Brett Volume 3: Chapter XXXIV - Hastings 1845

From Historical Hastings

Transcriber’s note

Chapter XXXIV - Hastings 1845

The Borough Members: their efforts for local benefits Petitions to shorten Sunday labour in the Post-office
Mr. Brisco's liberality and Liberal Conservatism
Municipal elections
Death and interment Alderman Duke; memoirs of his family;his burial place at Battle; view of his grave and that of the restored church
royal visits and notable events at Battle
Sir Godfrey Webster's movements at Hastings
Members of the band and well merited eulogy on their ability
Numerous instances of longevity
Minor events of 1845.

[ 282 ]

Good Times for Hastings - Members of the Old Town Band

The Borough Members in the year 1845 were. Messrs. Robert Hollond and Musgrave Brisco; the former having been a representative since 1837, and the latter having taken the place of Sir Joseph Planta in 1844. They attended the opening of Parliament on the 4th of February, under favorable(sic) auspices, the excellent harvest of the preceding autumn having placed the agriculturists on a similar fortunate footing to that of the other branches of industry. As touching imperial matters with strictly local associations there was not very much to claim the attention of our representatives; but it was felt that the confinement at the Post-office during the whole of Sunday was a great hardship, and the Borough Members were therefore requested to exercise any influence they might have with Sir Robt. Peel and the Postmaster-General in support of a petition praying for a reduction of Sunday labour. — The petition was signed by 300 of the most influential inhabitants, and it begged for the office to be closed from ten in the morning until five in the afternoon. The petition was sent up in the month of June, and was probably the outcome of a meeting held at the Town Hall, a month earlier, “to consider the evils arising from the protracted hours of labour to which shop-keepers’ assistants are subjected, and the benefits which would attend their abridgement.” The question having been duly discussed, a resolution was passed ”That the trade be requested to close at 8 o'clock each evening, except during the months of July, August and September.”

Apropos of the Post-office work, it is worthy of a passing note that the returns of the Postmaster-General showed an increase of 22 millions of letters over the number of the previous year, the year in question being the fifth after the adoption of the Penny Postage system at the urgency of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Rowland Hull, but of which - as has since been indubitably proved - he was not the originator.

My readers will remember that when treating of the political events of the preceding year I described the stirring addresses and masterly oratory of Mr. R. R. R. Moore, in his Free-trade advocacy while competing with Mr. Brisco for a seat in Parliament. They will remember, too, Mr. Brisco’s majority of 513 against Mr. Moore’s number of 174; and they may not forget that it was urged against the successful candidate that he professed at one time to be a Conservative and at another to be a Liberal. The term Liberal-Conservative was not so much in vogue then as it has been in later times, yet it was not difficult to a non-partizan(sic) to understand that Mr. Brisco was really a Liberal-Conservative. Employing, or otherwise maintaining, as he did, a large portion of the poor of Ore, while spending much of his wealth among the Hastings tradesmen, it passes without question that with the money at his command, Mr. Brisco was undoubtedly liberal. But he was more than this as viewed by the light of subsequent history, He was a supporter of Sir Robert Peel, the Liberal-Conservative, whose Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the very year that Mr. Brisco was elected, showed in his Budget a surplus of revenue over expenditure of about four millions of pounds. Further duties were then remitted, including a reduction of the tax on sugar. In the year now under consideration, other reductions in taxation were made, and Sir Robert Peel’s financial measures called forth the admiration of the Liberal Opposition. As might have been expected, his conduct alienated from his following many of the Protectionists; and when it is remembered that only two years previously, both the Premier and Mr. Gladstone strenuously opposed Mr. Villiers’s motion to repeal the Corn Laws, and that in 1846 Sir Robt. Peel declared his intention of repealing those Laws, together with all restrictive tariffs, there is proof positive that Sir Robert Peel was a Liberal-Conservative.

It was thought to be necessary, however, for Messrs, Cobden, Bright, Wilson, Fox and other members of the Corn-law League to keep up the agitation until their object was accomplished; and as the ground at Hastings had been so well broken by Mr. Moore in 1844, so in 1845 further work was done upon it by Mr. Falvey, a paid agent of the League, who, in the latter part of April, gave two lectures; one under the presidency of Mr. Stephen Thwaites, and the other with the chairmanship of Mr. H. Winter.

It is but fair to our representatives — the one a Moderate-Liberal and the other a Liberal-Conservative — to say that when released from their Parliamentary duties they vied with each other in many ways to the advantage of the borough. At-home parties, balls, races, concerts, archery-fétes, and meetings for philanthropic objects, all shared their patronage and presence; and, much as a one-and-one representation may be objected to by strong political partizans(sic), it in this instance added another to the more than one case that has occurred in the experience of many living denizens, of a less than average political irritation, a more than average prosperity, and consequently a more general display of amenities than when by some accident or incident & party conceiving itself to be in a majority gets two representatives whilst the real majority gets none. Even in funeral obsequies Messrs. Hollond and Brisco displayed their sympathies. On Friday, the 17th of January, their carriages, together with those of Lady Lubbock and other distinguished persons, followed the remains of Alderman Duke, a surgeon, of Hastings, to their resting-place at Battle. Also joining in the funeral procession were the Mayor and members of the Town Council; also many gentry and tradespeople of the two towns. On the following day the Council held a special meeting to elect a successor to the aldermanic seat vacated by Mr. Duke. The candidates were Mr. Smith and Mr. Staines, the latter being elected by 11 votes to 5. Mr. Staines was a magistrate, and during his many years residence at St. Leonards, took an active interest in the parochial schools and some other institutions. An ornamental drinking fountain at the top of Hastings, erected by his daughter, bears evidence of his worth.

The Municipal elections of the first of November resulted in the return for the East Ward of Ticehurst, a Conservative (443 votes), Amoore, Conservative (399), Clement, Liberal (382), and Hickes, Conservative (365). The unsuccessful candidates were Thwaites, Liberal (315), Jolly, Liberal (311) and Langham, Conservative (211). In the West Ward, Messrs. Austin and Mann (Lib. and Con.) were elected unopposed, Mr. Voysey retiring from the contest rather than endanger Mr. Austin's seat. The next event of a municipal cast was the election of Mayor, which took place as usual on the ninth of the ninth month (O.S.) and resulted in a unanimous vote recorded for Mr. Hornby Maw, a gentleman at that time residing at West-hill House. The Mayor-elect was away from the town at the time, but that fact did not prevent the customary civic feast being held, for perhaps the hundredth time, at the old Swan Hotel.

The allusion to the old Town Band in chapter XXXIII has set one of my readers enquiring the names of the bandsmen other than those already mentioned as Elliott and Wood,whilst another reader imagines that “a little mistake has been made about the quadriile parties.” I will deal with the latter first, and with the averment that there was no inaccuracy in what I stated, From the wording of my critic’s note, I can see clearly enough that it is he who is in error, in having confounded two persons of the same name but of no family connection. I will enumerate, as far as my recollection serves me, the members of the old Town Band; and while I thus reply to one querent, I may perchance make the matter clearer to the other. ‘The bandsmen, as I severally knew them, were Thomas Elliott, 1st clarionet; John Elphick, 2nd clarionet; James Russell, 3rd clarionet; Alfred Richardson, flute and E-flat clarionet; J. Colbran (familiarly known as Little Coe), piccolo; James Meadows, cornopean; George Winter, trumpet; the brothers Elliott, French horns; Daniel Wood, tenor trombone; Thomas Woollett, bass trombone; Benjamin Wood, trombone and ophecleide; Herr Alderhausen(?) bassoon; — Richardson, sen, bassoon; Frederick French, ophecleide; — Lane, serpent; D. Coussens, drum; E, Edwards, drum; George Winter the younger, cymbals and drum[a].

It will thus be seen that the old Town Band was strong in numbers; and as most of them were good practical musicians, it may be conceived that the reputation which the band had gained for excellence was not altogether unmerited, On extraordinary occasions, too, the band was augmented by the addition of Mr. Kidd, Mr. Boorman, and a few other first-class musicians. Of the senior Elliott it may be said that he was quite a musical enthusiast, and he very naturally imparted to the younger Elliotts and Meadows (members of one family) some of his own musical ardour. Mr. James Meadows was the first resident executant on the cornet-á-piston, which at that time was a newly invented instrument, whilst Mr. B. Wood was similarly the first performer on the ophecleide, also an instrument newly introduced. In writing and arranging the music Mr. Wood was the moving spirit of the period; and as he was also a good all-round violinist, and in that capacity leader of the orchestra at the promenade concerts in the Pelham Arcade, as well as at the St. Leonards fashionable balls, his practice was on a par with his opportunities. As testimony to my old friend’s ability, it may be permitted me to relate the following short story — one which Mr. Wood himself, perhaps never heard told by anyone. About 60 years ago a theatrical performance, supplemented by a fancy dress ball was held in a large room over Woodroffe’s warehouse, in what is now known as the Roebuck yard. There were present at that entertainment, Mr. James Ryall, the celebrated flautist and trumpeter of the Lifeguards’ band, and Mr. Brown, a solo-violinist, at the Arcade Concerts. Mr, Ryall was a native of Hastings, and received his music lessons at the hands of Mr. Howship, in the house of the present writer’s parents, but Mr. Brown was from London. The writer’s own band was engaged at the entertainment here referred to, and after playing Tullochgorum to a stage dance, Mr. Brown complimented the band, and then, while speaking of himself as the solo-violinist at Mr. Hart’s concerts, and Mrs. Brown as the vocalist “Madame Castello,“ paid a panegyric to the leader of the Arcade band in these words: “Your townsman Mr. Wood may not be able to play the abstruse pieces to which I have devoted years of study, but as a thoroughly practical all-round musician he is very much my superior.” Having mentioned Mr. Hart, I need hardly say that he was the composer of Hart’s Lancers and many other quadrilles. But I have not quite done with the Band. Mr. Woollett, the trombone player, was also a semi-professional comedian, who, at the entertainment here alluded to, took the principal cast in the “ Irish Schoolmaster,” and sang in character “I'm Ninety-five.” He had previously strutted his hour on the boards of the Hastings Theatre, and on one occasion with the celebrated T. P. Cook. Then there were Colbran, the flautist, and the German bassoon-player, both of whom-had retired from military bands. Lastly, the ophecleide player, Frederick French (who died in the prime of life) was then a musician of great promise, and performance. His soft tenor notes on a bass instrument, and the facility with which he frequently took up “running passages“ were much admired by those whose pleasure it was to listen to the band as a whole. If I have dwelt somewhat lengthily on this subject, it is for the purpose of reviving half forgotten names and perhaps wholly forgotten associations; but, more than all, to remove if possible the conceit of some modern musicians, by whom or for whom it has been said that not until their day was there anything in Hastings worthy of the name of music. There are still those in the town, I am quite sure, who will endorse the statement that even in the absence of the present powerful and improved instruments, the Hastings and St. Leonards people of 50 & 60 years ago had many opportunities of hearing well-performed classical music, both vocal and instrumental, and by their own towns-men.

Surgeon Duke's Family - Isaac Ingall, aged 120 years - Battle Abbey

I have stated that on the 17th, of January the Mayor and other members of the Corporation, together with many tradesmen and private gentlemen, followed to their place of sepulture at Battle the remains of the late Alderman Duke, a surgeon, of Hastings. This gentleman was twice married, his first-wife, as may be supposed, having preceded him to the grave. She was the only daughter of Thomas Worge, Esq., a gentleman of wealth and influence, residing at Starr’s Green, in the parish of Battle. Her death took place on July 7th, 1813, at the age of 36. Mr. Duke’s second wife survived him nearly 22 years, ultimately dying at Netherfield parsonage, the residence of her son, on the 10th of December, 1866. The two sons and two daughters [ 283 ]of Mr. Duke's first family of whom I had personal knowledge were George, Elizabeth, Wm. and Jane. George was & barrister-at-law, and resided some short time before and after 1838 at No. 1 Cliff Cottages, a semi-detached house that was built for him from, designs supplied by Mr. Walter Inskipp. This with the adjoining house — now known as 5 and 6 Eversfield place - were for several years the only dwellings between Verulam place and Seymour place, the latter now having the appellation of Grand parade. He had previously resided at West-hill Cottage, in Hill street, whence he removed to No. 8 High street in 1831, and whither he returned from Cliff Cottages before 1843. Six years after that date he ceased to be seen among men. Mr. George Duke was also a Borough and County Magistrate. His death took place on the 24th of January, 1849, and his remains were conveyed to Battle, where, in close proximity to those of his mother and father, a polished granite memorial was erected by his sorrowing widow. His sister Elizabeth was married to R Borradaile, Esq., and resided, with her husband, firstly at Bexhill, and afterwards at Hawkhurst, where Mr. Borradaile died. His widow — who was a biblical student and writer, but who in later life became a confirmed invalid — took up her abode at, St. Leonards, where she continued to dwell until the time when this was written, namely, Sept. 15th, 1883, on which day terminated her bodily suffering with her life, and at the age of 79 years. Her remains were conveyed to Hawkhurst; and it is a noteworthy coincidence that on the same day and at the same hour another Mrs. Borradaile (the two ladies being relatives) was buried at Blackheath. I learn also that a nephew of Mrs. Borradaile was buried exactly a week before. Mrs. Borradaile’s younger brother, William Duke, was a well-known physician who, from about 1830 to 1837 resided at 57 George street, ere King Commerce had raised a pile of bricks and mortar to hide from view the said house, with its front lawn, trees and flowers. Dr. Duke, with his family, afterwards removed to his own new house, No. 18 Wellington square, where he resided till about 1855, thence removing to 22 Grand parade in 1857 or '8. He had built for him a cottage at Silverhill, where he died on the 6th September, 1864, at the age of 59, having preceded the death of his wife (Sarah Batley Duke) by nearly three years. For several years Dr. Duke embraced the Roman Catholic faith, but it was reported that he recanted the same before his death took place. The younger daughter of surgeon Duke by his first marriage (and, consequently, the younger sister of Dr. Duke) was married to Richard Day, Esq., of Bexhill, a gentleman whose means enabled him to keep his carriage and his yacht, and whose manly stature was noticeable as he drove a fine pair of horses and a smart chariot through St. Leonards to Hastings. For many years, indeed, the denizens of both towns were interested in the drives of the Days and the Borradailes between Bexhill and Hastings, as they made their almost daily visits to their father’s residence in George street. Mr. Day, however, quitted the terrestrial sphere in the prime of-life, his death taking place in London on the 8th of December, 1845, and his remains being placed in a vault in the Battle churchyard. He was 46 years of age. A handsome raised and railed memorial supplies a record of his death and that of Richard Ansell Day, his son. Another son, Richard Worge Day, born about three years later, grew to be a fine and well-proportioned man when, at the age of 29, he met mishap, as I understood at the time, in the cricket field, and died after a brief illness.

His mortal remains were deposited in the Bexhill new cemetery in the month of March, 1863, where also were placed the remains of his mother, two years later She died, at the age of 57, on the 29th of June, 1865, and the record of both events is inscribed on a superb marble monument, surrounded by a covered space of white and black marble, and the whole enclosed by a handsome rail, A somewhat curious distribution of the family after death is shown in the fact that whilst some of its members were interred at Battle, others have severally found graves in the cemeteries at Bexhill, Hawkhurst, Netherfield and Hastings. Another circumstance is that, as the head of the family and his son-in-law (Mr. Day) both died in 1845, and the fast surviving daughter has just recently expired, the year of which I am writing and the year in which I am writing are once more brought coincidently in association.

In the accompanying view of Battle Church may be seen close to, and on the left of, the well-kept pathway to the church, the raised monumental tombs of Mr. and Mrs. William Duke and their son, George, whilst at the east end of the church, on the right hand, and behind the large monumental vault of the Lawrences, in the foreground, is a similar monument over the grave of Mr. Day and his son.

Battle Church.png

Adjoining these are the graves of Mr. John Worge, and Aum, his wife, relatives of Mr. Duke's wife, who was a Miss Worge. Mr. Worge, at the age of 68, died, Oct. 30th, 1860, and Mrs.Worge, at the age of 73, on May 20th, 1859. An account of the Worge family, one of whom was married to one of the co-heiresses of John Collier, Esq., of Hastings (a great man in his day),is given in chapter CXL of The Premier Cinque Ports. Immediately opposite to the last-named tombs is that of Isaac Ingall, who at the age of 120 years died on the 2nd of April, 1798. All of the mural monuments here described are kept in an excellent state of preservation.

There is a story told of Isaac Ingall (who lived 90 years in service of the Websters at Battle Abbey) that for 40 years of his life he drank two gallons of holland per day, and that the copper tankard in which he used to warm it is now in the possession of Mr. Ticehurst. This story is too incredible for acceptance, and the reader will prefer my own version (given elsewhere in some memoirs of the old man) that it was his practice to warm some water containing spirits, which he called "shaving water."

On the 8th of October, 1854, the Duke of Wellington — who had several times visited Hastings before and after his Peninsular campaign — came to the Castle Hotel, it being then forty years after he took to himself a wife and resided in our midst, That said wife, the Duchess of Wellington, twenty three years before this last visit of the Duke, attended a fashionable ball and card-assembly at the Swan Hotel, when there were also present the Duchess of Richmond, the Marquis and Marchioness of Hertford, Lady Lavington, the Ladies Russell, Count Munster, Lady Stuart, the Ladies Lennox, and other aristocratic personages, of whom in those days it was the boast of Hastings to have an overflowing number. The Hon. and Rev. Dr. Wellesly, brother of the great Duke, together with his family, was also a frequent sojourner at Hastings for about a decade of years—say from 1817 to | 1827; first taking up his residence in The Croft (then the most fashionable part of Hastings), next at Pelham place (those houses being built in 1820), and lastly In Wellington square (after the name had been changed from Waterloo square) — both appellations being, of course, applied in honour of the great Duke and his crowning victory. His Grace’s visit in 1845 was said to be in connection with coast railways, of which he was a strong advocate. He came on from Eastbourne to St. Leonards and Hastings, and stayed, as already stated, at the Castle Hotel. Thence he proceeded via Hawkhurst to Staplehurst, there to take train on the South-Eastern railway to London. On one of his previous visits to this locality after the battle of Waterloo (Dec. 27th, 1816), the Duke went on to the town of Battle, where he was sumptuously entertained at the Abbey by Sir Godfrey and Lady Webster, the grand repast being partaken of in the elegant dining-room, then recently added to the ancient mansion. On that occasion, the Abbey guns were fired, and the church bells were made to ring right merrily. Apropos of the new dining-room, it may be stated that it was not the only improvement that had been effected at the time of the Duke of Wellington’s visit in 1816. For nearly two years — commencing in 1814 — artists and mechanics had been employed about the Abbey, and among the alterations and additions were three large windows of stained glass placed in the great hall.

Of the Battle people it may be said that in the early part of the century they were quite as demonstrative as were the people of Hastings, and many a time and oft had they an opportunity of showing it. One such occasion was that of Monday, October 31st, 1820, when the Duke of Sussex honoured Sir Godfrey Webster with a visit. His Royal Highness was drawn into the town by hand, amidst the ringing of bells, the firing of cannon, and the acclamations of the inhabitants.

He stayed three days at the Abbey, and then went onto Tunbridge Wells, where, in turn, he received Sir Godfrey and Lady Webster as his guests. A few weeks later (Nov. 20, 1820) Sir Godfrey and Lady Webster took their departure for a three years’ residence in France. It was then that the late Eliza Bergerét, usually called “ Madame,”’ entered the service of Lady Webster, as housekeeper, thence to remain for a period of nearly fifty years, Her ladyship, with Madame Bergerét, returned to England in a yacht of 140 tons, which Sir Godfrey purchased of Mr. Smith, in the Spring of 1824, and which after undergoing repairs and renovations at the hands of Messrs. Ransom and Ridley, was re-launched at Hastings on the 1st of June, when it immediately sailed for Calais. Taking London and Dover on her return, the yacht, together with another yacht, — the latter owned by Mr. Reynolds, - arrived at Hastings on the 22nd, of the same month, saluting the townspeople with her guns, and making a grand display of bunting by day and [ 284 ]fireworks by night. For several years Sir Godfrey's yacht made the Hastings ​road​stead a place of embarcation and debarkation, and its presence was hailed with as much delight or regarded with as much interest as in later times has been Sir Thomas Brassey’s. There is much that I could say in connection: with Sir Godfrey’s yacht and yachting, but I must here tack about, lest my own little barque ”History” get too far on a lee way.

Sir Godfrey Webster - Prince William - Longevity

I erroneously stated the yacht which Sir Godfrey Webster purchased of Mr. Smith in the Spring of 1824 was of 140 tons measurement. I ought to have said 64 tons. The one of greater burthen was a second cutter-rigged yacht which Mr. Smith had built for him, two years later. It was named the Menai, and was launched from Messrs. Ransom and Ridley’s yard at the so-called Priory, on Saturday, July 5th, 1826, and on the following Monday its sailing capabilities were tested against the Government cutter Arrow, when the new yacht proved herself to be much the faster sailer.

Having been led into a reminiscence of this train of events by the Duke of Wellington’s visit to Hastings in 1845 and by a previous visit in 1816, when he was sumptuously entertained by Sir Godfrey Webster while passing through Battle, I feel myself almost involuntarily drawn into a narrative of some other associations of a like import. On the 28th of June, 1818, there was 8 further great stir in Battle consequent upon - the Prince and Princess of Homburg going from Hastings to visit the noble proprietors of Battle Abbey. It was only on the day immediately preceding such event that Sir Godfrey and his lady made a triumphant entry into Battle, after the election of the former as a representative in Parliament for the eastern division of the county. Bells, guns, music and flags were all brought into requisition as aids to the general rejoicing. The election took place at Chichester, where the votes recorded from Hastings were 9 for Sir Godfrey Webster, 4 for Mr. Burrell, and 0 for Mr, Sugden. The first-named received 85 plumpers, and was at the head of the poll, the totals from all the rapes of the said Eastern Division being 267 for Webster, 170 for Burrell, and 122 for Sugden. Two years later (1820), at the General Election consequent upon the accession of George IV., Sir Godfrey was less fortunate, he having felt it prudent to withdraw from the contest because, as he said, of the ruinous expense. He was, however, quite the most popular candidate at Hastings, where the people took the horses from his carriage at the top of the town and drew him, with his lady and their little son, by hand, preceded by a band of music and a large number of freeholders on horseback, under the management of Messrs, Boykett and William Breeds. About 2,000 persons kept up an incessant volley of hurrahs, while les garcons, with a combination of compliment and malignity, shouted :

”Sir Godfrey for ever!
Put Curteis in the river,
With a knife in,his heart,
And a fork in his liver.”

The same battle-cry was shouted by the boys and the same feelings were evinced by the men in 1826 as were expressed and shown towards Sir Godfrey in 1820, he having once more contested a seat for the county with Mr. Curteis and others. He was a second time unsuccessful, although he received the unusual number of eleven hundred plumpers, among whom were about twenty from Hastings, who had to journey, some by land, and some by sea, to record their votes at Chichester.

From over the entrance of the Swan Hotel Sir Godfrey delivered an animated address on the principles of free and unbiassed attachment to King and country, in which he proclaimed himself an enemy to irreligion, blasphemy and rebellion. He afterwards canvassed the town and was well received, whilst Sir William Ashburnham, bearing Mr. Curteis’s colors(sic), was molested and his carriage impeded. The subsequent declaration of the poll was 2,420 for Burrell, 2,258 for Curteis, and 1,867 for Cavendish; Sir Godfrey, as before stated, having declined going to the poll. The redoubtable knight of Battle Abbey was at that time 31 years of age; and, whether regarded for his stature, his strength of limb or his fearless temperament, was every inch a man. He had a boulder thrown at his carriage while passing through Laughton on his way to Chichester to the Election above alluded to, when, turning upon his assailant—a sturdy carpenter — he got out of his carriage and gave the thrower of the missile such a specimen of his skill in the “Fancy” as did not make it probable that the fellow would soon forget the chastisement. Some of my readers will remember a similar punishment inflicted on a Mr. Stubberfield by the valiant knight when, on going over the old White-rock ​road​, the former, without provocation, set his dog to attack Sir Godfrey’s dog. But even that was not the first time that Sir Godfrey retaliated upon his assailant when a deliberate insult was offered him. Eleven years before he purchased Mr. Smith’s yacht — that is to say, on the 13th of September, 1813, a cutter-yacht of about 60 tons was launched from Ransom and Ridley’s yard, at what is now known as Wellington place, and to which Sir Godfrey gave the name of Nancy. Some time afterwards, while driving through Hastings his tilbury, his tandem or his four-in-band. — I know not which — Edward Tebay shouted out derisively “Hang up (or Bang up) your Nancy!” Quick as thought the stalwart baronet alighted and played 39 well with his whip as to make poor Tebay dance to the tune of Nancy-prancy.

An intimate friend of Sir Godfrey Webster was a Captain Bailey[b], who had a great penchant for dogs, and who was known to have no fewer than nine of the canine species at one time, When residing at Cobourg place, the Captain was struck with the disparity of size in the nasal organs of the two beadles, who were then the only guardians of the peace. Chatfield, nick-named calf's-nose, had an unusually large proboscis, whilst his brother officer might have complained that Nature had dealt very niggardly with him in that particular. With a view to equalise their condition, Capt. Bayley[b] told them he was in want of an expert carpenter and joiner, and if they wouid seek for one and bring him to his residence he.would pay them for their trouble. With much alacrity the two beadles wended their way to Mr. John Eaton, at 39 High street, as he had the reputation of being very efficient in his calling. Thus summoned, away went the Knight of the Shavings, in company with the two beadles, and on reaching the residence of the gentleman from whom he hoped o obtain a good order, he was desired to at once commence operations on the two beadles by sawing off the superabundance of nose which the one possessed and joining it to the one which in the other was so palpably deficient. The joke was adjudged too practical, and a chorus of indignation ensued; soon to be subdued, however, with the solatium of half-a-crown each, which had the effect of reducing the fortissimo trio to a dulcet duet.

But, to return to Battle Abbey and its festal associations in connection with Hastings and pre-urban St, Leonards, it may be stated that as did the Duke of Wellington in 1845, so did Prince William of Gloucester, in 1798, travel from Hastings to Battle, en route to London, His Royal Highness had probably paid a visit to the camp at Bopeep and Bulverhythe, whence he journeyed to Battle, with General Forbes and other military attendants, to chose a site for the erection of cavalry barracks in or near the Abbey town, where troops were already temporarily encamped. Sir Godfrey Vassal Webster — father of the baronet of whom I have here given some account — had enrolled himself as a private in the Cinque Ports Volunteer Cavalry, and was credited with being unremitting in his attendance at drill. He was also a member of Parliament and a Justice of the Peace. With all these associations, and as the owner of Battle Abbey, it was but a suitable manifestation of loyal etiquette for Sir Godfrey to invite Prince William to become his guest during his Royal Highness’ brief stay in the neighborhood(sic). The occasion is the more noteworthy in consequence of the Prince’s visit to a very old man who had seen more service in the Webster family and more stirring events in and about Battle than any other person then in existence. His name was Isaac Ingall, and he had lived at Battle Abbey upwards of 90 years, chiefly as butler. At the time here referred to (March 24th, 1798), Mr. Ingall had more than completed his 120th year, and was visited by Prince William and Gen. Forbes at his lodgings near the Chequers Inn. He received from the Prince a £1 note and a pound of snuff, and it was afterwards thought that the excitement consequent upon the honour thus paid him did not add anything to Ingall’s extraordinary longevity. Anyhow, he died nine days later, and was buried on the east side of Battle church, where a monumental slab may be seen in excellent preservation at the present time.

That was a period when a span of human life beyond the proverbial three-score-and-ten was by no means uncommon, notwithstanding the cry of hard times, when the air was laden with war's alarms and when people lived in unsanitary dwellings, ate rye bread, and drank unfiltered water. Within two years of Ingall’s death, his late master, Sir Godfrey Vassall Webster, the fourth baronet, also quitted his earthly existence; and within about the same period of time from the death of the veteran of six-score years there died in this part of the county a Mrs. Frewen, in her 89th year; a Mr. Carman, in his 90th; Thomas Wigmore, in his 103rd; Mrs. Woolgar, in her 90th; Sir William Ashburnham, in his 88th; Mr. John Russell, at 98 (68 of which he was employed as parish clerk); Mrs. Howes, in her 99th; Mr. Weston, at 94; Mrs. Preston, in her 92nd; a carpenter named Masters, at 96; Mrs. Dunn, at 102; Mr. Minshall, at 90; Mr. North, at 85; two women, at 97 and 100 respectively; Elizabeth Chatterton, at 92; John Thatcher, at 87; Sarah Cole, at 87; Mary Aylesbury, at 88; and Frances Bayley, at 92. The five last-named being Hastings people were buried in the ground attached to All Saints’ Church, and were of the number of octogenarians, nonogenarians(sic) and centenarians who, as I before stated, terminated life within about two years of the duodenarian Ingall. Fuller details of these and other matters alluded to are intended to be given at some subsequent period in a collective and revised form, for which purpose — to use a stereotyped phrase — all rights are reserved. I may mention, ere I close the present instalment, that in 1810 a Lady Webster died at Battle Abbey at the age of ’ 84. She was, I believe, the great aunt of Sir Godfrey Webster whom I knew, and whose coming of age was celebrated two months before his aunt's demise with many tokens of festivity. These included a sumptuous banquet at the George Hotel, on which occasion a fine turtle was presented by Mr. John Fuller, of Catsfield place, and was partaken of by several influential persons from Hastings, who were among the invited guests.

As before intimated, I have much more to relate of the Webster family in connection with Hastings, but as it would carry me back over a period of two or three generations, It may be well to re-introduce this personal narrative at a later stage.

Among the minor events of 1845 not hitherto noticed were the following:— On the 25th of March Mr, William Chamberlin (a good friend to education) lectured to the members of the Mechanics’ Institution on Phrenology. On Whit-Monday (May 12th) the Friendly Society celebrated its 30th anniversary with the customary procession, church-service, dinner at the Swan, and amusements on the East hill, Eight days later, the first annual dinner took place at the Hastings Arms among the members of the Hastings and St. Leonards Philanthropic Society and the Prince-Albert Lodge of Oddfellows, On the 10th of July, two of the Hastings fishing boats netted 6,000 mackerel, for which they obtained a good sum of money; and on the 2nd of November, no fewer than 60 lasts (700,000) herrings were landed by 26 boats, the fish realising from £9 to £12 per last. On the 7th of Jul, the death was announced of the veteran reformer Earl Grey, and on the day of his funeral, many tradesmen of both towns showed their respect by partly closing their places of business. On the 24th of September, the second of the year’s Horticultural Exhibitions was(sic) held in the Swan Assembly-room, the first show having been held in the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms. For several years, these indoor exhibitions were invariably successful, the elements of success being a keen competition for fairly good prizes, an economical management of the expenses, an appreciated band of music which cost only two guineas, and a ​building​ in which the visitors were sheltered in case of wet weather. All this — not even excepting the success — is now changed.

References & Notes

  1. The Ophecleide and Serpent are brass bass instruments - the Ophecleide perhaps being best described as an unrolled Tuba with keys like a saxophone as opposed to valves. The Serpent is similar, although stretched out to resemble a snake. The other unusual spelling is that of clarionet - this being an obsolete name for the clarinet - Transcriber
  2. a b Brett spells this name as Bailey or Bayley as may be seen elsewhere in this paragraph - Transcriber