This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes a look at the Souvenir Letter Card of Hastings, which contained six up-to-date views.
He writes: We know that there had always been a market for sets of ‘souvenir’ or ready made photographs other than postcards that could be sent through the post and low cost versions were particularly popular but the fact that most surviving examples of these sets have not been posted suggests that they were for keeping and not sending.
This example was produced in the late 1940’s or possibly early 50’s but definitely post-war; it was a budget item, cheaply printed on inexpensive paper in vertical leporello or concertina format as a set of six postcard-sized prints contained within a simple coloured paper wrapper marked ‘printed in England’ (which may or may not have been true).
As to the identity of the printer, publisher or promoter it’s bit of a mystery and there’s no great description of the individual views shown either. On the cover the ‘Postage: 1d if message does not exceed 5 words” is an anachronism because, from 1 May 1940 the special postcard rate had risen to 2d (the letter Rate rose to 2½d, - with 240d pennies to the £) The differential between Letter Rate and Postcard Rate was to disappear From 16 Sep 1968:when 1st Class and 2nd Class post were introduced .
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
Ecclesbourne Cliff and Tea Gardens, Hastings
The original coastguard station stood on a plateau just above the beach, a few yards east of the stream that flows through Ecclesbourne Glen but were seriously damaged by storms in 1859. By 1864 a new station had been built on the clifftop on the west side of the glen and remained operational until around 1909, but the buildings continued to be occupied by ‘civilians’. By 1963, as a result of coastal erosion and undermining by the sea all the cottages had been declared unsafe and demolished. Coastal erosion may also have been responsible for the closure of the café in the foreground which was abandoned by the later 1950’s. A hundred years earlier, in 1859, The First Company of the Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteers had been set up and had a range in Ecclesbourne Glen, shooting across the valley at targets on the eastern side of the glen.
The Beach, White Rock, Hastings.
Bathing machines on wheels had long been replaced by changing huts, as seen here, and small catamaran floats would become available as the 1950’s progressed and is that Biddy the Tubman frolicking in the sea on the centre right of the picture to entertain the crowds on the promenade?
New Parade, St.Leonards on sea.
Hardly a ‘New Parade’ as it had been completed by the end of the 1930’s although ‘The Colonnade’ on the seaward side of the road and the former Victoria Baths and Library would survive until just after the war. The remains of St Leonards Pier can be seen in the centre of the picture, it had been cut in half to prevent it’s use as an enemy bridgehead during the war but its woes didn’t end there, the poor old pier suffered severe gale damage in early February 1943 it was then further damaged by a serious fire on March 7 1944 and never re-opened. By January 1951 Hastings Council had bought the remains and the following month, assisted by Canadian Sappers, demolition commenced. Two bombs fell nearby at 9.25am Sept 21 1942, the first damaged Marine Court as can be clearly seen’ the second bomb demolished the Star pub in Undercliff behind Marine Court and its site is now a car park. One of the ‘new’ trolleybuses delivered in 1940 can be seen in service on the extreme right centre, early deliveries had dark green roofs to make them less obvious to enemy aircraft.
The Castle, Hastings.
It appears obligatory that an image of our castle must appear in any collection of Hastings pictures and this is no exception.
The Memorial, Hastings.
Once the focal point of Hastings the Albert Memorial was to survive until 1972. Notice the two single-deck Hastings trolleybuses which were part of the 1928-29 tramway replacement fleet of 50 single deck centre entrance and 8 open-top double deckers, all built on Guy BTX 60 three axle chassis. Amazingly two of the single deck fleet still exist and are awaiting restoration and Hastings own trolleybus, the unique open-top double-decker Happy Harold is well-known in the town. Replacement of these vehicles had started in 1940 with a fleet of double deck AEC’s and Sunbeams that were to last until the end of electric traction in Hastings in 1959. Many of the original single deckers went on to have a second life up north replacing war-damaged stock in places like Derby, Nottingham and Mexborough and one, now in preservation, served as a booking office in the coach station by the Town Hall for many years and yet others became caravans. Far from being an up-to-date-view as proclaimed on the cover this image is almost certainly pre-war. The scene is of course dominated by Hastings Castle
View from Hastings Castle.
Another pre-war view, the undamaged St.Leonards Pier can be seen in the distance and note the char-a-bancs in front of Pelham Crescent.
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