Brett Volume 2: Chapter XIV - Hastings 1835
- 1 Transcriber’s note
- 2 Chapter XIV - Hastings - 1835
- 2.1 Parliamentary election and its amenities in 1835
- 2.2 Bribery and Treating in 1835 - Corporation Reform Act Passed
- 2.3 The First Town Council Election - Outline of the Municipal Act
- 2.4 Fall of the Peel Cabinet - Mr North censured for voting with the Tories
- 2.5 North and Brisco's principles questioned - "Brotherhood of Guestling"
- 2.6 The Castle Workhouse and Contiguous Ground - Additional Events
| This is a verbatim transcription of Brett’s work, which comprised both manuscript and typescript cuttings, and therefore reproduces Brett’s variations in style, capitalisation, punctuation and spelling. The only alterations made have been to the pagination and images whereby both page titles and images have been moved to the most appropriate paragraph as opposed to where they were pasted into the texts by the author. Where possible, personal names have been checked against census, parish records and the Central Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths. A number of footnotes have been inserted by the transcriber when this has been thought to be useful.
Generally the transcription follows the guidelines set out by the National Archives. Work is in hand to identify and annotate hand-written sections and other annotations within the transcriptions, the main difference being that hand-written sections are indicated by a Cursive font on screen. If any portions are
Readers should be aware that Brett’s narrative was written some forty to fifty years after these events (the typeset portions being perhaps 20 years earlier) and his memory has occasionally been found to be at fault by later historians.
Chapter XIV - Hastings - 1835
Parliamentary election and its amenities in 1835
Open houses and lavish expenses
Amusing episodes, Tricking the tricksters
Results of the pollings
Rejoicings and despondencies
Enormous cost to the candidates
Bribery and corruption under the new regime = Electioneering frolics
Rival candidates for the mayoralty and strong party feeling
passing of the Municipal Corporation Act
The borough divided into two wards
Constitution of the first Town Council
Public dinners severally to North, Elphinstone and Brisco
Excitement on the resignation of Peel
North unpopular with the Radicals
Transactions of the new Corporation
Parochial meetings, &c.
Parliamentary election and its amenities in 1835
The first reformed Parliament, of which Earl Grey and Viscount Melbourne were successively Prime Ministers, came to an end, as previously stated, on the 30th of December, 1834. This dissolution - which was the arbitrary act of King William, who was then at Brighton, and exulted in by his brother, the Duke of Cumberland, who, a few years previously, resided at Hastings - was regarded by the Reformers as an attempt in high quarters to override popular rights, and by indirect means to practically annul the provisions of the Reform Act. True, Sir Robert Peel, who had already formed a new Cabinet, declared that he accepted that measure as a final settlement of a great constitutional question, and would carry out its intentions, supposing them to imply a careful review of old institutions, undertaken in a friendly spirit and with a view to improvement. But many at the time had no belief in his sincerity, and a still greater number looked at the constitution of his Cabinet as one that would work for the quasi-restoration of old conditions. However, the writs were issued immediately after the Dissolution, and within six days the nomination at Hastings took place. To describe the excitement and bustle with which the new year was ushered in would require a more facile pen than mine; but I may say that from the first to the sixth of January the several candidates were almost ubiquitous, whilst their canvassing friends, together with printers, posters and messengers, were actively employed almost day and night. Four candidates were in the field, namely, the Right Hon. Joseph Planta (who, succeeding Mr. Lushington in 1827, sat with Denison for Hastings in 1828 and '9, and with Sir H. Fane in 1830), Mr. Howard Elphinstone (the popular, but unsuccessful candidate in 1832), Mr. F. North (who with Mr. Warre, had represented Hastings before and after the passing of the Reform Bill) and Mr. M. Brisco (the "Squire of Coghurst Hall.") The nomination took place on Monday, Jan. 5th, and may be thus described :- Mr. Elphinstone, with his committee and friends, was loudly cheered as he ascended the hustings, soon after 10 o'clock. The other three candidates, with their supporters, took up their positions nearly an hour later, Mr. Planta's reception being anything but enthusiastic. It was said that among those who cheered him were many hired men, but their vociferations were lost in the greater din of groans and hisses. Mr. Shadwell proposed his tried friend, Mr. North, whom he had proposed on a former occasion, and he proposed him on purely independent principles. Mr. W. Ransom seconded : he believed Mr. North to be a true and ardent friend to Reform, and one who would not deceive those electors who might give him their support, - George Hancock, Esq., proposed Mr. Elphinstone, an unflinching advocate of the people's rights. Would they, he asked, trust those, who, to serve their own purposes had suddenly become Reformers? Mr. Elphinstone, he assured them, was determined to support the abolition of that monstrous anomaly, a foreign and Irish Church establishment which was deluging that unhappy country. - Mr. H. Thwaites seconded, and was desirous of calling Mr. North's attention to the abolition of the House and Window Taxes. He felt strongly on that question, and had addressed a letter to that gentleman, to which mr. North had not condescended to reply. - Mr. Planta was proposed by Sir Wathan Waller, amidst much confusion and uproar, during which only indistinct sentences could be heard about the Church in danger, infidelity stalking the land, institutions threatened, etc. The speaker was convinced, however, that Mr. Planta was the true friend of the people. Mr. N. Williams seconded, amidst hisses, and cries of "We don't want Planta nor the Screwdriver who seconds him." - Mr. Briso was proposed by his brother-in-law, W. Camac, Esq., who disclaimed any private or personal views in doing so. - Mr. G. Robinson seconded. - Mr. North (who was cordially received) then said the time had arrived for him to explain his political sentiments. He sought n o disguise, for he was perfectly independent in principle. He had never pledged himself to any particular measure, nor would he do so; but this he would say, that he was a bold supporter of every measure which he, in his conscience, believed to be conducive to the good of the country. If he was to be blamed for supporting the Government of Earl Grey in those liberal measures they were then enjoying, he must plead guilty; but he had never been a servile supporter of that Government any more than he would be of any other. He had even opposed the Government of Earl Grey on two occasions. - Mr. Elphinstone (who was received with repeated cheers) said he had come into the field for a fair and many fight with the Tories, and his cry was, Down with the Duke! Down with Sir Robert Peel! He was sure that Hastings and St. Leonards could not serve that cry better than by rejecting the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Planta and Musgrave Brisco. He had to complain of the manner in which those gentlemen conducted their canvass, whilst he had also to thank Mr. North for the fair and independent course which he had pursued. - Mr. Planta being received with a volley of groans and hisses, asked, "Is this the conduct of Englishmen to condemn a man unheard? That cause must, indeed, be a bad one that can only be supported by clamour and violence." He would, however, thank the constituency, and especially the Pink party for their generous testimony of his private character. - Mr. Brisco had very little to say. - They all knew him as an honourable man, and his principles were explained in his printed address.
During the canvassing, one of Mr. Planta's committee-rooms was at the Horse-and-Groom, St. Leonards, and another at the Marine Hotel, Hastings. With the latter is associated the following anecdote :- A fisherman, to whom I will give the name of Zebulon and from whom some favour was expected, was told by some "young bloods" of the Conservative party to go to the Marine and get a bottle of anything he liked; and, as "open houses" were common in those electioneering times, and especially common on that particular occasion, the man had no doubt of the genuineness of the order with which he was verbally entrusted. But, for the better elucidation of this frolic, it should be firstly explained that Mr. Hutchings, the landlord of the Marine, was also the lessee of "Rocklands," a small farm on the East Hill; and in terms of endearment when feeding her fowls, his wife would say "Chipachup, chipachup!" It so happened that one of the electioneering party was acquainted with this fact, and he in a jocular mood, told Zebulon to ask for Mrs. Chipachup. This was done, and without any suspicion of its impropriety. But, as might be supposed, the man's enquiry for Mrs. Chipachup was resented with true womanly dignity, and his persistent demand for the opportunity of speaking to Mrs. Chipachup resulted in his sanity being questioned. Short of actual madness, however, his want of thorough sobriety was not for a moment doubted. The mistaken identity of nomen being at length got over, the demand was then made for the bottle of something for which the order had been given. It was of no use to say that liquor was not given away at that establishment, nor that it was not even sold there without payment in cash. A bottle of "summut" the man wanted, and a bottle of summut he would have, or else "Old Planta" shouldn't have his vote. The landlady still protested, but each remonstrance only drew forth from the claimant an emphasised expletive, accompanied by the salivation of Mrs. Chipachup's dress, the salivating fluid being highly scented with the perfume of tobacco. By-and-by, the opportune appearance of the gentleman who had given the order put an end to the rencontre,and a little explanation made it all square.
The nomination of the Hastings candidates for a seat in Sir Robert Peel's new Parliament was followed on the sixth of January by the election, and in the midst of great excitement. There was a full parade of band and banners, an exhibition of party colours at almost every window, satin-rosettes on every man's hat or coat, and treating in all directions. The carriages of the several candidates (with the pretty Mrs. Brisco in one, the lady-like mrs. Elphinstone in another, and the noble-looking Mrs. Planta in a third) were driven frequently round the two towns, and from one town to the other, the occupants receiving the greetings of hottings of partizans, and acknowledging the same with real or assumed courtesy. Then there was Mr. and Mrs. Camac’s splendid equipage with two postillions and an outrider, whose appearance always attracted the attention of the public. No effort was spared on either side to get the voters to the polling booth, although it must have been apparent to two of the candidates that their chances of success were disparagingly small. At the close of the first day's poll the Radical's declared the numbers to be 217 for Elphinstone, 184 for North, 88 for Planta, and 87 for Brisco. But the election having continued from the 6th to the 8th, the final announcement by the Returning officer was:-
The supporters of the unsuccessful candidates were exceedingly mortified at a defeat which showed a disparity of more than two to one, and a split among them soon became manifest. The Brisco-ites were charged by the "Planta-genets" with being the cause of such defeat, and the former repudiated the accusation with some warmth, at the same time pointing to the almost equal votes of the minority, as a proof that the party had worked well together. An early dissolution, however, was anticipated, and permanent committees were formed for furthering the Conservative cause. It was estimated that the cost of this contest to the Conservative candidates exceeded £5,000. How much was contributed by Mr. Brisco, and how much by the Carlton Club (which was then but a comparatively young institution) it is not in my province to say; but that the estimate was pretty well within the compass of fact may be taken for granted, seeing that it was never publicly disputed. It was even said that Planta's expenses alone amounted to nearly that sum. From what I myself saw, I had no reason to question the accuracy of the estimate. A "roaring trade" was done at the public-houses and beer-shops in the week between New Years' Day and the following Wednesday, some of the smaller repositories of John Barleycorn having carte blanche orders for any amount not exceeding £50 or £60. It was my questionable privilege to employ a few evenings in assisting my relatives to ply with drink the voters and non-voters alike, thus helping to render the former as unfit as possible for the proper exercise of the franchise. I had I remember, some qualms of conscience in the matter; and, although I was barely out of my 'teens, I spoke pretty freely against the sin of bribery and corruption. I had, moreover, in opposition to my relatives' "political principles," imbibed Liberal ideas, and was as freely censured, in return, for siding with the "beastly Radicals, who wanted to overthrow the Government and the Church, and to give the reins into the hands of the Pg.126 Roman Catholics." But if so much money's worth of beer was allowed to be drawn by beershop keepers, what must have been the limit of the fully licensed houses? Some idea, perhaps, may be gathered even from the simple fact that at the Horse-and-Groom (at that time a Tory rendezvous) a butt of porter - to say nothing of ale, wine and spirits - was completely drawn out in a single day, the liquor being carried away in pails.
Bribery and Treating in 1835 - Corporation Reform Act Passed
Such was the purity of election when Parliament had been reformed! The treating and bribery was said to be such as to demoralize the borough to an extent beyond the power of half a century to rectify; but the good which the Liberals hoped would spring out of it was the improbability of Toryism every being again in the ascendant. Perhaps the Liberals were a little too sanguine in that matter, but if such a result was to be achieved by themselves, it would not be by any lack of disparagement of their rivals. They represented [[Joseph Planta (1787–1847)|Mr. Planta's supporters as consisting of ten of the fifteen old Jurate and Freemen, a dozen publicans, nearly a dozen whose votes were bad, and a certain number of fanatics who were afraid of the Pope. If this was the only support which Mr. Planta could reckon upon, his prospects were anything but cheering; yet, as I hope to show further on, the re-election of Mr. Planta was eventually secured, his enormous expenses notwithstanding. But the Rt. Hon. gentleman's political contest was not the only expensive one in that general election. It is on record that the return of Mr. Wyndham Lewis for Maidstone cost that gentleman £6,000, or at the rate of £12 per head for every vote polled. Mr. Lewis was also a Conservative, and a wealthy man, to boot.
Yet it must not be supposed that all the wealth of the country was concentrated in the domain of Torydom, nor that the Conservatives were the only persons who were put to expense at elections. Even Mr. North, the independent candidate, did not go entirely scot free, whilst the little bill for the return of his colleague, Mr. Elphinstone, must have had its total somewhere among the quadruple digits. Granted that the costs incurred by the successful candidates were both more legitimate and less in amount, the fact still remains that wealth was a sine qua non in those days for a seat in Parliament, and that a "Workingmen's Candidate" would have had but a meagre chance of success. Of the four gentlemen who contested the representation of Hastings on that occasion, probably Mr. Brisco was the most wealthy. It used to be said of him by a facetious but comparatively impecunious acquaintance of mine, that himself and "Muzzy" (Musgrave) Brisco were the two richest men in the borough, but that "Muzzy" had got much the largest part.
I will now relate another electioneering frolic of the period, and will then eschew politics for a brief space while I turn to other matters. On Saturday morning the 17th of January - ten days after the election - Mr. Henry Williams, a jeweller, and Conservative politician, having made himself conspicuous as the author of some placards, was waited upon by several hairdressers, who had each received a note through the post purporting to be written by Mrs. Williams, requesting attendance for the purpose of "removing the hair from my poor husband's head, he being dangerously excited." Mr. Williams was, of course, much vexed at the waggish trick thus played upon him; but in a tone of humble - or, more probably, ironical - contrition, begged to be excused, under the promise never to offend again. But, lest it be erroneously imagined by the reader that all the fun was on the side of the Liberals and all the chagrin on the side of their rivals, it behoves me to relate another little anecdote in connection with the '35 election to prove the contrary. On the night preceding the day of election, a certain fisherman - whose residence was not a hundred miles from the battery at East Parade, and whose better-half, like many other dames of the period, was in the habit of dispensing sundry two-penn'orths of smuggled eau-de-vie - was wanted to be kept from the wiles of the Conservatives, and for that purpose he was engaged at card-playing during the night. As soon as the poll opened next morning he was conveyed with his Liberal companions to the polling-booth at the top of the town; and lest he should forget for whom it was intended he should vote, the names of "North and Elphinstone" were continually dinned in his ears. On the usual question being put to him, however, "For whom do you vote" ! the reply was "Brisco and Planta." I need hardly say that the glee of the Conservatives was immense, and the vexation of the Liberals as great.
On the 11th of May, in 1835, when Dr. Wilmot was regarded as the Mayor-elect, there was an unusual amount of party feeling exhibited in consequence of it having become known that his nomination was to be strongly opposed. A crowded meeting took place at the Town Hall, presided over by Mr. Scrivens, the retiring Mayor, when notice having been given by the Crier to all who were not Freemen that they were not to approach within 100 yards on pain of having their coats torn, Mr. Major Vidler (then the youngest Freeman, but afterwards the octogenarian Surveyor of Pevensey Levels) proposed Dr. Wilmot for Mayor, and expressed a hope that before the Mayoralty expired, every person who had a vote for the borough would also have a voice in the election of Corporate officers. The nomination was seconded by Mr. Murray (father of the late Mr. J. Murray, of the Marina).
Mr. Anthony Harvey then proposed Dr. Ranking, but by whom his nomination was seconded this deponent sayeth not.
Dr. Wilmot having been asked to explain his conduct in reference to certain statements of which he was the reputed author, replied that it was both possible and probable that he might have at sometime said something that was not pleasing to the Corporation; and if they offended him he might do so again. He did not go there on the backs of the Corporation, and he wanted nothing from the borough-mongering set. He had hitherto done his duty as a magistrate, and he relied for support on the new party of Freemen who were animated with the spirit of liberty and freedom. He pledged himself to do all he could to uphold the interests of the town and the dignity of the Corporation.
Mr. James Harman complained that the opposition was got up exclusively by the Tory party, to avenge in some measure their signal defeat in the Borough Election. Then came the tug-of-war between the two doctors and the two Roberts - Robert Wilmot and Robert Ranking, the former at the close obtaining the victory with 64 against 47. The announcement was received with enthusiastic cheers, and the result was hailed with lively satisfaction at St. Leonards by a few warm politicians of the Reform school who assembled at the Saxon Hotel. These drank to the health of the new Mayor, who had had "the courage to beard the lions in their den." There was at this time abundant evidence that the reported split in the Conservative camp was not without foundation. About a fortnight after Dr. Wilmot's election to the civic chair, the following handbill was circulated :-
"To Friends of Truth. - Robert Montague Wilmot having stated, privately and publicly, that Mr. and Mrs. Planta had declared that in consequence of his not voting for Mr. Planta, they had determined to give him a blow, and also that Mr. Planta had applied to Sir Robert Peel to procure his son a Living to enable him to marry a lady in direct opposition to the wishes of his father and other relations, and for the express purpose of irritating and continuing the disunion of father and son, the above statement is altogether false, and has been fabricated to calumniate the Rt. Hon. gentleman."
This document was signed by Mr. H. Williams, of 52 High street, the gentleman, be it remembered, who had attached his name to previous placards, and who, at the thought of having his head shaved, was said to have trembled in his shoes, and promised not to offend again. The Mayor, however, took no notice of the handbill, and the political feud continued.
When treating the establishment of the Hastings Union, I gave the generally accepted date of 1835 as the year in which the Union-workhouse was erected, although I had some difficulty in reconciling such a date with other events of a parochial nature. I could not, for instance, find sufficient time between Michaelmas and Christmas, 1835, for the movements of the late Mrs. Fitzgerald, as a resident in the parish of Holy Trinity, ditto in the parish of All Saints, next as a pauper in All Saints' workhouse, and lastly as one of the first inmates in the new Union-house. Nor could I understand why, if the new house was built and tenanted in 1835, there should at the same time have been a feeling of irritation against the overseers of All Saints on account of their refusal to allow the aged people in the parish workhouse to have porter even if taken to them by their friends. Then there was the quibble over the election of an All Saints' guardian which somewhat puzzled me. It ran thus :- On July 14th, Mr. George Wingfield was nominated as a candidate for the office of poor-law guardian for All Saints' parish, and was elected without opposition. But through the interference of a party not averse to a little jobbery - so it was alleged - he was disqualified by the Poor-law Commissioners, because he was entered on the list as residing in All Saints street, whereas he resided in Little Bourne street, in the parish of All Saints. I am now, however, free from any doubt in the matter; and, as I hold the opinion that in all historical matter correct dates are of the utmost importance, I hasten to substitute the year 1836 for 1835 as the one in which the Union-workhouse of Hastings was erected. It is among my notes for the month of April in the later year that "A Union-workhouse is to be built in Cackle street at an estimated expense not exceeding £5,000, Mr. George Luck, of Hastings, being the contractor. The date appears to be further proved by the following paragraph :- On the 1st of December, 1836, the Board of Guardians, at their meeting in the new house, entertained the question of admitting the Press to their meetings and rejected the application. The motion was supported by Messrs. G. Thwaites (chairman), Chapman and Payne, but was opposed by Messrs. H. Thwaites, R. Luck, H. Beck, sen., W. Cloke, J. Russell, H. E. Wyatt, J. Barton and Richard Harman. Yet as the narrative of other surroundings is in no way effected (sic) by this change of dates in the erection of the Union house, the year 1835 may still be regarded as the epoch of the practical introduction of the new Poor Law.
It was also in 1835 that another very important measure of reform received the royal assent. On the 7th of September, an Act was passed for the better regulation of the 178 corporate towns, (the city of London and 67 other corporate towns not being included). When the provisions of this measure became known, which was about the first or second week in June, very general satisfaction was expressed by the Liberals of Hastings, and more or less by byth political parties of St. Leonards. The Bill was based on the recommendation of a Government Commission, consisting of a score of gentlemen, each appointed to one of as many districts into which England and Wales had been divided for the purpose. Their business was to enquire into the condition of municipal corporations, the jurisdiction of justices, the method of appointing officers, the privileges of freemen, the management of revenues, &c. The Commissioner for this district was a Mr. Bingley, who, as already shown in a previous chapter, attended at the Town Hall, and received courteous and satisfactory replies to all his questions.
The facts elicited by this enquiry as pertaining to the Hastings and other Corporations were collected into five folio volumes, and a report was drawn up, signed by sixteen of the Commissioners, which concluded as follows :-
"The perversion of municipal institutions to political ends has occasioned the sacrifice of local interests to party purposes, which have been frequently pursued through the corruption and demoralisation of the electoral bodies. There prevails amongst the inhabitants of the incorporated towns a general - and, in our opinion, a just - dissatisfaction with their municipal institutions; a distrust of the self-elected municipal councils, whose powers are subject to no control, and whose acts and proceedings being secret, are unchecked by the Pg.127 influence of public opinion; a distrust of the municipal magistracy, tainting with suspicion the local administration of justice, and often accompanied with contempt of the persons by whom the law is administered; a discontent under the burdens of local taxation, while revenues which ought to be applied for the public advantage, are diverted from their legitimate use, and are sometimes wastefully bestowed for the benefit of individuals, or squandered for purposes injurious to the character and morals of the people. We therefore feel it to be our duty to represent to your Majesty that the existing municipal corporations neither possess nor deserve the confidence of your Majesty's subjects, and that a thorough reform must be effected before they can become what we humbly submit they ought to be - useful and efficient instruments of local government".
The First Town Council Election - Outline of the Municipal Act
Acting, then on the report and recommendation of the Royal Commission, Lord John Russell introduced the measure for the Corporation reform on the 5th of June; and, as already stated, it was viewed with great satisfaction by the majority of the inhabitants of Hastings and St. Leonards. By the beginning of July its provisions were fairly before the country, and as the commentaries thereon were severally read at Sunday-evening and other gatherings from the then high-priced Dispatch, Times, Observer, Sun, Patriot and Examiner, it appeared to be rather general opinion that although upon the whole it was a thoroughly good measure, it was desirable that both the Mayor and the Council should be elected annually. The patronage also invested in this body was deemed to be greater than it ought to be. Some of the old Corporation party, however as though dreading further innovation, affected to approve the measure and on the 10th of August a great public meeting was held in the Hastings Town-Hall, and a petition to the Legislature was adopted in favour of passing the Corporation Reform Bill in its unmutilated form. Some amendments were, however, introduced, and the Bill was passed on the 9th of September.
In the following month the St. Leonards people congratulated themselves on their having a voice in municipal matters, whilst the Hastings people - especially the "up town party" - were delighted to have the borough divided into two wards only. And well the latter might, for the arrangement placed the old town in nearly the same position as though the Lords had passed the bill in its original shape. The All Saints or East ward was to consist of the parishes of All Saints St. Clement's and St. Mary-in-the-Castle, represented by 12 councillors; and the St. Leonards or West ward was to comprise the parishes of Holy Trinity, St. Michael's, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Leonards, and St. Mary Bulverhythe, represented by 6 members only. No wonder then, that whilst the St. Leonards Liberals were thankful for that which gave them a representation in the local parliament, those of Hastings were really jubilant at the fact of their own representation being in the proportion of two to one. This disparity gave the latter a preponderating power in the choice of aldermen and Mayor - a power which they were not slow to make use of. The Revising Barristers, Messrs. Brett and Onslow, through whose influence such an arrangement was effected, were, of course, complimented for their wisdom. In the following October or November the first burgess-roll made its appearance, when it was found to fall short of the number of names that were on the list of Parliamentary voters. Saturday, Dec.26th, was signalised by the election of the first Town Council, and the choice fell upon the following townsmen :-
|MAYOR||Robert Montague Wilmot, M.D.|
William Lucas-Shadwell, Esq., attorney.
|John Mannington, gentleman, High st.||337|
|William Thorpe, gentleman, The Minnis||333|
|R. M. Wilmot, M.D., High Street||324|
|W. Scrivens, Esq., banker||304|
|Robert Ranking, surgeon||278|
|Joseph Hannay, gent. 105 High Street||268|
|James Emary, Castle Hotel||256|
|Edward Fermor, brewer, High Wickham||255|
|William Amoore, grocer, High Street,||250|
|Thomas Foster, tailor, George Street||231|
|John Murray, jeweller, Castle Street||227|
|Thomas Hicks, grocer, High Street||209|
|James Burton, Esq., Allegria||54|
|Walter Inskipp, architect, Cliff Cottages||43|
|Wm. Eldridge, coach proprietor, St. Leonards||35|
|Chas. Deudney, merchant, Marina||34|
|Jas. Harman, tailor, Primus Place||33|
|Stephen Putland, merchant, St. Mary's Place||28|
They were said to be all Tories except three, but as I remember them the exceptions were six. The Brighton Guardian, however, - the accredited organ of the Liberal Party - remarked
"It is true that, with two or three exceptions, those elected are the most intelligent that the town could select. That is, they are weak in intellect, forward in disposition, and, as far as they know, ultra-Tories at heart. They have caused themselves to be elected by one of the most unprincipled coalitions that ever disgraced the history of a town. Ashamed of their conduct the leaders of these combinators wisely absented themselves from the dinner, leaving their benighted Mayor alone in his glory; who, himself, left the assembly at 8 o'clock, to meet, as he said, a private party at home. This was disgraceful; for, having forced their horse to drink, they ought to have led him back to the stall. they may now make aldermen of all the noodles and doodles of the borough."
The dinner here referred to was the Inauguration Dinner at the Swan Hotel on the New-Year's Day, 1836. Just a week later, Messrs. Burton and Scrivens were elected aldermen, but my own - not very intimate - knowledge of those gentlemen at that time, would not permit me to regard them, even politically, as "noodles and doodles." At any rate their social or commercial status was equal to that which was possessed by Mr. William Ransom (not our respected journalist of that name), who unsuccessfully opposed the election of the former gentleman, and Messrs. payne and Milsted, who were the opponents of the latter.
Having briefly sketched the preliminaries of the Municipal Corporations Act, and the local feeling, action, and other circumstances attending them, it might be well to give an outline of the Act itself as it passed the Legislature three days before the Parliament, under the premiership of Viscount Melbourne, was prorogued. The leading provisions of the measure were as follows:- Every male inhabitant aged 21 years or upwards, who had paid rates in the borough for the three years previously to the last day of August in any year was to be qualified to vote for the Town Council, and in this way the means for local government were aimed to be secured. Among the functions of the Council were those of electing the Mayor and aldermen from their own body; appointing the Town-clerk, Borough-treasurer, Police, and other officials; to have control over the borough fund, watching, lighting, and prevention of nuisances; to make bye-laws, subject to Government approval, and to impose fines for their non-observance; to provide for the periodical auditing of accounts; and to cause the burgesses to elect annually from persons qualified to be Councillors, but n ot actually so, two auditors and two assessors, the latter to assist the Mayor in revising the Burgess-lists. Councillors, in a borough of four or more wards, to possess a property qualification of £1,000 in real or personal estate, or paying porr0rates upon at least an annual value of £30; but a moiety only of such qualification to suffice in boroughs of a smaller population. The existing rights of freedom or citizenship in old corporations to be preserved to the possessors during their lifetime, but all exclusive privileges of trading to be abolished. The Mayor, after his election by the Council, refusing to serve, to be fined £100; and if acting without having the qualification of a councillor, to be fined £50. The Mayor to preside at Council meetings, to have precedence in all places within the borough, and to be a magistrate of the borough during his official year and the year succeeding. The aldermen to constitute one-third the number of councillors, to be eligible for the office of Coroner or Recorder, to be exempt from serving on juries, and to hold office for six years. The Town-clerk to act in conformity with the wishes of the Council; to make out freemen#s lists, burgess lists and ward lists; to preserve minutes of the transactions; and to be responsible for the safe keeping of all charter deeds and records. The Treasurer - not a member of the Council - to give security for the proper discharge of his duties; to keep account of all receipts and disbursements, which are to be open to inspection by the Council; to pay no money except by order in writing; and to submit his accounts, with vouchers, half-yearly.
There were several useful measures introduced and passed during Lord Melbourne's premiership in 1835, but the Act for the Reform of Municipal Corporations was the one great work of the session, and it was one which has since been regarded as of sufficient importance to enlist the gratitude of the country to a few questionable amendments imposed by the Opposition in the House of Lords, rather than risk defeat of the entire Bill. It may be mentioned en passant, that the session alluded to was productive of 42 other bills intended to effect improvement in towns and districts, together with more than 150 Acts of Parliament of a so-called private character.
Mr. Elphinstone, the popular Representative of Hastings, might well feel proud of a seat in the House of Commons at such a time, and proud also that his own services were appreciated by his constituency. About a month after his election, namely, on the 12th of February, a dinner was given to him at the King's-head Inn, by about 120 of his supporters, to celebrate his triumphant return at the head of the poll. Among the gentlemen present at that festive gathering were the following - since deceased :- Dr. Breton, Dr. MacCabe, G. Hancock, Esq., Dr. Ranger, G. Duke, Esq., Mr. G. Clement, Mr. E. Honiss, Mr. J. Jolly, Mr. Payne.
Two months later (April 4th), Mr. Brisco, one of the candidates whom Mr. Elphinstone defeated, also accepted an invitation to a public dinner, the event taking place at the Swan Hotel, and the company consisting mainly of tenants, trades-people and bailiffs - principally non-electors.
Then on the following Friday evening, as though it were the proper thing to do, some five-and-twenty friends of Mr. North invited that gentleman to a dinner at the Castle hotel. Mr. North at the same time was not nearly so popular as his colleague, and the comments in the press - as I may hereafter show - were anything but complimentary to Mr. North as a politician. That gentleman did not become a Liberal all at once, and his constituents had to wait for the development of those principles which gradually gained for him an enduring respect.
One of Mr. Elphinstone's first efforts on behalf of his constituents was to make a successful application to the Admiralty Board for the stationing of a cruiser off Hastings to protect the fishery. And it was a rather singular coincidence that on the day this fact became known, a fatality occurred to a member of the fishing fraternity through the neglect of protection of another sort. A fishing board from Lydd cast anchor in the roadstead on the previous day, and the "skipper" came ashore for the night, leaving two men, named respectively Galloway and May, on board. These men made a fire in the fore-room, where they slept, and having put down the hatch, deprived themselves of the means of ventilation. In the morning Galloway was found dead from suffocation, and his companion nearly in the same condition.
Fall of the Peel Cabinet - Mr North censured for voting with the Tories
Although Mr. Elphinstone obtained for the fishery and for others what he asked for, under Sir Robert Peel's Administration, he was, doubtless, delighted when the statesman resigned office. He was the first to make known the fact to the Liberals of Hastings and St. Leonards, and the news was received on Thursday, the 9th of April, with the liveliest satisfaction. The attempt to bolster up the Conservative Government by the local politicians of that ilk had turned out a failure. The Liberal cause was perhaps hardly ever more the popular cause than at that time, and every effort to juggle the people into what was believed to be a dereliction of duty appears to have no chance of success. "Oh! what will become of our Church and King?" was the cry set upl and who better to propagate that cry than the Crier himself? Hence, Pg.128 The Town-crier was employed to hawk an address to His Majesty, pressing upon him the necessity of retaining in his confidence the Conservative Ministry. From door to door went the crier with "Please, sir, sign this. Make haste, I'm in such a hurry; there's no time to read it; you are only wished to sign it." This address, purporting to have emanated from the visitors and inhabitants was drawn up - so it was said, by a near relative of a church dignitary who happened to be staying in the town. Walls were then placarded that the petition was lying for signature at the Pelham Arcade. It was remarkable that at that time St. Leonards and Hastings were unusually full of visitors. Edlin's Victoria hotel was filled to its utmost capacity, and it was the same with Eldridge's Saxon and Emary's Castle; yet out of a population of at least 12,000, including visitors, only 200 signatures could be obtained. My readers will understand that this petition had reference, not to Sir Robert Peel's final resignation on the 8th of April, but to the Government defeat on the Speakership, a few weeks previously. It was on the 24th of February that the House of Commons met for the dispatch of business, and when Sir Robert Peel was beaten both on the election of Speaker and on the Address to the Throne, but did not resign. Mr. Elphinstone' energy was such that even in those days of comparatively slow travelling, the news of any important event was communicated to his constituency in the course of a few hours. Hence, whe on the 25th of February it became known in Hastings and St. Leonards that Mr. Abercrombie had been elected to the Speakership, the news was received by the Liberals with unmistakable enthusiasm, whilst the chagrin of both sections of the Conservatives - as the Whigs and Tories were wont to be called - was equally conspicuous. SImilar enthusiasm and similar dejection were manifested when, after suffering four defeats, Sir Robt. Peel was compelled to resign. His last two defeats were upon a vital policy of the Government, and to continue any longer in office would be unconstitutional. In announcing his resignation, however, the Premier called forth the cheers of the whole house by saying "My whole political life has been spent in the House of Commons; and whatever may be the conflict of parties, I shall always wish, whether in a majority or minority, to stand well in the House of Commons."
As the conduct of Mr. North in voting with the Conservatives was seriously called into question, I will burden my readers with an outline of the measures which caused the fall of the Peel Cabinet and of one or two other proposed measures in the voting for or against which mr. North was accused of deserting the principles which he had indirectly promised to uphold. On the 17th of March Sir R. Peel moved to bring in a Bill to relieve Nonconformists from the compulsory rite to the Church of England in cases of marriage. Attempts had been previously made by the Whigs, but only in a half'hearted manner, to effect a similar relief. Sir Robert dealt with the subject in a more energetic and liberal spirit; but unfortunately for him, he did not remain in office sufficiently long to carry his measure. Then on the 26th of March, the Marquis of Chandos proposed the abolition of the Malt Tax, as a relief to the Agricultural interest which was then - as it had been again for some years past - in a very depressed condition. But in this matter the Premier exhibited a less liberal spirit. He strongly opposed the motion, and prophesied that if the sum of nearly five millions of pounds was thus lost to the revenue, a property tax must necessarily follow. The motion was lost by 350 to 192, Mr. North voting with the majority.
Three days later, Sir Hy. Hardinge brought forward the Ministerial plan for the settlement of the Tithe Question, by proposing tithes to be recoverable from the head landlord, 25 per cent. being allowed for the cost of collection and risk which such landlord could assume. He might redeem the same if he so desired at 20 years' purchase the purchase money to be invested for the benefit of rectors and other tithe-owners. This was carried by 213 to 198.
Next came the burning question of the Irish Church. On the 30th of March, Lord John Russell moved - "That the House resolve itself into a committee to consider the temporalities of the Church of Ireland, with a view of applying any surplus of the revenues not required for the spiritual cost of its members to the general education of all classes of people, without distinction of religious persuasion." It was contended by the mover and other liberal speakers that the revenues had increased sevenfold, and were then £800,000 a year. On the other hand, Sir Robert Peel and his party held that when the drawbacks and deductions were made, the Irish Church revenues did not probably exceed £100,000. The debate - a memorable one in Parliamentary history - continued for four nights, after which at 4 o'clock in the morning, the motion was carried by 322 to 289, leaving the Government in a minority of 33. On the following night Lord John Russell obtained another victory over the Government - 285 to 258 - on the Appropriation clause, the resolution of which was "That it is the opinion of this House that no measure upon the subject of tithes in Ireland can lead to a satisfactory and final adjustment which does not embody the principle contained in the foregoing resolution." As already shown, this question caused the shipwreck of the Peel Ministry, after several hard-fought battles for its brief existence.
Sir Robert Peel's Ministry resigned on the 8th of April; and, ten days later, Lord Melbourne's Cabinet with a few changes, was again installed in office. The change of ministers and the creation of peers necessitated some new elections. These did not affect the political relations of Hastings or St. Leonards, but they were so intimately associated with two statesmen of eminence as to deserve a passing notice. Lord John Russell lost his seat for South Devon, but Col. Fox made way for him at Stroud; and the same thing was done for Lord Palmerstone by Mr. Kennedy at Tiverton, his lordship having been defeated in Hampshire.
The election at Hastings, three months before, showed a great disparity between the strength of Liberals and Conservatives, but in the House of Commons the two parties were so evenly balanced that although, locally, political demonstrations in their rougher character had greatly subsided, the parliamentary proceedings were watched with an eye as keen as ever. Lord Melbourne was not regarded as a Reformer of an ardent stamp, but it was said of him that what he lacked in energy, he possessed in good intentions and suavity of manners. The opinion mostly prevalent in political circles was that the Viscount was a better follower than a leader, whilst Sir Robert Peel was a leader in the fullest sense, and aimed at educating his party.
It would almost appear evident from the votes which Mr. North gave that he had a greater appreciation of the Tory leader than of the Whig. Be that as it might, various opinions were at that time hazarded respecting the irreconcilable votes which the "unpledged" Member recorded, and the subject was nightly discussed among all parties. The Dissenters and others who voted for him on the strength of his professions were chafing with indignation for having suffered themselves to be deluded by an air of sincerity both in his canvass and on the hustings when he seemed to promise all that they desired. They vowed, however, that Mr. North should discover before long the mistake he had made. The Dissenters at least felt that he had enlisted under the banner of Lord Stanley, and they therefore gave up all hope that he would support what they regarded as their just claims. He had, they said, tacitly shown himself to be opposed to progressive measures of Reform, and a letter which he had written to his constituents, was regarded as being in keeping with both his printed and spoken addresses. Mr. North came home, however, whilst the Melbourne Cabinet was being re-formed, and on the evening of the 10th of April he met about twenty-five of his political friends at the Castle hotel, there to offer an explanation of his conduct in Parliament. Very little of what transpired was allowed to reach the public ear, but enough was stated to have oozed out to convince the majority of his supporters that his explanation was anything but satisfactory. It was argued by at least the advanced section of Liberals that it at once disabused their minds of the idea that he was a real Reformer. By opposing the claims of the Catholics in Ireland, and the consequent restoration of tranquility to that misgoverned country, he had proved himself an enemy to civil and religious liberty. After such criticism as this, it may seem strange that in his subsequent career the censured gentleman should adopt for his motto, "Civil and Religious Liberty." But, as already stated, Mr. North did not become a thorough Reformer all at once. Even after the meeting of Parliament under the change of Cabinets, the Liberals could not find it in their hearts to forget or forgive their wayward representative, albeit Mr. North's relatives and person friends - influential politicians of the old Corporation party - reminded them that they were treading on forbidden ground. They knew that North and Elphinstone were voting in direct opposition to each other on questions of great importance, and that was enough for them. It was then rumoured that in consequence of the continued censure upon his conduct, Mr. North had declared his intention to abstain in the future from voting altogether. "If he really means this," replied his censors, "he has our thanks; for he has virtually ceased to represent our borough."
Whilst this distrust of Mr. North was manifesting itself, the reception given to Mr. Elphinstone was one of the most enthusiastic character. But what of the other two gentlemen who so recently had striven to be the representatives of the borough? Of one - Mr. Musgrave Brisco - it was said that a sly canvass was still going on in his behalf in anticipation of another contest the Chief actors being Mr. and Mrs. Camac. The other one - The Rt. Hon. Joseph Planta - was suffering under a severe indisposition, for which the inhabitants, both of Hastings and St. Leonards, were truly sorry; for, although Mr. Planta was a Tory of the first water, he was an excellent specimen of the "Fine Old English Gentleman," and his general urbanity and agreeable manners endeared him even to his political opponents.
It should not be forgotten that Mr. North was a magistrate as well as a member of Parliament, and that to his clemency while sitting in judgment, the inhabitants were sometimes indebted either for their release from charges brought against them, or for a mitigation of "pains and penalties." One such case occurred in the early part of 1835. A galley belonging to the Rob-Roy revenue cutter seized a lugger and a smack, with seven men and a boy, off St. Leonards. These were conveyed to one of the Martello Towers, and were afterwards examined before Mr. North in his magisterial capacity. The result was that the lugger's crew, who belonged to Hastings, were discharged, whilst the three men of the smack, who belonged to Rye, were convicted of attempting to run contraband, and were sentenced to six months' imprisonment.
I have referred to Mr. North as a magistrate, but at much greater length as a politician in his early parliamentary career; and as that gentleman was a sort of central figure in political circles during 1835, it may be well to further consider his relations with the borough for the remainder of that year before returning to more general matters. It has been shown that he was reproached for the several votes which he offered in opposition to the votes recorded by Mr. Elphinstone, and that the explanations which he gave were not satisfactory to the general body of his Liberal supporters. Mr. North felt however, that he was unjustly censured, and he complained of the warmth with which the Brighton Guardian (a Liberal organ of great influence in Hastings and St. Leonards at that time) attacked his political conduct. The journal in question in its reply asked - "Does Mr. North flatter himself that there are not many like Mr. Thwaites, who will, on the first opportunity, call on him to account for his stewardship? But, above all, is he alone blind to the fact that Hastings has bt one real representative? Let Mr. North or his supporters answer our questions satisfactorily, and we are then willing to confess that we have unjustly attacked a very pure, a very disinterested, and a very consistent body of men. On seeing those around the great Frederick who professed Reform principles, we were induced to advocate his cause before that of the eloquent Brisco or the whipper-in Planta; but, having watched his career through its various shifts, we find him proving himself to be anything but what a Reformer ought to be."
North and Brisco's principles questioned - "Brotherhood of Guestling"
On the 19th of June Mr. and Mrs. North travelled to London in their own carriage, and whilst the horses were being changed at Lock's Bottom, the lady fell through a cellar-opening to the depth of sixteen feet. She was so much hurt that at first it was feared the result would be very serious, Pg.129 even if it were not fatal. She was, however, pronounced to be out of danger in a few days. About a fortnight after the accident, Mr. North addressed a letter to the editor of the Brighton Guardian, from Suffolk street, London, in which he wrote - "Sir, - In your paper of the 1st inst. you ask where was I at the division which took place on the 20th ultimo? The accident to my wife happened on the day previous to that of the division you speak of, which division was a most important one. I did, however, vote on that division, and with the promoters of the bill, as against Mr. Follett's amendment." To this letter was appended by the editore a frank and fair explanation of the misconception, which arose through Mr. North's name having been omitted from the Division lists. Here, then, Mr. North was able to score a point in his own favour yet he was again complained of, a few weeks later, for an adverse vote which is was said he had recorded. "It wanted but this," remarked the journal already named, "to seal the fate of Mr. North in this borough. His resignation would now give great satisfaction, for his conduct but ill accords with the pledges he gave as to the Irish Church." From what followed, it would almost seem as though the offending Member had made up his mind from that time to act upon the suggestion, and to afford the Radical section of the constituency the satisfaction so much desired. He did very little after that to provoke hostile criticism during the remaining existence of that Parliament, and when a new one was necessitated by the death of William IV., he simply declined to contest the election. As a politician of the Whig school, Mr. North was for reforms or a moderately progressive order; and he held, as it were, the balance between those who desired sweeping changes and those who would have none. But in this position, whilst he was accused by the advanced Liberals of playing into the hands of the Tories, he was also suspected by his family and their Conservative connections of departing from the "good old ways" and of desiring to lead a large number of his supporters into a path whither it was not their wont to go. With the best possible intentions, then, this honourable man found himself in a position of extreme difficulty. Desiring to discharge his duties conscientiously, and to conciliate as far as possible conflicting interests, he yet felt that to be sent to Parliament as a mere delegate would not only cause him to forfeit the independent action which at the outset he had claimed the right to exercise, but would also fetter the intelligence which he had hoped had been deemed a qualification for his election. If in those days there was one man more than another who could lead a party, slowly bur surely, out of old traditions into new luminosities, that man probably was Mr. North; and, feeling as he doubtlessly did, that in consequence of his own election, with Mr. Elphinstone for a colleague, the Conservative candidates had been kept low on the poll, the honourable member must necessarily have chafed under the unmerited castigation to which we was afterwards subjected. If, therefore, at the next election, his "resignation" afforded satisfaction to the Radicals, he must have been more than mortal not to have felt a secret satisfaction in finding that his own withdrawal from the contest had been greatly instrumental in reversing the order of voting, whereby a Conservative was returned at the head of the poll, and with 403 votes instead of the 159 which were recorded for him on the previous occasion. Of this reversion I may have more to say at the proper time. Meanwhile it may not be out of place to note that the relations and aspirations of other persons were freely discussed and that the political principles of Mr. Brisco were again rigidly questioned. He had represented himself to some of the St. Leonards voters as a Liberal and a Reformer, whilst it was well-known that the Conservatives in that part of the borough were his chief supporters. In consequence of this, an elector sent the following letter to Mr. Brisco's brother Wastel. - "Sir, - previous to the last election, yourself and your brother canvassed this town as professed Reformers, and I heard you assert that you and your family had always advocated and supported Liberal principles; and when on the hustings you were both accused of Toryism by Mr. Elphinstone, you declared that charge was false. Now, sir, I would ask you if the signature to the ultra-Tory petition hawked about the town, Wastel Brisco, Magistrate of the Eastern Division of Sussex, if your sign manual? If that be not a forgery, will a Brisco ever again have the hardihood to present himself on the hustings of this borough?"
As might have been imagined, this letter was never answered; yet the trick of calling Mr. Brisco a Liberal, whie he was all the time a confirmed Tory, was again resorted to; and, save that he was liberal with his money, no practical proof of his Liberal views could be produced. But just at that time there was some disagreement among the Brisco party as to the expenses of the dinner given to their champion, as well as the amount of individual responsibility for the same. A Mr. James Harman - who will figure more hereafter - was publicly advised after this fashion:- "Let not our ci-devant Radical friend Harman suffer his irritability to get the better of his sober judgment. He was the getter-up of the dinner to Mr. Brisco, and he ought therefore to hold himself responsible for the reasonable expenses incurred."
I turn again to matters in more immediate connection with the Corporation. On the 15th of January, applications were made by George Clarke Jones and John Gill, also by the newly formed Literary Society for the hire or purchase of the Condemned Hole, at that time leased to the Commissioners of Customs. The Corporation declined to entertain the applications, preferring to allow the lease to run out. At the same time it was ordered that a committee, with the pierwarden's assistance, prepare regulations for placing rope-shops eastward of the Tamarisk Steps, and that such fishermen as desired sites thereat, not exceeding 8 feet square, be charged 2s per year. The same committees were invested with power to remove rope-shops to such eastward position, and to place the pig pounds still further east. This order had the effect of removing the swine and their habitations altogether.
On the 9th of April, the Mayor reported his having attended the Brotherhood and Guestling at Hith on March 10th, to consider if any and what steps should be taken against the Corporation of Winchelsea for neglecting to return Commissioners to the said Brotherhood and Guestling. It was the opinion of a majority that so many difficulties appeared to accompany the enforcement of a fine that the meeting did not feel justified in resorting to legal measures, and that it was expedient to postpone the same until sanctioned by another Brotherhood to be held on receipt of the Speaker's next letter.
In applying the apprenticeship clause of Saunders Charity, it was ordered that Benjamin Newton's eyesight being not good enough for the shoemaking business to which he had been apprenticed, he be transferred to Mr. John Russell, a baker. Also that a similar premium (£11.15s) be paid to George Knight, a cordwainer, for taking the widow Ann Phillips as an apprentice. It was further ordered that £20 be paid towards the erection of an oast house on Saunder's farm.
An application having been made by Wm. Ridley,George Tutt, Wm. Breach, Philip Kent and Stephen Kent for leases of stonebeds between the East Well and the east groyne, it was resolved that the space be kept for the fishery, and that the beach under the cliff be levelled.
As supporting the aphorism that "troubles never come singly" a second difficulty with the Premier Cinque Ports Limbs occurred during the year, the Corporation of Pevensey having refused to continue the annual composition payment of £3 6s 8d. It was therefore ordered to make a more formal demand.
The Castle Workhouse and Contiguous Ground - Additional Events
On the 16th of July, an appointed committee recommended that the beautiful entrance to the town be further improved by filling up the slough, turfing and planting the same, and enclosing it with a dwarf wall and iron palisading at an estimated cost of £278, and that the Corporation give a subscription of £150 towards the work. Also, that a wooden hutch to the cost £50 be made at the Bourne's mouth. A plan for the ornamental Pg.130 enclosure at the top of the town was afterwards produced by Mr. Walter Inskipp at a reduced estimate of £230 7s 4d, and a further subscription of £79 16s was obtained.
Another apprenticeship under Saunders Charity was provided for, in the person of Henry Phillips, son of Hy. Phillips, deceased, who was taken by Edwin Tyhurst for 7 years to the tailoring business - the Henry Phillips who has since then been a dramatist, a farmer, a fruiterer, a town-councilman, and an innkeeper, and now - as all who know him must regret - in indigent circumstances near London. Such is one phase of human existence and unrequited versatility!
Permission was given to Joseph Kaye, Esq., to enclose trees opposite to Tor Field, and to alter footpaths from the Turnpike road to the Minis Rock at his own expense. The purpose, as reported at the time, was to build a crescent, but it was not carried out.
The recipients of Lasher's Charity this year were John Sisley, aged 66; Richard Adams, 70, John Gallop, 71; Wm. Bumstead, 71; Stephen White, 77; Thos. Swaine, 81; and John Phillips, 82.
At the parochial meetings of St. Clement's and All Saints in 1835 I have no particulars, but to follow on with those of the Castle parish from the preceding year it should be said that at the January vestry, when Mr. G. Clement was chairman, it was resolved that the ground behind Mr. Honiss's house in Wellington place be let to him at £3 per year. Also that a part of the yard, 4 feet in width, extending from the engine house to Ransom and Ridley's fence, be let to Wm. Campbell at £1 per year, he to build a separate wall. At the March vestry meeting William Longley was re-elected assistant-overseer and John Savery, surgeon. At the August meeting it was resolved:-
"That it having been reported to this vestry that the Board of Guardians have decided that this workhouse is insufficient, and will not be any longer required, and the Poor Law Commissioners having been applied to on the subject, they having expressed their concurrence in the expediency of selling the same at any time named by the parish (wishing, however, to be informed how it is proposed to dispose of the paupers now in the house) it is hereby ordered that the ground leased to Honiss, Banks and Nelson be retained by the parish, and that the ground leased to Campbell be sold to him for £15. Also, that the ground behind the houses of Honiss and others be sold by auction, the starting price to be £200. Also that the Workhouse and yard to be let from year to year to the highest bidder. It was further resolved to give up ground in front, enclosed by a fence, if Ransom and Ridley's fence be removed and the Commissioners lay down a footpath."
I close the notice of local events in 1835 with the following brevities:-
In January there was great talk of establishing a Liberal Association to counteract the movements of the Conservatives. In the same month a schooner was sunk off Fairlight.
On the 6th of Feb. a man named Boniface and a boy named Chiverton, with a dead brother of the latter, got ashore at Hastings, with great difficulty, and were taken in by Mr. Chandler, of the Pelham Arms Inn. They had put to sea in an open boat three days before from Plymouth, and were blown away in a storm. The elder Chiverton had died from hunger and exposure, and the two other persons were completely exhausted.
Three days later, an inquest was held at Fairlight on the body of Mrs. Austin, late pastry-cook of Hastings, who had destroyed herself while temporarily insane.
On the 19th, during a terrific gale, fishing-boat fell in with a cutter's crew in a galley, and rescued them from imminent peril.
On the following day, a woman, named Sandford, 85 years of age, and suffering from deafness, was run over by a van at the foot of High street, and dangerously, if not fatally, injured.
During the month of March, many highway robberies were committed in the neighbourhoods of Hastings, Westfield, Guestling and Ewhurst.
In the Month of May the Unionist movement in this part of the county was supposed to have emitted its expiring spark, and as the excitement had calmed down, it was thought that the movement had been credited with too much importance. True, there had been a meeting of labourers at Rye, a few days before, but it was altogether a failure. In the same month, the Old Friendly Society, which had then been established forty years, held its Whit-Monday anniversary, when 250 members dined at the Ship and King's-head inns, Mr. Howard Elphinstone, M.P., being one of the company.
During the month of August, Halley's great comet re-appeared and continued visible for several subsequent months.
On the 8th of October, about fifty persons attended Mr. Yates's opening dinner at the Royal Oak Hotel; and on the 9th an adjourned vestry meeting for St. Clement's was held, when Mr. Joseph Brown made an attempt at wholesale disenfranchisement of the occupiers of cottages worth £10 a year. But he did not succeed at this attempted set-off against the Liberals, who had previously struck off 28 names of his Tory friends from the register.
Transcribed by Jan Gilham