Sunny days in Hastings and St Leonards

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LB Hastings 10 SUS-151116-112921001

This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at another of the many publications that promoted Hastings and St Leonards.

He writes - A Handbook for South-East Sussex, was 160 pages printed on cheap paper with a thin card cover at a published price of 6d (2½p) but a cloth covered ‘library edition’ was available for 1/6 (7½p).

LB Hastings 9 SUS-151116-112808001

LB Hastings 9 SUS-151116-112808001

As was usual at the time, illustrations were a mixture of photographs and line art. Photographic reproduction was in its infancy and this, coupled with the cheap paper has not provided quality images. It’s noted on the front cover that this is a first edition, volume 16 of a series of 50, dated 1901, but the back cover quotes August 1906. There were also Homeland handbooks and Homeland Reference Books, all “Published under the auspices of the Homeland Association for the encouragement of Touring in Great Britain and Ireland”.

The preface states, in the old-fashioned parlance of the time, “The raison d’etre of this handbook is not far to seek. In concise and readable form we have attempted to describe the manifold claims Hastings and St. Leonards possess as health and pleasure haunts. Alike to the antiquary, to those in search of health, to the lovers of the quaint, romantic and the beautiful in nature, the attraction of the delightful South of England is, we venture to think, irresistible; and when, added to the pure ozone-laden breezes of the English Channel, we have all the advantages of modern towns, surely little else is needed to appeal with every confidence to all classes seeking health or pleasure.

“We offer -no apology, therefore, in commending the perusal of this handbook to those who may be still with the problem before them, Where shall we go ?- whether they be seeking a place in which to make temporary sojourn or in search of a more permanent residence.

“To those who know the neighbourhood we trust this handbook may be of assistance in enabling them to become even more familiar with the many beauty spots to be found in Hastings and St. Leonarcls and their environments. We cannot conclude without tendering our sincere thanks to those many friends who have so kindly and readily offered their assistance in the compilation of this work”.

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LB Hastings 8 SUS-151116-112741001

The guide is quite comprehensive with details of how to get to Hastings, as well as the views encountered on the way, including what would be seen today as a highly politically-incorrect observation on The London. Brighton and South Coast Railway route to Hastings passing Redhill Junction, “on the left a glimpse is obtainable of the Royal Earlswood Asylum for Idiots”.

The guide continues with brief contemporary descriptions of the town, its past and places of historic interest locally (Battle Abbey, Normanhurst, Ashburnham Place, Pevensey Castle etc.) There are a number of ‘Routes for Ramblers’ and ‘Routes for Cyclists’ There are chapters on Geology of the District and The Prehistoric People of Hastings and St. Leonards as well as Sea and Fresh-water Fishing and Notes on Local Industries.

There is an extensive description of the Museum at the Brassey Institute and a report on the 1896 harbour “still in course of construction” and noted “it is a very big enterprise, and several years must elapse before it is completed. When finished the two piers will enclose an area of some thirty acres. At present the western pier only is in course of erection, and this, it is estimated, will occupy nearly two years from the time it was first started” it concludes “Opinions differ amongst the townsfolk as to the ultimate advantage or disadvantage that will accrue to Hastings as a health and pleasure resort from its construction”.

History reveals that the harbour was never completed following construction difficulties.

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LB Hastings 7 SUS-151116-112244001

The publication of a weekly list of local arrangements is noted – “The Borough Improvement Association publishes a clearly printed list of all Entertainments, Steam-Boat Excursions, Coast Trips, etc., going on from week to week. This is displayed at Mr. Whittaker’s Library, (he was also the local publisher of the guide) and at most of the establishments of the leading tradespeople”. There were about 30 pages of advertisements for both local and national organisations

All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and there’s more local history on his website,


“A Hastings fishing smack on the beach”

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LB Hastings 6 SUS-151116-112218001

137RX with the dust destructor chimney in the background


The hotel remodelled some 30 years later and is still trading as the Carlisle pub


The Dorset expanded and by the 1920’s was housed in a fine art deco building off Elphinstone Road that was pulled down overnight (echoes of St.Leonards Arch?) some 20 years ago to prevent it being listed. The site has now been redeveloped.


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LB Hastings 4 SUS-151116-111049001

This was just one of many such schools that proliferated in Hastings and St.Leonards in the early part of the last century.

General View of the seafront at Hastings:

Photographers often used one of the balconies of the Royal Sussex Hospital (later replaced with the White Rock Theatre) for this view. Notice the horse buses and lack of tram track and of course Sidney Little hadn’t yet built the seafront road.

Hastings Fishmarket on a busy morning:

Note the ‘Lower Light’ on the left, The Pelican Inn was still trading but the 1st floor extension hadn’t yet been built and the Hastings Arms is advertising Leney’s Dover Ales. The rotunda fishmarket on the right was demolished around 1928 to make way for a trolleybus turning circle.

Lovers Seat. Hastings Castle. The Marina:

This type of illustration was being replaced with photography

Royal Victoria:

Printed on tinted paper to make it stand out? Henry Ward’s extension to the right hand front would be added in 1904. The Hotel was originally built with the main entrance at what is now the back, facing the Masonic Hall.

View over Hastings from the Castle:

In this image by Blomfield, is that his tripod and photographic equipment in the foreground?

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LB Hastings 3 SUS-151116-111034001

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LB Hastings 2 SUS-151116-111023001