Brett Volume 3: Chapter XLII - Hastings 1849
- 1 Transcriber’s note
- 2 Chapter XLII - Hastings 1849
| 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 XLII - Hastings 1849
Resuscitation of the "Hastings News” and extracts from its sensibly written reader
23 Commissioners disqualified, one of them afterwards dying a centenarian
Erection of St. Andrew's railway arch on an altered plan
The Flimwell and Hastings Turnpike Bill
A passage of a re-improvement of the Marine parade
The absurdities of the Post-office lamp, and the "Ghost of the Old Commission" thereon
Mr. Wyatt, the path obstructionist unheeded
Resignation of Mr. Catley, the Town Surveyor
Mr. Gant recommended as successor, but Dungate Thwaites elected
A suggestion to raise the Surveyor's salary from £75 to £100, to ensure efficiency declared to be monstrous! Let it be £80
Gift of the Pelham Place parade by the Earl of Chichester
Experiment of gas-tar on the acquired parade declared to be a failure
Dedication of St Andrew's Terrace, Spring Terrace, Russell Street and Prospect Place
Mr. Lansdell offers £1,000 towards a parade in front of Breeds Place
Improving the outfall of the Bourne
Trouble with railway navvies, and rewards of 12 men for their assistance
Board of Guardians meetings
Collisions and loss of vessels
Mackerel. caught on New Years Day
The "Fairy" on the rocks
A lark at sea
Wreck of the “Lord Hill"
Raising a sunken vessel
The "Ariel" lifeboat
Refusals to be vaccinated
Magistrates not to be had, and a similar absence of presiding Alderman
Presentation to Mr. Harvey
Births, marriages and deaths
Numerous coroner's inquests
short obituaries of surgeon Ranger, Lieut. Hennah, Charles Coleman, Mrs. Glandfield, Mercy White, Hugh Penfold, Mrs. Mackay, Mr. Helland, Henry Everett and Mr. Cooke
Trial and execution of Mrs. Geering of Guestling, for poisoning her husband and two sons – Life sketch of the murderess
Accidents and fatalities on the railway works
Robberies by the navvies
Lectures and entertainments
The last meetings and transactions of the Hastings Commissioners; their powers being absorbed by the Town Council, as the Local Board of Health.
Transactions of the Hastings Commissioners
Pg.333 In commencing the story of 1849 there are reasons present to my mind why I should give the first place to the resuscitation of the Hastings News after being defunct for a brief season and for causes already explained, The said journal originated and edited by Mr. W. Ransom—was the first paper established in the borough that has continued to the present time, for, although the founding of two separate journals had been previously attempted, they had but a very short existence; thus showing that they were unsatisfactorily managed or that Hastings was not ready for a weekly supply of literature and news. There was much in the tone of the News with which the present writer was in accord, and there is much also in the following extract that will be endorsed by advocates for municipal élections to be effected on non-political lines. In its issue of Jan, 6th, the News says :—
“We have again the pleasure of presenting the Hastings and St. Leonards public with a paper which they may call their own; and we trust that they will ever find pleasure in giving it that title. That the interregnum in the existence of this journal was a matter of regret to the inhabitants of these towns we think we may honestly assert; and we rejoice to find the result justify our expectations that they can and will appreciate a journal which has for its object—not the aggrandisement of a party—not the carrying out of a commercial speculation; but which aims, with a single heart, though perhaps with a feeble hand, at advancing the interests and conducing to the well-being of the whole community. . . . A town without a journal is, in one sense, a town unrepresented; since its inhabitants are without a voice in public movements. The past existence of this journal has at least effected one result to which we can appeal with confidence—our ancient town and her modern companion once screwed up into a narrow niche in the columns of the county press, with hardly room to breathe, much less to speak, have now suddenly risen to sufficient importance to be deemed worthy of more than a mere local habitation and a name allowed them in those columns wherein they were wont to 'hide their diminished heads.' A reporter has ceased to be a phenomenon in the towns."
During the three months interregnum referred to by the News, a special edition of the Sussex Advertiser was issued under the title of the Hastings and St. Leonards Chronicle, and the present writer—who had been for.several years in the habit of sending news paragraphs and literary morsels to that and another county journal—was consulted by the late G. P. Bacon on the propriety or otherwise of bringing out such special edition. Not knowing that the News was likely to be re-issued and opining that the borough, with its Literary Institute and two Mechanics' Institutions was bemeaning itself by not having a local paper, he, with whom the Lewes journalist held consultation readily fell in with the proposal, and promised to lend an ‘even more hearty support to the suggested special than he had hitherto done to the original, of which, as a county paper, he had been the local agent. He was then asked by Mr. Bacon to undertake the duties of local sub-editor and reporter, as well as sole agent, but which he declined on the ground of being at the time a pedagogue, bandmaster and shopkeeper, he had as many heats in the fire as could be properly managed. "Who then shall I get as a local reporter?” was the next question, and it was quickly answered, “Get Mr, Dittar, late reporter of the News; he being now disengaged, will be the man for you.” 'Will you see him and get him to come to Lewes?' "Yes!" That gentleman went to Lewes and accepted the post, but when the News re-appeared, he transferred his services to his old love. The Chronicle has, however existed side by side with the News since then - for some years as a fourpenny, and afterwards as a penny paper under the several reporterial or editorial labours of Messrs. Tyrie, Bates, Tendall, Cogswell, and Hutchings, whilst the News has kept very fairly to first principles enunciated as above under the literary work of the Ransoms, Pittar, Cogswell, Tendall, Simpson and others. These principles are further set forth in the re-issue editorial of the News, from which we make another extract. It says:-
“In the course we have marked out for ourselves, we intend studiously to avoid party politics, by which term we mean the advocacy of any measure. because it may happen to be the battle-cry or the bantling of this or that party without regard to its intrinsic merits. . . We shall endeavour to keep as far distant from that Radicalism which consists of eradication, as from that Conservatism which by its rigidity engenders revolution. . . These are points of view from which measures of social regulation may be regarded that suggest consideration of infinitely greater importance to the well-being of a people than the success of a party."
That the honour or privilege of being a Hastings Commissioner when the government of the town was divided between them and the newer body of Councilmen was not severely coveted may be inferred from the fact that there were no fewer than 23 persons disqualified by non-attendance. There were two of the parish of St. Clement — namely, Edward Lloyd Robinson, a draper of George street, and Henry Sinden, a butcher of High street. The disqualified men of the Castle parish were Richard Bayley, jun., of Castle street; John Benjamin Moor, of the Pelham Arcade (who died in the following year, aged 65); and Edmund Elford, organist and music seller. The disqualified of All Saints parish were 18 in number, including Charles Rolfe, of High Wickham, and John Snaith, of All Saints street. Mr. Rolfe, a native of Cranbrook, was a retired innkeeper from Newberry, in Berkshire. He had just recently died (Jan. 30) suddenly from the rupture of a blood vessel on the chest, aged 56 years. Mr. Snaith, originally from France, was a gardener, and died a quarter of 8 century later at the age of a centenarian all but two months.
At the present time (1897) when the townspeople are within a few months of seeing the ugly railway arch near the Alexandra Park transformed into something more respectable as well as more convenient, it may be of interest to know how it came to be built. At the Commissioner's meeting on June 25th, with Mr. Matthew Kelland presiding, an application was received from the South-Eastern Railway Company to divert the public road called Ore Lane in the Castle parish a length of 400 feet by turning the same near the late Ashyard about Pg.334 100 feet to the south of the greatest point of diversion. Capt. Barlow, who was present, with plans, stated that the advantage to be gained by the public would be the having a straight road through the archway on level ground instead of an oblique road through an archway of greater length at the foot of a hill also in having a road 20 teet wide instead of 17. A portion of the road, 137 yards in length, would be superseded by a new route of 152 feet in length. The advantage to the Company would be the substitution of a common arch for an oblique one, the latter having less strength and more expense. Commissioner Harvey moved that the application be complied with on condition that the Company keep the road in repair for 18 months, This was agreed to and the motion was carried.
Commissioner's Meetings - "Ghost" of the Old Commission
At the July meeting of the Hastings Commissioners permission was given to Mr. John Strong to make shop-front alterations at 42 All Saints’ street, for the purpose of modernising an old-fashioned outfit-shop kept by an honest tradesman of an old-fashioned type. After a statement by the Clerk that he had obtained £5 from Weekes, of Robertsbridge, by a County-Court process, a long report was presented from the committee appointed to act in the matter of the Flimwell and Hastings Turnpike Bill. Although the said Bill was opposed for 11 days, it had passed through the committee atage of the House of Commons, the decision being that one-third of the tolls should be devoted to the repairs of the road, and two-thirds to the interest at a reduced rate. Lord Shaftesbury was said to have been very obdurate, and though he reluctantly consented that so much of the road as lay within the All Saints’ parish should have the benefit of the sum set aside for repairs, he would not consent to the removal of the gate. The report further stated that Earl Waldegrave, in an interview with Lord Shaftesbury, endeavoured to further the interest of the borough, and succeeded in getting some modification of the Bill. The next business was a passage of arms in which two Tory commissioners suggested improvements und two Liberals opposed it. Anthony Harvey proposed and Matthew Kelland seconded that the Marine parade be paved with an additional width of stone; but Messrs. Bromley and Womersley opposed it, arguing that it would cost £100, and that the parade had done in the past and would do in the future very well without it. The proposition was then negatived, but that the opinion of the opponents has not received modern endorsement may be inferred from the fact that the said parade is now paved all over. Mr. Bromley then reverted to the inscription on a Post office lampas an insult to common sense, and moved that the surveyor be instructed to remove the words "Post Office". These were the words Post Office written on a piece of transparent glass over the lamp at No. 4 George street which when read from the other side appeared to have the letters in reversed order. This was referred to in Mr. Pitter's Hastings Revisited by the Ghost of the Old Commission, after the Commission had become defunct, and the Post Office had been removed to Wellington place. In those satirical lines was the following passage:-
The waggish ghost then turn’d and strode
Adown the middle of the road,
The pavements laid on either side
Not being aliogether wide,
And Old Commission being shy
Of being mark’d by passers by.
His step broke not the silence still
As on he went straight down the hill,
Then took the right and would have gone,
Without a pause, some distance on,
But something seem’d to startle him.
Quoth he—The light is somewhat dim,
And yonder lamp, once bright and full,
Now burns most marvellously dull;
But certainly ‘tis number four,
And this should be the office door,
But where, oh horror! where are flown
The scarlet board and yellow crown?—
The ‘ tsoP eciffO’ on the lamp,
And all that bore th’ imposing stamp
Of royalty and Rowland Hill!
Does Mr. Woods not live here still?
What means all this? Tho’ I’m a ghost,
I must enquire to find the Post.
Turning again to the Commissioners' meeting. Mr. Duke complained—as people even now sometimes do - of the manner of watering the streets, to which the surveyor replied that it was impossible to satisfy all parties, seeing that all could not have it first, and the difficulty being increased by the railway contractors damming up a stream for the purpose of making bricks. The water rents, it was stated amounted to £777—twenty-six pounds more than in the preceding year, and the Commissioners would soon be abl to pay off £100 for the reduction of the £10,500 on which they were paying interest at the rate of 5 per cent. Mr. Farncomb's tender for ashes at 2d. per bushel was accepted, and street-rates were levied on All Saints' and St. Mary's at 3d., and on St. Clement's at 4d.
At the Hastings Commissioners meeting on Sept. 3rd, Mr. George Clark Jones, acting for the Surveyor, had commenced repairing apath from French’s Pond (Croft road) into Wyatt's field (leading to Mount Pleasant and Ore Lane), but was stopped by Mr. Wyatt. He was authorised, however, to proceed with the work, the path in question being a public one. This reminds me that the same urbane (?), gentleman on another occasion endeavoured to arrest the progress of Mr, North while travelling the same path from his family’s strawberry gardens in Ore valley to his home at North Lodge. Wyatt was then reminded that the said path had been a public one from time immemorial and that he (the replicant) as a Hastings M.P., would use the path as often as it pleased him. Wyatt's rejoinder was that M.P. ought to mean Musn’t Pass, and if he continued to do so, he would have a dog at his heels. The threat was unheeded, and the bark of both the dog and his master was more than their bite. At the same meeting, £151 per annum was tendered by John Sims for a three years’ lease of the Market tolls, he stating that he had lost money on his previous three years at £180. He was outbid by Philip Saunders, with the offer of £180, and consequently lost it, The resignation of Mr. Catley, as Town Surveyor, was tendered by letter, with thanks to the Commissioners for their kindness to him during the 22 years he had been in office. An application for the surveyorship was made by John Dungate Thwaites, and what followed this application should be of peculiar interest at the present time. H. Winter proposed a “high rate of salary ” (£100), so as to secure a really efficient surveyor; J. C. Womersley proposed £80; and A. Harvey proposed £75, as before, remarking that it could be raised as it was found that the surveyor deserved it. This amendment was carried. A Harvey (for the third time) proposed an additional width of stone on the parade, but he was opposed by Messrs. Beck, Womersley, Dunk, Duke, and Vidler, the last named remarking that the proposition was monstrous, and no one but Harvey. would have made it. He talked of £100 for the parade, and another of £100 for & new surveyor, and a third of £5,000 for drainage; did they really know what they were about? Yes, retorted N. Wingfield, he thought they did, and he also thought that the additional pavement was wanted, both for convenience and for protection against the sea. He regretted that the Radicals so often supported men in preference to measures unless the latter were proposed by their own party. What had Brighton just done? Why, purchased the Pavilion for £55,000.
Mr. Harvey’s motion being lost by 26 to 22, the proposer declared he would repeat it at a future meeting. Then came another tug of war. Mr Paine proposed that to drain the town effectually it was necessary for the Health of Towns Act to be introduced This was opposed by Harman and Harvey, the latter expressing an opinion that it would deprive the Commissioners of all authority and put it into the hands of the Town Council, a body that had enough to do already. They would then be able to borrow thirty or forty thousand pounds, whilst the salaried officials would cost £600 a year. He could not pin his faith to the Town Council although he was one of them, It cost a good deal to get into that body of officials, and he always found that when a man had to pay for his office, he generally took care of himself when he had the chance, An amendment to postpone the matter for six months was carried.
At the next meeting of the Hastings Commissioners, Which was in September, Elias Coussens and William Picknell were initiated as new members. Out of 24 applicants for the Borough surveyorship William Winter was a day too late; George Clinton, George Hunt, Thomas Measum, Stephen Putland, and William Sowerby were ineligible because of the absence of testimonials, and Henry Wrigg because he wanted a larger salary. Then, after much deliberation, the committee selected for recommendation Mr. William John Gant, 26 years of age, formerly a pupil of Professor Donalson, University College, and latterly 4 1/2 years in the employment of Mr. Tite, architect to the Royal Exchange, and in that of Mr. Mosely, county surveyor for Middlesex. He produced excellent testimonials and specimens of his work. Mr. Harvey objected to the report because the committee had exceeded their powers by recommending one man instead of bringing all the candidates before the meeting. The recommendation was rejected by 24 to 13, and then Mr. Harvey proposed John Dangate Thwaites, whose recommendation was signed by a large number of inhabitants The two candidates were allowed to address the meeting, after which an animated and protracted discussion ensued, which terminated with the election of Mr. Thwaites by a large majority. Mr. George Clark Jones was thanked for his services during the vacancy of the surveyorship, and declined the proffered remuneration of £10 The notification was received of the dedication of St. Andrew's terrace and Spring Gardens (now, with Meadow Cottages included in Queen’s road), Russell street and Prospect place.
At the meeting on Nov. 6th, it was announced that the Earl of Waldegrave, Thos. Catley, Jas. Ives, A Thorpe, John Dowsett, Alf'd Chatfield, J. Goddard, Wm. Dobell, G. G. Gray, R. Martin, J. Brown, C. F, Hardman, Wm, Wellsted and R, Urquhart had been elected as new Commissioners. J. D. Thwaites, after tendering his thanks for his appointment, said his attention had been called to the Bourne, which being in some of its parts too narrow, had, during the recent flood, damaged the premises of Mr. Langham, Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Welfare. He had also been called to notice other evils, and he had put on extra men and horses for breaking and carting hard stone, instead of flint, for road-making. He found the Commissioners horses were aged and quite worn out. On the strength of this statement, it was resolved that veterinary-surgeon Jones be empowered to purchase two fresh horses; also, on the motion of Mr. H. Winter, that a portion of the parade be covered with gas tar, as an experiment. Apropos of the parade, it was resolved that the Earl of Chichester’s offer to give up the Pelham-place parade be accepted with thanks, the Commissioners binding themselves to pave and use the said parade in all respects the same as the old parade, and to fulfil all those conditions on which the Earl originally received the ground from the Corporation; in default of which the Earl to have the right of entry as though no agreement had ever been made between them. Mr. Lansdell said that if the Commissioners would make a similar parade in front of Breeds place, he would contribute a thousand pounds. Mr. Thos. Newman Ward, on behalf of the managing committee of the Old Warm Baths, applied for assistance in overcoming the difficulties of a change of site. He submitted a plan for a range of buildings in lieu of the baths, then in the middle of the parade, to be placed on the south side of the wall similar to the baths at St. Leonards, thus giving the whole width of the parade for traffic. The application was not entertained, it being thought by some of the Commissioners that the Corporation should buy the old baths and do away with them altogether.
The experimental paving with gas tar on the parade was found to be a failure in consequence of the sand and tar refusing to bind and the Commissioners at their next meeting on Dec. 3rd. accepted Mr. Burchell’s tender of £68 for paving the Pelham-place portion with stone. The rejected tenders were George Winter's £82, George Welsh’s £84, and Thomas Dunn’s £104. The conveyance of the Pelham-place parade from the Earl of Chichester to the Commissioners had been duly completed.
Having epitomised the transactions of the Commissioners during 1849, I will now similarly review the proceedings of the Town Council.
At the February meeting the surveyor (Mr. Catley) applied for permission to take away 450 tons of beach from near the Fishmarket, instead of from the Priory, it being required for the repair of the old London road, he stating that the Pierwarden had before been allowed a similar privilege Mr. Ginner in moving that it be allowed, did not think the stade would suffer, he having known as many as seven vessels at one time taking away 200 tons each for ballast, and the next day having shown no diminution. Mr. Ross, in seconding the motion, was surprised the Commissioners had not applied before. The application was then acceded to, and much more readily than it would have been 1n more recent times, to say nothing of 1400 tons taken in a single day by vessels.
At the Council meeting on August 3rd, Mr. Jeudwine attended as a new member in place of Mr. Hugh Penfold, then deceased. The Clerk informed the meeting that the Attorney-General had consented for the money in Chancery belonging to the Corporation to be taken out. It was thereupon resolved that steps be taken for that purpose. The next important motion was to improve the outfall of the Bourne Pg.335 stream at the sea front of Bourne street, Mr, Ginner moved that the hutch be extended to a distance of 40 or 50 yards on to the beach, he at the same time reminding the Council that until the Commissioners had it covered in, the Bourne itself was an open stream down, through the town. But now it was a common drain for the two parishes, and the outfall was an intolerable nuisance, The motion was carried. This meeting may be regarded as having been essentially a sanitary one, the next business being to accede to an application from Mr. Harvey, as the Earl of Chichester’s agent, for the Council to lay down a drain-pipe to extend 220 feet from the parade wall at Pelham place. Then Mr. T. B. Baker, as solicitor to the Board of Guardians, made a statement that in courtesy to the Mayor and Council he wished to inform them that special orders had been received from the Board of Health which the Guardians were. determined to obey. The directions strongly recommended the co-operation of all public bodies for removing nuisances, After a general and irregular conversation, the Council appointed a committee to co-operate with the Guardians, such committee being Messrs. Scrivens, Jeudwine, Stubbs, Hickes and Burfield, The final resolution was, on the motion of Mr, Emary, to appoint _a committee to pull down the Searchers’ office near the site of the Battery and to take legal proceedings against any tenant who refused to give up the property. It is well to note that from 1849 to 1894 — a reversal of the last two figures — the desire to remove nuisances and obstructions, and to improve the sanitary condition of the borough, has been uppermost on the minds of the majority of our local authorities during the 45 years that have thus intervened.
At the September meeting, the preceding resolution re the Bourne-mouth hutch - more commonly called by the fishing folk "Gutsmonth" was put into practical shape by the acceptance of Mr, Hutchinson's tender to complete the extension for £44 19s. 10d. This apparent nicety of calculation, one would think can hardly fail to impress ordinary discernment with its absurdity. In this case, to wit, why not have put on another twopence, and made an even £45.
As the Council meeting in October was fully attended, except by Mr. Kelland, who had died, Mr. Farncomb disqualified, and Aldermen Maw and Moore who had left the town, it may be well to show who were the members then present. They were Mr. A. Burton (mayor), Ald. Scrivens, Couns Deudney, Mann, Putland, Beck, Chamberlin, Peerless, Hutchings, Burfield, A. Amoore, Clement, Stubbs, Ross, Emary, Ginner, Hicks and Harvey, There had been great trouble with the navvies who were at work on the railway, and a resolution was passed at this meeting to give 2/6 to each of twelve men who had rendered assistance to the police at a nocturnal disturbance by the said navvies in the Fishmarket. It was also resolved that drags for saving endangered bathers or for recovery of bodies, be placed at the Rock-a-Nore, at Stratford place, and at the St. Leonards Baths.
The election of new Councillors on the 1st of November, was thought to be one of the most spirited that up to that time had ever taken place, Messrs. Chamberlin and Putland were the outgoing and again candidates for the West Ward, and their opponents were Messrs, Neve and Tree. At the close of the poll, the numbers were for Mr. Chamberlin 118, Neve 96, Putland 95, and Tree 1. In the East Ward the outgoing Councillors were Emary, Jeudwine, Hutchings, and Yates. The only new candidate was T. B. Williams, who was second on the poll, thus causing Yates to be unelected. The official announcement was — Emary 315, Wiliams 294, Jeadwine 263, Hutchings 278, and Yates 264. At a special meeting of the Council on the 16th of November the election of two aldermen wus the only business on the agenda, the resignation of Mr, George Hornby Mew and Mr. George Moore, whose terms of office would expire in 1850, having been accepted. The following four gentlemen were named as candidates for the office:- J. G. Langham, solicitor; Chas Clift, gentleman; Robert Ranking, surgeon; and James Mackness, M. D. The voting was on party lines, the Mayor declining to vote. The two Liberals, Mackness and Clift, were elected by 11 and 10 votes respectively, and the two Conservatives, Ranking and Langham failed to win by their 9 and 8 votes, respectively.
Board of Guardians - Maritime Matters
I will now pass on to notice a few meetings of the Poor-law Guardians, At those meetings it was but a very little of the business that was allowed to become known, and the entire proceedings would, perhaps, have been withheld from the public had not one or two members of the board insisted on making some of them known out of doors. At one of the March meetings Messrs. Kelland, Harvey, Smith, and Foste strongly opposed the system of advertising in newspapers for tenders, alleging that it was an utter waste of money. Mr Ross, however, contended that as a public body it was their duty to advertise, as well for the benefit of the ratepayers as for the support of the local press. There had been some fatal poisoning cases at Guestling by a depraved woman named Geering, an account of which will be given further on, and at a Guardians’ meeting in May, a conversation was engaged in by the members present on the attendance and treatment of Surgeon Pocock in those cases, and a resolution was unanimously carried that as the Medical Officer of No. 3 district of the Union, Mr. Povock did not enjoy the confidence of the Board, that he be requested to resign his appointment. At the next meeting a letter was received from Mr. Pocock in which he declined to resign, whereupon another resolution was passed that the refusal be entered on the minutes, and that his letter, together with a report of his treatment of the Geering family, be sent to the Poor-law Board. At a meeting in June, the Rev, T. Parkin applied for permission to take a three months’ absence in a visit to Devonshire, with the object of getting restored to health, at the same time stating that the Rev. R. G. Barton would officiate at the Union House in his stead. This, as may be supposed, was readily granted. At the same meeting a report was received from the Poor-law Inspector that the House was perfectly clean and the inmates healthy.
A curiosity, the time of year considered, was a successful haul of mackerel about New Year's Day, off Plymouth, by a score of Hastings boats. They caught from 100 to 200 each on the first occasion of casting their nets, whilst two brothers — James and George White — caught 800 and 300, respectively, the first realising £80, and the second £16. A third brother — William White — also had a fortunate haul.
On the 10th of January a new fishing smack, built for Mr. Blacklock, of Lydd, was launched from Mr. Winter's yard, which was formerly the site of Boykett Breeds’s mercantile warehouses, and is now the site of the Brassey Institute and Observer office. The boat was not able to put to sea immediately, there being a strong westerly gale in progress, which on the following day veered to N.W. and caused a high tide. During that gale the sloop Phœnix, with a general cargo for Hastings, snapped her cable while riding at anchor at Dungeness and drifted down upon the Diana Grace, bound for London, The collision caused the sloop to sink but her crew got hastily on board the schooner, which was also found to be filling and sinking. The two crews then took to their boats, and were picked up by a French lugger, which put them ashore at Newhaven. The sailors lost all they possessed, and the Hastings tradesmen were also serious losers, the cargo of the Phœnix not being insured.
On the 28th of February, the Fairy, after discharging her cargo, and putting again to sea, got on to the Pier rocks, from which it was floated without sustaining much damage, before the arrival of a strong on-coming gale.
Not so fortunate was the Black Diamond, collier, of Hastings; for, on coming out of Shoreham harbour, she was struck by a heavy wave, which swept four men and boy overboard. Three of the men managed to get on board again, but the other man was drowned. The boy, named Hook, hung on the boom until exhausted, and then fell into the sea, to be no more seen. The drowned man, aged 37, was the husband of a woman who lost her first husband in a similar manner. Tassell’s body was found some days later, by the sagacity of a dog, in the sands at Hove. and was brought home for interment.
A Hastings fishing-boat safely rode out the same gale while lying at anchor in Pevensey Bay.
My readers may judge somewhat of the amount of coasting trade at Hastings and St Leonards in 1849, by the following departures of vessels on the third of March:- The Maria Theodosia (Coppard, master), sailed for Ghent; Lamburn (Woodgate), Hastings (Piper), John Weavel (Picknell), and Queen Victoria (Young), all for the northern collieries; Speedwell (Malls), for Newhaven; and St. Leonards (Lingham) for London.
Connected with the last-named vessel, the following story is told:— Two young men being desirous of enjoying a trip on the water without exhausting the muscular energies, besought Capt. Linghan to give them a tow. The captain complied and the boat’s painter was secured to the stern of the sloop. The young heroes sat in a delighted mood with their being able to glide along so smoothly and so easily, but after awhile they began to think of the necessity of returning. They, therefore, desired their friend to allow them not to be any further an impediment to the sloop’s progress. Capt. Linghams however, declined to believe that his young friend, were any burthen(sic) either to himself or his vessel, and was happy to confer additional favours by allowing the larger and the smaller craft to remain attached, Getting alarmed at the rapidly increasing distance between them and the port, the young men cut the rope and thus severed the friendly connection they themselves had solicited. On reaching home, after a much longer absence and a harder pull than they intended, they declared that never would they again ask for a similar favour from an outward bound captain.
On the day immediately preceding the one here mentioned, the Hastings schooner London (sailed by Diprose, who in his retirement lived and died in St. Leonards) left Hartlepool, was driven back by a furious gale, and was towed into Hartlepool the next morning by two steam tugs, she having lost her anchor, cable and main-boom.
On the 25th of March, those persons who had spare time on their hands were interested in witnessing the beaching and unloading of the following six vessels:- The Rock Scorpion (Capt. Phillips), from Newcastle; Queen Victoria (Young), from Seaham; the John Weavel (Picknel)), from the same place; the St, Leonards (Linghem), from London; the William Pitt (Watson), from London; and the Planta (Rummery), from Seaham. There was a still greater maritime bustle and landsmen’s curiosity between the 25th and 29th of May, with the arrival of 18 vessels and the departure of three others, Their names and those of their captains were Burtield Brothers (Piper), from Newcastle; the London (Deeprose), from ditto; Harmony (Riordean), from Newport; Peri (Pope), also from Newport; Favourite (Sargent), from Goole; St. Leonards (Lingham), from London; Happy Return (Bayley), from Newcastle; John Weavel (Picknell), from ditto; Fairy (Piper) and Perseverance (Winter), from Blyth; Rock Scorpion (Phillips), from ditto; another Perseverance (Lumming), from London; Lamburn (Woodgate) and Caroline (Allen), from Hartlepool; Mary and Theodosia (Coppard), from Boston; Hastings (Piper), from Seaham; Wiliam Pitt (Watson), and Phœnix (Palmer), from London; Pelican (Phillips) sailed for the north; Industry (Warner). for London; and the Surah, for Bayonne. These vessels were separately freighted with coal, iron, stone, timber, guano, oats, ashes, and general merchandize.
At the close of April and the beginning of May, an immense number of mackerel were caught in small boats close to the shore. William "Archdeacon" Gallop secured 6,500 at one haul.
On the 2nd of June another great quantity of the same kind of fish swam into the nets, but the nets on this occasion were chiefly kettle, i.e. kiddle nets, and the places of capture were mainly in the vicinity of Lydd. But so cheap were the fish when brought to Hastings as to be purchased by the lessee of the Priory farm for manure.
On the 2nd of July the ship Brazilan landed passengers from Ceylon, an event the like of which was less rare in earlier times.
It should be apropos to notice here the annual regatta, but, without entering into details, be it said that the aquatic sports came off with considerable eclat. The day was magnificent, the sailers with their sailors each "walked the waters like a thing of life," the oarsmen rowed with becoming pluck, the ladies were in an agreeable mood, the gentlemen were not wanting in attention, partisans were enthusiastic, Capt. Jones’s yacht was freely at the disposal of parties on pleasure bent, our old friend "Jimmy" Roper, the ex-smuggler, was umpire, and the entire amusement was much to the satisfaction of all who were present.
On the 28th of September, at the beginning of a week's gales and flooding rains, the Hastings collier Lamburn reached Hartlepool, after colliding with the Elizabeth White, of Whitby, which latter vessel foundered. The Lamburn was in ballast and scudding before the gale, but was able to take on board the crew of the sinking vessel.
A more agreeable piece of intelligence was that on the 22nd of October — namely, that four Hastings’ boats had carried into Yarmouth thirteen lasts of herrings, and sold them at the rate of £6 per last.
On the 1st of November or thereabout, the brig Ant, after unloading, was got off while the sea was breaking over the parade. She was driven, however, on to the Pier rocks, but by good management of pilot Morfee and his assistants, she was released from her peril without any apparent damage.
Another Hastings Morfee, named George, was master of the Jane, which, on the 21st of November, landed a cargo of potatoes from Flanders, consigned to Messrs. Hutchinson and Thwaites.
By a strong gale on the 6th of December, the schooner Lord Hill, built at Sunderland 39 years previously and thoroughly repaired this year, was wrecked on the Hastings beach to the extent of losing her rudder, breaking her stern-post, starting some planks, and carrying away some of her bulwarks.
The sloop Phœnix which on the 11th of January was sunk off Dungeness, was afterwards raised, together with her cargo which consisted mainly of port and spirits. She was taken to Newhaven to undergo repairs.
There are two other items pertaining to the Hastings sailing craft, one of which was that on Valentine's day, a Hastings boat caught 3,000 mackerel, and sold them at Brighton for £24, and the other was that "damages" were awarded to the owners of The Thwaites, a Hastings vessel, which was run into by the brig Shamrock, off Dungeness, on the 4th of November, 1848.
I will close the maritime casualties and occurrences of 1849. with a few words about the "Ariel" lifeboat. For some time after this was built it was kept in the "Condemned Hole" at the back of Beach Cottages (now Beach terrace) and was frequently exercised by an unpaid crew. Its life-saving service, however, seemed never to be required, and in its neglected state it lay for a long time on ground near to where is now Trinity Church. This was its position in the summer of 1849, some of its woodwork crumbling into dust, and the boat itself with no one to man it. in case of need, and no one to look after it. But before the end of the year, Mr.William Scrivens took the boat in hand for restoration, and afterwards wrote to the Town Council to the effect that as he had expended upon it the sum of £22 12s. 9d., he hoped to be reimbursed from the proceeds of the sale. The Council referred the matter to the original subscribers.
Letters respecting the price of coal and the means of importation having appeared in the local papers during the last two or three weeks, it may interest the writers of those letters to know that for six years prior to the year at present under consideration the Hastings imports were as follows:—In 1843 the amount imported (excluding fractions) was 11,538 tons; in 1844, it was 10.622 tons; in 1846, it rose to 13,736 tons; in 1846, it again fell to 10,108 tons; in 1847, 1t rose to 12,953 tons; and in 1848, the importation was again slightly less, namely, 37 tons. As these amounts were all sea-borne importations, it is thus seen how employed were many of the vessels whose names and those of their captains have been previously stated.
Births, Marriages and Deaths
Pg.336 To the inmates of the Hastings Union Workhouse were given the carcases of two large and fat sheep, wherewith to celebrate the birth of the new year, 1849. On the following Thursday the Board of Guardians received a letter from the Poor Law Board calling attention to a former request for a return of vaccination cases; The Clerk explained that he had an account to send, but the number was very small as the parents refused to have the operation performed, And well they might, knowing, as they did, that vaccination was a delusion and a snare — knowing, in fact, that in their own experience, as well as in the experience of other persons, the filthy practice of planting disease in a pure body had only one result, that of engendering disease, sometimes ending in death. I often wish I could afford to republish in book form, for gratuitous distribution, all that I have wntten against this system of legalized ‘murder, together with exposures of the discreditably manipulated statistics by highly paid officials; but as this probably will never be done, it is some satisfaction to believe that not many more years will have run their course ere, at least, the compulsory inflic‘tion of the practice will be repealed. The then Boards of Guardians and Benches of Magistretes will be lost in wonderment why they so long listened to the voice of the charmer, and allowed themselves to be the instruments for administering a cruel and despotic law.
Apropos of Guardians and Magistrates, it occurs to me that of the former in 1849 were Messrs. T. and J. Arkcoll Kelland, Beck, Ross, Peerless, Milham, Putland Foster, Wood, Thwaites and Smith. Call them now, and not one would answer. The same may be said of the then Magistrates who, by-the-bye, were not quite so attentive to their unpaid duties as are most of the J.P.’s of the present day. During the week ending Feb. 17th a man was charged with having been drunk and abusive, but as no magistrate was present and none could be found after two hours’ search, the delinquent was dismissed. Also, on the 21st, two men, who appeared at court were discharged for the same reason. One of these was the half witted, but cunning itinerant Mike Hamilton, many of whose public vagaries, as witnessed by myself, could be amusingly described.
There was also a singular absence of Aldermen at the election of Borough officers on the 1st of Nov. Aldermen Scrivens and Burton were not sufficiently well in health, Aldermen Maw and Moore were out of town, Ald. Farncomb was disqualified, and Ald. Ticehurst engaged at the West-Ward election. Also, as a relative topic to that of the Guardians, it may be here noted that on the 8th of March there was numerous assemblage at the Lord Nelson inn, with Mr. W. Amoore in the chair. to present. Mr. Anthony Harvey with an elegant silver snuff-box, on which was engraved "To Mr. A. Harvey by the parishioners of All Saints, as a small acknowledgement of his many years valuable services as a Poor-Law Guardian." This presentation having been made by the male ratepayers, the exclusion of females was not to be endured, and so another testimonial was presented in the following month, which took the form of a gold ring, "for the efficient manner in which he had discharged the duties of Guardian on behalf of the parish of All Saints."
Mr. Harvey was also Superintendent Registrar of Births and Deaths, and his returns showed that in five years there had been 2,504 births and 1,595 deaths. Separately in the three districts there were 1028 births and 457 deaths in All Saints, 956 births and 653 deaths in the Castle district, and 670 births and 295 deaths in the Ore district. All Saints included St. Clement’s. The Castle district comprised in addition to its own parish, St. Andrew's, Holy Trinity, St. Michael’s, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Leonards and Bulverhithe. Ore included besides its own parish, those of Guestling, Fairlight and Pett.
Mr. Harvey's returns for the five years 1844-748 only dealt with the births and deaths, but a return for the quarter ending June 30th, 1849, showed that the marriages were 18, or 4½ below the average of the four preceding years, It was pointed out as being singular that during the winter quarter of 1846, when the marriage ratio was so remarkably high throughout England, in the Hastings district it was at its lowest ebb, the number being only 15 - less than half that of the corresponding quarter in the preceding year. The births (128) were a slight increase on those of the two preceding years, but five fewer than in 1846. The deaths (89) were 14 in excess of the June quarter, 1858, and 4 fewer than in 1847. Details such as these are always more or less dry reading, but they are nevertheless useful both for comparison and for estimating the conditions and requirements of health.
Among the births in 1849 were the sons of Wm. Banks, H. S. Lane, Esq., Joseph Frost. Edward Hayles, Thos. Cuthbert, Thos. Hubbard, Thos. Edwards, Rev. R. G. Bartram, Hy. Osborne, David Duke, Wm Barden, Wm Aylesbury, Thos Chester, T. Barnes, Samvel Phillips, Lawrence Yates, Thos. Fisher, and Geo. Burgess (twins). Also daughters of J. P. Muirhead, Esq., Wm, Hunt, Thos. Grant, John Phillips, Esq., Stephen Wenban,Peter Pagden, Wm. Carey, Edward Hayles, Esq. Edward Smith, John Heathfield, J. G. Jarvis, Esq., and Wm. Aylesbury.
Mr. Harvey’s returns did not include marriages, but the following were among those which, were solemnized in 1849 :—
John Lye to Mary Ann Day.
John Bevins to Martha Minter,
Charles Booth to Mary Foster.
Louisa Dunk to William Hutchings.
Matthew Lambert to Jane Stapley.
Robert Bourne to Charlotte Mitchell.
Frederick Richard Gausden to Mary Ann Payne.
Joseph Brown to Sarah Jane Winter.
Wm. Winter to Philadelphia Hunt.
Robert Henry Osborne to Maria Catt.
Frederick Winser to Mary Ann Noakes.
George Wright to Hannah Osborne.
George Mann to Naomi Clark.
George Carley to Sarah Aldridge.
John Huggett to Mary Ann Head.
Samuel Tichban to Caroline Ann Kent.
Thomas Leppard to Matilda Butcher.
George Williams to Esther Coussens.
Henry Russel] to Mury Leppard.
James Binns to Mary Ann Taylor.
George Christian to Mary Cornelius.
Charles Kenward to Sarah Pont.
Frederick Avery to Susannah Miles.
Thomas Aspinall to Mary Ann Miller.
James Foster to Mary Ann Swaine.
Although not among the Hastings marriages, there were two which took place in the same year at the Rye Wesleyan Chapel, and are here recorded for their singularity. Mr. Samuel Smith, of Peasmarsh, was there married to Miss Harriet Huggett, of the same place, he being 68 years of age, and she — who was his fifth wife - being 60. Also at the same time, Richard Wynn, of Winchelsea, aged 56, was married to Mrs. Selden, of the same place. aged 60. The united ages of the four persons amounted to 234 years. The Rev. Mr, Keyworth was the officiating minister. Who would be the minister to perform the baptisms? This, however, by the way! Now for some of the Hastings and St Leonards deaths which occurred in 1849. These were:
Thomas Turner, schoolmaster.
Mies Jane Jones (while at Kingston), aged 72.
Frank Fraiser, Esq.
Mary, wife of George Ransom, 42.
Miss Maria Reid, of Reading. 65.
William Heath, fly propriesor, 54.
Dr. Burton, son of the St. Leonards founder.
Matthew Kelland, retired draper, 58
Harriet, wife of Thomas Body, of Beckley, 29.
Henry Metcalfe, Esq., 58.
Emma, daughter of John Ellis, 27.
William Cash, Esq., of Peckham Rye, 57.
Charles Watson, Master of the William Pitt sloop.
Richard Byham, Esq.
Elizabeth, wife of Commander Ellsmere.
George Bray, 84.
Wilham Hutchings, 5!.
Emma Frances, wife of J. M. Heathcote, Esq.
Elizabeth Mann, wife of Rev. John Sheal, 48.
James Tutt, late of Mount Pleasant Farm, 72.
Hannah Beck, grandmother of the present nonagenarian Wm Beck, 98.
John Dudley, Esq., 55.
Mary Elizabeth, daughter of John Geo. Edwards, 23.
Mary Ann, widow of George Hyland, 46.
Thomas Norman, 32
Charles Thompson, Esq., 75
Ann Frances, wife of Thomas Hilder.
John Dobell, Esq., late of Her Majesty’s Household.
Dr. Robert Bally, of Fairlight, 87.
Lucy Eliza, widow of George Mackay, Esq.
Mary, widow of John Nicholls, 76.
Charlotte, daughter of late John Russell, Esq., 57.
Mary, wife of Thomas Rose, 34.
Eliza, daughter of Charles Hall, 17.
Edward Paul, mariner, 71.
Thomas Lawson, Esq , 39.
Henry Thomas Everett, 23.
Sir James Urmston, 67.
John Morris, Esq.. 51
William White. late schoolmaster, 59.
Judith Beale, 90.
Joseph Ranger, surgeon, 61.
Mercy White, 56.
Martha Pearson. 62.
Charles Roffe, Esq , 66.
Susannah Bumstead, 83,
Eliza Perry, 88.
Bridget Bumsted, 66.
Mary Ann Stace, 41.
John Howell, of Ore, 76.
Frances Gallop, 63
Edward Hennab, lieutenant, 48.
Judith Wood, 77.
Mary Ann Thwaites, 52
William Reade, 72.
Ann Hide. 90.
Ann Crouch Reeves, 72.
Adam Carley, 86.
Mary White. 50.
Ann Page, 81. - "Queen of All Saints"
Mory Ann Offen, 34.
Sarah Boyes. 51.
In the partial list of deaths in 1849 as already given, it will have been seen that there were septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians; and among the following which completes the list, there is a similar show of ripe ages; thus proving that Hastings was favourable to long lifeeven when the sanitary arrangements were very inferior to what they are at the time of writing. The septuagenarians consisted of one each at 70 and 71, six at 72, one each at 73.and 74, two each at 76 and 76, and three at 77. The octogenarians were one at8l, two at 83, one at 84, one at 86. and two each at 87 and 88, The nonagenarians were two at 90, one at 96, and one at 98. The following names complete the list of deaths in that year.
John Cramp Rutledge. 40
Hugh Penfold, ironmonger
Mary Ann Jenner, 44
Henry Stace (by accident)
Thomas Fautley Bosom (by suicide), 55
James Cooper (by accident)
Thomas Williams. 28
Mary Thwaites, 77
Elizabeth Ellis, 67
Elizabeth Dulake, 38
Ruth Martin, 43
Eliza Ridley, 70
Mary Whistler, 73
Mrs. Mackay, 86
Ann, wife of William Gill, 96
William Ellis, 77
Mark White, 59
William Morfee, 38
William Jennys, 46
Hannah Hemmings, 83
Martha Christmas, 35
Stephen Bradley. 38
George Taught. 67
George Duke, Esq., barrister and J.P.
Jane Sutton, 48
Mrs. Anne Bartlett, 39
Mary Hull, 72
Mary Mercy Glandfield, widow
Sarah Pocock, 74
David Brazier. 36, suddenly
Susannah Johnson, 41
Henry Lovell, 40
John Reed, 88
Mary Ann Coleman, 62
William Hutchings, 51
Charles Coleman, 22
Charlotte Kussell, 67
Stephen Bradley, 38, (by accident )
The Joseph Ranger included in the above list had been a surgeon at Hastings 23 years, and had practised previously at Portsmouth and at Cranbrook. My own personal experience and that of a relative were such as to give us a not very high estimate of his medical abilities. My relative being ill and for a considerable time under the care of Mr. Ranger, was at length advised to prepare for death. Another surgeon (Mr, Miller, then at Paragon Buildings), was sent for and who cured him in a fortnight, so that he lived after that for 36 years.
My own case was that of general debility from the severe epidemic of influenza which set in after the unparalleled fall of snow in 1836. I was pronounced to be suffering from incipient consumption. I have to be thankful that Mr. Ranger's diagnosis has not prevented my living since then an exceptionally active life of 58 years. The art or the science of medicine has many phases, and the two cases here alluded to supply us with one example. Before his death, Mr. Ranger had been nearly a year out of health, but the cause of his death was said to be a fit of serious apoplexy. His remains were followed to the grave by as many of the local medical practitioners as could possibly attend.
Another of the enumerated deaths was that of Stephen Bradley, a butcher, whose employment was mostly that of selling meat to people at their own homes. In the month of January, whilst cutting up a pig at what was then 11 Norman-road West, poor Bradley let the knife slip into his thigh which severed an artery, and death resulted from loss of blood in about ten minutes, notwithstanding that surgeons Ticehurst and Cumming arrived almost within the time. I was on the jury at the inquest, and well remember Mr. Ticehurst showing how the flow of blood might have been stopped or checked until the arrival of a surgeon, and the advice he gave to always cut from you, instead of to you.
The death of Mr. George Duke occurred on the 24th of January, at his residence, Cliff Cottages (afterwards Lossenham Villas, and now Eversfield place). He was a barrister and magistrate, a son of the late William Duke, surgeon, and the author of a few literary productions.
The Lieut. Hennah included in the above list, expired at Government House, after a protracted illness, leaving a widow and six children, one of whom afterwards was the late Alderman Capt. Hennah. The funeral took place on the 15th of March, at All Saints, with military honours, his infant child, who also died, being placed in the same coffin. A body of mounted guard headed the procession, followed by a band playing the Dead March. The coffin was covered by the union jack, and surmounted with the uniform of the deceased. Drummers with the drums covered with crape followed next, and after them was a large body of coastguards and officers from different stations. Shops in George street and High street were partly closed, and the throng on the route to the church was immense, whilst the number of persons in the burial ground and on the adjacent hill was estimated to exceed two thousand. Three volleys were fired over the grave.
Judith Wood, who also died in 1849, was the mother of William Wood, an active and respected publican, She died suddenly from an apoplectic fit, on the 19th of March.
The death of Charles Coleman, mentioned in the foregoing list, necessitated an inquest, which being held by Mr. J. G Shorter, resulted in a verdict of "Natural Death." He was 22 years of age, and had only recently completed his apprenticeship to Standen and Forrest, tailors, of High street. He had drunk a glass of brandy and water and smoked a pipe of tobacco at the Tiger Inn, and as he was going from the house he fell in an epileptic fit, and died within two hours.
Another sudden and regretted death was that of Mary Mercy widow of John Glandfield, coachman, undertaker, house-agent. &c., of George street. She suffered from a diseased heart, aggravated by poor living, and much family trouble. The more immediate cause of death was the sight of her son, of weak intellect, brought home drunk, which threw her into a fit at the shop door, from which she never rallied. The sudden death of Mercy White also necessitated the holding of an inquest. She was 56 years of age, and after walking on Sunday, the 13th of May, to Hollington and back, she sank down and died. The inquest was held at the Carpenters’ Arms at the Priory. and the verdict was "Died by the Visitation of God".
An inquest was held also on the body of a child of 16 months, named Elizabeth Deeprose, who was killed in Stonefield road, by a cart laden with stone going over its head, the said cart with a horse attached, being 1n charge of a youthful carter named Shoesmith, who was several yards in front of the horse, and was thus in a position not to see the accident. Exactly such a fatality occurred to the youngest brother of mine. in 1832, but instead of a youth, the carter, named Veniss was a middle-aged man, and was walking at the least 20 yards in front of his horse. Those who are guilty of such reprehensible practice ought to be amenable to something more than the mere censure of caution.
The Mr. Hugh Penfold, whose death is included in the foregoing list, was a member of the Town Council. As an ironmonger in George street, he succeeded Messrs. Rickman and Godlee, who were successors to Messrs. Thomas and John Mannington. His remains were interred at St. Clement's, whither they were followed by the workmen of the establishment and about 90 other persons, including members of the Corporation. The shops were partially closed and a large crowd of people witnessed the funeral, which took place on the 23rd of June. A few days after the burial of Mr Penfold his place on the Council board was filled by Mr. C. J. Jeudwine, a grocer, his election being secured with 124 votes as against 38 only for his rival, Mr. John Coussens.
Pg.337 On July 5th an inquest was held on a twin child of William Parsons, a gardener who, with his wife had come, a week previously, from Battle, where he had resided eight years. "Death from convulsions" was the verdict, and one which in my opinion is too often given in medical certificates as the cause instead of the consequence.
The Matthew Kelland named in the foregoing list, died, after a short illness, at his residence, Minnis Rock Villa. He was a retired draper, his business premises having been at 87 and 32 High street, in succession. He and his wife came to Hastings in 1822 and, having no family, they were enabled to give up business in 1838. Mr, Kelland was a member of the Board of Guardians and had served the office of an overseer. He was a man of firm integrity and independent principle, and died in the 59th year of his age. His widow survived him for about 40 years, and died at the same residence at the age of 90 years and 8 months. A few years before her death she was one of fifty living persons in the parish of All Saints whose ages averaged over 84 years.
Henry Stace, also included in the list of deaths, fell accidentally out of Mr. Stubberfield’s hay-loft, and died within half-an-hour. He was 56 years of age, and although, perhaps, not a total abstainer, his boast was that he had not been drunk for forty years.
The death of Mrs. Mackay, at St. Leonards, was on the 16th of November, and her age was 86, Mrs Lucy Elizabeth Mackay was the amiable widow of Alexander George Mackay, Esq., late of Bagthorpe Hall, Norfolk. She was also the venerated mother of Lieut. Col. Mackay and his three sisters, named Emma Fiorentina, Charlotte and Eliza, all of whom (as shewn in Interpolatory chapter XXVIII.) took a practical interest in all that pertained to the welfare of the town. This was especially so with Eliza, who quitted life at over 90 years of age, thus exceeding her mother’s age by four years. The said mother led a pious life, and the patience with which for several years she bore her deprivation of sight afforded a worthy example of submission to the will of Providence. By her death the poor lost a warm friend, whilst others in higher walks of life would no longer be charmed with her enlightened mind, her Christian character and her invariable kindness of heart, Her remains were interred at Brighton, and were followed thither by her family, her acquaintances and the principal tradespeople.
The James Cooper included in my list of deaths, was seriously injured while taking down a portico at the Catholic Convent, some bricks falling upon him, fracturing his skull and the bones of one leg. He died at the Infirmary, never having recovered consciousness.
Another in the foregoing list was Henry Thomas Everett, an amiable young man of 23, who died of brain fever, on the 9th of December. He had been nine years a clerk in the coach-building firm of Rock and Son, and was a member of the Mechanics’ Institution. His remains were placed in the ground of the St. Leonards Wesleyan Chapel.
Another on the said list of deaths was David Brazier, one of the elder brothers of the late Town-Crier. He died rather suddenly of congestion of the lungs, on Dec. 26th, in his 37th year.
Although it may have been noticed from the long list of deaths which I have given that the mortality of Hastings and its neighbourhood was rather considerable in 1849, yet the mortality was greatly less in proportion to population than that of the United Kingdom, as shewn by the Registrar-General’s figures. Cholera alone was answerable for 55,000 deaths in this country in that particular year. It will have been seen also that the year under notice was remarkable for the large number of sudden deaths necessitating an enquiry by the borough or county coroner, such deaths being augmented by the fatalities on the South-Eastern Railway then in construction.
The Guestling Poisoning Case
But the most serious inquisition by a coroner’s jury involving a case of wholesale poisoning — remains to be told. This took place at the White Hart Inn, at Guestling, on the 25th of April. Suspicious circumstances led to the exhumation of the bodies of Richard Geering and two of his sons, and the jury were told that after viewing those bodies, the inquest would be adjourned until a post-mortem examination had been made. The surgeons who performed that operation were Messrs. F. Ticehurst, W. Duke and F. Duke, and they being of opinion that there were decided traces of arsenic in the bodies, Mary Ann Geering (wife and mother) was taken into custody and brought into Hastings. On the 13th of Septémber in the preceding year, her husband, a labouring man named Richard Geering, aged 56, died, after a short illness; on the 27th of December, the son George, aged 21, also died; and on the following 6th of March, another son, named James, aged 26, died in a similar manner. All three suffered from vomitings, and were severally attended during their illness by surgeon Pocock. After that, a third son, named Benjamin, was in a bad state of health, and suffered from unnatural hunger and vomitings. Mr. Ticehurst being, in this case, the medical attendant, suspected that something of a poisonous or otherwise improper nature was being administered to his patient, and insisted on an alteration of diet, which being effected, the patient began to recover. This increased the suspicion and led to the inquest. Nine days later (May 5th) Mary Ann Geering appeared in a crowded court before the county magistrates, and in reply to the charge said —
I did not do it; indeed, I had no arsenic in the house. If you will give me leave I will tell you what I had arsenic for at different times. I have always gone according to the doctor's orders. I have never done anything of the kind, as God Almighty is my heavenly Maker, I brought up my children in honesty and poverty, and that I will say if the Lord calls me home this very day. It's an awful day to me. I have lost my husband and big children, and I have suffered the greatest and most bare-footed poverty. I never turned my back upon my children and while I had bread they always had a part.
Witnesses being called, Superintendent Thompson deposed to finding a packet labelled poison. P.C, Jeffrey also deposed to finding 49 pawnbroker’s tickets in Mrs. Geering’s house at Guestling, together with a pass-book of the Hastings Savings’ Bank, from which it appeared that £20 was paid into the Bank on Jan. 31st, 1846, in the name of Richard Geering, and that at different times between that date and May 6th, 1848, all but 1s, 4d. had been withdrawn. Henry Pittman, a druggist, deposed to having known Mrs. Geering about 20 years, and to having sold her several pennyworths of arsenic, she stating it was to kill rats.
Here the prisoner interposed and said that Mr. Pittman had not known her for 20 years by a long 15; that he was too fast, yet was always glad to take her money; that he was a false-speaking man; that his memory was very bad, for what he ought to remember he did not, and what he ought not to remember he would do to swear her life away.
The next witness was Benjamin Geering, aged 19, the son who, probably, had been saved from death by the prompt treatment and energy of surgeon Ticehurst. He was under examination for 24 hours, his evidence being given with great reluctance, apparently with a desire to screen his mother.
Thomas Houghton deposed to having received from Mrs. Geering certain articles in pledge.
Prisoner was then remanded for a week, she expressing a hope that the Lord would demand her before that time, so that she might meet her dear husband and children who had gone before her.
Alfred Swaine Taylor (a relative of the late Mrs. Braham, of St. Leonards), doctor of medicine and professor of chemistry at Guy’s Hospital, deposed to receiving from Mr. Ticehurst a bottle containing liquid supposed to have been swallowed and ejected by Benjamin Geering, which on being submitted to three analytical tests, was found to contain sufficient arsenic to kill an adult person under favourable circumstances. At the further hearing of the charge against Mrs, Geering before the magistrates, James Weller gaoler at Hastings, produced a letter written by the prisoner as follows:-
My dear children, - I never had any poison for to use after I had the last which you know was before your father, some time. I could not recollect, yesterday, when I was in court, If poor James could know. he would be very sorry for me to suffer for him, for when he wanted poison to kill the vermin in the horses I always got it for him a good many times, He used to tell me what to get and not tell anyone who it was for. The last I ever got for him was that week when he was getting better. He said to me, Mother, you must go and get me some more stuff for my horses, I went and got several sorts of stuff and then mixed them altogether and done in the oven when I had been baking, and he never meant to give it them. I did not let anyone see it. I threw it away after he was dead. My dear children, I never had a bit of poison for myself afterwards,
The proceedings were stopped at this point until Dr. Taylor and Mr, Ticehurst had submitted to analytical tests a pill which had been found in Mrs Geering’s house since her apprehension.
During the interval the prisoner's daughter (Mrs. Broom, from Woolwich). who had not seen her mother since her father’s death, entered the Hall, and shedding tears, was apparently greatly distressed.
On Dr. Taylor's return, he said they had found a large proportion of arsenic in the pill which they had analysed.
The prisoner then said she never saw the pills. She had heard her son speak of them and had often cautioned him against taking those nasty poisonous things, and told him he would ruin his constitution. She never knew where he got them.
Mrs. Geering was then remanded until after the adjourned inquest.
At the adjourned inquest on the 14th of May, George Hawkins deposed to making the coffin for Richard Geering (prisoner’s husband). and to Mrs. Geering wanting the lid to be screwed down on the same day but he deferred it until) the next day.
Judith Veness, widow, gave evidence to the effect, that she assisted in laying-out the body, which was not only the worst corpse she had ever had to do with, but was so much like that of a black man that she was frightened; also that in reply to her question, Mrs. Geering said there bad heen something the matter with his heart, and that it was a family complaint. Four years before that time she heard Mrs. Geering say she wished her husband was dead, for he was nothing but a trouble to her.
George Hawkins, jun (sexton and clerk, said he had the filling-up of the grave and at Mrs. Geering’s request some timber was placed over the coffin, as she said to preserve it.
John Pocock. surgeon at Winchelsea, witnessed the post mortem examination. but took no other part in it. None of the medicine administered by him in his attendance contained arsenic When be first saw the deceased he did not think him dangerously ill, but he died two days after.
Frederic Ticehurst surgeon. made the post mortem examination. and sent the liver, intestines and stomach in a sealed jar to Alfred Swaine Taylor, professor of chemistry at Guy’s Hospital. When he visited the son Benjamin, he said his symptoms were just the same as those of his father and brothers who died. The first Sunday morning he was quite well till he drank a cup of tea; and then he was sick and bad all day. After taking some pills he got better and so continued up to the following Saturday, when he had some-bread-and cheese and coffee for dinner, and was then sick and bad as before. He (Mr. Ticehurst) had tested the vomit and found it contained arsenic.
At the adjourned inquest on May 14th, after the depositions of the undertaker, sexton and surgeon had been taken, a lengthy and lucid report by Dr. Swaine Taylor was submitted as evidence, which showed that arsenic was found in the liver, bladder, gall and heart, and that the man died from that poison. The report on the case of George Geering, the son, was that the analysis showed him to have died from an irritant poison, but whether from mercury (that having been also found) or arsenic could not be positively stated, Respecting James Geering, the parts analysed contained not less than 5 grains of arsenic, from which alone the deceased had assuredly died.
Other witnesses were examined, all tending more or less to inculpate the prisoner, and among them was Charlotte, the wife of George Gutsell, of Westfield. She saw Mrs. Geering purchase arsenic at Mr. Stubbs’s shop and heard her say it was for Sir John Ashburnham to destroy rats. She was served with three separate pennyworths marked poison and was told she must be very careful with it.
Eli West Stubbs said he had been out of business since January, but he did not believe he had sold Mrs. Geering more than three pennyworths of arsenic when he was in business.
Frederick Ferminger had heard Mrs. Geering say scores of times she wished her husband would drop dead.
Jane Easton had heard prisoner and her husband quarrel about money matters, and once heard her say in her (witness’) shop she hoped she should live to enjoy one year without the old man.
Mrs. Beney, sister of deceased, living at Hastings, went with her brother in 1846 to deposit £20 in the Savings Bank, and in March, 1847, he authorised her to draw out £5 for him and left the book with her. Within a year his wife called for it and said her son Alban wanted to look it over.
Eliza Geering, an unmarried sister of deceased living in All Saints street, attended the funeral of her brother, when Mrs. Geering said he never wanted for anything, although his wish was that the money in the bank should not be touched for a year after his death, and she would see that his wish was carried out.
The Rev. Sir John Ashburnbam never authorised prisoner to buy arsenic for him, nor did he believe that arsenic was ever used on his premises.
Thomas Houghton, pawnbroker, of All Saints' street, had taken several things in pledge from Mrs. Geering.
P.C. Jeffery had taken from Mrs, Geering 49 pledge tickets tied up in handkerchief knots, three of which were in the name of Apps.
Henry Bishop, actuary of the Hastings Savings Bank, proved the depository of £20 by Richard Geering on January 31st, 1846, and the drawing out of £5 by Henry Bartlett, a nephew, on March 6th, 1847, after which, at different times, other amounts were withdrawn by Mrs, Geering until only 1s. 4d. formed the deposit.
The jury at once pronounced verdict of wilful murder against the prisoner in her husband's case, and at six o'clock adjourned to the next day to inquire into the other cases.
[The portions of the exhumed bodies sent to Dr. Taylor for chemical analyses were seen by the present writer when on a visit to his brother-in-law at Guy's Hospital, the said relative being Dr. Taylor's assistant. They were placed in a sort of glass oven, in which gas was burning to carry off the fumes through a chimney-tube. The attendant on that occasion conducted his visitor from the laboratory to the mortuary, the dissecting-room, the lecture-room and the museum, the last of which was an instructively interesting but gruesome exhibition.]
The final examination of Mrs. Geering took place on May 19th, 1849 before the magistrates, Wastel Brisco, W.D. Lucas Shadwell,and George Scrivens. The court was crowded, and the witnesses examined were the prisoner's sons (Benjamin and Alban), Mrs. Foster, Mrs. Catt, Mrs. Jeffrey, Harriet Suters, Mrs. Booth and Charlotte Neye, all of whose evidence tended to inculpate the prisoner. To Mrs. Foster she had said, her son Benjamin was taken ill, and she was afraid he would not get better, and what made her more afraid was that an old woman who once told her fortune, said that before that day three years she would lose her husband and the greater part of her family, and as the greater part had come true, she was afraid the rest would. Ben. had been taken in the same way as the others had. To Mrs. Catt she had said that in less than four months she had lost her husband and two sons with pains under the heart, and she was convinced they would all go off in the same manner. To Miss Suters she had said she had James’ grave dug deeper than the rest, for as they kept dying off, she thought it might be wanted to take them up. She further said that although Mary Ann was better, she thought she would never live to grow up.
The prisoner denied having any poison in the house and declared she was quite innocent of the charge. She was then committed to the Lewes assizes, and when taken back to the gaol, was followed by a large crowd of people, who hooted and hissed her. She was soon after visited by some of her surviving children, and one of her husband’s misters, who upbraided her as a guilty woman.
The trial took place on the Ist of August, when Mrs. Geering was arraigned for having feloniously administered arsenic to her son Benjamin, and for having caused the death of her husband Richard Geering on Sept. 13th, 1848, her son George on Dec. 27th, and her son James on March 6th, 1849, by poison, all in the parish of Guestling. The prisoner pleaded not guilty, and the trial went on from 9 in the morning until 7 in the evening, when the prisoner still asserted her innocence, The jury, however, after a very brief consultation gave a verdict of "Guilty."
Pg.338 The summing up by the Judge (Baron Pollock) occupied two hours and after the verdict of the jury, the learned judge put on the black cap, and amidst profound silence, said:-
You, Mary Ann Geering, the prisoner at the bar, have been charged, with the murder of your husband, and, after a long and careful investigation, the jury have found you quilty of a crime that is the more awful by the circumstance of your having been married to your husband 33 years, and had borne a family of children, many of whom have proved worthy of the tenderest affections. I will not allude to some of the painful, particulars of those sad scenes of suffering and death which have occurred in your family since the fatal month of September when your husband first suffered — if, indeed, that was the first time — at your hands. I desire not to affect your feelings by recalling to your mind the kindness you received from your husband; but before passing sentence, I would earnestly entreat you to make the best possible use of the short time which remains to you to make your peace with God, and through the mediation of your Saviour, to seek salvation for the next world. The sentence of the court is that you be taken to the place from whence you came, and thence to the place of execution, there to be, hanged by the neck till you are dead, your body afterwards to be. interred within the precincts of the gaol. And I pray God to have mercy on your soul.
The condemned prisoner did not appear to be much moved by the passing of the sentence, and merely repeated her protestation of innocence. The guilty woman was executed on the 14th of August, she having been previously visited in the condemned cell by the under-sheriff, the chaplain and the governor of the Lewes prison. On being urged to make a full confession, there was no response to the solemn appeal at that time; but, a few days later, she confessed to the chaplain that she was guilty of poisoning, not only her husband, but also her. sons, George and James, and of an attempt to poison Benjamin. After that she became penitent. On the morning of execution she engaged in prayer, afterwards sitting on the bed wringing her hands until Calcraft proceeded to pinion her arms, when she repeatedly ejaculated "O Lord, have mercy on me!" "O Jesus, have mercy on me!" Just at noon, the murderess appeared on the scaffuld, which was erected high above the prison wall, in view of some three or four thousand persons. In a few minutes the rope was adjusted, the bolt drawn, and the culprit’s hands, clasped as though in an attitude of prayer, immediately dropped, and death appeared to be instantaneous.
It was said at the time that no previous execution had taken place at Lewes for 103 years, but those who said so could not have known or must have forgotten the hanging of poor Bouffard in 1831, which was only 18 years before. In his history of "The Swan Hotel and the Breedses". St. Leonardensis has the following :— "It was in the same year (1831) that, during, the incendiary period, Breeds’s barn at Guestling was burnt down. The present writer was then a youth of fifteen, and had his dormitory in Church street, which is approached by the Swan Lane. He was awoke by the bustle of getting out the fire-engines, from the. church belfry of St. Clement’s, where they were then. kept, and he immediately got up and followed them to the scene of conflagration, but on arrival, the fire had nearly done its work. A man, named James Buffard, was tried and executed, on the charge of setting fire to the barn and notwithstanding his persistent declaration of innocence. Some years later, another man confessed himself guilty of the crime, and to having taken and worn Buffard’s boots, the imprints of which were regarded as strong evidence against Buffard." As a further, proof, of this execution, my late literary friend and acquaintance, a talented writer at Hailsham, in "Fifty years ago," had the following passage:- "I witnessed the conviction of one young fellow at the assize at Lewes — the saddest sight I ever saw — for firing a barn in the neighbourhood of Hastings. As he turned to leave the dock, he said, in trembling accents, 'Jack, you have sworn my life away' . . . And, under the beam, his last words were, 'I am innocent'. Ten years later, remorse and the near approach of death made Jack exclaim, I fired the barn in Jim’s shoes. These men had been fellow-workers and had lived together in the same house." It is a curious coincidence that I should have to quote from a writer named Geering (T. H. Geering, of Hailsham) in connection with the trial and execution of Mary Ann Geering, of Guestling. In the next issue of this paper will appear a life-sketch of that depraved woman.
LIFE-SKETCH OF MRS. GEERING.
"Our Young Men," was the title of a prize-essay by the late Rev. Dr. Cox — a copy of which was presented to me about 57 years ago — and in that book the author expressed his opinion that "the boy at fourteen was the man at forty" thus meaning, as my memory seems to carry the interpretation, that the traits and idiosyncracies, the virtues and the vices, would be much the same at both ages, they being merely modified or intensified by associations and circumstances. In support of this theory thousands of instances might be adduced, and as applying both to men and women. Mrs. Geering, the wholesale poisoner, was a sorrowful example of vicious proclivities in youth, developing into criminality with middle aged maturity. Those who have read the account of her trial and execution will remember that one of the witnesses against her was a Mrs. Gutsell, of Westfield, who saw her purchase arsenic at the chemist’s shop kept by Mr. Stubbs. This Mrs. Gutsell and her husband served me for many years with eggs, butter, rabbits, &c., and from their knowledge of the Westfield people and from other sources,
I am able to show that as Mary Ann Plumb, the subject of this notice, was a bad girl, and as Mrs. Geering, she was a bad woman. She was born at Westfield of poor but honest and industrious parents. Her father, George Plumb, was an agricultural labourer, much respected by those who knew him. He had four children, but died comparatively young. and his widow afterwards became the wife of Mr. Anscombe. The eldest child was the unfortunate Mary Ann, who pilfered many little things both from her parents and their neighbours. It was hoped that by getting her out to service away from home she would abandon that propensity of evil, but the hope was not realised. A situation was obtained for her at Coghurst, but here it was found that her dishonesty continued to be practised, resulting in her being discharged. She returned to Westfield, and was employed by Mr. Stunt, a well known man in that locality, She was but a short time in that service, and her next situation was at Pett, her employer being a Mr, Russell. While there, and at the age of about 16 years, she became acquainted with Richard Geering, the result of which was a personal condition which necessitated marriage at Westfield, the parish in which she was born.
She and her husband went back to the adjoining parish of Pett, and resided in a cottage at Guestling. Mr. Geering was successively employed by the farmers Veness, Cook, and Arckoll — all of whom at the time were personally known to myself, although I have no recollection of Geering and his wife. As a young married woman she went to her father’s funeral, and feigned illness — an indisposition, according to the neighbours’ opinion, which drunken people think it convenient to assume. But whatever was the nature of her illness, whether overcome with grief or with the reflection that her own career was so much less worthy than that which her honest and respected father had just terminated — neither of which cause admits of probability — she recovered quickly enough after leaving the grave-side for her widowed mother’s home, to stealthily take down the clock and carry it away. Mrs. Geering, with her husband, resided in two or three mean dwellings in or near Guestling in succession, and had, altogether, a family of ten children. She was addicted to the habit of spirit-drinking, when she could get the means to satisfy her craving, and was also believed to be an opium-eater. The circumstance of her husband having had money deposited in the Savings’ Bank, shows him to have been a frugal man, and the fact that Mrs. Geering withdrew the money seems to show a motive for the poisoning of her husband.
The reason for her poisoning her sons also, is not so apparent; but that she was a designing, an untruthful, and a dishonest woman, with barely a redeeming virtue, could have been proved by other means than those of witnesses at her trial. Sufficient, however, was publicly divulged thereat to deprive the murderess of any claim to sympathy.
The following remarks in continuation of the local deaths in 1849 should have appeared before the Guestling poisoning case, and I was not sensible of their omission until a few days ago, when I accidentally came across some unconsciously mislaid "copy."
One death — apparently omitted from the foregoing list — was that of Uriah Allen, late chief boatman at the Priory coastguard station. He was buried in the cemetery of St. Mary-in-the-Castle, on the Queen's birthday anniversary and followed to the grave by 50 men of the coastguard service.
Two other deaths not found in the list were those of George Collins, aged 19, and John Fowler, a servant They were bathing in front of Carlisle parade, when Fowler in an effort to save Collins, was carried down with him. Several boatmen on seeing the struggle, put off to rescue them, but only recovered the bodies too late to save life.
It was a year quite exceptional for accidents and sudden deaths,many of them being caused by the progress of the South-Eastern Railway works, but there were several others in and near the borough which necessitated an enquiry by a coroner's jury.
An inquest on Jan. 8th was held at Crowhurst on the body of Mr. Cooke. a farmer, 64 years of age, well known at Hastings, and which body had been found in a river at Crowhurst a short distance below an unprotected fir-tree bridge which Mr.Cooke would have to cross to get to his house. He started from home on the 20th of Dec. for Hailsham market, and thence on a visit to his brother at Lewes, and nothing was seen of him until found, as described. “Accidental Death” was the yerdict of the jury. Another fatality was that of a workman named Young, a native of Gardner’s street. He was killed by a fall of earth at the railway works just then commenced at the Priory, whilst a contractor’s son named Moore was greatly injured at the same time. On the 3rd of May a workman named Heary Tyrell was injured also at the Priory cutting of the Hastings and Ashford Railway, and was taken to the Infirmary where he died, a week later, and an inquest was held next day by Mr.J.G. Shorter, the Borough Coroner with the late Joseph Bannister as the jury’s foreman. On the 10th of May — just a week after the previous accident, a miner of the name of John Jones, while working in No. 1 shaft, received a severe fracture of the skull by a stone falling on him. He was taken in an insensible condition to the Old England Tavern at the angle of Cross street and what is now King’s road, where surgeon George Fry, assisted by the present writer, cut off the hair and dressed the wound. Under that operation the man gradually regained consciousness, and seemed to endure his misfortune with extraordinary fortitude.
On the 19th of June two inquests were held at the White Hart, Guestling, the first on the body of a young gentleman from London and the second on a young railway labourer. Both deaths were sadly sudden. Mrs. George Drew and three young ladies - wife and daughters of a Bermondsey solicitor - were staying at Hastings, and Mr. Charles Haslam Drew, aged 23, while visiting his mother and sisters, went with them to the Lovers’ Seat. He descended to the beach for the purpose of bathing, and when diving in the water, he struck his head against a rock, and after rising to the surface, sank again and was drowned before assistance could reach him. The other death was that of Obed Foord, a lad of 17 who was killed on the same day on the Ashford Railway works, near Guestling, by a wagon running over him and causing immediate death.
On the 12th of July, an accident occurred to a poor boy, the son of a man who was killed during the earlier progress of the works, by a railway truck running over one of his feet, thereby requiring amputation, which was performed by Mr. Fry. And on the same day a son of Mr. Smith, of Maze Hill, was taken to Mr. Fry’s surgery at the Marina, with a fractured arm. In falling down some steps, the lad splintered both bones of one arm in such a way that they were driven through the flesh of the arm and the sleeve of the jacket, Mr. Fry’s skill in both these cases resulted successfully.
Four days later, Mr. Fry’s services were again in requisition to attend Mr, Moore, of Montpelior, who had fallen from a height and fractured his collar- bone in a very severe manner. After much difficulty, the surgeon succeeded in replacing the fractured ends in their normal position.
Another fatality on the railway occurred on June 20th, A carpenter named James Sales, 24 years of age, while unloading poles at the Bopeep station, fell and was so injured that he died in a few hours.
On the 4th of August, a compound fracture of the thigh was sustained on the railway works near the Three Oaks farm by a lad named James Morem.
Another of the numerous railway fatalities occurred on the 18th of August, when a miner named Peter Carlyon was killed by the giving way of 15 x 9 feet of brick work in the St. Leonards tunnel then being formed under the contract of Messrs. Newton & Smith.
Six days later Edward Benham was much hurt while working in the lower heading of the railway tunnel then forming in the Mount-Pleasant field, by the earth falling on him. Another railway accident occurred on the 25th of August, when John Ridgebridger, at the age of 29, was fatally buried by a fall of earth while he was working in a cutting on Rock farm, Guestling.
Charles James, formerly a Rye carrier, was one of the railway workmen, under Mr. Hoof's contract, and though he was not accidentally injured, he fell dead while being visited by his wife at Hastings.
Another accident in the Mount-Pleasant tunnel occurred on the 19th of Sept., when one of the labourers fell from a plank and fractured a thigh; but this was of minor concern compared with the series of bruises and broken bones that befel the railway labourers a few days later.
On Sept. 24th a man named Bonniface was greatly injured by falling from a plank in the cutting at Three-Oaks Farm, Guestling; and at the same place on the next day, Thomas Foord was partly buried by about five tons of earth falling on him, causing him bodily harm. Another man was seriously hurt on the head and chest in No.3 shaft of the Ore tunnel. At midnight of the same day a waggon-break gave way in the Hastings tunnel, and the waggons being on a slope ran forward on the horses, which caused them to kick and plunge, whereby one horse was killed and another wounded. There was much water in the tunnel and an inrush of air blew out the lights. Shouts and moans were heard, and when lights were again procured, it was found that two lads (Stephen Styles and David Mepham) had been run over by the trucks and trampled upon by the horses, one of them suffering from a compound fracture of the right thigh and the same of the left leg above the ankle. The other lad, besides bruises, had one leg broken, They were taken to the Infirmary and ultimately recovered.
At the same time, the railway bridge (now so constantly in evil repute as the St. Andrew's arch) began to crack, and thus to manifest signs of unstability.
The railway works at the Three-Oaks farm, Guestling, was the scene of another lad bein run over by the trucks and severely injured. That was on the 28th of September.
The next accident, to which surgeon Fry, as usual, was summoned, occurred at the cutting near the ozier-beds. A boy only 10 years of age named James Bowyer, was underneath a train of trucks greasing the wheels, when, unperceived by the driver, the train was started and the poor boy runover. He only lived till the next day, the 18th of October.
On the 31st of the same month, a young man named Garland, while working in the Mount-Pleasant tunnel fell a distance of 30 feet on to the rails, and was taken in a precarious condition to his lodgings on the late Barrack Ground.
The next mishap was a serious one in a financial sense, but, happily, there was no injury to life or limb. It was the falling in of more than 40 yards of the Hastings tunnel at about 150 yards from the St. Leonards end or entrance. It occurred in the night of. Nov 16th, and the crash was terrific. It was then discovered that the ground at that spot was treacherous, and that the work would have to be restored with more than the usual five or six rings of brick work at a cost of about £5000.
The cases thus enumerated are all the fatalities and untoward casualties on the railway works in 1849 that came to my knowledge; but, as connected with the said works, it is appropriate, if not indeed painfully interesting, to add that in the early part of Dec. Mr. James Hoof, eldest son of the railway contractor dropped dead while walking in a street at Wolverhampton. His funeral took place on the 11th, and on that day the father gave all his workmen and other assistants a day’s pay without work, on all his contracts throughout the kingdom, that they might attend special religious services. At Hastings the special service was conducted by the Rev. John Parkin in the schoolroom, which was found to be insufficiently capacious to hold the large number who attended. Most of the men seemed to be impressed with the solemnity of the occasion, and some, it was known, felt real surrow for the death of one they had learnt to love.
Another sorrowful occurrence came to one family, at least, on the 3rd of Dec. when Edward Smith, a foreman on the railway works between Hastings and St. Leonards, left his home as though going to the scene of operations in his usual manner except that he was noticed to put on his best boots and hat. From that day to the 14th nothing had been seen of of him, and as he had lived on the most affectionate terms with his wife, she was plunged into deep distress at his long absence.
Quite unconnected with railway mishaps and fatalities there are two other deaths which, as requiring inquests to be held, remain to be noticed. One of these was that of a boy, 9 years of age, a grandson of[Notes 2]
- This title is not Brett's but added for better pagination
- This paragraph ends abruptly here - Editor