On the trail of our fascinating sculpural heritage

editorial image

HASTINGS and St Leonards has a rich and diverse sculptural heritage yet many of us pass by, scarcely noticing the monuments erected to commemorate the lives of long dead local worthies or historic victories.

A Heritage Lottery funded publication lists a collection of some of the town’s most notable edifices:

A memorial to the men of Hastings who died in the South African War is situated on the promenade, to the east of the pier. It was unveiled on 6 May 1903; it is constructed in red Aberdeen granite and decorated with gun-metal flags. There is a copper flame on top of the memorial that was hit by lightning on 19 June 1974, causing it to fall, scorch the memorial and make a hole in the pavement. Restored, it was erected on its former site and rededicated on 5 September 1976, in the presence of two survivors from the Boer War.

The eastern boundary of St Leonards is marked by a stone carved from pink granite; it was listed as Grade II in 1976. St. Leonards was founded by the architect James Burton, who also developed areas of London. Already in his 60s by 1828, he began building his maritime paradise which he named St. Leonards. The boundary stone stands on the former site of a beautiful arch, which marked the entrance to the town; it was demolished overnight by the Council in 1895.

An unusual mausoleum, the Burton memorial tomb, sits in a small grassed family graveyard on West Hill Road. It is the burial place of James Burton and several members of his family. It stands 415cm high and is constructed from local sandstone. It was Grade II listed in 1976. Family tradition says that Burton’s notion for the pyramid shaped tomb was to evade the Eastern curse: ‘May jackasses sit on your father’s grave.’ More information about James Burton and the history of St. Leonard’s on Sea can be obtained through the Burton’s St. Leonards Society.

The Castello drinking fountain, found to the east of the Marina car park, was erected in 1908 by James Castello in memory of his wife, Edith. The structure is made from Peterhead granite, fossiliferous limestone and York stone and is 245cm high. The fountain originally had a finial; it is understood that this has been placed in storage. This may be one of the few commemorative drinking fountains in the county that still has a functioning water supply.

A Gothic-style drinking fountain stands at the junction of Robertson Street with Trinity Street. It was designed by the architect Samuel Sanders Teulon and erected in 1861. The Grade II listed fountain is constructed from Portland stone and red granite. Beneath a canopy and spire are the figures of Christ and the woman of Samaria. The fountain is a tribute to the local benefactress, Countess Waldegrave.

Further reading: The Hastings and St Leonards Sculpture Trail. Compiled by Heather Grief and the Hastings Local History Group. Images by Anthony McIntosh.