How chemist Beechams provided a view of the town

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Beecham 10 SUS-150311-090544001

This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at a photo book of Hastings produced by chemist Beechams.

He writes: At the very end of the 19th Century Beechams Pills produced “Beechams Photo-Folio” 24 pages (120mm x 155mm) printed on cheap paper, which contributed to the poor reproduction.

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Beecham 9 SUS-150311-090555001

“It had a bright coloured paper cover as an advertising gimmick to get the product name before the public. The cost was one penny which meant you could have bought 240 copies for £1.

The booklet, printed in Holland, was undated and the photographers were uncredited. The inside cover revealed that it was one of a series of more than 75 similar booklets produced for towns all over the country from Aberystwyth to Yarmouth, with a total printing amounting to a claimed total of over 5 million books.

The cover was clearly generic with a space left to be overprinted with the town to which it referred and there was no explanatory text, no visitor information nor any description or history of the area.

Beecham was the family business of Thomas Beecham, a chemist (1820–1907) founded in 1859 and ceasing operations in 1989. He was the grandfather of the conductor also named Thomas Beecham (1879–1961). As a boy, he worked as a shepherd, selling herbal remedies as a sideline. He then started as a travelling salesman or peddler and his first product was Beecham’s Pills, a laxative, in 1842.

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Beecham 8 SUS-150311-090533001

Subsequent success enabled him to open a shop in Wigan in 1847 Beecham opened its first factory in St. Helens, Lancashire, for the rapid production of medicines in 1859.

Under Thomas’s son, Sir Joseph Beecham, 1st Baronet (1848–1916), the business expanded, but remained a patent medicine company and engaged in little research so growth was achieved by buying other companies. By 1943, it was decided to focus more on improving research and Beecham Research Laboratories were built. In 1945, the company was named Beecham Group Ltd. Success continued and the company went on to become The Beecham Group plc a well-known British pharmaceutical company that was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. Beecham later merged with SmithKline Beckman to become SmithKline Beecham, and after several more mergers became GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). GSK still uses the Beechams brand name in the UK for its over-the-counter cold and flu relief products

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

Captions, as they originally appeared.

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Beecham 7 SUS-150311-090512001

Castle Hill - Hastings.

No East Hill Lift, (that will have to wait until August 1902). Washing taken in by fishermens’ wives to supplement the family income can be seen drying on the top of the beach and much of the area is now covered by the shingle buildup against the harbour arm but that will have to wait until June 1896

Hastings 1.

The beach in the foreground now houses a Sidney Little underground carpark, but notice the long ladders (no health and safety in those far-off days), just left of centre. Tressell, in his ‘Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ has a tragic description of a 65 rung ladder that caused the death of one of the workers.

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Beecham 6 SUS-150311-090501001

Hastings 2.

A view from Hastings Pier before Bottle Alley was built in the 1930’s, St.Leonards Pier , opened in 1891, can be seen in the distance

The Esplanade – Hastings

Shows Hastings Pier and St.Leonards pier in the background. Notice the ‘step’ in the promenade sheltering a large number of rowing boats. At this time the road to the old town was via Robertson Street and the Memorial. In the 1930’s Sidney Little’s improvements smoothed out this kink in the esplanade by extending the promenade outward to carry the main A259 coast road that now by-passes the town centre and the void underneath the road became an underground car park

Pelham crescent and Castle Hill – Hastings.

The whole beach area is now covered with the A259 coast road and Pelham car-park, Beach Terrace in front of Pelham crescent was demolished in the 1930’s as part of Sidney Little’s improvements

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Beecham 5 SUS-150311-085544001

The Sands and Castle Hill - Hastings.

This is how the beach was enjoyed 120 years ago. Promenade improvements of the 1930’s would see the beach move forward as a new, widened road and eventually a car park occupied the area in front of the buildings and Beach Terrace was demolished.

Alexandra Park – Hastings.

Looking toward the Queens Road entrance in less formal days, the area on the left appears to be a wildflower (thistle?) meadow

The Collonade- St.Leonards.

Half of the terrace on the right was demolished to make way for Marine Court at the end of the 1930’s, the buildings on the left The Royal Victoria Buildings, opposite the Royal Victoria Hotel, were demolished in 1946. This marked the western extremity of Sidney Little’s promenade improvements

Archway - St.Leonards.

Despite major public opposition, the large St Leonards Archway, across the seafront just west of the bottom of London Road, marking the western boundary of Burton’s St.Leonards was covertly demolished during the course of the night of 23rd January 1895 by Hastings Council. The site is now marked with a red granite obelisk on the promenade.

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Beecham 4 SUS-150311-085555001

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