Hastings - ‘The Home of Sunshine’

IC All Saints Street SUS-150914-110845001
IC All Saints Street SUS-150914-110845001

This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at ‘The Official Programme’ published by The Hastings & St.Leonards Borough Association in 1923.

He writes: We have seen the ‘Official Programme’ published by the Boro’ Association in the years around the first war and they went on to bigger and better things.

IC Band by Night SUS-150914-110856001

IC Band by Night SUS-150914-110856001

The Hastings and St Leonards Official Handbook had its origins as long ago as 1912 when it appeared as “The Official Handbook of the Borough Association”.

The later editions were written by W H Dyer and were subtitled ‘The Home of Sunshine’. By 1923 it ran to 80 pages printed in sepia ink and cost 6d (2½p today). There were forewords by William Le Queux, prolific writer of spy stories, author Sheila Kaye-Smith and novelist Coulson Kernahan. The healthy climate was endorsed by an impressive list of medical practitioners (none of whom practised in Hastings).

New and updated editions appeared annually right up to the outbreak of war in 1939 and the target audience was not just holidaymakers but there was also an attempt to encourage new residents – “There is now an excellent and remarkably punctual service of trains between Hastings and St. Leonards and the Metropolis. Many City men have taken advantage thereof to live by the sea: moreover, the season-ticket rates are exceedingly reasonable. The town is served by two Sections of the Southern Railway Company. It now takes approximately 90 minutes to journey ‘from gloom to sunshine’.

Elsewhere it states the journey from London takes “three hours, by motor char-a-banc”.

Palace Pier SUS-150914-110920001

Palace Pier SUS-150914-110920001

The 1923 edition remarked “The important point for prospective visitors to note is that Hastings is noted for ‘No Profiteering.’ This Borough can claim, with the utmost justification, that it offers the most reasonable range of resort tariffs around the whole British coast”

The publication reports details of population: 67,000, climate: “Exceptionally equable through land configuration and proximity to Gulf Stream”. Sunshine: “Town holds record for British Isles for regularity and quantity of sunshine”.

The historical aspect of the town is touched upon but the emphasis is on how progressive the town was - £500,000 (at least £25,000,000 today) was being spent (£350,000 of it by the council directly) on improvements including the White Rock Gardens, Pilot Field, tennis courts and St Leonards golf course. There are descriptions of facilities and amenities locally and further afield.


IC Promenade, Bandstand and White Rock bowling greens SUS-150914-110931001

IC Promenade, Bandstand and White Rock bowling greens SUS-150914-110931001

All Saints Street:

Note the bloaters (whole ungutted smoked herrings) for sale in the front window of what was then a fisherman’s cottage; bloaters would have cost a penny each (240 old pennies to £1)

Band by Night:

The corporation had acquired a quarter of Hastings Pier in September 1914 and rebuilt it as an extension of the promenade which was officially opened in April 1916 and full use was being made of it. The advertising banner, centre left, proclaims ‘Grand Whitsun Carnival’

IC West Hill SUS-150914-110942001

IC West Hill SUS-150914-110942001

Palace Pier:

With views of the amenities on offer, the Pavilion, Saloon Lounge, skating rink, tea rooms and the American Bowling Alley.

Promenade, Bandstand and White Rock Bowling Greens from the Air.

The struts of the bi-plane carrying the photographer can be seen on the right. The old hospital with its circular wards can be seen almost in the centre of the picture. It was later demolished to make way for the White Rock Pavilion (now Theatre) which opened in 1927. The new Royal East Sussex Hospital in Cambridge Road had come into use in May 1923 and building its replacement, the Conquest Hospital on The Ridge started in 1988.

West Hill

Apart from the costumes, this could be a current view

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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