IN the Observer’s Looking Back on March 8, Victoria Seymour asked: Where is the boundary of St Leonards?
The answer is: Nowhere, because St Leonards stopped being a town nearly 140 years ago and only exists today as a postcode.
Hastings has been an officially recognised town for many centuries, and a map of 1746 shows its boundaries at Ecclesbourne in the east and Bopeep in the west. St Leonards came into legal existence as a town in 1832, with the passing of the St Leonards Improvements Act.
James Burton had started building St Leonards in 1828, on land all within the boundaries of Hastings.
But he wanted his St Leonards to be a separate town from Hastings, so he created the 1832 Act, which set up a body of 75 ‘commissioners’ which took over many of the local authority functions that would otherwise have been carried out by Hastings council.
By 1860 Hastings and St Leonards had physically joined together, following the building of the seafront, but the St Leonards commission stayed a separate body until the early 1870s, when it became too expensive for it to build and run several services, especially sewage disposal and sea defences.
In 1875 all the powers of the St Leonards commissioners were passed to Hastings town hall, and St Leonards ceased to be an officially recognised town.
The 1888 reorganisation of all local government created the County Borough of Hastings (not the County Borough of Hastings and St Leonards).
By the late 1870s so much development had taken place around the Hastings borough that the Post Office decided to set up a new sorting office in the western part of the town, in Kings Road, to take the weight off what was then the only existing sorting office, in Hastings town centre.
As the new sorting office had to have its own name, they decided to call it St Leonards.
The Post Office then had to decide the separate delivery areas of its two sorting offices, and therefore which properties were going to describe themselves as being in ‘Hastings’ and which in ‘St Leonards’ (even though St Leonards no longer existed officially).
This meant that the Post Office had to draw a dividing line on a map, and the obvious starting point was on the seafront at the west side of Hastings Pier, as this was where Hastings spreading west had met St Leonards expanding east.
At that time there was still a green belt running north from the pier, across Summerfields and up the Old Roar Valley, to the east of Bohemia, Silverhill and Hollington.
The Post Office chose to draw its boundary line through this green belt, and there it remains roughly today.
As much of the green belt has been built on since the 1880s, the dividing line has had to have some bends and corners put into it.
Today the St Leonards/Hastings boundary is where postcode TN34 meets TN37.
It runs from the pier up Falaise Road and Bohemia Road to Magdalen Road, and then across Horntye to the top of Amherst Road.
From there it curves eastwards to Buckshole, then up to the east side Sedlescombe Road North, along to the St Helens Road junction and then in a curve along the north side of Ghyllside Avenue to Hillside Road and then The Ridge.
So St Leonards today is not a town, just a postcode to help the Post Office sort its mail.