When a famous Hastings Old Town pub was destroyed by bombs killing 16 people

A Special service is to take place on Sunday May 23 to mark the anniversary of the Swan pub in Hastings Old Town being destroyed by enemy bombs on Sunday May 23 1943.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 8:03 pm
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Sixteen people in the Swan died at the time, including two children aged three and five, and the site is now a memorial garden opposite St Clements Church.

A service will be conducted by Parish Priest Paul Hunt at 11.15am and will be attended by the step great-grandaughter of one of the casualties Thomas Winborne.

Churchwarden Judy Cubison recalls that two of the victims were family neighbours. She said: “It was all so tragic. Violet Cox and her niece Ann Tester heard the siren and sheltered in Post Office Passage but the Swan landlord invited them to shelter in the inn, which then received a direct hit. Ann was not much older than my sister, who was then only five.”

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The destruction of the Swan took place during one of the worse air raids that Hastings suffered and was carried out by low level Focke Wulf fighter bombers. During the same attack the Albany Hotel, between Robertson Street and the seafront, was hit, killing a number of Canadian troops. The attacking planes also strafed Warrior Square and a bullet hole can still be seen on the statue of Queen Victoria at the Square.

As noted by Hastings pub historian David Russell, The original Swan dated back to at least 1523 and became one of the most popular coaching inns of the town, with its own stables.

The Swan Assembly Room, in its time, served as a theatre, ballroom, election headquarters and auction house. Many clubs and societies met there in the 18th and 19th centuries but the best known organisation was the Hastings Friendly Society.

The Swan was rebuilt in 1890 opening as a public house rather than an inn.

People wishing to attend the outdoor service on Sunday are asked to wear masks and observe distancing.