LIKE many ‘stakeholders’, last week I attended the open day at St Mary-in-the-Castle on the future of the pier.
I’d like to say what a fine job the architects have made of the plans. Retaining the cupolas, minimising the main walkway (like the original design), a ‘floating’ venue, a pontoon and landing stage, are all good ideas and reflective of the extensive public feedback they were given.
There was much talk about the future of tourism and ‘heritage’ holidays. A representative from the Jerwood Foundation described its plans to contribute to the cultural ‘offer’ of the town.
The architects talked about how the pier represents ‘connections’ between people and places.
Which brings me to my reason for writing.
The pier represents a natural and symbolic border between Hastings and St Leonards, so why is it always referred to as ‘Hastings pier?’ Why is one half of the ‘connection’ it symbolises not even referred to in its title?
At such meetings there always seems to be a common theme. St Leonards, by comparison to Hastings, is ‘downgraded’ or even lost completely when it comes to publicity, promotion of its tourism potential and awareness of its architectural assets etc. When are we going to start marketing St Leonards?
The sort of person who will visit the Jerwood is also likely to be more interested in discovering some of the Burton gems than they are in spending the afternoon in one of the seafront arcades or buying sticks of rock.
You could of course argue that if they’re visiting the Jerwood they’ve clearly got no interest in architecture (a cheap joke but I couldn’t resist it).
Yes, there has been an historical tension between the two towns; an exquisite holiday resort for the Regency gentry was created on a bare piece of farmland, a mile down the road from a fishing village, which also happened to specialise in smuggling.
But surely that’s the point. St Leonards was the original resort, not Hastings. We’re sitting on some of the finest examples of Regency/Victorian/Edwardian architecture in the country, and it’s about time we started to publicise the fact and to forget about petty rivalries.
That was the best part of two centuries ago, literally in another millennium.
I hear one of the plans is to use the original piles to construct huge letters along the whole length of the pier, spelling out ‘HASTINGS’ on one side and ‘ST LEONARDS’ on the other. What a brilliant idea. Now that’s what I call a connection.