Brett Volume 3: Chapter XXXV - St. Leonards 1846
| This is a verbatim transcription of Brett’s work, which comprised both manuscript and typescript cuttings, and therefore reproduces Brett’s variations in style, capitalisation, punctuation and spelling. The only alterations made have been to the pagination and images whereby both page titles and images have been moved to the most appropriate paragraph as opposed to where they were pasted into the texts by the author. Where possible, personal names have been checked against census, parish records, contemporary newspaper reporting and the Central Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths. A number of footnotes have been inserted by the transcriber when this has been thought to be useful.
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Chapter XXXV - St. Leonards 1846
The History of St.Leonards.
Commissioners and parochial officers
Rating the Brighton railway
Improving the West Marina road
New houses for Mr. Burton and Miss Dynely
The “Old England Bank" (with view)
The spring at White Rock
Preparing roads for dedication
Brighton railway opened in Bulverhythe and the event celebrated
Stage coaches ceased running and the same lamented in song
Railway accident near Pevensey
A rush from Shoreham
Life sketch of Signora Berrurier
A new site for the National Schools
Orders to re-prepare 33 of the towers for defence
Lucrative supply of material when first built, by Hastings men.
[ 285 ]
Bopeep Fair and "Old England Bank" - Rating the Brighton Railway
I begin the year, as usual, with a list of Commissioners and parochial officers, the first-named being Major Jeffries, Alfred Burton, Capt. Davies, C. H. Southall, Thomas Brown, Samuel Chester, sen., Decimus Burton, Robert Deudney, and one or two others.
The St. Leonards parish officers were John Painter and Robert Eldridge, overseers; Edward Farncomb and Robert Deudney, surveyors of highways; Wm Noon and Newton Parks, assessors for the inbounds; Edward Farncomb and Richard Lamb, assessors for the outbounds, and John Phillips, vestry clerk.
The officers for the parish of St. Mary Magdalen were Edward Mitchell and Chas. Ni eve, overseers; John Austin and George Voysey, surveyors; C. V. Levett and William Noon, assessors.
The Borough Members were Robert Hollond and Musgrave Brisco, and the Borough Mayor, till November, was John Hornby Maw.
The Commissioners’ Clerk having renewed an application to the Gas Company for a better supply under a threat of taking steps to enforce the due performance of the contract, a letter was received at a meeting of the board to the effect that the Company were willing to abide by the decision of any person experienced in gas-work as to whether they were fulfilling their contract. At the same meeting a letter was received from the Town-Clerk of Hastings, suggesting to the Commissioners the propriety of extending the period of lighting, as a means of preventing accidents. No motion was made on the contents of either communication, but some of the members thought that the reply of the Company and the unasked-for suggestion of the Council arriving at the same time, indicated evasion on the one part and collusion on the other. Such a thought was perhaps not unnatural as springing out of the coincidence; but as touching the Gas Company it is quite possible that their secured monopoly made them no more liberal to their customers in those days than they have been during the years that have since expired. Perhaps the Commissioners were of opinion that it behoved them to be liberal, despite what they held to be something less than liberal on the part of the Gas Company; and so, when Mr. Wellsted wanted a York-stone pavement in front of his house next the “Fountain” in lieu of the one of bricks, he was told that the Commissioners would allow him £3 5s. towards the expense. Seeing that Mr. Wellsted’s house at that time stood right away from the direct line of public traffic, the offer would seem to be by no means illiberal. But it should be stated that very considerable improvements were then being made in that neighbourhood, some portion of which had hitherto been a veritable slough of despond. Mr, Putland had attended a committee meeting and had suggested the desirability of improving the road from the Fountain (Marina) to the Brighton Railway Company’s proposed bridge at Bopeep, which he thought the Company might do at a comparatively small expense. Mr. Briggs, as solicitor to the Company, was written to, but did not deem it expedient to reply. The Commissioners, however, before the year was out, effected such alterations and improvements within their own jurisdiction as the new railway traffic had rendered necessary. They raised the road opposite to the Fountain so as to place it on a level with the heightened road between the western entrance of the town and the railway station, and widened the more eastern portion that led to the West Marina, which then extended only to 116, now known as 127. The expense of this, together with that of extending the drains, was party borne by the town and partly by Mr. Burton. In consequence also of the new traffic from the railway the Commissioners caused six additional lamps to be erected beyond the one at 105 Marina, which until then was the most western, The work of improvement did not even stop there; as, in consequence of raising and widening the road, it was felt to be necessary to raise also the kerb and footpath between the Sussex Hotel and 71 Marina — that is to say on the space which has since been filled in by the palatial residences numbered 72 to 109. The narrow parade — which now lies buried beneath one of the best esplanades on the coast — was also somewhat improved by being levelled up from its then inconvenient slope. Farther eastward on the parade there was a confectioner’s shop in the occupation of W. M. Eldridge, the said shop being now rented by Whittaker as a reading-room. As this shop in 1846 could not be approached by a direct path from the Hotel side of the road, and visitors were inconvenienced thereby, the iron railing was readjusted and an opening effected, which remains to this day. A further reference to the parade is made in some resolutions which the Commissioners passed in 1846, and to quote which will bring some familiar names to the recollection of many elderly inhabitants, although their possessors have all gone hence to be no more seen of men. “Resolved that James Reed’s services on the parade be discontinued, and that Thomas Crouch be employed permanently now that Dabney is no longer capable of working either on the parades or the roads. Also that Walter Carey be appointed coal meter in addition to John Peerless and John French.”
At the same meeting of the Board, Mr. Bannister attended on behalf of Mr. Robert Hollond, M.P., for permission to put down private drains from two houses of his in Mercatoria, out of the limits of the Commissioners’ Act, the same to communicate with the main sewer within their jurisdiction, I happen to know that the two houses in question were built and occupied by the late Thomas Towner, one of the earliest settlers in St. Leonards, but it does not become me to say how it was that the said houses - small in size and humble in appearance - became the property of a Member of Parliament. The application to the Commissioners was, however, complied with under certain conditions, as was also a similar application from the Misses Dyneley who purposed building a house above North Lodge which was also outside of the Board’s jurisdiction. At the same meeting was accepted an offer of Mr. Decimus Burton to construct a drain from Mazehill house northward to his own new house, Mazehill Cottage, on condition that he be paid proportionately for the outlay when other houses in that part of the town became available for rating. This was but one of many instances of that gentleman’s proposals to ease the liabilities of the Commissioners, whose exchequer was never too full, and whose borrowing powers were limited.
The vestry meetings for the St. Leonards parish continued to be held during 1846 at the “New England Bank” — so well known to the frequenters of Bopeep Fair and to the soldiers at the Bopeep Barracks, as well as to many who attended the annual races, — whose site had not yet given place to the station of the Brighton and Hastings Railway Company. Its doom had been pronounced, however, even before the 27th of June, when the railway was opened as far as Bulverhithe; but ere that work was accomplished, the overseers and parishioners signalised their last meeting in the old hostelry by levying rates against the newcomer. The meeting was held on the 11th of November, when it was resolved "That the Railway Company be rated from Bulverhithe parish to the arch over the road, 888 yards, and at Bopeep 110 yards — 110 being within the Corporation, and 473 yards in the outbounds — at the rate of £450 per mile. The rates then agreed upon were a poor-rate at 3d.,a borough rate at 3d., a highway-rate at 6d., and a county rate at 8d. These rates were, of course, independent of the Commissioners’ rate at 1s. in the pound for the half year.
The accompanying sketch is a fair representation of the old house and its adjuncts, except that the swinging sign and post are too far in the background and the tea-room, so-called, looms too large on the higher ground leading over the hill to the Filsham Valley where was the race-course.
The vestry meetings for the St. Mary Magdalen parish during the same year were no fewer than eight in number, and were variously held at the “South Saxon,” the ‘Horse and Groom,” the “Anchor” and the “Albert.” Rating matters would naturally occupy much attention at these parish meetings, and here it may be stated that some contention having arisen as to whether two new houses erected for Mr. Wastel Brisco should be rated to St. Michael’s parish or to St. Mary Magdalen’s, it was resolved “ That the two new houses in dispute, belonging to Wastel Brisco, in the new London road, be assessed for all rates to this parish in the futute.’ The two houses in question, if my memory is not at fault, were first named 1 and 2 St. Michael’s place, but now known as Dorset place. The rates levied for the Magdalen parish were much the same as those for St. Leonards, except that the property outside the jurisdiction of the St. Leonards Commissioners was not assessed for what was familiarly known as the two-shillings improvement rate. Mr. Everett was the rate-collecter(sic), and the ways and means by which he was to enforce payment of rates and arrears was almost the sole business of two entire meetings; the only other transaction being a resolution that the chairman (Mr, W. Chamberlin) write to Mr. Wood, of Lewes, for his promised payment of rates for the Saxon Hotel. Mr. Wood was then the proprietor of the house, the business of which, after Mr. H. P. Hutchings’s want of success, was being conducted by Mr. Gabriel V. Daniel. One large item of expense to the non-incorporated portion of the parish was that of lighting and watering the roads where there was not property enough for an equivalent rating, and by way of minimizing such expenses, [ 286 ]It was resolved at a meeting on the 13th of April that the surveyors were not to expend more than £30 during the following twelve months for watering the roads. At the end of that period there would be a greater amount of rateable property, including the twenty new houses between the Infirmary and the range of buildings then known as White Rock and Albert place, the said new buildings forming what are now Nos, 1 to 20 White-rock place. Old inhabitants will remember that before the steep road over the White Rock was cut down, some ten years prior to the year now under consideration, there was a spring of excellent water which issued from the cliff on the Hastings side of the hill, and from which many of the ”.” before their exodus from the Holy Trinity parish, were supplied with water. Concerning this spring, Mr. Phillips (a solicitor) made a personal application at one of the meetings on behalf of the owners of the projected buildings to divert the water course by draining into the sea. On more matured consideration it was probably deemed to be a wiser plan to preserve the water for the use of the new houses when erected. The property owners securing to themselves an alternate course if it were afterwards found desirable. Thence, a letter was received at a subsequent meeting in which Mr. Phillips withdrew. his first application, but stated that he would require at a future time the consent of the surveyors to open the highway for draining the water, That spring at which I many times quenched my. thirst, - as though it were but yesterday, albeit 70 years ago — is still in the rear of White-rock place, and thus available for the supply of water to some of the central houses.
At the last vestry meeting for that year, which was on the 17th of December, and which was very numerously attended, it was resolved “That it is the opinion of this meeting that the roads east and west of Warrior square, the Norman roads (East and West), Gensing road, Shepherd street, North street, East street, and the Catholic road, should be put in proper repair and dedicated to the parish; and that application be made to the parties concerned for their sanction.“ A committee for that purpose was appointed, consisting of W. Noon, B. Tree, W. M. Eldridge, H. Knight, S. Putland, E. Mitchell and W. Waghorne. When one recollects how in those days almost every householder had to be his own path-maker and road-mender, and how much, even at its best, the work of his hands fell short of what the roads and paths are at the present time, one is apt to indulge in a feeling not far removed from contempt towards those who are continually complaining of their immensely improved condition as one now sees them. It is not to be supposed from this remark that the parochial officers were either indifferent to public requirements or parsimonious in the application of funds within reasonable limits, but it may be doubted whether the materials used were not of the worst description.
These in most cases were beach and sand, which not only made the roads loose and heavy, but from the little wear they would sustain, were comparatively expensive. The natural defences of the sea could be robbed of their beach, it is true, but the bare cartage of the same cost a lot of money. The St. Leonards parish itself paid Messrs. Farncomb, Deudney and Eldridge nearly £40 for such cartage in 1846, and that was a small amount compared with similar services for some other years.
One Railway Accident and nearly Another - Discovery of Iguanodon Skeletons
But, leaving for the present the further consideration of ordinary roads, I turn once more to report progress of the railways, which at that time was the more engrossing theme. On the 3rd of January — a Saturday, by-the-bye — upwards of a hundred men were set to work at the Bopeep end of the Brighton line, and a hope was expressed that the task of cutting down the cliff and levelling up the hollows would be completed by the first of May. As will be seen further on, this consummation was not attained to within the wished-for time, but the work was, nevertheless, pushed on with all convenient speed. It is almost inevitable in undertakings of that nature for some few accidents to occur, but the only one that I seem to have any note of was that which befell a little fellow of the name of Rock. The child was about 8 years of age, and while he, in the company of his grandfather, was looking at the operations at Bopeep, he was knocked down and run over by an empty truck, whereby one of his legs was broken below the knee and bruises were inflicted on other parts of his body. This occurred on the 23rd of May; and a month later, the line was completed as far as Bulverhithe, At this spot a temporary station was erected, and here it was that on the 20th of June about thirty of the railway officials and their friends alighted from a trip along the line previously to its being opened for public traffic. The journey had been satisfactorily performed, and the visitors, with some townsmen especially interested in the undertaking, dined together at the Swan Hotel. The first Station-master or Station-clerk at St. Leonards — was Mr. J. P. Knight, the late efficient and and highly respected General-manager of the Company.
The trial trip was on Saturday, and on the following Saturday (June 27th), the first train from Brighton reached Bulverhithe for St, Leonards at 11.20 a.m. Guns were immediately fired and colors were run up at convenient places in both towns, while the bells of St. Clement’s church rang out joyous peals and 70 persons dined together at the Royal Oak to further celebrate the event. At night a display of fireworks was exhibited on the St. Leonards Green - or, as it was then termed, Gingerbread Green — and lighted tar-barrels were rolled down the hill to the beach. One of the coaches which ran to meet the South-Eastern trains at Staplehurst was taken off the same day, and the old Brighton coach, driven by the well-known Jonathan Mose, was also discontinued. The inhabitants generally were naturally delighted at the introduction of a railway to the borough, not only for the greater facilities thus afforded them for personal travel, but also for the prospect which it opened up of increased prosperity through the influx of strangers. Doubtless, however, there were still some whose penchant for the stage-coach had not entirely forsaken them, and who would have readily endorsed the metrical lament which about that time appeared in the Sussex Express, a portion of which, in a somewhat altered form, is here reproduced:-
THE BYGONE COACHES,
We ceaselessly groan o'er the days that are gone,
On railways cast bitter reproaches;
Lamenting our lot in a lachrymose tone
In losing our daily stage coaches.
When perched on the box with a qualified whip,
To roll on in dignified leisure,
And view the rich landscape the whole of the trip,
'Twas really the summit of pleasure.
Alas ! a sad change has come over our dream,
Our prospects have fled ”willy nilly,”
Our stages have bowed to the newcomer steam,
Our horses to proud “ Puffing Billy.”
A beautiful sight was a coach on the road—
Bewitching, exciting, beguiling—
Each house which it passed was a pleasant abode,
Where lasses were nodding and smiling.
A train in fierce motion we know is no joke—
All phases of danger assuming;
Enveloped in volumes of cinder and smoke,
And grunting, and groaning and fuming.
It pulleth not up at the gay roadside inn,
Which once was the pride of the nation;
But puts on the brake with a horrible din,
As if to affright at each station
Yet, great locomotive ! in this our farewell,
We own to your wonderful powers;
And humbly confess, as the truth we must tell,
Your metals have circumscribed ours.
Having described the opening of the Brighton and Hastings Railway as it was accomplished on the 27th of June, and the means employed to celebrate the same, it is now my less pleasing duty to chronicle a serious collision which happened on Monday, the 24th day of August. Between Lewes and Bulverhithe a single line of rails only was available for the traffic both ways, and on the day named, a train of trucks being on a siding near Pevensey, with the points of the metals not turned off, a passenger train unavoidably collided with the trucks, and a sad scene of confusion, attended by personal injury, ensued. The buffers of both engines gave way, and the tender of one of them was thrown off the line, The driver and stoker of the passenger train exerted themselves bravely to prevent the collision, but with a train speeding along at a rate of 40 miles an hour, and with so momentary a warning of the danger, the contact was unavoidable. These two men were among the forty persons who received injuries through the accident, but it was consoling to know that no death occurred, and that among the injuries sustained only one was of a serious nature. The latter case was that of the Rev. Mr. Brown, who had his left leg fractured, and who was conveyed to 42 Marina, where his family was residing.
The accident here described reminds one of the narrow escape from an accident on the same company’s line which the present writer experienced in the following year when returning with a party from the Swiss Gardens. The party in question was one of those summer outings which the then Dowager Lady Lubbock permitted and encouraged at her own expense; ana that the excursionists might be able to return by the last train from Brighton at night, it was arranged that a train from Chichester should be stopped by signal at Shoreham to take them on. By some mischance, the train was allowed to go by, and the only apparent remedy was for the station-master to attach a single carriage to an engine that was being employed to convey empty carriages from Brighton to Shoreham. to be afterwards filled by Brighton people whose custom it was to prolong their stay at the Gardens on special fete days, of which that occasion was one. To catch the Hastings train from Brighton, our single-carriage express travelled the short distance from Shoreham with great speed, but in consequence of some wrong action or want of action in the points, the engine, with its tender and carriage, dashed on to a siding and into a shed. Fortunately, the speed had been considerably slackened, with the object of curving steadily round to the station; and this reduced velocity, aided by a vigorous application of the brakes, enabled the party to come off with nothing worse than an actual attack of fear and trembling, as a memento of the event.
In addition to the Hastings Whit-Monday processions, described in chap. 36, was that of the St. Leonards "Adelaide Lodge of Oddfellows", so named in consequence of the Queen Dowager having resided at St. Leonards. It was the 7th anniversary of the society, and the dinner was served in the Lodge-room at the Warrior's Gate by Mr Burrell, who was then the innkeeper. Mr. Peter Pagden, of the White-rock Brewery, presided, Mr. John Austin occupied the vice-chair, and Mr. E. Elford was the pianist. Mr. T. B. Brett, as secretary, submitted a detailed statement - financial and otherwise — of the society, and was called upon to repeat an appropriate sentimental song, the first of a series which he composed and sang on such occasions for several years.
On December 2nd, some 40 or 50 tradesmen and other persons inaugurated the opening of the Coach-and-Horses, in Mews road, St. Leonards, by dining together in a new assembly room which had been attached to the original house. The new landlord was Mr. Edwin Hooper, a man of considerable energy and of a genial disposition. He had been coachman to Mr. Fuller, of whose generosity and eccentricity much could be told. Mr. James Rock, jun., was chairman at this dinner, and performed the duties in an admirable manner, as those who know how well that gentleman afterwards discharged the more onerous duties of Alderman and Mayor, will readily believe.
It may be mentioned, as a reminder of an energetic man who no longer lives, of house not now in existence, and of a practice now discontinued, that on the 17th of November Mr. W. M. Eldridge presided at a Hop Sweepstakes dinner at the Tivoli Tavern, a house to which were attached some pretty public tea-gardens, where quadrilles, picnics and pyrotechnics used to be indulged in, and where a fair was annually held in celebration of ”The Glorious First of June.” That spot was afterwards occupied by a mansion known as "Silverlands", and has more recently been made available for the erection of nearly 70 houses of the name of Silverlands road. It was in digging a basement for Silverlands mansion that the workers discovered the skeleton of a gigantic iguanodon, and one also of a younger one.
The last event of a festive character which it suits me to mention is one which took place at Vinehall and is here only entitled to notice from its local associations. It was a grand ball and supper given by Mr. Tilden Smith, a relation of the late Mr. Francis Smith, a well-known Hastings banker, and among the invited guests were many ladies and gentlemen from Hastings and St. Leonards. Mr. Elford, of the latter town, supplied an efficient band on that occasion, and introduced Acraman’s “ Battle Polka.“
That History often repeats itself in “one phase or another has been abundantly shown in the many coincidences which I have had occasion to bring under notice. It has often happened that at the moment of writing some event has transpired of a similar character to that which it came in my way to describe as having occurred many years before; and now just as I am about to relate a contention which took place in 1846 under the divergent influences of Romanism and Protestantism, it comes to my hearing that the activity of Romanism is again locally asserting itself against its rival in Theology. As the story of the latter is the shortest I will give it the first place. Nearly forty years ago — it might have been the very year to which my “History ” has advanced — an Italian lady named Mariette Berrurier joined the family of Mr. G. H. M. Wagner at Hurstmonceux as French and Italian governess, with whom she remained until the family went abroad. On their return from the Continent, and taking up their abode at St. Leonards, the said had accepted the offer of a similar engagement at the Misses Edgar’s seminary, and for many years they continued to take an interest in her, their protege in the mean time becoming naturalised and embracing — or it might be, confirming herself in — the Protestant faith. The story of her earlier life, as frequently told by herself, was that she had been placed by her parents in a convent, where she remained for several years, but from which she succeeded ultimately in effecting an escape. For nearly forty years this lady continued to make St. Leonards her home, and well known in genteel circles under the familiar appellation of Signora. She was usually of a chatty, lively disposition, and resided successively at London road, East ascent, Stanhope place and Gensing road; at which last-named place she died on the 25th of June, 1884 after a not very protracted illness. She was then in her 82nd year, having reached her 81st birthday anniversary on the 15th of January. She was buried three days later in the Catholic portion of the borough cemetery, her remains (contained in an Egyptian coffin, covered with blue cloth and white furniture) being conveyed to their resting place in a funeral car, drawn by white horses. The novelty of the arrangement attracted a large crowd of sight-seers, many among whom having known Signora’s long attachment to the Protestant faith and her attendance as a communicant at St. Leonards church, expressed surprise at seeing the obsequies conducted in Roman fashion. It seemed to be understood that during the illness of the deceased lady the ministrations of the Protestant clergymen were supplanted by those of a Catholic priest through the instrumentality of interested friends of the same persuasion.
Generous Gifts by A. and D. Burton - Mail & Postal Service
The population of St. Leonards had so greatly increased that in 1846 the National Schools at the top of East Ascent were found to be altogether inadequate to meet the requirements, and a public meeting was therefore held in the Assembly Rooms, to consider what was best to be done in the matter. It was shown that the building then in use was open to serious objections - firstly, on account of its situation in a crowded part of the town, without a playground and the usual conveniences; secondly, in the want of space and proper ventilation; and, thirdly, from the dilapidated state of the walls, which would cause the necessary enlargement and improvement to be very expensive, and still of doubtful efficiency. After full discussion it was resolved, on the motion of Mr. Alfred Burton, “that a committee be appointed to assist the officiating clergyman with advice and co-operation in temporal matters affecting the schools; also that a new site be purchased and subscriptions collected for the building of schools on a scale commensurate with the increasing wants of this important district.” For carrying out these objects a committee was then and there formed, composed of the Rev. A. Pettigrew, the Rev. H. C. Smith, the Rev. C. Oak, Capt. Davis, Capt. Hull, Major Jeffries, Alfred Burton, G. F. Jarman Esq., Mr. Murton (per[ 287 ]manent secretary), and Messrs, Deudney, Southall, Peerless, Gilbert, Hawkins and Painter. It was also understood that the Rev. Mr. Ashworth would preach a sermon on behalf of the new undertaking, and that the National Society should be applied to for pecuniary aid. No time was lost in getting to work, as only twelve days had elapsed when a second meeting was held, at which it was announced that Mr. Decimus Burton, with his usual generosity, had offered to give a piece of ground for the new schools, together with designs, plans and sections; also that Mr. Alfred Burton, with similar liberality, had offered to give the stone required for the building, to sell a cottage and ground for the use of a schoolmaster and mistress for £250, and to allow £125 for the old schoolrooms. These offers were readily accepted and the thanks of the committee given to those two gentlemen for their kindness. Mr. D. Burton’s estimate for the new schools, to include walls, fences and out-buildings, was about £900. A subscription list was immediately opened, but as it was the time of year when the winter visitors were leaving and the principal residents were also away from home, the list did not fill up very rapidly. In the mean time, however, at a meeting held on the 11th of May, the Rev. C. V. H. Sumner was appointed treasurer, and a fresh schoolmaster and mistress, with the sanction of the Bishop, were appointed at a salary of £765 per annum for the two. That amount for two competent head-teachers would not, I suppose, be very eagerly accepted in the present day, although it was, I believe, an advance on previous salaries. The part which the present writer had been prevailed on to undertake in re-organising the school in the old building has been described in an earlier chapter; and it is satisfactory to know that not only was the improved system then insisted upon ultimately, though tardily, sanctioned, but that, at a later period, the curriculum was further enlarged under the able guidance of Mr. and Mrs. Gibson.
A meeting was held at the Rev. G. D. St. Quintin’s residence in the summer, and among some minor transactions the Rev. Mr. Braithwaite and the Rev. Mr. Phipps were added to the committee. At the same place, on the 20th of November, Mr. W. Chamberlin withdrew from the committee, and a resolution was passed to exempt children of Dissenters from attending church on Sundays, but the parents to be asked to see that the children attend their own place of worship. his was a resolution which even in the present day might be copied in some districts with approval. It was stated that up to that date the amount of money collected or promised for the new schools was £382; that an unsuccessful application had been made to her Majesty for a subscription; and that altogether about £400 was expected from the National Society, the Privy Council, and the Diocesan Board. There remained much to be done before the new building could be commenced and completed, and as that was among the events of another year, I will now turn to some other matters.
In the month of October, orders were received from the military authorities to prepare thirty-three of the Martello towers between Hastings and Seaford for the reception of guns, These towers, it will be remembered, were built for the protection of a very exposed coast during the long war with France, when England was threatened with invasion and the Channel swarmed with pirates by whom our merchant vessels and fishing-boats were almost daily carried off even while at anchor in the roadstead. It may not be in the knowledge of our readers that the said towers were commenced on the 15th of April, 1805, and that the Messrs. Longley and other Hastings builders were among those who contracted for the work; also that Messrs. Henry Farncomb, Thomas Farncomb, Thomas Breeds and Mark Breeds made a profit of many thousand pounds by supplying lime, bricks and other materials for the erection of the towers [See Brett's history of the Farncombs].
That the work was well executed there was abundance of proof afforded some years ago, when it required many hours pounding with powerful Armstrong guns even to partially destroy one of them at Bexhill and another at Eastbourne.
I have already described the opening of the London, Brighton and South-Coast Railway on the 20th of June as far as Bulverhithe, and I may now say that the day-mail from Hastings to London via Staplehurst, and the South-Eastern Railway, was discontinued on Saturday, Oct. 31st, and that on the following Monday the bags were conveyed by the Brighton line. This was regarded as a decided boon, as the mail was made up at 9 a.m., instead of the previously inconvenient time of 6.45 a.m.
In consequence of the South-Eastern Railway being now available to travelers(sic) from Hastings and St. Leonards at Tunbridge Wells, the Regulator Stagecoach, better known as “The White Coach ”— or coaches, as there were necessarily two, for the up and down journey daily — ceased running to London before the winter set in, and so limited the journeys to between these towns and Tunbridge Wells. Elderly people will remember Mr. Avery and Mr. Paul (Old Charlie, as the latter was familiarly dubbed) as among the popular whips of the period, and as the four inhand drivers of the Regulator. The Express, usually termed the White Coach, continued the daily all-through journey until about the month of November, when its journeys were reduced to thrice a week; that is to say, one day up and the next day down. I have heretofore stated that the day-mail to London was transferred from the road to the rail on the 2nd of November, since which time, it may be added, there has been a progressive improvement in the mail service the extent of which can only be appreciated to the full by those who are familiar with all the changes. Such of my readers as have followed this history from the beginning, will remember that when treating of the year 1839, I gave a detailed account (extending over nine or ten columns) of the mail-service and postal service in general prior to the introduction of the Penny Post system. A few further details, however, as applying to mail coaches will not be out of place. The traveling(sic) pace of the Hastings four-horse mail-coaches was ten miles an hour, or a fraction over nine miles an hour, inclusive of the time occupied in changing horses. The horses employed were nearly as many as there were miles to be traversed, each set of horses being at work only about one hour in the twenty-four; and even at that they did not retain their usefulness more than four or five years Supposing each animal to have cost from twenty to thirty guineas, and his keep and attendance to about £2 per week, the proprietors would require his earnings to be from four to five pounds per mile. This rate of income would, have to be derived from passengers and parcels, in addition to the contract price for conveying the mails. When it is recollected that the passenger fares were generally 24s. inside and 15s. outside, it seems almost marvellous that these rates of 2d. and 2⅝d. per mile — a trifle over present first and second class railway charges — could be remunerative to the proprietors. I have said nothing of the salaries of the coachmen, although these, perhaps, were not very considerable, the coachmen, like the guards, and like the cab-drivers of the present day, mainly depending on the ”tips” of the passengers. The wages of the guards, which were paid by Government, were but 10s, a week, a sum quite disproportionate to the average amount of perquisites. I was never informed of the cost of a mail-coach, as it came from the maker’s hands, but it must have been a good round sum; for, to ensure both strength and speed, its construction was regarded as a triumph of ingenuity. It was customary, I believe, to have an extra set of wheels to take the place of those which required reparation. The wear and tear of those would be very great, especially of the fore wheels, which being only 40 inches in diameter, as against the 50 inches of the hind wheels, would necessarily revolve a greater number of times and oftener require new tires.
- An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022