It’s popularly accepted that the area of West Marina known as Bo Peep, Bo-Peep or Bopeep derived its name from the hide-and-seek proceedings of smugglers, who were very active in the then very thinly populated district as in the old nursery rhyme, Little Bo-Peep:
“ Leave them alone and they’ll come home,
A-wagging their tails behind them”,
- the tails being kegs of contraband and the advice in the first few words being addressed to His Majesty’s customs officers.
Stell’s Guide, first published in 1794 described the interesting walks in the surrounding district and notes the “Bo-Peep”, a public house by the roadside, “where company may have an excellent dish of tea and good cream alfresco and enjoy a fine prospect of the sea and Beachy Head from the hill behind the house” but, in 1815 a new edition of “A Guide to all the Watering and Seabathing Places”, also mentions the Bo-Peep which it called “a wretched public-house by the road-side”, but does agree about the view. It appears that the inn or tavern was originally called the “Old England Tavern” or the “New England Bank” at Bo Peep.
This old inn, mentioned in the early 18th century tales of smuggling was the centre of a district often used by the smugglers, as offering facilities for running their contraband cargoes ashore, and the scene of frequent conflicts between them and the Blockade Men., stood on the rising ground later occupied by West Marina Railwav Station and its remains were unearthed in the 1970’s when the station was demolished and the area redeveloped.
According to the “Collier Letters” - correspondence exchanged between John Collier and his agent, In 1756, Colonel Pelham had a private road from Crowhurst Place to the sea, where he had a house on the cliff at Bopeep called “The Tent,” which he used is a resort for pleasure parties and bathing.
By 1885 Pike’s street directory describes Bopeep as ‘extreme west of St Leonards’ with a tobacconist, the Bopeep Hotel, a coachbuilder, coal and timber depot, corn and coal stores, provisions store not to mention railway station, W. Wingfield’s Hastings engineering Works and E. B. Wingfield’s carrier, furniture removal and storage business on the opposite corner to the Bopeep Hotel. The Herts. Convalescent Home is also listed as being at Bopeep despite the fact that the Convalescent Home for Poor Children to the west of it is listed as being in West Hill Road.
West Marina Station opened in 1846 and was the nearest station to Hastings until 1851 when the Bo Peep tunnel through to Warrior Square and the tunnel to Hastings were completed. The station closed in 1967. The furniture depository on the southern side of the road had originally been designed as a station hotel but West Marina ceased to be a terminus when the line to Hastings was completed and the hotel was redundant before was even finished so it was repurposed as a furniture storage pantechnicon and is now luxury apartments. In 1850 the railway contractors had been dumping the spoil from the tunnels on the shore at Bo Peep and this not only interfered with the eastward drift of beach but caused a great eddy to sweep round and attack St. Leonards. The railway company denied liability and while the matter was being argued and just about to be settled in the High Court the sea removed both the dump of earth and the problem.
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, he also has available a limited number of facsimile copies of Kidd’s Picturesque guide to St Leonards There’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk or contact him - firstname.lastname@example.org.