object, and that was when he undertook to convert a sandstone into a beautiful [Warrior] square. But he is still sanguine, and doubts not that if he lives 100 years longer, that he shall accomplish every impossibility. To him the committee owe everything; without him they would have been as nothing; and the monster thing here warming into life would never have been conceived. So transcendent are his talents that he is above all consistency in politics. In 1837 he was a strong supporter of Hollond, a Liberal; ‘and so, no doubt, he would have continued had not the sublimnity of his ideas far outshone the limited comprehensions of the 'sons of earth." And as they were presumptuous enough to dispute with him in that which they could not comprehend, and to reject his counsel, which they, poor simple creatures, considered tinged with absurdity, he, in the most grandiloquent style, ‘cut’ them, declaring them to be a set of fools. So they parted in, a difference of opinion only at last. He has now proclaimed himself in favor of Toryism; and certainly the Tories in this town will find in him a worthy coadjutor; and we never trembled for the fate of the Liberal cause till now if the Tories can but understand him and trust him. — But do you observe that thick bushy-headed person in the brown surtout? He is so loud and forward in his ways; so particularly desirous of appearing to be somebody. That’s a ‘tarnation clever chap, that!’ His father always said so. He is so slick there’s no knowing where to find him. ‘ Do anything politically,’ as he says, to turn a pound or two. First you find him an out-and-outer for Elphinstone; then Hollond is his man, and now Planta and Conservatism are his animated care. Interest is the mainspring of his action; and he is consequently quite at home with the clique with whom he is now associated. There are some others round the room all equally consistent — one too good-natured at the first election to refuse anyone, and so promising all; and then too consistent to vote for any, and so disappointing all. Then he came in for Brisco and North; and now he also shouts for Planta. Such are the men who compose the committee of this nameless dinner!"
With this picture of a Tory committee sketched by a Radical pen, my reference to the political situation in 1841 will be brought to a close, the only addition being as follows:— On the 29th of June, Mr. Howard Elphinstone—.who in 1835 was one of the Representatives for Hastings, and in 1537 was defeated at Liverpool--was returned for Lewes, along with Mr. Summers Harford. The latter gentleman was elected by a majority of 4 over the highest of his Conservative opponents, and Mr. Elphinstone with the still smaller majority of 2 over the same antagonist. The actual numbers were Summers Harford, 411; Howard Elphinstone, 409; Hon. Hy. Fitzroy, 207; and Lord Cantelupe, 388. A petition was afterwards presented against the return of the two Liberals, and in consequence of this the sitting Members’ and the defeated candidates’ agents effected a compromise whereby Mr. Harford consented to retire, and Mr. Fitzroy took his seat. Lewes was therefore represented by one Liberal and one Conservative, as Hastings and St. Leonards were at the same time. One of the curiosities of the Lewes election—which in all its phases was an extraordinary one—was that, whilst "a ruthless expenditure" was put forth as the sole reason for Mr. Elphinstone’s not offering himself again for Hastings, the cost of his election at Lewes, as admitted by himself, was at least £6,000. I am afraid that I must plead guilty to having been a recipient of some of the money, I having attended that, and one or two other elections at Lewes, as a super-numerary bandsman. The County Election of that year was of still greater interest to the people of Hastings and St. Leonards, in a smuch as many of them had to take part therein. Passing over the local meetings that were held, as well as the analysis of the voting, it may be enough for me to give the gross numbers polled for the three candidates, These were George Darby, 2,398; A. E. Fuller, 2,367 ; and J. V. Shelley, 995 3 the last-named gentleman thus showing himself to have had but a very poor chance of election.— One sorrowful incident and accident connected with this election was the death of a boy at Battle on the 9th of July through being run over by a carriage-and-four, during the bustle and excitement.
Although promising to have done with politics for 1841, there is one other political event which to record should not be out of place. On the 9th of November the Town Council met for the election of Mayor and other business. The Liberal members supported the nomination of Mr. Wilham Duke for the office of chief magistrate and the Conservative party were desirous of electing a gentleman of their own views. The latter, I believe, was Mr. Wastel Brisco, but of this I am not quite sure. Whoever he was, his chance of election was a poor one, the votes given in his favour being only 5, as against 13 for Mr. Duke. Three Liberal aldermen were also chosen on that occasion — Mr. Scrivens and Dr. MacCabe from the East ward, and Mr. Alfred Burton from the West ward. Mr. Burton was elected, to the exclusion of Mr. E. Farncomb, to be, as it turned out seven years later, the first Mayor chosen from St. Leonards, and one of the only three persons in that part of the borough who in a period of 52 years were destined to fill so important an office. It should be mentioned, however, that to the last of the trio (Mr. Gausden), would fall the distinguished honour of filling the civic chair four times. But in many other ways the men of St. Leonards have contributed their quota of usefulness, one sphere being that of the Infirmary, an institution which has been greatly aided by the physicians and surgeons of the younger town, notwithstanding that at the first general meeting, on the 12th of January, the surgeon (Mr. Duke) and assistant-surgeons (Messrs. Savery and Ticehurst) were practitioners in the old town. The necessity and utility of such an institution were clearly shown by the fact that at the end of December—three months after its opening to inpatients — eight of such patients had been received, three of whom had been discharged as cured, whilst, the number of out-patients already amounted to 89. The building had cost more than was calculated, but the debt had been reduced from several hundred pounds to £96 15s. 10d. It was in the same year that the Hastings Dispensary was endowed with increased efficiency; and although any reference to this charity belongs to a history of Hastings rather than to that of St. Leonards, the fact of its being a kindred institution, and excluded at the time from a contemplated share in certain moneys subscribed with some indefiniteness for both, induces me to state a few particulars in connection with the said Dispensary. On the 30th of March, 1841, the number of patients reported to have been admitted during the month was 133, whilst three had died and 100 had been discharged, leaving still on the books 255. At the meeting in September, Mr. W. Lucas-Shadwell munificently gave to the institution the old house on the Oak Pavement in which it had been established, the stipulations being that the property should be invested in trustees consisting of the Mayor, the Rev J. G, Foyster, and Messrs, Wastel Brisco, G. Scrivens, T. B. Baker, W. Amoore and J. C. Jones, for the sole use and benefit of the Dispensary. Mr. Jno. Tree also handed over to the fund of the institution the sum of £26 6s. 8d. from the Licensed Victualler’s Protection Society, the association having been dissolved two or three weeks previously. At the December meeting it was resolved to take down the old house and build a new one on its site, the cost of which was estimated at £600. It was further resolved to solicit public contributions for half that amount. The site of the new Dispensary, I need not say, was contiguous to the Swan Hotel, where, it may be mentioned, a number of Borough and Government officials. with other gentlemen, met to dine on the 2ist of May, in celebration of the Queen's birthday, her Majesty not having as yet deviated from the somewhat absurd custom of her ancestors in keeping birthday anniversaries in anticipation of their date. The said dinner took place after the coastguards had mustered from the different stations, to march through the town in their “jackets of blue and their snow-white ducks” to the East Hill, there to be exercised, and to fire a feu-de-joie over the echoing vale of the ancient town.
The reminiscences of the above-stated dinner brings me back again to St. Leonards, where the Queén’s ‘St. Leonards Archers similarly celebrated her Majesty’s birthday on the proper anniversary. The dinner took place at the Victoria Hotel, and was partaken of by upwards of 70 persons. After the usual loyal toasts had been given and responded to, one gentleman among the company proposed the "Health of her Majesty’s Present Advisers," but it was very properly ruled by the Chairman that such a toast could not be allowed in a mixed assembly without the risk of incurring political dissension, which on such an occasion it would be unwise to do. The dinner was preceded by an archery competition - the first of the season — when the Society's prizes were won by Miss Mackay and Mr. Alfred Burton. A handsome prize given by Miss Mackay was taken by Mr. Broderick. Other meettings(sic) followed, and on the 17th of August - the birthday anniversary of the Duchess of Kent — the Grand Annual Meeting was held, when the grounds, which were yearly improving under the direction and personal labour of the Misses Mackay, were admired for their beauty. The winners of the Royal Victoria Prizes were Miss Mackay (229), Mrs. Howman (196), Mr. T. Bourke, and Mr. A. Burton. The Society’s prizes were won by Miss Wood (267) and Mr. Howman, whilst the Visitors’ prizes were carried off by Mr. H. Wetherell and Miss Fanny Price. The féte terminated, as was usual in the earlier years of the Society, with a dinner and ball at the Assembly rooms.
One of the novelties of 1841[a] was the appearance of a steam-carriage designed to run on the ordinary roads. On Saturday, August 28th (I believe it was), the St. Leonards people rushed to the new London road, there to witness the ascent of the said carriage, which steamed along the front from Hastings, and had come to a halt close to the trees which were afterwards to form a part of the Gensing Gardens. It had arrived at Hastings on an experimental trip from London, two days previously, where the damage from the bursting of its boiler, a mile or more ere it reached the town, was repaired. It proceeded on its return journey until it reached a steep hill near Sevenoaks, but in descending that long declivity, the drag-chain broke, and the carriage rushed on at a speed of over sixty miles an hour; thus impressing its occupants with fear that they would be dashed to pieces. They reached the bottom, however, in safety, but in the endeavour to ascend the opposite hill, the machinery was found to be too much damaged to achieve it. With the help of ten horses the unfortunate carriage was got to the Crown-Inn Yard at Sevenoaks, and this was the last account I obtained of it. A first trial had been made in the preceding year and because nothing more serious had happened to the carriage on this its second trip than the bursting of its boiler, the breaking of its drag-chain, and some other injuries, with a narrow escape from a general smash, some of the London papers ludicrously described the journey as a successful one.
About the same time as the event just described — probably a few nights before — an accident occurred to the Hastings and St. Leonards mail-coach, resulting in the death of the driver (Joseph Mepham) injury to one hand of the guard (Johnson) and bruises to one of the passengers. The coach was on its journey between these towns and London, when it got into collision with some waggons. The coachman was thrown off, and the wheels passed over his body, after which the poor man rolled over, groaned piteously, but gave no other utterance.
Surgeon Duke, from Hastings, was in the coach at the time, but his services were of no avail. Johnson, the guard, — whom I knew as a stalwart man, regardless of his own hurt, exerted himself most praiseworthily, in extricating the coach from the waggons, tying up the splinter-bar to the pole, and getting the coach and its contents down to Riverhead. Poor Mepham was much respected, and his untimely death was greatly deplored. Pleasant as it was on a fine day to travel by stage coaches, and convenient as it might have been to travel by the four-horse mail, these luxuries were not without their draw-backs. I have known many runaways and breakdowns among the coaches, some of which, as I shall describe further on, were attended with loss of life or limb; but the only other accidents to the night mails that I can just now think of beyond thos already recorded were those which occurred on the 24th of February, 1841, and the 26th of September, 1825. These were both near the middle of the journey, and have been described in rhymed anniversaries as follows :—
In Eighteen-twenty-five the Hastings mail
By coach to London went, and not by rail;
Such coach, when it arrived at Tonbridge town,
Performed an overturning tumble-down.
The passengers went rolling in the dirt,
The driver broke a leg, with other hurt.
The up-mail coach, in Eighteen-forty-one,
When it to nearly Tunbridge Wells had run,
Was overturned by horses on the spree,
Which caused much hurt to human arm and knee.”
As 1841 was a Census-year, it may be well here to repeat the figures as they were officially announced. The two parishes in which the town of St. Leonards is situate contained 2,675 persons; i.e. 1917 1n St. Mary Magdalen and 758 in St. Leonard. The numbers in the other parishes of the Hastings borough were, All Saints’, 2,839 3 St. Clement's, 3,189; St. Mary-in-Castle, 2,926 ; St. Michael and Holy Trinity, 116; St. Andrew's, 8; Bulverhithe, 37; and Borough Gaol, 3;—total 11,789. The additional parishes of Ore, Fairlight, Pett and Guestling, together with the Workhouse, which complete the Hastings Union, contributed 3,067 to the population, thus making the census of the Union, as dis Pg.241 tinguished from that of the Borough, 14,836. This was an estimated increase of 19 per cent. on the census of 1831, when the Borough population (the Union not being then established) was 10,686. Going back another decade to 1821, when St. Leonards, as a town, did not exist, the population was 6,300. In 1811 it was 4,026; and in 1801 (the first year of the general census) it was 2,982.
Deaths in 1841
As the opposite to the numbering of the living, it may be permitted to give a list of deaths in 1841, so far as such list comes within the scope of my own information. On the 7th of September, Mr. Vine, master of Mr. Hollond’s yacht, went home to dinner, and died suddenly while sleeping in his chair. A month later (October 4) a son of Mr. Pilcher, of the Warrior’s-gate Inn, was drowned by falling overboard from a brig which had sailed to Newcastle for coals. Sir Thos. Andrew Strange died in St. Leonards about the 17th of July, at the age of 85 years, and was buried in a vault in the parish church. The other persons of whose deaths I am cognisant, and whose remains: were placed in the St. Leonards Cemetery during 1841 are as follow:— David Barnes, aged 3 years; Catherine Sophia Browne, aged 20; Anna Beck, aged 1 day ; Elizabeth Cockerell, 34; Isabella Chalmers, 37; Chas. Edmund Chapman, 9 mos.; Sarah Drury, 2 days; Caroline Deas, 52 years; Jane Gammon, 45; James Owen Mann, 4; Frances Janet McVicar, 2; Angus McViear, 43 Elizabeth Haines, 52; Mary Horley, 4; Elizabeth Jelley, 47; Jan Ludby, 77; Mary Peerless, 37 ; Elizabeth Reynolds, 24; Martha Tutt, 15; Elizabeth Tapsell, 40; William Whittaker, 39; Louisa Weller, 16.
- See Steam Road Carriage for an illustration of what Brett describes - Editor.
- An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022