Cornwallis Gardens were once a local seat of learning

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This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at how Cornwallis Gardens evolved.

He writes. Cornwallis Gardens were originally laid out during the development of the site for housing between 1875 and 1878 by one of the richest men in England, a descendant of the man whose surrender at Yorktown in 1781 virtually guaranteed American independence, Lord Cornwallis.

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Lord Cornwallis whose country seat was at Linton on the way to Maidstone in Kent also owned huge estates in Hastings that extended from White Rock to the Priory valley, bordering Queens Road and including the Cricket Ground when he decided to develop the area which had been known as ‘Step Meadow’ where the land been altered by the dumping of spoil from the building of the nearby railway tunnel in the 1840’s.

The 1872 Ordnance Survey map shows how little development there had been up to that time compared with the map for 1897 that shows the intervening quarter of a century had been a period of growth and the area completely built over. The Priory Farm buildings have gone and the remains of the priory have been completely engulfed by the buildings.

The gardens in the centre of the development were, as was usual for the time, ‘Subscription Gardens’ for which the surrounding properties contributed toward their upkeep and enjoyed the facilities provided.

In the 1930’s the gardens were purchased and donated to the town by a Mr Hedley Williams who lived nearby at ‘St.Winwold’, 31 Cornwallis Gardens one of the few properties that had not been converted to flats by this time.

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Several of the houses in Cornwallis Gardens had been used for educational purposes since the very early days for example a partnership of Miss LeCocq and Miss Bates set up Cornwallis High School and Kindergarten at a pair of large semi-detached houses at 41 and 42 Cornwallis Gardens at least as far back as 1890 and this school continued through the first war. But by 1930 the premises had been converted into a block of flats called ‘Senlac’.

Miss Bates is recorded as living in flat 1 and Miss LeCocq living in flat 5. Also in the early 1890’s, and almost next door the annexe of the University School extended down from the corner of Holmesdale Gardens to the junction with Linton Road and we have seen that the annexe was separated by a footpath from the main University School (to which it stood at right angles). In the early years of the 20th century it parted company with the University School and became “Bushby Home”, The Hermitage, at Holmesdale Gardens.

Elsewhere in Cornwallis Gardens, Pike’s Street directory for 1885 tells us that a Mrs Williams was running a preparatory school at No 28 and at the same as the Misses Dury were teaching Dancing and Deportment at their school at Riseholme, No 18.

Cornwallis Terrace ran from the end of Braybrooke Road where it emerged under railway bridge to the junction with Havelock Road and it too was populated with large houses as a terrace that backed onto Hastings Station forecourt and it wasn’t long before they became boarding houses before being split into the flats that are there today.

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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.

Captions:

5 Cornwallis Terrace.

By the early part of the 20th century No 5 Cornwallis Terrace had become a boarding house and the sender of this undated but pre-first war postcard has marked the room they were staying in. “We are facing the south and therefore get all the sun” The exterior of the house is little different a hundred years later.

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1872 Map.

This section from the 1872 Ordnance Survey map shows how little development the was west of the town centre and shows Hastings Station in its original layout before it was restyled in the 1930’s and ‘The Brighton Siding’ removed.

1897 Map.

By 1897 all of the area has been built over including Braybrooke Terrace and Linton Crescent at the very top of the map but the University School is still blessed with a large garden extending to Linton Road. Cornwallis School is the second pair of semis to the left of Linton Road.

Bella Vista Boarding Establishment.

Bella Vista at 21 &22 Cornwallis Gardens illustrated on a card posted in October 1926, by 1930 it had been converted into flats.

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Cornwallis 1916.

An advertisement for Cornwallis boarding and day school for girls dating from 1916.

Cornwallis High School 1901.

An advertisement for Cornwallis boarding and day school for girls dating from 1901.

Cornwallis School 1892.

An advertisement for Cornwallis boarding and day school for girls dating from 1892 showing the principals’ qualifications

Cornwallis House Hastings

Confusingly this was not the school but a boarding house at 27-28 Cornwallis Gardens shown on a card posted in April 1909.

Hastings from Bohemia Vale Shewing Railway Station.

This print from Rock & Co. dates from 1864, a decade before the building of Cornwallis Gardens and Holmesdale Gardens had started on Step Meadow that can be seen as the mound on the right. Notice Wellington Square in the centre of picture and the windmills on the West Hill. The building on the right, just off Brisco’s Walk, survived until the second war when it was bombed and never rebuilt.

Lidcote.

‘Lidcote’ a boarding house at no 11 Cornwallis Terrace, the ivy, very popular with the Victorians has gone but the building is otherwise unchanged. The unnamed publisher proclaims “This is a real photo”.

Riseholme 1885.

An Ad from 1885 for Riseholme, a school for ‘Preparatory Instruction for the Children of Gentlemen’ It didn’t last long.

University School 1892.

This advertisement from 1892 shows the University School accommodating boys from 8 to 18 on the corner just above Cornwallis Gardens, the building on the right would become ‘The Hermitage’ and the main school would be demolished to make way for the nurses’ home for the Royal East Sussex Hospital and that too would be demolished to make way for Redmayne Drive when the hospital moved to The Ridge.

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