Brett Volume 3: Chapter XXX - Hastings 1843

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Transcriber’s note[edit]

Chapter XXX - Hastings 1843[edit]

Mr. Brisco's grand procession as High Sheriff
The new prison question
Further proceedings against path obstructers
Disputation over Beach Terrace property and defiance to the Council
Completion of road across the (now Robertson Street)
The lighting of said road a knotty question
Opposition to the Income Tax and Factory Bill
Regatta and Flower shows
Converting the battery into an additional length of parade. Deaths in 1843.

Grand Procession of High Sheriff - Beach Cottages Dispute[edit]

 Pg.269  The gaol-bird pact of Horsham alluded to in Chapter XXIX, is a reminder that in more ways than one were Horsham and Hastings closely associated in times past. Not only was the prison of the former the unsolicited asylum of the evildoers of the latter, but also to the polling-booth of the former did the county-voters of the latter "jaunt the weary way" to "record their voices" for their favorite candidate. Horsham, in fact, was to Hastings and pre-St. Leonards in much the same relationship as was Lewes in more modern times. And this latter connection reminds one of the fact that in 1843, Musgrave Brisco, a Hastings man, was the High Sheriff, and that on Saturday, the 18th of March he was accompanied to Lewes by a grand procession such as had not been previously seen in this town and neighborhood for 40 years. The procession was headed by Javelin-men, each clothed in a Lincoln-green suit with red stripes, and each carrying a sword. They were well-mounted on horses with new bridles and saddles; and thus marshalled, they added a picturesqueness to the dashing cavalcade. The Javelin-men on this occasion were Messrs E. Farncomb, of Filsham; H. Farncomb, Icklesham, E. Crisford; Robt. Noakes, Westfield; John Woodhams, Udimore; Robt, Overy, jun., Guestling; and six others. In the Sheriff’s carriage, drawn by four greys, was the Deputy-Sheriff (T. B. Baker, Esq.) and the Sheriff's brother (Wastel Brisco, Esq.), who at the time was Mayor of Hastings. Mr Brisco’s private carriage, drawn by four bays, followed next, and contained the Sheriffs lady and the Mayor's lady, with two other ladies. Ten or twelve private carriages, among them Mr. Duncomb’s four-in-hand, completed the cavalcade, and many hundreds of people lined the route to witness this observance of people lined the route to witness this observance of an old English custom. This occurred on the 18th of March, preparatory to holding the Spring Assizes, and on the 29th of September a similar procession passed through St. Leonards en route for Lewes.

About sixty leading merchants and tradesmen of the two towns had previously met at the Swan Hotel, whence they proceeded to the Sheriff’s residence at Coghurst Hall, there to meet the rest of the cavalcade. When the procession was formed it consisted of trumpeters on horseback; fifty other horsemen; twelve Javelin-men, with their truncheon-man (KE. Farncomb); a carriage of four greys, containing gentlemen; a carriage of four bays, containing ladies; and about twenty private carriages. On arriving at Bopeep, the procession halted, and the horsemen divided to allow the Sheriff to pass into their midst, whilst most of the private carriages returned.

As a kindred topic to the Lewes Assizes, whither Mr. Brisco, as High-sheriff, was twice escorted with all the judicial panoply of olden times, it may be stated that the vexed question of a new prison at Hastings was again mooted at the court which our local magnate attended, and a Committee was appointed to consider the subject. For the better elucidation of this matter, it is well to repeat in substance what has already been stated when treating of the events of 1836 and ’38. It will be remembered that in the first-named year, a letter was received from Lord John Russell to the effect that Quarter Sessions were not to be held at Hastings unless a new gaol were built for the general use of the Cinque Ports. That this was not done is self-evident; but the question of prison-accommodation was frequently to the fore in the deliberations of magistrates and other constituted authorities; and hence — to repeat a former statement — on the 30th of January, 1838, a private meeting of magistrates and members of the Town Council was held at Mr. North's residence to discuss the question of a county gaol, Another meeting was held by the County Magistrates in August of that year. when their approval of the erection of such a structure was pronounced. In February of the following year, however, the Town Council vetoed the Magistrates' decision, and the matter was still an open question, the public all the while getting to know but very little what was likely to be done. I now come to the Report of the Committee appointed at the Easter Assizes at Lewes in 1843, which is as follows :—

This Committee having taken into consideration under what authority it is practicable to carry such arrangement into effect, the Committee report that the holding an adjourned County Session at or near Hastings could only be carried into effect by building a new prison and court-house at the sole cost of the county, and that it is not desirable to effect the object at so great an expense." It is found necessary to enlarge the House of Correction at Lewes, and that the necessity for such enlargement to a great extent will be obviated by the proposed plan of a district prison at Hastings, The holding of Sessions at Hastings would relieve the labours of the Lewes Sessions, and the Hastings gaol might be made capable of receiving criminal offenders now confined there by constructing twenty additional cells at the cost of the county. Having ascertained that Hastings will contribute one-third of the expense, the Committee therefore recommend the building a prison at Hastings for 100 prisoners, together with a court-house, &c.

It is not necessary to say that the Committee's recommendation was not adopted, the difficulty having been solved by the subsequent erection of the new county prison at Lewes.

While leaving the gaol qestion(sic) in the hands of the County-magistrates for further deliberation and ultimate decision, I proceed to gossip over another event the reminiscence of which is evolved from magisterial association. I have heretofore described the unsuccessful attempts of Mrs. Milward and Mr, Wyatt to stop up certain footpaths, and now it is for me to say that in the year under review the Rev. G. G Stonestreet made a similar attempt and with a like result. On the 4th of June, after a long desultory conversation, the Bench passed two resolutions, the first, that legal proceedings be taken against Mr. Stonestreet for diverting the footpath across some fields near the Barrack Ground, and the second, that the obstruction in the original path be removed by the Surveyor. The action taken upon the latter resolution might have rendered unnecessary the application of the former, the path, as I seem to recollect being restored without the intervention of the law. It is a little curious that in the same year and within the same building another pathway contention cropped up between another body of officials and a certain member of the same who had the courage to assert his real or imaginary rights. On the 9th of Nov., after the unopposed election of Alderman Dr. MacCabe to the Mayoralty, some ordinary Council business was brought on in which reference was made to an act: or threat of Mr. Thwaites whereby a path leading across the ship-yard to Beach Cottages would be taken away. Mr. Thwaites retorted sharply that he was firmly resolved to stop-up the path in question, whether the Council disapproved of it or not. The property, he said, was his own, and he should do as he liked with it. Someone sarcastically reminded the gentleman thus jealous of his rights that the property was on ground originally filched from the sea or the Corporation, the whole of Beach Cottages and ship building premises having been constructed on the full of the beach, and consequently on a site that was never paid for. This reminder, however, would nothing avail; possession being nine-tenths of the law, and a more than twenty-years’ possession without legal interference having given a possessory title not to be overthrown. But the incident recalls the contention — epistolary and otherwise — which took place in 1831 between the holders of the Beach-Cottages property on the one side, and the owners of Pelham Crescent and Pelham Place on the other. Some of the latter were members of the Commissioners’ committee appointed to investigate the requirements for a new Act of Parliament for paving, lighting, cleansing and improving the town, and for establishing markets, and supplying the inhabitants with water. In the draft for the said Act, Beach Cottages were scheduled for removal, it being contended by the advocates of such removal that by the taking down of an unsightly and mean block of buildings and extending the parade over the site would not only be a very great improvement in itself, but that it would also help the old town to hold its own against the superior attractions of St. Leonards. The opponents of the proposed improvement contended, somewhat illogically, that it was in the worst possible taste to institute comparisons between the old town and the new, it being very well known that the founding of St. Leonards was a grand speculation by an enterprising architect with whom it became an absolute necessity to have recourse to every means that would contribute to the natural beauty of the site he had selected; whilst to purchase and destroy the Beach Cottages property for a so-called improvement would be a tax on the ratepayers of Hastings for which they would get no return. The fallacy of this argument is self-apparent, but it appears nevertheless that the contemplated improvement was frustrated by the uncompromising resistance to the scheme by those who held possession of the property.

The new Act was obtained on the 28rd of June, 1832, and not only were Beach Cottages not scheduled for compulsory removal, but there was a clause in the said Act which, "Enacted that nothing herein contained shall authorize or empower the Commissioners to take or use any house or houses or other buildings erected or built before the passing of this Act without the consent of the owner thereof being first obtained." Whether the subsequent removal of Thwaites and Winter's ship-building yard and the placing of a Russian gun on the site has been of any advantage to the town in question I will not ask, but that the removal of the "Condemned Hole" in rear of Beach Cottages has at least been a convenience no one will deny. Nor can it well be doubted that the removal of Beach Terrace—to cali it by its modern appellation — would have been a marked improvement, and one which might have saved both the owners and ratepayers a goodly amount of money as well as anxiety. The said houses have always been buffeted by the sea, and an endless expense has been incurred in efforts to protect them.

There was a time, I am told, before the houses were strengthened and enlarged, and some of them rebuilt, when the Council might have purchased the block: at a reasonable price, but that must have been subsequent to the offer of £1300 by the late Benjamin Smith, M.P., to the late William Jordan for No, 4 — a house that has been more wrecked by the sea than any one of the row of eight. Mr. Smith, who had property in the Crescent, imagined that if he could only clear away one house, it would lead up to a sale of the rest; but for a house that probably did not cost more than £200 - the offer of £1300 was not sufficiently tempting to the at that time proprietor.

At a quarterly meeting in the month of February the irrepressible beach question was as much to the fore as it is at the present day, and, after a good deal of desultory discussion, an order was passed that no beach be taken from the foreshore within fifteen feet of the parade wall — an order, by-the-bye, that was as useless as it was precise. There was a great dearth of beach at the Fishmarket, as there has been of late, and the question of a stone groyne was constantly brought forward [at] the April meeting it was again questioned and again deferred. The Town Councillors appeared to be so perplexed with the condition of the stade, the groynes and the beach, and to be so weary of the question altogether that a letter was received from them by the Commissioners at a meeting of the latter on June th, conveying an offer to give up to the said Commissioners the large timber groyne and the contemplated stone groyne at a mere nominal rent. But among other questions broached at the February meeting was the application of a man named Scott to be allowed the opportunity of relieving the Town Crier of his heavy duties for £10 a year, and find his own clothes. Here was an offer which might have startled some governing bodies out of all propriety, but such was the veneration which the Hastings aldermen and councilmen cherished for old institutions that they refused to entertain this liberal innovation.

A more agreeable theme was the report of a committee which complimented Mr. Putland on the due fulfilment of his engagement to construct the road over the (now Robertson street) for £150, towards which sum the Commissioners of Woods and Forests contributed £100, whilst £48 ‘was obtained from subscribers. But the making of this road, desirable as it was, did not fulfil the whole of the requirements, it being necessary to consider the question of lighting the same. Months and almost years had been spent in negotiations with officials of the Crown ere the much needed road could be arranged for, and then the lighting of it seemed to be as knotty a point as the making of it.

In considering the question as urged in a memorial from the habitants at the Priory, Mr, Ginner remarked that to light with gas between York Build- Pg.270 -ings and White Rock would be to take action over a portion of the borough which was not included in either of the two local Acts under which other portions, of the borough were lighted. The question had already been adjourned for a month because it was understood that if the application were granted the expense. would wholly or principally fall on Mrs. Foster at the Priory Farm, she being the only ratepayer in the parish of Holy Trinity. Mr. Shorter explained that under the Municipal Act they were empowered to light any part that was necessary, and charge the expense to the parish in proportion to the cost of lighting other portions of the borough, or, under an Act the 3rd and 4th of William IV, they might light any-parish and become their own Inspectors. In the latter case the expense must be borne wholly by the parish so lighted. Mr. Clement contended that it was manifestly unfair for Mrs. Foster to be put to a great expense for the convenience of the public. This being the general feeling, the matter was again deferred.

The Gaol Question - The Income Tax - Procession of Clubs - Parade & Groynes[edit]

Some of the Council having complained of the mystery in which a charge of £9 each for conveying insolvent debtors to Horsham was involved,a remark was made that the mystery would never be solved until the Hastings jail was pulled down. This was another difficult subject, the town of Rye having declined to unite with Hastings in the jail question in consequence of having abundance of accommodation for its own prisoners. At a later meeting, however, a report was received to the effect that a new county prison, capable of containing 100 prisoners, would cost £16,000, one-third to be paid by the borough of Hastings, and two-thirds by the county. The report was approved of and accepted.

Another burning question was the revival of the Income-tax by Sir Robert Peel. It not only roused a feeling of antagonism out of doors, but it also caused the political opposites of the Council Board once more to display themselves. Mr. Duke considered it as a most unrighteous and inquisitorial imposition. It was levied, he contended, for the Indian and Chinese wars, notwithstanding that China's indemnity had covered the cost. He urged that the tax should be immediately repealed unless John Bull wished to become the laughing-stock of the world. Mr. Putland confessed to being one of that unfortunate class who had to pay the tax when his exchequer was very low. He held that they ought to have nothing to do with wars, which were only stratagems of the Devil. In reply to the taunt that he was one of the Free traders, to suit whose views the Premier was compelled to impose the tax, Mr. Putland replied he was not a Free-trader, but an advocate for a fixed duty on corn of 8s. Mr. Harvey expressed himself happy in being able to pay the tax, and his only regret was that there were not more in a similar position.

The Regatta which took place on Thursday the 13th of July, was chiefly noteworthy for it being quite a small affair, there being but one sailing match and one galley race. The course extended from Hastings to St. Leonards and back, and the two competitions were of a spirited character. The Hastings Town Band played on the parade, and the amusements, accompanied by brilliant weather, attracted a numerous array of sight-seers.

Equally favourable was the weather of June the 5th, which — as the day was Whit. Monday — enhanced the enjoyment of those who flocked into the borough to witness the annual procession of clubs, as it also added to the pleasure of those members of whom the grand procession was composed. The adjective in this case is by no means misapplied, for the local holiday in years gone by was almost wholly concentrated on the assembling, perambulating, churching, feasting and al fresco amusements of the several societies. The procession was formed of more than 500 members, and a still greater number assembled at the dinner tables. The Old Friendly dined at the Swan Hotel, the Oddfellows at, the King’s Head, and the Benevolent at the Market Hall. The sermon was preached by the Rev. J. G. Foyster; and at 6 o’clock, according to the then annual custom, the members and their female friends followed the bands to the, where dancing and other pastimes were indulged in.

At the time of writing a vast change is observable in the Benefit Societies custom, as in other modes of holiday-keeping. Whit-Monday, as one of the instituted Bank-holidays, is, of course, as much appropriated to pleasure as aforetime, but the outward demonstrations and inward feastings of the clubs have dwindled down to comparative insignificance amidst the counter-attractions of railway excursions, country outings, and a variety of other opportunities for recreation. It may be that as education becomes more general, and temperance principles more diffused, the two influences lead up to a more intelligent method of using the national holidays; if so, its another cause of congratulation for the passing of the Elementary Education Act in 1870. By this,one is reminded of the previous attempts to establish a system of national education and of the sectarian bitterness by which such attempts were frustrated. The measures were not always conceived in a sufficiently liberal spirit, but the exactions, on the other hand, were often such as to admit of no compromise. In Hastings, as in other towns, the educational clauses of Sir James Graham’s Factory Bill were strongly opposed, and at a meeting which was held on the 18th of May, Mr. Henry Thwaites, who officiated as chairman, declaimed against those clauses, as being both inviduous and unjust, and it therefore behoved the Dissenters even more than other people to oppose them. He admitted that we were behind many other nations in education, but we possessed means, if properly applied, sufficient to make us the most forward nation. The proposed measure infringed on our liberties, and should therefore be resisted.

At the same meeting, the Rev. W. Davis, in a temperate speech, while opposing Sir James Graham’s scheme as partaking too much of the spirit of that oppression to which our forefathers were subjected, moved "That the general education of the people on sound principles such as would unite all parties. is ardently desired." Another resolution of similar import was moved by the Rev. Mr. Cramp (Baptist), and the two were sent to Mr. Hollond, our Liberal representative, for presentation. If those good men had lived to the present day they would have rejoiced to know that by the passing of the Elementary Education Act of 1870, on a basis of compromise, the religious difficulty which in their day was the great stumbling-block, has ceased to exist, and that in twelve years the registered number of children receiving instruction in the Elementary schools has risen from 1,693,000 to 4,190,000. They would have been further gratified to know that the quality of such education has improved, as shown by the Exchequer grant having increased from one million to 3½ millions.

The autumn Flower Show was held on the 12th of September in the Swan Assembly Room, in which room the Harmonic meetings continued to be held, the leading vocalists being Messrs. Moody, Ferris and others from the London Concerts, and the instrumentalists being Messrs. Hart, Wood, and others, of Hastings.

Contiguous to the "ancient hostelry" just named is the St. Clement’s Church, the pulpit of which, with the sanction of the churchwardens and the Town Council, was removed, and other improvements effected, during the month of September. A previous improvement had been made externally in the renovation of the tower and the construction of a south porch, of which Mr. Frederick Thatcher was the architect.

According to the accepted tender in November of the preceding year, the conversion of the dilapidated fort into a lengthened parade was to be finished in January of this year. Then came the question of paying the contractor the stipulated sum of £488. Subscriptions to the amount of £137 had been collected by a committee appointed by the Commissioners for that purpose, and at the January monthly meeting it was stated that Mr. Lucas Shadwell had generously promised an additional £50, and Mr. Lord an additional £20. It may be stated that these two gentlemen possessed property in the immediate neighbourhood, which it was thought would be made of greater value by the improvement in the parade. Mr. Beck proposed that £300 be borrowed to make up the amount, which was carried against Mr. Langham's amendment, that the whole of the remaining requirement be raised by subscriptions.

At the same meeting the Waterworks committee reported the paying off of £200, thus reducing the debt to £3,150. After agreeing upon a rate of 3d for the Castle parish and 4d for each of St. Clement's and All Saints, it was mentioned that £400 a year ought not to have been allotted to the sinking fund, yet nothing had been so paid for three years.

Hastings Commissioners - Deaths in 1843[edit]

Passing to another topic, Mr. Harvey proposed that the parade groyne be lowered one plank and extended to stones foot. Messrs. Langham and Womersley objected that if they were so fond of committees they had better discharge their surveyor at once. The committee was, however, formed and with instruction to report on the expediency of building a more substantial groyne and on the plan by Col. Williams for building an entire pier of his proposed harbour. The committee reported that it was better to build a stone groyne 360 feet in length at an estimated cost of £2,150, which would do away with smaller groynes to the west, whilst it would protect and otherwise improve the neighbourhood of West Street and the Fishmarket. Mr. Thwaites reminded the Commissioners that such a project was not a new idea, as the same thing had been mooted 9 years before. He was on a committee when several plans were submitted, one of them by Mr. White of Brighton, and if one of those Pg.271 plans had been adopted, he had no doubt much expense would have been saved. He believed it would cost £250 a year to maintain a wooden groyne. The Rock-a-Nore groyne, built 9 years ago, cost £900, and a considerable sum had been spent to keep it in repair. Neighbouring towns were spending large sums on improvements, and if we wished visitors to come to Hastings, it was necessary to assist Nature a little. We had delightful walks and romantic scenery and it needed but the spending a little money to make Hastings one of the most favourite watering places in the Kingdom. As to the proposed new stone groyne, the clerk was of the opinion that it could not be built. Mr Thwaites, in reply, said a farthing in the £ would realise £40, which would not be sufficient, but when they considered the £22 reduced interest paid by the Commissioners, a halfpenny rate would be enough to discharge the interest on the parade wall and stone groyne. They would also be making 280 feet of new ground, which might be let in plots at £10 a year, and although that would go to the Town Council, it would relieve the rates. There was a life-boat, but it could not be used in times of danger, because there were no means of launching it, but the groyne would much facilitate that operation. The Clerk then read the opinion of Sir W. Follett that no groyne, jetty or pier could be erected under the provisions of their Act except for the accumulation of beach and the protection of the town. Mr. Richardson declared the report to be the most "unfounded" one he had ever heard read, whereupon a warm discussion ensued between Messrs. Catley, Laugham, Wingfield Thwaites and others. Mr. Harvey contended that such a scheme would cripple their funds. They were only permitted to borrow to the extent of £12,000 and they had already incurred a debt of £9,500. Mr. Catley thought the present groyne could be repaired and lengthened at a small expense. Then amidst much confusion and disorder, a motion by Mr. Harvey was carried that the Surveyor inspect the existing groyne and estimate the expense of lengthening it 70 feet. It was then reported that the parade wall had been completed at a cost of about £607. The subscriptions had amounted to £157, and £29 10s had been obtained by the sale of old rails. The contract price was £418, but work had been done that was not in the contract.

It will have been seen in the foregoing report of a Town Council meeting that the Commissioners offered to give over to that body the groyne which had caused so much discussion.

Among the noted marriages of the year was that of the present Duchess of Cleveland of Battle Abbey, to her first husband, Lord Dalmeny, and the event is here noticed because her second husband, Lord Harry Vane was elected in 1859 to represent Hastings in Parliament, and who continued thus till 1864 when he took the title of Duke of Cleveland. His surviving Duchess (nee Lady Wilhemina Stanhope) was in early life one of the prettiest and cleverest maidens of society circles and was chosen by the Queen as one of the train-bearers at her coronation and one of the bridesmaids at her wedding. It hardly needs to be added that the talented Duchess is the mother of Lord Roseberry.

I will conclude the records of 1843, as I have those of several previous years, with a list of deaths, ages and places of interment, so far as I know them, and in alphabetical order.

Amoore, Walter Rix, nearly 3 years, All Saints.
Breach, Martha, wife of Geo. Halton.
Barton, Capt., R.N., 53g St. Mary’s.
Browne, Catherine Sophia 12, St. Leonards.
Bristow, Frances, 19, St. Leonards.
Crowhurst, John, 7, Bexhill.
Cruttenden, Henrys alias Duke, 83, Bexhill.
Close, Mary, widow of Rev. H J., 89, St.Mary's.
Chandler, Geo. Thos., 6 mos., St. Leonards.
Cris, Caroline, 24, St. Leonards.
Chipper, Mary, 24,St. Leonards.
Chipper, George, 4 months, St. Leonards.
Deering, Christopher, 59, St. Leonards.
Dawa, Elizabeth, 72, Bexhill.
Dunk, Jane, wife of David, 69, St. Mary's.
Dobson, Edward, 26, St. Mary’s
Fairway, Samuel, 83, Bexhill.
Fothergill, Hannah, relict of Rev. H., 64, St.Mary's.
Gallop, Henry, 14 mos.,St. Leonards.
Gallop, Emily, 3, St. Leonards.
Hyland, Samuel, 46, St. Leonards.
Harmer, Johr, 2 weeks,St. Leonards.
Jones, Mary Franzes, 32, St. Leonards.
Kirk, Eliza Jane, 3, St. Leonards.
Lancelot, Harry, 4, St. Leonards.
Mould, Charles Thomas, 9 mos., St. Leonards.
McCowen, George, 6, St. Leonards.
Mitten, Mary, 64, wife of Joseph, Bexhill.
Matthis, Richard, 88, Bexhill.
Norman, Edmund, 60, St. Mary’s.
Price, Elizabeth, 14, St. Leonards.
Pain, James, 4 months, St. Leonards.
Phillips, Jane, dau. of G, and A., All Saints.
Quaife, Wm, Edward, 9 mos., St. Leonards.
Rich, Mary, 84 January, Bexhill.
Shoesmith, Hannah, 70, Bexhill.
Towner, Jane, 60, St. Leonards.
Trim, Sarah, 42, St. Leonards.
Tapp, Frederick, 35, St. Leonards.
Thwaites, Jane, wife of Wm., 43, St, Mary's.
Turpin, Jane, 23, St. Mary’s.
Thorpe, Thomasine, 18, dau, of B. & M,.
Weller, isthor, 15, St. Leonards.
Whittaker, Ann, 36, St. Leonards.
Wenham, Elizabeth, 55, All Saints.