Lido plans prompt trip down memory lane for town’s bathing belle

Moira Horsey (then Knight) at St Leonards bathing pool in 1947
Moira Horsey (then Knight) at St Leonards bathing pool in 1947

IN 1947 a local 14-year-old shot to international fame as the belle of the St Leonards bathing pool.

Fan mail flooded in from as far as Taiwan and South Africa for the girl who had earlier the same year been crowned Miss Hastings.

Moira Hornsey at home in St Leonards

Moira Hornsey at home in St Leonards

More than 60 years later, plans to give the West St Leonards site a new lease of life caused Moira Hornsey (née Knight) to take a walk down memory lane.

She said: “I really loved the bathing pool. When I found out it was being sold and razed to the ground, I was heartbroken. It was such a landmark.”

Moira, now 77 and a grandmother of two, lives in Marina Gardens and vividly remembers the events of 1947, a year that she describes as one of the most eventful in her life.

It started when she was prompted to enter the Miss Hastings contest by her younger sister, and by entering her age as 17, she made it through.

“I think because I was so young and natural-looking, wearing hardly any make-up, they went for it.”

Her winning outfit was a light blue, knitted swimsuit, and the prize was a fountain pen.

Then in April, Moira was selected as the bathing belle, for the reopening of the St Leonards bathing pool following the end of the Second World War.

Her picture appeared in the Observer locally, and the re-opening of the Olympic-sized pool also made the pages of the national and international press.

“I have got a sack full of letters, they came from all over the world.

“People would address them to ‘St Leonards watering hole’, but the postman would know where to find me.”

Admirers would also send packages containing things that were unavailable in rationed Britain, such as tins of jam and fruit. From one Norwegian millionaire, Moira received gifts of whale meat.

Following this successful start, she became a part time model, and regular on the carnival circuit, going on to represent Hastings all over the south.

Moira features in The Slow Turning Tide: Hastings in Austerity 1946-1954, by social historian Victoria Seymour.

The work was published in 2008.