Victorian shop signs discovered during renovations

19th century signs uncovered in Kings Road
19th century signs uncovered in Kings Road

RENOVATORS have discovered Victorian shop signs in St Leonards, that may have been the work of a famous author of the time.

Restoration work in Kings Road by the council’s conservation team revealed the late 19th century writing during a spruce up of some tatty shop fronts.

The work has drawn considerable interest from local historians and the team itself, who believe the signs could well have been the work of famous writer and campaigner Robert Noonan, author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, also known as Robert Tressell.

As well as campaigning for the rights of the poor, Noonan regularly worked as a house painter and sign writer in the St Leonards area.

Last year historian Steve Peak published his book Mugsborough Revisited, a biography of the author’s life, explaining how The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was in many ways a factual record of real places, people and events in the deprived and badly-run town of Hastings and St Leonards during Noonan’s time.

Councillor Peter Chowney, lead member for regeneration at Hastings Borough Council, said: “While this is a fascinating glimpse into the past the big story here is the incredible transformation that is slowly taking place in St Leonards.

“Since 2000 and an initial grant of £1.8 million we have been steadily restoring and rejuvenating this area, concentrating particularly on Kings Road.

“Thanks to two Townscape Heritage Initiative schemes and Heritage Lottery Fund grants we have been able to restore shop fronts, install public art and bring back to life several decaying properties.

“Even better, we have been giving local businesses the opportunity to win these jobs, and to show off their skills in doing the work and this latest restoration at number 23 and 24 Kings Road has been carried out by a local company.

“St Leonards needs and deserves investment. It makes sense economically to attract more businesses and the installation of art and seating creates a town centre for residents to be proud of. The conservation and regeneration teams, working alongside local businesses and residents are doing a thoroughly worthwhile job and it’s great to see Kings Road so well used.”