Hastings is ‘Britain’s Best Tonic’

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This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at how Hastings was promoting its cosmopolitan aspirations in the early 1930’s.

He writes The Borough Association had been publishing publicity material for Hastings Corporation since the early years of the 20th century, and this evolved into the ‘official Handbooks’ in the decade leading up to World War II.

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Hastings and St Leonards “Britain’s Best Tonic” 1932-3 is an example from the early part of that period when Hastings was already displaying its cosmopolitan aspirations with the handbook containing information in English, French and German.

The publication contained 112 140mm x 250mm pages printed in sepia (brown) ink. All the photographic plates were produced in ‘photogravure’ with many supplied by local photographers such as Judge’s and featuring a number of aerial views, (very popular in those days) all grouped together in two sections.

The captions were in the three languages and there are also two-and-a-half pages of introduction in French and the same in German, both giving a brief descriptions of the area and what it had to offer.

There is the usual information about the town, its near neighbours and its amenities, The claims of Hastings and St. Leonards Health to pre-eminence among resorts on the score of natural beauty combined with historical interest are great, but its outstanding recommendations are its peerless climate and sunshine record.

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Elsewhere we are informed: ‘A highly important step forward is the total abolition of the old Tramway service and the substitution by the same Company of an absolutely up-to-date system of trolley buses, the ”last word” in comfort and smooth running. The rails have been removed from all thoroughfares.’

The remodelling of the seafront is noted and with an artist’s impression of the Bathing Pool in course of completion, (closed in 1986 and later demolished with the site still vacant).

The last half of the book was given up to advertisements, many illustrated, and mostly advertising hotels and accommodation. Most of the buildings can be recognised today but have been converted into apartments with consequent loss of places for short-term visitors to stay.

There were advertisements for facilities provided by the corporation. Until nationalisation in 1948, electricity was provided by the ‘County Borough of Hastings Electricity Department’ with its showroom and offices at 12 and 13 York Buildings, domestic electricity cost ¾d per unit (there were 240d - old pence - to £1). The White Rock Baths had just been completely reconstructed at a cost of £35,000 (nearly £2 million today) and ‘Timpsons Super Motor Coaches’ were running regular services to places as far afield as Torquay, Teignmouth and Yarmouth.

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Captions:

Hastings and Part of St Leonards from the Air

A view as far as Fairlight church, top centre and the gas works in Queens Road. Sidney Little’s promenade eastwards from White Rock as yet unbuilt – note the ‘step’ in the seafront just above the pier and notice the green space between Hastings & St Leonards and the Old Town nestling in its valley.

View of Foreshore from East Hill’

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Not as cluttered as today. Note the circles round the capstans that pulled the fishing boats up the beach. Horses from the corporation stables in Rock-a-Nore Road were often used for this.

Aerial view, showing Bandstand, White Rock Pavilion, Bowls Greens, and Indoor Bowls Pavilion’

Featuring the newly opened White Rock Pavilion (now Theatre). The Grand Hotel can still be seen opposite the pier (demolished and replaced with Waverley Court) and on the top left, above the bowling greens, part of The Royal East Sussex Hospital

The White Rock Pavilion (taken on April 6 1927, the occasion of the opening by H.R.H.The Prince of Wales).

The front of the theatre has now been modified and the open terrace now an enclosed balcony. Notice the elaborate ‘arms’ on the traction poles supporting the tramway overhead, the tramlines for each direction were both laid on the seaward side of the promenade causing problems as the number of motorists increased. The replacement of trams with the more versatile trolleybuses solved that problem

Aerial View of Warrior Square, St Leonards’

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Tonic 1 SUS-150510-141753001

Not dissimilar to today but Sidney Little’s improvements to the promenade and the western portal of Bottle Alley are yet to feature. The elaborate gardens at the top of the square should be noted.

Hastings magnificent new Promenade opened in December, 1931. In the foreground, an entrance to the underground parking-station for 550 cars.’

The original edge of the promenade now forms the left-hand retaining wall of the ramp into the car park and its rear wall. Note the trolleybus overhead wires in the foreground heading down Robertson Street.

Castle Hotel - a victim of the appalling municipal vandalism in the 1970’s. The shop that replaced it is an awful example of totally inappropriate brutalist architecture.

Architect’s drawing of the Bathing Pool and Lido with terraces and cafes, constructed at St. Leonards. Due to open in the summer of 1933, it was the scene of galas and beauty parades. Towards the end of its life a ‘Holiday Camp’ was to replace the roller-skating rink on the top deck but the chalets had to share toilets and the whole place suffered from inadequate maintenance. It closed in 1986 and was later demolished. Part of the site now houses a subterranean Southern Water stormwater holding tank and the rest of the site remains undeveloped.

All illustrations are from Ion Castro’s own collection and there is more local history on his website, www.historichastings.co.uk