This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at Lane and Gentrey’s Standard Guide to Hastings and St Leonards, published with maps and illustrations in 1929.
He writes: Lane & Gentry & Co Ltd were based at ‘The Standard Press’ Margate and were Geographical Publishers of town guides with a portfolio of around a score of publications featuring mainly coastal towns in Kent and Sussex.
The Hastings and St.Leonards version appeared, priced at 9d – ninepence (now 3½p) with its companion “Rural Rambles Around Hastings” priced at 7d, sevenpence or almost 3p today.
Oddly enough at the time they didn’t appear to have produced a guide for their own town of Margate.
Prices ranged from 4d to 9d and most included a map or plan of the town. Lane & Gentry proclaimed “These Guides are the most popular wherever published. They contain just the INFORMATION REQUIRED BY VISITORS, clearly and concisely put, bright and interesting. Well illustrated and plentifully supplied with MAPS AND PLANS, the Standard Guides are entirely free from boring technicalities, dry statistics, and the bias usually associated with local guides”
The book had 48 125mm x 185mm pages, on paper not ideally suited to photograph reproduction, a 430mm x 330mm map, more than a dozen photographs (none credited) and a stiff card cover and the contents covered the usual aspects of the town and places to see in the surrounding area; the amenities, entertainment and amusements in the area are all listed, There were a few illustrated advertisements and several pages of accommodation small-ads. ‘Places of Worship’ seemed quite popular too. The cover suggests that Lane Gentry were based in Hastings but there is no evidence to support this.
1929 was an auspicious year, with the town’s fortunes improving, the population growth had slowed down a little, it had been 64,142 in 1921 and would rise to 66,319 by 1931; self-confidence was burgeoning; Hastings’ Museum, taken over by the council in 1905 had moved from the Brassey Institute to larger premises in John’s Place, a recently-built site near the Royal East Sussex Hospital, and was open until 9pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Bank Holidays.
In 1928 a new company acquired The Palace Pier in St.Leonards and added several new attractions as well as redecorating and illuminating the structure. The pier was 950 feet long and carried a handsome 750-seat Pavilion at the shore end. At the pier head was an excellent amusements Pavilion. Further attractions included Refreshment Rooms and a Bandstand and a covered way connected the Pavilion with the Promenade to ensure easy access during inclement weather, all that was missing was a landing stage for steamers.
1928 had seen the opening of a large new Pavilion for Indoor Bowls (now Falaise Fitness) together with the development of White. Rock Gardens on the top of the cliff overlooking Hastings Pier and the White Rock Pavilion (opened early in 1927 by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales). From the promenade the improvements are most noticeable – ‘The cliff face has been laid out as a rock garden, and is a mass of colour’. A flight of steps lead to the cliff top and a public road had to be crossed before the gardens are entered. Vehicles mounted the cliff by means of the sloping approach roads in both directions and at the head of the steps the pretty little Lily Pond should be noted. Crossing the road, the gardens were entered under a rustic bridge and despite the comparatively small area of the grounds there were splendid Bowling Greens, a Putting Green, Tennis Courts, Bandstand, Terrace, Promenade, Pergola Shelters, Shrubberies, Public Pavilions, refreshment Rooms, etc. Playing Fields for Tennis,etc. had been added ‘to the immediate westward, the courts rising by terraces so as to command sea views, which are excellent from all parts of the Gardens, and altogether Hastings has reason to be proud of its new pleasure ground’.
1928 had seen the replacement of the ageing trams that had run on rails since 1905 with a fleet of state of the art trolleybuses - electric buses drawing their current from overhead wires and able to run through the Old Town, ‘The Bourne’ hadn’t yet been built so trolleybuses ran up and down High Street and a new route.
Old London Road (too steep for trams) was added along with Elphinstone Road from the Park Gates to the Langham for the same reason. by May 1929 Hastings had 21 miles of trolleybus routes, then the longest in the world with 58 Guy trolleybuses Hastings Tramways also had one of the largest fleets in the country, 8 were unique open-top double deckers, the only purpose-built ones ever constructed and used in the UK– one survives as Hastings’ own Trolleybus ‘Happy Harold’ and two of the single-deckers are in preservation but not in Hastings.
There is a Public Transport feature ‘Motor Omnibus Services’ listing Timpsons and Skinners for local Services, Maidstone & District for long-distance services, East Kent Road Car Co and Dengate Bros for country services but by the time war broke out in 1939 Maidstone & District had taken over Hastings Tramways, Timpsons and Skinners.
Marine Court, the double-deck promenade, underground carparks, the bathing pool were yet to come.
The Cricket Ground is noted – ‘Very centrally situated in Queen’s Road. ‘This area of six acres is a very useful” lung” of the town, … accommodation is here provided for practically all outdoor sports. At the “Central Pavilion” at the entrance to the ground, Wallis Arthur’s Alfresco Concerts are held’.
Hastings Harbour gets a mention ‘schemes have been on the tapis for centuries. The present “eyesore” by the old town is all that remains of the structure, erected by a limited company formed in 1893 to construct a harbour with an area of four acres and a quayage of 27,000 feet. As will be seen, the force of the sea has been sufficient to overthrow many parts of the solid masonry. The latest proposals for a Harbour put the site at Bulverhythe’.
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
Bowls Pavilion - White Rock Gardens
On the left can be seen the bandstand that formerly stood in the seafront at White Rock
A picture taken from the pier, by now all the bathing machines had been replaced with changing tents. To the right Sidney Little’s Carlisle Parade with its underground parking is yet to be built and the area it will occupy is filled with bathing tents.
Pier Bandstand from White Rock Gardens
A Timpsons bus appears to be following an Austin 7. At the pier head the pavilion built after the 1917 fire can be seen
One of the few illustrated ads
The Hastings Trolleybus system was quite extensive, and at 21 miles it was the longest in the world
White Rock Pavilion
Little changed today apart from the entrance portico and enclosed balcony. The tramlines can still be seen in the road.
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