This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes a look at how the town was promoted in the guide Hastings and St Leonards in Natural Colour.
He writes - This was published by the Publicity and Public Relations Department, County Borough of Hastings, Verulam Place, Hastings, and printed in England, with no mention of the printer, suggesting that it may have been printed out of town.
The publication is undated but appears to have been produced for the 1954 season and was composed of 20 6¾” x 8½” (170mm x 215mm) glossy full-colour pages.
It would have been posted out as part of a pack containing accommodation details, leaflets and an update of available features and activities. From a social history perspective the use of contemporary ‘glamour’ images with their unnatural poses is interesting and of course the stilted copywriting is very much of its time and contributes little to describing the non-female local attractions.
In context, Hastings was still a ‘County Borough’ with control of its libraries, fire brigade, highways, education and social services that lasted until April 1st 1974 when, under the Local Government Reform Act, Hastings Council had to give control of these functions to East Sussex County Council. 1954 would have been the second year of the ‘New Elizabethan Era’ with post-war reconstruction still under way and bomb-sites still very much in evidence throughout the borough and cheap overseas holidays still in the future and Hastings Pier was still the focal point of the town with the demolition of St.Leonards’ war damaged pier starting in 1951.
All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and he can make available copies of some of the images used in this series. There’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk.
Captions, from original publication
Pier and Catamaran
Three bathing dresses that don’t look as though they’ll stay dry for long. But who minds a ducking? This is summer-time at Hastings. And these two-float ‘catamarans’
Pier and Carnival
“Past the Pier and the Bandstand go the gaily decorated floats of the Carnival procession. On the left is a corner of White Rock Pavilion, famous South Coast home of -orchestral music and summer shows. In the Pier Theatre the local repertory company performs every night with weekly changes of plays” - The Carnival, originally in aid of the hospitals, had been running since the latter part of the previous century, starting at the Bathing Pool the route included the Old Town before finishing at Alexandra Park. When it was decided to omit the Old Town in the 1960’s. In 1969 the first Old Town Carnival took place and the original fizzled out.
Centre pages map
Pier and Speedboat
“You want to go on the sea as well as in it? There’s every sort of boating to be had at Hastings. Two safe lakes for children, pleasure steamers, rowing boats, sailing boats, speed boats. Here is one of the last, slung on it’s davits, on the Pier”. The gap in the houses below the speedboat is as bomb site.
“There’s any amount to look at from the mole or the harbour. The fishing boats and net-drying huts are endlessly fascinating”. Good old English innuendo has crept in again, the caption appears to have nothing to do with the picture. Big Hats seem to have been in vogue at the time and have to be held in place if there’s a breeze.
Alexandra Park Boating Lake
“Safe boating for the whole family on the lake in Alexandra Park. The other boating lake is on the foreshore at the Fish Market.” Note the ‘Blood and Custard’ livery of the train in the sidings on the embankment. This livery, which lasted until the early 1960’s was gradually replaced with Southern Region’s green
“Down they go - and shame on any boy who holds his nose. For grown-ups - the more enterprising ones anyway - there are the dizzy but alluring platforms of the high dive. The bathing pool at St.Leonards, built to exact proportions for international aquatic meetings, is one of the finest in Europe. At night, fireworks follow the frequent galas.” The pool, opened in 1933, but wasn’t financially viable, and it had closed by 1959. In 1960 it passed into the hands of Alderman Sid Withers, who converted it into a down-market holiday camp. It finally closed in 1986 and was demolished in May 1993. The site is now partially occupied by an underground storm-water storage tank and the rest of the site is still vacant.
“They come for rest and sun and sea-air. They get plenty of all three. Fast trains from Charing Cross and Victoria, or through trains from the North and Midlands, or maybe coaches from Victoria Coach Station have borne them south through the lovely Sussex countryside. Now they take the Ozone on the upper level of the wide ‘double-decker’ promenade”. Notice the bathing machines of 50 years previously have been replaced by a single changing tent on a near-empty beach.
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