NOSTALGIA: When a palace ruled over Hastings seafront

Founded in 1912, the Royal Flying Corps was the air arm of the British Army before and during the First World War, until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force. Hastings accommodated large numbers of cadets and many were billeted in the Palace Hotel but there was no airfield.
Founded in 1912, the Royal Flying Corps was the air arm of the British Army before and during the First World War, until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force. Hastings accommodated large numbers of cadets and many were billeted in the Palace Hotel but there was no airfield.

This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes a look at the imposing Palace Hotel and Bars on the seafront.

He writes: The ‘Palace’ the huge building that dominates the seafront between Robertson Street and the pier is a familiar sight but what else is known about this imposing landmark?

This picture, dating from the 1860s, 1870s shows major construction work on the seafront and this may be the new town drainage system that had been started at Rock-a-Nore in September 1856 and by October 1866 work had commenced on the laying of a major sewage pipe running from the bottom of London Road along the seafront to Rock-a-Nore and all other sewers draining into this main pipe. The works, which cost �25,640, were completed in June 1868. Rocks Carriage works can be seen on the right of centre with its chimney behind the Seaside Hotel with the brewery to its left and the coastguard station on top of the cliff behind. Where was the photographer? The angle is wrong for the picture to have been taken from the pier which was built in 1872

This picture, dating from the 1860s, 1870s shows major construction work on the seafront and this may be the new town drainage system that had been started at Rock-a-Nore in September 1856 and by October 1866 work had commenced on the laying of a major sewage pipe running from the bottom of London Road along the seafront to Rock-a-Nore and all other sewers draining into this main pipe. The works, which cost �25,640, were completed in June 1868. Rocks Carriage works can be seen on the right of centre with its chimney behind the Seaside Hotel with the brewery to its left and the coastguard station on top of the cliff behind. Where was the photographer? The angle is wrong for the picture to have been taken from the pier which was built in 1872

It’s known that Hastings was expanding because census returns show the growth of population from a humble 3,318 at the beginning of the nineteenth century trebling to 9500 in 1841 and, with the coming of the railways the surging to over 60,000 by 1901, and of course the town had to expand on all sides to accommodate this increase.

The area of interest here, White Rock, was beyond Hastings’ western boundary which had been the Priory Stream (culverted in 1838).

On the western side of the stream the ‘America Ground’, having been cleared, lay derelict and constrained by the headland known as ‘The White Rock’ and much further west, from 1828, building of James Burton’s new town of St Leonards had started and communication between the two towns by road became more and more important but was restricted by the ‘White Rock’ that stood, not on the site of the present White Rock Theatre as commonly imagined but further to the east of the present White Rock Place, formerly known as Stratford Place.

At low tide it was possible to pass round the headland along the beach, but at other times the only route was a narrow roadway passing over it through a slight gap known as the ‘Hollow Way’ and in 1834 gunpowder was used to remove the obstruction and flatten the seafront but development had already been under way with the building of Deudney’s White Rock Brewery in 1831 and next to it, in 1833, the Seaside Hotel which, by 1881 was known as the Seaside and Pier Family Hotel, from 1885 forms part of the Palace Hotel part of which had replaced the brewery.

The brewery etc from the pier in the mid 1870s before the promenade was extended to take the White Rock Baths in 1876. Notice the windmills on the top of West Hill, the sunshade blinds on the shops and washing bleaching in the sun on the beach.

The brewery etc from the pier in the mid 1870s before the promenade was extended to take the White Rock Baths in 1876. Notice the windmills on the top of West Hill, the sunshade blinds on the shops and washing bleaching in the sun on the beach.

Meanwhile the development of the seafront had continued westward to meet and absorb its neighbour St.Leonards.

In the early part of the last century the Palace Hotel came under the control of Spiers & Pond, the world’s first large catering firm that had been formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1858 but relocated to Britain in 1863 when they capitalised on the poor state of railway catering so that by 1873 Spiers & Pond had refreshment rooms at over 100 railway stations on nine different railway lines and the railway bars.

To give some idea of the scale of their operation they sold 8,000 gallons of sherry each week and it was estimated that the company could feed 200,000 to 300,000 people every day. By 1960 Spiers & Pond had been acquired by Express Dairy.

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.

A Rowe lithograph published by Wooll in the first decade of the 19th century showing the White Rock headland with the flagstaff of the Coastguard Station on it summit.

A Rowe lithograph published by Wooll in the first decade of the 19th century showing the White Rock headland with the flagstaff of the Coastguard Station on it summit.

There’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk

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A postcard of The Palace Bars showing d�cor typical of 1950s, the bars would later become the Pig in Paradise and appeal to a younger clientele and the canopy over the main entrance has gone.

A postcard of The Palace Bars showing d�cor typical of 1950s, the bars would later become the Pig in Paradise and appeal to a younger clientele and the canopy over the main entrance has gone.

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Printed around 1905 in Dresden this postcard shows the hotels canopy extended over the pavement so that patrons could alight from their carriages without getting wet in inclement weather. Part of the frontage was named Palace Avenue. Inset left, this extract from the 1872

Printed around 1905 in Dresden this postcard shows the hotels canopy extended over the pavement so that patrons could alight from their carriages without getting wet in inclement weather. Part of the frontage was named Palace Avenue. Inset left, this extract from the 1872

One of the earliest views from White Rock, this engraving published by Hooper in June 1783 shows Hastings still confined to the Old Town east of the Castle.

One of the earliest views from White Rock, this engraving published by Hooper in June 1783 shows Hastings still confined to the Old Town east of the Castle.

This fine 1950s image shows a Maidstone & District Bristol L6A with B35R bodywork by ECW that came into service in Jan 1950 and lasted until Nov 1961. The bus is at the White Rock bus stop in front of Palace Chambers as the hotel became known after the last war. No longer a hotel it was now offices and housed, amongst others, the local tax inspector. Maidstone & District had a shop in Palace Avenue and East Kent Road Car Services in White Rock Place and one of their coaches can be seen on the left of the picture behind the Farmers Direct Dairies van. FDD had a shop at No 8 Claremont and their main dairy / bottling plant was at Silverhill

This fine 1950s image shows a Maidstone & District Bristol L6A with B35R bodywork by ECW that came into service in Jan 1950 and lasted until Nov 1961. The bus is at the White Rock bus stop in front of Palace Chambers as the hotel became known after the last war. No longer a hotel it was now offices and housed, amongst others, the local tax inspector. Maidstone & District had a shop in Palace Avenue and East Kent Road Car Services in White Rock Place and one of their coaches can be seen on the left of the picture behind the Farmers Direct Dairies van. FDD had a shop at No 8 Claremont and their main dairy / bottling plant was at Silverhill

Palace 4 SUS-161121-102031001

Palace 4 SUS-161121-102031001

Many hotels had their own branded crockery and this is an example from the Palace Hotel whilst under the proprietorship of Spiers & Pond in the early part of the last century.

Many hotels had their own branded crockery and this is an example from the Palace Hotel whilst under the proprietorship of Spiers & Pond in the early part of the last century.

Maidstone & District Motor Services had a booking office in Palace Avenue where excursions could be booked  Rother Valley and Bodiam Castle for 3/6 (17�p

Maidstone & District Motor Services had a booking office in Palace Avenue where excursions could be booked  Rother Valley and Bodiam Castle for 3/6 (17�p