Brett Volume 2: Chapter XXIII - St. Leonards 1840
- 1 Transcriber’s note
- 2 Chapter XXIII - St. Leonards 1840
- 2.1 The Penny Post Established - St. Leonards Commissioners
- 2.2 Celebrating the Queen's Marriage - Col. Williams v Editor of Southern Advertiser
- 2.3 Ellsworth's Charity - Infirmary Built and Opened
- 2.4 The Harbour Project
- 2.5 A True Tale of Verulam Place
- 2.6 A Tale of Verulam Place - Description of the Front Line
- 2.7 St. Leonards Deaths in 1840
- 2.8 Notes
| 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 XXIII - St. Leonards 1840
Coincident establishment of the Penny Post and a business in St.Leonards
Purchase of a fire-engine
Transactions of the Commissioners
Great influx of nobility
Further gambols of "Old Davy"
Wreck of the "Auguste"
Fire at the Allegria
Mr. Hollond's marriage
Celebration of the Queen's marriage
Dr. Lardner at St.Leonards, and ordered to pay £8,000 for the seduction of Mrs. Heavisido
Major Jeffries and the Board of Guardians
Frustrated attempt of Government officials to divert the road between the two towns
Again the Priory squabbles
Col. Williams abused and challenged to a duel
The Ellsworth charity
Contentions over the Infirmary Site
Discovery of Roman coins
The first Cricket club
A story of Verulam Place ("truth stranger than fiction")
Condition of the via media and promise of improvements by the Eversfield Trustees
Parochial officers 1828 to 1840
Deaths in 1840
The Penny Post Established - St. Leonards Commissioners
Pg.225 The year 1840 was perhaps memorable for nothing so much as for the establishment of the Penny Post with which it was ushered in. I have already given my readers a fair idea of the many inconveniences which were entailed by the varied and comparatively enormous postal rates of the old system, and they will therefore be able to estimate the appreciation with which the boon of postal reform was received. It needs but the remembrance that even in the reign of her present Majesty, it was at one time customary to charge fourpence for the conveyance of a "single" letter over a distance of fifteen miles, with a gradually increasing rate up to 1s. 4 1/2d to remote parts of Scotland, to convince us that of all the benificent (sic) reforms which have contributed to the development of commerce and to the incitement of a thirst for education this was one of the most remarkable. No better proof of this development could be given in a few words than that which is indicated by the following statement. Previous to 1838 there did not exist any reliable account of the number of letters which passed through the Post office, but in 1838, the last complete year before the adoption of the uniform penny rate, the returns supplied to Rowland Hill - in which I had the honour to assist - showed that the chargeable letters delivered in the United Queendom was 76,000,000. On the 10th of January, 1840, when the new system first came into operation, the number was 112,000 for that day alone, or more than four times as many as were ever dispatched on one day at the same period of the years. This was the more remarkable because the arrangements were still incomplete. At the expiration of twelve months, however, the year's transmissions amounted to about two-hundred millions, as against the seventy millions of 1838; and at the present time the letters annually transmitted by the agency of the Post-office are known to be considerably over a thousand millions - a number easily expressed, but difficult to realise.
The routine of the Hastings Post-office prior to 1840, together with a sketch of the general system then in vogue has been described in a preceding chapter, but the following extract from a Treasury Minute of December 26th, 1839, may further elucidate what I there said of the local management of ship-letters, money-letters, &c.
"Their Lordships are pleased to direct that on the 10th of January, 1840, the charge on all letters passing between one part of the United Kingdom and another shall be one penny per single rate, such postage to be prepaid, or charged double on delivery. ... In consequence of the great increase of letters containing coin, the practice heretofore of entering such letters as money-letters will cease on the 1st of January, after which time, parties having occasion to transmit small sums are recommended to make use of the Money-order office, while those who may desire to remit bank notes or drafts payable to bearer, are requested to cut them in halves, sending each half, if possible, by two different posts. ... In consideration of the reduction now made in the postage of ship-letters, and the probable increase of such letters, the ship-master's gratuities will be reduced to 2s. 6d. per 100 for all letters, newspapers and other packets conveyed between one part of the United Kingdom and another. At the same time gratuities of one penny per letter or packet, and one halfpenny per newspaper will be given to the masters of ships trading to the East Indies on the same conditions as those now applying to other ship letters and papers." ... On the use of stamps, their Lordships have fully decided and they will be prepared with the least possible delay.
The postage stamps promised in the Treasury Minute, as well as envelopes, did not come into use until the 6th of May 1849, and being then printed in black, they were neither so good looking nor so easy to cancel as those which were printed in brown, a year later. In 1847 the sheets of stamps were perforated by a machine invented by Mr. Archer, and purchased by the Government for £4,000. Three years later, the 1d. stamp was brought out in bright red, and after thiry (sic) years, familiarity with this stamp, it was superseded, as well as other priced stamps, by a new design. But here I must bring my remarks on the Post-office to a close, merely adding that the death of the grand old patriach (sic), Sir Rowland Hill on the 27th of August 1879 at the age of 84, reminds me that a generation has passed since he won his triumph over official obstructions, and by his well-conceived scheme revolutionized the social intercourse of the world.
It may be recorded for its co-incidence that as the present writer had much to do with preparing the local statistical returns for Rowland Hill in the year 1839, so also he commenced operations in St. Leonards as a pedagogue (and as a bookseller in a very small way) at Market terrace, on the very day that Rowland Hill's Penny-postage system came into operation. Poor as he may be at the present moment, he was even poorer at that time, his stock-in-trade having been purchased with the only ten shillings of which he was possessed. There was no sin in this, and consequently no need for shame; but it may be of sufficient interest to some of his readers to be informed in a few words how it was that his tide of fortune was at so low an ebb. In chapter xxi is described the series of storms in 1839, and the injuries and losses which I sustained aboard ship in my unsuccessful attempt to reach the great land of the west. The situation I previously held in the Post-office had now another occupant, and the nature of my injuries making it desirable that I should employ myself in work that was not too laborious, I conceived the idea of setting up as a private schoolmaster. I was told that such was very much wanted at Ore, where Mr. White, the protegé of the Rev. Dr. Fearon, was not only not competent to teach, but also not sufficiently circumspect in a moral view to be entrusted with a school where boys and girls were under the same roof. I hired a building in that parish, and in two or three weeks I had as many children as I could well attend to, but the clergyman named rode round to the parents telling them that unless they immediately withdrew their children from my school they should be discarded from the school-club and other parochial privileges. What was even more singular in the opposition with which I was thus confronted was, that, notwithstanding my having previously assisted in the singing at Ore church, and professing to be a churchman, the reverend gentleman was pleased to say he would have no Wesleyans setting up school in his parish. The result was that the parents took their children from me, with tearful regrets, and I at once shifted my quarters to St. Leonards, with greater success. I afterwards felt more sorry for Mr. White than for myself, for he having proved himself guilty of the impropriety of which he had been previously suspected, forfeited even the good opinion of Dr. Fearon, and had to be removed from his scholastic duties. I refer thus much to personal matters to show how, by accidental circumstances I took up my permanent abode in St. Leonards 62[Notes 1] years ago, and how by so long a period of 63 years - despite my inability in other respects - I feel myself in a position to write these historical and biographic sketches.
Having referred to the circumstances which changed my connection with St. Leonards from that of a constant visitor to that of a permanent resident, and, thus, as it were, brought back the reader once more from the old town to the new, we will take another peep into the doings of the St. Leonards Commissioners. I described in chap. 21[Notes 2] the arrangements which were made for the purchase and establishment of a fire-engine, although they were not really completed until the beginning of 1840. Among other resolutions passed by the Commissioners at their quarterly meeting on the 30th of March were - "That notices be posted against the practice of firing guns into the gardens from the high road; that Mr. James Beck be refused permission to construct a trap-door in front of 44 Marina; that the Parliamentary Rate Returns be sent to the Mayor (Francis Smith) through the Town Council; and that all rate-defaulters be summoned." At the next meeting the Rating Returns showed a probable nett income of £898 4s. 6d., as compared with £807 in 1836. This, it must be admitted was not a large increase in four years upon the rates of a new town that was said to have sprung into existence as if by magic. The general accounts of the Commissioners at this date had not been examined, in consequence of the illness of Mr. Charles Deudney, but this was not allowed to stand in the way of the usual half-yearly levy of a shilling rate upon household property, and a sixpenny rate upon agricultural holdings. A letter having been received from Messrs. Clement and Hoad's solicitor, suggesting an amicable settlement of a claim for compensation for damage to a fly by the bad road opposite to the Fountain Inn, the Clerk was ordered to reply that the applicants had no claim whatever upon the Commissioners. Some other resolutions included the abrogation of the services of a Surveyor, the abatement of slaughter-house nuisances, the selection of a site for a Pound, and the appointment of a Pound-keeper. The last-named resolution was carried into effect at the next meeting by the appointment of James Reed, whose duties were also to include the keeping the parade in order, and to assist on the road. Fancy the Belgravia of the South being able to suspend the office of a Surveyor, and to manage its roads, its parades, and its straying cattle with the assistance of one man, and all that by dedicating only half his working hours to the task, and at the economical wage of 7/6 per week! Oh, Hastings, Hastings! What are you thinking about in the year 1881, with your Town Surveyor, Assistant Surveyor, Road Surveyor, Crown Surveyor, District Surveyor, Building-society Surveyors, and no end of road-sweepers and scavengers! Could you not do as St. Leonards once did - discharge your officials, and take on a labourer to work half his time at 7s. 6d. per week? See what a short way it would be to reduce the rates, for which the inhabitants declare now-a-days it is so difficult to make adequate provision! Never mind caring for the visitors; they used to come in greater proportionate numbers, and more from noble or distinguished circles in times of yore, when there were no proper roads, no pier, no swimming baths, no regular drainage, no drinkable water, no public gardens, no park, and "no nothing." There is no harm in saying that even in the year under consideration, there were among the St. Leonards visitors, all at one time, Lady Mildmay, Earl of Fingall, Viscount Sidmouth, Lady Ridley, Viscount and Viscountess Beresford, Sir John Eustace, Dowager Lady Kinnaird, Sir Thos. and Lady Strange, Lady Ynnott, Lord Brougham, Lord Prudhoe, Lord and Lady Worsley, Lady Raffles, Hon. W. Dundas, Hon. Mr. Fitzroy, Sir Harry and Lady Verney, Lady Hope, Admiral Sir W. and Lady Lawford, Lady and Miss Miller, Countess Metaxa and suite, Sir C. Coote and family, sir John and Lady Orde, Sir H. Hernloke, Dowager Baroness de Rothschild, Sir Thos. Anbury, Mr. and Mrs. Brassey and family, Dowager Lady Croft and family, Earl and Countess of Warwick, &c. - A goodly number of aristocratic names, truly, to occupy houses and apartments in the somewhat outre saison month of April. I wonder if Sir Thos. Brassey remembers his visit to St. Leonards in those juvenile days of his!
It was not merely in the matters referred to that the Commissioners displayed their bent of economy. The stone wall just by the National School wanted repairing, and Mr. Towner was to do it for 30s., and the brick-pavement required re-laying on the East Ascent, and Messrs. Hughes and Hunter were to do it for a £5 note. An improvement was also wanted to be effected at the western part of the town, and if the parish authorities would pay £20 towards it, the Commissioners would contribute £10, with the proviso that their chairman inspect the work.
September had now arrived, and as the gas-lamps had been unlighted during the summer, the Commissioners would now be able to afford a resumption of public lights for the winter. Money was coming in from the summoned ratepayers some in lump sums, like the £3 14s. from the landlord of the Fountain, and some in dribblets, like that from Miss Ranger, who, according to a bi-yearly custom, solicited relief from a moiety of her rates. Never mind! Those who had not "stumped up" after being once sued, were to be re-sued, and the interest on bonds was to be paid as soon as the receipts admitted of it. One fortunate circumstance for the Commissioners was the less abnormal action of the sea than in some previous years, thus causing a less outlay of money for repairs to the parade walls. The only expense for defences in 1840 seems to have been for a little re-jointing here-and-there with cement, and the repair of a raddle groyne. The business, therefore, at the last quarterly meeting of that year was almost confined to the making a new rate, ordering the beaching of Caves road for 30s., and payment to Thos. Towner for putting up poles near the Fountain Inn, to prevent people falling into a hollow between the raised Marina road and Caves road, which was frequently filled with sea-water at spring tides.
It must not be inferred, however, from what is here stated that "Old Davy" was entirely quiescent. He occasionally engaged in a wild gambol, and while he was in one of these moods on the 23rd of January, he enlarged the breaches previously formed in the walls of the Eversfield parade, which was out of the Commissioners' jurisdiction. There was a succession of gales from Monday the 19th to Sunday the 25th, but on the intermediate Friday the wind assumed a hurricane type, with lightning and thunder, beneath which the ground appeared to shake as with an earthquake.
"The wind is as iron that rings,
The foam-heads loosen and flee,
It swells, and welters and swings
The pulse of the tide of the sea."
The most lamentable occurrence of that stormy week was the wreck at St. Leonards of the French vessel, Augusté, and her crew of ten persons. At daybreak on Sunday morning a vessel was seen off Galley hill, keel upwards, and floating towards the shore. It afterwards struck the rocks, and in a short time the beach was strewed with the casks of wine and brandy of which the cargo mainly consisted. The wreck drifted about three miles to a point opposite St. Leonards, where the water left her. Means were immediately taken by Mr. Harman, of Hastings, and a gang of workmen to secure the vessel with cables made fast to anchors fixed in the carriage road. As the remainder of the cargo washed out of the hold it was secured, and taken, some to the Custom-house and some to Breeds's[Notes 3] warehouse. The vessel was of a schooner rig, about 170 tons, nearly new, and commanded by Capt. Winheart. The belief is that she was blown over on Saturday night by a squall, and that the captain and crew perished.
Associated with the above sad tale of the sea was one of the greatest fires that had occurred in Hastings for many years, the description of which is given in chapter XXIV. In that chapter also is described the fire which was discovered at Mr. Hollond's residence, on the 22nd of October, two months after the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Hollond at the Allegria. In previous references to the movements of the then Liberal Representative, I omitted all mention of Mrs. Hollond, and for the simple reason that there was no such Mrs. Hollond until the 18th of March, on which day our respected Member exchanged the state of "single blessedness" for the silken bonds of matrimony. This change in his domestic condition was not effected in the borough which he represented but Hastings and St. Leonards were, nevertheless, en fete on that occasion. The auspicious morn was ushered in by a peal from the bells of St. Clement's Church, which was repeated at intervals during the day. On boats and flag-staffs colours of every kind and flags of every device were displayed; and, for the nonce, party feeling was put entirely aside. In the evening the streets resounded with the strains of the Hastings Old Band, as it played, never more heartily, the "Wedding Day" and other lively airs! The marriage took place at Stanmore, near London, and on that occasion the village was in joyful commotion. Dressed in their Sunday best the people crowded to the church to witness the marriage of their friend and patron, Miss Ellen Julia Teed, the only child of the resident magistrate. It was said that a gayer village scene could not well have been witnessed, the neighbours seeming to vie with each other in their outward demonstrations of esteem and gratitude to one from whom they had received many tokens of kindness. A long line of carriages conveyed the bridal party to the church where an avenue was formed by the school-children, who sang a hymn composed for the occasion by the curate. After the religious rites had been performed, nearly fifty persons sat down to a splendid dejeuner, and among the guests were the following persons known at Hastings:- The Rt. Hon. J. and Mrs. Planta, Col. and Mrs. Tennant, Mr. Orm, Mr. W. M. James, Mr. Walter Prideaux, and Mr. W. D. Cooper. After breakfast Mr. and Mrs Hollond proceeded to Paris, leaving behind them presents for the poor and a repast for the children. "Wedding at the Hall," on this occasion was everybody's own, and all rejoiced because they knew the virtues of their benefactress, and could testify that the conventional formalities of modern times had not on this occasion interfered with the heart's free tribute.
Celebrating the Queen's Marriage - Col. Williams v Editor of Southern Advertiser
On the 4th of February a Mayor's meeting was held in the Town Hall to consider how best to celebrate Her Majesty's marriage; and it was there decided to commence a subscription for the purchase of food and fuel to be distributed to poor people. The Mayor (F. Smith, Esq.) headed the list, and in a few days the sum of £220 was got together, the said sum being distributed in the Town Hall on the 10th of the month in the form of coals and bread. All business was suspended on that day; and, in addition to two public dinners, provided at the Swan and the Oak, the event was further signalised by a well-attended ball at the Pelham Arcade. At. St. Leonards the celebration assumed a somewhat different form. The money which was there collected was expended in giving the school-children a treat, with the view to a more enduring remembrance of the day. Then, as an enjoyment for the "upper ten" a grand ball was held in the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms, the same being numerously attended. - On the 11th of December, another public meeting was held at the Town Hall, at which a congratulatory address was voted to the Queen and Prince Albert, on the birth of a Princess. At this latter period, there was a numerous company of fashionables at St. Leonards, there being among the aristocratic families, Lord and Lady Leigh, the Hon. Mr. Duncombe, the Earl and Countess Antrim, Col. and Lady Mary Fox, the Bishops of Durham and Chester, Sir Thos. Strange, Baron Alderson, Lady Ogilby, Sir Walter Riddle, Sir H. Bayley, Baron and Baroness de Sands, and Sir Andrew Pilkington.
The Archery meetings were resumed on the 24th of May, as a matter of course, the closing meeting taking place as late as the 19th of November, which meeting passed off with eclât. The grand meeting of the season was held, as usual, on the 17th of August, the proceedings being enlivened by the St. Leonards Band, under the conductorship of Mr. Elford. Miss Mackay won the 1st of the Royal Victoria and the Societies prizes, and Miss C. Mackay obtained the 2nd prize. Mr. A. Burton carried off the silver bugle, whilst Mr. C. G. Eversfield succeeded to the small gold bugle. Miss Price obtained the 1st visitor's prize for ladies, whilst to Capt. Meyrick and Mr. French were respectively awarded the 1st and 2nd prizes for gentlemen visitors. At the conclusion of the shooting, the Archers and their friends dined together at the Assembly Rooms, the catering being in the hands of Mr. and Mrs. Dovey. This was succeeded by a ball in the evening.
It was at about this time that Dr. Lardner was cast into heavy damages at the Lewes Assizes for the seduction of Mrs. Heaviside. Dr. Lardner had previously lectured at Hastings, and had stayed, with the lady in question, at the Victoria Hotel, St. Leonards. In summing up the case, Baron Gurney told the jury they must not estimate the damages by the pecuniary resources of the defendant, but by the fact that the plaintiff had lost an affectionate wife, and his children were deprived of the care of a mother. The jury awarded Mr. Heaviside the sum of £8,000.
Whether politics had anything to do, for or against, the act of Major Jeffries's determination to vote at the Board of Guardians as an ex-officio on account of his being a borough and county magistrate I cannot cay; but his claim to do so was questioned, and the Poor Law Commissioners were appealed to for a decision. In the reply was the following paragraph :-
The Poor Law Commissioners desire to state that under the 38th sect. of the Poor-Law-Amendment Act, none but county magistrates can act as ex officio Guardians. Every such Justice must reside in the parish situate in the county for which he acts.
It was clear then that as a borough magistrate Major Jeffries could not vote as an ex officio Guardian, and that as a county magistrate he was equally debarred in consequence of his not residing in the parish for which he acted. This disqualification was, however, one of the anomalies which not unfrequently cropped up as a consequence of the township of St. Leonards being situated in a portion of two parishes. Major Jeffries, who claimed to act for St. Leonards, resided strictly within the limits of the township, but in that portion of it which lay in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen; and thus, in so far as he was concerned, both the township and parish of St. Leonards could not be represented. The only magistrates at that time who could act in the capacity indicated were Messrs. Elphinstone, Brisco and Flood.
Apropos of the Board of Guardians, it had been resolved at one of their meetings in the preceding year to appeal to the well-to-do classes in each parish of the Union for donations and subscriptions for the purchase of bibles, testaments and prayer-books, and for the establishment of a library with the "design of promoting the moral and religious instruction of the inmates." Among some of the Guardians there was either objection or apathy, and it was thought that the prayer-book stood in their way, they, as Dissenters, not being able to encourage the collection of funds for its free distribution. Anyhow, the contributions of the parishes of St. Mary Magdalen, Holy Trinity, Guestling and Pett were nil, and the Educational Committee, in their report on the 9th of March, 1840, expressed regret that their labours had been less successful than they might have been, owing to the disinclination of some of the Guardians to assist them. They had, however, spent £39 in the purchase of 450 bibles, testaments and prayer-books, and 212 vols. from the Christian Knowledge Society, towards which amount the following donations had been received and annual subscriptions promised:-
Having, in chapter xxiv, noted the changes and improvements at the Hastings parade, the Condemned Hole, &c., I here ask the reader to accompany me westward to St. Leonards,but taking the Priory culvert and the "Desert" en route, so as to see what the site of the present Robertson street, Carlisle parade, etc. was like in 1840, and by what circuitous route St. Leonards would have had to be reached had it not been for the resistance offered by the Town Council to the scheme of Government officials. A lengthy correspondence was received from the Hon. Charles Gore, secretary to the Woods and Forests Commissioner, which included a report by Mr. Driver, recommending that the then road across the Government Ground at the Priory be entirely stopped, and that the road from Hastings to St. Leonards be in future from the Priory Bridge up the new Hollington road (now Cambridge road) to near Mr. Jonathan Reed's house, and then descending at a sharp angle with Mr. Long's blacksmith's shop. This would be like traveling up an incline to where the steps now are leading to Sir Thos. Brassey's Institute, and then down an incline to Claremont, instead of going the more direct and level road through Robertston street. Mr. Driver had the assurance to state in his report that the Council of Hastings were likely to assist the Government in carrying out this scheme. To the credit of the latter, be it said, that the idea was scouted by the whole body, and a resolution was unanimously carried that the Council would be no party to the alteration of the road unless such alteration placed the new road southward instead of northward of the existing road. This attempt to divert the means of communication between the two towns appeared to be inexplicable, inasmuch as only four months had elapsed since the Woods and Forests Commissioners gave orders - so it was said - for a road and foot-path to be formed across the Government Ground. The Council had memorialised the Government for this to be effected, and the memorial was responded to in the manner described. For five years the ground had been as a rough, sandy, shingly and limy desert, in the very heart of the borough, over which her Majesty's mail passed with as much safety only as could be ensured by manageable horses in the hands of vigilant and careful drivers. For the information of strangers and youthful readers who have not read my previous description, it may be briefly re-stated that in the years 1822 and '23, while in the condition of an open waste, the ground was taken possession of and built upon by anyone who had a mind to do so. There is little doubt that the ground in question was originally a part of "Ellsworth's Charity," of which I shall have something to say hereafter; but in the mean time, for the sake of a little diversion, I will here supplement the account given in an earlier chapter of the personal encounters of which I was an eye-witness, with an allusion to one or two other fierce contentions among the claimants of squatter-land. On the 10th of March, 1823, a party who had taken in a plot of ground and commenced to build upon it, was assailed by another party, who claimed to have been the first to mark out the site for himself, and charged his opponent as a usurper who had removed his neighbour's landmarks. A desperate scene ensued, in which, while bandying accusations and menaces, the contending parties actively engaged in pulling down and piling up, until at length the original assailants were beaten off, and a blue flag was hoisted in token of victory. On the 26th of June there was a resumption of hostilities, with an increase of force on both sides, the contention being, of course, the claiming of the same ground by two persons. The battle was long and desperate, and only terminated with wounds and bruises. On the same night some of Messrs. Mark and James Breeds's windows were broken in the High street, from which circumstance my readers will infer that those gentlemen were in some way concerned in the contention.
Not only was the Priory the battle-ground of the so-called squatters; it was also the scene of many a conflict between smugglers and coastguards, and upon it had been witnessed more than one encounter between professors of "the noble art of self-defence." Furthermore, the Priory was the rival of the Fishmarket as a site for the proposed harbour, a project which was described in my treatment of the events of 1838. It is to a contention, in 1840 and 1841, evolved from the last-named scheme, that I now direct the reader's attention. Beginning with a war or words, it was followed by a challenge to a personal encounter and ended in a legal appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench. On the 21st of February, Dr. Mc Cabe[Notes 4], on behalf of a committee appointed at a public meeting, presented Lieut.-Col. Williams with a silver inkstand, together with an illuminated address of thanks on vellum, for the part he had taken towards the proposed formation of a harbour. Anent this presentation, the Dover Chronicle of March 28th had a letter of which the following is a copy :-
Sir, - Noticing in the columns of your valuable journal lately, that the farce of presenting a silver inkstand (subscribed for by about a dozen people out of 10,000) to Lieut.-Col. Williams, had been performed, I trust this will be the last heard of the Colonel in the Borough of Hastings, where his anxieties to get a job have led him from time to time to sow the seeds of dissension amongst those who are connected with its best interests; at the same time proving his utter unacquaintance with engineering science as connected with harbours and groynes. With your permission, I would advise him, in his retirement at Catsfield, to follow the harmless pursuits of 'Uncle Toby,' so happily described by Sterne. If he is at a loss for a 'Corporal Trim,' one may be found in Hastings.
This was a sufficiently vexatious letter, from whatsoever quarter it might have emanated, but appearing as it did in a Radical paper whose politics were those which Col. Williams himself espoused the mental wound which it inflicted may be better imagined than described. Yet was the character of this gentleman more gravely assailed by the Editor of the Southern Advertiser, a Tory paper with which Mr. Troup was connected, but which had dropped its previously leading title of the Cinque Ports' Chronicle at the time when Col. Williams instituted legal proceedings against it. The suit in the Court of Queen's Bench between Lieut.-Col. Williams and the Editor of the Southern Advertiser did not come on for hearing until the year 1841, but as it arose out of proceedings in 1840, already related, it may be better to describe it here to preserve the connection of cause and effect. It was recorded in legal phraseology as "The Queen versus A. Collingridge," in which Mr. Jervis had been instructed on behalf of Lieut.-Col. Williams to apply to the Court for a rule to show cause why a criminal information should not be filed against the Editor of the Southern Advertiser. The grounds of the application were that Collingwood had sent a challenge to Col. Williams, and had charged him with cowardice in not fighting him. The affidavit of the complainant set out that he had been for 30 years in the Royal Engineers, and that having retired from that corps in 1837 on half-pay, he took up his residence in Hastings. Some time since, it being in contemplation by the people of Hastings and St. Leonards to construct a steamboat pier, it was thought that because of Col. Williams's former habits and occupation, he would be an eligible person to consult on that matter. He was ultimately requested to prepare plans, which he did, and the inhabitants passed a vote of thanks to him, and presented him with a piece of plate for his services. In consequence, however, of the parties interested in the scheme being unable to raise the necessary funds, the Pier was for a time abandoned. Col. Williams, as he had a right to do, entertained Liberal opinions, and was present at the dinner given to his (Mr. Jervis's) friend, Mr. Hollond, one of the Members for Hastings, which was a signal for an attack on Colonel Williams by the defendant Collingridge. The first shot fired was in the form of a letter headed "The Radical Lieutenant Colonel," and purporting to be signed by Col. Williams himself. The letter in question was published in Mr. Collingridge's paper. It stated that the Colonel did not possess a shilling interest in the town, and expressed his regret that when rather fresh at the Radical dinner, he should have attacked a gentleman of respectability who had expended thousands of pounds for the benefit of Hastings because the latter had found fault with his (Col. Williams') improvement. The proposed Pier was described as "a pretty little shingle-trap," and the letter which bore the signature of Col. Williams was supplemented by an editorial note, recommending every soldier who set up the trap of a Radical to sell his commission, because a Radical soldier was a disgrace to the Army. Col. Williams was naturally indignant at the publication of this pretended letter, and addressed a communication to a Brighton paper, stating that no editor having the smallest pretension to character would have inserted what was so evidently a falsehood without making a due enquiry; and regretted that a love of truth and honesty had been so completely lost in a political partizan. Shortly afterwards, another article appeared in the same paper, commenting on the letter previously published and stating that there was nothing in it but was gentlemanly and honourable. It charged Col. Williams with having told an impudent falsehood of a respectable inhabitant, and with having refused to pay a debt of honour for some newspapers sent to him. It also alleged that he was a traveling tinker, going from town to town to sow the seeds of dissension between masters and workmen, and assuring him that they should watch his proceedings and expose them to the world. On the 12th of September a letter was addressed to the Colonel, dated "The Bull Inn, Aldgate," and signed by Mr. Collingridge, in which it was stated that the writer had just seen in the Sussex Express a letter bearing the signature of Colonel Williams, containing observations of a strongly personal nature with regard to the communication which appeared in the Southern Advertiser; that he exercised no control over such communications, and that he scarcely ever saw them until they were in type; that there being no good ground for Col. Willliams's sweeping observations, he requested him to correct them or favour him with a reference to a friend for an immediate meeting. That letter was forwarded by Col. Williams to his solicitors in London, and on the 17th of September they wrote to Mr. Collingridge at the address given in his letter, 299 Strand, stating that it was their intention to apply at the earliest moment for a criminal information.
No notice was taken of that letter, and on the 16th of September another letter was sent by Mr. Collingridge to Col. Williams, stating that after his (Mr. C's) distinct avowal of any participation in the communication complained of, he (Col. W.) was bound as a gentleman to withdraw the observations he had made, or uphold them in another place. That letter Col. Williams also sent to his solicitors. On the 18th of Sept. a third letter was sent, charging him with having published a palpable falsehood, and that as he had not the courtesy to retract nor the courage to support the charges he had made, he (Mr. C.) must denounce his statements as lies, and his actions as cowardly to the last degree. Another letter having been written to Mr. Collingridge by Col. Williams's solicitors, a paragraph appeared in the Southern Advertiser to the effect that the Radical gentleman, Col. W. had applied to the Queen's Bench for protection, and that their readers would be shortly amused by the publication of the correspondence.
The learned Counsel having commented on the several attempts made to provoke Col. Williams to a breach of the peace, observed that they had shown the letters of Mr. Collingridge to two persons in London and one in Hastings who all admitted them to be in his own hand-writing, but refused to make affidavits to that effect unless compelled by the court. There were three gentlemen present who would swear that from what they heard the other three persons say they were of opinion that the letters were in Mr. Collingridge's hand-writing.
Mr. Justice Coleridge doubted very much if the Grand Jury could find a bill on such evidence, and the Rule was therefore refused.
Ellsworth's Charity - Infirmary Built and Opened
Apart from the decision of the court as affecting the parties immediately concerned, it was not with- Pg.227 -out interest to journalists in particular and to the public in general, and such interest may have lost but little of its value even in the present day, notwithstanding that at the time I am writing the new Registration Act comes into force which relieves journalism to a greater extent than hitherto from the liability of a prosecution for libel. In the case here referred to however, the prosecution was for a threatened damage to the person rather than to obtain damages for a libel. It must be admitted that the journalist was a plucky man to invite a colonel to a personal encounter, and that he was also an astute penman to manage the affair so adroitly.
Associated with the Priory Ground in 1840 was the rumour that the Commissions of Woods and Forests were about to hand it over to the military authorities for the purpose of erecting Cavalry Barracks thereon. If such appropriation was ever contemplated, it is needless to say it was never realised. It is possible that the rumour was floated with the wish to evade the question of roads, paths and other improvements which the Town Council were urging upon the attention of Government officials. In some comments upon this subject the East Kent Advertiser had the following remarks:-
"It is now August, and we do not find that anything has been done, nor that the memorial of the Mayor and Council in April last has been deemed worthy of the slightest notice of their High Mightinesses of the Woods and Forrests (sic). This is treating English corporate bodies in a way which the sturdy ancestors of the present submissive race would never have tolerated. We know not what Mr. Driver's habits may be; but if he is like most Government subordinates the thing is as hopefully progressive towards an improved state as it was seven years ago. In fifty years time this will be valuable building ground, and in the mean time something ought to be done.
Here was evidently a true prophet. The writer next referred to the manner in which the Government became possessed of the ground, and contended that, bad as was the title of the poor people who originally built upon it the claim of the Government was even worse. The details of the official proceedings in connection with this claim, together with the spoliation of the earlier claimants' property, I have already given from the facts within my own knowledge; but as the said writer expresses an opinion that the rightful parties were the owners of the Priory Farm, of which the ground in question formed a portion until it was laid waste by the sea, I will again quote from his remarks. He says
Of this farm Earl Cornwallis was the owner of three fourths, and the then Mr. Milward was in the enjoyment of, and called himself the owner of, the remaining fourth part. But this latter being the Ellsworth Charity, Mr. Milward could show no title, and the owners did not attempt to claim. The Corporation had an idea that they were entitled, but they did not claim. The Lord of the Manor was equally silent. The Government finding how the "land lay," at once stepped in, took forcible possession, frightened the occupiers into accepting a seven years' lease, and turned them out at the end of the term.
Readers who have followed me thus far in these contributions to local history may be interested in some details of the Ellsworth Charity Bequest as laid before the Court of Chancery of 1809 at the instance of Mr. Thomas Cloake, of Rye, and Mr. T. Breeds, of Hastings. During Trinity Term of that year the Attorney General exhibited an information against the Mayor, Jurats and Commonalty of Hastings, and others, which information was afterwards amended, so as to make Edward Milward, the elder, and Edward Milward, the younger, and others, defendants thereto. The information set forth that several Charities belonging to Hastings and Rye, might be regulated and established; and among the Charities mentioned, a bequest of Richard Ellsworth, formerly of Brickham, Somerset, was especially referred to. By a decree of the Court on the 3rd of December, 1812, it was ordered that it should be referred to one of the masters of the court to enquire whether there were any funds or property to carry the charitable bequest of Richard Ellsworth into execution, and in whose possession the same then were. The master made his report on the 10th of July, 1815, and thereby certified that he found by a decree of the Court of Chancery, bearing date 4th of Nov., 1707, in a cause in which Ralph Combes and Penelope, his wife, and the said Richard Ellsworth (then an infant) were plaintiffs, and Mary Dowell and others were defendants; and by a subsequent order bearing date 2nd of Dec., 1710, the said defendants were absolutely foreclosed of the equity of redemption on certain mortgaged premises; and that the said Richard Ellsworth thereby obtained an absolute interest for the term of 400 years in (amongst other premises) one-fourth part of the late Dissolved Priory, near Hastings. And the master also found that the said Richard Ellsworth, by his will, bearing date 11th of July, 1714, after giving various legacies to charitable uses, bequeathed all his right and part of the said dissolved Priory for ever towards teaching the poorest children of the parish to read and say their catechism, and for buying them spelling-books and The Whole Duty of Man; paying the tenth part of his share to the ministers of the parish, and whom he appointed to take care that that part of his will should be duly executed. And that the said testator gave to his two sisters, Elizabeth and Penelope Ellsworth, all his messuages, lands, tenements &c., in Somerset, Kent and Sussex, or elsewhere, paying first all his debts and legacies; and appointed his said sisters executrixes of his will. And the master found that the said Richard Ellsworth died on or about the 11th of August 1714, and that his said sisters proved his will; and that the said Richard Ellsworth had been appointed executor of the will of his father, the original mortgagee of the said premises. And the master found that the said Elizabeth Ellsworth married George Fursden, who, by his will of the 16th of April, 1740, appointed his son George his sole executor and residuary legatee; and that Penelope Ellsworth married Chas. Snape, and that by indenture, 13th Dec., 1725 (10 years after the death of Richard Ellsworth's son), made between Chas. Snape and Penelope, his wife of the one part, and Nicholas Furrs, of the other part, the said Chas. Snape and Penelope, his wife, in consideration of £1,000 to the said Chas. Snape, paid by the said Nicholas Furrs, demised one-eight (sic) part of all the said mortgaged premises to the said Nicholas Furrs for 300 years (being 100 years less than the original mortgage term), to secure £1,000 and interest. And the said Chas. Snape and wife thereby bargained and sold to the said Nicholas Furrs, his executors, &c., all sums of money due and to become due to the said Chas. Snape and wife upon any decree or other proceeding in the Court of Chancery relating to the premises before mentioned, to hold the same to the said Nisholas Furrs, his executors, &c., subject to redemption in payment of £1,050 at such time as therein mentioned. And the master found that from the nature of the said last-mentioned mortgage, which wa an assignment of one-eight (sic) part or share on said mortgaged premises, the said Penelope was not dealing with the property in her character of executrix of the said Richard Ellsworth, but in her character of his residuary legatee; and he submitted to the court that from such plea the said Penelope was not acting in the execution of the trust, and in the distribution of the assets of her testator; and that the said Nicholas Furrs, under whom Edward Milward claimed the premises, as the purchaser, was bound, having notice of the will, to enquire further into her more legal title as executrix.
And with respect to the other eighth part of the Dissolved Priory lands near Hastings, being one moiety of the fourth part of the said lands which became vested in the said Elizabeth Ellsworth, the Master found that the same was never disposed of by her, or by those claiming under her as an executrix of the trust of the will of the said Richard Ellsworth, and in the distribution of his assets for the payment of his debts; and the Master thereof submitted to the court that those people claiming under her having notice of the will of the said Richard Ellsworth were bound to enquire further than into her mere legal title, and that the people taking the property appeared to have treated it as an absolute interest in the term of years, and not as money or as security for a sum of money. And the Master certified that he found all the people under whom Edward Milward claimed had notice of the will of Richard Ellsworth, and were therefore bound, in common prudence to look to the contents of such will; and that the said Edward Milward the father, to whom the fourth part of the Dissolved Priory, near Hastings, was conveyed by indenture of the 15th of April, 1765, had notice of Richard Ellsworth' will, by which the fourth part of the Dissolved Priory was specifically bequeathed, subject to the particular trust in favour of a charity in the said will mentioned. And the Master found that the legal estate in the said term of 400 years, with the said fourth part of the Dissolved Priory, near Hastings, was not vested in the said Milward, but was outstanding; and that such fourth part which was conveyed by indenture on the 15th of April, 1765, to the said Edward Milward, the father, and which was then in the possession or power of Edward Milward, the son, was the fund and property to carry the charitable institutions of the said testator into execution. And the Master further certified that the proceedings in equity ought to be instituted in the Court of Chancery by the said defendant, Edward Milward the younger for the purpose of obtaining from the said court a declaration that the said Edward Milward was a trustee of the site conveyed to Edward Milward, the elder by the said indenture of April 15th 1765, for the charitable purpose contained in the will of Richard Ellsworth, the testator." "Exceptions to the Report were filed on the part of Mr. Milward, and on the cause coming on for hearing such exceptions, Jan. 28th, 1818, the said objections were overruled, and the court confirmed the Report and referried it back to the Master, to enquire what proceedings should be taken for the recovery of the said fourth part of the Dissolved Priory stated to be in possession of Edward Milward, as well as by whom, and against whom.
The account from which this is taken goes on to say that "the substance of the above statement has been supplied by Mr. Richard Whitton, the solicitor of the relators in the Information, but it has not yet been verified by reference to the papers in consequence of Mr. Whitton having failed to produce the papers which he had engaged to do.
Mr. Edward Milward the elder, died intestate, in the year 1811, and letters of administration were granted to his son who is now in possession of an undivided fourth of the farm near Hastings called the Priory Farm, consisting, exclusively of certain lands at Bexhill, held under the same title, of about 102 acres, in occupation of Mr. John Foster, as yearly tenant at a rent of £270, one fourth of which is paid to Mr. Milward. Some timber growing on the estate has been lately felled, and was sold for £118 15s., part of which money was laid out in repairs and improvements of buildings on the estate. Milward's share of the residue amounted to £17 0s. 7 1/2d."
The above account might have been more lucid and less lengthy but I have preferred to reproduce it as it appeared in a newspaper in 1839 in all its legal verbality. It was said that one of Milward's exceptions or objections was that no parish of Hastings was in existence and that the Priory Farm was in the reputed parish of Holy Trinity; but according to the wording of the foregoing statement, the Dissolved Priory is repeatedly alluded to as "near Hastings," so that this particular objection of Mr. Milward's falls to the ground.
The gentleman described in the above statement as Edward Milward, the elder, was 25 times Mayor of Hastings, commencing his duties in that capacity in 1750, at the age of 26, and concluding his civic functions with the year 1801, at the age of 77. He survived the latter period another ten years and was consequently in the 88th year when he was gathered to his fathers. He had the honour of supporting the canopy at the Coronation in 1761, and with the money realised by the sale of the silver staves used on that occasion, a handsome brass chandelier (not now to be seen) was purchased for St. Clement's Church. On the wall of the south aisle of the said church is a monumental tablet with the following inscription :-
Sacred to the memory of EDWARD MILWARD, Esquire, of this town and port who died the 25th day of July, 1811, in the 88th year of his age. Also to the memory of Mary, his wife, daughter of the late JOHN COLLIER, Esquire, who died the 21st day of June 1783, aged 58 years.
Edward Milward, the younger to whom the "information" respecting the Priory Ground more directly applies was also Mayor of Hastings; his election to the office being twenty times repeated, nine of which were in alternate succession to similar services rendered by his father, four when his father was too enfeebled by age for such duties, and seven after his father's death. He began his career as chief magistrate in 1786, as soon as he attained his majority, and finished it in 1824, when he had reached the age of 59 years. Thus, for over seventy years the Mayoralty was mainly in the keeping of the two Milwards named in the Chancery records anent the Priory Ground. Perhaps it was to the opportunities afforded by this and other offices being vested in a single family for three quarters of a century that excited suspicion of appropriation, not only of Ellsworth's Charity, but of other properties which I used to hear people talk about when I was young. Such suspicion, should, however, have been groundless if the inscription on the memorial tablet of the younger Milward is a faithful record It will be found on the north side of the chancel of St. Clement's Church, and is as follows:-
Sacred to the memory of EDWARD MILWARD, Esq., who, during a period of forty years, zealously and impartially discharged the various duties of a magistrate for the county of Sussex, and for the town and port of Hastings. He was distinguished in private life by the liberal exercise of the most generous and disinterested acts of friendship and benevolence, and died, deeply regretted, on the 10th of May, 1833, in the 68th year of his age.
The John Foster mentioned as the occupant of the Priory Farm, was for several years overseer of Holy Trinity parish. He came to Hastings from Lenham, in Kent, and died at the Priory Farm on Sunday the 9th of March, 1823, at the age of 65. He left a widow, who with a large family to provide for, continued the occupation of the farm. She survived her husband a period of 37 years, and died on the 23rd of April, 1860, at the age of 87. They were both interred at Fairlight, where also are resting the bodies of some of their children and grandchildren. It is a coincidence that the death of Mr. Foster took place a few hours previously to the desperate party contention over the claims of building sites, with the description of which I commenced the notice of the Priory ground; and it is therefore not inappropriate to close the said notice with a record of the passing away of those who were for many years the principal inhabitants of the parish.
Having referred to the contentions respecting the proposed Infirmary and its site in 1838, and the ultimate purchase of the ground in 1839, together with the raising of funds in the latter year by a grand bazaar at the Arcade, and by other means, it may be here mentioned that petitions against the chosen site were presented, both from Hastings and St. Leonards, even as late as January, 1840. The Committee, however, as before stated, resolved to proceed with the work, and at a meeting on the 11th April, they chose the plans of Mr. Dillon, at an estimated cost of £1750, the structure to be raised on the site purchased from Mr. Eversfield for £300. Such was the progress of the work after it was once commenced, that in less than three months the Infirmary was opened to out-door patients, and on the 1st of September - two months later - to in-patients. The medical practitioners who gave their services at the time, and who were afterwards duly appointed, were Dr. Duke, Mr. Savery and Mr. Ticehurst; and just at the time that the Infirmary was commenced, Dr. Cooke was elected a physician to the Dispensary, already in existence, in lieu of Dr. Wilmott, who had resigned. The Dispensary, it may be stated, was erected on the site of a house given for the purpose by the late William Lucas Shadwell, Esq.
Sermons on behalf of the new Infirmary were preached on the 20th of December, resulting in good collections. The Ven. Archdeacon of Lewes preached at St. Mary's-in-the-Castle, and the Rev. W. Simpson, Vicar of Bexhill, at St. Leonards.
The Harbour Project
Pg.228 Col. Williams had not even then relaxed his efforts for a Hastings harbour for although the inhabitants had given up the project as too expensive, a very long letter was written by Williams to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he contended that the Report of the Commissioners appointed to survey the harbours of the South-eastern coast did not convey to the public all the information that was desirable. He referred to pages 6 and 8 of the Report in which he was named as having been engaged a considerable time in preparing plans for a harbour at Hastings, and as having made suggestions for improving the harbour of Dover. He reminded the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Commissioners were desired to report on what situations were best calculated as places of shelter for vessels passing through the Channel and as places of refuge for merchant vessels from an enemy's cruisers during war, as well as for stations of armed steam vessels employed in the protection of our trade during war. The Colonel pointed out that the Report was imperfect, inasmuch as it dwelt mainly on perfect harbours of refuge capable of receiving any class of vessel under all circumstances of wind and tide, costing probably millions of money, instead of smaller harbours with a moderate depth of water, &c. The result of his enquiries, he said, had led him to state to the Commissioners that, taking all things into consideration, Hastings was the best site between Dover and Portsmouth for the construction of a sufficient harbour to give security to the trade and for receiving armed steamers; also that if accessibility at all times of the tide were not a sine qua non, the cost would not much exceed that of enlarging Dover harbour. # As the cost however, was the chief obtacle (sic) to the adoption of Col. Williams's scheme when the harbours of Dover, Ramsgate, Rye and Newhaven were advowedly (sic) inefficient, it remains to be seen whether Col. Williams's opinion still holds good now that a Hastings harbour is in progress of construction after tens of thousands of pounds have been spent on enlarging or otherwise improving the harbours above named. As regards the harbour at Rye Col. Williams purposely or accidentally overlooked the fact that the surveying Commissioners had reported favourably for improving that harbour as more desirable for coasting traffic and small craft in general than the construction of one at Hastings. The Dover Chronicle had also an article thereon, of which the following is an extract.
In an article, some months back, on the harbour project at Hastings, we suggested the desirability of a Landing Pier at that place, a thing of easy accomplishment in point of expense, compared with a harbour, and which would answer many of the purposes of a harbour under an improved connexion with Rye. Let the capabilities of Rye harbour be made the most of (for that harbour has never yet had a fair chance), and a tram-way or at least a direct road under the cliff be formed between Hastings and Rye. Hastings will then be in the same situation as Brighton; her steamers and craft will then lie in the Rye harbour, as the Brighton (sic) now do at Shoreham and Newhaven. Under favourable management Rye harbour might be made equal to any harbour on the South Eastern Coast. Let the course of the river be straightened and the channel where necessary be widened and deepened, so that there may be a good ebb and flow of the tide, and the present shifting bar which makes the mouth of that harbour at present an awkward approach, would in a great measure disappear. We congratulate the inhabitants of Rye that the report of the Admiralty Commission strengthens the our (sic) view of the subject. The improvement of Rye harbour, the formation of a direct road from Hastings and the erection of a pier at the latter is not only practicable, but will ensure the future prosperity of both these important towns.
A True Tale of Verulam Place
Pg.229 Another noticeable event was the delivery of two lectures in the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms by G. P. R. James, Esq., the celebrated novelist. These lectures were so well attended that the lecturer was enabled to hand over twenty guineas to the Literary Institution as the net proceeds. He was at that time staying at 2 Verulam place, whence he took his departure with his family for the Austrian capital.
As there were no buildings, even in 1840, between Verulam place and Cliff Cottages (now Nos. 5 and 6 Eversfield place), I will name the people whom I knew as occupants of the first-named houses at that period, and then relate a love story in association therewith that will do much to verify the assertion that "truth is stranger than fiction." At No. 1, where previously had been a Classical School, with Dr. Byron as the principal, was residing a Mr. and Mrs. Selmes, whose daughter, many years after, married a gentleman of the medical profession, and at a later period caused a sensation by eloping with a military officer. At No. 2, as already stated, were the family of G. P. R. James, the novelist. At No. 4 were Mr. and Miss Mears, and occasionally the lady's brother, Capt. Mears. At No. 5 Mrs. Jermyn and family were staying as visitors. No. 6 was occupied by Mr. Creswell and family, and Mr. Richards and family. At No. 7 the Misses Hancock had lived for several years, and continued there to reside for many years after. Mrs. David Manser, whose husband had built and owned several of the houses occupied No. 9; whilst Mrs. Young was the occupant of No. 10.
There also lived at one of these houses a lass who for the purpose of our tale shall bear the name of Jeanette. She was betrothed to a swain who, also for the purpose of personal mystification, shall be called Leonardo. These are the only fictions however that my story will contain, the rest being strict matter of fact and a true unvarnished tale. The couple had been courting for some few years, and nothing had occurred to destroy the confidence and attachment that sprang from pure affection. Leonardo was a young tradesman of small means, but of respectable and industrious habits, whilst Jeanette was maid and companion to an invalid lady. It had been mutually agreed to defer the day of marriage until both persons had raised their "capital account" to a sum that should all but insure success when themselves and their worldly goods were united. Love was admittedly the ruling passion, but as even that could not well subsist on "bread-and-cheese and kisses," it was resolved to subordinate to some extent the consummation of holy matrimony to the baser idea, but greater convenience of matter-of-money. Jeanette's lady had been advised to undertake a voyage to Madeira that she might avoid the rigour of an English winter which advice she resolved to act upon, if by advancing the position of her maid, the latter could be prevailed upon to accompany her. The engagement of the lovers was quite within the cognizance of the lady referred to, and with true feminine sympathy for her maid, as well as a just appreciation of the feelings of him to whom the latter was affianced, both parties were consulted and their consent obtained. Thus arranged, the voyage was soon undertaken and safely pursued. Improved health being the result it was deemed advisable that the invalid should remain a second winter and the better to accomplish this, it was considered desirable that the intervening summer should also be spent abroad. For this also the sanction of Leonardo was solicited, thus showing by inference that the young tradesman was regarded as a factor of some importance in the calculation. The correspondence between the young people went on smoothly until the time arrived for the homeward voyage to be made, the termination of which was eagerly looked for as affording the opportunity for a happy meeting. This was accomplished and Verulam place became once more the principal rendezvous.
The marriage of the young couple was, however, deferred for an indefinite, but not intentionally long, period; the invalid lady having prevailed on her companion-maid to remain with her until a suitable successor could be met with. Associations in travel and in foreign climes had begotten a mutual attachment which was loth to be severed even when the stipulated period had expired; and with an assurance of this it was with no great surprise that Leonardo found himself importuned to give his consent to the proposal for Jeanette to accompany her lady on one more trip to southern climes, that to be the final one, and the place of sojourn to be Malta. The young tradesman was still making steady headway in business, and was justified in the belief that irrespective of the small additional capital which might accrue from Jeanette's savings by the already overdue marriage, his chances of commercial success would be enhanced by his having someone to look after the housekeeping and to at least answer enquiries during his temporary absence from home. Some twenty-six or twenty-seven summers had already passed over the head of Leonardo and it did not enter into his conception that he was "o'er young to marry," yet he yielded with becoming grace to the solicitation to postpone the event for another year, and so the projected voyage to Malta was undertaken. Among the letters that afterwards passed between the lovers, there was one in which Jeanette made playful allusions to an offer of marriage from the steward of the steamship which conveyed her to Malta. This information excited neither suspicion nor jealousy in Leonardo's breast, but as the postage of letters in those days was expensive it was suggested to Jeanette that in future it would be a considerable saving to send letters weighing half an ounce via Falmouth for 1/- instead of, as theretofore, under a quarter of an ounce via Marseilles for 1/10. To this suggestion the very cool reply was received "If I am not worth 1/10, I suppose I am not worth anything, and the correspondence had better cease." Then, for the first time, Leonardo's suspicion was aroused that the steward's offer had not only not been rejected indignantly as implied by Jeanette's letter but that it had really received favourable consideration. Leonardo with a full conviction that his own professions and intentions had been, and still were, of the most loyal and honourable character, felt that he was undeserving of the accusation of meanness, even by implication; and in a spirit of manly candour he indited (sic) a long, and what proved to be a last, letter to the woman who had doubly and trebly promised to become his wife. In that letter Jeanette was importuned to at once declare if there was not something other than the mere suggestion about the postal route to cause so sudden a change in the tone of her correspondence. If not, she was to think no more of the saving of expense but to send her letters, as before, by the quicker and dearer way. A reminder was given of the deference that had been paid to her wishes in matters of importance, and of her own assurances of affectionate attachment, which had been both appreciated and reciprocated; but at the same time it was distinctly stated that if the epistolary correspondence was to continue it must be resumed by her who had intimated the desire to break it off. Month after month passed, and no reply was forthcoming. The suspense was inimical to mental tranquility, but it was borne with a consciousness of injured innocence which could only be compensated for by a frank disavowal of imputed wrong. As this was not obtainable, Leonardo suspended his final decision until Jeanette again returned to her native town, although when that occurred, standing, as he fancied, on a pinnacle of insulted honour, Leonardo purposely abstained from any undue eagerness to bid her welcome. After a short time, however, the estranged lovers met, but the meeting assumed the common-place courtesies of ordinary acquaintances more than that of attached friends who had long before pledged their fidelity to each other. Yet even then the way was still open for an explanation of that contretemp, accidental or otherwise, which had distrubed the relations. This explanation was not offered and a cool shaking of hands at parting left Leonardo no longer in doubt as to the course which he ought to pursue. He was not one of those conceited coxcombs who fancied that any young woman could be his for the asking, yet he had sufficient knowledge of the world to be assured that for every Jack there was a Jill, and he immediately set about in a more business fashion than before to find the one who was really destined for himself. It recurred to his memory that before her crossing the ocean the first time, Jeanette had consulted - so she said - an astrologer who assured her of her safety in travel, but that a different man to the one she was then keeping company with would be her future husband. She refused to believe, she said, anything the man had told her because of her strong feeling that the latter part of his statement was not possible of realisation. How changed, methinks, must have been her feelings at the period to which this story has reached! The next phase of this true love story will divert the reader's phrenological organ of "locality" from Verulam place, yet the story in its entirety must be regarded as an associative episode in ths (sic) writer's historical and biographical reminiscences of Hastings and St. Leonards. Leaving Jeanette to follow the bent of what appeared to be her own inclination, Leonardo sought an interview with a fair maiden to whom he had been recommended by one who was well acquainted with the personal qualifications of both. Matters were arranged in the course of a few weeks, and this comparatively short acquaintance rapidly developed into the more enduring friendship of man and wife. The aphorism of "marry in haste and repent at leisure" was never more signally falsified; and although the union did not bring wealth, it at least brought happiness, and justified to the full the lines which the present writer, with a full knowledge of the facts, wrote some years later when wanting a theme for his muse. The lines in question assumed the following form :-
FIRST AND LAST LOVE
Speak not of your first-love as matchless and true,
Nor sigh for that only one bliss that you knew;
Of once dreamt-of pleasures your fancy divest,
And cherish the faith that the last love is best.
It needs but clear vision, it maybe to see
How sweet is the new, how confiding and free,
E'en more than the old to a ne'er doubting breast;
How really and truly the last love is best.
Reflection's but needed, our musings among,
To teach us a truth that's been hidden too long;
A truth that 'twere right to be long since confessed,
Of first love and last love the last love is best.
The former, perchance, was a well-gilded toy,
Which brought its possessor no permanent joy;
The latter more surely brings comfort and rest,
And crowns the belief that the last love is best.
I am betraying no confidence when I say that until the literal fulfilment of the seer's predictions as applying to Jeanette's own case, Leonardo was very sceptical, and rather severely critical, of anything which savoured of fortune-telling. But seeing that he had failed in his cherished object, he began to consider whether he was not getting a quid pro quo for his almost savage disbelief of what was called the astrologic (sic) art. He was now on a new hunt, and instead of opposing those influences which were said to favour the chase, there could be no harm, he thought, in courting the god of love in a more compliant mood. Dante had said
"Follow but thy star,
Thou canst not miss at last a glorious haven."
But which was his star? That, indeed, was a mystery to him. He had not been a star-gazer except for purely astronomical purposes, and no such works of modern research and scientific teaching as The Text Book of Astrology or The Science of the Stars, published by Mr. Pearce, in 1879 and 1881, so far as he knew, were in existence in 1843. He had heard it said, however, that anything of importance - and especially the marriage rite - undertaken when Jupiter and Venus were well aspected, would be attended with fortunate results. Very well! There was to be a close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on the 25th of January, 1844, which the almanacks and newspapers of that period assured the public would be a very interesting phenomenon if the weather should prove favourable. In default, therefore, of that astrological knowledge which he had hitherto contemned (sic), Leonardo declared that he would try his luck and test the wisdom of the astrologers at the same time by selecting that particular day - and almost the very hour - for his matrimonial union with the new object of his affection. There was the bare probability, however, that even in this, his second pursuit, the gods would not be propitiated, and that he was destined to experience that "the course of true love never runs smooth." He had made choice of one whom he was assured was entirely free from any previous Pg.230 engagement, but no sooner was the contract completed than a would-be rival appeared on the scene. This quassi (sic) rival had conceived a passion which, as he told his quandom friends, he had hitherto concealed from the object of that passion until she should have grown a few years older, so that the great disparity of ages should be less noticeable; but now that his purpose was being thwarted in such an unexpected manner, he could no longer restrain his feelings, but allowed them to excite his jealousy and revenge to such a pitch as to induce the belief that he was not accountable for his actions. Thus, in his wild moments, he confided to some of his acquaintances that, sooner than permit a rival to supplant him in the object of his affections, he would waylay him and take away his life, notwithstanding that his own doom would be the scaffold. Apprised of this resolution of a claimant in prospective, Leonardo acted upon the aphorism of "A faint heart never won a fair lady," and so treated the threat with a nonchalance which he hoped was worthy of his aim. He might have had occasional misgiving as he journeyed to and from the trysting place in a dark winter's night, and one a road which was the very acme of loneliness, but if so, he was soon reassured by the righteousness of his cause, combined with the confidence which for once he had placed in a "lucky star."
A Tale of Verulam Place - Description of the Front Line
The appointed day at length arrived, and the marriage, with its subsequent festivity, was accomplished in the most successful manner. The earth was clothed with a mantle of snow, whose pearl-white crystals glistened in the rays of an unclouded sun; the tables of a baronial hall teemed with the choicest of nature's produce provided by liberal hands; vocal and instrumental music, stationed on the spacious lawn, further enlivened the already joyous scene; and the beautifully conjoined planets, with their dazzling brilliance in the starry vault at night formed, indeed,, the interesting spectacle that had been predicted on their behalf. To the newly-married couple who had, as it were, committed their destiny to the sweet influence of those shining lights, the interest of the scene was intensified, for they seemed to lead the way over many miles of traveled ground from east to west, and from one party who were celebrating the marriage to another party who were awaiting the "Welcome Home." Thus, with Shakespeare, the happy couple were ready to exclaim :
"So smile the heavens upon this holy act,
That after hours with sorrow chide us not."
But what of Jeanette? the reader may ask. Is she to disappear altogether from the scene? No! - and this is the painful part of the story; but it must be told. In his new-found joy, Leonardo, as he journeyed that night over the Hastings "Desert" and passed a certain house in Verulam place, could not quite dispel from his mind the reflection that if at some time Jeanette should ally herself to someone less worthy than she deserved - for she was undoubtedly a deserving woman - there was the possibility of her discovering that the fault had been her own. Such a contemplation was, however, but briefly indulged in, for Leonardo had naturally at such a time an abundance of occupation both for his thoughts and attention. A year or two rolled on, and then came the news that Jeanette was married to a man of inferior position whom she had met with in France. "Well, I am surprised!" exclaimed one of her acquaintances. "Poor girl!" sympathetically responded another, "I do hope she will be happy, but it looks as if she had thrown herself away." After a little while a business was taken in St. Leonards by Jeanette and her partner; and with a desire to be on friendly terms, frequent invitations for a visit were given by Leonardo and his wife, the latter offering assurances to the effect that she would be always ready to welcome any friend or acquaintance of her husband's. The invitation was not accepted; and, some years after, on the occasion of an accidental meeting, in a railway carriage - the only occupants of which were Leonardo, Jeanette and the latter's little boy - the question was put, during a desultory conversation on miscellaneous topics, "How is it that you have never been to see us?" After some hesitation, with face crimsoned, and the voice, slightly tremulous, uttered the words, "I really could not, after my treatment of you; I should not feel comfortable in the presence of one so much more deserving of your confidence than I could have ever been”. Had Leonardo been capable of anticipating such a response he probably would not have put the question; for, although he felt some kind of relief to his own once troubled mind that in the unexpected confession, the long-delayed explanation had by inference come at last, it grieved him that he had unwittingly touched a tender chord. The face of Jeanette was then turned towards that of her child, and a white handkerchief was placed between them as though to disguise the absorbtion (sic) of moisture from the mother’s eyes. A pause ensued, and after a while the conversation was resumed in a more cheerful strain,but upon quite a different theme.
Years went on, and troubles thickened with their number. Jeanette's family increased; her husband became an invalid; her own savings, invested n the business, were exhausted; and at last, worn down with care, hard work and anxiety, the worthy woman resigned her breath to Him who gave it. The whole help and stay of the family had passed away, and nothing remained for the invalid husband to do but to go with a portion of his young family, into a well-known asylum for the infirm and destitute. Most of these troubles had run their course ere the account of them reached the ears of Leonardo, who would have had a heart of adamant not to have been moved to pity by the recital of them. "And of what complaint did the good woman die?" was the question put to the informant, a relative of the deceased, and one who knew all her surroundings from a child. "You ask me," said he, "of what complaint she died, and I have no hesitation in saying that she died of a broken heart." "Poor girl!" ejaculated Leonardo, "I am indeed sorry for her and her family, but my sorrow would have been less bearable to myself had she not voluntarily relieved me, some years ago, of any suspicion that I might have entertained of her belief that I had not the disposition to make her a happy wife had she not of her own will broken off the engagement."
Fifty-three years have passed since Leonardo and his second love were united in Hymen's bonds, and as they are still mentally and physically capable of enjoying life, it seemeth to warrant the assumption that
'Twere right for a truth to be long since confessed,
That of first love and last love the last love is best.
And now, indulgent reader, I hope I have not wearied you with this partly pleasurable and partly sorrowful episode. It is but an outline narrative of facts, which might have been filled in with interesting and, to some extent, sensational details. But that would have required the plume of a novelist, instead of the more sober pen of a mere chronicler of events. It therefore appears, as was intended at the outset, a simple and true tale of Verulam Place.
My readers have lately accompanied me in an imaginary journey westward from Beach Cottages to Verulam Buildings, during which I have descanted on the Condemned Hole and its smuggling associations, the Priory Ground and its history, the Ellsworth Charity and the battle-ground of the Squatters, the harbour scheme and what came out of it, the Priory Farm and its occupants, the opening of the Infirmary and previous contentions over its site, and the "love-story" of Verulam place, the situations and circumstances of which were sufficient proof that the ways of fact are some times as devious and uncertain as those of fiction. Between Verulam place and the projected Warrior square there was still a long line of frontage where Eversfield place was afterwards erected, the two houses known as Cliff Cottages (now 5 and 6 Eversfield) being the only interception, and the cliffs continuing to present the rugged, dwarfish and unpicturesque appearance in which they were left in 1834-5, when the contractor's men cut them down for the double purpose of building-sites and for material with which to form the new road and parade. Some description of this formation has been given in preceding chapters, but now that I think of them a few more particulars may not be out of place. The road which at the time of writing affords such an excellent drive was, up to the year when the Princess Victoria and her mother came to St. Leonards at a lower level- if indeed it could be called a level - flanked on one side by indented and obtruding cliffs, and on the other by immense ridges of shingle which in the absence of artificial walls and groynes the sea was enabled to lay up as a barrier to its own encroachment. Much of this old road was as far removed from the sea as are the present Eversfield houses although it was necessarily of a somewhat serpentine formation in consequence of sundry projections of the land. During the construction of the new road and parade by Mr. Ranger at the expense of the Eversfield Estate much inconvenience to traffic was experienced, and the Surveyors of Highways for St. Mary Magdalen had occasionally to be armed with special powers for removing or modifying the obstructions. Hence, at a vestry meeting held in the month of Nov. 1834, the Surveyor was instructed to compel the contractor to make the thoroughfare between St. Leonards and Hastings more passable for carriages and foot-passengers; and in the event of Mr. Ranger not complying, to order the rails to be taken up. These rails were laid down in a tramway fashion for the carting of material from the cliff to the parade, and added to the dangerous nature of a broken-up thoroughfare in a dark night without lamps. The order being insufficiently complied with, another meeting of parishioners was held in the following January, when a committee, consisting of Messrs. Jeffries, Wood, Waghorne, Troup, Deudney, Austin and Inskipp. - the then principal holders of property eastward of the Archway - to assist the surveyors in enforcing the before-mentioned conditions. The pressure of this representative phalanx, together with considerations suggested by the presence of royalty and the desire of Mr. Eversfield to realise many thousands of pounds by the sale of that vast frontage which his agents once offered to Mr. James Burton for only one-thousand had the desired effect; so that on the last day of February the committee were able to report that a positive assurance had been obtained from the Trustees of the Estate that the whole of the new road should be immediately completed and beached. This promise was satisfactory so far as it went, but the holders of property were so determined to see it carried into effect that the vestry meeting was adjourned till the 3rd of March, when Mr. Walter Inskipp stated, by letter, that he had received the command of the Eversfield Trustees to put the road between the Archway and the White-rock Brewery in a good condition, and that Mr. Putland had already commenced the work. To the credit of the parish be it also said, that as its surveyors had been desired to repair the road between the White-rock and the Brewery - probably on account of the previous inroads of the sea - the sum of £12 was paid to Mr. Chas. Deudney (of the White-rock Brewery), another sum of £2 12s. 6d. to Mr. Putland, for work done by him, and a third sum of £3 7s. to Mr. Ranger, the contractor to the Eversfield Estate.
At and from that date the duties of the Highway surveyors were such as to make the office anything but a sinecure; and as I have hitherto named the offices for St. Leonards parish, and not those for St. Mary Magdalen, in which parish the greater portion of St. Leonards town was situated, it may be well to append a list of the latter from 1828 to 1840. These were :-
|1828||Robt. Deudney||Chas. Deudney, sen||----|
|1829||Robt. Deudney||Robt. Deudney|
|1830||Robt. Deudney||Robt. Deudney||Wm Longley|
|Steph. Milstead||Wm. Ridley|
|1831||Robt. Deudney||Robt. Deudney||Steph. Milsted|
|Benj. Homan||Steph. Putland||Hy. Edlin|
|1832||Benj. Homan||Steph. Putland||Steph. Milsted|
|Geo. Scott||Jas. Homan||Hy. Edlin|
|1833||Wm. Waghorne||Steph. Putland||Steph. Milsted|
|Jos. Wells||R. T. Noakes||Hy. Edlin|
|1834||Wm. Waghorne||Wm. Eldridge||Steph. Milsted|
|Wm. Eldridge||H. P. Hutchings||Robt. Deudney|
|1835||Wm. Waghorne||Jas. Harman||Steph. Lovelock|
|Wm. Eldridge||Jno. Collins||Saml. Chester|
|1836||Jno. Viner||Jas. Harman||Wm. Beck|
|W. Lempriere||S. Putland||Hy. Hughes|
|1837||Jas. Troup||Walter Inskipp||Wm. Beck|
|C. V. Levett||John Evenden||Edwd. Pilcher|
|1838||Hy. Beck||Chas. Deudney||Wm. Waghorne|
|Jas. Mann||Steph. Putland||H. P. Hutchings|
|1839||Geo. Voysey||Jas. Troup.||Wm. Noon|
|Saml. Chester||Wm. Waghorne||Newton Parks|
|1840||Jno. Austin||Jas. Troup||Wm Noon|
|Alfred Burton||Wm. Waghorne||Newton Park|
Before the year 1828, when the parish contained only a few farm-houses and lands, the overseership and highway management were principally and precessively in the hands of Mr. Robert Deudney, his father (Chas. Deudney) and his grandfather (Thos. Deudney); and this period extended from 1762 to 1830, after which latter date, for forty or fifty years, the late venerable J. P. continued to take an active interest in the parochial management of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen.
The mention of some other appointments between the years 1828 and 1849 will indicate the growth of population and the changes which were effected during that twelve years; whilst by comparison with present exigences and conditions it will show the giant strides that have been made since. Up to the year 1834 the overseers had to collect the rates themselves, but at that time a parish meeting resolved that they be allowed 2 1/2 per cent to find an efficient collector; and in the following year, Mr. Peerless was appointed Assistant-overseer at a salary of £5 per annum. If in those days a labourer was as well worthy of his hire as in the present, it speaks but little for the appreciation of efficiency when the parishioners expected a man to collect two or three rates a year from the Archway to the Victoria Hotel in one direction and from the Archway to the White-rock Brewery in another for the paltry pittance of £5 per annum. At such a price it need be no surprise that the magistrates were asked to allow a discharge of from twenty to forty pounds at a time as uncollected or unrecoverable rates. The parishioners appear to have been actuated by similar parsimony when they voted a sum not exceeding £5 per year for the services of a beadle, and ordered the discontinuance of £3 per year to Hollington parish towards William Shoesmith's salary as beadle for the three parishes of Hollington, St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen. What a stupendous police force was this! And that nothing in that particular department should be wanting, the new functionary (Stephen Eldridge) was to be assisted by three respectable tradesmen as special constables, the first batch to consist of Messrs. Putland, Payne and Mortimer, the aim, as stated in a resolution, being "to provide a more efficient police, and to prevent nuisances." There was one other office, in providing for which, the parishioners - probably in an over-estimate of the value of medical labour and materials - were exuberantly magnanimous. They positively offered £10 per year to surgeon B. P. Smith for attending all the poor in the parish and supplying them with medicine for twelve months. This was an extravagant price when it is borne in mind that Mr. Frederick Ticehurst was doing a similar thing for St. Leonards parish for just half the amount, and that Mr. Watts, at Battle had previously done it for £2 a year. With more experience, however, and with a considerable increase of population the matter was reconsidered in the following year (1833) and the reduced sum of £5 was to be offered to Mr. Madden, and if he refused it, then Mr. Smith was again to be applied to, and if he declined it, as a last alternative, the magnificent sum was to be offered to some of the surgeons at Hastings. "Oh! they needn't turn up their noses at such a proffered stipend; there were plenty of doctors to be had in the old town, and the salary was very liberal!" Besides there was a shilling to be paid for every poor person that was vaccinated, and as some of them afterwards died of smallpox, the parish thus got rid of them as paupers, and saved its money. Another saving was effected in providing coffins for them. Theretofore the charges for coffins had been made regardless of any fixed scale, but for the future a pauper's coffin was not to exceed 30s. Another saving was sought to be effected in the supply of gas to the four public lamps which lighted the mile of road between the Archway and the White-rock Brewery, and after some amount of "chafering," the parish made its own terms of £2 15s. per lamp. This was in 1833, but in 1834 the parish recoiled from the contract and the road remained unlighted for several years. In the year 1840 Mr. John Phillips had been vestry clerk both for the Magdalen and St. Leonards parishes a full decade, and so continued four years longer for the former, and thirty years longer for the latter when he died. A re-valuation of the property was made in the Magdalen parish in 1840, previous revisions having been made in 1837 and in 1832; whilst in the St. Leonards parish only one re-assessment had taken place during the twelve years, although many separate readjustments had Pg.231 been made. So far as I can learn, no parish boundaries had been perambulated during that duodecennial period, and I dare to say that until a vestry meeting was called to consider the application of Mr. Wastel Brisco to divert one of the prettiest paths out of Hastings, not one in ten of the parishioners knew that the said path was within the Magdalen boundary. I have before dwelt upon the grave mistake that was made in allowing this diversion whereby the public footpath, instead of gently ascending as it had hitherto done from the steps near where is now the Central Weslyan Chapel and through the Step-meadow and an adjoining paddock to Shornden Wood, was turned down into a deep hollow as it now exists from the University School and the Hastings railway tunnel. The resolution passed as the vestry meeting was as follows :-
At this vestry, considering the proposal made by Wastel Brisco, Esq., for diverting a certain part of a public footway leading through the lands of the Earl of Cornwallis and Sarah Milward, widow, the Trustees of the Hastings Charity Estates and of the said Wastel Brisco, within the parishes of the Holy Trinity, and St. Mary Magdalen, commencing in a field called the Step meadow (part of the Priory Farm) and terminating at Shornden Wood, of the length of 1296 yards or thereabouts described in the plan now produced, and to stop up the first-mentioned footway; it is resolved that this vestry agree to the proposal; and that the chairman be directed to order the surveyors of this parish to apply to two Justices to view the said footway, agreeably to the Act, with the understanding that all expenses be paid by Wastel Brisco and upon his undertaking to raise the intended footway at the bottom between Hilly-glen Field and the Spring Field to the height of 8 feet at least.
It is presumable that the small number of persons who passed the resolution thought more of the gain likely to accrue to the parish by the increased rating of Mr. Brisco's mansion and grounds than of the inconvenience to the public. But the said rating was a bone of contention for a considerable time afterwards, the "laird" of Bohemia applying more than once for an abatement in his assessment, but without success.
St. Leonards Deaths in 1840
As compared with after years the St. Leonards community in 1840 was still inextensive, and in so moderate a population many events which in the present day might lose some of their significance were at that time regarded as of sufficient importance to be treasured in the memory. Some of these I have, however, purposely omitted but it occurs to me that as I have already referred to the deaths of some of the early settlers as well as to the births of the first boy and girl in the new town, it might be appropriate to close the record of events for the year under consideration with a list of births, marriages and deaths. But as it is only of the last named that my list is complete, I must of course confine myself to that, merely remarking that of the other two the births had probably a considerable preponderance over the deaths, whilst the marriages, in all likelihood were much fewer than either. Among the births, however, there was one which I remember of being especially noteworthy. It was of twins, - a boy and a girl, - and as the children were born on the 10th of February, the day when Queen Victoria was married - the local celebration of which has been fully described - the mother of the children (a poor woman) had them appropriately christened Victoria and Albert. The deaths, exclusive of a few visitors, whose remains were conveyed away from the town, were 22 in number; and these, together with the ages and months in which they occurred (omitting the day of the month, of which in some cases I am not certain) are as follow (sic) :
|Henry Veness||January||28 years|
|Sarah Offen||January||65 years|
|John Collins||February||2 months|
|William Taylor||March||22 years|
|Thomas Bell||April||2 days|
|Ann Bell||April||48 years|
|Emma Bell||May||6 years|
|John White||April||3 weeks|
|Geo. Lewis Bumstead||April||2 years|
|Robert Shepherd||April||79 years|
|Edward Roper||April||14 months|
|Jane Noakes||April||2⅔ years|
|George Waterman||May||15 months|
|James Smith Bower||May||4 years|
|Ella Sophia Raffles||May||19 years|
|Eliza Williams||June||20 years|
|James Francis Scott||July||4 years|
|William Lloyd||July||26 years|
|Elizabeth Freeman||November||9 months|
|Elizabeth Milson||November||55 years|
|Mary Colbran||November||9 years|
|Absalom Constable||December||18 months|
In the above list is Robert Shepherd, who was known as a quiet, respectable lodging-house keeper, at 16 Marina, and who, with Mrs. Shepherd, had previously kept a lodging-house in the Rope walk, ere the Priory Ground was claimed by Government. He built the first houses in Shepherd street, as heretofore stated, and thus gave the name to the street. He died in his 80th year,and his widow died ten years later, in her 82nd year. Another name in the list is that of Mary Colbran, aged 9 years. She was the daughter of a shoe-maker, who lived in Mews Yard, and her death, which resulted from accidental burning, is remembered by the writer as one which necessitated an inquest, in which he acted for the first time as a juryman, when an unsuccessful attempt was made to "colt" him, his excuse being that the occasion was not a fit one for a social drinking bout. Happily, this unseemly custom is now more honoured in the breach than in the observance. It may be stated that the remains of all the above-named persons were interred in the St. Leonards Burial Ground, and that the Rector and Curate at that time were respectively the Revs. C. W. Leslie and James Murray. The marriages of that year at the St. Leonards Church included that of Arthur Sawyer Brook, of Bexhill, and Ellen Carswell, of Hastings.
I have stated that the penny post commenced on the 10th of January, 1849, and that it was when I was writing that portion of this History that I received a circular issued by Mr. Patrick Chalmers, and published in 18 of the London papers, drawing attention to a pamphlet that had been published by the same gentleman showing that the penny postage scheme of Rowland Hill was not his own conception, but that he commenced to carry out in 1837 a scheme which was embodied in a recommendation, in 1836, in the "5th Report of the Commissioners of Post Office Enquiry", such recommendation being a low and uniform rate of 1d the ½ oz. to be charged by weight and prepaid by stamp.
- The number here is obscured. We know Brett settled in Norman Road in 1844, the year of his marriage, and from biographical information he wrote this portion of the history aged 89 - Editor
- Brett has scribed out the numbers here - Transcriber
- There would appear to be an annotation of 'On pg 22' here - Transcriber - This could be 231 as per following chapter - Editor
- Yet another of Brett's alternate spellings of Dr. MacCabe's surname - Editor
- Brett wishes the following page to be inserted. We have not done this in order to preserve the original sequence of the Histories - Editor
Transcribed by Jan Gilham