Historic Square under fire from Luftwaffe

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This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes a look at Warrior Square in the 1930’s and 1940’s when it was badly damaged during air raids.

He writes. Warrior Square was an important architectural feature of Hastings and St.Leonards, although its architectural merits were not be commented upon until 20 years after the war ended and it original symmetry had been spoiled by enemy action and unsympathetic rebuilding. However, highly regarded architectural commentator Sir Nikolaus Pevsner still considered it noteworthy and it appeared in his 1965 Guide Book to Sussex.

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The Hastings Plan noted in 1930 “Steps should also be taken to secure the permanence of the upper part of the Warrior Square Gardens either by agreement with the owners to maintain as a private open space or by purchase for public use.

A small area should be set apart as a garden in connection with the development of the proposed West Marina Swimming Pool”. Upper Warrior Square Gardens were, at that time privately owned until purchased by Major H C Holman that same year and he presented them to the Borough with a covenant dated June 15th 1931 “to maintain same as a pleasure ground”.

Five years later the Council proposed to build a town hall on Warrior Gardens! Holman’s alternative suggestion however of using the Oval was just as appalling. Public opinion prevailed and two weeks later, in October 1936 it was reported that the scheme had been rejected.

The years from 1930 were an era of change, Sidney Little’s ‘Bottle Alley’ now joined Hastings Pier to the eastern end of Warrior Square and a lower promenade continued westward joining it to St.Leonards pier and the own’ fortunes appeared to be improving until the second war put an end to the regeneration which was not to restart until decades after the end of hostilities.

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Warrior Square are sustained considerable damage, not just to houses in the square but also close by, in the left hand corner with the destruction of the Royal Concert Hall/Elite Cinema and St Columba’s Church, the Warrior Hotel Annexe on the corner with Church Road and to houses on the seafront to the west of the Square (Marine Court and St.Leonards Pier were also casualties)

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:

Bank Holiday.

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Published in the Hastings Observer, August 28th 1937 this ad was calling for extras for The film ‘Bank Holiday’ (also known as Three on a Weekend) which was released in 1938 as British drama film directed by Carol Reed and starring John Lodge, Margaret Lockwood, Hugh Williams and Kathleen Harrison. The film was popular and helped establish Carol Reed’s reputation. Lockwood was voted third best actress of 1938 by the readers of Film Weekly.

Christchurch.

Christchurch seen through the wreckage of houses on the western side of the square following an air raid on 24th September 1942.

Hastings by night. Reported by the Hastings Observer in 1936 the whole square was illuminated.

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New View.

Published by the Observer in February 1935 Sidney Little’s seafront improvements continue westwards in front of the square. Sidney was a recycling pioneer and the uprights are tram rails dug up from the main roads when the tramway converted to trolleybuses in 1929. The granite setts that surfaced the roads in tramway day were re-used as facings for the sea wall and the new stone groynes and can be seen today.

Pylon.

Part of the mid 30’s Warrior Square illuminations, this strange object was in front of the Warrior Hotel.

St Columba’s.

St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Warrior Square, Irretrievably damaged on October 17th 1942 by a ‘Tip-and-run raider, the site would later be used by Coombe’s Motors, the Vauxhall dealers and is now part of Southern Water’s empire.

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Warrior Gardens.

Warrior Gardens was to suffer from a “Tip-and-run raider” attack on October 17th 1942”.

Warrior Square 732.

A postwar picture showing the bomb damage that spoiled the square.

Warrior Square 747.

A postwar image showing extensive damage to the seafront to the left of the square and the top left corner of the square showing the gaps where the concert hall and St Columba’s had been. Eversfield Place survived unscathed. The congregational church on London Road still retains its steeple that was to become a victim to the 1987 hurricane.

Warrior Square 1930.

The Square is still complete and magnificent. Notice St.Columba’s and the roof of the Concert Hall, in the upper left corner of the square. St Paul’s Church upper right.

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