When Hastings Hosted the NUT Conference in 1908

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This handsome volume of nearly 350 190 x 130 mm pages with gilt edges bound into a red mock snakeskin cover resplendent with gilt Hastings coat-of-arms was produced as a permanent souvenir for the delegates to the National Union of Teachers conference held in Hastings during Easter 1908.

This was the same year that local house painter Robert Tressell was penning his immortal novel “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists”, a time where poverty was such that for the first time Hastings schools started giving out free breakfasts to all children in need, under the Education (Provision of Meals) Act 1906.

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Leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst had given two speeches locally at the Royal Concert Hall, Warrior Gardens and her daughter Christabel attempted to give an open-air speech in Wellington Square on February 25, (four days before the by-election was won by Arthur Du Cros ), but a riot had broken out.

It is not clear where the actual NUT conference took place but it attracted many dozens of associated exhibitors who filled up the local drill halls and venues.

The book covers most aspects of the Borough and opens with 18 pages of pictures of local dignitaries, NUT officials and organisers and progresses on to articles about Ancient Hastings, Modern Hastings, Hastings Meteorology – and of course the excellent climate enjoyed here.

Education in Hastings discussed; the evolution of the various local charities into the educational establishments of the day, and notes Hastings’ failure to provide anything other than elementary education, the minimum required by law.

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There was a learned article on Geology, another on Flora and Fauna, and another on Life on the Foreshore. Hastings Museum and its exhibits, then located at the Brassy Institute along with the Library and School of Art, merited a chapter. Other chapters described the ‘Souvenir Normand’ – an early version of ‘twinning’, and there was a feature on angling in the area.

There was a chapter on local parks and chapters on nearby other places of interest. There was an article promoting the Teacher’s Provident Society and a contribution from legendary photographer Fred Judge suggesting an appropriate tour of views for would-be cameramen. Fred had only come to Hastings from Wakefield in Yorkshire in 1902 and had already established his reputation here as a first-class photographer. About a quarter of the book was devoted to advertisements for national educational suppliers and examples of the content of contemporary schoolbooks. Many of the local illustrations throughout the publication had already appeared in public as postcards and were donated by Judge and other local photographers.

Pictured is the Albert Memorial. The Central Methodist Church, in the centre of the picture, has been replaced with a block of sheltered housing. Notice the umbrella advertising the Hippodrome (now the De Luxe Leisure centre on the seafront)

The lift, the steepest in Britain, originally operated on the water balance system and opened in 1902, it is now electrically wound. Notice the capstans in the foreground.

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The summer beach scene is opposite the Queens Hotel before Sidney Little’s promenade was built in the 1930’s. Notice the tubman, centre right, this could have been Biddy but there were other, less well known practitioners whose antics entertained the crowds. This part of the beach was the nearest to the railway station and therefore attracted most day trippers.

Also shown is a Sea Angling Festival. Notice how close the shoreline is to the buildings

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

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