Hastings Museum

From Historical Hastings

Although a Museum has existed in Hastings since 1890 at the Brassey Institute[1][2] , the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery is currently based in what used to be a private residence known as John's Place, this giving its name to the road between the museum and Bohemia Road. Discussions with regards to the location of a new museum were reported in the Observer as early as 1921, Sidney Little, the borough engineer drew up plans for the conversion of this ​building​ in March 1923 suggesting that negotiations with the then owners were already in an advanced stage.[3]The premises were finally purchased for the sum of £7500 in 1927[4], the museum finally moving in during 1928. A planning application in August 1924 concerned a drying room and a store.[5]An extension was constructed to hold the 'Durbar Room' and 'Indian Collection'.[6]

Prior to John's Place being secured, there were plans to house at least part of the town's collection, particularly the 'Durbar Room' which Thomas Brassey had purchased and previously used to exhibit his wife's collection at his London home, in a new ​building​ on the opposite side to the White Rock Pavilion in Schwerte Way with a ​building​ similar in style to the pavilion (this room having been in storage in a council warehouse for a number of years).

Other locations that were considered were a purpose built ​building​ in Hickman's Field (Near the junction between Cambridge Road and White Rock Road) and a further location that had been ear-marked some years previous in White Rock Gardens.[7]

1954 Sale of Exhibits

In 1954, the museum advertised for sale, a large number of exhibits, listing them in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer in six groups as follows;

Group A - Ceramics. Miscellaneous English, German, French, Chinese and Japanese.

Group B - Ivories. Mostly Japanese, many of them signed specimens, including 37 figures. 105 netsukes (nearly all ivory), 2 carved heads and a tall, carved Italian loving cup.

Group C - Oriental.Collection of Oriental antiquities, including 45 Tsuba, 23 Kozuka, 16 Menuki, 19 Kana-mono and set of chessmen on carved concentric balls (less two red pawns).

Group D - Seals. Over sixty seals in gold, brass, steel, glass, etc.

Group E - Horse brasses. A collection said to have been formed about 50 years ago: 102 horse brasses, 20 other pieces of brass horse decoration and 26 from coaches (heraldic).

Group F - Miscellaneous. Brassware, shoes, a few enamels, 6 miniatures, beads, boxes. Blue John, fans, purses, etc., etc., and Italian carved bellows (c. 1550).

Bidding for the lots were to be by sealed tenders to be submitted to the Chief Education Officer at Wellington Square[8]

Key Collections

Among the almost 100,000 items in the museum's collection, key exhibits in the museum are local history, natural sciences, fine & decorative arts, and world cultures.

Local History & Grey Owl

There is a gallery relating to the local area from prehistory to the Saxons. A series of dioramas of locally found wildlife occupy a further gallery on the first floor. The Native North American collection relates the life of Hastings-born conservationist Archibald Belaney on the American plains, who adopted the name "Grey Owl".

Local Studies Room

The museum also offers a room, the local studies room, which houses a vast collection of images, maps, publications and unpublished notes covering all areas of local history. This room is typically opened once per week. See the Museum's Calendar for exact dates/times of opening.


The Museum has a large Archaeological collection including around 2,500 flints and over 10,000 excavated artefacts. Many of these come from sites in and around Hastings; these permit a picture of human habitation locally to be developed from prehistory to the medieval period. Excavated material from as far away as South Africa, Japan and South America is also on display.[9]

Durbar Hall

The Durbar Hall having been built for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition by Lady Brassey 1886, was donated to the museum in 1919 as part of the Brassey Collection. This is now available as a venue for weddings, and the adjoining art gallery utilised for many lectures and music recitals.

Burton Collection

There is also a Burton Collection relating the London developer of St Leonards (James Burton and his architect son, Decimus) held by the Museum.[10]

1998/9 Refurbishment

Around 1998/9, the museum underwent a refurbishment, with an extension that provided additional gallery space and incorporated a passenger lift between the ground and first floor[11]

Regular Events

The Local Studies Room is open every Wednesday for members of the public to access the museum's extensive collection of photographs, maps, notebooks and other works.


From To Curator
1905 1935 William Ruskin Butterfield
1935 1972 John Manwaring Baines
1972 1982 David Devenish
1982 2008 Victoria Williams
2008 2018 Cathy Walling

Since 2018, the internal structure of the museum's staff changed, the role of curator being merged with several others and merged and changed into different roles.[12]
Current Staff are;
Damian Etherington is Museum and Cultural Development Manager (2018 - present)
Eleanor Lanyon is Collections and Engagement Curator (Human History) (2019 - present)
Philip Hadland is Collections and Engagement Curator (Natural Sciences) (2019 - present)
Lisa Finch is Collections and Engagement Curator (Fine Art) (2019 - present)

2020 Coronavirus Closure

In common with many public ​building​s, the museum closed on the 17th March 2020 due to the Coronavirus Outbreak and moved to delivering digital content using the hashtag #HastingsDigitalMuseum. The museum re-opened in 2021 on a bookings only basis following an easing of the coronavirus restrictions.


References & Notes

  1. A Victorian Traveler in the Middle East: The Photography and Travel Writing of Annie Lady Brassey By Nancy Micklewright Pg.89 Google Books
  2. Hastings EUS 2010
  3. East Sussex County Council Archive The Keep ACC7026/109
  4. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 30 April 1927 pg. 3
  5. East Sussex County Council Archive The Keep DH/C/6/1/9369
  6. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 16 May 1931 pg. 13
  7. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 03 January 1925 pg. 10
  8. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 18 December 1954 Pg. 0011
  9. VIPA UK
  10. National Archive of the UK
  11. Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/OA/98/00092
  12. Email received from Ben Ellis, Operations Co-ordinator HMAG