Storm of 1877
Late in 1876 and early 1877, the town was lashed by severe storms that caused significant damage to properties all along the seafront.
The main strength of the storm seemed have been spent upon the more westward portions the borough. Along the front line, from Breeds Place and westward, the trail of the gale was traced in great destruction. The sea-wall was broken down in places; the sea had rushed over its ordinary boundaries with such terrible force and volume that iron railings were torn up, huge stones were lifted up, woodwork was snapped asunder and broken up as though it had been so much match boarding, and even holes, deep and broad, were dug out in places on the parade, as if some excavators had been employed there with pick and shovel.
From West Marina to The Pier
The effects of the storm here have been most disastrous, and the scene of ruin and desolation is heartrending in the extreme. The destruction is complete. It has been a repetition of the terrible Storm in November, only more extended scale. From Giffords Private Hotel to the end of Marina, the houses are all of them more or less damaged. Balustrades of massive stonework have been forced in by the weight the waves and battered to pieces, iron railings have been rent and torn asunder though they were so much match wood, doors and window-frames have been bodily driven in, and would be difficult to imagine a picture of more complete ruin than the basements of the homes presented.
The rooms were filled with water and beach, whilst the furniture was broken up and floating about. Nearly 30 houses have suffered this fate, and the inmates are in a state of great distress. Every preparation had been prevent the recurrence of the scenes of November, but it was no avail. Everything vanished before the fierce billows that surged wildly the shore; they overcame every obstacle and detraction and ruin followed in their wake. The parade, at its extreme end, has been nearly entirely washed away; rails are bent, and torn, and twisted, whilst road and parade and pavement are covered to considerable depth with shingle. Huge slabs of stone and masses of masonry and concrete, were scattered in all directions.
The road was flooded with water to a depth two or three feet, and many of the houses were inundated. lie sea also rushed a considerable distance inland, and the ground almost as far as the East Sussex Cricket Ground, was nothing but one vast, unbroken sheet of water. The cliff at the back of Caves Road gave way about twelve o'clock, and the roadway was completely blocked with thousands of tons rock and earth. The debris almost covered the front of a block of buildings known as Caves Cottages, and in several instances forced open the doors and did considerable damage. fortunately the inmates of the houses in jeopardy had timely warning of their danger and succeeded making good their escape.
Even in those parts of the Marina where there is a great breadth of road and parade, the sea made a complete breach over the roadway, and forced its way into the basements the houses. The waves played sad havoc with the boat-house of the St Leonards Rowing Club, constructed under the parade. The massive doors were burst open, and all the galleys and other boats broken up and destroyed. The damage sustained by the Club estimated at £200. Dormans Library escaped from any serious damage on this occasion, although a little water made its way in.
Mr. Lock, the proprietor of the Royal Victoria Baths, however, was not quite so fortunate. His windows were stove in, and the rooms in which he lives immediately gutted with water and beach. A considerable quantity furniture was broken or washed away, and everything was in the utmost confusion. The strong stone wall on the eastern side of the library was washed away, although on the occasion of the storm in November it successfully withstood the assaults of the sea.
The South Colonnade
On this occasion, this too, sustained some damage. Strong barricades had been put up, but in many instances they were of little or no avail, and did not prevent the ingress of the water. In Grand Parade no serious damage was done, though the parade here and there was considerably torn about, and the stone facings injured.
The waves played with tremendous fury on the sea defences, and at intervals the surface of the parade was very much broken. An immense quantity of beach was thrown up, covering both the road and parade to a considerable depth in fact, in some places the shingle was thick that only the tops of the rails could be seen. The covered seat stationed in the centre of the parade was completely smashed and broken up, and the debris strewed over the roadway and parade. The sea seemed to have been most destructive just here, for the stone coping was torn up for some distance, and large crevices appeared in the parade.
From the Pier to the Fishmarket
The damage done to this structure was very great. The iron grating at the entrance was completely washed from its foundations and one of the flag staffs was hurled to the ground, whilst the east toll house was shifted from its position. The gas pipes were broken away, necessitating a suspension of the entertainments for a short time. At the end several of the gas lamps were torn away from the deck by the fury of the sea as was also the flag-staff on the south end. Part of the iron railing from the Pier to the Baths washed away, and the flag-stones were thrown bodily from their proper position, some cases nearly to the centre of the road. The head of the pier was a complete wreck.
Here the destruction was very great, the woodwork being washed away, and the huge blocks of concrete thrown over from the sheds to the works. At this point there were a large number of people assembled watch the sea as it dashed with tremendous force against the blocks, and, throwing the spray for many yards, formed a most magnificent spectacle. All along the front, from the Pier to Carlisle Parade, the beach was thrown with terrific force against the shops, which had barricaded, that great damage done.
The flagstones were thrown completely across the road by the fury of the waves, which every moment kept flowing towards the houses, and flooding the areas. Here several pieces of timber and boxes from the Baths were washed ashore, some of them being of very large size.
At the Queens Hotel and Albert Memorial, the damage done was not great, but the water flowed round the latter for more than half-an-hour before high tide. The boatmen were, however, fully prepared for the emergency, having drawn up their boats and yachts into Robertson Street, and along Queens Road. Several of the shop-keepers, round whose premises the water flowed, had also barricaded their shops and houses, so that, taking the destruction done at this part on a whole, it was not nearly so great that occasioned by the storm in November, 1875. Denmark Place and Pelham Street were also flooded, and several of the windows of the houses facing the sea were broken by the beach thrown against them by the waves. Passing along by Castle Street, we found that the damage done there was very slight, all the inhabitants there being prepared for the storm.
These cottages, which stand close to the sea, and against which the sea dashed with all its fury, were, as in November 1875, damaged more than any property in that part of the town. The areas and kitchens of the houses were flooded, and some of the windows were broken, but the destruction wrought was not so great as the previous storms.
The houses in Breeds Place were also flooded, but no damage was done.
The sea dashed with terrific force against the seawalls, carrying away several of the flag-stones, and throwing the beach all over the road, and against the windows and doors of the houses opposite, considerably damaging them. The sea flowed through West Street and into George Street, flooding the dwelling houses of the poorer class who inhabit that part of the borough. The shopkeepers in George Street had all barricaded their door-ways; but, notwithstanding this, several of the shops and cellars were flooded. The cellars of the Anchor Inn, in George Street, were filled with water, as were those of several of the beerhouses in West Street.
At the Market the damage done was very slight. At this end of the town the fishing boats were all drawn up across the roads, and the capstans safely secured, so that no great damage was done; but some the boat-houses and workshops were considerably knocked about.
At Mr. Tutt's boatshed the portion which faces the sea was completely battered in, and the ground-work around the foundations of some the houses was washed away, leaving them in a rather dangerous condition. At a shed in the occupation of Mr. Tapp, blacksmith, there was, to use the words of one of the fishermen surveying the scene, "an awful smash." The forge was greatly damaged by the beach which was thrown on it, and the water which flooded the place.
At the Mortuary, which was in the course of erection in Rock-a-Nore Road, an accident which unfortunately ended fatally occurred. It appears that an old man named Charles Croft, about 60 years of age, who bad been working for the Local Board, whilst trying to save a door which was being carried away by the waves, got caught between the wall and a boat which was in the building, and a wave coming in at the time washed the boat against him, seriously injuring him. Assistance being on the spot, he was taken over the West Hill, down Wallinger's Walk, up Bohemia Road, and down St Michaels Place, the road along the front being flooded by the sea, and the waves every now and then washing against the houses. He was seen by Dr. A. R. Ticehurst, who on examining him found that he had sustained some internal injury. He died soon after he was taken to the institution. An inquest was held on his body on the following day.
The East Well. At the sewage works at the East Well, the gates and fence have been broken away, and several panes of glass broken. The earth has also been washed from round the drains, leaving the pipes bare. The fencing round the artillery battery, we also noticed, had been carried away, and the shed in which the ammunition is kept filled with beach and otherwise damaged. We hear of none of the fishing boats inthis part being damaged. When the tide had gone down several of the fishermen could be seen on the beach searching for any little treasure that might have been washed from the depths of the channel.
At the top of High Street several of the branches of the grove of trees known as "The Elms" were blown off the wind and fell across the road, impeding the passage the traffic, but happily we have heard of no accident, occurring through it. Several of the chimney-pots and the slates of the houses were blown away in High Street. On the West Hill the side of one of the houses in course of construction by Mr. Tutt was bodily blown in by the wind, and the scaffolding broken to pieces. 
References & Notes
- Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 06 January 1877