Osborne's Stranger's Guide to Hastings

From Historical Hastings

In 1846, the Osbornes of 55 George Street published a work entitled "The Stranger's Guide to Hastings & St. Leonards", or "Osborne's Visitor's Guide to Hastings and St. Leonards". The guide underwent three revisions, the first as previously stated in 1846, the second in 1854 and the third in 1864. The 1864 revision of the guide is in the process of being fully transcribed for reference below:

Osborne's Visitor's Guide To Hastings and St Leonards


History of Hastings

The desire to obtain historical information relative to the place in which one is brought up and permanently settled, is less strong than the same feeling with respect to that place in which we make a temporary sojourn. It may be accounted for by supposing the enquiry to be delayed, as one which can be prosecuted at any time, till, perhaps, some stranger gives all the information it might more reasonably have been expected he should require, — it is then treasured in proportion, as it was before slighted. The very reverse is the fact as regards places to which we are strangers. The indications of antiquity everywhere apparent in Hastings, will naturally excite a spirit of enquiry; in anticipation of which, such an account as is consistant with the limits of this work is now offered.

The name of Hastings has by many been supposed to be derived from a Danish pirate bearing that appellation, who made incursions on the coast in the reign of Alfred. But this cannot be the true Pg.8 origin of the name since we find Hastings mentioned rather more than a century before, in a grant confirmed by Offa, king of Mercia, allotting certain land in the neighbourhood of Hastings to the abbey of St. Dennis. This Offa, after his subjugation of Kent, conquered a people called the Hestingi. Alford states in his annals, that a charter in Dublet, fixes the locality of the Hestingi in Sussex. Thus it appears most reasonable to believe that the present title was derived from the name of that people. Offa reigned from 755 to 794, so that the appellation is more than a thousand years old.

The early military history of Hastings is that which, from its important effects on England, not only at the time, but through succeeding ages, has been most perfectly preserved; consequently we have the number of vessels employed as transports in William, Duke of Normandy’s invasion, the omens[1] he encountered, the wit with which they were turned to favourable account,—the colour of his horse, and a variety of other trifling details. But the truly important statement is, that a.p., 1066, William having provided an army of 60,000 men, set sail from St. Valery, at the mouth of the Somme, in Picardy, (and not the town of the same name in Normandy, as has been supposed by many,) and landed his troups(sic) in Pevensey Bay, and along Pg.9 the coast eastward towards Hastings, in which vicinity he encamped. As Robert of Moriton, the Duke’s half-brother, ordered that a castle should be dug (built) at Hastings, some have supposed that the foundation of the present castle was then laid, and that the building was raised for the temporary protection of the Norman army. This, however, could not have been the case, as a speedy engagement with Harold was almost inevitable, and it is not very probable that William would have resorted to so elaborate a means of defence, which must have occupied a considerable period in its completion. The Castle ordered to be made, no doubt was an intrenchment of earth, fortified with woodwork; for Thierry tells us that “the Duke’s army comprised carpenters and smiths, who brought on shore, piece by piece, three wooden castles ready prepared before hand,” and that on William’s arrival near Hastings, they “ marked out a camp, and raised two of the wooden castles as receptacles for provisions.” The Battle Chronicle also states, that “Things falling according to his wishes, the Duke did not tarry long there, (namely, at Pevensey,) but proceeded with his followers to a certain port not far off, called Hastings, and there having obtained a suitable place, speedily erected a wooden castle.” The Bayeaux Tapestry represents men working with pickaxes and shovels near a large mound, upon which there is an erection, with vertical joints like palings, and not horizontal like courses of stone.[2] During the Duke’s stay at Hastings (fifteen days) he published his proclamation of the reasons he had for his presentproceedings. They were the circumstance that Edward the Confessor married Editha, daughter of Godwin, Earl of Kent, and sister to Harold; he dying without issue, had declared his cousin William, Duke of Normandy, his successor, and Harold had promised his help towards attaining that object; but William being absent at the time of Edward's decease, Harold got himself proclaimed and crowned King at Westminster, a.v., 1066. There were other causes assigned, — as that his cousin Alfred, the brother of Edward, and many nobles, his companions, were murdered by Godwin; and that Harold had exiled the Archbishop of Canterbury during Edward’s lifetime. The Crown of England, however, was the motive.

Harold was at this time engaged with the Norwegians, at Stamford, whom he defeated, and whose king, Harfager (fair locks,) he slew. He then immediately turned his energies to the raising a sufficient army to oppose the Normans, and marched. to meet them, halting near Battle, which derives its name from the subsequent events. Having discovered the strength and discipline of William’s army, his  Pg.11 younger brother, Gurth, advised him not to venture all in a single battle, but to wait for opportunities, and harass the enemy by cutting off their supplies and otherwise annoy them, to throw them into disorder; that as the winter was approaching, from fatigue, with skirmishes and short provisions, combined with the almost impassable roads,—the English ever active in front,—they would easily fall a prey to them. His brother entreated him, at least, not to expose himself, but to withdraw and employ his authority in raising a new army so as ultimately to be able to meet William with fresh forces. His brother entreated him, at least, not to expose himself to battle. But Harold, in his own country, was determined, at all hazards, to meet the invaders at once, and was deaf to all remonstrances; roused by his native courage at the thoughts of delay, which he considered might be constructed into cowardice, he replied: —“ With what heart would the soldiers fight when they have not their general an eye witness of their performances; when they want his sight, his encouragement, his example, to enflame them to valour.” On the 14th October, 1066, each placed himself at the head of his army, and prepared to meet his antagonist. Unfortunately for the English they had passed the previous night in riot and folly, losing the advantages which were gained by the Norman feeling of devotion and quiet. The morning dawned, and found the leaders using those precautions which their skill suggested, and addressing their followers in such language as should excite their energies, — William reminding the Normans that they came to avenge their wrongs, and were in the enemy’s power, as he had dismissed his fleet, and should they now yield, they must be inevitably driven into the sea. Harold, on the other hand, holding up the invaders to the indignation and fury Pg.12 of the English. All attempts at mediation — of reference to the Pope, — of trial by single combat, — had utterly failed: it was now a national affair, and as such, should be decided by a general trial of strength.

The Norman army was divided into three bodies: the first containing the cavalry with the sacred banner, was commanded by Roger Montgomery and William Fitz-Osbert; the second was formed of soldiers from Germany, under a prince of Almaigne; the third held the flower of the Normans and the Duke in person, the archers being distributed among the lines and on each flank. The English placed their Kentish-men according to a claim they had, in front of a dense mass resembling the Roman sconce, with their shields so placed as that the base of one touched the head of another, by which means the arrows would glide off as from a slated roof. The main body was composed of Londoners, who guarded the standard; and the Danes formed the wings. The royal standard of England was placed on the site of Battle Abbey; the King and his brothers taking their station by it. It was the King’s birth-day.

After the first onset, which was made by the Normans discharging flights of arrows, to the discomfiture of the English, then unused to that weapon, and their endeavouring to come to close combat, the battle became one of a personal conflict with short spears, swords, and the pole-axe, “And so they continued the greater part of that day, in close and furious fight; blow for blow, wound for wound, death for death; their feet steady, their hands diligent, their eyes watchful, their hearts resolute; neither their advisement dazzled by their fierceness, nor their fierceness anything abated by advisement.”—“ Never was fury better governed, Pg.13 never game of death better played. The more they fought the better they fought, the more they smarted the less they regarded the smart.”[3]

But as in after-times the English excelled all nations in archery, it was now their worst enemy; among others, the king received an arrow through his eye into his brain; this of itself was sufficient cause for their defeat, independently of others which were secondary. The news of Harold’s death spread rapidly, and paralyzed(sic) the nearly exhausted energies of his soldiers, while it served to elate their adversaries. The result was that William became the conqueror, and though his loss was very great, the consequences were such as he would have considered cheaply paid for with twice the number. William had three horses killed under him, and nearly fifteen thousand men fell on the Norman side: the loss on the other side was still more considerable: he returned to Hastings the next day, having previously given the King’s body to his mother, who offered its weight in gold for it, — but remained for a few days only, as he found it necessary to visit different parts of his new conquest. The Duke sent Harold’s standard to the Pope, which represents a man fighting, curiously wrought with gold and precious stones. William on his first visit to Hastings, had only oppressed such of its inhabitants as received him with marked hostility; after the battle his revenge was more general, and particularly strong against Bertram de Ashburnham[4], who, as high sheriff of Surrey, Sussex, and Kent, had made extraordinary exertions for opposing William’s landing; and who is stated to have been beheaded for refusing to deliver up to the Conqueror Pg.14 the castle of Dover, of which he was governor; the thanes of the land were exiled—the farmers or yeomen became serfs on their own land, and the serfs were very ill treated.

The next important incident to Hastings was, its being one of the Cinque Ports; of which the others are Sandwich, Dover, New Romney, and Hythe, the ancient towns of Winchelsea and Rye having been added before the time of John as members of Hastings. Of these, Hastings ranks first; some say as a special favour conferred by William.

The services required by her Barons, being the chief of the Cinque Ports, was to fit out twenty-one ships, and in each ship there were to be twenty-one men, armed and equipped for fifteen days, at their own cost, to co-operate with those furnished by the other ports, making up the number to fifty-seven ships: if required fora longer period the expenses were borne by the Crown. The masters and constable were each paid sixpence per day, and the seamen threepence. ‘The Cinque Ports’ fleet was mainly instrumental in establishing King John on his throne, and for about 400 years upheld the glory of England. In 1217 they gained a victory over the French fleet, when making for London; they were under the command of Sir Hubert de Burgh, afterwards created Earl of Kent, and the French under Robert de Courtney.

The costume of the Cinque Ports’ mariners was laid down temp. Henry VIII.: “Every person that goeth in the navy of the ports is to have a coat of white cotton, with a red cross and the arms of the ports underneath.”

In 1350, (29 August,) the celebrated naval engagement with the Spaniards was fought off the coast eastward. Edward III commanded the English fleet in person, assisted by Edward the  Pg.15 Black Prince; they intercepted the Spanish fleet returning from Sluys, in Flanders. The Spaniards lost fourteen ships, the others saved themselves by flight. After the engagement was over, Edward and his followers anchored off Winchelsea, where they disembarked, took horses in the town, and rode off to the Manor house at Udimore, William de Echyngham’s where the Queen was staying, “ who was mightily rejoiced at seeing her lord and children, for her attendants had seen from the hills the whole of the battle, and had told her that the Spaniards had forty large ships; and she had suffered that day great affliction from her doubts of success.” Hastings, with its neighbouring towns Winchelsea and Rye, has suffered severely from time to time from the attacks of the French. In 1859, a fleet of 120 sail landed at Hastings and Rye, “spoiled the towns, slew the people, and did much harm to the fishermen.” They also attacked Winchelsea, where they despoiled the church, and committed the most abominable outrages, killing all that withstood them, without regard to age, sex, or order. In the reign of Richard II. (1877,) they again landed at Rye, which they burnt, and slew the inhabitants; they then set sail for the Isle of Wight, and according to Stow, they devastated its towns, ‘slaughtered the inhabitants, and bound them by an oath not to resist them for the space of a year, should they please to land there: they then again visited the coast of Sussex, and “came to the town of Winchelsey, where, understanding the Abbot of Battell was come to defend it, they sent him word to redeeme the towne: unto whom the Abbot answered, he needed not to redeeme the thing that was not lost, but willed them to desist from molesting the towne upon pain of that which might follow.” The French, exasperated with this reply, assaulted the  Pg.16 town “from noone till evening,” but were, however, bravely repulsed by the Abbot, “by the laudable prowess of the Abbot, and such as were with him, the French prevailed nothing, but left it as they found it. In the mean time, while they were busie thus at Winchelsey, they sent part of their company unto Hastings, where, finding the towne almost empty, they burnt it.” The men of Winchelsea and Rye, and we may reasonably suppose Hastings may be included, in 1378, in order to retaliate, sailed for the coast of Normandy, “ desirous to requite the losses which before they had received; and so in the night arrived in a town called Peter’s Haven, entered the same, slaying so many as they met, and those whom they think able to pay ransome, they cary to their slinpee 3 they spoiled the houses, with the churches, where they found many rich spoyles, which sometime had been fet (fetched) from Rye, and especially the bells and such like, which they shipped, set the rest on fire, and then they land at Wilet, not far from thence, ‘where they practiced the like cheuance, and so, with their rich spoyle, turned home.” In 1380, these unfortunate towns were again attacked by the French, when, according to Stow’s account, “John Vian, knight, with the French King’s gallies, tooke the towne of Winchelsea, put the Abbot of Battell to flight, and tooke one of the monks that come thither armed. Hee also burnt the towns of Appledore and Rye, Hastings and Portsmouth, about the feast of St. Lawrence.” But Grose, quoted by Leland, ascribes this attack to the Spaniards, and not to the French. He says, that they, (the Spaniards) entered by night at Fairlight, about midway between Winchelsea and Hastings: all other authorities agree in stating the French to have been the aggressors. In July, 1690, the French squad Pg.17 ron fired upon the town and caused great apprehension, both here and at Rye.

The lawless habits of the Ports’ men of this coast were carried to so fearful an extent, that as marauders of the sea, they were the terror of foreign mariners, and a dread to English vessels. They enjoyed for a time a complete immunity, and to the fullest extent carried out their lawless practices, which have left a deep stain upon their name: and to the present day when the Hastings boats enter some of the western ports, a hatchet is held up to them as a sign of opprobrium for their ancestors’ conduct. In 1266, Prince Edward made a terrible example of these piratical marauders. Yet, so late as May, 1577, there is a commission for the trial of pirates in the Cinque Ports. We find also, that frequent and very serious quarrels arose between them and the men of Great Yarmouth. In the reign of King John there was a complaint made of the Hastings and Winchelsea men for an attack upon them: and 25 Hen. III. the Barons of Winchelsea were distrained for 100 marks forfeited » to the king for injuries done at the Yarmouth fair. They were, doubtless, participators in the depredations, burning of ships, &c., done to the Yarmouth men by those of the ports, which were carried to a frightful extent. In one of these affrays a Bailiff of the Cinque Ports was killed by a Yarmouth man, for which he was hanged.

There was a mint in the town in the reign of Athelstan (924): Ruding had not seen a specimen; but one, bearing the name of the moneyer, which was found by the side of an ancient road near Winchester, is preserved in the Hastings Museum. Canute, Harold II., Edward the Confessor, William I, William II., and Henry I. also coined here. Several of these Saxon silver pennies were dis Pg.18 covered at Alfriston in 1843, by Mr. Charles Ade.

The Barons of the Cinque Ports still retain their privilege of supporting the canopy over the king and queen at their coronation. As the chief port, Hastings claims for itself and members one canopy and its appurtenances, which were formerly presented at the Shrine of St. Richard, at Chichester; and the remaining canopy belongs to the other ports.

Hastings, with the other ports, was enfranchised in the reign of Edward the Confessor, the privileges were confirmed by William Rufus, Henry the First, and by Edward the First, the latter added in their charter the clause making them free of foreign bought and foreign sold, being nearly a century before the city of London had a like charter. To the reign of King John[5] Hastings is indebted for chartered privileges. By the charter of Queen Elizabeth the corporation consisted of a mayor, (before called bailiff) recorder, and twelve jurats: the last charter was granted by James II; and the right of election (1698) was in the mayor, jurats, and resident freemen. It dwindled down to what was termed “The Good Old Seventeen.” A copy of the customal written in 1857, was duly returned to Roger de Mortimer, Lord Warden, pursuant to his mandate. The original, after some years absence, has been returned to the Corporation, and is again among the town records. The Municipal Act has, however, affected an entire change in the Local Government; and the Borough is now under the control of the Town Council, which consists of a Mayor, six Aldermen, and eighteen Common Councilmen. One-third of the Common Council go out Pg.19 of office annually in rotation, and are elected on the first of November by the Burgess, (rate payers of three years standing.) The Mayor is elected annually on the ninth of November, and two Aldermen every three years, by the Council.

The town of St. Leonards is within the Borough of Hastings and extends from the Archway eastward, to the Fountain Inn, end of Marina, westward; and constitutes a portion of the West Ward.

The town of Hastings is under the provisions of the Public Health Act, for which purpose the Town Council is constituted into a Local Board of Health. Since the formation of the Board the entire district under its care has been effectually drained.

The following table will show the progressive increase in the population of the towns of Hastings and St. Leonards.

Years Population Total Increase Increase Per. cent.
1801 3175
1811 4025 850 26.77
1821 6300 2275 56.53
1831 10231 3931 62.40
1841 11789 1558 15.23
1851 17621 5832 49.45

These population returns differ somewhat from those of the Borough, the area in the latter case being rather larger. In the foregoing table, the rapid increase during the decade 1811-21 is attributable to the extension of St. Mary-in-the-Castle to the westward, the population of that parish being nearly trebled in the period. The increase in the decade 1821-81, which is still greater, is accounted for by the erection of the new town of St. Leonards. During the latter period the population of the parishes of St. Leonard and St. Mary Magdalen was more than quadrupled. In 1861 the population of the borough was 23,443.

The Castle


On the summit of the West Hill stands the remains of Hastings Castle. The page of history is, however, silent as to its founder, neither does he tell us whether it is of Saxon or Roman origin; pretty certain we are that a castle existed before the conquest: some antiquarians have supposed it to have been re-built on the site of a Roman fortress; and this conjecture is somewhat strengthened by a passage in the chronicle of Dover Monastry which states ”that when Arviragus threw off the Roman yoke he fortified those places most convenient for their invasion,” and Hastings is amongst the places then named. In the distribution of spoil which followed William’s victory, Hastings and rape, as well as the manor of Crowhurst, were given to the Earl of Eu, as a compensation for his services. In 1087, the castle was seized by William Rufus, its situation being important to him in his design to gain the crown; and his nobles were summoned here to do him homage before his departure for Normandy in 1093. It was however, restored to the Eu family: their heiress, Alicia, carried it to Ralph de Yssonden. Their son adhered to the King of France, and forfeited the English estate to the crown in the Reign of Henry III. In 1262, the castle was exchanged to Peter de Savoy, Earl of Richmond; in his descendants it remained to the time of Edward III, when it was again in the Crown. So early as 5th Hen. IV., the rape was separated from the castle, and was owned by Sir Join Pelham. The castle, barony, and honor(sic) were granted by the king, 19th July, 1439, to Sir Thomos Hoo, (afterwards Lord Hastings,) at whose death they were sold, in 1461, to William Hastings, Chamberlain to Edward IV., afterwards created Pg.21 Lord Hastings; it remained in this, the Huntingdon family, until Henry, the last owner, sold it (1591) to Sir Thomas Pelham, the ancestor of the present possessor, the Earl of Chichester, reserving to his heirs a free rent of £18 6s 8d.

Within the walls of the Castle was a Royal Free Chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which was probably founded by Henry de Eu, temp. Hen. 1. Thomas a Becket held a preband(sic) in this church; in 19 Edward III., there was a visitation of this Free Chapel[6]; and in May, 1446, the Bishop of Chichester secured jurisdiction over it. This chapel was not the property of the lords, for the site and rights were granted, after the dissolution of the religious establishment, to Sir A. Browne, and from his descendant, the 6th Visct. Montague, they passed, with Battle Abbey, to Sir Thomas Webster, in 1721.

The Castle appears to have been neglected and allowed to fall into decay during the latter half of the twelfth, or the commencement of the thirteenth century: Mr. Cooper states that “In 1265, Simon de Montford preferred Winchelsea to Hastings for his retreat after his father’s defeat at Evesham, and in 5th Edw. III, the dean and chapter of the king’s free college to protect their own property, prayed to be allowed to repair the walls of the Castle, which had been devastated by the frequent inroads of the sea, and the petition was granted. In Rich. 11., when the French burnt a portion of the town and the Church, the castle was useless as a protection.”[7]

The present remains consist of a towered gateway, with its grooves for the portcullis, and hooks on which the gates were hung, two towers, now in{{Page|1|22}ruins, the one round and the other square, with part of the sally-port; the round tower has a flight of stone steps. To the east are the remains of the drawbridge communicating with the castle mound; to the west a plain lofty wall. The Earl of Chichester, in 1824, caused some excavations to be made, when were discovered the remains of the Free Chapel, with its handsome chancel arch, which had for centuries lain hidden from public gaze. Its length is about 120 feet; stone steps lead from the nave to the chancel, at the upper end of which was the high altar, and in the side wall, the sedilia; the piscina being in the nave. The chapter-house, deanery, &c., were also discovered, and several stone coffins with skeletons, about two feet below the floor of the chapel. Many relics of antiquity then dug from the ruins are now preserved at the gate-house, where they may be seen.

The area is laid out with considerable taste, and the visitor will be much delighted with the ancient architecture, and the splendid view from the upper terrace, of the sea and surrounding country. Admittance may be gained by paying a small fee.

Ancient State of the Town

The Sussex Coast has undergone great alterations from the incroachments(sic) and recedings(sic) of the sea at various times and in different places; and Hastings has not escaped. Tradition has it that the town formerly extended itself southward of the stade, and foundations are described as being occasionally found by the fishermen. There is every reason to believe that the Old Town has nearly disappeared, and is now covered with water. St. Clement’s Church was Pg.23 built in 1286, without the town wall, in the place of another, which had been injured by the influx of the sea; and it will be remembered that Old Winchelsea was nearly swallowed up by the great storm of the following year. In the 6th Edw. III, (1332,) as we have noticed, the walls of the castle which had been built at the point of a high cliff, had become very much devastated by the frequent inroads of the sea. The greater part of the parish of St. Michael was also swept away. A large part of the Priory ground had been encroached upon by the sea so as to drive the Canons (in 1430) to Warbleton, About the same time the parish of St. Margaret was so far submerged that there were no longer any representations to the living; and these storms and inundations were so great and frequent, that the inhabitants were necessarily driven to have their houses up the valley of the Bourne. Indeed there seems no reason to suppose that any part of the Old Town now remains, except that very small portion which lies within the ruins of the Old Town Wall, which begins near the Fishmarket, at the back of the late Battery, and is to be met with again at or near the end of John Street[8]. All the rest of the existing town was built beyond the walls of the old town, north and north-east; and indeed a great part was built not upon land belonging to the town itself, but upon land parcel of the manor of Brede, belonging to the Abbot of Fécamp, and afterwards to Syon Monastery. In a Pg.24 rental of that manor, returned in the time of Henry VII, (1501) ‘the annual rents belonging to that manor in Hastings, amounted to 35s 4d., out of which the Bailiff of Hastings paid 5s. for land used by the Corporation, on which probably, the Town Hall now stands.

The materials for an account of the town down to the last days of the Tudors, are not very easily procured. The loss of the early Corporation records, which in Elizabeth’s time existed, and extended as far as the days of Edward II, if not earlier, and the greater comparative importance of Rye as a port for landing from and sailing to the continent, render a knowledge of the exact state of Hastings difficult of attainment.

In early times the fishery was the chief support of the inhabitants, but the number of ships was small compared with its neighbours, Rye and Winchelsea.

In 1294, Hastings supplied only three out of the fifty ships of the Cinque Ports. In 1806, the town furnished one ship to Edw. I., for his fleet against Scotland. At the siege of Calais, temp. Edw. III, Hastings furnished five ships and ninety-six mariners, being the same number of ships at Seaford, and only one-forth(sic) the number furnished by Winchelsea. In the Non. Roll of 15 Edw. III., (1341,) are given the names of forty-nine resident freemen of Hastings, who were exempted from contribution to the king’s subsidy. But although there are no full materials for a history of the town in its early state, it is, nevertheless, certain that in the first part of the 16th century the town was in a flourishing condition; that the city of London was largely supplied by its fishermen; and that the merchants were of considerable importance. All this is patent from the document to which we shall presently refer at length. But the sea was once Pg.25 more an enemy, and in one of the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Pier (for it does not seem to have been a regular harbour, but only a projection on the western side of the stade,) was washed away to such great injury to the merchants and to the fishery, that the former left the place, and the latter was seriously affected; it was no doubt the western building of the town, and protected not only the boats, but the houses to the eastward; it was built of timber beams, morticed into oak planks as a bottom, as may now be seen at neap-tides, ‘The inhabitants had, however, been used to the attacks of their old enemy, the sea, and had been bold in their resistance to the attacks of the French, when they ravaged the southern coast; and now in the day of their trouble they put forth all their energies. On 10th April, 1562, Lord Cobham requested Creill to further design of Edward Durant to construct a New Harbour here, and in 1578, not only proposed (under the direction of Mr. William Relfe, of Ore, who was most probably the engineer,) to build another pier near the former, at an expense of £4,000, but applied themselves so successfully to the Queen in Council, that they procured her royal letters patent for a collection in aid of this laudable purpose, to be made in every parish throughout England. The whole merits of the townsmen and the importance of their work are clearly set forth in the interesting Proclamation, which we re-print under the title of the Harbour. This, most probably, was the Proclamation on the authority of which Camden says “the Queen granted a contribution, which was quickly converted into private purses, and the public good neglected.“ The principal defaulter may have been one of the commissioners, viz., John Jeffery, one of the jurats; Pg.26 for on 22nd July, 1580, Sir William Brooke and Lord Cobham (the Lord Warden) issued their warrant to the Bailiff and Jurats of Hastings, to arrest him for “certain contempts.”

In the mean time, whilst the town was without the protection of a pier, the threatened invasion of this country by the Spanish Armada took place; and we have in the State Paper Office a return made in 1586, in contemplation, of that event, containing the names of the ships of this town, with the names of their masters, and the whole of the able-bodied mariners in the place, which is not only very curious as shewing the names then taken for the fishing boats, but also for the names of the masters and of the able-bodied men; for amongst them we have a vast number of names which are still. represented by the fishermen and the townsmen: thus among the masters are Way, Taught, Tarrant, Combes, Joy, and Cossum; and among the mariners are found—Woods, Butlers, Bennets, Staces, Huddens, Daniels, Meadows, Taughts, Hydes, Palmers, Trotts, Bossums, Kings, Wingfields, Aylesburys, Woods, Fishers, Joys, Swetemans, Hollyers, Fautcleys, Holmans, Lotts, Boys, Midmores, Masons, and Whytes, (we here give the modern spellings,) together with some others, such as Stanbynorth, Thistlethwait, and Lyherbead, no longer found amongst us.

The number of barks and other vessels of between 50 and 20 tons was 15, making together 474 tons, the largest being the Anne Waye of 50 tons; and the number of able seamen was 106.

In the year of the Armada itself, (1588), the largest of the former vessels, the “Anne Waye,” seems tohave become useless, (perhaps she was too large for beaching,) for in the return for that Pg.27 year, the totals of the ships and small barks, without any names are thus given :

Burden of No of Ships. Masters. Mariners.
Hastings from 12 up to 42 tons 20 32 136
Rye . . . 15 up to 80 tons 82 34 291

The latter town having a harbour would, of course, have the vessels of a larger tonnage. At this time there was not a single vessel of more than 80 tons in Sussex, Kent, or the Cinque Ports. Under 80 tons Sussex had 65 ships, with 70 masters, 371 mariners, and 122 fisherman; Kent, 95 ships, and 243 mariners; and the Cinque Ports together, 220 ships, with 200 masters, 604 mariners, and 143 fishermen, — the Hastings proportion of which we have just seen.

The town seems to have remained stationary for the next forty years; for by the return, 14th Oct., 1626, it appears that there were in Hastings 23 barques from 18 to 40 tons, making in the whole 670 tons. No ordnance, no gunners, but 127 mariners, sailors, and fishermen. There were no pilots for the English coast as masters.

Rye had 16 barques from 14 to 40 tons, together 295 tons, and 66 mariners and fishermen.

It remains only to remark, that there does not appear to me to be a single house now standing which assuredly existed in the days of Elizabeth, though a few in All Saints Street are very old. The oldest bearing a date is one in High Street, now converted into two dwellings, with the date of 1611, and bearing the Pelham buckle, which denotes that it was built by or for that family, the lords of the castle and rape.

Parochial Divisions


At the time of the conquest there may have been three churches, All Saints, St. Clement’s, and St. George’s[a]; a small portion of the East Hill still bearing the name. The last remains of the church were levelled by the then rector of All Saints, about 1770. In 1291, the benefices enumerated as within the town of Hastings are All Saints, St Clement, St. Andrew under the Castle, St. Peter, St. Michael, and St. Margaret, and without the town, but within the hundred of Bexhill, St. Leonard. In Bishop Praty’s register, (1440) no mention is made of St. Peter; but the parishes of St. Andrew, St. Michael, St. Margaret, and St. Leonard, are mentioned as having been accustomed to pay tenths, but were then depopulated and diminished by the inundations of the sea; and in the Valor Ecclesiasticus, temp. Hen. VIII, All Saints and St. Clements are alone mentioned.

All Saints

This church stands at the eastern entrance of the town, and consists of a nave with side aisles, a chancel, and on the west a square embattled tower. It is built of flint and stone, in the perpendicular style, and bears evidence of having been altered at various times. It doubtless, suffered severely when the French burnt the town in 1377; in the will of Richard Mechynge, dated 1486, it is described as a “new church,” and he gives 26s. 8d. for the construction of a window on the southern side. In the chancel are a piscina and three cinquefoiled headed sedilias. ere is also a more modern piscina in the porch on the southern side. The tower has a roof groined with stone, filled up with chalk, and in the centre is a circle filled up in eight Pg.29 compartments, by coloured figures, 1, an ass and a foul 2, a bull and leaf; 3, a bear and tree; 4, a bear holding a bough; 5, a squirrel with a vine branch and grapes; 6, a vine branch with grapes and leaves; 7, a bull and man; and 8, a bird having [a] bunch of grapes in its bill. There is now a ring of four bells, which were re-cast in 1615, by Robert Topsell, of Tring, and Thomas Wakefield, of Chichester.

Titus Oates was baptized here in 1619, and was officiating minister of this parish in 1673-6, his father being rector.

On the floor is an incised slab, representing a man and woman with hands in prayer, of the inscription the word “anno” only is legible; and a brass effigy of a jurat and his wife, with the following inscription:—

“Here under thys ston lyeth the bodys of Thomas Goodenough, sometyme burges of this towne, and Margaret his wyf, for whos ‘of your charitie, say a paternoster and an ave.”

— Thomas Guddinow, Sen. was bailiff of the town in 1515.

In 1770, the living was united to St. Clements; but in 1849 they were disunited. On the beach near the East Well, within this parish, is “The Fishermen’s Church.” It was built by the late Rev. J. G. Foyster, Rector of St. Clements, and H. S. Foyster, Rector of this parish: and was opened for divine service in February, 1854.

St. Clement

The present church of St. Clement stands on the west side of High Street, where a church was built in 1286, upon land set apart by the Abbot of Fécamp, who was ‘on of the living, instead of an older church, which had been injured by the influx of the sea. Parts only of the original structure remain. It is built of stone and flints, and consists of a nave with side aisles, a chancel, a southern Pg.30 porch, and a square embattled tower, which has a groined ceiling to support the belfry arch; there is aring of eight bells. Like its neighbour, it suffered from the French attack, and shows evidence of having been partly rebuilt in the 14th century. The southern windows have been recently restored in the perpendicular style; and a memorial window to the late rector, the Rev. J. G. Foyster, has been added. The altar, having the decalogue in the centre, with Moses on the left, and Aaron on the right, was painted in 1721, by Roger Mortimer, as was also the ceiling, representing the heavenly regions, and at the corners, Faith Hope, Charity, and Fortitude.

Within a gilt frame are recorded the benefactions to the town of Archibald Hutcheson, the famous opponent of the South Sea Bubble, and the friend of the Duke of Ormond, who represented Hastings from 1713 to 1722, when he was also elected and sat for Westminster. On the floor are two brasses, with the following inscriptions:—

“Here lyeth the body of Thomas Wekes, late Jurat of Hasting, and Margery his Wyf, which Thomas dyed the Xth day of November, in the year of our Lord and God 1583, they had issue of hyr body on Daughter named Elizabeth.” The brass of the female figure is gone.

On the other brass is inscribed as follows, in Roman capitals:

“Here under lyeth buried the bones of John Barley, late of this town and port of Hasting mercer; and of Thomas Barley, his sonne, and Alyce his daughter by Mary his wife, daughter of Robert Harley, which John died the last day of March, 1601, being of age the 41 years, and the said Thomas died the first of April, 1600, being 19 years of age, and the said Alice died the 15th day of June, 1592, being of the age of 7 years, to whom God grant a joyful resurrection.”

Memorials also exist to Thomas Falkner, Surgeon Pg.31 1604; Thomas Pierse, Esq., 1606; Thomas Bromfield, of Udimore, 1690; the families of Milward, Collier, and Delves: and a tablet has recently been erected by public subscription, to the memory of Visct. Chewton, who died in the Crimea.

A large portion of this parish is within the manor of Brede.

A chantry existed in the church till the Ist Edward VI. and was endowed with lands at Ballock-hill, and tenements near the church. During the early part of Queen Elizabeth’s reign these lands were concealed, but after the issue of a commission, they were restored to the crown. On 6th July, 1578, Ry Weston petitioned Lord Burghley to farm all the land and houses in the town part of the chantry lands here; but they formed part of the grant to the town in 1589.

At Halton, within this parish, and adjacent to what was formerly the Barrack ground, a Chapel was built in 1838, by subscription, and by a grant from the Church Building Society: the ground was given by Mrs. Milward, now Countess of Waldegrave, and she also added an endowment of £1000.

St. Mary in the Castle.

This was not originally a parish; there was only the Free Chapel within the castle; but the Earl of Chichester having obtained an Act of Parliament, erected the present building in the form of an amphitheatre, with a deep gallery round the circular part. It was consecrated in 1828, and holds about 1400 persons.

St. Peter

Where was the site of this parish, which was lost between 1291 and 1400, we know not the Pg.32 best conjecture would place it under the southern part of the castle, near what are now rocks.

St. Andrew

This church, which had been devastated before 1440, stood a very short distance north of Wellington Square. Castle Terrace now occupies the site of the burial ground: some remains of coffins have been exhumed there, and some slabs still exist. The patronage had been vested by Elizabeth in the Corporation.

The Holy Trinity

This is not strictly a parish. It was originally a Priory of Black Canons, built by Sir Walter Briscet in the reign of Rich. I., for monks of the order of St. Austin. In consequence of the encroachments of the sea, the Canons removed in 14 Hen. IV. to Warbleton. The charters of the Priory are printed in Nichols’ Collectanea Topogr. et Geneal. vol. 6, p. 101. Part of the land in this district having become derelict, was taken by the Crown, and under building lease from the Commissioners of public works, Carlisle Parade, Robertson Terrace, Robertson Street, the Holy Trinity Church, and other buildings have been erected upon the site.

St. Michael.

This parish is situated on the west of the Priory ground: it never was large, though the Priory was situate within. All that remains is under the White Rock. This parish had been devastated by the sea before 1400, The church was situated on the edge of the rock upon what is called Cuckoo Hill. The foundations were cut away in 1834, on removing a portion of the cliff.


St. Margaret, recently called St. Mary Magdalen

The parish of St. Margaret extends from the White Rock, westward to the Victoria Hotel, St. Leonards, and is bounded on the north by the hundred of Baldslow. By the ancient maps of the coast, a large part of the parish appears submerged, and there is no doubt that the ste of the ancient church is now covered by the sea, it having been devastated before 1400. The extent of building having rendered a new Church necessary, the foundations were laid on the 20th June, 1851. It was built by subscriptions, aided by the Societies, on land given by Mr. Eversfield, from designs of Mr. Frederick Marrable; and was opened for divine service on 19th September, 1852.

The name of St. Mary Magdalen applies only to a Hospital for brothers and sisters, situated at the north-east corner of the parish of St. Margaret. The Hospital was in existence in 22 Edw. I., when by a grant among the Corporation records, Petronilla de Cham, widow, gave to the brothers and sisters five acres, adjoining their own land: and it appears by the customal of Hastings, (not by deed as stated by the Corporation Commissioners) that in the time of Edw. III, and previously the Bailiff of Hastings, had the visitation once a year, and the sole power of sending the brothers and sisters of good deportment there to be maintained without payment. In the manor of Gensing the Hospital was charged for twelve acres of land. In 30th Elizabeth, the Prior was still among the freeholders of that manor. But in the grant to the Corporation, 14th February, 31 Eliz., 1589, the Magdalen land and church field were granted to the Corporation; and the proceeds are still applied by the trustees for Pg.34 charitable purposes, in distribution among the poor of All Saints and St. Clements, by the churchwardens. Application was made to Chancery in 1852, to extend the charity to all parishes within the limits of the town and port, which failed. The estate consisted of 57a. Sr, 82p., but has been increased to 61a. 2r. 18p., by an exchange in 1835, with Mr. Wastel Brisco, of Bohemia House.

All Souls. —In this parish was built by the late Rev. Dr. Jones, an establishment for religious ladies of the Roman Catholic persuasion, under the title of the “Congregation of the Holy Child Jesus.” Attached to their establishment is the only place of worship for Roman Catholics within the town.

St. Leonards

Although the town of St. Leonards, under the Local Act, extends eastward as far as the Archway, the parish of that name commences only at the Victoria Hotel, and rans westward beyond the boundary of the Borough at Bopeep into the county, where it joins the parish of Bexhill.

Filsham is a manor farm in this parish. By patent, 4 Edw. II., it was confirmed to the Monbouchers, and was held of the king in capite. In the 17th century it belonged to the Weekes, and then it passed to the Bromfields of Udimore, one of whom was, in 1627, Lord Mayor of London: the farm now belongs to W. Brisco, Esq., and it is a coincidence that the brother of the late tenant, Mr. Farncombe, was Lord Mayor of London in 1851, being the only Sussex man who had filled that chief civic office for many years, and as we believe since the time of Sir Edward Bromfield.

In 1291, the Church is returned as in that part of the parish which was not within the town and port of Hastings, The site is now lost; but the living Pg.35 was regularly presented to by the master and fellows of the college of the Blessed Mary, of Winton, at Oxford, down to the year 1503, when the inductions ceased.

Up to the period of the suppression of colleges and charities, 1st Edw. VI., the Chapel was called the Free Chapel of St. Leonards, in the parish of Hollington; and John Cotterell was the incumbent, and the yearly value was 27s. 53d.

In 1831, an Act was obtained for erecting a Chapel here for the accommodation of the inhabitants of this parish, and of St. Mary Magdalen; but although it enables the minister to perform all rites and ceremonies as if it was by law the parish church of the two parishes, yet it is not constituted a parish church, and, in fact, 160 seats are allotted to the minister, 480 are the sole property of the patron, and 200 only are free for the poor.


The town, as we have seen, formerly possessed a Pier of fair size, nearly opposite to the Marine Parade. _It was destroyed by a storm in the early part of Elizabeth’s reign, and before 1578. The remains of the pier are visible at half tide consisting of enormous fragments of rock and three or four rows of piles of timber. In that year the following Proclamation for a collection for a New Haven, setting forth the injury done to the town, was issued by Elizabeth -


Proclamation. (Grenville Library, No. 179.) “An exemplifcation of her Maiesties Letters Patent concerning her Highnesse Towne & Port of Hasting, in the countie of Sussex. “ Elizabeth, by the Grace of God. Queene of England, Frounce, & Ireland, Defender of the fayth, &e. To all people Pg.36 to whom these our Letters patent shal come, greeting. Where of our owne knowledge & certeine science me doe understands that our towne & Port of Hasting, in our countie of Sussex, being the ancient Towne of our Cinque Portes is situated upon the maine Sea, verie neere the middost of a great Bay of open place, lying betweene two points of the land, which stretche foorth into the Sea, called the Beachy and the Nasse, distant each from the other thirtie miles, right opposite Realme of Fraunce, the auncient Enemie of our Countrey as we are credibly enfourmed, the same towne hath of long time beene a place not onely very well inhabitated with warlike people & greatly replenished with good Mariners & other men mecte and serviceable for our Nauy, well stored with Shippes, Barkes, Crayers, & Boates, but also sufficiently furnished with Armour, & Artillery of all Sortes both for Sea & Land: also very mecte & commodious for Fishing, and the Bay plenteously abounding with all sorts of Fish, according to the several seasons of the yore: by reason whereof the same Towne hath of long time bene by the inhabitants thereof in time of warres, manfully defended against the sundry invasions & attempts of the French Nation, our Coaste abouts lying very open against the French, by them often kept from spoile. Our Marchants and lowing Subjects, and other Travellars sayling along that coaste, have often times by their Shippes, and often times their harborough. been saved and rescued from the furie of the Enemies & the tyrannie

of Pirates: our Nauy and Nauy of sundry, our noble Progenitors Kinges of this Realme, the better appointed by reason of their skilful Mariners & cunning seamen: Also our Heunehold, our Citizens of London, and our Countreys to the said Port adjoining, groatly benefitted by their fishing. And where our seid Towne hath of long time had a Peere or Harborough, made of timber & other things set & placed in the sea, for the succor of the Seamen, and defence of their Shippes Barkes, Crayers, & Boates, against the great rage & furie of the Sea, which hath bin alwaies mainteyned at the great & importable charges of the inhabitants of our saide towne of ‘Hasting, untill of late time the same Peere or Harborough at a sudden, by the great violence and extreme the Sea, broken downe & caried awaie: sithence which time the town is much decayed, the traffique of Marchants thither forsaken, the fishing, by reason of the us landing but little used, the riche & wealthy men gone thence & the poore men yet remaining would gladly doe the like, if without offence of our lawes they might be elsewhere received, whereby our people are likely to perishe, and our said port likely to Pg.37 be subverted and become desolate, or els the people there by necessitie driven to commit great and heynous offences to the great hinderance of the public weale, unlesse some spedie remedie, be for them provided. And where we be enformed. by divers of our privie Counsell and Nobilitie, & by re artificers very cunning and skilful in that kind of facultie, that a very good Haven or Rhoade for the arriving and sauguard of Shippes, Barkes, Crayers, and Bootes, may, nere unto the said Porte, with no great charge made, to the great reliefe of the inhabitants of all Marchants & travellers sayling along the narrowe Seas, & to the strenght of our said Coast & thatthe Inhabitants of our said Porte, be ready & willing to bestowe their landes, goodes & labours to the uttermost of their power to accomplish the same : notwithstanding of themselves very unhable to finish so great a worke, Likely as it is thought, to amount unto the summe of foure thousand poundes. We, therefore, considering the premisses & minding to provide for the preservation of our people, the maintenance of our Nauy and Towne, for the defence of our Coaste & of Marchants & Travellers, and that the provision of our householde, our Citie and Countrey be not diminished, at the humble sute of our Bailife, Jurates, & Comminaltie of our saide Towne of Hastings, do by these our letters patent not onely give end graunt unto our said Bailife, Jurates, & Comminaltie all power and authoritie to make newe & finish our Haven, in such place or places here unto our saide Towne and port, as to them shall seem most convenient, & to the finishing & accomplishing thereof yeeld our royal essent and consent; but also for the furtherance and better helping forth of the same wwe do commend the same good and loudable intent and purpose to the charitable and liberall contribucion & benevolence of all & singuler our loving subjects dwelling within our Realmes and Dominions, that the rather for our recommendation, the more liberall contribucion of our suyde subjects may be yeelded to the finishing of the said Hauen, a worke tending much to the defence of our Realmes, & to the profite of the Cones wealth of the same, and which will be cause to avoid manie great inconveniences that may issue by the neglecting thereof; & also be an evident declaration of the formar & willing mindes our louing subjects, to augment it of our Realmes and countreys, We of our Special Grace, certain knowledge, and mere mocion have given and graunted & by these our Letters patent doe give and graunt full license, permission, and authoritie to our faithfull and welbeloved subjects, Richard Caluerley and John Jefferey, Jurates of our said towne of Hasting, and Williem Relfe, of Ore, Gentleman, and


  1. This is now believed to be named after St. Georges Church in Brede, the Manor of Brede owning a large amount of land in Hastings - see St George's Hill - Transcriber

References & Notes

  1. It happened as the Duke left the ship that he fell upon his face, making his nose somewhat bloody on the beach, and grasping the earth with his outstretched hands. Many of the bystanders feared the consequences of so unlucky a pressage, and stood whispering together. But the Duke's sewer, William Fitz-Osbert, a man of great merit and much ready wit, being at hand, boldly rallied the falling courage of the warriors with a word. “Cease men,” said he, “to interpret this as a misfortune, for by my troth, it is a token of prosperity; or lo! he hath embraced England with both his hands, and sealed it to his posterity with his own blood; and thus by the foreshowing of Divine Providence, he his destined effectually to win it.” Lower’s Chron. of Battle Abbey, p. 2. The armourer who brought forth a coat of mail for the Duke to put on previous to the battle with Harold, by accident handed it to him the wrong side foremost. The Duke, perfectly unmoved, put on the mail with a placid countenance, and uttered these memorable words:—“I know my dearest friends, that if I had any confidence in omens, I ought on no account to go to battle to-day: but committing myself trustfully to my creator in every matter, I have given no heed to omens; neither have I loved sorcerers.” Ibid, p. 3.
  2. Mr. Lower says a very interesting query suggests itself — “Where was, William's camp or castellum sttuated? If I may be permitted to indicate the probable spot, I would with great deference, name the fields to the right of the London road, between the Priory and Bohemia. Some lines and ridges perceptable there have the appearance of an earthwork of considerable magnitude, and the spot seems in every way suitable for a military station. The great embankment on the East Hill may have been an outpost for observation to the eastward.” Sussex Arch, Coll., vol. 2, p. 55.
  3. From the Harleian Miscellany.
  4. Ancestor to the present Lord Ashburnham; in whose family a letter of William has been said to be preserved.
  5. By a law published at Hastings, in 1200, he commanded that all Foreign vessels should strike their topsail to his flag on pain of capture and confiscation.
  6. Second rep. of pub.rec. Commr. p. 188
  7. Suss. Arch. Coll. vol 2 p165
  8. During the draining operations carried on at the east end of George Street, in January, 1837, there were discovered the remains of some very old masonry of blue stone and mortar, about six feet wide, at the depth of about fifteen feet: the masonry diverged at nearly right angles to the north. It was probably the remains of some former fortification, and perhaps part of a drawbridge existence of which upon that spot as proved by an old conveyance of a house near it.