Hastings - unrivalled for bright sunshine

View 5 SUS-150713-093643001
View 5 SUS-150713-093643001

This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at the publication 40 Views of Hastings and District which, as well as portraying views of the town, provided a meteorological report which stated: “In the matter of bright sunshine, Hastings stands at the head of all places in England.’

Ion writes: “40 Views” contained 34 pages, 240mm x 180mm (9.7” x 7.1”), was printed on both sides and was contained within a red card cover.

The printer/publisher was probably King Brothers, whose name appeared on the front cover and were printers and stationers at that time however copies are known without this endorsement and no specific printer is credited.

Publication is undated but probably from the late 1890s, turn of the 20th century when the population and visitors were still rising, from. 58,546 in 1891 to 60,264 in 1901 to 62,036 in 1911 when the population continued to rise but the number of visitors declined as fashions changed.

There are only two sides of text, and the illustrations were mostly full page photographs by well-known local photographers Blomfield and Joshua Smith as well as some that were uncredited. The text was in the style that you would expect of the Victorian era “In the matter of bright sunshine, Hastings stands at the head of all places in England. Last year Hastings’ total of hours was 1,841, while the latest published returns of the Meteorological Office, giving yearly averages, show the following figures: Hastings, 1,761; Falmouth, 1,734; Brighton, 1,707; Eastbourne, 1,698; Torquay, 1,698; Tenby, 1,694; and other places, London coming far down the list with 1,240. It will thus be seen that Hastings stands unrivalled for bright sunshine.” -

Yes, we were sunnier than Eastbourne even then!

Elsewhere it states: “The Parade.-The magnificent promenade-the finest in the kingdom- is three miles in length, and from end to end comfortable glass shelters and seats are arranged at intervals for the accommodation of visitors. The finest and most frequented portion of the Parade is that in front of White Rock. At this point a splendid width of promenade is secured, under which are the excellent Swimming Baths for Ladies and Gentlemen. A Band Kiosk has been erected in the centre of the Parade, from which the Corporation Town Band discourse sweet music.”

It goes on to say, under Public Amusements and Recreation: “There is no lack of entertainment for all classes. The Gaiety Theatre, in Queen’s Road (now Odeon Cinema), is open at all seasons of the year; entertainments are given nightly at the Empire Music Hall (now De Luxe Leisure) at Marine Parade at the Hastings Pier Pavilion splendid concerts of vocal and instrumental music are given in the summer season, and in the winter dramatic and other companies give good entertainments.

“The St Leonards Pier management follow upon similar lines. There are, too, occasional entertainments at the Royal Concert Hall (north end of Warrior Square) and the Public Hall, Hastings (now the upstairs of Yates’s).

“Football has now become a favourite pastime here, and some excellent matches are played in the Central Recreation Ground (now Priory Meadow Shopping Centre). There are excellent Rowing and Swimming Clubs, there being every convenience to learn the natatory art.” There were also the usual descriptions of nearby places of interest such as Rye, Bodiam and Winchelsea.

Pictures show the Baths Promenade where 30 or so years later Sydney Little was to widen the road from here to bypass the town centre. Notice the uncluttered Hastings Pier with two steamers by the landing stage.

Clive Vale depicts the junction with Godwin Road on the left, and Barley Lane runs across the foreground. The golfers would have come from their clubhouse on the East Hill – Harry Furness the well-known cartoonist and early filmmaker was one of the founders of the club. The spire of Clive Vale Congregational Church, now demolished, can be seen to the right of centre with All Saints Junior School (then “Clive Vale School”) to the front of it. Boyne Road and Gurth Road, amongst the earliest council housing in Hastings, are yet to occupy the area between Barley Lane and Harold Road. The origin of the name Clive Vale is uncertain but often, mistakenly, thought to refer to Clive of India.

At Grosvenor Gardens, the Bathing Pool, built behind the terrace, has come and gone and the decaying marble statue of Harold and Edith now occupies an area in the foreground. The Bo Peep Inn can be seen on the right.

Harbour Works shows the wooden trestle work, now covered with beach, which was constructed to allow the longshore drift of shingle towards Dungeness. When this drift was stopped the harbour arm acted as a groyne and a huge area of shingle has built up against it.

The lifeboat house was demolished in 1959 and the main A259 coast road runs across its site. Notice how close to the sea it was, until the shingle build-up against the old harbour arm moved the water’s edge further south.

With the “View from West Hill” St Leonards pier can be seen in the background and a steamer departing from Hastings pier. Notice how narrow the coast road, now the A259, was until Sydney Little widened it in the 1930s.

With “White Rock Baths” it would be several years before tramlines were laid and even more years before Sydney Little would rebuild the baths and widen the promenade. Notice the bathing machines.

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