Hastings in pictures and rhyme

LB Easter SUS-150928-121151001
LB Easter SUS-150928-121151001

This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at the unusual publication ‘Hastings by camera and in Canto’ - pictures and poems by John Morgan.

He writes: This was printed and published for the author by Burfield & Pennells, Cambridge Road, in 1897.

LB Statuary SUS-150928-121202001

LB Statuary SUS-150928-121202001

An interesting hardback publication of over a hundred 160mm x 250mm pages with the text printed on good quality paper and the pictures reproduced on one side only of a thicker, glossy paper.

The whole is dedicated to “The People of Hastings”. ‘Hastings in pictures and rhyme’ might have been a more appropriate subtitle and the illustrations are of a high-quality both in terms of composition and production having mostly been supplied by well-known Hastings photographers of the time including Blomfield, Bradshaw, Joshua Smith and Godbold and converted to half-tone format for printing by Swan Electric Engraving Co’s ‘process’.

Sir Joseph Swan (1828 – 1914) was a largely self-educated scientist who developed and marketed photographic dry plates (1877) and bromide paper (1879). He also invented and manufactured an electric light bulb with considerable commercial success, before merging his company with Edison’s. As early as 1865, Swan had patented a halftone reproduction screen and by the 1890s the techniques he pioneered had been refined to a level where they became commercially viable and aesthetically desirable.

The quality of the pictures is unfortunately not matched by the quality of the content of the text which consists in the main of rhyming couplets masquerading as poetry without extending an understanding of the town and suggests that this volume was an early form of vanity publishing. The few notes accompanying the rhymes do, however, provide a valuable insight and the affection for the town by the author, (about whom little is known) seems sincere, he states in his preface “No one of ordinary intelligence and culture can reside in Hastings without being impressed with its natural beauty, its great historical interest and the vast number human beings who incessantly stream in and out of it”.

LB Ecclesbourne SUS-150928-120526001

LB Ecclesbourne SUS-150928-120526001

We are provided with an early history of the marble statue of Edith and Harold (pictured - ‘Statuary’) now mouldering in Grosvenor Gardens where it has resided since the 1950’s after being expelled from Hastings Museum. In Morgan’s time it resided in the original Museum site in the Brassey Institute, later it was moved to the new museum in John’s Place “This work of Art is in the large Assembly Room at the Institute. It is by C.A.Wilde, Sculptor, London and is dated 1875. It was given to the town by Lord Brassey and at first placed in the Town Hall, but removed here when the Corporation received the trust of the Institute Buildings. It was stated to the writer that Lord Brassey has a copy of it in terracotta at Normanhurst”

Morgan goes on to note “I was surprised too that no public lending library exist in the town. Of course this is a matter that rests with the ratepayers themselves. But under enlightened leaders this want ought to be soon supplied unless Hastings is to fall in the rear in the great mind movement of the day”

The intention was that each picture would illustrate a chapter written in verse eulogising aspects of the town

Captions for a sample of the pictures.

LB Hollington Church SUS-150928-120537001

LB Hollington Church SUS-150928-120537001

Ecclesbourne Cliffs and Glen.

Coastal erosion spelled the end for the coastguard cottages, the whole area in the foreground has now fallen into the sea. The targets for the militia can be seen on the hillside in the centre, they would be fired at across the valley.


Edith finding the body of Harold on the battle-field of Hastings.

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LB Warrior Square SUS-150928-120600001

Easter Pebbly Shore with Fishing Boats

The height of the end groyne (centre right) was raised as part of the harbour works but, after work stopped the extension was removed in 1911. Note the chimney of the dust destructor where the town’s refuse was burned and the ashes tipped into the sea via a small tramway, the remains of which can still be seen today.

Brassey Institute.

Little changed today. In 1897 it housed the Art School and Museum with the Rowing Club in the basement

Hollington Church.

Pictured after the Victorian ‘restoration’ of the 1860’s when the size of the porch was massively increased and gothic windows added. Excursionists found the old church in its strange isolation a popular place to visit.

LB Esplanade SUS-150928-120548001

LB Esplanade SUS-150928-120548001

The Esplanade, the Baths and the Band.

A popular view photographed from the hospital.

Warrior Square.

The Luftwaffe modified the magnificent terrace during the last war. The square tower of St Paul’s Church (demolished in the 1960’s) can be seen on the upper left.

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.

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LB Brassey Institute SUS-150928-120502001

LB Brassey Institute SUS-150928-120502001