This week in his continuing series Ion Castro takes a look at the collection of photographs called Peeps at Hastings, which were popular in the early part of the 20th century.
He writes. We have already seen examples of the Victorian passion for views of Hastings and surrounding area and to continue the theme the packets of a dozen small pictures must be included.
Early in the 20th century these sets of pictures, mostly by unnamed photographers, appeared on the market with a size of 90mm x 70mm (3½ x 2¾) and a list of the illustrations shown were, in this case, printed inside the lower flap of the containing packet.
The wording stated: ‘Published by Holman & Co, Fancy Repository, Opp Queens Hotel, Pelham St. Hastings’.
They were presented in a nice, well-made cardboard wallet that was made to resemble leather and were just slightly larger than the images produced by the original Box Brownie Camera, (first sold to the masses in 1900), that produced snaps of 2¼ inch square and may have been perceived as competition to the ‘professional’ photographers of the time.
Other publishers products were also available at the time and into at least the early 1930’s in the same size with titles such as “12 photo snap-shots of Hastings for your album” and “12 real photo snaps of Hastings – each snap a real photo” The packets for these lacked the quality of the Holman offering, being made of folded paper with an oval cut-out to display the content and some were designed with a cover that allowed the set to be sent through the Royal Mail.
It is a little difficult to date these pictures accurately but they must date from around the first war period because the Pier bandstand wasn’t built until 1914, when Hastings Council bought a quarter of Hastings Pier and rebuilt it as a 220-feet square extension of the promenade. The two curving large structures either side were built as shelters at the same time and the western one survived the 2010 fire and is still there today. The extension was officially opened on April 19 1916.
In the picture of the Old Town, washing can be seen on the fishermens’ beach and “The Bourne” road hadn’t cut the Old Town in half but plans were already underway when the photo was taken.
In the image of Ecclesbourne Glen, the coastguard cottages in the foreground have gone, victims of coastal erosion. The feature on the top of the hill may be an iron-age hill fort but most of that too has fallen into the sea.
The view from the Bandstand Looking west was before Bottle Alley was built. The bathing machines have gone, to be replaced with changing huts and tents.
The view of the beach shows the area in front of the Queens Hotel with a large pleasure boat drawn up, but notice also the number of rowing boats.
All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and there’s more local history on his website, www.historichastings.co.uk.