Area formed impressive bastion of western St Leonards

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This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro continues to explore the Grosvenor Gardens area,

He writes. It is a common mistake to believe the triangular open space opposite Grosvenor Crescent is called Grosvenor Gardens but it’s the terrace of late Victorian houses at right angles to the sea that is actually called Grosvenor Gardens and as evidenced by the 1897 (and subsequent) Ordnance Survey this triangle of park land is called ‘West Marina Gardens’.

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As the 19th century drew to a close the western expansion of Hastings and St Leonards had reached West Marina, where, as late as the 1880’s, the Bopeep Hotel existed in splendid isolation with only the coastguard station between it and the sea and the Fountain Inn to the east.

There had been a Martello Tower, No 39, adjoining this coastguard station but it was demolished in 1876 by the Royal Engineers after being undermined by the sea and by 1878 the seafront had been extended by another 2,000 feet with a new sea wall and promenade at its western end.

The River Haven had been diverted to meet the sea westward of Cinque Ports Way instead of running parallel to Grosvenor Crescent and reaching the sea at the western end of Marina and, by the end of the 19th century, the resulting triangular open space had been named West Marina Gardens at about the same time as a terrace of fine houses, Grosvenor Gardens, had been built at right angles to the sea overlooking these Gardens.

In 1901, No’s 1 and 2 at the seaward end were known as the “Wilton House of Rest” and in that same year there was a boarding house at No 6 – “Dovaston House” - and another, unnamed boarding house at Nos 13 and 14 on the corner of Grosvenor Crescent.

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By 1916 No 1 was known as the “Wilton House Private Hotel”, “Dovaston” was no longer trading and Nos 12, 13 and 14 had become the “Grosvenor Private Hotel”.

In 1930 the “Wilton Hotel” had expanded and now occupied No’s 1 to 4 Grosvenor Gardens, the “Westward Ho” Hotel was at No 7 and the Grosvenor Hotel had disappeared and was replaced with Grosvenor House School for Girls at No 14.

On the opposite side of the road, next to the sea, was the ‘Grosvenor Bathing Station Tea Gardens’ where The Bathing Pool would open in 1933 and stay open until 1986, by which time it had become The Bathing Pool Holiday Camp. When the camp closed part of the site was demolished in 1987 to provide a base site for the large scale sea defence works, the site being finally cleared in 1993 with only part of the seafront terrace remaining today.

A look at Kelly’s street directory for 1962 reveals that 1 – 4 Grosvenor Gardens was now Wilton House, a block of 18 Flats, No 6 was 7 flats, No 7 was still ‘Westward Ho Private Hotel” with “Henley Court Private Hotel” next door at No 8. Nos 11 to 14 were now the WVS Residential Club for Elderly People and there was a café at No 13.

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All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and he can make available copies of many of the historic images used in this series. There’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk or contact him - ion@1066.net.

1873 map.

An extract from the 1873 Ordnance Survey showing the area that would become Grosvenor Gardens, Grosvenor Crescent and West Marina Gardens. West Marina Station on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway is just off the top left of the map.

Bathing Pool 1963.

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An advertisement for the Bathing Pool from the Council’s 1963 Accommodation Guide. The ad reveals ‘The ‘Holiday camp’ in its 4th year’. The trips to the continent would have been by paddle steamer from Hastings Pier. Note the ‘Gratuities: 5s. (25p) per guest (over 16)’

Europe’s Finest Bathing Pool, Hastings.

A postcard from the late 1930’s looking east across the Bathing pool with Grosvenor Gardens in the background. The caption is of course inaccurate.

Grosvenor Crescent St Leonards on sea.

An early 20th century view of Grosvenor Crescent also showing the convalescent homes on the cliff top. The sender of the postcard has marked where he was staying.

Grosvenor Gardens 1930s.

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A mid 1930’s view from the Bathing Pool showing the magnificent oriole window on the end of the Wilton Hotel. The window has now gone as has St Leonards Pier in the background.

Grosvenor House 1939.

An advertisement from Hastings’ 1939 Handbook, tells us “Opposite Famous Bathing Pool. Nearest to 18 -hole Golf Course in conjunction with which Saxon Hill Riding Establishment has been acquired to provide riding facilities for guests Resident pupils coached for the Institute of the Horse Examination.

Ideal hacking over 200 acres of riding country. Expert tuition in all branches. Hunters, hacks and children’s ponies for hire. Horses taken at livery, to show or improve”. There was also a bathroom to every three rooms!

Harold and Edith.

This Marble statue of King Harold and Edith captioned ‘Edith finding the body on the battle-field of Hastings’ had been exhibited at Hastings Museum until 1953 when it was moved to West Marina Gardens where it has deteriorated ever since and all the fine detail lost.

Henley Court 1963.

An advertisement for Henley Court Hotel, 8 Grosvenor Gardens from Hastings Council’s accommodation guide for 1963, tells us “Now in seventeenth season of ‘snowball’ business”

In Grosvenor Gardens.

The caption for this 1930’s postcard says “In Grosvenor Gardens” when it’s actually West Marina Gardens.

RIBI 1945.

Rotary International, District No.12 held its first postwar conference in Hastings in November 1945 and this photograph shows a group of delegates at West Marina, notice the state of pavement. Were they staying in the Wilton?

Westward Ho 1962.

An advertisement for the ‘Westward Ho’ Hotel, 7 Grosvenor Gardens from Hastings Council’s accommodation guide for 1963 “Immediate access to the beach, bowling green, putting greens, and bathing pool”.

Wilton Hotel 1937 ad.

An advertisement for the Wilton Hotel with its 40 bedrooms from the Hastings Handbook for 1939, the Bathing Pool can be seen lower left.

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