A nursery rhyme hides the wretched secrets of New England Bank

A heavily retouched trackside view of West Marina Station in the 1890s. Notice the track ballast, hiding the sleepers, it also hid signs of rot and decay so the practice was revised and sleepers are now visible although, with concrete sleepers it is now less critical. SUS-170919-084928001
A heavily retouched trackside view of West Marina Station in the 1890s. Notice the track ballast, hiding the sleepers, it also hid signs of rot and decay so the practice was revised and sleepers are now visible although, with concrete sleepers it is now less critical. SUS-170919-084928001

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,

An image from the early 1800s showing The New England Bank. The site was later developed as West Marina Station. When the station was redeveloped evidence of the inn were found. SUS-170919-084917001

An image from the early 1800s showing The New England Bank. The site was later developed as West Marina Station. When the station was redeveloped evidence of the inn were found. SUS-170919-084917001

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.

This image from the very first guide book to St Leonards, Kidds Picturesque guide to St Leonards, published around 1834, shows Tower No 39 at Bo Peep with nos 40, 41, 42 and 43 receding into the distance and the New England Bank on the right. The Wilton on the seaward end of Grosvenor Gardens now occupies the site of tower 39 which was undermined by the sea in 1876 and demolished by the Royal Engineers in 1876. The other towers were also victims to coastal erosion. SUS-170919-084803001

This image from the very first guide book to St Leonards, Kidds Picturesque guide to St Leonards, published around 1834, shows Tower No 39 at Bo Peep with nos 40, 41, 42 and 43 receding into the distance and the New England Bank on the right. The Wilton on the seaward end of Grosvenor Gardens now occupies the site of tower 39 which was undermined by the sea in 1876 and demolished by the Royal Engineers in 1876. The other towers were also victims to coastal erosion. SUS-170919-084803001

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 - ion@1066.net.

Originally built but not completed as a station hotel, it had previously been run by E B Wingfield. It would go through several ownerships until ending up with Pickfords Pickfords Pantechnicon and then, almost reverting to its original purpose its now luxury apartments. The entrance to West Marina Station can be seen on the right. SUS-170919-084741001

Originally built but not completed as a station hotel, it had previously been run by E B Wingfield. It would go through several ownerships until ending up with Pickfords Pickfords Pantechnicon and then, almost reverting to its original purpose its now luxury apartments. The entrance to West Marina Station can be seen on the right. SUS-170919-084741001

West Marina Station in the 1890s, the frontage remained almost unchanged until the station was demolished after closure in 1967. SUS-170919-084939001

West Marina Station in the 1890s, the frontage remained almost unchanged until the station was demolished after closure in 1967. SUS-170919-084939001

This advertisement for Havenhurst Roller Four Mills dates from 1899, not long after the mill was built and was operated by John Draper, brother of William Draper who had inherited Silverhill and Ore windmills from his father and the two brothers amalgamated in 1899. By 1930 the site had become the Havenhurst Manufacturing Co. Ltd., making casement and leaded light windows before becoming Webbers Motors Ltd, agents for Trojan cars and vans. By the outbreak of the last war it was still in Webbers hands as lock-up garages and a filling station. After the war it was Fyffes Banana warehouse before becoming Stamco timber merchants. When they moved to an industrial estate further west the site was levelled and remains undeveloped. SUS-170919-084906001

This advertisement for Havenhurst Roller Four Mills dates from 1899, not long after the mill was built and was operated by John Draper, brother of William Draper who had inherited Silverhill and Ore windmills from his father and the two brothers amalgamated in 1899. By 1930 the site had become the Havenhurst Manufacturing Co. Ltd., making casement and leaded light windows before becoming Webbers Motors Ltd, agents for Trojan cars and vans. By the outbreak of the last war it was still in Webbers hands as lock-up garages and a filling station. After the war it was Fyffes Banana warehouse before becoming Stamco timber merchants. When they moved to an industrial estate further west the site was levelled and remains undeveloped. SUS-170919-084906001

The first annual horse race was held on Bulverhythe Salts, Bopeep on Oct 3 1823 . It was so successful that in September 1826 the course was moved to South Saxons at the bottom of Filsham Road and this allowed 6,000 spectators a better view from the surrounding slopes. The Martello Tower is No. 41, a low level tower that had suffered sea erosion by 1842. While arrangements were being made to demolish it and to sell the materials it was destroyed by a gale and swept into the sea. SUS-170919-084856001

The first annual horse race was held on Bulverhythe Salts, Bopeep on Oct 3 1823 . It was so successful that in September 1826 the course was moved to South Saxons at the bottom of Filsham Road and this allowed 6,000 spectators a better view from the surrounding slopes. The Martello Tower is No. 41, a low level tower that had suffered sea erosion by 1842. While arrangements were being made to demolish it and to sell the materials it was destroyed by a gale and swept into the sea. SUS-170919-084856001

The colour emulsion on this 1958 photograph has deteriorated but it still shows 30 year old Happy Harold at its Bathing Pool terminus, this unique vehicle ran a special summer service Fishmarket to Bathing Pool. Apart from Bexhill Road the turning circle took in the end of Grosvenor Gardens and the car park next to the pub. SUS-170919-084752001

The colour emulsion on this 1958 photograph has deteriorated but it still shows 30 year old Happy Harold at its Bathing Pool terminus, this unique vehicle ran a special summer service Fishmarket to Bathing Pool. Apart from Bexhill Road the turning circle took in the end of Grosvenor Gardens and the car park next to the pub. SUS-170919-084752001

An advertisement from 1889 for the Bopeep Hotel Adjoining the West Marina Station LB&SCR and the West St Leonards Station SER SUS-170919-084835001

An advertisement from 1889 for the Bopeep Hotel Adjoining the West Marina Station LB&SCR and the West St Leonards Station SER SUS-170919-084835001

The first tram to run from the Bopeep to Hastings seafront route on 18th December 1906 with its trolley pole lowered, that part of the service used the Dolter Stud system picking up the electric current via a skate under the tram from studs in the road, the idea was that overhead wiring would spoil the appearance of the front line. The system was not a success. On the left the tram to Bexhill has a conventional trolley pole. SUS-170919-084845001

The first tram to run from the Bopeep to Hastings seafront route on 18th December 1906 with its trolley pole lowered, that part of the service used the Dolter Stud system picking up the electric current via a skate under the tram from studs in the road, the idea was that overhead wiring would spoil the appearance of the front line. The system was not a success. On the left the tram to Bexhill has a conventional trolley pole. SUS-170919-084845001

A postcard from 1908, showing the Childrens Convalescent Home (now demolished) next to the Bo Peep Hotel (Robinss Prize Medal Stout and Fine Ales) and the signage for West Marina Station. On the right a tram departs for Hastings. SUS-170919-084824001

A postcard from 1908, showing the Childrens Convalescent Home (now demolished) next to the Bo Peep Hotel (Robinss Prize Medal Stout and Fine Ales) and the signage for West Marina Station. On the right a tram departs for Hastings. SUS-170919-084824001