Book brought Hastings to life

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Cousins 6 SUS-150817-111250001

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This week in his continuing series Ion Castro takes a look at a book on the history of Hastings written by lecturer Henry Cousins in 1911.

He writes: Until John Manwaring Bains, long-time Curator of Hastings Museum and expert on Hastings history, produced his seminal publication ‘Historic Hastings’ in 1955 there had been no standard work on the subject.

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Cousins 5 SUS-150817-111239001

The closest had been Henry Cousins’ ‘Hastings of Bygone Days and the Present’ first published in 1911 with a second edition in 1920.

Cousins himself explains in his preface that it was only after he had delivered a series of lectures in the preceding 12 years that “during this period it was frequently urged that a reproduction of pictures illustrating Old Hastings and its rise to its present position, with descriptive letterpress in book form, would be appreciated by hundreds of Hastingers in all parts of the world, to remind them of their native place in bygone times and by those who are still amongst us”.

He lists a number of previously published guides from Stell in 1794 onward. The early years back to Roman times are covered but “In the belief that the History of Ancient Hastings has been sufficiently treated by early writers and is at the disposal in the Public Library, of those wishing to consult them, this work is more particularly confined to the period from its rise to eminence, which commenced in the latter half of the 18th century”

The list of contributors, the local ‘great and good’ of the time is long and impressive and there are early pictures, many copied from earlier guide books and which have already been reproduced, from the original source, earlier in this Looking Back series.

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Cousins 4 SUS-150817-111228001

Pictures of ‘The Present’ (1911) are credited F J Parsons who also published the book and with whom Cousins had had a partnership in the early days of the Hastings and St.Leonards Observer back in 1866 when the pair had reversed the fortunes of the then ailing paper to become the town’s leading newspaper. In later years the versatile Cousins traded as a local auctioneer.

The comprehensive content of the publication includes a chronology of Hastings Castle, historical notes about the town, a bibliography of all known guides to Hastings and St Leonards, details of local newspapers, smugglers, extracts from “The Collier Letters”, tram fares, as well as general descriptions of the borough, where to go and what to do.

Pictured is Bourne Street 1911. Looking north,The stump of the brewery chimney can still be seen today beside ‘The Bourne’ and the King’s Head, pub, (centre left) until it recently closed, was the oldest licensed premises in Hastings. The buildings on the right were demolished to make way for ‘The Bourne’

Also pictured is Courthouse Street with The Kings Head Pub on the extreme right with a dairy to its left, Hastings History House now occupies the building next to the dairy.

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Cousins 3 SUS-150817-111217001

In the image of George Street the buildings are much the same today but their use has changed.

Shown here is All Saints Street.The safety railings on the high pavement didn’t appear until the last war for safety reasons during the blackout.

“High Street looking north”

The buildings at the western end of Courthouse Street along with the old Jenny Lind public house were victims of enemy action in the last war

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Cousins 2 SUS-150817-111206001

The freehouse at the end of West Street was the site of Powell’s Library. Powell was another producer of guides to Hastings.

More on Henry Cousins next week.

All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and there’s more local history on his website,

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