Petition calls for historic artworks featuring Hastings to be displayed in exhibition

Windmill on the Sea Coast Near Hastings, by Henry Morton. From the Yale Center for British Art
Windmill on the Sea Coast Near Hastings, by Henry Morton. From the Yale Center for British Art

A petition calling for pre-1900’s artworks featuring Hastings to be displayed in the town has been launched.

The idea for an exhibition of previously-unseen pictures of Hastings sprung from the success of an online project by the Historical Hastings Facebook Group.

Hastings Beach, 7 October 1820, by Capt. Thomas Hastings

Hastings Beach, 7 October 1820, by Capt. Thomas Hastings

For the last month or so, the group has been posting daily pictures online showing artworks dating from the pre-photographic era.

Robert Hardyman, one of the group’s three admins, said: “We’ve been doing these daily posts to give people some idea what Hastings looked like back at that time.”

He said people were interested to see how to town had evolved and that the images had ‘generated interesting conversation’.

Using a simple Google search, Robert has discovered dozens of unfinished drawings, watercolours and oil paintings of Hastings ranging from the late 1700’s to the 1900’s.

However through contacting the archives of the British Museum, the Yale Centre for Arts and others to gain copyright permission – he has discovered that most of the pieces are being held in storage.

He said: “It’s quite sad really, that they are all just sat there.”

The idea of bringing the works together for an exhibition was formed.

“It would be nice to get them all down together in one room,” he said.

Ideally, the group would like to see Jerwood Gallery or the Hastings Museum hold the exhibition, borrowing the original artwork.

Robert said: “We decided to set up a petition. Then we can take it from there.

“The more people we get to sign it, we can say look, there’s support for it.”

The works he has discovered so far range from pieces by well-known names like Samuel Prout and William Turner to some ‘completely obscure’ artists.

One of the most interesting artworks he has come across are those from Captain Thomas Hastings, a naval man who created pieces in the 1800s.

Robert thinks a lot of artists would have visited the town following the advent of the railway.

“The ease of getting down here at that sort of time,” he said. “It was quite an attractive place for them to come.”

Robert, who works in IT, said he got involved in the Facebook group ‘purely out of passion’ for local history.

While he grew up in Hastings, he returned to the town a year-and-a-half ago after a 25-year absence – during which he said it had ‘changed completely’.

He believes people can learn a lot about Hastings through the artwork and believes an exhibition could help engage more young people in local history.

He said: “You can build up a picture of what’s happened over the years.

“It’s amazing what you can learn from just a few pictures.”

View the petition on change.org here

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