Brett Volume 4: Chapter XLIV - Hastings 1850

From Historical Hastings

Transcriber’s note

Chapter XLIV Hastings 1850

The Hastings Commissioners (pg. 20)
Town Council doings (pg. 22)
Agitation for cheaper gas (pg. 36)
Charity Trusts (pg. 22)
Priory Culvert (pg. 23)
Money in Chancery (pg. 24)
Removal of rocks (pg. 24)
Grand banquet to the Lord Mayor of London (pg. 24)
Condolence to Lady Peel (pg. 25)
Mr. Cresy's report on the sanitary condition of the borough (pg. 25)
Municipal elections (pg. 26)
The burgesses in a fix (pg. 26)
Civic festivals (pg. 27)
The Regatta (pg. 33)
Hastings and the Great Exhibition (pg. 35)
Gas consumers v the Gas Company (pg. 36)
Railway matters (pg. 42)
The Road Coach (pg. 48)
Commencement of Robertson Street, etc. (pg. 48)
Marine casualties and curiosities (pg. 50)
Accidents and Incidents (pg. 52)
Terrible fall from the cliff (pg. 54)
"Robinson Crusoe Caves". (pg. 55)
Proposed baths and wash houses (pg. 65)
Music hath charms (pg. 65)
"The Church a robber" (pg. 61)
Bank robbery (pg. 61)
Shipping (pg. 66)
16,200 old pennies saved (pg. 56)
Dinners, teas and treats (pg. 66)
Union house rarities (pg. 57)
Forgery of £5 notes etc., etc. (pg. 58)

[ 21 ]

The Hastings Commissioners

Having viewed the proceedings of the St. Leonards Commissioners during 1850, I will now summarise the transactions of the Hastings Commissioners during the same year.

Their first meeting was on the 7th of January, when John Goddard, Richard Martin and A. Thorpe, newly elected members qualified as such.

On a complaint that there were too many fly-stands in front of York Buildings, it was ordered that the number be reduced from 8 to 5. No answer had been received from any of the parties concerned as to whether they would contribute to the expense of lowering the Priory culvert for drainage purposes. Also no reply had come from the Railway Company nor from the Woods and Forests. The joint owners of the Priory farm (Lady Waldegrave and Earl Cornwallis) wanted more information thereupon.

Mr. Paine was desirous of seeing the town properly drained. He thanked the committee for having bestowed so much time and labour on the plans and estimates, but there must have been some great error in their calculations. The proposed main drain, 1,610 yards, was less than a mile, for which the estimate was £2,300.

Also at a special meeting on Jan. 21st., after Mr. E. Bowmer had qualified, Mr. W. J. Gant’s offer of a survey and plans of the town was accepted.

In a town similar to Hastings, he found that 7 miles of main drainage had been laid down for £5,000; so that their own estimate was too high. They should be very cautious in spending such a sum of money on work which, after all, the Board of Health might not approve. On a late occasion a gentleman offered to prepare a plan, showing every drain in the town, every house that had water on and every house with proper sanitary arrangements for 100 guineas, and that gentleman [Mr. Gant] was still willing to undertake it. He would therefore move "that before any further steps be taken, the town be properly surveyed."

Mr. Harman had every confidence in the committee’s capability, notwithstanding that it had been said that the Commissioners sat from time to time without doing any good for the borough. He contended that there never was a question introduced that did not receive due consideration. He, however, approved of Mr. Paine’s; motion, and believed if they could get the town properly surveyed for a hundred guineas it would be money well spent.

Mr. Vidler presumed that both the surveyor and the committee knew how to take levels, knew the quantities in a certain space, and the price of brick-work and digging; and it was on this knowledge that they prepared their estimate.

Mr. Shirley opposed the estimate as being extravagant, and hoped to see the town drained at less cost.

Mr. Womersley would support Paine’s motion, and had no doubt that Mr. Gant would do the surveying as Government would require. — Motion carried unanimously.

The office of coal meter having become vacant by the death of David Brazier, four candidates were proposed, when the votes were 28 for George Brazier (the deceased‘s brother), 25 for Robert Plane, 10 for Robert Hinkley, and 1 for William Wellerd.

Mr. Gant arrived at Hastings, agreeably to the appointment of the Commissioners, for the purpose of surveying the town, and on the 4th of February, the Commissioners at their meeting received a letter from the Woods and Forests Commissioners respecting a contribution for lowering the Priory culvert, which stated that the Crown Lands adjoining the culvert had been let on a lease of 99 years.

A communication was also received from Mr. C. F. Mott that he rejected the application to set back the fence of a house in York Buildings occupied by Mr. Womersley.

At their meeting on the 4th of March the Commissioners accepted Mr. Howell's tender of £81 9s. 6d. for ​building​ a six-stall stable at the Ash-yard; the higher tenders for the same ranging from £89 to £120.

The dedication of Russell street and Bedford place was the next business, Mr. W. B. Young on behalf of the owners and occupiers having applied to have them taken over.

Mr. H. Beck, in support of the application, said he had lived in Russell street 33 years [since 1817, about the time when the houses were built, the bricks for which were made on the spot under the superintendence of Mr. Beck's father], and he had regularly paid rates during that time. In the preceding year the committee recommended the request to be complied with on payment of £114 — two-thirds of the estimated cost of repairs, but that was rejected. Then it was thought that the Railway would have done something in the matter. Since then the proprietors had effected some sanitary improvements.

Mr. Vidler referred to the heavy pressure of the rates. He thought Mr. Beck had been in his house quite long enough. It was all very well for Mark Breeds to build his houses below the level of the sea, and then when floods arose for subsequent owners to want the Commissioners to put the place to rights. The property would prove very troublesome, for even when there came a shower of rain there would be someone running after the surveyor with, "Oh! I there's all my furniture floating about!"

Mr. Paine thought the cost of the late improvements should be deducted, and that the ​road​s should be taken over on payment to the Commissioners of £50. This was agreed to.

It was thought at the time that ​road​ between Russell street and the lower range of Wellington square was included, but such was not the case, and it was more particularly this narrow thoroughfare — a receptacle of ashes and other refuse — that probably induced Mr. Cressy[1], a Government Inspector, to libel the town as one of the worst he had ever been into. Certainly it was very different 45 years ago to what it is in the present day, yet even at the former period it could show a remarkably clean bill of health. Those of our townspeople who remember the unsightly premises on the meadow side ofRussell street, and now view the locality with its Recreation Ground, its Municipal Buildings, its Gaiety Theatre and its handsome shops must be ready to exclaim "What a metamorphosis is here!”

The Committee, at the meeting on April 1st having recommended £63 to be spent for better lighting the town, Anthony Harvey objected, saying that the Commissioners were already £400 in debt, and a bill of £165 for paving being then presented, it was most imprudent to incur further expenses. But Henry Beck, who was chairman, denounced the Commissioners’ conduct as being "abominably stingy". To this, Harvey replied that if they were so unwise as to let their expenses exceed their income, they must borrow money to make up the deficiency, and he hoped it would be a lesson to them, for if they continued in that course, they would have to obtain a fresh Act to increase their borrowing powers.

The next business was to appoint a committee to consider the application of Richard Styles, for straightening the ​road​ [originally known as the Chalk ​road​, leading down to the sea, as he was about to build at the corner of Wellington place. [I am reminded that there was a sad fatality in connection with the said ​building​, but more of this anon.]

Of the transactions of the Commissioners at their June meeting I have no account, but the Hastings News comes to my assistance with the following article in its issue of July 8th: —

"We have heard of throwing away a sprat to catch a herring; of a Chancellor of the Exchequer disposing of a surplus revenue by so adjusting a graduated tax as to make it yield more; of an Irishman trying to lengthen his blanket by cutting a piece off the bottom and sewing it on the top. In short, we have heard of a variety of schemes in the shape of ways and means; but all these little stars are made to hide their diminished heads when compared with the brilliant experiment commenced in our local Commission on Monday night. The herring was there sacrificed to the sprat; and an inefficient revenue aided by a reduction in the income. It was resolved that as there was an apprehension that "as the St. Clement’s parish was paying off its debt rather too fast, the parishes of All Saints and St. Mary-in-the-Castle should have their half-yearly rating reduced by a penny in the pound". The insanity of this resolution will be evident when we consider that lately the three parishes have been rated up to the highest point allowed by law — namely, 4d. in the pound per half year; in despite of which the heavy expenses incurred by the recent improvements have sunk the Commission deeply in debt — a thousand pounds being overdrawn at the Bank! The point of support upon which the Archimedians of this new movement have placed their lever is this: some half century ago, when St. Clement comprised nearly the whole of Hastings, that parish got deeply in debt by its paving and other expenses. At the time when the present Local Act was obtained, St. Clement agreed to take a thousand pounds of its debt upon itself solely, in order to pay which it was to be rated a penny in the pound higher on the half-yearly rates than the two other parishes. The utmost rate to which any of the parishes could be rated was four pence. Under this arrangement things went on smoothly enough till lately, when the increased expenditure rendered it necessary for all the rates to be at a maximum. When those rates came in January last, the St. Clement's debt had been much reduced, and the only step taken for its further reduction since the fourpenny rate was levied has been an order for paying off of £50, which was made last month. Never-the-less, some of the Commissioners in All Saints and St. Mary’s appear to have been seized with a horrible apprehension that they were being taxed to pay off the St. Clement’s debt; so in order to remove that contingency and to satisfy their own minds of the impossibility of such benefit arising from their unworthy liberality, they have turned round, and resolved by cutting down the taxes in their own parishes, to plunge the whole Commission into a gulf of financial difficulties; plainly saying by their action that they would rather run the risk of swamping the whole Commission than by any possibility assist in removing the paltry residue of the St. Clement's debt. Thus a narrow parish feeling is allowed to prevail, to the injury of the town".

At the Commissioners’ meeting on the 1st of July, Dungate Thwaites was re-elected surveyor, and with an increase of salary from £75 to £100.

The Clerk said there was due a half year’s interest on the debt, which at 4 per cent. was £213. There were also sundry bills, including £65 for paving at Pelham place, amounting to over £188. They had overdrawn £1,000 at the Bank, which constituted a temporary loan at 5 per cent. Mr. Beck remarked that they could neither borrow money nor spend it with facility. They ought to follow the example of Brighton, who, the other day, had bought the Pavilion. Mr. Harvey differed, and said they had been going on too long upon a false principle, by supposing that they were richer than they were, when they were really poorer than they ought to be. He should like to see some alteration in collecting the coal duty, and he could not see why one part of the borough should be able to obtain coals at 3s. per chaldron less price than another part. If they had a new Act, he would like to see Holy Trinity and St. Michael's parish included. They might even have St. Mary Magdalen and St. Leonards, although he knew those parishes would fight hard against it.

The next was a special meeting, held on the 10th of July, when Mr. Harman attacked the veracity of Mr. Cressy's[1] report, especially that portion which, as was shown at the Town Council’s meeting that morning, was altogether untrue. He would move that their own meeting be adjourned, and that a public meeting be called by the Mayor.

Dr. Mackness seconded the motion, remarking that Cressy's[1] report was certainly erroneous in detail, but that the main facts were undisturbed.

The Surveyor being asked for his opinion, said Mr. Cressy[1] estimated the cost of the main sewers at £5,000, whereas they could not be constructed for less than £8,800, which, added to the cost of branch drains, engine power and other items would amount to a sum of £12,960.

Mr. H. N. Williams_addressed the meeting at considerable length, but being several times interrupted by Mr. Paine, retorted that he was rather glad of interruptions, because they would serve to put, the matter in its true light. He wished it to go forth by means of the Press that whereas Mr. Cressy denounced Hastings as being unhealthy, even the tables of mortality in his report proved the direct contrary. He proposed, in lieu of Harman's motion (then withdrawn), that a committee be formed to take such steps on Cressy's report as might be thought best. This was carried, and the following committee appointed: — H. N. Williams (wine merchant), C. Womersley (upholsterer), “Spike" Harman (tailor), J. Wrenn (brewer's manager), H. Beck (baker), A. Paine (reporter), H. Dunk (grocer), C. Duke (tailor) and J. Mackness (physician).

Notwithstanding Harman's withdrawn motion to memorialise the Mayor for a town's meeting, such meeting was convened, seven days later, and as the discussion at such gathering shows that the genera] feeling of the town was not so much against improved sanitation — howsoever costly — as against the Government Inspector’s exaggerated and damaging report, a summary of the arguments adduced is here given as a prelude to the Commissioners' next meeting.

At the said public meeting, Dr. Mackness expressed himself in favour of sanitary reform, as tending to the duration of life, and as the drainage of Hastings needed improvement, he moved that the introduction of the Health of Towns Act would an advantage.

Mr. Harman opposed the motion, and said they had nothing to do with Derby, Dover and Bradford, for whom the Doctor had pleaded so eloquently, with never a word for the poor working men of Hastings. As for the alleged bad condition of the town, he would remind Dr. Mackness that few years ago he wrote a pamphlet, in which he made out that Hastings was the most beautiful and healthful place imaginable. [Hear, hear, and laughter]. Had, then, our town grown worse during the last ten years? [No, no! A great deal better]. To be sure it had. Much attention had been paid to drainage, and, had it not been thwarted, a more comprehensive sanitary system would have been adopted. By the present proposal they were called upon to lay out forty or fifty thousand pounds, and to appoint a staff of officers at an expense, perhaps, of £500 per year, whom the Town Council might appoint, but whose acceptance and dismissal would rest with the central hoard. If the town wanted cleansing, the inhabitants could do it better and cheaper than any set of strangers. As to Cressy’s report, it went to show that Hastings people were the most pauperised and demoralised community in Europe; for it stated that the poor-rate last year amounted to £12,876, and the borough-rate to £3,468; thus making it appear that they were nearly all paupers, and required a large police force to keep them in order. Cressy had more than trebled their poor-rate, and had represented their borough-rate as £3,468, instead of £1,643. Mr. Harman pointed out other gross inaccuracies, and then moved as an amendment, that in the opinion of the meeting, Mr. Cressy’s report was calculated to do serious injury to the borough. Mr. Burton (of St. Leonards) and Mr. Harvey (of Hastings} also condemned the report, the latter speaker declaring it, amidst Hear, hears! be a libel upon the town. He therefore seconded the amendment.

Mr. H. N. Williams, in a speech of 40 minutes’ duration, went over the main points, both of the report and the Public-Health Act, condemning the former for its inaccuracies, and supporting the latter for its promised benefits. He combatted the assertion of the town's unhealthiness, and contended that during the last three years the death-rate had been considerably below the average of the United Kingdom, notwithstanding that for some time past the town and neighbourhood had been inundated by railway labourers, who indulged in every kind of dissipation. This speaker was greatly applauded, and the Mayor having put the motion and amendment to the vote as though they were independent motions, the latter, as censuring Cressy’s report, was carried by a majority of nearly 60, and the latter, as favouring the Bill, by 20.

At the adjourned special meeting of the Commissioners, on the 22nd of July, the committee appointed at the previous meeting, presented a long report, the chairman (Mr. Dunk) remarking that they had given the matter the closest attention. His own feeling was that as they had now reached the limit of their allowable expenditure, they must adopt some other means to carry out desirable improvements. Mr. Shirley, in moving that the report be received, said he thought we were so compromised by Mr. Cressy’s report, despite its errors, that the Health of Towns Bill must come sooner or later. He thanked his stars that he was not one of those who were the means of bringing Mr. Cressy here and supplied him with information so erroneous that could not fail to seriously harm the town. Mr. H. Winter, in moving that the committee’s report be adopted, said he had something to do with first mooting the sanitary subject, but had given Mr. Cressy no information, and had he seen his report before it was published, he would have corrected some of its errors. Last year's deaths from cholera were set down as 65, but the statistics of the registrar showed only 40. Dr. Mackness remarked that the registrar was not so good an authority as the doctor [Oh, oh!]. Mr. Edwards, in seconding Mr. Winter's motion, said if other towns improved their drainage, visitors would go there. Mr. N. Wingfield thought that despite the numerous errors in Cressy's report, we should let visitors see we were earnest for improvements. Mr. H. Williams, in some lengthy remarks [his speeches were always lengthy, but usually sound] said that the previous discussion had cleared the way for the real business of the evening, and he would at once move that in the opinion of the Commissioners the introduction of the Health of Towns Bill is desirable. He was certain that either that or some other bill was necessary for the acquisition of larger powers in the way of improvements imperatively demanded. They all knew the expense of Local Acts. It cost them £1,500 to get their last one. But here was a Bill of extensive provisions ready to their hands, and the question was whether there were any disadvantages formidable enough to counteract its many advantages. Although he was once opposed to the Bill, he confessed that it was because he did not know what it was like. It was said that under its provisions we should have to borrow £60,000, a sum represented as enormous; but which would not really he without a prospect of a proportionate income with which to pay it off. Suppose the drainage, estimated by Mr. Cressy at £5,000, should coat £6,000 with interest at 4 per cent. and a sinking fund at 2½ per cent., and reckoning £135 a year for repairs, such would make it 5s. a year to each house, and in 30 years there would be an end of both capital and interest. If landlords could add to the comfort of their poor tenants for about 1d. per week, he thought they ought to do it. Even some of the best houses had nuisances of which they ought to be rid. Then as to the increase of water supply, Mr. Cressy said it could be got for £5,000, but say £7,000; that would not be an expenditure without a return, as there would be an income of £1,000 a year from the improved supply. There was, however, one recommendation to which he was opposed — namely the erection of a house for tramps at a cost of £5,000, which he feared would he an encouragement to vagrants to visit the town. One other advantage was that the railways, coming under the provisions of the Bill, would contribute to the rates. He therefore moved that this meeting approve of the new Bill. Mr. H. Thwaites, in seconding, believed that the chief objection to the Bill had been through an idea that it would be [ 22 ]worked out by a irresponsible board. He would suggest that 500 copies of the committee's report be circulated to counteract the effect of Mr. Cressy's report. Mr. Williams, in reply to some objections, said it was wrong to suppose that the Board in London would have the appointing of officers; the local bodies were empowered by the Act to do that. In regard to the controlling body, the Town Council, it was a matter for deep regret that the election of persons to that body was too often made the batttlefield of politics [Hear. hear]. He hoped it would not in future be a question of Whig, Tory or Radical; but that of fitness for carrying out the important powers devolving on them [Cheers]. After further remarks, Mr. Williams concluded, amid loud cheers, and his motion was carried by 24 votes to 8.

Here is a proof that Mr. Horatio Nelson Williams - named after the hero of Trafalgar - had shot home in the most convincing manner, and that he, though regarded by Radicals as an unbending Tory, was in this, as in the Town-hall business, the Water-supply, and in many other public matters, a veritable reformer. He said, at the commencement of his long and practical address, of which I have given but a summary. that previous discussion had cleared the way for business, but it was himself who really cleared the way out of what was little better than a chaotic impasse; and it was he, as will be seen, when I review the proceedings of the Town Council, who practically initiated the Health of Towns Act. Talk of Williams being a Tory of the old school, who wanted things to go on as they hitherto had done; why, he was 40 years of time before some of his liberal opponents!

The August monthly meeting of the Hastings Commissioners was of a more routine character than that of the preceding meeting, and consequently less exciting. As touching the water supply, it was shewn that the receipts from the rate amounted to £821, such sum being £44 over the receipts of the preceding year. As regards the borrowing of money, capitalists did not appear to be much more enamoured with the Hastings Commissioners than they were with the kindred board of St. Leonards. The only response to the former's advertisement for the loan of a thousand pounds was that of Mr. Aubert’s, of Wellington square, at 5 per cent. interest. The question of fly-stands came up once more for discussion, in consequence of a complaint from Messrs. Lansdell, Shirley, Goldsmith, Noakes and Murray, owners of property in Breeds place and Castle street, that although there were stands in front of Breeds place for only four flys, there were frequently as many as 9 or 10 at that spot, the extra carriages having to stand on the beach, thus proving a nuisance in more ways than one. No remonstrance was sufficient to remove the additional carriages, the owners or drivers contending that the beach was not within the Commissioners' jurisdiction. In the discussion which ensued, Mr. Ginner said that to provide stands for all the licensed carriages (just the number that there were weeks in a year) would require the whole of the space from the town's western boundary at the lower end of York Buildings to Diplock’s Library in George street. The discussion ended with an order to the Clerk to inform the complainants that the Commissioners could not interfere with carriages on the beach.

At an adjourned meeting, a week later, it was resolved to accept the loan of a thousand pounds offered by John Daniel Aubert, Esq., at 5 per cent. on the security of the rates, tolls, &c. It was further resolved that £100 then lying in the Bank be paid over to any creditor who would receive it in discharge of such portion of the St. Clement's debt.

At their next monthly meeting, on Sept. 2nd, the Commissioners got a sort of quid pro from Mr. Lansdell, as a set-off against their inability to interfere with the flys in front of Breeds place. Mr. Lansdell had been requested to abate what was held to be a nuisance by lengthening the drain-pipes from his houses to the beach. He, however, refused to comply, but in such a manner as could not well be complained of. His objection, he said, was based on the consideration of the Health of Towns Bill being in the near prospect, and which would provide for a general drainage. At the same meeting, Mr. Styles applied for permission to place a pavement, 5 feet wide, with sundry gratings, from Wellington place round to Pelham street in front of the houses he was then having built. But, as he had carried up the ​building​s on the full extent of his ground, and required the pavement to be taken from the ​road​, a committee was appointed to investigate the same. Also a committee was appointed to arrange with the South-Eastern Railway Company to exchange a piece of the Company's land for that at the Priory, on which stood the water-wheel, the tank and the donkey-stand, their removal being required for the approach to the station — now the lower part of Havelock ​road​. The next matter was a proposal by Mr. Beck (the chairman) to reduce the water rate from 9d. to 6d. in the £, Mr. B. being of the opinion that as the debt was so nearly annulled, and with the prospect of the works soon passing into other hands, then was the proper time to make the reduction. Mr. Harvey contended that such reduction at such a time would depreciate the property to a serious amount when it came into the market. Mr. C. Duke was in favour of a reduction, but there should first be a greater supply. Mr. Womersley argued against the system of making people pay a price beyond the cost of production; and in reply to certain questions, was told by the Clerk that the works cost £5,300, the debt on which was £1,600, such debt being in process of reduction by the excess of rents over expenses. This was a condition which materially differed from Mr. Beck's statement that the debt was nearly annulled, yet it required Mr. Williams’ eloquence, as usual, to convince the meeting that the rate should not be reduced. Mr. Williams — our local Rupert of Debate — in a long speech, contended that the town had not received a farthing[2] benefit from the works, recollecting, as the Commissioners ought to, that in estimating the cost of the works they were chargeable with £500 and interest for their share in the expenses of procuring the Local Act, the cost of which had been £1,500. It had always been understood that such cost was distributable in equal portions on the Market, the Waterworks and the general improvement of the town. They had also for the last month or two been soliciting a loan of £1,000. Was that, then, a time for reducing the town's income? These and other arguments were so far effective as to induce more than two-thirds of the Commissioners present to negative the motion for reduction.

The Last Meeting of the Hastings Commissioners

This, however, turned out to be the last meeting of the Board of Commissioners, their powers, under the Local Act having been absorbed by the Town Council as the new Local Board of Health.

Town Council Proceedings

Inspector of Nuisances. At a special meeting of the Council on the 4th of January, a request was received from the Board of Guardians for the Council to appoint an Inspector of Nuisances. The request, Mr. Ginner thought, was a very good one, as no one could expect unpaid persons to give their time and attention to such matters, bound, as they would be, by no authority. The payment of such an officer, said the Mayor, rested with the Guardians, and the payment for such an officer would come out of the Poor-rates. The Town Clerk said he could not see what the duties pertaining to such an office would be, and it was possible to overstep the Act.

The Burgess List. A letter having been received from the Rochester Town Council, requesting Hastings to petition Parliament to submit the revision of the Burgess list to the hands of a revising barrister, the Clerk said he thought the letter had been written in a party spirit. — Mr. Ross thought something should be done to improve the system, seeing that warm partisans, if they had the will, certainly had the power to make their own side preponderate. The letter was simply acknowledged.

Charity Trusts. In letters received from Mr. Fearon, Secretary to the Charity Trust Commissioners, it was asked what had been done with the Ellsworth Charity since 1809; and in reply the Town Clerk said nothing had been done since Mr. Breeds intermeddled in the matter. — Mr. Ross considered the word intermeddled very inappropriate. The town was under a deep debt of obligation to Mr. Breeds for the part taken by him. He would like a committee to be formed for supplying the Commissioners with as much information as possible. He considered they would be only doing their duty by such [ 23 ]such a course. The Clerk said they could get no information beyond what he had already supplied from the town records. At the request of several Councillors, an extract was then read from a report of the Charity Trusts Commissioners, in which it appeared that in Trinity Term, 1809, His Majesty’s Attorney-General, at the relation of Thos. Clark, of Rye, and Thos. Jas. Breeds, of Hastings, exhibited an information in the Court of Chancery, against Edward Milward, the elder, and Edward Milward, the younger, praying that a bequest made by Richard Ellsworth “towards teaching the poorest children of the parish to read and to say their catechism, and to buy them spelling-books, Bibles and the Whole Duty of Man; paying first, the tenth part of his share to the minister of the said parish (whom he appointed to take care that that part of his will be duly executed) should be applied to the purpose to which it was intended. The will was dated the 14th of July, 1714, and the legator appointed his sisters, Elizabeth and Penelope, as executrixes of the said will, the latter of whom sold the farm to one Nicholas Furrs, under whom, Edward Milward claimed the premises. The Master of Chancery further certified that the said Edward Milward, to whom the land was conveyed by indenture 15th April, 1765, had notice of the will of Richard Ellsworth by which a fourth part of the Dissolved Priory, near Hastings, was especially bequeathed, subject to a particular trust in favour of a charity in the said will mentioned. The report of the Master was confirmed by the Court, and referred back to him, to make further enquiries, and at that point the matter dropped in 1815”. — Mr. Ginner said the land had been in the hands of the present possessors 65 years. It might have been bought incautiously, but it had remained in the Court of Chancery for a long period without any satisfactory result. It was, therefore, not worth while to take any proceedings. It was much too complicated; and he did not approve of any hostile speeches against the present occupiers, to involve themselves or others in trouble and vexation. There was a possibility of the Council running their heads against a brick wall. [If the last sentence meant taking the action at law against the holders of the property and spending a large sum of money to no purpose, then — as will be shown further on — Mr. Ginner was perfectly correct.]. — Mr. Ross had no fault to find with any member of the Milward family, but as Mr. Milward had erred in purchasing the land, he was bound to perform the request as a legal trustee. — Mr. Putland thought when there was a prospect of the Priory Farm rising in value, and getting into other hands, they should make an effort to secure it, and he would therefore second Mr. Ross’s proposition for a committee. — This was carried.

The Priory Culvert. The Hastings Commissioners having applied for pecuniary assistance towards lowering the Priory culvert four feet throughout its whole length, and carrying it farther into the sea, the Town Clerk said, when it was first laid down, the Commissioners paid £150, the Woods and Forests Commissioners, £400, and the Priory Farm, £50. Then, after a general subscription, the Town Council paid over £100. — The question was allowed to stand over.

The Ariel Lifeboat. It having been stated that the lifeboat was likely to be sold, Mr. W. Scrivens wrote to the Council to the effect that [ 24 ]he had purchased the same, and in fitting it up had expended £22 12s. 9d., which sum he hoped would be refunded by the Council. The matter was resolved to be referred to the original subscribers. [The said boat had been lying for a long time, dilapidated and uncared for, on the disinhabited Priory Ground.]

Recovery of Ground. Moved by Mr. Ross and seconded by Mr. Burfield, “That the Government be memorialised not to dispose of the ground belonging to them, near the parade to individuals, but to surrender it to the Corporation, from whom they took it for public purposes in 1759”. The Mayor said, last year, a committee was formed to select a site for a new Town Hall, and they thought of the property in possession of Government. Having heard that persons had applied for a portion of such property, he instantly communicated with the Board of Ordnance, wishing them to transfer it to the Corporation, from whom they originally redeemed it at a nominal charge of £5. It was surrendered to the Government, for the protection of the country; but, seeing that it is no longer wanted [except for a coastguard station, it might have been said], — a proof of which they now had in the Battery being removed — and the [town] original possessors being in want of it, he thought it was only reasonable to expect it to be again surrendered to them. They were greatly in want of a large Town Hall, and as the town was increasing to the westward, he thought it advisable to look to the future. [Few persons outside of the Town Council would suppose that the avowed object in obtaining the site of “Government House” was anything more than a pretence. To recover the ground, even without the ​building​, would have been an advantage to the town in some other respect, and if sold for the erection of better houses, would unquestionably have led to the greater value of Mr. Ross’s adjoining property. But to build “a large Town Hall” in so confined a space and close to the narrow entrance of George street, where vehicular traffic was and still is so often congested, would have been an absurd project. The fact, however, that Government still uses the site at the time I write — nearly half a century later — is a proof that no practical heed was given to the memorial.]

At their meeting on Feb. 1st, the Council received the certified costs of prosecutions and maintenance of prisoners, amounting to £110 12s. 10d. The Council also resolved to give notice to Messrs. F. Smith and _ Dunn to give up the ground at Denmark place held by them, it being intended to throw the ground open. Also that a communication be made to the Woods and Forests Commissioners to compel Mr. Dunn to remove the stone and other materials from the ​road​ to the Priory culvert.

Chancery Money. The Clerk reported that in the cause ”Attorney-General v. Hastings", the Vice-Chancellor had made an order to pay the money which had lain in Chancery since 1834 to the Town Clerk of Hastings, subject to deductions of costs to the Attorney-General in the first instance. The expenses were much heavier than anticipated, and some difficulty had been [ 24a ]experienced. In February 1849, they first took steps in the matter, and in May they obtained the consent of Mr. Clark to have the money applied to the Charity, provided that it was no expense to him. In June they presented a memorial to the Attorney-General, and then appeared by counsel at his chambers; but the Attorney-General was engaged at Westminster. They subsequently met Mr. Wray, counsel for the Attorney-General, who insisted that they should go before the Master of the Rolls. The Corporation's counsel pressed to have it taken in the Vice-Chancellor's Court. He (the Clerk) afterwards waited on Mr. Wray, to induce him to alter his opinion, but he was obstinate, and would not. On Dec. 20th, they met before the Master of the Rolls, who cut the matter short by saying they should have gone to the Vice-Chancellor. The case went before the Vice-Chancellor, on Jan. 25th. All this increased the expenses, as they had to change counsel every time. — At the next meeting of the Council, on March the 8th, the Clerk reported that he had at last got the money out of Chancery, which, after paying all expenses, except his own, amounted to £18. Some amusing remarks were here made on the rapacity of lawyers, who had thus proved true to their reputation of devouring the oyster and leaving the shell. [See also, May 3rd.]

Reply to Memorial. To the memorial re the site of Government House, the Board of Ordnance had made objections, which the committee reported the Council would have to meet with a stronger representation of their case. The Board chiefly objected to giving up to the town, the Government ​building​s, as in case of necessity, they might be wanted for a magazine.

Court of Chancery again. At the Council meeting on May 3rd, Mr. Ross thought it very desirable that there should be a reform in the practice of the Court of Chancery, seeing that, only a short time since, it cost the Council £185 17s. 9d. to recover possession of £139 then lying in the Court, to which they had a legitimate right, the Council having to pay £45 more than they received. Ald. Clift condemned the expense as a shameful imposition; and Ald. Mackness reminded them that all law reforms were of slow working. Forty years ago, he said, the Court of Equity was called the Court of Iniquity. A motion was here passed “That the provisions of the Bill for the Court of Chancery in Ireland be extended to England” — that is to say, a memorial to that effect.

Removal of Rocks. Mrs. Cobby, proprietor of bathing-machines, applied to have certain rocks removed, which had been laid bare by the late tides, and which prevented bathing operations. Her sons, she said, had at an expense of £3, and great personal labour, cleared away sufficient space for 5 machines, but more space was wanted. — Application referred to Stonebeach Committee.

The Great Banquet. The Clerk laid on the table the report of the late banquet to the Lord-Mayor of London. The expenses were shown to have been £294 6s. 8d., which had been all settled. Mr. Ross thought that their thanks to their Clerk should be embodied and recorded with the report, great credit being due to him for his exertions. A resolution to that effect was [ 25 ]passed amidst general applause. Full details of this famous banquet will be found in “Historico-Biographies”, Vol. 1, Chap. XXI.

Surgeon’s Salary. Resolved that the application of Mr. Walter Duke for an increase of salary, as surgeon to the gaol, be sent to the magistrates, the only liability of the Council in this case being to pay the money.

Condolence to the Widow of Sir Robert Peel. On Saturday, the 29th of June, Sir Robt. Peel fell from his horse at Constitution Hill, and was so severely injured that he died on the following day. In consequence of this melancholy event, the Town Council at a special meeting, voted a letter of condolence to the baronet’s widow, the Mayor passing a high eulogium on the deceased statesman, especially on his sagacity and ability in adjusting the currency of the country. The only member of the Council who abstained from voting for the motion was Mr. Robt. Deudney, who remarked that Sir Robert might have conferred a benefit on certain portions of the community, but there was a large class who had greatly suffered by his vacillating policy.

Mr. Cressey’s[1] Report The Mayor, in bringing before the Council the Report of the Government Inspector, remarked that there was much in it which no one could deny, although, if the Council declared themselves in favour of the Health of Towns Act, they would, as he understood, only carry out Mr. Cressey’s plans so far as they deemed desirable. — Ald. Burton read several extracts from the Report and denied the accuracy of several of the statements. He asserted that the condition of St. Leonards was nothing like as bad as represented. He alluded more particularly to the Market, to a house on Maze hill, and to Lavatoria. As the St. Leonards Commissioners had expended large sums on the drainage of their town, he regarded it as unfair that they should be brought under an Act which united them with Hastings. — The Clerk called attention to a considerable error in Mr. Cresey’s report, wherein the borough-rate was put down as £3,468, instead of £1,819. — Mr. Ginner also complained of inaccuracies, which, he said, was not to be wondered at, seeing that Mr. Cresey had not gone to the best sources of information, and had made up what he (Mr. G.) conceived to be a mere gossiping report. For himself, however, he was in favour of the Health of Towns Bill, as he believed it would be more economical than the present uncombined system. The report was further discussed at a special Council meeting on the 26th of July, when the Mayor reminded them that they had waited for other public bodies to express their sentiments before the Council took action. The Commissioners and the public, although nearly unanimous in condemning Mr. Cresy’s report, he expressed a favourable opinion of the Act being applied. Ald. Mackness thought the Council should now show itself foremost in the work of getting the Act applied, notwithstanding the many misstatements in Mr. Cresy’s Report, and moved a resolution to that effect. This having been seconded by Mr. Ross, Ald. Burton, though having nothing to say against the Act being applied to Hastings, demurred to any attempt to force [ 26 ]it upon St. Leonards, against the wish of its inhabitants. The Mayor had read the Town’s Improvement Act, and thought it in every way preferable to the Health of Town’s Act. — T. B. Williams would read more of the Act before voting either way. — Mr. Harvey found the Health of Towns Act to be more of a permissive than of a compulsory character, and he therefore advised caution in getting the provisional order, so as to have inserted just what they wanted, and nothing more. — The motion having been carried, the Mayor remarked that they had laid the foundation for duties much more arduous than hitherto, and he hoped that while they took care of the public health, they would also take care of the public purse.

The Municipal Elections on the 1st of November resulted in the West Ward in the re-election of Mr. Deudney by 3 votes: ditto, of Mr. Peerless, by two votes, and the non-election of Mr. H. W. Tree, with 1 vote. For the East Ward there was a remarkably heavy poll, Anthony Harvey (C.) being elected by 552 votes; Thos. Ross (L.) by 505; Chas. Burfield (C.) by 498; and John Cousens (L.) by 456. The losing candidate, Will Ginner, obtained 455 votes, and was thus only one vote behind Cousens.

The Mayor elected on the 9th of November was Jas. Emary, of the Castle Hotel, he being also a Councillor, professing Liberal opinions in politics. The election was unanimous, the proposer being Mr. Harvey, a Conservative, and the seconder being Mr. Putland, a Liberal. But even this unanimity was somewhat broken by political sparring between two antagonists who could rarely be accused of superfluous courtesy. Mr. Harvey previously expressed a hope that Mr. Ross would not vote, as it was intended to appeal to the Queen’s Bench on the validity of his vote, in consequence of the failure of due preparation in his district of the Voter’s list. Mr. Ross retorted that he didn’t care a snap of the finger for Harvey, nor for anything he might say. Mr. Harvey then said “Ross’s Scotch blood is up” “Yes!” said Ross, “My Scotch blood is up. It’s no disgrace to be a Scotchman, and my position as second on the poll shows that the people think differently to Mr. Harvey”. Here, the latter Councillor neglected his chance of having the last word by replying that “the difference in the people’s mode of thinking and acting was shown by placing you second on the poll, with 47 votes below me”. — It was, however, amusingly curious to find Mr. Ross proposing a vote of thanks to the outgoing Mayor, and Mr. Harvey seconding the same, with the remark of the latter, “We agree on this motion, and I doubt not we shall shake hands before we leave the meeting”.

The Aldermen elected were Messrs. Emary and Clift, for the first time, and Dr. Mackness, for the second time.

The Burgesses in a fix The warm expressions by Councillors Ross and Harvey at the meeting above described arose from an irregularity of which neither party was the author, and which will be fully understood by means of the following paragraph taken [ 27 ]from the Hastings and St. Leonards News. The said journal under the heading of The Burgesses in a fix says —

”Our public men and politicians have lately experienced considerable excitement; and in the case of those who are not the sufferers, no little amusement by the Laches[3] of our respective overseers of the Holy Trinity and St. Michael parishes, Mr. Thos. Ross and Mr. John Smith. These official gentlemen in their capacities as overseers, should have forwarded to the Town Clerk, on or before the 5th instant, a list of persons entitled to rank as burgesses in their respective parishes; such list to be published by the Town Clerk at least seven days prior to the 15th inst. It so happened that the lists of the above parishes did not make their appearance before the public till something like five days before the 15th inst. Rumour, probably speaking truth in this case, states that the lists did not reach the Town Clerk by the required time. Such being the case, the fault rests with the overseers. To make ‘Confusion worse confounded’, among the burgesses thus threatened with a year’s disfranchisement are two members of the Town Council, Mr. Thomas Ross (1810-1881), himself, and Mr. Thomas Hicks. The latter, on finding that his franchise was lost in Holy Trinity, congratulated himself on retaining his position in virtue of his claim on the parish of St. Michael, when he found, to his dismay, that in that parish also the treacherous memory of an overseer had placed him hors de combat. In this predicament the unfortunate burgesses have resorted to the expedient of putting their names on the lists of claimants, which are to be published by the 22nd. It remains to be seen whether it is available. In the mean time, Mr. Anthony Harvey has published a notice that he intends opposing the claim of Mr. Ross to be entered as a burgess for the parish of Holy Trinity. As if to outrage the majesty of the law still further, the printed notice was issued without the printer’s name, whereby a penalty of £5 was incurred by everyone printing, publishing or distributing the same. An intimation to this effect was speedily given. As the case now stands, pains and penalties form a gloomy background to the picture, while in the foreground may be seen the disconsolate burgesses and apprehensive councillors encircled by eager politicians, lawyers, etc., the obnoxious overseers being the grand concoctors of this serio-ludicro tableau vivant.”

Civic Festivals

Public Banquets

To give here full details of public dinners and festivals is not intended, it being thought sufficient to do but little beyond an enumeration of them; but in the case of the Mayor’s banquet of 1850, the after-dinner speech of Mr. Emary, the Mayor-elect, was such as to be worthy of a record and was as follows: —

“Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, — I have been in the habit of attending public meetings and public dinners for the last half-century, but I never rose under greater embarrassment to return thanks for [ 28 ]any honour conferred than at the present moment; for, when I look back through some thirty or forty years, and remember, as I do, the gentlemen who have filled the important office of Mayor — gentlemen of the highest consideration in society — gentlemen of very superior education — gentlemen of wealth and influence — the more, I say, I remember this, the more it convinces me of my own unworthiness [No, no!]; but you, gentlemen of the Council have thought otherwise, and I consider it my undoubted duty, as it is always my inclination, to bow, with respect to a majority of my fellow-townsmen. I know it has been argued by gentlemen present that the office of Mayor has been filled in various parts of the kingdom by tradesmen — a fact which I am willing to admit. I know that before the Municipal Act passed, no one in Canterbury was allowed to serve as Mayor who was not in some trade or profession. But there is a marked difference between the tradesman of Canterbury and those of Hastings. The former — or a very large portion of them — keep up an establishment of horses, carriages, and livery servants; their country house standing in a park, and their well-frequented shops in a crowded thoroughfare; and it is thus likely that the industry of the one maintains the dignity of the other. But, gentlemen, how stands it with the tradesmen of Hastings? It is true, they are acknowledged by visitors and others to be an industrious and honourable set of men; but it is known that a great many are obliged to spend a large portion of their time behind the counter [Hear, hear!]. Now I wish it to be understood that I am the last man within these walls who would depreciate the trade of Hastings, of which I am so humble a part; but even if you take the most opulent to place in the civic chair, two-thirds of them will acknowledge themselves to be somewhat out of their element. I am one of you, with many inconveniences, and subject to all the frailties of human nature; but it has been your pleasure to elect me to this honourable post, and it shall be my endeavour to fill it as near to your satisfaction as my humble ability will admit. If I do not give satisfaction to all — which I can hardly expect — let me beg of you to attribute the failure to the right cause — namely, an error of the head, and not of the heart. If my life be spared to the next 9th of November, I will endeavour to give you some account of my stewardship; and I assure you I shall feel amply repaid if I can but hear one faint voice exclaim “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” [Cheers] I am promised the support and advice of gentlemen who sit with me, and who have themselves served the office; and as I shall need it, I already feel their kindness in relieving a trembling hand and fearful heart. To you, Gentlemen, who responded so heartily to the last toast, permit me to tender my best thanks. [Prolonged cheering].
[ 29 ]
The Lord Mayor’s Banquet Thomas Farncomb, and Alderman and Lord Mayor of London, entertained the Corporations of Hastings and Rye at a banquet in the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House on the 24th of January, 1850. A lengthy report of this interesting festival will be found in Chapter XXI of Historico-Biographies; and, as intended, the following is but a summary. The Hastings guests travelled to London in saloon carriages, and were received at the Mansion House by the Lord Mayor, and his sister, the latter as Lady Mayoress, the splendid band of the Coldstream Guards being in attendance. A dinner of the most sumptuous kind was served in the Egyptian Hall at half-past five, grace being sung by the celebrated vocalists before and after the repast. The golden Loving Cup was passed round the company, Mr. Harper, the toast-master, calling out the company by twos, and announcing a hearty greeting of the Mayor and Mayoress. After the usual loyal toasts had been given, the Lord-Mayor gave “The Mayor and Aldermen of Hastings”, to which G. Scrivens, Esq., responded. After that, his lordship gave “The Mayor and Aldermen of Rye”, and this was responded to by J. Smith, Esq. Among other toasts were The Members for the City of London, The Members for Sussex, The Members for Sussex boroughs, The Sussex Magistrates, The Recorder of Hastings and Rye, The Town Clerks of Hastings and Rye, and The Town Councils of Hastings and Rye. These were all suitably responded to, and the company — about 200 — separated at about 11 o’clock, apparently delighted with the splendid entertainment.

The Return Banquet The Wednesday of April 20th was a brilliantly fine day, and on that particular date, as previously arranged, Alderman Farncomb, while still Lord Mayor of London visited Hastings — his native locality — by invitation of the Corporation and other gentlemen to a return-banquet. His Lordship was escorted from the St. Leonards station of the South-coast railway by a grand procession of horsemen and carriages, headed by the Hastings Band. Following the Hastings Mayor, Town Clerk and Mace-bearers, in a carriage with four horses, was the Lord Mayor, with his Chaplain and Sword-bearer, also in his state-carriage, drawn by four richly caparisoned horses, preceded by an outrider, and accompanied by a second band. The grand procession of fully a quarter of a mile in length, passed round the town and alighted, not at the Swan Hotel, where, in the newly decorated assembly-room was to be developed the “feast of fat things and the flow of soul”, but at the Castle Hotel, which, 35 years previously, had been erected by his lordship and others of a company who built Wellington Square, Russel street, etc. At about six o’clock his lordship processed to the Swan Hotel, where, as already intimated, the banquet was arranged, and where he was met by a distinguished company, including Earl Waldegrave, Viscount Chewton, the Mayor of Hastings, the Mayor of Rye, the Mayor of Manchester, the Borough Members, several other M.P.s, etc., all of whose names, together with toasts, speeches and other details are given in the “Lives and Times of the Farncombs”, Historico-Biographies, Chap XXI. Suffice it here to say that, what with the unique procession, the ringing of bells, and the firing of guns, even the outdoor pageant [ 30 ] made the day a memorable one in the annals of the borough. It was befitting that the “Premier Cinque Port” should be the first town to entertain the Lord-Mayor with a return-banquet, and equally in order that the chief “Ancient Town” of the western ports should follow in a similar entertainment.

The Rye Banquet As the particulars of this event are also given in my Historico-Biographies, Vol 1, Chap XXI, it seemeth meet that it should be presented here only in a skeleton form, as were the two preceding banquets. It took place on Thursday, the 23rd of May, and in a similar manner to that which was adopted at Hastings, although, as might be imagined, upon a somewhat smaller scale. The Lord Mayor and suite travelled from London, per South-Eastern railway to Ashford, and thence to Rye by a special train, even before the line had been opened for traffic. The reception was of the most gratifying kind, and the grand procession round the town, was hailed with enthusiasm. The streets were decorated with flags and a triumphal arch. The banquet was held at the George Hotel and the company numbered about eighty persons, including the Mayor of Hastings (G. Scrivens) and several other persons from the same town.

The Whit-Monday Banquets A brilliant day was May 20th, and it was ushered in by the ringing of church bells. Most of the shops remained closed and crowds of country people flocked into the town. At about 10 o’clock the Friendly Society formed into ranks at the Swan Hotel, headed by the Old Town Band; the Manchester Unity formed at the King’s Head with the Ore Band; and the Benevolent Society at the Anchor Inn, with an unusually strong band formed by the St. Leonards Band and a German Band, united. An enormous crowd lined the thoroughfares as the procession of three clubs perambulated the town to the St. Clement’s Church, where prayers were read by the Rev. H. S. Foyster and a sermon was preached by the Rev. W. W. Hume. After service, the long procession was again formed and with its inspiriting music and handsome banners, perambulated the western part of the town through the Fishmarket, Castle street and Wellington square, back into George street; where they performed their customary evolutions. At two o’clock the respective societies were seated at dinner at the club-houses above named. The host who catered for the “Old Friendly”, at the Swan was Wm. Carswell, the chairman was Mr. H. Foster, the vice-chairman was Mr. H. White, and the speakers after dinner were R. Holland and Mr. Brisco, (Boro’ Members), W. D. Lucas-Shadwell, G. Scrivens, W. D. Cooper, and other gentlemen. For the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows, Mr. Smith, the landlord of the King’s Head erected a marquee in Bourne street, where the banker, F. Smith, was chairman and J. B. Eaton was vice-chairman. Among the after-dinner speakers were Messrs. Burfield, Eaton, Crockett, Huggett, Develin and Duke. Mr. Chapman, in proposing the Health of the Rev. W. W. Hume, thanked that gentleman for his excellent sermon; at the same time he remarked that when their society was first established, the late Mr. Whistler used to charge them a guinea for the sermon, but Mr. Hume had charged them nothing. The speaker might also have said that Mr. Whistler at one time charged two guineas for his sermon, and when told that the clergymen at Rye charged only a guinea to the club of that town, the eccentric Mr. Whistler replied “Oh! You can have a guinea sermon, but it will be wretched stuff”. — The Benevolent Society, to the number of 220, dined at the Market-Hall, attached to the Anchor, the dinner being [ 31 ]provided by Mr. West. The chairman was Mr. T. Ross and the vice-chairman Mr. T. Eldridge. The toast givers and speakers were Mr. Scrivens (Mayor), and Messrs. Burfield, Hicks, Harvey, Edge, Banks, Dunk, Duke and others. Before the clubs had performed their march round the town, a train arrived that was three times the usual length, and at 12 o’clock an excursion train arrived to swell the immense throng of sightseers. At one time, High street presented a vast mass of human beings from end to end, the gay banners of the clubs waving over all, while the animating strains of the bands sounded above the buzz of eager spectators.

Trade Protection Dinner At the same Anchor Inn, on the 7th of March, a dinner was held under the auspices of the Trade Protection Society, with Mr. George Scrivens (banker and president) in the chair, who said he was very glad to meet his fellow-townsmen on that occasion. The society, he believed, was but little known, and, perhaps not sufficiently appreciated. In this country we had arrived at such a state of social advancement that the efforts of individuals alone were hardly sufficient for their own protection in mercantile pursuits. Population increased and trade was carried out on a larger scale than it was in the quiet, easy days of earlier times. Roguery and fraud also advanced in as great, if not greater ratio. He feared that even their taxes went more to the rogues and knaves than to the industrial community. There was a large class in the country who, like the beggars, would rather do anything than work, and who possessed a natural propensity for preying upon the labours of the industrious. Trade protection societies were now spreading over the country, and were achieving what never could be done by isolated effort. — After the report had been read by the secretary (Mr. Womersley), Mr. Dunk proposed “The Health of the Chairman, who, he observed, was both their Mayor and their President. He, (the speaker) felt bound to remind them of the promptitude with which their chairman, as chief magistrate, took up the Bank forgeries case [described further on] when they had to complain of a want of vigilance in the officer of the police. — In acknowledging the compliments, Mr. Scrivens said so long as he held such an office he should always feel it his duty to respond to the calls of his fellow townsmen. He could never turn his back on those from whom he had received so many marks of kindness. In the ordinary routine of life, they were many times in pursuit of different ends; hence the necessity for occasionally assembling for a common purpose. With respect to different frauds to which tradespeople were liable, there was one to be guarded against — namely that of giving change to strangers. The benefit in such cases was wholly on the part of the receiver. It was a very one-sided bargain, yet persons very often solicited the favour in an imperative manner. He knew it was a difficult matter to deal with, yet he hoped the cost of their recent experience would last a long time as a sort of insurance against future frauds. Mr. Scrivens concluded with proposing “The health of Mr. Womersley, our excellent secretary”. — This was acknowledged in an able speech. The chairman next [ 32 ]proposed “Prosperity to St. Leonards”, and expressed his gratification at seeing both towns gradually advancing towards each other, — W. Chamberlain, jun., responded and said when he looked round and saw so many enterprising persons, he thought the time was not far distant when the space between the two towns would be entirely filled up. In coming over the “Desert” [the Government ground that morning, he was gratified at seeing signs of civilisation upon it, and he hoped the inhabitants would no longer let their supineness detract from the beauties with which the Omnipotent had surrounded them. The chairman again rose and said they were indebted to a certain public body for the publication of matters which otherwise would not come to the knowledge of the community at large. It was not now as in former days that they had to survey the press at a distance from them. They had now a paper of their own; and although that was not the place to canvas its merits or demerits, it might be said that it was peculiarly a local paper, taken up for the benefit of the borough. He should like to see it so well supported as to enable the proprietors and conductors to increase its size. They required to be paid for their labours, and the more support they received the more efficiently would they be able to carry it on. Whatever different views might be held with respect to their local organ, he thought it [The Hastings News] was a paper calculated to advance the interest of the public good; and he, for one; hoped to see it reach a greater size and to become a source of profit to those who had undertaken it. He, therefore had great pleasure in proposing “The Press”. Mr. Pitter, of the ”News” returned thanks. — It so happened that during the civic year Nov. 1849 to Nov. 1850 — the honours as well as the responsibility fell upon Mr. Scrivens to attend and to speak at no fewer than five Mayoral banquets, and at least one or two other dinners of a public character. Besides the one just refereed to, there was the one when he was elected Mayor, the superb entertainment by the Lord mayor at the Mansion House, the return grand banquet at Hastings, the similar festival at Rye, and the local Mayor’s dinner when quitting office. Also with other Mayors, Mr. Scrivens dined with the Lord Mayor and Prince Albert in connection with the Great Exhibition.

Other Amusements

The second monthly concert at Hastings took place in the new decorated assembly-room at the Swan hotel on the 14th of January which, said concert was a brilliant and altogether a successful affair. Long before the time for commencement carriages began to arrive and set down a company of rank and fashion and continued until the room was crowded. The executants were Mr. Lockey, the Messrs. Williams and Mr. Madin as vocalists; Mr. Lindridge, as pianist and conductor; and Herr Haag, as violinist.

Odd Fellows Ball Two evenings later (Jan 16th) the annual ball of the Victoria Lodge Manchester Unity, was held at the King’s head in, when a company of nearly 100 danced to the strains of Mr. Brett’s St. Leonard’s Quadrillo Band. [ 33 ]A Musical Prodigy Although not engaged in a public performance at Hastings, there were some Hastings people who could attest that a child, seven years of age, niece of Mr. Cruse, organist at Battle church, who played on the piano or organ, with extraordinary firmness and precision, the sublime choruses of Handel, Hayden and Mozart, and even the difficult fugues of Sebastian Bach. — Such precocity is indeed a rarity and an attribute or acquisition that cannot fail to excite the wonder of the average musician. The child was living with her parents in London where she had not an equal. Much less would be the chance of finding such infantile proficiency in the more restricted area of Hastings. Yet it is only fair to say that a juvenile concert given by Mr. Wise’s family and pupils on the 25th of Feb. gave great satisfaction, and showed that whatever talent the young people possessed was well developed by good training.

On the evening of Valentine’s Day a numerous audience assembled at the Swan Hotel to witness a performance by Mr. H. Phillips, a celebrated vocalist, who sang several of Moore’s best melodies, interspersed with anecdotes.

On the same night, the Annual Trades Men’s Ball took place at the Royal Oak Hotel, when 70 persons danced to the music of Wood and Elford’s band. Also, on the last day of February, the Annual Dinner at the same house attended by tradesmen and others, was one of harmony as well as of feasting.

The Fourth and last Subscription Concert was held at the Swan Assembly Room on the 5th of March, and was listened to by a full and fashionable audience. The executants were Miss Pyne, Mr. Frank Bodda, and Miss Messent (vocalists) Mr. Willy (solo pianist), and Mr. Acraman (accompanist.

The Royal Oak Harmonic Society closed their 4th season on the 27th of March with a soiree, about 60 persons being present. The society started with a rule that nothing of an immoral tendency should be introduced, and to a strict adherence to this rule was attributed their success. The members of the Town Band gave their gratuities services throughout the season. Mr. Elford and his son sustained their solos, and the Hastings Glee Singers, the choruses. Mr. C. W. Chandler was secretary.

A Gypsy Party under the management of bandsmen Elphick and Woollett, assembled in Ore Valley on June 25th, upward of 200 being present.

A select party of friends were entertained by Mr. James Breeds at the Albion Hotel on the 23rd of September. It was a festal, social and convivial party of merchants and tradesmen who drank to Mr. Breeds’s health as a matter of course, and warmly wished him happiness in his prospective marriage.

The Hastings Regatta on the 23rd of September, was witnessed by many hundreds of residents and visitors. The parades and beach were crowded, the West Hill and Castle Gardens were lined with spectators, and carriages, with living freight, were drawn up nearly the entire length of the parade. The [ 34 ]Hastings Band and the St. Leonards Band were engaged as musical adjuncts, and the weather favoured the proceedings. Three new boats had been built by Mr. George Tutt for the local Galley Club, named respectively, Letia, Flora and Surprise. The three principal races were with 4-oared galleys, in one of which, the Albion, an older and heavier boat, gained the first prize under the oars of Tapsell, Cuthbert and brothers Hutchinson. The second galley race was with the three new boats, the £10 prize being won by watermen Page, Carpenter, Mann and Burton in the Surprise; the £5 by Enefer, Swain, Crouch and Haddon; and the £2 by Enefer, Phillips, Mepham and Isted. In the third galley match, the Flora which in the preceding races came in greatly last, arrived at the goal a good second, the rowers this time, who were much applauded — being young men from St. Leonards, named Beck, Orton, Roberts and Smith.

The Distin Family gave a concert at the Swan Hotel on the 20th of December, with whom were two excellent vocalists, Miss O’Connor and Mr. Willy. The quartets with sax-horns gave great satisfaction to a crowded company.

The Hastings Mechanics’ Institution

This institution, like its kindred society at St. Leonards, played an important part in the educational features and in the formation of character; and although at the time of writing this portion of local history it has long ceased to exist, a remembrance of some of the good work it accomplished is worthy of record. On the 7th of January, Mr. John Banks gave to the members a lecture on Electricity, with interesting experiments.

On Jan. 14th, a highly instructive and eloquent lecture was delivered by the Rev. J. F. Moody, of Rye. Mr. W. Ransom occupied the chair, and the subject of the lecture was “The Philosophy of Eternal Nature”.

On Jan. 21st, Mr. Jas. Rock, jun., (with Mr. W. Chamberlin in the chair), gave the first of two lectures “Material Evidences of Civilisation”. The lecture, which is epitomised elsewhere, was an exceedingly good one. The second lecture under the same title was delivered on the 28th of January, and a summary of this is also intended to be given in Historico-Biographies.

A lecture on ”Galvanism, or Voltaic Electricity” was delivered by Mr. John Banks to the members of the same Institution.

”The Utility of Poetry” was the theme of a lecture delivered by the talented Mrs. Balfour, to a large and warmly applauding audience, the date of the lecture being March 11th. In referring to this lady, the Hastings News remarked, “The fervid eloquence and high-toned moral sentiments of Mrs. Balfour will dwell long in the memory of those who have listened to her lecture-room oratory”.
[ 35 ]

The Great Exhibition

was the principal object of discussion at a special meeting on the 8th of April, when a report was read from an appointed committee, consisting of Messrs. Jas. Rock, Hy. Winter and John Banks. In moving the reception of the report, Mr. Pitter remarked that it would always redound to their credit that the Mechanics’ Institution had been the first public body that had moved in contemplation of the Great Exhibition. He believed that when Mr. Cole visited the borough as a deputation that gentleman stated that although in other towns the Mechanics’ Institutions had been willing to act when any other body had begun, those of Hastings and St. Leonards were the only ones that had taken the initiative. Mr. T. Edwards, in a lengthy speech, said he did not know exactly the character of other Institutions. It was possible that they occupied higher ground than theirs, but in the latter he was proud to know that there was an amount of energy that the larger bodies did not seem to possess. It was here arranged that a committee receive weekly contributions from members and others of not less than sixpence for visiting the Exhibition at a convenient time, the accumulated amount to be spent by the contributors in whatsoever manner they thought best. Several other matters in connection with the Exhibition are clearly described in the separate History of the St. Leonards Mechanics’ Institution — one that celebrated its Jubilee in 1898, and one that still exists — although under modified conditions, necessitated by the changes of Time — whilst scores of kindred societies have become defunct. The Mr. Cole referred to by Mr. Pitter was C. S. Cole, Esq., who came to Hastings from the Royal Commission, a summary of whose excellent speech occupies a later portion of this chapter.

At a quarterly meeting of the Institution on Nov. 6th, a life-membership was voted to Mr. John Banks for his long and unwearied services. At the same meeting, which was in the High-street rooms, a sub-committee, consisting of Messrs. Rock, Ransom, Banks, Chamberlin and Hollaway was formed to search for more commodious premises.

Gas-Consumers v Gas Company

In the preceding chapter was described the proceedings at a meeting held at St. Leonards for the purpose of getting a reduction in the price of gas. A deputation was then and there appointed to wait on the Company. The deputation consisted of several persons from St. Leonards and four from Hastings. The propositions laid before the Company were — “That the promised reduction from 8/- to 6/- commence from the 1st of April 1850, and that a further reduction to 5/- be made on the 1st of January, 1851; that if such proposals be not acceded to, a part of the Deputation are prepared to take a [ 36 ]lease of the works and pay 6 per cent. on the value of present capital, reserving 1 per cent. as a sinking fund, and to supply consumers at 5/-. At the same time giving security for the performance of such proposal; or, to purchase the works at a fair value by competent persons. The reply of the Directors was — “Gentlemen, — We have already announced our intention of reducing the price of gas to 6/- per 1000 feet from the 1st of January next. In fixing the period for this reduction we have not acted capriciously; and it is not our intention to vary the time named for it. We regret that our intended reduction should not have been received in a better spirit, and we cannot omit this opportunity of noticing that statements in reference to our company were made, and uncontradicted at the meeting from which this Deputation emanates, regardless of all authority. We have reduced the price from 15/- to 8/- and have further resolved to reduce it to 6/-; and we assure you that we shall always bear in mind the public interest in our proceedings. We claim, however, and intend to exercise, the right to manage our own affairs unbiased by all unjust or unwarranted agitation, whensoever it may arise. We decline your offer to lease or purchase our works”. After delivering the reply, the Directors withdrew.

A meeting took place on the following day (Feb. 15th) this time at the Town Hall, Hastings, to receive the reply. After reading the same, Mr. Beeching said it was for the meeting to decide whether the meeting between the Company and consumers could be met, or whether they would form another company, — Mr. Hutchings did not approve of monopolies, and the Gas Company was a monopoly, but if they reduce to 6/- from the 1st of April next, instead of from the 1st of Jan. next year, he thought the meeting would be satisfied. — Mr. Bacon would ask if anyone could say the demands of the consumers were unjust. Had the Directors met the Deputation in a proper spirit, they would have parted as friends. The price at Ramsgate and Margate was 6/-, and Mr. Barlow had told him that before he left London a company had offered to supply him at 3/6 — Mr. Dunk (a spokesman for the Company) said it did not at all matter as to the time the reduction should take place [Dissent], and as to the alleged discourtesy of the Directors, they only left as soon as the reply was given to avoid discussion. — Mr.Ginner, as chief officer of the Gas Company, thought the meeting was going rather headlong into the question of reduction. He was sure there was no company could pay a dividend at 4/-, and Hastings ought not to expect it even at 6/-. They had reduced from 15/- to 12/- without being asked to do so. Afterwards they reduced to 10/- and, four years ago, they further reduced to 8/-. — Mr. Bacon said, at Whitehaven, the price at one time was 12/6, it was afterwards severally reduced to 10/- and 8/-, and there the company [ 37 ]determined to try the experiment of reducing to 4/- with the result that the consumption so increased that the Company gave a bonus of 10/- [Here, then was a refutation of Mr. Ginner’s statement that no gas company could pay a dividend with gas at 4/- to consumers]. Mr. Thwaites would like better reasons than had yet been given why consumers should pay 8/- for another year. — Mr. Paine complained of the discourtesy of the Directors and of their calling the movement an unwarrantable agitation. — Mr. H. Winter moved “That the thanks of the meeting be given to the gentlemen who met at the Saxon Hotel, and expresses surprise at the manner in which the deputation were received and the answer given”. Mr. Hope moved an amendment, “That this last paragraph of Mr. Winter’s motion be left out”. — Mr. Womersley asked Mr. Winter if he would withdraw his motion as it then stood. To this there was a general shout of “No, no!” and a refusal by Mr. Winter. The amendment being put, only 8 hands were held up for it. Mr. Winter’s motion was then put, when the whole of the assembly voted for it except three persons, one of whom was discovered to be holding up two hands. The meeting then separated.

Hastings and the Great Exhibition

Another meeting to receive a Deputation was held on the 18th of March, and to the Deputation on this occasion as given as hearty a welcome as to the Deputation to the Gas Company was accorded a censurable discourtesy. It was held at the Swan Hotel, and was presided over by the Mayor, George Scrivens, Esq., who, in opening the proceedings, said he felt sure that when the muster came of all that could be furnished by the various towns of the Kingdom, their own ancient town would not be found wanting. The next speaker was C. A. Cole, Esq., a deputation from the Royal Commission. In a long address, Mr. Cole said — some four or five years back, at an exhibition of the Royal Society of Arts, H.R.H. Prince Albert stated that from what he saw before him it occurred to him that an exhibition might be extended to all branches of industry. He accordingly selected several gentlemen from the South, who visited various parts to enquire whether it was possible and desirable that the different branches of industry could be fairly represented in an aggregate exhibition. Among other places visited by those gentlemen were Dover, Maidstone, and Canterbury, as well as the large manufacturing towns. The result of their enquiries was so favourable that a Royal Commission [ 38 ]was formed. One great guarantee of this was the support of Prince Albert, who had never been known to lend himself to any mean or party purpose. He believed that the result of such an exhibition would be a better feeling between master and man, the employer and employed, the capitalist and the labourer. It was intended that every man of work should feel that he had a real interest in the scheme, whether he followed at the plough, worked at the loom, or whatever else his occupation might be. Let them carry their minds back to the Ancient Briton and consider how he dressed himself in skins, how he painted his body, how he ate his food, and how he hid himself in caves. Then let them consider the descendants of that man — how they learnt to build themselves commodious dwellings; how they took the paint off their bodies and put it on their clothes; how they carefully dressed their food, etc. Let them make this comparison, and they would own that the contrast was great indeed between the Briton in the days of Julius Caesar and the stout, well clad yeoman of the reign of Queen Victoria. Only some few years ago 12 miles an hour was considered to be rapid travelling, but now the railway carried us fifty. In the reign of Elizabeth, notes were dispatched under the wing of a pigeon, but in these later days we had the electric telegraph, which wingged (sic) a message round the world in a few minutes. Some of these were made to print, while it was asserted that others were carried to such a pitch of perfection that a tune played at one end of the wire could be heard at the other end [Laughter]. One great benefit expected from the Exhibition was the comparison of ideas. A man would hear and see what he never dreamt of before, and would thus derive valuable information. Improvements would follow this interchange of ideas, and would make themselves felt in all that ministered to the comfort and adornment of human life. As an instance of this he would mention the French exhibitions, commencing in 1798. In 1844, a distinguished person, addressing the king of the French on the great progress which had been made in the arts and Sciences since those exhibitions commenced, dilated upon the distillation of salt water, the perfection of iron-casting, the improvements in the modes of warming and ventilating, the researches of metallurgy and chemistry, the manufacture of dyes and pigments, the increase of national resources, the production of sugar, silk and flax, and the amazing advance in the manufacture of those machines by which other machines were made, and by which the stubborn metal was subjugated to the use of man. Now, if such were the results of the French exhibitions in 1844, what might we not expect from an exhibition in 1851, open to all the world? In their general aspect such exhibitions were highly conducive to the encouragement of industry, thereby adding one more check to the progress of crime, and putting to flight that mother [ 39 ]of all vice — idleness. At the first French exhibition, held in 1798, there were only 110 exhibitors, but in 1844, there were no fewer than 4,490. True was the saying of the poet

“Emulation hath a thousand sons,
That one by one pursue.”

In a similar strain Mr. Cole continued at still great a length, after which Mr. F Smith (a banking partner of the chairman) moved the first resolution, and in a brief but appropriate speech, remarked that England would now be brought into competition with all the world, and it would be for Englishmen to see what they could do. Their own borough might not possess anything of great importance; still, they hardly knew what is did possess, for they had never had the inducement to develop its resources. — The Rev. W. W. Hume, in seconding Mr. Smith’s motion, said it might be urged — What have ministers of religion to do with such meeting? Would they not be better employed in attending to the duties of their own profession? He, however, believed he was not out of his place in coming there. His opinion was that ministers of religion had the power of performing for the objects of the meeting that which no our class could be found to do. They could infuse into the movement that lever of Godliness and that recognition of the God of Nature, without which the exhibition of England’s wealth — which was England's idol — would prove a source of evil rather than of good. He did not claim that on the ground of their education or their profession, but on account of the deep religious feeling in the hearts of Englishmen which could be brought into activity by a word spoken in season. Some might ask — Why should we have religion thrust into everything? Others might exclaim “It’s only the old story over again; every man to his trade; the merchant says there is nothing like commerce, and the minister says there is nothing like religion. But he would enquire, was it right to have an exhibition of the products of Nature and the works of Art without recognising the God of Nature? He remembered reading a speech of one of Gurneys at a large meeting of mechanics, when he endeavoured to point out to them the exercise of a Divine Providence over all the works of nature. He led their minds to a consideration of a vast machine in one of their workshops which consisted of a great number of component parts, combining to produce one definite result. The question arose, where and what was the moving power? The speaker reminded his hearers is that there was concealed in an upper room a vast wheel, appropriately styled “the governor” which by its movement set all the other wheels in motion, and when it stopped all the others ceased. [Applause.] So it was in nature, one wheel governed all. Man might sometimes think that he was the power, but the real mover [ 40 ]was above them. But it might be urged that in Art, at least, man’s industry was the chief power at work, and that he might take praise to himself for the effect which he produced. We were proud of our mental powers, but God gave us that capacity; so that at the utmost all that man could do was to arrange and combine the ancient elements of things. Although much had been discovered by man, his knowledge was still greatly limited, and those who went deepest into the mine of nature were obliged to confess that they knew nothing as they ought to know. Upon all the trophies of their exhibition should be inscribed — “What has God wrought?”. Of the good effects to be anticipated, he believed they would equally apply to the manufacturing and agricultural districts. The former were capable of great improvement, whilst the latter were restricted by atmospheric changes and other forces. He might not believe the cotton-lord who might tell him that by means of chemistry and other sciences he could make his land grow seven quarters of wheat where now it only yielded three; still, he expected that England would derive great benefits from the great international exhibition. The Rev. T. Vores, in moving the second resolution, said it contained one word which carried with it the fullest justification for his advocacy, and that word was peace. [Applause.] Their religion was a religion of peace. Their great Lord and Master was the Prince of Peace, and it was the duty of ministers to spread the principles of peace throughout the world. It was true that the age of miracles was past, but he conceived that the contemplated exhibition would show to man one great truth which God had written upon the b​road​ face of the nation. It was a testimony in the history of nations that Christian countries were immeasurably superior to all others in science and art. Even their neighbours across the Channel were enraptured with martial glory, the opposite of peace. Let the two nations now meet — not as at Waterloo — and say to each other, “We contend no more upon the battle-field; we now meet in friendship, and our mutual object shall be to spread the light of science and civilisation throughout the world”. The Rev. Dr. Gray (Baptist minister), in an excellent speech, seconded the motion, and remarked that he found it as a principle taken for granted “that the admission of foreign manufacturers and productions to the exhibition was calculated to unite nations in the bonds of friendship and commercial intercourse”. He believed this would create no controversy. They were not so one sided as to think that the riches of one nation occasioned the poverty of another, or even that a high appreciation of one national resource was necessarily the depreciation of another. He did not hold the opinion that anyone was blest on account of poverty, though he was aware that a man might be blest notwithstanding his poverty. The second proposition contained in the [ 41 ]resolution was that commercial interests between different nations was calculated to increase the probability of continued peace. In support of this he cited the case of Solomon in whose peaceful reign the royal ships were spoken of as going to and from Tarshish. There was also on record that the slumbering feud between Herod and those of Tyre and Sidon was quenched in consequence of the commercial interest that existed between the king’s country and that of his neighbours. He (the speaker) was not, however, so sanguine as to expect that peace would infallibly arise from commercial relations. He was even ready to

— grant that men, continuing as they are;
Fierce, avaricious, proud, there must be war,”

and when the passions were excited, the voice of political wisdom would not be listened to. Still, it was a great thing to elicit on the side of peace the teachings of wisdom that nations could not profitably go to war. The more nearly we approach to the principles of universal brotherhood, the more would it appear to be our interest and our duty to preserve the bond of peace. — On the motion of Earl Waldegrave, a committee was formed for carrying out the objects, which committee included his lordship, the Mayor and members of the Town Council, the special committees of the Hastings and St. Leonards Mechanics’ Institutions, Viscount Chewton, the two Borough Members (Brisco and Hollond), the Hon. George Waldegrave (afterwards M.P. for Hastings), three clergymen (Vores, Hume and Parkin), three journalists (Paine, Pitter and Tyrie), two doctors (MacCabe and Rankin), two bankers (Scrivens and Smith), two lawyers (Phillips and Langham), three librarians (Diplock, Hope and Reid), four esquires (P. F. Robertson, Tilden Smith, Fred. Webster and Wastel Brisco), and four tradesmen (Rock, Womersley, Smith and Chamberlin). Mr. F Smith was appointed treasurer and Mr. James Rock, jun., hon secretary.The last named said he accepted the office with much pleasure, for he viewed the proceedings as constituting an educational movement calculated to elevate the taste both of the consumer and the producer, as also to act as a stimulant to man’s inventive genius. The importance of education was generally allowed; yet while much was done for the infant, little comparatively speaking, was done for the adult. An impulse was required to overcome the love of wealth. He wished to see the artisan (sic) imbued with the love of his work for the work’s sake, and for the good which it was likely to produce. He wanted to see more of an artistic taste — a love for the useful and beautiful, apart from the price which it would fetch. The man of trade and commerce ought not to be a shamed of his business, and whilst not wishing to appear as a gentleman, yet at the same time to feel the value of his position. — Mr. C.A. Cole said [ 42 ]for the encouragement of those who might take part in the present movement, a record would be kept all who gave their assistance. He was glad to find that the first step taken in this locality was by the Mechanics’ Institutions.— The Chairman, in acknowledging a vote of thanks, said he should have great pleasure in attending the meeting at the Mansion House; when Prince Albert would be present as well as most of the mayors of English towns. — A message was received from Rye to the effect that a meeting had just been held by the Town Council, and a resolution passed to co-operate with Hastings in connection with the exhibition. That the Rev. Dr. Gray, in his speech was justified in saying he was not so sanguine as to expect that peace would infallibly arise from the exhibition, the great war with is Russia so soon after maybe adduced — a war in which one of his hearers, Viscount Chewton, was so sorrowfully slain. The speeches at the above meeting, it needs no assurances, were all good in their way, but the one by Mr. Rock was most to the purpose because the most practical; and that he was determined to make it so will be seen when his own ingenuity and praiseworthy exertions come to be described in chapter XLVI.

Railway Matters

The progress of the South-Eastern Railway Works under the contract of Messrs. Newton and Smith — that is the tunnelling from the Priory to Bopeep — has been described in the preceding chapter, and the labour of construction, together with its concomitant incidents and accidents now to be considered are those pertaining to Mr. Hoof’s contract. Of Mr. Hoof himself (as well as his son) the townspeople and others with whom he had business transactions spoke respectfully, but it happened that, upon the whole, the workmen under him were not nearly so well conducted as were those in the employment of Messrs. Newton and Smith. In that respect, St. Leonards appeared to fare much better than Hastings. On the 25th of March one of the labourers was found lying in a ditch between the toll gate on the old London ​road​ and the union workhouse, half-immersed in water that had frozen around him. At first it was thought that he was dead, but he awoke to consciousness, and it was afterwards learnt that he fell into his comfortless quarters on the preceding (Sunday) night while in a state of intoxication. With difficulty he was got to his lodgings, when the foolish man discovered that he had been robbed of four pounds. It was a marvel that, under the circumstances, he had not been deprived of life.

On the 9th of April, Phillips, who had a warrant against George Brown, [ 43 ]found his man on the railway works at Bunger Hill, in the parish of Ore, and made him a prisoner. But Phillips (who was the superintendent of railway police) was immediately set upon by five or six other labourers, who struck the constable, threw him down, kicked him, and rescued the prisoner. But Phillips, having ascertained the names of the ruffians, went back to Hastings, and obtained warrants for the whole party. Later in the day, the constable, notwithstanding his ill-treatment, pursued Brown to Battle and recaptured him. The magistrates sentenced Brown to three months’ hard labour, in default of £6 18s. 3d. fines and costs.

About the same time, for nearly an hour, and a furious fight by a railway labourers, involving women and children, was carried on in the Fishmarket, and until stopped by a policeman, when the men went down to the sea to wash the blood from their bodies. Soon after, a similar scene was witnessed in Church street, the combatants being four men and two women. Both parties appeared to have been drinking to access.

On the 19th of April, a heavy rain during the night, laid under water nearly the whole of the brick fields north of the line where it crossed the ozier grounds from St. Mary’s terrace to the Gas works, and in a short time a cluster of four temporary huts were reduced to ruins, and the occupants had to find shelter in one small house on higher ground.

On the 3rd of May, an inquest was held on the body of James Colin who, a few days before, fell backwards while running a waggon of earth, and had one leg cut nearly in two; the limb was amputated, but erysipelas set in on the other leg, which was also injured, and proved fatal.

Another inquest was held on May 21st, this time at the Fortune of War, on the body of William Gear, who was killed by falling down number three shaft at Bunger Hill, a distance of 180 feet.

Another death, and one that was greatly regretted, occurred on the 25th of May in the person of William Hoof, jun., son of the railway contractor. The deceased attended a cricket-match, a few days previously between East and West Sussex, where he caught cold, which was followed by inflammation of the lungs. Mr. W. Duke and Dr. Blakinston were called to the Marine Hotel, where Mr. Hoof had been staying, and the patient’s father was sent for. On Saturday the sufferer expressed himself as feeling much better, but shortly after was seized with violent shivering and sudden giddiness, which terminated in death. It was only about six months since his elder brother died at Wolverhampton. Two days later (May 27th) the remains of deceased were conveyed from the Marine Hotel to the St. Leonards station of the Brighton Railway, en route for interment in the West London and Westminster Cemetery. Despite the rainy weather so greatly respected was the deceased that an immense crowd [ 44 ]assembled to witness the sad departure. The hearse was preceded by about 140 persons connected with the works, and followed by a many Hastings friends of the deceased, among whom were Capt. Barlow, J .G. Shorter (Town Clerk), J. Newton (one of the contractors of the western part), Mr. Butt, W. Carswell, C. West, A. Amoore, J. Carswell, F. Hoad, and others. Then came Supt. Phillips, of the Railway Police, headed by a dozen labourers, carrying shovels reversed and the handles hung with crape. Following the hearse were four young men as chief mourners, they’ being nephews of Mr. W Hoof, sen., and also engaged in superintending the railway works. These were followed by a party of clerks, gangers, etc. The bell at St. Mary’s was tolled, and the shops along the route were partially closed. When arrived at the ​road​ leading up to the St. Leonard’s station, the processionists formed an avenue for the bearers and chief mourners to pass through, and then returned to Hastings. Agreeably to Mr. Hoof’s request, a substantial and quiet dinner was partaken of in the evening at the Royal Oak Hotel by about 60 clerks, time-keepers and gangers, who talked over the merits of their young master and drank in silence to his memory. This sudden and unlooked-for death of a young man of 24 years, whose active superintendence of the works was felt to be all-essential, caused a painful sensation throughout the town.

On the same day (May 27th) a gloom was also cast over the town of Rye by the intelligence of the deaths of the captain and crew of “The Bodiam Castle” (ten in number), which occurred at Bahia from a virulent fever that was raging there. Capt. Bray; of Rye, left a widow to mourn his loss, and the young men, John Small, William Tiltman, and a son of Capt. Cuff, all of the same town, left numerous relations.

At this time the railway operations in the Priory Meadow (where now is Havelock ​road​) proceeded more favourably, and the mountain-waves of earth which the embankment had formed before by a pushing forward motion, had now come to a stand-still, and the embankment itself instead of sinking during night as much as it was raised in the day, began to find a foundation, and was mounting the summit of the upheaved portion. The meadow had been bored in three places, and a solid foundation of beach and stone had been found at a depth of nearly 40 feet. This raising of the ground to form the approach to the station was on a part of what had been the bed of the old haven. It has been noticed that the numerous springs met with in the tunnels were somewhat troublesome, and at this time the outbreak of another spring had caused the falling in of a heading, but the delay, it was thought, would not be great.

Another trouble with railway labourers occurred on the 3rd of June, [ 45 ]when the town hall was crowded on the bringing up of eleven prisoners, charged with sleeping in the fishermen’s rope-shops where they had no right to be. On the preceding (Sunday) morning, a fire was discovered in one of the said shops at the bottom of Bourne street, and one which had replaced the row of shops consumed by fire, a few years before. The fire was luckily discovered by Sergt. Phillips and Supt. Phillips; who pulled out a quantity of smouldering nets and sails, and thus prevented what might have caused great destruction. They then searched the other boat-shops, and found them full of railway labourers, who, as it afterwards turned out, had been in the practice of sleeping in them night after night, and for that purpose had wrenched off padlocks, bolts, and other fastenings. The prisoners —some of whom had barely slept off their drunken bouts, pleaded inability to obtain lodgings — some because they had not the means, and some because there was no room for them where they applied. The Mayor said he was determined to put a stop to the practice, and so sentenced nine of them to a months’ imprisonment.

On the 17th of June, William Hilton and Thomas Hewett, carter on the railway works, were accompanying a load of timber down the old London ​road​, and when near to Mr. North’s residence the skid-pan came off, and the shaft-horse not being able to hold the waggon back, Hewett, who was riding on the shafts, jumped off, and was fatally crushed by the wheels.

On the 22nd of the same month, several railway accidents occurred, but although serious, they were not fatal. A labourer, named Clark, fell in the Ore tunnel from the centering to the floor, and got a deep wound in one leg by a large nail; a boy, named Friend, had a muscle partly torn from one leg; through being caught against the bumper-board at the tip in the Priory Meadow; and a man, named Macdonald, was greatly injured in head and hand by a truck in the Ore tunnel running against him.

The foundation stone of the Hastings railway station was to have been laid on the 4th of July, but was prevented by wet weather. Of the exact date when the ceremony took place I have no knowledge, but I suppose it would be the first later day that was favourable.

On the 17th of July a Polish railway workman named Edward Lisiechi, while mounting a train of empty trucks in motion at the Priory, fell under the wheels and received severe injuries by three trucks passing over his legs.

For the acceleration of the railway works, on the 7th of September, an engine drawn by 16 horses arrived on a ponderous carriage; and, two days later, Hastings witnessed the first puff of the same engine as it climbed the incline from the Priory to the cutting at Bunger Hill with a long train of empty trucks. The trucks or waggons, when filled, ran down by their own [ 46 ]gravity. The Ore tunnel was nearly completed, and the cutting at the northern end was rapidly progressing. Great activity was also shewn in the erection of the Priory station, which within the last few days had been carried to a considerable height above the foundation. The walls consisted of massive stone-work in consequence of the ground being much lower than the rails. In six weeks’ time it was calculated the ​building​ would be covered in.

At the end of September a second line of rails had been laid down on Mr. Hoof’s contract from the Priory ground to the Mount-pleasant tunnel, and the approach to the nearly completed station had been laid open by the removal of the town’s water-wheel and donkey-stand.

On the 10th of October, James Altey was taken to the Infirmary with a broken leg caused by a fall of earth, and Luke Young was also injured at the Priory, “tip”, by a waggon falling on him.

On the 16th of October, the first permanent-rail was laid in the St. Leonards tunnel, under Smith and Newton’s contract; and, two days later, Edward London, a young man of respectable appearance, and said to be well connected, was sentenced to six months hard labour, for having, on his own admission, as a time-keeper, defrauded Mr. Hoof of several sums of money.

On the 23rd of September an inquest was held at the Workhouse on the body of Daniel Walton, alias Robert Walker, a railway labourer, aged 25, who had been drinking at the Hastings Arms; had quarrelled over a penny-worth of nuts; had staked with his disputant 2/- or 2/6 to fight him on the next morning; had walked out with a woman and returned with her; was knocked down by some roughs; was found in a semi-unconscious state, and was taken to the Workhouse, where he died from the effects of a fractured skull. — Verdict — “manslaughter against some person or persons unknown”. With such scenes of navvies quarrelling and fighting and others lying intoxicated on the parades and in the streets, the reader need not wonder that “dull business” was the cry from every quarter, and that visitors were kept away by the debasing conduct of railway labourers. It is right, however, to say the men were not all of this class, and that many of them were really respectable and trustworthy workers. The latter character appeared to apply to those whose abode for the time was at St. Leonards more than those who could only get accommodation in the worse parts of Hastings, Halton and Ore. The difference between the eastern and western districts of the borough in the conduct of the men was very observable, and my own opportunity of conversing with Mr. Fisher, Mr. Butt and others connected with the Smith and Newton contract (all of whom were near neighbours) would enable me, if necessary, to explain [ 47 ]the cause of that difference. Many of the labourers who had families lived in temporarily constructed huts, and on the 21st of October, seven of such huts in the parish of Ore were burnt to the ground.

For robbing a ganger, a man named William Gates was sent to Lewes for trial on the 3rd of November. The charge, was that he had robbed the ganger while asleep out of doors, of a silver watch, worth £3.00, one sovereign[4], five half sovereign[5]s and a florin. On the 12th of the same month, a man named George Lee lost one eye, with a probability of losing the other in an operation of blasting some part of the Ore tunnel.

On the 7th of December a young man named Richard Jones was taken to the Infirmary, he having been nearly buried and severely hurt by a fall of earth between Hastings and Battle. Frederick Hilton, a lad, was also in the Infirmary with a broken thigh. These two accidents were on the South-Eastern Railway works on the London and Hastings branch.

Although the Hastings and Ashford line was not opened for public traffic until 1851, of which opening and other particulars will be found in chapter XLVI — the work of keying the St. Leonards and Hastings tunnels, as a finishing touch, was arranged for the 28th of October. Alderman Thomas Farncomb, Lord Mayor of London, was invited to perform the operation; and, albeit, I have given details of the ceremony in my “History of the Farncombs” [(Historico-Biographies, Vol 1)] its repetition here is necessary to complete my story of the Hastings and Ashford railway, in 1850.

His lordship having accepted the invitation of the directors of the South Eastern Railway Company to put the finishing touch to their Ashford, Rye and Hastings branch, the event was regarded with much curiosity by the people of Hastings, and specially so by those who had supported the South-Eastern Company in preference to the Brighton Company for communication with London and Hastings. There was, therefore, excitement on the morning of the appointed day, but there was also not a little depression, it being viewed by some as a bad augury that, unlike the brilliant weather which attended his lordship’s first state-visit to Hastings, the day was wet and miserable, added to which there was on the preceding day an unfortunate landslip of 30,000 cubic yards of earth on the north side of the Mount Pleasant tunnel. By this untoward accident the rails were forced upward and outward many feet from their position. All hands were at once set to the seemingly superhuman work of clearing away the obtruding earth and getting the rails back into their place. Stupendous efforts were made by all concerned, the promise of extra pay causing the workmen to exert themselves to the utmost. Thus from Sunday morning until about noon on Monday the work of reparation was continued, during which just when hope returned that the difficulty would be surmounted some more of the earth slid down and increased both the labour and anxiety. Additional men were got together from other parts of the line where their services were still required, the consequence of which was the want of completion of the line in the parish of Guestling until within an hour or two of the contemplated time. Even up to the last moment it was feared that the line would not be in readiness for the Mayors of London and Hastings to accomplish their work on the day appointed; and here it should be stated that Mayor Farncomb was to perform the ceremony of keying-in the Mount Pleasant tunnel and the St. Leonards tunnel, whilst Mayor Scrivens was to insert the last brick in the Hastings tunnel. Two of these objects and actions were ultimately accomplished, but for reasons hereafter shewn, the third had to be abandoned.

No difficulty was apprehended in the journey of the Lord Mayor and his party from Ashford to Rye, at which latter town it was proposed the train should stop, and an address be presented from the inhabitants: but as there was still a doubt as to the possibility of removing the obstruction further on, other means were adopted for bringing the party to Hastings, should the necessity arise. Mr C. P. Hutchings, of the Marine Hotel, was also a large fly-proprietor, and being well acquainted with Mr. Hoof, the contractor, as well as with his highly-respected son — the latter of whom regrettably died at the hotel — was appealed to for providing a large number of conveyances, some to go to Rye with the Company’s engineer and chairman of directors, and some to a nearer part of the line, in each case to return with such of the travelling party as might not have been able to proceed further. But as supporting the aphorism that "mishaps come not singly," other accidents and disappointments occurred, as will here be described. Mr. Hutchings got together some twenty or more carriages, of which number nine or ten were sent to the neighbourhood of Bunger-hill — where quite recently a station has been formed—and the remainder to Rye. In the journey to Rye, however, the horses attached to the carriage in which Mr. Macgregor and Captain Barlow were seated ran away, upsetting the carriage and throwing its occupants to the ground. The first-named gentleman escaped unhurt, but Captain Barlow received some injuries. In another carriage was Mr G. Scrivens, our Hastings Mayor, who received the two gentlemen into his carriage, and thus enabled them to continue their journey to Rye. That such an accident should have occurred is no source of wonderment to persons who have travelled to or from Rye via the Guestling and Icklesham hills in bygone times, when they were in a worse condition than they are now; and especially is it no surprise to me who have had two similar "spills" while travelling that route. It seemed, however, that there was to be no end to the many accidents which happened before the completion of that line of railway, some of which, as being intimately acquainted with Capt. Barlow (engineer), Mr. Macgregor (chairman of Directors), Mr: Butt (assistant-engineer), Messrs. Newton, Smith, Fisher and Mendy (contractors) and Mr. Fry (surgeon), I was called upon to assist at or otherwise to witness. It is my intention to give a classified list of the numerous accidents as I proceed with my general history; and if it should seem that my own personality is too frequently introduced in what I write, the explanation is that I am prompted by the desire to offer vouchers of accuracy through opportunities of personal attestation. It may also be stated that I was at the time a contributor to a county paper. I purpose, however, to complete the story of the Lord Mayor’s last public visit to Hastings by appropriating the excellent report of the Hastings and St. Leonards News, the oldest of our local journals.

On the arrival of the expected train at Rye, the occupants were received by the Mayor and Corporation and the leading gentry and trade, who had walked in procession from the Town Hall, preceded by the mace-bearers, a band of music, flags, &c.; flags were also hoisted on the Church, the Town Hall, Landgate Tower, &c.; and a temporary arch was erected over the line near the station, bearing the word "Welcome," in gold letters, with the Cinque Ports arms and the arms of the City of London on either side, decorated with evergreens. Merry peals were rung from the church bells. The Lord Mayor, the Chairman and Directors, with their friends, alighted at the station, where the following address was read by E. N. Dawes, Esq., Town Clerk: :—

To the Chairman and Directors of the South Eastern Railway Company.

Sir and Gentlemen, We, the Mayor and Corporation and Inhabitants of the Ancient Town and Port of Rye, cordially and sincerely greet you on your arrival here this day, and on the completion of the works of the Ashford, Rye and Hastings Line.

We hail it as a prospect of a new era for the benefit of this Town, and we hope that you may long continue to manage the affairs of this important Company, advantageously to the interests of those whom you represent, feeling as we do, that under such circumstances an opportunity will be afforded for the development of the resources and energies of those who now respectfully address you and give you a hearty welcome.

Signed on behalf of the meeting, JEREMIAH SMITH, Mayor. Dated 28th October, 1850.

Mr. MacGregor made a suitable reply. The whole party then partook of refreshment; after which they left, amid loud cheers from the spectators, of whom there were upwards of a thousand. P. Barlow, Esq., engineer in chief, preceded the train in a beautifully constructed miniature engine, to which was attached a coupé carriage, so as to pilot the travellers. On reaching Guestling, nearly an hour’s delay took place, the ​road​ not having been completed for a short space. At length the Ore tunnel was reached (which is 1380 yards long), and here the important ceremony took place of nominally completing the work, by inserting the last brick. Accompanied by the Chairman and Directors, the engineers and other invited friends, his Lordship alighted from the train, and having ascended the platform erected for the purpose, after a short address, the brick was pronounced to be deposited in its (we trust} long resting place in a “workmanlike manner” — having, it would seem, been pronounced by the engineer as satisfactorily completed.

In the interim a scene had been going on at the Terminus about which we, as chroniclers of the day's proceedings, must say a few words. In the circulars of invitation issued by the Directors to the Town Council of Hastings, and other guests, to the déjeuner at the Swan Hotel, one o'clock was named as the hour of arrival. About this time numbers might be seen wending their way towards the Priory, attracted by the strains of the Town Band, which was waiting to greet the train's arrival. A great concourse had assembled, although the ground was exceedingly damp, from the heavy rain. One o'clock came, two o'clock came, but no train, nor any tidings of it, and the public mind began to waver as to the probability of its reaching Hastings at all. By half-past two many began to think of returning home, feeling assured that something had occurred to prevent the auspicious event from coming off at all, The ballast engine went up the line to reconnoitre, but was not many minutes ere it returned at a rapid speed, and in the distance the curling smoke, of another engine was descried when, in an instant, the cry was raised, "They come, they come!” In this, however, disappointment had again to be submitted to. The Sampson, with three second-class carriages attached, had piloted the ​road​, but could give no account of the voyageurs, they not having [ 48 ] been seen on this side of Rye. In ten minutes another engine was seen coming at a rapid rate, when the announcement was again made of the approach. This was the small engine. No. 126, with carriage attached, built by the South-Eastern Company for traveling on the line on special occasions. In this was Mr. P. Barlow, the Engineer, with one of the directors, who announced the long-expected train as close at hand. All was cleared in a few minutes.

The band struck up an enlivening strain, and all was animation. A few minutes after three his lordship arrived with six first-class carriages, drawn by No. 18 engine, and, accompanying was a great number of ladies and gentlemen, invited on the occasion. The beautiful little model engine at once crossed the ​road​ just finished, and proceeded on to Messrs. Newton’s and Co.'s line towards Bopeep, accompanied by its two former occupants, leaving the other carriages to follow. On reaching the platform, about forty yards within the tunnel, the Lord Mayor alighted, as well as our own respected Mayor, Geo. Scrivens, Esq., and other gentlemen, for the purpose of inserting the last brick. This was done by our worthy chief magistrate, who made a few appropriate remarks: expressive of the pleasure he felt in having the honour of completing so important a work as the South-Eastern Company's coast line. Inscribed on brass plates, neatly inserted in bricks; were, “Farncomb, Lord Mayor of London, Oct. 28, l850, G. Scrivens, Mayor of Hastings, J. McGregor, Chairman of Directors, P. W. Barlow, Engineer in Chief, R. H. Barlow, Resident Engineer, W. Butt, Assistant Engineer”. The handsome silver trowel was then handed over to the resident engineer by the Mayor, and the work declared-completed, amidst the huzzas of the assembled throng. It being now nearly half-past three, it was deemed advisable to forego the keying-in of the St. Leonards tunnel, where a similar ceremony was intended to be gone through by Lord Mayor Farncomb; but as he had already inserted the last brick in the longest tunnel this was not thought of much consequence. The distinguished visitors proceeded to the Swan, where an excellent spread, prepared by Messrs. Hutchings and Carswell awaited them. The engine, with the principal engineer, traversed the two tunnels at a moderate speed, running to the junction with the Brighton line. Such a sight as was witnessed in the tunnel seldom occurs. It was one blaze of lights, some hundreds of candles illumining the dark walls. The stage was fantastically decorated with lights, and had a striking effect. By courtesy of the contractors, we were enabled to inspect the works on this part of the line, temporary carriages being fitted up in case of emergency, should the ordinary train not have reached Hastings. The work-men on the St. Leonards contract were plentifully regaled, to the number of 400, with Bread, cheese and ale.


The so-called dejéuner, at the Swan Hotel did not "take place until four o'clock in the afternoon in consequence of the delays heretofore described. A lengthy report of the same appeared in the Hastings News, but of which, to, economise space, connective extracts only are here reproduced. Upwards of one hundred persons partook of the repast, which was prepared by Mr. W. Carswell, assisted by Mr. C, Hutchings, of the Marine Hotel, who laboured under the difficulty of having to keep the viands hot from one o'clock to four. Mr. MacGregor, chairman of the directors, presided, and at the same table were seated Alderman Farncomb (Lord Mayor of London), Mr. G. Scrivens (Mayor of Hastings), Messrs. Hollond and Brisco (Borough Members), Mr. J. Smith (Mayor of Rye), &c. There were also present most of the Hastings Corporation and the Directors of the South-Eastern Railway Company. The post-prandial proceedings commenced with the customary loyal toasts, after which the chairman said, I have the honour of proposing "The Health of the Lord Mayor of London,” while I ask his 1ordship's permission to thank him for the honour he has conferred on the South-Eastern Company in performing the ceremony of completing the tunnels. We feel it an honour that a man — not more dignified by his office than by his personal virtues and abilities, and one who is a native of Hastings — should have completed that line of communication that connects, not only Ashford with Hastings, but also Ramsgate with Plymouth. I cannot convey to you more fully the importance of this work than by quoting the high authority of the Duke of Wellington, who valued the line in a military view as forming a connection between the various defences of the country. These views were also those of the Earl of Dalhousie, the distinguished Governor-General of India. The Lord Mayor, like a master-workman, has this day turned the last rivet and fixed the last link in the chain, and I feel assured that in wishing his lordship every happiness and a long life, I only express the wish of everyone present. His hand has ever been held out to assist the young and the enterprising, and many here are aware of the services he has rendered to many in Hastings and elsewhere. The toast was heartily responded to.

The Lord Mayor, Alderman Farncomb, whose rising was the signal for prolonged cheers, said he truly felt that he had had a great honour paid him in being selected to perform the important duty described by the Chairman. The remembrance of such a pleasure would go down with him to the last day of his life. Beyond this, they had done him the honour of drinking to his very good health. In his position as Lord Mayor of London, if he could only carry out the duties as he felt they should be, it would indeed be a source of great satisfaction. So far all had gone on well, and if it should continue to the end it would make him a happy man, and particularly so as a man of Sussex.

The Chairman next proposed “Prosperity to the Borough of Hastings". He felt rewarded for his own exertions by the reflection that the work thus far completed would tend to replace the borough in the position it was in before the formation of railways by joining it to those towns of Kent and Sussex that were formerly most in relation with it. He also had confidence in the success of the line, notwithstanding Lord Dalhousie’s opinion that it would not pay as a commercial transaction. The Company owed a debt of gratitude to Hastings, for it was a fact that the line in this neighbourhood was not commenced until after the Act which gave the Company power to purchase land had expired. In no single instance was this legal difficulty taken advantage of by the proprietors of land, and thus what might have been serious difficulties were avoided. The delay was caused by the poverty of the Company, and some persons thought the line would never be completed. He spoke with the greatest sincerity in introducing the toast, and he would couple with it the name of their excellent Mayor. Mr. Scrivens quickly replied, apologising for his haste by reverting to the growing lateness and to the fact that the directors had to proceed as soon as possible to Folkestone. He thanked the Railway Company for their hospitality, and wished they could have been favoured with finer weather and a longer stay. He hoped that the rail​road​ would benefit both the Company and the town, and he cordially proposed as a toast "The Health of the Chairman of the Board of Directors". Mr. MacGregor had; been deputed by the great capitalists of Liverpool to take direction of the affairs of a great company, a position of which a man might well be proud. In carrying out the line for this locality the Chairman had encountered difficulties probably known only to himself and his colleagues, but the good result was now making itself evident.

The Chairman, in returning thanks, said, with respect to his exertions, he was grateful in thinking that railway property had turned the corner, and that his life had been prolonged through the period of difficulty. After further remarks Mr. MacGregor resigned his seat to the Mayor of Hastings and with the Directors and the Lord May or took his departure for Folkestone, where dinner was ordered for half-past six, the time being then half past five. The meeting at the Swan was continued under the chairmanship of the Mayor, various toasts following each other, which called forth speeches from the Rev. T. P. Sproule, Messrs. Hollond and Brisco (Borough Members), Messrs. Hoof and Smith (con- tractors), Mr. W. Ginner, Mr Shorter(Town Clerk}, Mr. Baker (Clerk of the Peace), Councillor Ross, Mr. Langham, Councillor Hutchings, Mr. Pitter (of the Hastings News), Mr. Edge, Mr. Deudney, and other gentlemen. In the meanwhile, the absent party having regained the train, proceeded on their perilous return journey to Ashford, which town they did not reach until 9 o'clock, and where they found the party who were to be their guests almost tired out with hunger, it being three hours after the appointed time ere they could sit down to the table. At half-past nine the dinner was served up, and at an hour after midnight the heroic party started for London.

The Road Coach 1850

From rail ​road​s to coach-​road​s is but a step, not only in the imagination, but also in actuality; and the sentence is here employed to introduce an opportune connection of the past and present modes of travelling. It will be understood that the more direct route of the South-Eastern Company’s line via Tunbridge Wells was not yet completed to Hastings, and that one or more of our well-appointed coaches still ran to the midway station for passengers. A newspaper correspondent thought, however, that the fares were too high, and he wrote thus: that — “Sir, in these days of rail and steam, a voice from the ​road​ may sound like a voice from the dead; but I beg to be allowed to inform the public that the ​road​ from Hastings to Tunbridge Wells has not quite given up the ghost. On the contrary, the public may still be conveyed on this ​road​ in a as fine in a coach, drawn by as fine a team of horses, and driven by as fine as a coachman as ever graced the ​road​ in days of old. But I must also inform them, that if they travel by this coach, they will be required to pay for it. I was an outside passenger from Battle to Hastings the other day, a distance of seven miles, and was charged the modest sum of 3s., and a young friend was charged 5s. for 11 miles. I beg of you to give your veto against such charges and endeavour to induce Mr. Coachman to moderate his bill of fare”. [ 49 ]

Preparations for Robertson terrace, Robertson street & Carlisle Parade

That the near completion of the railway terminus in the Priory Meadow should be an incentive to ​building​ operations in that neighbourhood was a concomitant likely to be expected; and means were therefore employed to utilize for that purpose the Crown Lands, which, after the driving off the usurpers of “no-man’s-land”, had lain dormant for about fifteen years. On Friday, the 8th of Feb’y, the ceremony of transferring the Crown Lands from Her Majesty’s Commissioners to the lessees took place on the spot, between the representatives of each party, the one conducting the other over the ground the “walking-in” thus completing the transfer. Apropos of this simple ceremony, the Hastings and St. Leonard’s News had an article, from which the following extracts are made: —

“Many of our readers, doubtless, recollect the Desert (as it has recently been denominated) ere Neptune and the Board of Woods and Forests combined to give a stimulus to local immigration by rudely disturbing aboriginal right, and violating many a local habitation where at the period of which we write many a person might still have sung “home sweet home” while wending his way to free ‘America,’ and knew

‘By the smoke that so gracefully curled
’Bove the Rope Walk his cottage was near.’
But this antique accumulation of ill-built and undrained houses has long been removed, and we do not grieve the change. The ground has for the last few years presented a waste, a bleak and sterile wilderness — an fact which needs not our pen to awaken it in the recollection of anyone who has chanced to journey across it on a winter’s day during a gale from the north, with snow, rain or hail as an accompaniment. A scheme is now in working for covering the ground with capacious mansions and shops, which, when erected, may again become the homes of those who were driven from their ‘native land’ to wander in the strange country of Hastings and St. Leonard’s. According to the plans now lying at the office of Messrs. Reeks and Humbert, a row of good sized houses is intended for the front. This will consist of 36 houses [the number built being 31 and the Queen’s Hotel , with a frontage each of 22 ft. 6 in., and a depth of 40 feet. The centre houses [named Robertson terrace when built] will be run back in the form of a crescent, the space in front being filled up with a grass plat or ornamental ground. The line of frontage [here] will be 70 feet from the sea wall, and a carriage ​road​ will be allowed in front of the houses. No ​road​ across the ground will be left [a track only existed previously], but 10 feet in width will be given to the present ​road​ [now Robertson-Street ] leading from York Buildings to White Rock. On the south side of this ​road​ and along the whole extent will be a line of shops, and the same northward between the St. Leonards ​road​ and the one going up the hill towards Bohemia, so as to fill up the angular [ 50 ]

space fronting Claremont . A single exception to this will be the corner house at the angle of the ​road​s at Claremont place, which will be reserved for a lodging-house [also shop], the spot affording a glimpse [a good view] of the sea. This place will be in all probability the heart of the borough.” [The words interpolated between brackets indicate the conditions after the work was carried out.]

The Building Operations at the Priory

After the Crown land had been transferred to the lessees, no time was lost in getting to work, so that in the first week in March active operations had commenced upon the foundations, cellars, drains, etc.

On Monday, June 24, Mr. Anthony Harvey laid the first stone of a range of ​building​s on the Priory Ground, which at first it was proposed to call Waldegrave Place. After the ceremony, the party, with a band of music, and the builder, Richd. Cramp, proceeded to the Wellington Inn to a dejéuner.

Building operations were continued with spirit, and seemed to remind one of a similar energy that was displayed in the erection of St. Leonards two and twenty years before. There was also a coincidence in the time of year in which the new town of St. Leonards and the new part of Hastings were commenced — namely the first week in March. The first shop opened on the Priory ground, — afterwards named Robertson-street was on the 5th of October. It was opened by Mr. Henry Polhill, who carried on the trade of pork-butcher and poulterer. He was also an electioneering agent in the Conservative interest.

Marine Casualties

The month of February brought a succession of south-west gales, and on the 11th day of the month, the “Happy Return”, a dandy-rigged vessel, which had been landing railway material, was hauled off the shore and sailed away westward, but having to encounter rough weather, she became leaky, ran for Rye Harbour grounded on the bar, and became a complete wreck. On the 14th, three coal-brigs were ashore discharging their cargoes. Their names were The Lamburn, The Pelican and Queen Victoria. A gale came on, and at about 11 p.m. The Lamburn managed to get off and went away fairly well. The Pelican was next in floating, but had a narrow escape, one of her stern hawsers having broken while the vessel was being hauled off. The Queen also broke one of her hawsers and was obliged to be wound up. At the same time a fishing-lugger, a short distance from shore, shipped a heavy sea, heeled over, and had her raft carried away. Also the Fairy schooner, owned by the Messrs. Burfield, of Hastings, was washed up at Eastbourne.

On the 21st of March, the last named vessel was again launched [ 51 ]from the slipway at the Priory, after having been got home from Eastbourne and undergone repairs. A casualty of a different description — a casualty without loss, except a loss of time — was that of the 14th of May, when a barge from London named “The Four Brothers”, was brought ashore under the Customs surveillance, on the suspicion of having smuggled goods. The barge was laden with timber and guano, and, after undergoing a rigid search, she disappointed the searchers in their hoped-for prize, and got released.

The Fairy Schooner, already referred to, was the scene of another mishap on the 21st of May. While off Dungeness, on her way from the north to Hastings, her apprentice, George Aggams, fell from the top most head, and struck the bulwarks and then over into the sea. A life-belt was thrown to him, but as he made no effort to save himself, it was supposed that he was unconscious, and he sank before a boat could be lowered.

Another drowning case occurred on the 1st of August, but under different conditions. The schooner “Prospect” from Aberdeen, was getting under weigh at the Priory after discharging a load of deals, when James Forbes, a sailor, in a state of intoxication, fell overboard. Another drunken man pushed off to save his comrade, but owing to his incapacity, Forbes quickly sank, to rise no more. The mate had been discharged the night before for drunkenness, and had got robbed of his watch. The drowned man left a wife and four children.

On the 23rd of October, as Adam’s fishing lugger was running home before a gale with a heavy catch of herrings at low water, she struck on some rocks and was for some time in a perilous condition. Cables were managed to be attached to the boat, and then lustily pulled by people on shore until, aided also by the rising tide, the boat was dragged off the rocks with the result of only small damage.

On the day preceding the last named accident, William Hide’s boat “Enterprise” brought in 9 tubs of spirits picked up at sea, and supposed to have been the outcome of a casualty to smugglers, by accident or design in getting adrift when the dark nights were too rough or the still nights were too bright for being “run in”.

Within a week, other casks of spirits were severally picked up by coastguards and Langley Fort, Galley hill, 62 tower and Ecclesbourne. These were washed ashore, and idea was entertained by some persons that there had been a fatal misadventure.

Marine Curiosities

At the beginning of the year, in a cod-fish caught by Thomas Bodle, off Bexhill, was a tortoise-shell comb; and being offered a price for it, Bodle said he should himself keep it as a curiosity. [ 52 ]On the of the 17th of February, a halibut fish, weighing 200 lbs. and measuring 5 feet 10 inches, was caught by fisherman Foord, and sold to fishmonger Ball, at St. Leonards, who sent it to London. The halibut is the largest of the flat-fish species, and is rarely taken in the English waters.

“Something Extraordinary” The announcement which appeared on the outside of a tent placed on the beach was — “To be seen a Wonderful Curiosity”. The ancient fishermen supposed it to have been lost from a man-of-war when the Castle was standing. There was, of course, a charge for admission, and the object to be seen was an old anchor, covered with barnacles.

On the 21st of April a novel scene was presented by thousands of water-fowl, supposed to be black ducks, on the sea off Hastings, which being disturbed by a fishing-boat, bent their course to sea and were lost to sight in a shower of rain.

As showing to what uses a fishing lugger can be put, the “Francis and Sarah”, in the midst of a thunder-storm on June 26, brought from Havre half a ton of cherries and a cargo of potatoes. This, in its way was also a curiosity. The same boat on the 2nd of July brought a cargo of cherries from Honfleur. She also brought Benjamin Taylor, one of the crew of the “Richard Cobden”, captured by the French for illegal oyster dredging.

In September, a marine curiosity in the form of a short sun-fish (Orthagoricus mola) was to be seen in front of the Marine Parade, and another marine curiosity, measuring 32 inches and weighing 9 lbs. was exhibited at the fishmongers shop of Ball & Stace.

Accidents and Incidents

On the 16th of February, John Thos. Pomphrey, son of a fisherman, Francis Pomphrey, had one side of his face riddled with shot, at the East Well from the of the gun of boatman Jas. Fennings, while the latter was placing the nipple on his gun, to fire, with some of other men at a mark.

A singular accident was that which befell Henry Parker on the 11th of March. While sawing some tops of trees in the Wilderness at the top of High street, he was struck by one of the branches as it fell, which threw him from his footing. He held by one hand until he sprained the tendons of his arm and the tips of his fingers. He then dropped a considerable distance, and in so doing dislocated his ankle and broke the bone. With great presence of mind, he reset the joint as he lay on the ground, and being afterwards conveyed to his home, he there made satisfactory progress towards recovery.

On the 12th of April, Mr. Hickes’s horse, with a van, dashed into the window of a stationer’s shop at White-rock place, kept by Mr. Holt, and broke 16 squares of glass; also carried away the framework and injured the goods. [ 53 ]George Higglett, a child of three years, while crossing the ​road​ near the parade, was run over by a chaise-cart and considerably hurt; and a woman, who saw the accident, went into a fit.

On the 21st of May, the wife of fisherman Edward Kent, set fire to her clothes while in a state of intoxication. Her husband and a man, who was called in, extinguished the flames, but not till the woman was seriously burnt.

A Fatal Fall.— On Saturday the 22nd of June, the entire parapet and some of the scaffolding of the east side of a house in Wellington Place suddenly fell whilst the men were at work, and one of the bricklayers, named Thos. Francis, was thrown to the ground and killed. The house was the property of Mr. Richard Styles, and was being built on the ground formerly used by Ransom and Ridley as a ship-yard. The ex-royal family, at St. Leonards, passed the spot soon after the accident, and seeing the ​road​ strewed with wrecked masonry and timber, made enquiries and headed a subscription with £5 for the deceased man’s young widow.

Five days later (June 27th) a waggon, with hay, was coming out of the Swan Yard, when the greater portion of the load fell off, and broke two squares of plate glass and the frame of Mr. Amoore’s shop window.

On the 2nd of July a party of young folk journeyed from Hastings to Bodiam for a day’s pleasure, and on returning home at night, the shaft of their vehicle broke, and they had to walk the rest of the way from Sedlescombe.

Four days before the last-named accident, Richard French was jerked out of a waggon on the Hole Farm, and the wheels passed over his breast, but broke no bones. It was regarded as little short of a miracle.

An Injured Eye. — A young gentleman from Cambridge, staying at White-rock Place, while trying to break a stone by throwing it against another, so injured an eye by a sharp fragment as to necessitate his being taken to London, where it was thought the sight could not be recovered.

Rock-Fair Accident. — Before 1822, Rock Fair was always held under Cuckoo Hill where now are Claremont and parts of Robertson street and Trinity street; after that date in a field belonging to the Priory Farm; but in 1850 it was held in a field of Mr. Brisco’s, over the White Rock, where now are White-rock Gardens and Trinity Villas. On this last-named location a man named Polhill was at the fair with his wife, and both fell over a high part of the bank into a sand-hole. The woman had to be taken to the Infirmary, she having sustained concussion of the brain. Also, a man fell over the cliff behind 12 White-rock Place, where he lay for about five hours, and was then hauled up with ropes. He was drunk at the time and fell asleep. He was not much hurt, but his escape from death or severe injuries was regarded as miraculous. [ 54 ]

Terrible Fall from Cliff

Fall from the East Cliff.— On the 30th of July, a girl, 14 years of age, named Augusta Mooney, daughter of a widow at Camden Town, and niece to Fredk. Oakley, of Hastings, went for a walk, and not returning as was expected, search was made for her, and at 6.00 in the evening her uncle found her on a heap of rocks at about 30 feet above the Ecclesbourne station, soaked in blood and quite exhausted. She was taken to the Infirmary in a most critical condition, although sensible. She explained that when stooping down on her hands and knees [at Foul Ness Point to look over the cliff, the earth gave way and she fell — a distance of 100 feet. Her pelvis bone was shattered, one thigh was broken, a pair of scissors in her pocket stabbed her in the side, and she was otherwise greatly bruised. For seven hours she lay in that condition, unheard and unperceived, notwithstanding her cries. Such was the information gathered at the time, and when it was thought by the medical attendants the sufferer could not possibly recover. But a week after, it was found that Miss Mooney was in a fair way of restoration, though she would be a life-long cripple. She was a very intelligent girl, and was then better able to relate the story of her accident, which was as follows: —

“I took a walk on the beach, and went up and saw some pigs and fowls at Mrs. Butler’s living in the cliff [‘Crusoe’s Caves’]. I afterwards went up the [Tamarisk Steps] steps to the East Hill. I walked on the hill gathering flowers. I sat down and mended my gloves. I walked on to an opening, were a piece of stone projected upwards. I placed my hand on the stone to look over. It gave way, and finding myself falling, I turned on my side and slid down till I came to a mound of stone or earth, which turned me over, and I lost my recollection. I cannot tell how long I remained insensible, but I think it must have been a long time. I felt as if in a dream, and instead of being in Hastings, I thought I was coming on the following day. When I came to myself I tried to move my arm which I laid on, and after difficulty and pain I did so. I tried to get up, but my leg seemed to swing, and I had no use of it. All my desire was to get to the sea; I was so thirsty. I saw a little boy pass and I called to him as loud as I could, but he did not hear me. I laid my head on a small lump of gravel and I think I slept a little. When I awoke I remained a long time without seeing anyone: but afterwards I saw another boy. I called to him, and he looked up and laughed, and went away. I saw my cousin’s husband and called to him, and he came. I asked for water, and he told me to be still and he would fetch a doctor. I told him I only wanted drink. I then saw some sailors and a little boy. They said ‘there she is; there is life in her yet’; and they pulled off their jackets to make a conveyance for me. I lifted up my eyes and saw some gentlemen stand, who said a stretcher was coming. I don’t know who put me on, as I was beginning to feel very faint. I recollect coming through the street, followed by many people; also coming to the Infirmary and seeing my cousins, Agnes and Matilda. After that, until I was on the bed, I don’t recollect anything but asking for water”.

[ 55 ]At about seven weeks after her accident, Miss Augusta Walter Mooney was still in the Infirmary, and making marvellous progress of healing. She was able to walk about the garden, to the astonishment of all persons who knew how extensive were her injuries. Also, at the same time, the railway labourer George Vinall, whose injuries were thought to be too severe to admit of his recovery, was making satisfactory progress.

On the 11th of September, James Bryant, a labourer was taken to the Infirmary, suffering from severe injuries to his legs, through falling or jumping off the shafts of a waggon near the “Black Horse” on the Battle ​road​, when his legs were crushed under the wheels, making it necessary for one to be amputated.

Robinson Crusoe Caves. — In the Miss Mooney’s description of her terrible fall from the East Cliff, she said she first visited Butler’s caves. This is a reminder that on the 13th of December, two gentlemen visitors, in attempting to scale the East Cliff, via Butler’s Caves, and pig-styes, after much toil, reached a dizzy height, from which they could neither ascend nor descend; and in a terrified tone, shouted to the fishermen below to rescue them from their dilemma, promising them a handsome reward. They were eventually hauled to the top of the cliff with ropes; and, doubtless with a silent avowal not to repeat so hazardous a journey.

Butler’s Caves again.— A grandson of Butler’s, living in the “Crusoe Caves”, while playing in one of the ferry boats on the beach, was drawn out to sea, by a huge wave, with the boat, and thrown beneath the same. The boat was at the same time capsized, and the boy would have been drowned but for the rushing into the sea of a number of fishermen, who rescued him and saved the boat.

Cart Accident By in a collision, on the 4th of November, between a cart belonging to J. Sinden, a pork-butcher, of Hastings, and Filmer’s cart of Rye, the latter being furiously driven on the wrong side, Sinden’s head was severely cut, and Filmer’s cart disabled.

Falling head foremost.— Beside advertising their teas in rhymes, Stephenson and Co. (or Stevenson and Co.) on the 25th of October, adopted the expedient of sending round a band of music with a van laden with empty tea-chests. A porter named Perry fell from the said van head-downwards, and was severely injured.

Accident at the Priory. — At the new ​building​s on the Government Ground, on the 17th of October, by the giving way of a “putlog”, three men, each with a hod of bricks, were precipitated thirty feet to the ground, by which William Lippard severely crushed an arm, and a man named Jeffery had a wrist broken. Harvey was not much injured. [ 56 ]Frank Bennetts, senior clerk in the Hastings Bank, dislocated a shoulder in being thrown by a horse.

Hurt and Unhurt. — On the 25th of December, George Stanford, a carpenter, sustained a broken leg by being pushed into the ​road​ by a crowd; and on the next day, two flies collided in George street, and the driver of one was thrown into the ​road​, but not injured.


An Eagle.— Mr. Bissenden, of St. Leonards, had the work to do of stuffing an eagle, which a man shot under the cliff near Pett, and sold to Mr. Tong of Battle. It weighed 8½ lbs, was 3 ft. in length, and 6½ feet in the spread of its wings.

A handsome hen-pheasant, with the plumage of a male pheasant, was in the possession of Mr. Carswell, of the Swan Hotel.

A Fox and several varieties of birds, were presented to the museum of the Hastings Mechanics’ Institution by Capt. Bird, who had recently returned from the Arctic regions, whither he went with Capt. Ross, in the Investigator in search of Sir John Franklin.

A gigantic hog was killed for Mr. Parks, of the South Colonnade, on the 14th of January. It weighed 85 stone, 3lbs., and measured 8½ feet in length and 6½ feet in girth. It was only 15 months old, and two of its kindred were still in Mr. Parks’ possession.

A six feet refracting a telescope, with excellent lenses, all made by “Crazy” Tom Richardson, of Brede, being raffled for, was won by Mr. W. Ginner, of High-street, with a throw of 91 out of a possible number of 105.

A rare feat of Equestrianism. A horse was ridden by Mr. Paul Tolhurst, up steps into the Royal Oak Hotel, through a passage and down a steep and winding flight of stairs into the lower bar, much to the astonishment of the host and numerous customers at that time assembled. When there, the animal refused to move until a glass of ale had been given to it. After that, it quietly walked out and discharged its rider by tipping him on to the pavement.

Ten feet longer. If not a rarity, it certainly was a work of ingenuity to cut a schooner asunder at midships, draw the two portions apart, and insert additional ribs, keel and timbers to the addition of ten feet. This was done on the Hastings stade to a vessel belonging to Burfield Brothers.

Old pennies. It came to the knowledge of Hastings people that the wife of a respectable farmer at Goudhurst, saved 16,200 penny-pieces of the old coinage, which she had taken in payment of farm-house commodities. The weight was 1,011½ lbs. One can imagine that this rare accumulation was by dint of solicitation rather than by the ordinary mode of commercial exchange. [ 57 ]A Bull Roar— the term of which was so rare to the writer that he had to enquire for its meaning — took place at the “The Fortune of War” by a supper from the prize ox of last year’s Lean Stock Show at Hastings. The animal was afterwards fattened and purchased by Mr. Walter Vincent. The dead ox weighed 192 stone, exclusive of 18 stone of fat.

Temperance Rarities. — At the Temperance meeting on the 11th of September, presided over by Mr. W. Ransom, an analysis of a recent report was given by Mr. Pitter, in which D. H., a sawyer, had entirely recovered from a complication of diseases, said to be incurable, by adopting the cold-water cure and total abstinence. J. C., a bricklayer, once a complete drunkard, had greatly benefited by six months trial of temperance. F. C., had been very intemperate, but since his change had made himself a comfortable home. W. H., a railway time-keeper, after many years of moderate drinking, “fell down the hill” as a drunkard, but now as a teetotaller was a better man in all the relations of life. H. T., an old soldier, had been many years a drunkard, but was now benefited physically, morally and financially by teetotalism. F. Streeter had been ten years a member of the society, and hoped the cases enumerated would become less rare.

Union-house Rarities. — At the sitting of the Board of Guardians on Sept. 19, the proceedings occupied less than an hour, a fact said to be unprecedented in the history of the Board. Another rarity was the fewer inmates by 40 than the number in the previous year’s corresponding quarter. A third rarity came to the knowledge of the Board that a woman named Sarah Clayfield, aged 67, had recently died in the Stroud Workhouse, where she had been from infancy, and had cost for her maintenance, reckoned at 2/6 per week, no less a sum than £446, leaving out the interest. The Guardians might well hope that such cases would continue to be rare.

A rare farming operation was that of setting three grains of maize corn and getting an abundant crop. This was done by Mr. E. W. Stubbs, in his garden at Laurel Villa (now “the Laurels”). The seed was transmitted from America by Bartlett Woods, the youngest son of the Hastings postmaster, whose farm was at Hickory Ridge, Ross township, Indiana. The seed thus planted grew to perfection, and in the same time (March to October) as in America.

A Rarity in Shaving. — In the week which ended on December 28, a respectably dressed man entered Stonestreet’s shop and requested to be shaved. After the operation, he asked for it to be repeated, remarking that he had undergone this process in all quarters of the globe, but had never been so easily shaved before. The lather and the razor were again applied, not only once, but actually fifteen times, by request. All that time the barber’s whimsical customer showed no signs of risibility, whilst the operator could barely repress a fit of [ 58 ]laughter. After the 15th shave, the gentleman calculated the cost of the service thus rendered to be half a crown, paid the money and took his leave. This event, which was one of “Billy” Stonestreet’s varied experiences, was in strong contrast, to one of Chatfield’s, at an earlier date, which was this: — A well-known economist, named Godden, insisted on being shaved for a penny, and shaved he was, but to his mortification, as he afterwards discovered, on one side only. He protested against what he called (or mis-called) a bare-faced cheat, but his protest was unavailing.

A Rare Christmas Box. — At Christmastide, an inmate of the Hastings Union, named Richard Page, whom I once knew as a basket-maker, living at the foot of Bourne street, received a letter from his step-son, Frederick Ballard Page, enclosing a draft for 250 dollars, with an intimation that a similar sum would be transmitted quarterly.

Robberies and Forgeries

A Robbery was committed at the house of Mr. W. Giles, organist, on the 10th of January, whilst he and Mrs. Giles were from home, attending a professional engagement. The thief effected an entrance to the bedroom and carried off £12 or £13 in gold and silver.

A Fat Sheep, was carried off during the night of the 20th of January, from a field near Hastings Lodge, the said sheep belonging to butcher Waghorne of Castle street. The head and skin were left on the field.

A Great Forgery of £5 notes on the Brighton Union Bank was discovered in Hastings on Saturday, the 22nd of February, and a number of the spurious notes (an excellent imitation) passed on tradesmen by the swindlers. In about two hours as many as 27 of the forged notes were thus passed, but four of the gang were caught, and on the following Monday were committed for trial. There had not been a similarly great excitement since the failure of Wigney’s branch bank, some years before. The detected thieves were Joseph Green, of London, Joseph Hasland, of Sheffield, Robert Stewart, of Brighton, and Henry Clarkson. On the same Saturday evening two men passed the same sort of forged notes at Lewes, the victimised tradesmen being Mr. Funnell, of the Cliffe; Mr. Funnell, of St. Ann’s; Mr. Funnell of Southover; Mr. Porter, a butcher; and Mr. B​road​, a tallow-chandler. The swindlers got away from that town without detection. The Funnells were related to friends of mine at Chiddingly, and Mr. B​road​ used to serve grocers of Hastings, with candles. The two men at St. Leonards and Hastings passed the spurious notes on Mr. R. Coleman, [ 59 ]of Grand parade; David Hurst, of Norman ​road​; William Beck, of East Ascent; Mr. Taylor, of Stratford place; Mr. Taylor of York place; James Emary, of the Castle Hotel; Robert Dunk, of Castle street; Alfred Amoore, of Castle street; Mr. Taylor, of George street; Mr. Robinson, of George street; Mr. West, of the Anchor Inn; Rodger Bromley, of George street; J. & G. Amoore, of High st.; H. Dunk, of High street; and W. Grant, of High street. Thus, 16 persons were victimised in St. Leonards and Hastings, 9 of whom were grocers. The rogues appeared to have commenced operations at East Ascent, and then into Norman ​road​, where they only succeeded in duping Mr. Hurst. Getting down to Grand parade, Mr. Coleman was the next victim. Then passing the range of lodging-houses at Eversfield place, Verulam place and White-rock place they made another haul at Stratford place. Robertson street was then in course of formation, so they had to go on to York place. They next proceeded through Castle Street, Breeds place, George street, and to nearly the top of High street, in all of which places they were successful in palming off their notes, either in exchange for good money or in the purchase of some small articles. If the rogues had been content with their ill-gotten booty so far, and had decamped at once, they would probably have got clear away. But as if they wanted to make up their eighty pounds to at least a hundred, and being unsuccessful in some of their attempts, they got back again into busy George street, where they tried the game on Mr. John Reeves, by whom they got checkmated. Mr. Reeves and his brother had their suspicions aroused by the manner of one of the swindlers, and Mr. Reeves communicated his ideas first to PC. Hayward, and next to Inspector Campbell at the station. The latter, however, displayed an indifference about the matter, and took no steps to search for the utterers of the notes. Richard Reeves followed the man who had called at his brother’s shop, and kept him in sight for ¾ of an hour, whilst Mr. John Reeves went to the station, but finding no police coming to his aid, at length gave up the pursuit. The brothers, however, after closing the shop, went again in search of the suspected rogues, but could not find them. A memorial was afterwards presented to the Mayor and magistrates by the tradesmen who had been duped, and the Inspector was called to account. In his defence, he said he was very dull that night in consequence of some family affairs which he did not wish then to go into, but which caused him to be quite overcome. He admitted that he was negligent in the case, and would leave the matter to the magistrates’ kind consideration, hoping that they would remember his long service of 29 years. The Mayor, after paying a high compliment to Mr. Reeves for his exertions, told Campbell that the sentence of the court was that he be suspended for a month. This decision was afterwards confirmed by the Watch Committee of the Town [ 60 ]Council, who also suspended Sergt. Ginner for a like period because he refused to act while being off duty. Sergt. Phillips was appointed to take the Inspector’s place, and privates Jones and Adams were to be sergeants. The utterers of the notes got away notwithstanding the energetic watchfulness of the Brothers Reeves, simply through the supineness of the police. They were connected with a gang of forgerers and utterers, some of whom were taken and judicially dealt with. One of the gang, named William Davies, was captured at Birmingham. The gang had forged and passed notes on the banks of Stourbridge, Sheffield, Rotherham, Weymouth, Chippingham (sic), Northampton, Leeds, Warwick, Worcester, York, Darlington, Abergavenny and Brighton. The readers of this will do well to read also the speech of the Mayor at the Trade-protection dinner, in an antecedent section of this chapter.

Pocket Picking. On the 17th of July, a lady, while sitting on the parade, had her pocket picked of a new purse, containing a sovereign[6] and some silver. Perhaps the picker thought the purse was safer in his own pocket, but being unknown and unfound, he could not well be questioned.

Obtaining Money. — Another way of obtaining money was revealed on the 28th of August by a case at the County Bench. One Francis de Latour Dupin, professing to be the son of an aide-de-camp to the late Count de Neuilly, was charged with extorting money under false pretences. He had a bandage over his left eye, and his right arm in a sling. He had, he said, a pistol wound in his arm and a bayonet wound in his face, which he got at Rome. His arm, he declared had also been broken at Hastings while getting out of a carriage. These and the other versions of his ills were the means by which he obtained 3/- from some ladies near Bexhill, 2/6 each from a Mr. Paine and another man at the Bopeep hotel, 11/6 and 2/6 from Mr. Lucas-Shadwell, at Fairlight, with food, wine, and bed at a cottage, he having been found in the ​road​, supposed to be in a fit. The evidence, however, of surgeon F. Ticehurst, (who tore off his bandages and showed the deception), together with that of other witnesses, resulted in the impostor being sent to three months hard labour at Lewes.

Another way of doing it. — Cn the 2nd of August, a man about six feet high and of fine proportions, having also a gentlemanly bearing, and calling himself Mr. Martin, from Court Lodge, Mountfield, where he had been shooting, called on the tradesmen and gave orders to a large amount, at the same time taking away the goods in his dog-cart. Tailors, shoemakers, a draper, a clothier, a perfumer, a gunsmith and a saddler, were all patronised. A horse was also hired of Mr. Hoad to do duty in a tandem. At length, his manoeuvers were observed by tailor Harman, whose suspicions were communicated to the Mayor, and the police [ 61 ]were put on Mr. Martin’s track. Taught by experience in the forgery case, the police were now more alert, and when confronted by the men in blue, the hero of the story was unable to give satisfactory answers to their questions, and immediately set about to show that discretion was the better part of valour by delivering his too easily acquired stock to their several owners. The goods thus returned included ten or twelve pairs of boots from Mr. John Reeves; showing that he, astute and wary as he was in the case of uttering forged notes, was not entirely proof against imposition.

A Loin purloined. On the 16th of December, during the evening, the larder at 34 Marina was found to be minus a loin of mutton, a leg of mutton and a piece of beef. This was achieved by some unseen person who cared more for meat than honesty.

Stealing and assaulting. On a Sunday evening, two respectable females who were out on an errand occasioned by illness of one of their household, were knocked down by four navvies, issuing from the Albion Shades, and were considerably hurt, one of them also having stolen from her a shawl, said to be worth a guinea. People might well desire the railways finished and the workmen gone.

Bank Robbery. The not infrequent robberies of banks in one way or another proves that notwithstanding their many checks to dishonesty, the ingenuity and dexterity of thieves are sometimes more than a match for them. In the second month of the year now under review (Feb. 17th) a young man, 20 years of age, named Thomas F. Laurence, by profession a sailor, entered the Hastings branch of the London and County Bank, then in George street and carried off £37 in gold and £22 7s. in silver.

The Church a Robber. It is possible that there would be many dissentients to the following charge made at an All Saints’ vestry on April 1st, but the charge was there and then made by Mr. “Split-plum” (Henry) Thwaites, who was a Wesleyan as well as a grocer. Mr. Jackson having proposed that Thomas Elliott be re-elected organist at £20 a year, and the money be raised by subscription, Mr. Thwaites opposed it, with considerable warmth. He declared that parties ought to pay for their own peculiar pleasures out of their own pockets. He disapproved of instrumental music in a place of worship altogether, and he considered it very dishonourable for churchmen to force others to pay for what only themselves approved of. But the Church had got the law on its side; and it was like a rogue, when it got you down, you were obliged to submit and let him put his hands into your pocket and take your money out. It was a shame for the Church to dip its hands into people’s pockets in that way in order to get their money. The proposition being that the pay of the organist should be raised by subscription the probability was that Mr. Thwaites would not be asked to subscribe, and that those who wanted the music would be [ 62 ]willing to pay for it out of their own pockets or purses. In any case, the proposition was carried, and the Church even with the stigma of being a rogue and a robber was again triumphant.

Magisterial Dictum

Inspector Campbell having complained to the Bench that gentlemen frequently bathed in front of Beach cottages without drawers that were provided for them, Mr. Brisco said the police had no business to be spying about, and it would serve them right to give them a good ducking. Taking advantage of this magisterial dictum, four gentlemen; so-called, jeered the inspector, a few nights later, when they were taken into custody for being drunk, using oaths and other bad language, ringing door-bells and breaking lamps. Their names were Lumsden, Bent, Rust and Barton. When at the station they were so turbulent that the Inspector could not enter the Sergt’s report. One of them read aloud the Bye-laws on the wall, while others kicked the door with such violence that the police and the gaoler had to take their boots off. They threw half-crowns out of the window, as they said for someone to go for their servants. These gentlemen, though ably defended by Mr. Langham, were fined 20s. each, and costs 8/6. The Watch Committee, afterwards (July 19th) passed a vote of commendation to Sergt. Ginner and P.C. Brazier for their apprehension of these gentlemen roughs in their midnight orgies. Rightly did Mr. James Smith say, as one of the speakers at the St. Leonards Mechanics’ Institution soiree that there were vulgar rich as well as vulgar poor, whilst among both would be found men of large and comprehensive ideas. Even poverty, he averred need not disqualify a man from being a gentleman, whilst riches alone could not make one. Such an axiom was manifested in the conduct of the four moneyed-rowdies above described. But that also among the working classes are to be found men of a debased type has been sufficiently shown in foregoing paragraphs anent the railway labourers. Nor have the Hastings fishermen always been free from debasing and censurable conduct. An instance of this is conveyed in a letter addressed to the Mayor, G. Scrivens, Esq., as follows:—

”British Consulate, Havre, June 28, 1850.

Sir,—The fishing smack, Richard Cobden, George Boreham, master, belonging to your port, was brought into Havre by a French brig on the 22nd instant for dredging oysters during the season prohibited by the fishing convention of 1846 between England and France. After a detention of two or three days, the crew would have been allowed to depart, the ulterior measures against them being left to the discretion of their Government at home; but while in a drunken state they attacked a French seaman and violently assaulted a gendarme [ 63 ]who came to the seaman’s assistance, inflicting various injuries, under which he is still suffering. In consequence of this outrage, George Boreham and Spencer Kent and his brother were lodged in the gaol of this town, and are indicted to appear next Tuesday before the Criminal Court to receive judgment. The French law is severe against persons who injure any officer of justice; and although every attempt has been made to obtain the release of the offenders, no further concession has been allowed, but that of hastening their trial. A clever lawyer has been engaged, and it is thought an official testimony of their general good conduct at Hastings might serve them; this, of course, if they are entitled to it, which they affirm they are, they never having broken the laws of their country. They say that they are personally known to you. If therefore you accede to their request, which I understand they have forwarded to you, it is necessary that no time should be lost, and every use shall be made of the document to favour the cause of the seamen.

I am, Sir, your very obedient, W. Featherstonhaugh.

It was stated that the letter was only received that morning, it having laid at the office on Sunday, through the mischievous operation of the new postal regulations. It was questionable whether there would be time to comply with the request of the Consul, as the trial would take place tomorrow.

If the appropriateness of placing this later case of ruffianism under the heading of “Magisterial Dictum” be questioned, the reply is that as the rowdyism of the drunken “gents” sprang out of the indiscreet remarks of a magistrate, so the rowdyism of the drunken fishermen has associated itself in the mind of the writer with the debasing conduct of those who assuming the character of gentlemen should have been exemplars of gentlemanly conduct. The sentences on the three fishermen were 60 days’ imprisonment for Boreham, the master; 30 days for Spencer Kent; and acquittance for Robert Kent.

Getting into difficulties.

The Hastings “gents” and the Hastings “tan-frocks” were not the only Hastings people who got themselves in difficulties; for, there was another Hastings body-yclept the Hastings Commissioners, who in a review by the Hastings News, were “Getting into Difficulties”. There is so much history of the financial career of this large and unwieldy board of our old-time rulers, as to justify a reproduction of that journal’s criticism. On July 8th the Editorial article appeared as follows:—

"We have heard of throwing away a sprat to catch a herring; of a [ 64 ]Chancellor of the Exchequer disposing of a surplus revenue by so adjusting a graduated tax as to make it yield more; of an Irishman trying to lengthen his blanket by cutting a piece off the bottom and sewing it on the top. In short, we have heard of a variety of schemes in the shape of ways and means; but all these little stars are made to hide their diminished heads when compared with the brilliant experience [experiment][7] commenced in our local Commission on Monday night. The herring was there sacrificed to the sprat; and an inefficient revenue aided by a reduction in the income. It was resolved that as there was an apprehension that "as the St. Clement’s parish was paying off its debt rather too fast, the parishes of All Saints and St. Mary-in-the-Castle should have their half-yearly rating reduced by a penny in the pound". The insanity of this resolution will be evident when we consider that lately the three parishes have been rated up to the highest point allowed by law — namely, 4d. in the pound per half year; in despite of which the heavy expenses incurred by the recent improvements have sunk the Commission deeply in debt — a thousand pounds being overdrawn at the Bank!

The point of support upon which the Archimedians of this new movement have placed their lever is this: some half century ago, when St. Clement comprised nearly the whole of Hastings, that parish got deeply in debt by its paving and other expenses. At the time when the present Local Act was obtained, St. Clement agreed to take a thousand pounds of its debt upon itself solely, in order to pay which it was to be rated a penny in the pound higher on the half-yearly rates than the two other parishes. The utmost [rate][7] to which any of the parishes could be rated was four pence. Under this arrangement things went on smoothly enough till lately, when the increased expenditure rendered it necessary for all the rates to be at a maximum. When those rates came in January last, the St. Clement's debt had been much reduced, and the only step taken for its further reduction since the fourpenny rate was levied has been an order for paying off of £50, which was made last month. Never-the-less, some of the Commissioners in All Saints and St. Mary’s appear to have been seized with a horrible apprehension that they were being taxed to pay off the St. Clement’s debt; so in order to remove that contingency and to satisfy their own minds of the impossibility of any such benefit arising from their unwitting [unworthy][7] liberality, they have turned round, and resolved by cutting down the taxes in their own parishes, to plunge the whole Commission into a gulf of financial difficulties; plainly saying by their action that they would rather run the risk of swamping the whole Commission than by any possibility [ 65 ]assist in removing the paltry residue of the St. Clement's debt. Thus a narrow parish feeling is allowed to prevail, to the injury of the town".

“Music hath charms”

Says a writer — “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast”. “No, it hasn’t” says the critic; — “for it often excites the canine race to savageness and to a fit of incessant howling; besides which, those whose employment it is to disseminate the harmony of sweet sounds are themselves too frequently the most inharmonious”. It will be no difficult task to reconcile these divergent views; but, leaving that work to others, the intention here is merely to place on record the difficulty with which the Hastings Band had to contend in 1850, and the cause of its abrupt cessation of performance. It ceased playing on July 25th because the Committee had only paid for 2½ weeks. The Band was censured for its hasty action, but the Hastings News remarked that the getting in subscriptions appeared to be a work which neither the Committee nor the band could manage. But (said the same journal), see what St. Leonards is doing! A letter, in explanation appeared in the News, dated Aug. 15th, of which the following is the substance: —

“The band was engaged at £6 10s. per week. The third week commenced and no payment was made, the Committee not having begun to collect subscriptions. The Band felt there was a want of energy, and that there was likely to be a failure, as in previous years. The Committee has since collected, paid the demands and ceased to act. It is 27 years since the Band began to play on the parade, and by dint of great study and expense, have gained a name that will rank with the first local bands in the kingdom. A collecting Committee was formed in 1847, and after the Band had played 13 weeks there was collected only £16 11s. They waited till February of the following year, and then when the subscriptions were got in, they shared 11¼d. a man per night. — If Hastings requires a band, the Hastings Band will feel honoured by being engaged; and all they require is to be placed on the same footing as a German band.”

Proposed New Baths

On the 30th of January, a meeting was held at the Marine Hotel to promote the establishment of Baths and Wash-houses on a more popular scale than at that time existed. Mr. Humbert attended, and submitted plans for such ​building​s on the Priory ground. It was contemplated to supply the public with good baths at very reduced charges. [ 66 ]

Money Collections.

Ten guineas remitted from Hastings and St. Leonards, in January for the windows and all orphans of pilots who perished at South Shields in attempting to rescue the crew of the “Betsy” of Littlehampton on the 5th of December, 1849. — £62 15s. collected after a sermon by the Rev. T. Vores on the 7th of April for St. Mary’s Schools. — £10 collected at the Croft Chapel on Sept. 8th, after a sermon by the Rev. Wm. Davis, for the British School in Waterloo place. — £96 collected in the several churches on Dec. 22nd for the Infirmary.

Dinners, Teas and Treats

A farewell dinner given on Feb. 15th by 16 personal friends to Mr. George Barton, previous to his leaving Hastings. — A tea-meeting was held in the Bourne-street Wesleyan Chapel on Easter Monday, together with address and special singing by the choir. — Also on Easter Monday, a tea was given to about 150 night-school adults in the National schoolroom. — On Good Friday, a lecture, preceded by tea, was delivered by Dr. J. T. Gray, in the Baptist Lecture-room. — On Whit-Monday, the annual dinners were served to the several Benefit societies, as previously described, under “Banquets”. — Also on Whit-Monday the Wesleyan School children had a treat of games on the hill and tea in the schoolroom. On the same day the children of the Independent and Baptist Sunday schools had games on the hill and tea in the Croft Chapel. Afterward 120 teachers and friends took tea together in the Girls’ British Schoolroom, Waterloo place. — A supper was given to the All Saints Church choir on Sept. 26th.


A petition was signed by 700 persons against the Window Tax; which cost the ratepayers of the borough about £4,000, and induced them to block some of their windows and shut out the light of heaven. — Also petitions against the Jew Bill and for the extinction of Beer-shops.

Temperance Meetings

Mr. James Rock, senr., presided at a Temperance meeting held on January 30th in the Lecture-room of the Baptist Chapel, when addresses were given by Messrs. Paul Hugh, F. Beck and F. Streeter. — The first Juvenile Temperance Society in Hastings was formed on the 11th of June in the same room.


The vessels trading to and from Hastings in 1850, were Flora (capt. Bayley) with coal; Caroline (Allen), coal; Jane (Morfee) timber; Fairy (Piper) coal; Phoenix (Palmer) general; Milward (Welfare) general; Hastings (Pettitt) coal; Delight (Stevens) coal; William Pitt (Fisher), general; Perseverance (Winter) coal; Rock-Scorpion (Phillips), coal; Sarah and Francis (Wood) fruit; Wanderer (Piper) coal; Juno (McBean) coal; Amelia (Broomhead) deals; St. Leonards (Lingham) cement; Elizabeth Hardie (Higgins) iron sleepers; Helen (Clarke) iron; Sisters (Hughes) slate; James (Ainsworth), timber; John Weavel (Picknell) coal.

Transcribed by Ian Shiner

  1. a b c d e Brett's spelling varies, correctly Edward Cresy, F.S.A., C.E., Superintending Inspector for the General Board of Health for the purposes of the Public Health Act, 1848
  2. An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022
  3. Laches refers to a lack of diligence and activity in making a legal claim, or moving forward with legal enforcement of a right.
  4. An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022
  5. An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022
  6. An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022
  7. a b c Brett quoted this passage earlier in this chapter under 1.1 Hastings Commissioners by using press cuttings. Here he is using long-hand manuscript and has made a few errors. The correct wording is within the square brackets.