Advertisements provide glimpse into the past

Past 5 SUS-150629-075402001
Past 5 SUS-150629-075402001

This week Ion Castro looks at how Parsons’ Hastings St Leonards and Neighbourhood Illustrated, with its advertisements and engravings, captured the town in the late 19th century.

He writes: This publication was part of a series of similar productions that appeared under the F J Parsons imprint between around 1885 and 1899. Parsons were also printing and publishing the Hastings and St.Leonards Observer at that time and had been doing so since the mid 1860’s.

This edition was printed in 1890 or 1891 on ‘Demi Royal’ size paper in landscape format (12½ inches wide by 10 inches high - 305mm x 240mm) and is very similar in style and layout to Parsons Almanac 1891 which was reviewed here a few weeks ago; some of the engraved printing blocks were used in both editions.

Parsons’ Hastings St Leonards and Neighbourhood Illustrated had 84 pages, most of them advertising material with lots of pictures, which were a combination of engravings and photographs. These illustrations must have been on self-contained blocks because they appear in other publications and it would not have been unusual for an advertiser to own his own block for presentation to the printer when required.

There was of course no almanack content but this was more than made up for by the quantity and diversity of the information about Hastings and surrounding areas.

As you would have expected from that era, churches featured heavily and it’s interesting to note the number of churches that have now disappeared – St Leonards Church fell victim to a flying bomb in the last war, the nave of St John’s in St Leonards was also a victim of enemy action. St Paul’s Church in St Leonards was demolished in the 60s, Mount Pleasant Congregational Church was demolished in the 60s and is now represented as a Chapel within the block of flats that replaced it. The Central Wesleyan Church, opposite the Old Observer Building in Cambridge road fell victim to developers and is now sheltered housing, St Andrew’s Church in Queens Road (which contained fine examples of Robert Tressell’s work) is now Morrisons filling station. Other churches not featured in the book have gone too.

St Leonards pier, although not completed until 1891 also featured along with the fact that carriages could be driven right up to the entrance to the pavilion, which was at the front of the pier unlike Hastings where it was at the far end. There was of course a feature on Hastings Pier.

One hundred and twenty five years on it is the advertisements, particularly the illustrated ones and the advertised products that are the most fascinating. F J Parsons of course advertised their steam printing works with a generic advertisement that has been seen in many of their other publications.

Show here is Griffin & Berry, Hastings mineral water works. The building featured in their advertisement is still there in Earl Street. The photographers advertised were just a few of the dozens trading in Hastings at that time.

An engraving shows the old Rotunda fishmarket that was demolished to make way for a turning circle for the trolley buses in 1928. It is now the car park at the bottom of High Street.

The Rock Bread Factory was operated by Feaist and Co who later amalgamated with Henry King to become Henry King and Feaist and operated a number of bakers shops throughout the Borough. The factory, on the eastern side of Castle Hill Road was eventually demolished for road widening and the remainder of the site is a car park.

The image of the interior of the Pier Pavilion shows the intricate and elaborate interior of the original pavilion. It was not replaced after the pier burned down for the first time in 1917, the style would have been old fashioned by then.

Thomas Marchant’s is among an interesting miscellany of local adverts. F E Towner are still trading in Norman Road today. J & J Christian tell us that they dealt in best seaborne coals, these would have been delivered, by boat probably to the slipway at the bottom of London road or to the landing place opposite Grosvenor Gardens where colliers would have been beached at high tide, the cargo of coal unloaded into horse-drawn carts at low tide and the boat then floated off on the next high tide.

The Albert Hotel was on the next corner to the Gaiety Theatre, now the Odeon Cinema. The hotel, after many years of use as offices, was eventually demolished to widen Albert Road when the town centre was pedestrianised. Gaze & Sons furniture warehouse was originally built as the Railway Hotel for the eastern terminus of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway at St.Leonards West Marina but before it was completed the tunnels linking the railway to Hastings station were built and it was obsolete and was redesigned as a warehouse. It has now been converted into a block of luxury flats. Note the other publications from FJ Parsons.

No publication would be complete without such a corset advertisement – how today’s advertising standards authority would view the claim that these contraptions were good for your health is anybody’s guess.

Breeds Brewery occupied the area from High Street to the Bourne. Most of the main Brewery building is still there as is the boiler house and base of the factory chimney. It fell victim to a brewery take-overs but the brewery name remained on the Companies House register until the 1950s.

All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion’s own collection and there’s more local history on his website,

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