This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes another look at how local businesses advertised themselves in the 1950’s.
He writes. After the war cinemas provided recreation and diversion for the people of Hastings and St Leonards but this was by no means all that was on offer for residents and visitors.
There was even an aerodrome with pleasure flights from an air field where, in 1933, Hastings Council had bought 17 acres just north of Bexhill Road at Pebsham Farm for this purpose. The war had intervened and huge amounts had been spent on draining and levelling the ground, next to the landfill site which helped to raise the land level and in July 1948 The Mayor officially opened ‘Hastings Aerodrome’ It was not the expected success and plans, which came to nothing, were then put forward to change the site to a motor racing circuit and the airfield closed in 1959. The area is now football pitches.
In 1951, For one brief season Hastings, or rather St Leonards, hosted the world’s smallest public tramway, the 15 inch gauge ‘Hastings Modern Tramway’ that ran on the promenade between the road and the sea from the Bathing Pool to Marina with the tramcars, models of existing vehicles, housed in a shed adjacent to the pool.
The tramway originated at the Lancaster Electrical Company in Barnet, North London, which built battery electric vehicles such as milk floats and whose owner, Claude Lane, had a passion for trams. His factory helped realise his long held ambition of constructing a 15 inch gauge tram based on ex-Darwen car 23, a car then running on the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay system.
Lane completed the tram in 1949 and ran it at local fetes etc. and this led, in 1951, to his idea of a permanent site at St. Leonards which unfortunately only lasted a single summer season because the corporation accepting a petition from local residents who claimed that the traction poles and overhead wiring spoiled their view of the sea and subjected them to unnecessary noise and vibration.
The result was that the tramway relocated to Rhyl the following year and remained there for five years whilst a lease was negotiated in Eastbourne to run miniature trams between Princes Park and the Crumbles on a wider gauge of 2ft.
Lane’s Barnet works built larger trams for the new gauge and ran them there until 1969 before the changing road layout in Eastbourne forced a further relocating to the tramway’s current home on a redundant railway line at Seaton in Devon.
In the early 1950’s Hastings and St Leonards boasted a number of garages and motor engineers possibly because new cars were hard to come on the home market because they were all earmarked for export and there would be plenty of work maintaining pre-war vehicles. Specialist sports cars like Elva Cars were bring built locally and the descendant of that company still exists as Elva Recovery even if they stopped car building decades ago.
But there was another company, St Leonards Engineering, that was building bodies for HRG sports cars - the H.R.G. company began as a partnership in 1935 and by 1946 the cars were competing at Chimay, Montlhery, Le Mans, Spa, in the RAC and Alpine Rallies and the earliest race events at Silverstone and Goodwood where they proved competitive, rugged and easy to maintain. In 26 years, a total of just 241 hand built cars had been made, (the number completed at Hastings is not recorded) and approximately 220 survive today.
Car ownership had not increased to the extent that prevented the local bus company, an outpost of the Maidstone and District Motor Services, from advertising day and half day trips out.
There were cafés and restaurants, as examples, the well known Dimarco family was trading in Wellington Place, Cave’s Café at 40 White Rock and Forte’s at 31, opposite the White Rock Baths whilst the Marine Court Restaurant, which would achieve fame a mere 14 years later as ‘The Witchdoctor’ before it was renamed ‘The Cobweb, was the home of Gibbons Restaurant offering Dinner dance and Cabaret on Saturday nights.
At the other end of town in George Street, Olympia Amusements had a more mass-market appeal with, in 1949, Ballroom, Party catering and Dodgems on offer and a skating rink added in 1951.
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
The Ascent Garage & Motor Co was at No 8 East Ascent, but all external evidence has now disappeared, their workshops and garages were once part of the mews that once serviced the Royal Victoria Hotel and grand houses on the seafront and have now been rebuilt as housing.
Caves Cafe 1949.
Caves Café at 40 White Rock was originally known as ‘Caves Oriental Café’ after taking over from ‘Lloyds Oriental Café’ early last century but had gone by the early 1970’s.
This advert for the famous and popular Dimarco’s café at 8-9 Wellington Place dates from 1948; the café opened in 1919 and was run by the Dimarco family until it closed in 1985. It was later demolished and replaced by McDonalds. Despite appearances there is no second floor, the windows on that level are ‘dummies’.
Another well-known and popular café, this advertisement for Forte’s Café dates from the summer of 1951 and they were still there in the 1970’s
In 1951 local bus company, Maidstone and District ran regular coach trips to the Festival of Britain on London’s Southbank and tickets could be booked from their office in the arcade of shops below the Palace Hotel.
Maidstone & District ran all sorts of day and half day excursions in 1951, the pretty village of Sedlescombe was one of the places that could be visited even though it was only 6 miles away.
Marine Court 1950.
Gibbons Restaurant in Marine Court were advertising their events for Christmas 1950. The Marine Court Restaurant became the Witchdoctor an the 1960’s
Claude Lane advertised his miniature tramway during its short-lived time in St Leonards in 1951. Despite its popularity local complaints caused it to close after only one season.
Ballroom, Party catering and Amusements at Olympia in George Street in 1949
By 1951 Olympia had added Skating to the amusements on offer.
A rare advertisement from 1951 offers pleasure flights for 10/- (50p) from Hastings Aerodrome on Bexhill Road and you didn’t need a car, you could get there by bus or trolleybus.
Located in the mews behind East Ascent St Leonards Engineering constructed and finished the bodywork for HRG sports cars in late 1951, in the days when cars had a separate chassis