Hastings has a long tradition of public speaking, hosting some illustrious figures in the past - the young Winston Churchill lectured on his experiences in South Africa in 1882 at the Warrior Square Opera House, (now Royal Terrace) and in 1891 Gladstone spoke for five hours at the Gaiety Theatre (now Odeon Cinema).
The Old Hastings Preservation Society (OHPS) launched in 1952 with the objective of the preservation of the character and antiquity of Hastings and St Leonards, carries on this tradition.
When the society was founded it was suggested that as a means of bring like-minded people together and raising much-needed funds ‘drawing-room talks should be held’.
Talks continue to this day at the OHPS headquarters, a suitably historic building in Courthouse Street.
The talks are a particular feature of Old Town Carnival Week: On Monday, August 5, at 4.30 pm, Victoria Seymour will give a talk based on her book, Austerity Diary from Lavender Cottage, Hastings 1947.
Its light-hearted title, Knickers for Dusters, conceals the real hardships that typified the period. Behind the stuccoed walls of Lavender Cottage three elderly, genteel ladies, Emilie, Clare and Edith, coped with shortages, of food and much else, making do with fortitude and a sense of humour. Miss Emilie Crane, who chronicled their daily lives, has found a place in local history via her collection of letters spanning 13 years and accounts of the daily doings in the Ridge cottage.
On Tuesday, August 6, at 4.30 pm, Christine Hayward charts A History of Ore. She says that many people think that Ore has no history, but she will be revealing the intriguing story of this once outlying community from the 13th century, up to the time of her own childhood as part of the Ore community.
Her father, Arthur Hayward owned the Ore greengrocery store from 1926-1947. The shop was wrecked in a bombing raid in 1943 and the seven year-old Christine’s life was saved by a miracle.
On Wednesday, August 7, at 5.30pm Clive Richardson, a British Tourist Authority Blue Badge guide, will give an illustrated talk, Twittens and Cat Creeps, which ties in with one of the History House exhibitions and his series of conducted walks during Old Town Carnival Week, details of which are listed in the official carnival week programme.
The twittens and cat creeps referred to are hidden, narrow footpaths, flights of steps and nooks and crannies, many of which have a tale to tell. Twitten is Sussex dialect - each region has its own word for these passageways, some so narrow they do not give overtaking room to the more portly. You will not get ghosts and fables from Clive, but fascinating facts such as: the fig trees that overhang the twittens were planted by Victorians for shade, not elegance.
Tickets for all talks can be booked at the History House, 21 Courthouse Street.
Opening times of the History House are: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11am to 4 pm and every day during carnival week, August 3 to 11.
OHPS can be contacted on 01424 424744.