This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at how the most famous hotel in Hastings rose from land that had previously been occupied by squatters who declared themselves to be ‘independent’
He writes: “The Queens Hotel sits in an area of Hastings once known as ‘The America Ground’ which covered the Queens Hotel, Harold Place, Robertson Terrace, Carlisle Parade, White Rock, Robertson Street, Trinity Street, and Claremont, all the area to the west of the Priory-Stream and outside the Hastings Borough boundary (and jurisdiction).
It was the result of the sea receding and was quickly settled by squatters who built houses shops and warehouses and paid no rent rates or taxes which of course upset the borough who suggested that lawlessness was rife and the government should take steps to get rid of the nuisance.
The inhabitants named it “The America Ground” to reminded the Corporation that they were independent of Hastings.
This state of affairs could not be allowed to continue and in 1827, five commissioners and twelve jurymen met at the George Hotel at Battle and quickly decided that the lands should be seized on behalf of the King. There is no record on documents of the residents of the America Ground being consulted or even referred to.
By Christmas 1835 the ground had been cleared of all buildings and inhabitants and then stood empty and became known as the `Derelict’ or `Waste Lands` until 1849 when Patrick Francis Robertson, real estate developer and MP for Hastings, leased the crown lands for 99 years at a rate of £500 per year and the following year work had started on building the road that bears his name - Robertson Street.
By 1862 the town’s biggest hotel, the Queens, had opened in the southeast corner of the site and the illustrations here date from those early days up to the end of 1929 when Hastings Council adopted Sydney Little’s Front Line Improvement Scheme, reclaiming land from the sea in order to build the seafront between Marine Parade and White Rock when the through road past the Queens Hotel was constructed. Work started early in 1930 and was finished in late 1931.
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 and more information about the America Ground on www.1066.net/america.
Parade & Queen’s Hotel, Hastings.
The postmark does confirm that by 1930 the towers on the hotel had gone. In fact by December 1930 work on widening the promenade in front of the Hotel would be well under way and notice the capstans and pleasure boats have also gone.
Official prog 1913-14.
An Advert in the tourist publication ‘Official Programme, 1913’ with Luncheons for 10p and dinners 15p.
German Submarine Hastings.
Posted 25th August 1919, but the writer makes no reference to the sub. Notice the hotel still has its twin towers. Following war damage the buildings on the right were replaced.
The Yachts and Queens Hotel.
An unposted pre-first war card with the arms of Hastings and the fouled anchor of St Leonards and showing a very busy scene with lots of boats in evidence.
Hastings & St.Leonards’ new hotel.
A very early image, one half of a pair of stereo images dating from 1861 or 1862. The hotel isn’t complete so won’t be open and a magnifying glass reveals a sign on the balcony announcing ‘a New Hotel’ but no name yet.
Before the days of prepaid postage, the queens head is embossed on the envelope and is unfranked.
The Parade Hastings 67.
Posted 17th Jan 1916 it shows the capstans and equipment for pulling up the tourist boats – note the advert”The Large Yachts Albertine sail at 2:30 fare 1/- (one shilling, 5p today). This was before the pier pavilion burned down for the first time (1917) and notice the beach where the underground carparks and seafront road are now.
This advertising block with differing text appeared in an 1890 F J Parsons Hastings Guide and was also used in many of their other publications.
Lounge, Queen’s Grand saloon, Hastings.
Posted Feb 24th 1910, addressed to Musical Marvels, New Empire, Wakefield ‘Tom’ notes “Posters always arrive safe and are always fresh up ….we start full variety show here next week”.
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