This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes another look at the evolution of Wellington Square which, during its decline, was in danger of becoming a car park.
He writes: By the middle of the nineteenth century Wellington Square had settled down to being an affluent middle-class residential area very close to the newly emerging town centre away from the crowded ‘old town’ in the Bourne Valley to the east.
The Priory Stream to the west that had marked the limit of Hastings’ jurisdiction had been culverted and fine terraces sprung up on the former ‘America Ground’.
In 1863 a memorial to ‘Albert the Good’ (Queen Victoria’s husband who had died of Cholera in December 1861) was erected on the site of the Priory Bridge and with the opening of the Town Hall in Queens Road in 1881 the new Town Centre was complete and development continued towards St.Leonards.
As the century progressed the prestige of the Square began to decline, a directory for 1871 records that many of the buildings were now boarding houses and, by 1885 included a couple of Ladies’ Colleges. By the turn of the 20th century many of the dwellings had become offices and this trend continued as the century progressed with the local authority acquiring more and more administrative offices in the square.
After the first war, with the increase in reliable motor buses and the lower and quite steep part of the square became a parking area for these non-local buses which could be seen with their wheels chocked to prevent them rolling down the hill unattended and their displays showing such destinations as “Maidstone”, “Rye” and “Hailsham”.
After the war there were plans to extend the bus parking and also to turn the whole square into one huge car park; fortunately this did not happen.
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 or contact him - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parked in Wellington Square a 1950 Southdown Leyland TD4 double decker CCD939 waits on service 15 for departure to Hailsham via Eastbourne.
This photograph shows a Weymann bodied Maidstone & District Motor Services Leyland Titan, EKM 820, built in 1937 on the Wellington Square bus stand awaiting departure on service 12 to Maidstone the with an unidentified single-decker behind it. The building with the turret on the right, demolished when Castle Hill Road was widened in the 1970’s, was the local office for the Brighton-based Evening Argus newspaper. The author Lewis Carroll, (1832 – 1898) best known for ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was a frequent visitor to No 2 Wellington Square when his aunts lived there in the 1870’s.
A pre-war postcard of the “Glenroyde Boarding Establishment” at No’s 1 & 2 Wellington Square before it became an hotel after incorporating the adjoining buildings on the corner of Wellington Square and Castle Hill Road. The hotel ceased trading in the 1950’s and the site would become ‘Mornington Mansions’ in the 1960’s.
Turkish Bath Lease.
The ground floor and basement of the property on the corner of Wellington Square and Castle Hill Road were leased on 26th January 1897 to a Mr John Francis Joyce, a hairdresser of 21 East Parade and the lease included ‘All those central Turkish Baths …known as No 1 Wellington Square, …..and consisting of two cooling rooms one bathroom one general bath room two hot rooms two shampooing rooms three lavatories and ticket office all situate on the ground floor and basement’ The agreement was for 21 years from 8th February 1897 but the business does not appear to have been a success and was gone within a couple of years.
A 1920’s view of a half-cab single deck Southdown bus with an early Brighton registration waits by the railings that used to surround the gardens in Wellington Square. The destination says ‘Private’ so the vehicle probably had been hired for a day-trip to Hastings.
Wellington Sq 3306.
This postcard from the 1940’s shows the complete Glenroyde Hotel which was to close in the 1950’s and re-emerge some years later as ‘Mornington Mansions’. The extension on the corner had been the entrance to the short-lived Turkish Bath operation some fifty years earlier. ‘The Argus’ offices can be seen on the right. A magnifying glass does not reveal the service or destination of the single-deck bus on the right.
Wellington Sq Hastings.
A pre-war view of Wellington Square before bomb damage to the building on the right. Notice the sign ‘AMBULANCE’ below the windows of No 1 Wellington Square, the ambulance station used to be on the right further up Castle Hill Road until demolished for road widening.
Wellington Sq Hastings 2.
A 1920’s view of the buses parked on Wellington Square and their crews in white ‘duster’ uniforms having a chat. The bus on the right appears bound for Rye and notice the open charabanc, second vehicle from the left. Unfortunately the quality of the original postcard does not permit detailed examination of the parked buses. The building on the right was a victim of the Luftwaffe rail that also claimed the Royal Oak Hotel across the road on the right. The post-war rebuild on this corner site provided a booking office for the Maidstone & District Motor Services.
Wellington Sq St.Leonards-on-sea.
A pre-war postcard, clearly from an out-of-town publisher because it puts Wellington Square in St.Leonards-on-sea! The gardens gave been tidied up and the Castle Hotel hasn’t yet succumbed to municipal vandalism nor has the building on the right fallen prey to the Luftwaffe. The open-top bus is probably on service 5 to Maidstone.
Wellington Sq Hastings WJW.
An early postcard from the first decade of the last century showing no motor cars and an enclosed garden full of shrubs and trees.
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