This week, in his continuing series, Ion castro takes a look at the famous Hastings terrace which is book-ended by a lion and unicorn,
He writes. Robertson Terrace faces the sea between Carlisle Parade and Harold Place with Queens Apartments (formerly the Queens Hotel) at its eastern end and was built in the late 1850’s, early 1860’s on the seaward side of the area known as the America Ground.
By 1852 the iconic Lion and Unicorn statues were in place joined by a wall that was topped with an ornate cast iron railing that was 90 years later removed as scrap iron for the war effort.
It is said the Lion and Unicorn were originally destined for Buckingham Palace - which was being re-modelled in 1847 – 1850 but were surplus to requirements and acquired by the developer Patrick Robertson.
Following the raising of the Lion and Unicorn the Queens Hotel and Robertson Terrace had followed by 1862.
The demand for accommodation by visitors continued to rise in line with the fourfold rise in the number of residents from 14,016 in 1841 to over 60,000 in 1901.
The Albany Nos 7-16 in the centre of the terrace was the first to be converted to a hotel in 1886 then, Gildersleeve’s Metropole Hotel (nos 17-18) located between the Albany and the Queens appeared just before the first war followed by the Robertson Hotel (nos 3-5) to the west of the Albany and, by 1939 the Albany had acquired its eastern neighbour, No 16 and expanded to meet the Metropole whilst to the west of the Robertson the Burlington Hotel (No 2) appeared so that, with the exception of No 6, the whole terrace from the Queens westward was an unbroken line of hotels.
Then came the war and it all changed. Post war The Albany was a bomb site with the Metropole semi derelict next door. Hastings Borough Police occupied most of the Robertson Hotel later to be replaced with Hastings Borough Council’s Tourism and Leisure department.
When the terrace was built, starting with the Lion and Unicorn statues, the promenade in front of them was a dead-end terminating at the Queens Hotel and the main road along the coast followed Robertson Street, past ‘the Memorial’ to emerge west of St Mary in the Castle via Castle Street.
It was Sidney Little who widened Carlisle Parade (named after the Commissioner for Woods and Forests whose enquiry at Battle in 1827 awarded the America Ground to the Crown) to bypass the town centre.
The promenade was actually a simple linear bridge and hollow and this feature was exploited by Little who used the void to form the country’s first ‘underground parking station’.
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
Originally appeared in 1900 in a publication entitled ‘Pictures of Hastings & St Leonards’ and captioned, “This terrace of mansions, with Hotel in the centre, is built upon Crown property, the leases being granted by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. Some of the houses are private residences, and others best class boarding and lodging houses. There is an enclosed lawn in front of the terrace.” Notice the long bench with the fancy ironwork behind it. The road is now the ramp down to the underground carpark and the ironwork went for scrap in the last war. Notice the bath chairs for invalids.
30 New Parade, Looking East, Hastings.
Posted 10th June 1933, the parade would indeed be new, only having been completed the previous year. A magnifying glass reveals “Gildersleeves Metropole” between the Queens Hotel and the Albany, this building too did not recover post war and, after a period of dereliction was redeveloped as part of Albany Court. Notice the seaward side is free of lamp standards, this was essentially because the hollow promenade would not support them and they had to be placed where they could be firmly footed.
Robertson Terrace and Bathing Machines.
An albumen print from around 1880, apart from the narrowness of the parade and bathing machines, strictly segregated into Ladies and Gentlemen of course, notice the bathers and the bath chairs in Carlisle Parade and of course the pleasure yachts and jumble of buildings beyond the Queens Hotel. The sea wall can still be seen today as the back wall of the Carlisle Parade underground car park, Sidney Little’s ‘Parking Station’ and gives an idea of how far the seafront was pushed forward. Apart from the Queens Hotel, all the buildings are still private residences at this time.
The image probably dates from the late 1920’s, the unicorn is still in good condition. A magnifying glass reveals the sign ‘Metropole’ with ‘Garage’ below it
One of the pair, the sign behind reads ‘Apartments’ suggesting it pre-dates the Robertson Hotel. As in the Unicorn image, notice the beautiful ironwork above the bench and the condition of the Lion
A fine image posted 30th May 1935, the sender has highlighted their accommodation.
An image from the late 1870’s, The Palace Hotel has not yet been built, that would have to wait until 1886 and the White Rock Brewery, (1831), and the Seaside Hotel that it replaced can be seen behind the lamp post. It can be seen that tarmac was not in use and road surfaces could get extremely rutted without regular maintenance and what is that item on the pavement in the foreground? by 1931 the road would be a ramp to the underground car park .
An image advertising Gildersleeve’s Metropole in the 1939 Official handbook, it shows the entrance to the underground car park with the sunken gardens to left and right.
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