This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes another look at Warrior Square - which earned the local name ‘Belgravia’
He writes: Following the joining of Hastings to St.Leonards by cutting away the White Rock headland from the end of Robertson Street in the 1830’s and building the road and sea wall through to Burton’s St. Leonards eastern boundary at St Leonards Arch, it wasn’t long before building began just outside the Burtons’ new town - an area which the original developer James Troup wanted to call ‘West Hastings’ but the Post Office, who would service the new Warrior Square from their St.Leonards office decided to call St Leonards.
The postal area extended as far as Hastings Pier. By 1864 Warrior Square, which contemporary accounts also referred to as ‘Belgravia’, was completed.
Warrior Square Gardens had been finished a dozen years earlier in 1852 and had opened to the public, with a band playing three times a week. That year also saw the consecration of the new St Mary Magdalen Church on the corner of Church Road and St Margarets Road and, by 1875 St Leonards had merged with Hastings.
At the end of 1902, the year after her death, a bronze statue of Queen Victoria as she looked at the time of her 1887 jubilee was unveiled in Warrior Square and is still there, complete with a bullet hole at knee height, put there by a German bomber in the last war. The railings that protected the gardens didn’t fare so well and were removed during the hostilities to aid the war effort although there are rumours that this was all propaganda and that the iron used for these railings was no good for war purposes and the scrap was dumped in the Thames estuary.
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
An early aerial view shows the complete Warrior Square before wartime Damage, St Columba’s church can be seen on the top left corner of the square and the roof of the Concert Hall on the opposite side of the road, St Paul’s Church is in the top right corner and Sidney Little has not yet remodelled the promenade. In the middle rear of the very front lawn can be seen the door to the tunnel under the road and notice the total absence of motor cars – a magnifying glass reveals only horse-drawn vehicles. The matching Edinburgh (later Marlborough) and Warrior Hotels, the first buildings to be constructed, can be seen either side of the main Square.
Magnification reveals that the building on the corner of Warrior Square and Eversfield Place is the London & South Western Bank Limited, it would later become a branch of Barclays before becoming a restaurant. Notice the narrowness of the promenade and the tramcars, the one on the left is heading for Bexhill. The seafront road boasted double tramlines which were both laid on the seaward side of the road and would cause problems as motor car usage increased and the ‘keep left’ road rules imposed. Sidney Little would remodel, widen and add a lower promenade in the 1930’s and notice Hastings’ uncluttered ‘promenade’ pier in the distance.
A postcard from F J Parsons, who also published the Hastings Observer at the time, shows a group of WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) on the corner of Terrace Road and Warrior Square. Presumably a kitchen detail, (and a token man) in November 1917 the photo was taken shortly after their formation, and at that time many of the large houses in Warrior Square were falling empty and would have provided ideal billets. The WAAC became the QMAAC in April 1918 and was disbanded in September 1921. When the Royal Air Force (RAF) was created in 1918 a number of WAAC volunteers entered the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF).
This hundred-year-old tinted postcard shows the Gentlemen’s Club, completed in 1885 by prolific local architect Mr. Henry Ward, AR.I.B.A. who was responsible for a large number of prominent buildings in the Hastings area. Notice the narrowness of the promenade and St.Leonards Pier and the building of Marine court would have to wait until the 1930’s. The crest is Burton’s fouled anchor, the arms of St.Leonards.
St Leonards on sea motor omnibus.
This early postcard from 1903 shows a Milnes Daimler motor omnibus with bodywork by Brown & Hughes. Vehicle registration was not compulsory at this time and the vehicle was later registered locally as DY32 and this ‘Victoria Series’ postcard shows the bus passing Warrior Square on service between Fishmarket and West Marina. The side advertisement is for H A Jepson of Robertson Street who would also have sold the card. By 1905 tram services had started and the ‘bus service ended as they succumbed to competition from their electric rivals.
St Paul’s Church.
A postcard by French publisher LL The foundation stone of St Pauls Church, Church Road, was laid in 1866 as building development spread inland and uphill from Warrior Square and the church opened two years later; it was to serve its congregation for a hundred years until demolished and replaced by an uninspiring block of flats. The imposing square ‘Paxton Tower’ appears on innumerable postcards dominating the high ground behind the square and was visible for miles around.
Warrior Square and Motor Bus.
This hand tinted postcard from the early years of the last century shows DY34 with bodywork by coachbuilder Hunter of Hastings sporting an advertisement for Plummer Roddis Ltd (now Debenhams). The roadway shows no sign yet of the tramlines that by 1905 would carry the trams that saw off the motor buses.
Warrior Square by Broderick.
This postcard by Isle of Wight photographer Broderick shows Warrior Square in the first decade of the last century. St Columba’s church opened in 1883 and destroyed by enemy action in October 1942 can just be seen beyond the corner on the left and the tower of St Paul’s Church can just be seen behind the houses on the right.
This postcard was franked in 1908 and shows a close-up of the Queen Victoria Statue with the original railings in place. They were removed for scrap in the last war. Notice the shrubs in tubs and the tower of St Paul’s Church on the extreme left and the Warrior House Hotel on the right.
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