Ambitious project that never got off the rails

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HR 11 SUS-160223-103729001
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This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at plans which could have seen a railway line extended to the Old Town and new stations created, including one at Hollington.

He writes: A harbour for Hastings had been talked about since Elizabethan times when storms destroyed several attempts to build one.

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HR 10 SUS-160223-103658001

In late 1656 a storm completely wrecked the repaired 1597 harbour and for the next 250 years various schemes were proposed.

Finally, in 1896, work began on building the harbour, the remains of which can still be seen today.

What is less well-known is that one of the most ambitious associated works involved with the harbour was the Hastings Harbour Railway.

A special law had to be passed to facilitate the construction and this was achieved by means of a private act of parliament and the plans to build the railway were finally submitted to Parliament in the 1897 session.

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HR 9 SUS-160223-103647001

The necessary detailed plans and sections were drawn up, the route was in two parts and details of landowners and occupiers drawn up and presented as a ‘book of reference’ The official wording for the act was:-

“(1) A. Railway No.1, commencing in the parish of St. Clement and borough of Hastings at a point on the Stade in line with the centre line of the west breakwater, now in course of construction, of the Hastings Harbour Commissioners, and terminating in the parish of Hollington by a junction with the South Eastern Railway, at a point on that railway denoting 70 miles 2 furlongs and 9 chains from London.

(2) A Railway No.2. commencing by a junction ‘with Railway No. I, before described, in the parish of Hollington, at a point 100 yards or thereabouts north of the high road and on the western edge of Church Wood, and terminating in parish of St. Mary, Bulverhythe, where the municipal boundary of the borough of Hastings crosses the Brighton and Hastings branch line of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.”

In other words the projected railway would start at the proposed harbour and can be seen at the extreme right of the harbour illustration entering a tunnel under the East Hill; the submitted plans and sections, based on the Ordnance Survey, show the railway emerging at Lower Clive Vale between Harold Road and a diverted Old London Road at the proposed ‘Clive Vale Station’.

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The station would have been similar to Warrior Square with a tunnel at either end (see ‘section 1’) before entering another tunnel which would take it under the now-demolished St.Clements Church and Vicarage at the top of Mount Pleasant Road at Halton, it would cross under the Ashford railway near Ore Station with the proposed trackbed 52’ 5” below the cutting and obviously no intention to link to it because of the considerable difference in levels.

As can be seen on the main map, the proposed railway, shown in red, continued through Blacklands with a station between Elphinstone and St.Helens Roads (‘section 2’) before proceeding in a tunnel which took it under Buckshole reservoir continuing under Silverhill farm (Sedlescombe Road North) to emerge west of Battle Road with ‘Hollington Station’ in the cutting, then on to a junction, station and link to the South Eastern Railway above Wilting Farm to provide a direct route to Charing Cross, whilst the main Harbour Railway continued southward to the LBSC railway to Victoria and Brighton at Glyne Gap via a cutting at the rear of The Bull Inn, that would have apparently involved the complete destruction of the ancient ruins of St Mary’s Chapel.

Information about the Land owners, lessees and occupiers were detailed in the ‘Book of Reference’ that accompanied the plans and, the corporation –“ The Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the Borough of Hastings” featured quite prominently as landowners – to be expected since they ‘owned’ all the roads and areas around the emerging harbour. In All Saints Parish particularly names of fishermen were listed as lessees and occupiers and many of their descendants are still working with surnames recognisable today; Adams, Bumpsted, Coleman, Copherd, Diton, Fullanger, Gallop, Haste, Hayward, Hide, Kent, Longhurst, Mann, Pomphrey, Sutton, Timms, White, Willis.

Sadly Hastings’ own ‘Metro’ never happened. Unexpected problems during the building of the harbour and lack of funds prevented its completion and the proposed railway, dependent as it was on the success of the harbour, slid into oblivion with just the possibility that misreading the location of ‘Clive Vale Station’ may have been connected with the rumour that the Clive Vale Hotel was to have been a station hotel; but the station, proposed as it was at the bottom of Old London Road / Harold Road would have been even further from the hotel than Ore station.

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HR 4 SUS-160223-103552001

All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and he can make available copies of some of the historic images used in this series. There’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk.

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