This week, in his continuing series, Ion Casto takes a look at Hastings Pier before 1900
He writes: The building of Hastings Pier had started in December 1869 and opened to the public on the first ever August Bank Holiday, Monday August 5 1872.
This was at the beginning of a period of growth that was to see the population of Hastings rise steadily from 37,842 in 1871 to nearly double, 60,264 in 1901 and for most of that time it was to remain a ‘promenade pier’ with an ornate pavilion and landing stage at the end and curious little balconies above the low water mark of ordinary tides.
All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and he can make available copies of many of the historic images used in this series. There’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk.
Part of sheet 27 of the 1875 revision of the 1873 1:500 Ordnance survey map showing the original layout of seaward end of the pier with the steps descending below the pavilion and no buildings on the narrow body of the pier and balconies marking the low water mark.
Pier and Collier.
Dating from the 1880’s St.Leonards Arch, demolished during the course of the night by Hastings Council on 23rd January 1895 can be seen on the extreme left whilst a collier unloads opposite the slipway that existed below the bottom of London Road. Two ‘pulling off’ anchors used to refloat these boats can still be seen today at very low tides. Notice what appears to be a ramp descending below the Pier Pavilion
Hastings from East.
A mid 1880’s picture taken from Hastings Castle. A paddle steamer can be seen tied up against the Eastern landing stage. The end of the buildings that obscured the view of St Mary in the Castle can be seen lower left
Notice Eugenius Birch’s trademark angled piles, this A frame contributed to the strength of the structure and can still be seen below the pier; later, vertical piles were added to increase the width of the pier. The protective balustrading around the perimeter doubled as seating. The wall on the lower left was the boundary of the Infirmary that was there in various forms until 1923 and the oriental style building in the lower centre is one of the pay kiosks controlling the turnstiles. There was another kiosk guarding the eastern entrance the other side of the void in the centre that prevented the waves hitting the promenade and bursting the decking in rough weather.
This ornate structure met its demise in 1917 when the pier caught fire the first time, it was replaced with a much simpler building. The stairs indicated on the plan can be seen descending below the pier to the ramp that can be seen on early pictures.
The interior of the pavilion was just as ornate as to the exterior.
Pier and Boats.
Probably late 1870’s, pleasure boats can be seen drawn up on the beach at Harold Place and Old Roar stream can be seen completing its journey to the sea by exiting through the iron pipe that’s still there today. This stream flowed through St. Andrews Gardens, which were opened to the public in 1864 and renamed Alexandra Park in 1882,before being culverted for its final course through the town centre.
Pier from East Hill.
Dated 1890, the uncluttered pier can be seen in the distance. The 1882 lifeboat house can be seen on the shore, centre left. It was demolished in 1959 for road widening. Fishermen’s wives took in washing to supplement the family income and it can be seen drying on the beach, notice too the row of horse capstans lower left and of course how little beach there is.
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