This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at Holmesdale Gardens.
He writes. We know that Old Hastings spread out of the Bourne Valley and extended west of the Priory Stream that had been culverted in 1836 to drain the Priory marshes that later became Hastings’ town centre.
Building was creeping up what was to become Queens Road and along the seafront to meet up with St Leonards and inland toward Silverhill.
The area that we now know as Cambridge Road was part of the Priory Farm that occupied the site of the old Augustinian Priory.
It was still undeveloped until the second half of the 1870’s when the great 19th century landowner, Lord Cornwallis - one of the richest men in England - whose family seat was at Linton in Kent, and whose Hastings estates extended from the high land above the America Ground to what is now Alexandra Park and bordered onto Queens Road (including the Cricket Ground) decided to develop ‘Cornwallis Park’ which became, by the mid 1880’s, Holmesdale Gardens.
It was named after Viscount Holmesdale, son of Earl Amherst who married the Cornwallis heiress Julia.
The lower part of the area had been known as ‘Step Meadow’ and its topography had been altered with the dumping of spoil from the building of the nearby railway tunnel in the 1840’s.
The higher ground above Cornwallis Gardens would be occupied by substantial houses with Priory Mount overlooking Cambridge Road and pairs of large three and four storied detached and semi-detached houses on both sides of the road as far as the University School block where the road turns to meet Cornwallis Gardens. The original building has now been demolished and was rebuilt as the Nurses’ Home which in turn has been demolished to provide the access road to Redmayne Drive.
At right angles to the school and separated from it by Brisco’s Walk was the University School Annexe that would later become a convalescent home known as ‘the Hermitage’.
Pikes street directory for 1916 tells us “Bushby Home, The Hermitage, 32 Holmesdale Gdns - For the reception of male and female convalescents. Admission is by payment in advance, on each case, females 13s. 6d. per week, (67½p). males 14s. 6d. (72½p) per week. All applications by letter to Supt. at the Home’.
During the first war the building was taken over by “No 8 Canadian Stationary Hospital” as an auxiliary hospitals with a capacity of 120 beds. It was described as “situated near the centre of the city, not far distant from the Hastings Pier. It was a stone building which afforded a good disposal centre for suitable cases from the Main Hospital”. In 1926 it became the Hermitage Convalescent Home run by the Printers’ Medical Aid and Sanatoria Association (PMA), until around 1970 when it reopened as private nursing home.
Permission to demolish the existing building and the erection of a seven storey building comprising 28 flats with ancillary parking for 28 cars was granted in 1985.
At the other end of the road Priory Mount evolved into a private Hotel and survived until the early 1970’s when it was taken over by the NHS as an adjunct to the Royal East Sussex Hospital round the corner, later being used by East Sussex County Council before being acquired by Buckswood School. Mildmay House, on the opposite corner to the Hermitage and University School is recorded as “Y.W.C.A., Mildmay House, 26 Holmesdale Gardens, Boarding House and Seaside Home for ladies in houses of business, school teachers and others. Christian workers heartily welcomed. Application to the Resident Supt. Few minutes from Hastings Station”.
One pair of large houses, Nos 11 & 13 Holmesdale Gardens became Braybrooke College for Young Ladies run by the Misses Oake but by the first war it was no longer operating.
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.
This map extract from Bacon & Co, published toward the end of the 19th century shows the extent of Holmesdale Gardens. Note the University School and above it the annexe that would become ‘The Hermitage’, at the bottom of the map is ‘Priory Mount’ that would later become a private hotel.
Braybrooke College Pupils.
Postmarked July 1908, Ethel Bartlett has written on the back in a childlike hand “This is my school, I am not in this photo because it was taken before I came here”
This uncredited card postmarked July 1903 shows Braybrooke College for Young Ladies at 11 & 13 Holmesdale Gardens which survived until the first war and the street scene is easily recognisable today.
Bushby Home Hastings.
Bushby House, The Hermitage in its early days. On the right, the houses in Wykeham Road can be seen in the distance. The gate on the left still bears the monogram ‘S’ from its University School days.
C A W G Mildmay House Hastings
Opposite the University School the building is easily identifiable today but the front entrance and steps were removed when the building was converted into flats.
This was not a postcard but a souvenir photograph and a note on the back reads “Hermitage Hastings 26-11-51”, was this staff, residents or a mixture of both?
Mildmay House residents.
A group shot of the young ladies staying at Mildmay House in the early 1920’s, some appear very young.
Priory Mount Hotel.
An early 1950’s view of the hotel with the Royal East Sussex Hospital on the left and Holmesdale Gardens on the right. The building is now part of Buckswood School.
Priory Mount Hotel C.
Priory Mount Hotel in the early 1960’s, notice one of the wings of the Royal East Sussex Hospital (‘the RESH’) on the left and the cars in the car park, a Ford MkIII Zodiac, An Austin A95 and a Mk II Jaguar.
Side View Mildmay.
The caption on this postcard reads “Side View Christian Alliance Women and Girls “Mildmay”, Hastings. Apart from the entrance door and steps the view is still largely unchanged today and Cornwallis Gardens can be seen on the left, the pillar box is still there.
The Hermitage Hastings.
The Hermitage pictured some time between the wars, The Linton Road bridge is out of sight on the right. The full signwriting would have read ‘PMA (Printers’ Medical Aid) The Hermitage.
University School Hastings.
This substantial building housed the University School for the first couple of decades of the 20th Century, it was demolished to make way for a nurses home until the Royal East Sussex Hospital moved to the Conquest Hospital and it was demolished to make way for Redmayne Drive. Notice the monogrammed gates. Brisco’s Walk emerges behind the lamp post on the corner.