Brett Volume 4: Chapter XLV - St. Leonards 1851
| 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, contemporary newspaper reporting 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.
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Chapter XLV. — St. Leonards. 1851
Pg.67 Contents. — Transactions of the St. Leonards Commissioners — St. Mary Magdalen Church projected and building tendered for — Laying the Foundation Stone — Ill-feeling at the ceremony between East and West, followed by separate luncheons — Protestantism vs. Romanism — Opening of Ashford and Hastings Railway — Conflict between the L.B. & S.C. and S.E. railway companies — Trains impounded and rails taken up — Legal decision adverse to South-Eastern Company. Competition in fares, ultimately leading to an amicable arrangement, detrimental to the borough — Historical sketch of the L.B. and S.C. Railway Company and its formation with the West of France Railway Company, of the Newhaven Harbour Company. Immense up-to-date enlargement and improvement of Newhaven Harbour described — Proposed new Local Act for the district between the Priory and the St. Leonards Archway, to be called “the West-Hastings Improvement Act”. — Strong opposition to and abandonment of the Bill — Meeting against the inclusion of St. Leonards in the Health of Towns Act. — The case carried to the House of Lords, resulting successfully for St. Leonards. New Buildings — A question of Public Bands — Diverting the Haven — Horticultural Shows — Accidents, etc.
The St. Leonards Board of Commissioners
At their meeting in January, the Commissioners received communications from Mrs. Deudney and Miss Greata, calling attention to the necessity of the immediate erection of a sea wall at the West Marina, and stating that at the recent high tide the water had entered their kitchens, and besides doing damage, had caused an effluvia that was injurious to health. They claimed to have the rates suspended until the asked-for protection was afforded.
The Sea-Wall. — At the meeting on March 3rd, tenders for the sea-wall were opened, when there appeared the following disparity: — Hemmings and Foster, £2,020; Newton, Smith & Co. (railway contractors) £1,328; Hughes and Hunter, £1,160; and Jonas Gregson, £1,150. The tender of Hughes and Hunter was accepted, not only because it was within £10 of the lowest, the also because they were local tradesmen, and the Commissioners had confidence in them.
Pipes. — Tenders for cast-iron pipes were also received, and in the following varied forms: — Troughton and Bevans, £10 per ton; Alderton & Shrewsbury, £7; Chas. T. How, £6 3s.; Jesse Man, 3/4 per foot; B. Garrott, 2/10; J. S. Morris, 2/2; and S. H. Willard £34 15s, for the whole. Morriss’s was accepted. — It was ordered for a board to be placed at the west end of the town, cautioning persons against bringing coals into the town without paying duty. Pg.68 On the 25th of March it was reported by the committee that Mr. Waghorne having complained of the Commissioners’ drain running through his house at 11 Undercliff, the same had been examined and repaired. — Mr. Gant, of Hastings, having offered to take the office of Surveyor at a salary not exceeding £25, his offer was accepted. New land-ties were to be put to the groyne east of the Library for £11.
More Tenders. For repaving with York-stone the pathway at the back of 22 to 44 Marina, tenders were received from Burchell and Welsh, at £172 10s.; from Vennal, at £171 1s. 8d.; from Winter & Son, at £162 12s.; and from Hughes and Hunter, at £138. The last-named tender from such a firm was, of course, accepted. — Surgeon Norwood’s offer was also accepted to bear half the expense of a stone pavement round No. 1 East Ascent.
Damage by storm. The Clerk was instructed to ascertain the amount of damage caused by the storm and high tide to the houses at West Marina.
Progress Reported. At an adjourned meeting, it was stated that the York-stone pavement had been laid at from 22 to 44 Marina, and at from 1 to 5 East Ascent; also that the sea-wall at the West Marina was being rapidly constructed, there being 600 of 866 feet already done.
Coal Dues. — Being convinced that for a considerable time past the Commissioners had been defrauded of coal duties, they at the same meeting resolved to accept Messrs. Hughes and Hunter’s tender of £270 per year for the purchase or hire of those duties. The public notice previously given it was believed had not been effective, and there appeared to be a difficulty in checking the fraudulent practice. The usual half-yearly rate of 1/- for house property and 6d. on agricultural property was ordered.
The Dispute with Railway Company. — A letter having been received from Mr. Elliott, a surveyor of Lydd, stating that two letters of his to Capt. Barlow (re the alleged injury done to the St. Leonards wall through the high bank of earth on the beach at Bopeep made by the railway contractors) had been discourteously unanswered, the Commissioners resolved that no further proceedings be taken. This was, undoubtedly, a wise resolution for even if it could have been proved that the earth in question was at fault (and not the storm) there would have then been the question whether the liability rested with the Company or the contractors; and it was quite certain that the Commissioners had no money to spend in legal proceedings. Under any circumstances the wall which was being erected and the strengthening of the groynes, appeared to be the better course.
Loans. — Pg.69 Mr. Wagner’s offer to lend £800, and Mr. Jarman’s offer to lend £200, accepted with thanks, the said amounts being necessary for the completion of important works.
Additional Improvements. — Mr. Gant having become the Commissioners’ surveyor from the commencement of the year, he recommended the new wall to be two feet higher for 600 feet, and Hughes and Hunter had promised to do it for an additional sum of £168. At the meeting on Nov. 13th, the Surveyor submitted a plan for improved drainage, and Mr. Jesse Mann’s tender of £285 for lengthening the outlets was accepted. Twelve additional fire-plugs were ordered to be put down in different parts of the town, and the fire-engine to the overhauled and re-painted. Mr. Barnes’s employment as a constable ordered to be given up, and a contract was completed with S. J. Knight for continuing iron pillars and rails on the esplanade for £140.
The Clerk’s Duties. — At the last meeting of the year (December 26), the Clerk having made extra charges for work which the Commissioners considered was included in his salary, the clerk (W. Burton) tendered his resignation, whereupon the charges were allowed, but a resolution was passed that on the appointment of another clerk the duties should be clearly defined. Profiting by this occurrence as well as by the more than one dispute between the Town Council and their officers on the same want of explicitness, the resolution thus passed appeared to be necessary. Dr. Harwood, writing from the Clock Tower, complained of the pavement at West Double-Villa, and of the drying of clothes in the rear of the same property. In addition to the £1,000 lent by Mr. Wagner and Mr. Jarman, it was found that £700 was wanted to be borrowed to liquidate existing liabilities.
Greater Energy. — The restricted limit of their borrowing powers and the half-yearly rating being confined to a shilling, in the pound, disenabled the Commissioners to carry out, not only desired improvements, but also the means of protection against the action of the sea and other works of necessity. These limitations of the Local Act also many times militated against the obtaining of loans even within the prescribed limits, and had not some of the residents (among whom were the Burtons themselves) come to the rescue, the urgencies could not have been met, and the Commission must have collapsed. The prevalent belief was that as the building increased, the revenue derived from additional rates would cover the outlay on the theretofore unoccupied roads and byeways, but it was found that this additional source did not much more than equal the requirements of the new property. Under all circumstances much credit was due to Pg.70 the Commissioners for their increased energy during what has been popularly called the Exhibition Year. Aided by the advice of Mr. W. J. Gant, their new surveyor, the West-Marina wall, already begun, was completed, and the system of drainage improved. The height of the extended parade was 11½ feet on a two-feet bed of concrete. It was on an incline of 8 feet from the perpendicular and considerably curved. It was contemplated, among other improvements, to form the road more seaward between the end of the Marina and the Fountain Inn, so as to widen the building ground under the cliff. The Commissioners had been asked to allow the West-Marina houses to be drained into the Haven, but the said Commissioners intended to remove the sluice to half a mile further westward. Improvements of a character were also projected, including the laying-out of gardens on the West Hill, and the forming the road to the top of an easier gradient. Some new villas or other residences were also contemplated in that district. In all these undertakings it may be that the Commissioners were stimulated by the assurance at a meeting of the Town Council, at which the Hastings members endeavoured to force St. Leonards under the Health of Towns Act, that “the St. Leonards Commissioners were quite capable of managing their own affairs”.
With regard to the new wall I occasionally watched its progress, and dared to express an opinion that howsoever effective for its purpose the slight concavity of its surface might prove to be, a projecting gradient from bottom to top would have been a better plan. Some of my acquaintances said such a wall would be top-heavy — that it would be much more costly to build, and that it would not so well withstand the force of a heavy sea. It was hardly likely that my plan would have received any attention even if I had been in a position to suggest it to the ruling authorities; but I had not only watched the action of the sea at that time for more than 20 years, by I had also made sundry miniature experiments with water rushed against kitchen utensils (baking tins, etc.) and made a note thereof. Also in the year under consideration (1851) I had acquired a sufficient architectural knowledge to be able to draw the elevation and working plans of my own house in Norman Road, which Mr. Voysey, an architect said he could not improve, and Mr. C. T. Howell, a builder, declared that in economising space and in some other features for which the building was designed, I had shown myself the best amateur architect he had met with. This personal allusion is my only diploma for the assumption that a parade wall should be so built as to throw back the sea upon itself; instead of having rearward incline with which to reach the top and flow over. Subsequent observations never removed me from this theory. At a later period I made repeated observations on the Pg.71 efficacy or otherwise of groynes, the result of which has been given in one or more of my numerous articles on storms and tides. It has often surprised me that — if only as an experiment — a small, but strong groyne has not been put down to run slightly to the east instead of the east, and then if it did not answer to place another against it bearing to the west, the acute angle of the two forming the shape of an elongated V. Where so many thousands of pounds are involved in foreshore protection, surely the cost of such an experiment ought not to be objected to.
The Commissioners Accounts. During the warm controversy between the two towns — both of which declared the Government Inspectors’ Report to be very erroneous — the Hastings News, apparently misinformed as to the Commissioners’ accounts not being open to inspection, said “We should very much like to see what Mr. Cressey could not — their accounts”. To this, the Commissioners’ Clerk (Mr. W. W. Burton) replied, in a letter to the News, thus: — “Mr. Cressey having been offered by me on behalf of the Commissioners, every information with respect to their Local Act or otherwise, having relation to the proposed application of the Public-Health Act to the borough of Hastings, and an inspection of the accounts having been subsequently afforded to the committee appointed to carry the last mentioned Act into operation, in the Borough, I feel bound to request you will take the earliest opportunity of correcting the misstatement. I take this opportunity also of reminding the ratepayers and others interested in the prosperity of the town of St. Leonards, that the accounts, as made out annually, are always open to their inspection and scrutiny”. — The St. Leonards Gazette was not then in existence, but after its birth, in 1855, the said annual accounts were published therein.
St. Mary Magdalen Church
On the 6th of January, the committee for the erection of this church met at Bacon’s Saxon Hotel, the said committee consisting of Earl Waldegrave, Rev. G. D. St. Quinton, the Ven. Archdeacon Hare, Rev. J. G. Foyster, Rev. H. Simpson, W. Brisco, Esq., W. D. Lucas-Shadwell, Capt. Davies, Mr. R. Deudney, Mr. G. A. Bacon and Mr. R. Hempsted. — Mr. Lucas-Shadwell gave a second donation of £50, and the subscriptions then amounted to about £3,800. A tender of £4,200 by Mr. Piper of London, for the erection of the church, without the tower, was accepted.
The Foundation Stone was laid on the 25th of June by the Countess of Waldegrave, and in the presence of several hundred persons. The Mayor Pg.72 and Corporation having been invited, they met at the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms, and walked in procession to St. Leonards Church, where the Rev G. D. St. Quinton read prayers, and the Bishop of Chichester preached an appropriate sermon. An offertory was collected the amount being £148. After the service, a procession and was re-formed, consisting of the churchwardens, children of the National Schools (St. Mary Magdalen and St. Leonards) lay members of the Committee, Mayor and Corporation, architect and contractors, parochial and other clergy, Earl and Countess Waldegrave, the Bishop and Chaplains, and the general public. Mr. Eversfield, who gave the site for the building, was absent. When the procession had taken positions on the ground, Mr. Brisco, as one of the Committee, gave a preliminary address, in which he said — “My Lord Bishop and ladies and gentlemen — It has devolved on me to state the object of this assembly, which is to lay the foundation stone of a new church in St. Mary Magdalen, or rather to commemorate the rebuilding of an old one which stood in this parish till destroyed by the encroachment of the sea. I congratulate you on the fact that we meet for this purpose on such an auspicious day, the anniversary of our Protestant Queen’s accession to the throne. [The speaker might have added, for the information of those who are curious in such matters, that the foundation stone of St. Leonards Church was laid by the Princess Sophia of Gloucester, who once inhabited the house which was now his own, on the coronation day of William IV.] I am sure, continued Mr. Brisco, that you will all join me in wishing Her Majesty a long and prosperous reign. I next thank the Lord Bishop for coming to assist in the service, and in the name of the Committee, I thank him for his liberal donation. To the Rev. G. D. St. Quinton our thanks are also due, both for his donation and his exertions in helping forward this important object; so energetic, indeed, have been his labours and so great his influence that we may almost consider him the founder of the church. I’m glad to tell you that there will be 500 free sittings allotted to the poor — And now I will address the noble Lady who has come hither specially to assist in the formality of laying the foundation stone [Applause]. Her usefulness in promoting and patronising the Halton Chapel will be borne in mind; and I am sure that it must be a source of great gratification to her ladyship to be called on so often to perform an office, thus indicating the esteem in which she is held. To Earl Waldegrave, for his donation and his presence I also tender the thanks of the Committee”. — The appointed order of service was then read by the Rev. T. P. Sproule, curate of St. Leonards and intended incumbent of St. Mary Magdalen. After that, the stone was lowered in to its place, and the Countess Waldegrave, while spreading the mortar in a manner which showed that she was no novice at the work, Pg.73 declared “In the faith of Jesus Christ, we place the foundation stone in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. The remainder of the service was led by the Bishop, except the singing which was led by the St. Leonards choir, and effectively supported by the schoolchildren. On the outside of the stone was inscribed “lapis auspicialis Dei Gratia, A.D. MDCCCLI”. The foundation tablet also bore the following: — “To the honour and glory of the Holy Eternal and undivided Trinity, this foundation stone of a new church for the parish of St. Margaret and adjoining district, to be known by the name of the church of St. Mary Magdalen was laid by the Right Honourable Sarah, Countess Waldegrave, in the presence of the Right Rev. Ashurst Turner-Gilbert, D.D., Lord Bishop of Chichester, June 25th, 1851. Committee — Wastel Briscoe, Esq. (chairman and treasurer); Earl Waldegrave; W. D. Lucas-Shadwell, Esq.; The Ven. Archdeacon Hare, M.A.; Rev. H. W. Simpson; M.A.; Rev. J. G. Foyster, M.A.; Rev. H. S. Foyster, M.A.; Rev. T. Vores, M.A.; Rev. H. J. Rush, M.A.; Mr. Robert Deudney, and Mr. S. A. Bacon. Secretary; Rev. T. D. Sproule; architect, Frederick Marrable, London; builders, Thomas and William Piper, London”.
Luncheons. — After the conclusion of the ceremony, luncheon was partaken of at three separate places, in consequence of a regrettable ill-feeling between some of the actors thereat. Not only had the long existing jealousy between east and west not died out, but the acerbity of that existence had recently been accentuated by the attempt by the East-Ward members of the Corporation (12 Councillors and 5 Alderman) to coerce the West-Ward (six Councillors and one Alderman) into the acceptance of the Health of Towns Act, to the advantage, as was believed, of Hastings and disadvantage of St. Leonards. Such was the unsympathetic feeling of the two parties that even the religious aspect and bearing of that day’s ceremonial had no effect in bringing the contending parties into harmony. Mr. Brisco, as has been shown, was treasurer of the fund for building the church, and at his mansion at Bohemia, the Bishop, the Earl and Countess Waldegrave and many other persons of distinction or fashion were sumptuously entertained. At the same time the Mayor, and the aldermen and councillors of the East Ward (two only excepted), repaired to the Castle Hotel, to partake of luncheon by themselves, as had been previously arranged. Then also the West Ward Councillors, clergymen and others, including Ald. Scrivens and Councillor Hicks, of the East Ward, assembled at Bacon’s Saxon Hotel, there to enjoy a very excellent repast specially provided. Here it was that Capt. Hull presided over a meeting that was appropriately friendly and harmonious, among whom were the Rev. G. D. St. Quinton, the Rev. H. W. Simpson, the Rev J. F. Pizey, the Rev. H. C. Smith, Ald. Burton, Ald. Scrivens, Councillors Deudney, Beck, Mann, Peerless, and Hicks, Messrs. Marrable, Piggot, S. Putland, jnr., and other persons.
Toasts were proposed, duly honoured and responded to; and howsoever much, on the one hand the discordant separation of east and west might have been regretted, the perfect harmony of the latter by itself — had nothing to detract from its pleasure. The church was completed and consecrated in 1852, an account of which will be found in chapter XLVII. In the meantime, towards the building fund £200 was received from the Duke of Norfolk and £100 from the Duchess.
Protestantism vs. Romanism
The first of a short series of lectures on Popery was delivered at St. Andrew’s [Quadrangle] chapel, St. Leonards, on Sunday, January 5th, by the Rev. A. L. Gordon, of the Free Church of Scotland. The converts to Romanism at All Souls Convent Church and the efforts at that establishment to compete with the influence likely to be effected in antagonism to Romanism by the new church of St. Mary Magdalen, begat an ultra-Protestant feeling, which unfortunately displayed itself in a mischievous outrage by the breaking of ornaments and crosses from the railings forming part of the enclosure of All Souls; also by the damaging the convenient seat and asphalte floor at the side of the public road, available to the general public, all of which had been made at the cost of the late Rev. John Jones — a really good man, apart from his religious faith. After this outrage, Cardinal Wiseman came to the Convent, and returned to London on the 12th of January. Following the lecture on Popery at the Quadrangle Chapel, was a series of lectures delivered at Hastings by Protestant ministers of different denominations. The Rev. W. W. Hume, (the future incumbent of St. Mary Magdalen) was then the curate at St. Clements, and by him was delivered the first of the series of organized lectures against the pretensions of the Romish church. It was an interesting and eloquent lecture, the substance of which is given in the “Memoirs of the Rev. W. W. Hume”. (Historico-Biographies). In the same “Memoirs” will be found lengthy reports of the other lectures, and the names of the lecturers are therefore only here given. The second of the arranged series was delivered by the Rev. J. Parkin, incumbent of Halton, on the 24th of January. The third lecture was delivered by the Rev. H. W. Williams, a Wesleyan Minister, on the 31st of January. The fourth lecture was given in the same room on the 7th of February, by the Rev. C. D. Bell, curate of St. Mary’s-in-the-Castle. — The fifth lecture, on the 14th of Feb., was given by the Rev. William Davis, Independent Minister. The sixth of these weekly lectures, as well as the first, was given by the Rev W. W. Hume; and the seventh was by the Rev. H. J. Carter Smith, curate of All Saints, on Feb. 28th; and this last Pg.75 like all the preceding ones, to a crowded assembly. These admirable lectures, which should be of enduring interest to all professing Christians, are placed in consecutive order in the Memoirs of the Rev. W. W. Hume, who was soon after to be the Incumbent of the new Magdalen church, both for the convenience of reading, and because they mainly in originated with him.
Cardinal Wiseman. as an apropos association with these lectures, it may be stated that Cardinal Wiseman revisited St. Leonards on the 23rd of April and sojourned for a short time at the Convent, and there administered the rite of Confirmation.
The first travellers on the Ashford and Hastings line were Mr. Tucker and family, who stayed for a few days had 107 Marina.
Opening of the Ashford Line. the opening of the Ashford branch to St. Leonards took place on the 13th of February — just seven years, to a day, after the meeting at Hastings to promote the same. On the preceding evening the crier was sent round to announce the opening on the following day, and when the morrow came, the Saint Clement’s church bells were rung in honour of the event. The first train left the St. Leonards station at 7.20, and exploded fog signals as a feu de joie. Six trains (3 each way) traversed the line during the day, variously timed to reach Ashford in about 1h. 20m. and London, on an average of about 4 hours. This was held to be a fair rate of travelling, considering that the distance between St. Leonards and London was 95 miles. Mr. Talbot was station-master at Hastings, for the South-Eastern Company, whilst Mr. Sutton was station-master at St. Leonards for the Brighton Company, whose trains at first did not run through.
The Companies in Collision. — When the South-Eastern Railway from Ashford was opened on the 13th of February it was understood that the South-Coast Company’s trains would run through from Bopeep to Hastings and vice versa. The Hastings station had been built for that purpose and arrangements had been made for such traffic with the “Brighton, Lewes and Hastings Railway Company”, which had afterwards changed its name to that of the “London, Brighton and South-Coast Company”. Taking advantage of this technicality, and refusing to acknowledge its rival by the latter name, the S.E. Company gave orders for the South Coast trains not to be admitted; so, when on the morning of the 14th, the first down train of the Brighton line arrived, it was stopped by the hoisting of danger signals, and had to be backed, with its passengers, to Bopeep. Communications passed between the officials of the two companies, and on the following day (Saturday) the Brighton trains ran through to the Hastings station agreeably with the original arrangement. Notice, however, was given that the line would be permanently blocked on Monday. In the mean time the Brighton Company had got Pg.76 seventeen carriages and two engines at the Hastings station, but, on Sunday night the rival company tore up a portion of the rails between the station and the tunnels, placed blocks of stone in the way and drew some trucks across, so as to form an efficient barricade. Thus, a portion of the rolling stock of the Brighton Company was impounded, and no further traffic between Bopeep and Hastings could be carried on. The Company however, were prompt in issuing bills to the effect that a four-horse omnibus would be at the Hastings station to convey intending passengers to Bopeep; and many persons, indignant at the conduct of the South-Eastern Company, availed themselves of the omnibus service thus provided. But even this was only permitted for one day; there being at night a bar, secured by a padlock, put across the road leading up to the station, through which only vehicles for the Ashford line were permitted. Trucks, laden with earth, and fixed down to the rails, with padlocks, were placed on the line at the Bopeep end to increase the effectiveness of the blockade. The next thing was to cut off the gas on the side of the station that was built for the Brighton Company, and then to saw down the partition that divided the two platforms, whilst about £7,000 worth of rolling stock had been impounded for an alleged trespass. [Here go to the interpolated loose sheet]*
- The rival companies continued their mysterious contention for a fortnight, the engines and carriages of the Brighton Company remaining impounded at the Hastings station until the 26th or 27th of February, and the barricade remaining on the line at Bopeep. Then it was that an announcement appeared that the Court of Chancery had granted an injunction to restrain the South-Eastern Company from continuing the obstruction, and that the trains of the South-Coast Company would immediately recommence running through to Hastings. During the night, the South-Eastern Company were busy in removing the obstacles, and on the morning of the 27th all was clear for the resumption of traffic between Bopeep and Hastings. But instead of the South-Coast Company removing their detained engines and carriages, they were merely shunted back, and it was reported that it was intended to have them valued for the purpose of assessing damages. In any case it was evident from the decision of the Chancery Court that the South-Eastern Company were not legally justified in the hasty step thus taken.
The South-Coast Company Explains. The Chairman and Directors of the South-Eastern Company at their meeting on March 1st, having cast imputations on the L.B. & S.C. Company, the latter immediately issued a long reply, from which the following is extracted.
“The L.B. & S.C. Company having a joint right, with the S.E. Company under Act of parliament, to use the Hastings, Rye and Ashford line and stations, no alterations seriously affecting the engineering character of the line should have been made without previous communication. Repeated overtures had been made by this Company to negotiate for some arrangement by which the obvious waste of capital in constructing three lines to Hastings might be avoided; but the S.E. Company invariably refused to come to any understanding respect in the construction of the Hastings lines and the mode of conducting the Hastings traffic. The title of the L.B. & S.C. Company to exercise the right and privileges of the Brighton, Lewes and Hastings Railway Company, over Hastings, Rye and Ashford line and stations is founded on the Act 9 and 10 Vict., c 28, by which the Brighton, and Lewes and Hastings Company is amalgamated with the L.B. & Hastings Company, and all the rights and privileges are expressly vested in this Company. The directors are advised by eminent counsel that it is impossible to have a clearer title; and not a question has ever been raised respecting it by the S.E. Company. They have built a station for this Company at Hastings and otherwise have recognized the title throughout all the transactions for the Pg.77 last five years, until at the last moment when a technical objection was made the plea of forcibly interrupting the passage of this Company’s trains. . . . The directors would add that so far from the opening of the Ashford and Hastings line having been delayed by objections raised by this Company, they were officially informed by the Commissioners of Railways that the certificate was withheld in consequence of the incompleteness of the works.”
The South-Coast Company removed their impounded rolling stock on the 3rd and 4th of March, it having been shown that the S.E. Company were legally in the wrong. But the latter, by way of retaliation, entered into a fierce competition with the former by a system of low fares; hence, at the half-yearly meeting, on the 24th of July.
The Report of the L.B. & S.C. Company stated that the principal increase of expenses had arisen from competition with the S.E. Company at Hastings, together with £3,000 for new and lighter engines for branch lines. It also stated that the Directors notified to the S.E. Company their determination to take no step in the direction of competition unless compelled to do it in self-defence; but as the S.E. Company, after the first month, increased the number and speed of their trains at reduced fares for the 94 miles from London through Ashford, the Directors had no alternative but to place an additional trains on their lines also, and at the same fares. Expense was thus entailed on both companies, with diminished receipts. The loss, however, it was stated, was less than it would have been had not the demand for half the profits of the entire traffic from London been resisted. The chairman (Mr. Laing) congratulated the shareholders on the progressive increase of traffic to an annual extent of £100,000 during the last three years, and the present year, to probably £120,000. He did not blame the S.E. Company for the course they had taken so much as he did the Legislature for sanctioning two lines to a town for which one line was ample. He had noticed generally that in such cases an injury was inflicted on the town; for, when the companies got tired of competition, they entered into an arrangement, not to develop the traffic, but to make the best of a bad job; and it might be so in the present instance. When the Tunbridge Wells line was opened it might be shorter than their own line, but the gradients would be a much steeper. The directors would be glad to settle the dispute with the S.E. Company, but if they divided the traffic before the Tunbridge Wells line was opened, the S.C. Company would be doing all the work at a loss of £20,000 a year. Mr. Laing was right in his view of the results of unprofitable competition; and such a result was clearly foreshadowed in the present case; for after the arrangement made by the two companies when tired of a ruinous rivalry, the facilities were never so good, and the fares were never so reasonable as when there was only one line.
The Tunbridge Wells Line. — Pg.78 At this time (Aug. 1st) the line could have been opened down to Robertsbridge if desired, but the completion of the work to Hastings was held to be not possible till the following spring. From Bopeep, where it would join the South Coast line, there was an ascending gradient of about 1 in 130, and after that, a descending gradient. The constructive works were both heavy and difficult, there being within a distance slightly exceeding 5 miles no fewer than 14 cuttings and 13 embankments, nearly all of which were of great declivity. Some of the valleys also were very precipitous, and of a loose and boggy character. One of the latter, like the Priory meadow at Hastings, swallowed up several thousand truck-loads of earth, which sometimes during 10 or 12 hours sank as many feet. The excavations as far as Whatlington required the removal of about 1,250,000 cubic yards of earth, of which a million yards up to that time had already been removed. The line also abounded with curves, which made it of a devious and varied character. It was during construction adversely criticised by some engineers as a very costly conception, and at an entertainment given by the Rev. J. A. Hatchard, many years later, was admitted by Sir Edward Watkin to have been the most expensive line for its distance out of London. The chief contractor was Mr. George Withers, but Mr. Richard Perry was a sub-contractor for the portion between St. Leonards and Robertsbridge. Later than anticipated, however, the line was not opened till 1853, but the fierce competition of the two companies came to an end in September, 1851. At the same time, the Winchelsea station on the Ashford and Hastings branch was closed, the traffic not being sufficient for its maintenance.
Low Railway Fares Ended
The Competition Ended. The system of low fares referred to at the half-yearly meeting of the L.B. & S.C. Company, were commenced on March 9th by the S.E. Company, by their trains via Ashford and the same low fares to London were adopted, two days later by the South-Coast Company. Most persons had a belief that such fares would not be maintained for any lengthened period, and were surprised at their continuance for six months at the then unremunerative scale. But no one appeared to be prepared for the extent of the reaction which was to follow. By an arrangement to share the profits, the fares were put up to the highest that the law permitted, the same fares being equal on both lines as pertaining to the journey between Hastings and London. The second-class tickets were 12/- and the first-class, 18/-. These prices could not fail to operate against the welfare of the borough, and one would but suppose that they would also act prejudiciously to the interests of the shareholders. The arrangement of the two Companies was that from Monday, Sept. 1st, the Brighton and South-Coast Company was to have two-thirds of the through-traffic to Hastings, and the South-Eastern one-third until the Tunbridge Wells line was completed, and after that, to share equally. Before this arrangement had been made, many persons visited the Great Exhibition, daily, even at ordinary fares, but afterwards it became Pg.79 more the practice to wait for special excursions. One of these was on the 9th of October, when 800 persons were conveyed from Hastings and St. Leonards per L.B. & S.C. railway.
An Historical Sketch. the following is extracted from the Iron Roads Dictionary of 1881.
On the 5th of June, 1839, a line of railway from London to West Croydon was opened for traffic under the auspices and control of a company known as the “London and Croydon”. Another company, incorporated as the “Croydon and Brighton”, constructed a line between those two places — via Red Hill, which was opened on the 1st of September, 1841. By the authority of an Act of Parliament, passed on the 27th of July, 1846, these two companies were amalgamated, and the undertaking then became that of the “London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company”. The western section of the South-Coast line — from Brighton was opened for traffic as far as Chichester, on the 8th of June, 1846, and the Eastern section — from Brighton to Hastings — on the 27th of June, 1846. The extension from Chichester to Portsmouth was completed on the 14th of June, 1847. By the purchase of the Mid-Sussex Railway, in 1860, the London, Brighton and South-Coast Railway Company provided an alternative route to the South-Coast. The Mid-Sussex Company was incorporated by an Act, of Aug, 10th, 1857, to construct a line from the Brighton Company’s Railway at Horsham to Pulborough, again joining the Brighton Company’s system at that place, with a branch to Petworth. The Horsham and Dorking Company, incorporated by Act of parliament July 17, 1842, constructed the line between those two places. This company was amalgamated with the Brighton Company, by the powers of an Act passed in 1864, the latter Company having obtained parliamentary sanction in the previous year, 1863, for making a line between Dorking and Leatherhead. Between Leatherhead and Epsom the line was constructed by the South-Western Railway Company. These roads thus gave direct communication with Portsmouth. The extension to Portsmouth Harbour, opened on the 2nd of October, 1876, greatly increased the facilities of access to the Isle of Wight. By the imminent purchase of the interests of the Portsmouth and Ryde Steam-packet Company and the completion of the Ryde Railway Pier, the Brighton Company became possessed of the readiest route from the Metropolis to the “Garden Island of the South Coast”. The L.B. & S.C. Company [now 1881] will shortly secure a third direct route to the South Coast, and one which will slightly decrease the distance to Newhaven Harbour. On the 6th of July, 1865, the Surrey and Sussex Railway Company was incorporated and authorized to construct a railway from Brighton Railway, south of their South Croydon station to their station at East Grinstead — length 24¼ miles. The works were commenced, but abandoned on the Surrey and Sussex being amalgamated with the Brighton Company by the provisions of an Act passed on the 12th of July, 1869. The Brighton Company Act of June 17th, 1878, conferred powers for renewing the abandoned works with certain modifications. The line thus formed will connect with another — 17½ miles Pg.80 in length — between Barcombe and East Grinstead, and which, by the enactment of the Act referred to will, when opened, be amalgamated with the Brighton Company’s system. Newhaven will thus be brought about 10 miles nearer London than by the present route via Keymer junction. For the purpose of facilitating the Company’s continental traffic the following works are in progress at Newhaven: — 1. A breakwater extending about 900 yards out to sea. 2. Extension of quay accommodation, 570 yards from the railway wharf to the harbour mouth, and extension of the pier. 3. A new sea-wall or pier in connection with the above. 4. A tramway (1 mile, 2 furlongs, 7.30 chains) from near Newhaven Town station to the breakwater. 5. A dock on the eastern side of the river Ouse. 6. A sea-wall (750 yards long) from the said dock to the existing sea-wall of the Tide Mill. 7, 8, & 9. The straightening of Mill Creek and other works of improvements. By the Act of the 17th of June, 1878, before mentioned, a company was incorporated to carry out the work, but authorised the Brighton to raise money and to subscribe all or part of £150,000 towards the capital of the undertaking. This capital has been subscribed as authorized and a deposit of 10s. per share has been paid to the Harbour Company. By the terms of the Act this new route must be completed by June, 1882. Starting from East Croydon, the Company will then have three branch lines to the coast, the centre (Main line) being through Mid-Surrey and Mid-Sussex to Brighton; the right through West Surrey and West-Sussex to Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight; and the left through East-Surrey and East-Sussex to Newhaven Harbour, Eastbourne and Hastings.” . . . A curious fact is that the Company’s roads, upwards of 400 miles in extent, are almost wholly comprised within the limits of two counties — those of Surrey and Sussex; not more than 25 miles being included in the three counties of Middlesex, Kent and Hants. The number of persons employed by the Company is over 10,000. The Company’s fleet of passenger and cargo steamers comprises 15 vessels. The number of passengers carried over the Company’s lines (exclusive of season and annual ticket-holders) from 1870 to 1880, graduated from over 19 millions to over 36 millions. The Company acquired what is now their principal sea-port station — Newhaven Harbour — by the provisions of an Act passed on the 13th of July, 1876. The improvements effected within the last two or three years have been considerable, but when those in progress are finished, Newhaven will boast of one of the most capacious and safest harbours in the Kingdom.
The Railway and Newhaven Harbour. 1878 – 1898
With a view of seeing how far the projected enlargements and general improvements of 1881 have been carried out, I, whilst writing this portion of “Local History”, went to Newhaven and by a special permission, traversed the greater portion of that town’s extensive harbour. Nearly 60 years had passed since my previous visit to the place, and my surprise was great at the change that had been effected — not so much in Pg.81 the town itself as in the harbour and its adjuncts. Readers hardly need to be told that Newhaven is situate on the navigable river Ouse, and that a great storm in 1570 completely changed the outlet of that river from Seaford to a more direct course at Meeching; hence the altered name to Newhaven —a distance of about 3 miles from the then choked up haven at Seaford. In 1882 Newhaven was declared to be a port by the provisions of the Customs Consolidation Act of 1876. Its jurisdiction as a port was to be 3 miles seaward, and to extend eastwards to Galley Hill, near Hastings, and westward to Rottingdean, where its eastern boundary would meet the western boundary of Folkestone port, and its western boundary would meet the eastern boundary of Shoreham Port. The harbour, thus situated between Beachy Head and Brighton, is acknowledged to be the safest of its kind between Spithead and the Thames. The natural harbour was used for centuries by small coasting vessels, but it was of no importance until 1878, when the steamers plying to Dieppe forsook the Brighton Pier and made Newhaven their depot and starting point. From that date, at an immense expense, the harbour has rapidly improved its accommodation, and its traffic has proportionately increased. It is entered at all times of the tide and in all weathers. At spring tides (high water) there is as much as 30 feet of water on the bar and inside the harbour, and at neap tides the depth of water is not less than 26 feet. By the constant operation of powerful steam dredgers — of which I noticed six or seven, the water is kept to a depth of 12 feet even at low-water spring tides. By this means the silting-up process, which averages six inches per year, is entirely kept under, and the Continental steamers of the London, Brighton and South-Coast Railway and Ouest of France Railway, which draw 9 feet, are enabled to enter and depart at all times. I saw some of these splendid vessels alongside the quay, and another one entering during my comparatively short stay. The Dieppe steamers became the property of the London, Brighton & South-Coast and the Ouest of France Railway companies in 1878, and with a desire to keep pace with the times, these two companies resolved to build a larger and better class of vessels for the Continental traffic. Then it was that for their accommodation the great additions and improvements described in the Iron Roads Dictionary (published in 1881) were being put into operation by the Newhaven Harbour Company, which in 1878 was formed by members of the L.B. & S.C. Railway Company.
The said operations have resulted in a magnificent concrete Breakwater, Sea-defence Esplanade and a West pier, which completely protect the harbour from W. and S.W. winds. There is also an East pier, 1400 feet long. The two piers are 250 feet apart, but narrow to 200 feet at the northern ends. The breakwater, running out in a south-easterly direction, is 3,000 feet long from the cliff, and the Pg.82 West pier 750 feet, the whole extending nearly 3,000 feet outside of the original harbour. The quays which on the east side of the harbour extend from the north end of the East pier to 1,090 feet north of the Town Bridge, are about a mile in length.[* 1] They are well fitted with steam and hydraulic cranes, thirty in number, for the rapid discharge of cargoes, either into waggons for inland or coast towns, or into storage sheds. The “Newhaven landmark” a gigantic pair of sheers, 110 feet high, such as very few harbours are provided with, and capable of lifting 80 tons, is situate near the Town Bridge, and a 15-ton hydraulic crane is placed at the south end of the railway quay. Large and convenient spaces are also provided for the deposit on the quays for all descriptions of timber, and water space for floating balk timber. The sheers are specially adapted for masting purposes and for shipping or unshipping heavy machinery. The Town itself is but little assistance either to the railway or the harbour, the quays being used almost exclusively by vessels having cargoes for inland delivery. I saw (or rather we saw, for I had a companion with me) a cargo of eggs, in the usual long boxes, lifted from the vessel on to the quay, and from the latter into railway waggons; and the thought occurred that the rapid discharge and despatch of Goods at Newhaven would indeed be hard to beat. The west side of the harbour is mainly used by vessels discharging over side, from which large quantities of grain, coal, timber and other goods are barged or rafted up the river to Lewes and Hailsham. Such is the connection of the Ouse and the harbour that there would be no engineering difficulty in continuing the latter right up to Lewes. The only requisite would be money and much of it; but even now the harbour keeps extending. A large gridiron, 250 feet in length, is located adjacent to the quay and near the town, adapted for examining ships’ bottoms and for executing repairs, but the use of this can only be had when it is not required by the Company’s vessels, and then a pilot must be engaged. A powerful tug commanded by an experienced master, with licensed pilots is always in attendance. The Railway keeps up a large engineering staff for repairing its own steamers, and also in cases of emergency for other vessels that may put in for such assistance. The prevailing winds, as at Hastings, are from the S.W. and W., and storm warnings are exhibited from the flagstaff, at the Berthing-Master’s office near the Town Bridge. Paddle and Screw steamers (of which there are twenty or more) ply daily to and from Dieppe in connection with the Western Railway of France, this route of being preferred by many for the beauty of the scenery from Dieppe to Paris, as well as for the cheapness of the journey throughout. Not only that, but to such as admire the scenery of the Downs and their surroundings, the parts about Newhaven must be extremely interesting. Numerous villages and hamlets are within easy walking distance, whilst Eastbourne, Pg.83 Lewes, Brighton and other places may be reached in as short a time by rail. The adjacent villages are mostly on cultivated sites, with abundance of trees and green pastures, (though the Downs in which they lie are naturally bare) and many of them possessed each a Norman Church — quaint little flint buildings of an interesting character. The Newhaven Cricket Ground is situate about 300 yards from the west bank of the harbour. It has been made by Lord Sheffield, a large landowner and a renowned patron of sports (see Premier Cinque Port for military and other exploits of first Lord Sheffield in connection with Hastings). Football and golf are also played here in the seasons respectively for those sports. The links are, however, on the hill, just opposite to that on which the church is built. The Railway Company have three stations — namely, those of the Town and the Wharf on the line to Seaford, and that of the Harbour, which is only used by the trains for the Continental mail-boats. Continental passengers who desire to break the journey will find every convenience at the “London and Paris Hotel”, close to the quay from which the vessels sail, whilst the “Bridge”, the “Ship” and the “Sheffield Arms” will meet the requirements of business people staying in the town. During the summer months — from or about Whitsuntide till the 14th of September, the excursion steamers from Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton frequently call and land passengers for a short time. Altogether, Newhaven is now a flourishing seaport, with a large passenger and cargo steam trade in connection with the Continent. The foreign import traffic — chiefly from Dieppe and Caen — consists of fruit, vegetables, grain, eggs, butter, wines, spirits, silks, leather, and all kinds of French and Italian manufacture and produce. It has also a good import trade in timber, grain and coal for neighbouring districts, and a steadily increasing traffic with St. Nazaire by the steamers of the Compagnie Generale Atlantique, and with Glasgow and other ports by the Clyde Shipping Company. The principal officials of the Newhaven Harbour Company at the time of writing this notice (1898), are:– Mr. J. F. S. Gooday, General Manager; Mr. W. F. Pollok, secy., London Bridge Station; Mr. C. L. Morgan, Engineer; Capt. H. M. Lambert, Harbour-Master; Capt, H. Noyes Lewis, Deputy Harbour-Master; Mr. W. Geering, Berthing-Master. The Harbour-Master’s offices are at Newhaven Wharf opposite to the Packet Berths, and West side, near the Coal Wharf, both connected by telephone. The Marine-Superintendent’s office is the same as the Harbour-Master’s, Newhaven Wharf. The (Boat) Station Master’s office is at the back of the Harbour-Master’s office, Newhaven Wharf. The Custom House is opposite to the London and Paris Hotel, on the east side of the Harbour. The Lifeboat House is nearly opposite to the said Hotel. Sentinel-constables are stationed at the various points of ingress and egress, and all the arrangements of this Huge establishment appeared to be efficiently complete.
- The southern quay 1,700 feet long, the middle quay 1,899 feet, and the northern quay (above the town bridge, 1,090 feet.)
As before intimated, my last previous visit to Newhaven was nearly 60 years anterior to 1898, and as when writing of the of London, Brighton and South-Coast Railway in connection with Hastings in 1851 (the year historically under review) I was anxious Pg.84 to see up-to-date condition of the harbour under the management of that Company, I solicited the requisite permission, and have to thank the officials, in general, and Capt. Lewis, in particular, for their courtesy in imparting to me the information here set forth. In the course of conversation I incidentally asked to “What think you of the prospects of the Hastings Harbour now in course of construction?” The reply to this question (accompanied by a smile) was “it is one thing to build a harbour and another thing to maintain it. The expense alone of keeping in the water and keeping out the drift is enormous”. Thus, although my object in going to Newhaven was purely one of historical enquiry, I became convinced that a harbour should be safe to enter, commodious when entered, and have not only a railway at its side, but also a navigable water-way behind it. I have been assured that even Rye Harbour could be endowed with all these advantages if sufficient capital were invested in the operation, though such an investment would have to be a large one. But these conditions cannot possibly be obtained at Hastings, and that fact will probably be realised by the harbour promoters when too late.
Having thus traced the history of the London, Brighton and South-Coast Railway Company in connection with the Hastings and St. Leonards and followed the Company’s course until it became associated with the West of France Railway Company in the formation of the Newhaven Harbour Company; having also described the vast up-to-date enlargements and improvements of that harbour, I will return to the Railway Company, by a attaching a cutting from the Brighton Herald of its report of half-yearly meeting of the Company in 1889. In thatr report, as well as in the Company’s own report, is mentioned the agreement with the South-Eastern Railway Company — an agreement which, of whatsoever advantage it might be to the Companies themselves, was rightly or wrongly regarded as inimical to the interests of Hastings and St. Leonards. — To the credit of the South-Coast Company, however, be it said that until quite recently, that Company was the pioneer in railway improvements. It was the first to place third-class carriages to every train, and the first to adopt vastly improved carriages. It was the first to apply the new system of breaks (sic), and it led the way in some other facilities, including the electric light in carriages.
The half-yearly meeting of the shareholders of the London and Brighton Railway Company was held on Wednesday afternoon at London Bridge, under the presidency of the Chairman of the Directors (Mr. Samuel Laing), who was supported by the other members of the Board and the chief officials of the Company, including the General Manager and Secretary (Mr Allen Sarle). The report showed a large increase of traffic (due partly to the ﬁne weather, partly to the Paris Exhibition, but chieﬂy to a general development of traffic over the system). In comparison with the corresponding half-year of 1888, there had been an increase of £67,933 in the gross revenue, and an increase of £21,274 in the working expenses; the total receipts being about £6,000 more and the expenses about £6,000 more than shown by the published monthly returns, owing to a reserve having been made to meet the possible result of Mr Oakley’s award between this Company and the South-Eastern Company. Under this award the Company would have to pay the South-Eastern Company under the two agreements, for the use of the Red Hill lines and for the division of the competitive traffic, about £20,000 a year instead of about £14,000 a year, which has been the average payment for the last three years under the competitive traffic agreement.
In reference to a circular issued in support of a resolution against affording facilities for Sunday travelling by excursion trains and cheap fares, on the ground “that such a course is really beneﬁcial neither to the public nor to the Company,” the Directors intimated that, apart from any question of the effect on the Company's dividends, they intended to oppose this resolution, as there could be no doubt that trains were only run to meet the demand of the public for these facilities, and any restriction in them, which would obviously have to be accompanied by similar restrictions on Sunday traffic by steam vessels, omnibuses, and other conveyances, was a large question of public policy which no single Railway Company could be allowed to decide in a sense adverse to established practice and the wishes of the general community. The Chairman, in moving the adoption of the report, congratulated the shareholders on the conclusion of the arbitration with the South-Eastern Company, which he believed both sides would loyally accept, and, though it would make their future dividends worse by £5,000 or £6,000, the advantages of peace were cheaply purchased at that price. (Hear, hear.) He stigmatised as ridiculous and absurd the suggestion that this Company had been keeping up its sleeve a scheme for crossing the river to Cannon-street. The increase of trafﬁc during the past year had far surpassed his most sanguine expectations, not having been paralleled since the present Board came into office. Searching for any exceptional causes for this increase, he found that the Paris Exhibition had affected the railway traffic favourably to the extent of £4,000, and the steamers to the extent of £3,000; whilst Eastertide had yielded an increase of £5,500; Whitsuntide, which was wet, led to a loss of £1,450; whilst the Derby yielded a surplus of £450. All the rest of the increase, namely, £56,500, was attributable to the regular expansion of the ordinary traffic (hear, hear), and, as usual, that was mainly due to the increase of third-class traffic, which had contributed £31,000. He warned the shareholders that that expansion might not be repeated in the current half-year, but at the same time they might congratulate themselves on having passed the goal of 6 per cent., and that the prospect of its being maintained looked exceedingly favourable.
Proposed New Local Act
West-Hastings Improvement Bill
Pg.85 More than twenty years had now passed since the inhabitants eastward of the Archway, by choice and necessity had adopted the name of St. Leonards and in all things, except being under the jurisdiction of the St. Leonards Commissioners, were in complete association with the dwellers westward of the said Archway. And as the original town of St. Leonards was built upon even a greater area of the Magdalen parish than upon that of St. Leonards, the interests in parochial matters were to a great extent also identical, and could not be separated. There was, indeed, a St. Leonards Without and a St. Leonards within, which in common parlance were distinguished as “Insiders” and “Outsiders”, or in other words as “St. Leonards” and “St. Leonards-on-sea”, the latter appellation being applied to the district for which Mr. Burton obtained the Commissioners Act. Several of the Commissioners had property in both districts, and so immediately contiguous were the properties that in the front line the Archway, first called the “East gate” was the only mark of distinction, whilst in the rear, the wall which originally marked the boundary had by mutual consent disappeared and the roads thrown open. There were, however, one or two ambitious “nobodies”, well known to the writer, who sometimes asked “Why should we not have a separate town to be called St. Mary’s?” It was then proposed by a few others to apply to Parliament for a local Act to be called “The West Hastings, Improvement Bill”. The area to be included in this bill was not only that portion of St. Mary Magdalen parish which was excluded by the St. Leonards Commissioners Act, but also the parishes of .St. Michael and Holy Trinity, which were not within the jurisdiction of the Hastings Local Act of 1832. At the commencement of 1851, or at least in January of that year, the proposed Bill for the district between St. Leonards, proper, and Hastings, proper, was published, and the 25th of February was the last day for lodging petitions against it. It was entitled “A Bill for Improving, Watching, Lighting and providing with Water that part of the Borough which is not comprised within the respective limits of the Local Acts for regulating the Town and Port of Hastings and the Town of St. Leonards. The district thus embraced is to be called “West Hastings”. It was prayed that the Bill should become law on the first of August if possible. The Commissioners were to be 26 in number, of whom 14 were to be permanently in office. The permanent Commissioners named in the Bill were Charles Gilbert Eversfield, Patrick Francis Robertson, Decimus Burton, Rev. T. P. Sproule, Dr. Blakiston, Philip E. Barnes, Robert Mace, Robert Deudney, Albert Jenkins Humbert, Robert Hempsted, Samuel Beckles, Dr. Duke, John Austin, and Robert Ransom. The remaining 12 were to be from time to time elected from owners of property and ratepayers in the district, and from these elected commissioners were also to be chosen permanent Commissioners to supply the place of those who died or removed from the town. Several of the names, however, had been placed on the list without sanction, and some of them declined to serve. Among the latter were Dr. Blakiston, Dr. Duke, and Mr. Ransom. Messrs. Fearon and Clabon were the draftsmen of the Pg.86 bill, and they were willing that the permanent commissioners should be only six, if that number were preferred. As Mr. Robertson and Mr. Mace were the lessees of the Government ground in the Trinity parish, which was being rapidly built upon by Hastings people, and as Mr. Eversfield and Mr. Deudney, were owners of land that was being extensively built upon by St. Leonards people, it is easy to conceive why those names should prominently appear on the list as promoters, or, in any case, as first commissioners.
The Bill opposed. — a meeting was held at the Saxon Hotel on the 15th of February to oppose the Bill in Parliament, when Mr. Putland, as one of a previous deputation, said, when he accompanied the deputation to Gwyer House, Mr. Taylor said the Public-Health Act would be applied to Hastings (including the district for which the proposed measure was designed) before the Local Act would have a chance of getting passed; but the information lately received of the rapid progress of the private Bill had necessitated a prompt meeting of the Committee on the Dec. 19th (1850). — Mr. Beecham remarked that they ought either to oppose the Bill in earnest or let the matter drop. Merely presenting a petition would be useless unless they prayed to be heard by counsel, and were determined to follow it. Hitherto the Bill had not been opposed before the House at all. He then read a rough draft of a petition containing the grounds of the opposition, and praying that the second reading of the Bill might be delayed to give the petitioners time to be heard by counsel or otherwise. A petition to that effect was agreed upon, after considerable discussion, and it was also resolved that a deputation, consisting of Dr. Blakiston and Mr. Putland (of St. Mary Magdalen), Messrs. Ross and Hickes (St. Michael’s), Mr. Chamberlin (St. Leonards), Mr. Rock and Mr. Paine, should proceed to London as a deputation to the parliamentary representatives of Hastings, Brighton and East Sussex. The petition was to be signed by the Committee, and similar petitions if time permitted were to be got from other parishes. On the second day after the meeting (Sunday only intervening) the Deputation proceeded to London, taking with them petitions from the parishes of St. Mary Magdalen, and St. Michael’s, also from the Town Council. They went to the House of Commons and laid their case before Mr. Hollond, Mr. Frewen and Mr. Fuller. It was there purposed to obtain, if possible, the postponement of the second reading of the Bill for a month, so as for it to go into committee at the same time as the provisional order for applying the Public Health Act. A deputation in favour of the Bill was also ushered into the room, and the opposing forces argued the question, each, of course from different stand points. The opponents next proceeded to Gwyer House, and were introduced to the Lord Ashley. After the interview they went with Mr. Taylor to obtain an audience with Lord Seymour at Whitehall. His lordship was too much engaged to receive the deputation that day, but would do so on the following day. They returned to Hastings, and on the following morning, Messrs. Putland, Ross, Chamberlin and Pg.87 Shorter formed a second deputation, together with Messrs. Beecham, Cooper and Venables. They met Lord Seymour as by appointment, but did not receive much encouragement. During the afternoon they visited the House of Commons, and delivered to the Members as they passed in through the lobby some printed papers containing .objections to the Bill. When the case came on Mr. Piggott moved the second reading, and remarked that the promoters had received a requisition in its favour, signed by three-fourths of the St. Leonards ratepayers, representing nearly the whole of the landed property in that district. — Mr. Hollond moved, as an amendment that the Bill be postponed for a month, Mr. Brisco seconded the amendment, and Mr. Frewen supported the same. The House divided, when 20 votes were given for the second reading and 49 for the postponement. As soon as the result was known, the deputation left London by express train, and attended a meeting at the Saxon Hotel, where they were cordially thanked for their exertions. At the same time a resolution was passed that the Magdalen, St. Michael’s and Trinity parishes would bear the expense. A sub-committee was appointed to watch the proceedings.
West-Hastings Improvement Bill defeated
More Deputations. on the 17th of March, a deputation consisting of Messrs. R Deudney. W. M. Eldridge, H. W. Tree, J. Nicholas, .Jas. Smith, F. Jarrett, C. Edwards, W. Hunter, W. Birch, and S. Stubberfield, got in the train at Bopeep, en route to London, to obtain an interview with several M.P.’s for advocating the local Bill. In the same train from Hastings, was an opposing deputation, consisting of Messrs. S. Putland, T. Ross, W. Chamberlin, jun., C. J. Jeudwine and A. Paine. These latter were joined in London by Messrs. W. D. Cooper, Beecham and Venables. The two parties met, and again argued their cases. In the House Mr. Piggott moved the second reading of the Bill, and in his explanation stated that the East end of the borough had its local Act, and St. Leonards within the Archway had its local Act; and the inhabitants of the intermediate district only asked by their Bill to have their own Act, to manage their own affairs. On the other hand, Mr. Frewen contended that a majority of the inhabitants were opposed to it, and preferred to join Hastings for the introduction of the Health of Towns Bill. Mr. Hollond moved as an amendment, that the Bill be read that day six months. Mr. Brisco seconded, and on a division the Bill was rejected by 59 to 21.
The Health of Towns Act. — More opposition.
Pg.88 An associative subject for contention was that of the Health of Towns Act, which as viewed in connection with the via media inhabitants for and against the proposed local Act, appeared to place the parties in a very anomalous position. But the district thus divided against itself was less real than it seemed to be. St. Leonards “within” had a local Act and a board of Commissioners of its own, and did not want the Health of Towns Act. St. Leonards “without” being only under parochial management, wanted a more comprehensive ruling body with the increased powers for sanitary and other purposes. At first, a majority of the inhabitants were willing to assist Hastings in obtaining the Health of Towns Act, and its extension to themselves, but they did not approve of their neighbours, the “insiders”, who, unlike themselves, had a legalised rate which they could not get rid of, being additionally burthened with the expense of the Health of Towns Act, administered as it would be, by a different authority, who whilst they took the place of the Commissioners would not be able to relieve the town of its financial liabilities. The sympathy thus felt by a few rapidly extended to the many until Mr. Piggott declared in Parliament that he had a petition signed by a majority of the inhabitants in favour of the private Bill. Although this sympathy was evoked by the East-Ward Councillors and one of the West Ward being determined by every possible means to carry their point, it was not the only motive for supporting the private Bill. I have mentioned the names of Mr. Robertson and Mr. Mace as two of those proposed as commissioners in the local Act. These gentleman being the lessees of the Government ground from the Woods and Forests Commissioners, they, doubtless, would be able to gain the interest of Lord Seymour, who was the chief commissioner of that Board. Hence the action of his lordship as seen in what follows: —
On the 28th of March, the Public Health Act for several towns appeared before Parliament, with Hastings struck out by Lord Seymour, and to remedy which, Mr. Fuller, Member for East Sussex, gave notice of a motion for the following Wednesday. This he withdrew on the promise of Lord Seymour to insert Hastings in the next Bill introduced on behalf of the Board of Health. On the 10th of April, in answer to a question by Mr. Frewen, Lord Seymour said why Hastings was omitted from the list was because several deputations had waited on him — some in favour of the Bill being applied to Hastings and some against, and as he could not make out which was right, he had a omitted Hastings for the present, that they might come to some decision among themselves. A few days later, Mr. Hollond presented a petition for the re-insertion of Hastings in the schedule then before the House. This was to include St. Leonards — as well within the Archway as without — whereupon, on the 24th of April, a public meeting was held in the St. Leonards St. Leonards Assembly Rooms, for the purpose of petitioning Parliament for the exclusion of St. Leonards from the Act in contemplation for both the town and borough of Hastings.
The Rev. G. D. St. Quinton presided, and on Pg.89 the platform were G. H. M. Wagner, Esq., Capt. Hull, Alfred Burton, Esq., C. H. Southall, J. Carey, H. Hughes, J. Mann, W. Hunter, G. Roberts, E. Groslob, C. Neve, & S. Turner. The Chairman, in opening the meeting, recommended the exercise of a spirit of charity, fairness and justice. He said those who had called the present meeting did not oppose the application of the Act to the town of Hastings, with its population of 17,000, but desired to obtain the exclusion of St. Leonards, with its population of only 2,015. It was quite competent for St. Leonards to seek for a retention of a separate jurisdiction, since it formed but a small portion of the borough, had already a local government, and was in a remarkably healthy state. — Mr. Chamberlin, jun., moved the adjournment of the meeting, with the view to obtaining medical testimony from two medical gentlemen in the neighbourhood who were unable to attend, as they were not owners or ratepayers within the township. These two gentlemen, I happen to know were Dr. Duke, of Grand parade, and Dr. Blakiston, of Warrior square, both of whom were in favour of the Public Health Act being applied to their own district, as against the proposed local Act, but had not advocated the Act being applied to St. Leonards township within the Archway. — The Chairman said he could not put Mr. Chamberlin’s irregular motion to the meeting. — Capt. Hull moved “That the introduction of the Health of Towns Act into St. Leonards is unnecessary, not only because we have an efficient Government of our own, but also because under the proposed Act St. Leonards would have to pay the principal and interest of her own debt of £14,300, as well as to bear a portion of the general burden of the borough expenditure”. — Mr. Hughes seconded. Mr. Chamberlin, sen., then moved as an amendment “That St. Leonards be included with Hastings under the Health of Towns Act”. The Commissioners, he said, had neglected their duty, and he had no confidence in them. They were under the rule of one man, who had only to drop his pen or move his eye, and they all voted accordingly [Loud cries of No, no!]. He believed the Act would be do good. Mr. Putland seconded. The original motion was carried by an immense majority. Mr. A. Burton next produced a long petition to the House of Commons and moved its adoption. It included a prayer that if the application of the Act to St. Leonards were pressed, the petitioners might be heard by Counsel or otherwise. The Chairman remarked that they could at any time afterwards have the Act applied if they really found it desirable. — The motion was carried, with only a very few dissentients.
Mr. Chamberlin’s remarks as to the St. Leonards Commissioners having neglected their duty and being entirely under the rule of one man (meaning Mr. A. Burton) were regarded as being not only insulting, but also libellous. They were much commented on in outdoor gossip, and the question was asked if the Commissioners had failed in their duty, why had he not taken an earlier opportunity of publicly reproving them? It may have been Pg.90 that as a very large ratepayer and yet as an hotel-keeper excluded by the Act from serving on the Commission, the latter circumstance strengthened his prejudice against its members. The fact was that both he and his son William were good men and highly respected — particularly the latter, who like another good man (Mr. Hatchard) was of an extremely sanguine temperament which could brook no delay. As the lessee of the Victoria Hotel, Mr. Chamberlin, senr., was one of the largest ratepayers, and by the advice of his energetic son (an educationist, a philanthropist, a mesmerist, a phrenologist and a Liberal politician) he urged Mr. Burton, or the Burton family, or the Commissioners, to remove the Baths and to effect other improvements, as he called them, within and without the Hotel, which other parties concerned believed if everso (sic) desirable could not be accomplished in the manner suggested, or not in the specified time. That Mr. A. Burton was very reluctant to alter the designs of his father, for whom and for whose plans he entertained a great veneration, was well known to the inhabitants; but that he was so dictatorial or so all-commanding that he had “only to drop his pen or move his eye” to command the votes of the Commissioners, I as a note-taker at the meetings, can conscientiously deny. Instead of being an autocrat, Mr. Burton possessed the attribute of anti-imperiousness even to timidity; and this disposition, although in one sense a virtue, was in his own sphere of influence, regarded as a misfortune. If Mr. Chamberln’s ceaseless activity and Mr. Burton’s want of energy could have been mixed and equally divided it is probable that both themselves and the town would have been benefited. It was thought that during the visit of Mr. Cresy, the Government Inspector, he obtained from Mr. Chamberlin some erroneous information which helped to fill the Inspector’s Report which was condemned by all the public bodies in both towns as being full of damaging misstatements. It was thus that the well-meant but unfortunate statement of the Chamberlins occasioned less friendly relations between themselves and some other inhabitants — and particularly the Burtons which ultimately led to the Messrs. Chamberlin leaving the hotel and the town amidst general regret. Mr. Chamberlin quitted the premises at the Midsummer and advertised his removal thus: —
“William Chamberlin returns his grateful thanks to the Nobility, Clergy and Gentry for their liberal patronage during the lengthened period of twelve years, and begs to acquaint them that being prevented making certain improvements to the above hotel by failing to obtain a renewal of the lease, he has taken the commodious premises 6 & 7 Eversfield place, delightfully situated between the hotel and Hastings until the new house which will be built forthwith contiguous to the above, and which W. C. is determined and shall possess and advantages which it was impossible to impart to the one he has just left.”
The Bill again Delayed. On June 20th if the House went into Committee on the general Bill, when Mr. Hollond asked why Hastings was excluded? Lord Seymour again replied that it was in consequence of the local Pg.91 dispute, but he felt himself at liberty to introduce Hastings into another bill in a few days. Mr. Hollond moved that Hastings be added to the schedule. The Committee divided and Mr. Hollond’s motion or amendment was lost by a majority of 39. In again stating his reasons for the omission of Hastings, Lord Seymour said a deputation from St. Leonards waited on him and said, although it was fair for Hastings, it was unfair for St. Leonards. He therefore decided to give them a few weeks to settle the dispute among themselves. On the following Monday, on the order of the day for considering the Bill as amended, Mr. Brisco moved that Hastings be inserted. Lord Hotham said that while Hastings required sanitary regulations, St. Leonards — built only some twenty years since — did not require a twentieth part of the same sanitary precautions; also that the people of the latter town protested against being included, and against having their money applied to purposes in which they were not interested. He considered Lord Seymour did only what justice required. Mr. Brisco’s motion was lost by 48 to 46.
As Mr. Hollond was absent on the latter day, he was severely taken to task by “An Elector” in a letter to the Hastings News. The writer asked — “Can it be possible that the men of Hastings will much longer remain quiet or reconcile themselves to such unjustifiable dereliction of duty? . . . The sooner Mr. Hollond ceases to be our representative the better for us all”. I, who am now writing was one of those who signed the memorial for the Health of Towns Act to be applied to the district between Hastings proper and St. Leonards proper, but I demurred to the criticism of the correspondent of the News. Mr. Hollond was a representative not merely of the town of Hastings, but of the borough of Hastings, which included St. Leonards. He had at first done what he could to get Hastings inserted in the Bill, and on his own motion to that effect was defeated by a majority of 39. He at that time held considerable property in St. Leonards, resided at St. Leonards when at home from his parliamentary duties, was a member of the St. Leonards board of Commissioners, and it fell to his lot to have to present a lengthy petition from that body against the inclusion of St. Leonards. This he did, without supporting its prayer. I ask what more could be expected of Mr. Hollond under such circumstances?
The Third Reading. — When the order came on for the third reading of the Bill, on the 30th of June, Mr. Hollond was present, and Mr. Fuller moved the insertion of Hastings in the schedule, on which Lord Seymour remarked that he did not deny that Hastings was one of the dirtiest towns in England, and the only question was whether St. Leonards, which had drained Pg.92 itself should be saddled with the expense of draining Hastings [Hear, hear!] Mr. Hollond said it was not the dirty, but the clean parts that created the difficulty, and the question had now been under discussion for three months. Mr. Piggott said the people of Hastings were not at all unanimous for the Bill, whilst nearly all of St. Leonards were decidedly opposed to it. The House divided, and the third reading, with Hastings included, was carried by in 95 to 77 this, as before stated, was on the 30th of June; and, ten days later, a petition was presented to the House of Lords, against the inclusion of St. Leonards; and praying that the petitioners might be heard by counsel. The latter prayer was granted, and on the 18th of July, the case was argued on one side by Mr. Taylor, assistant-secretary to the General Board of Health, and for the Commissioners of St. Leonards by Mr. Talbott and Mr. Johnson.
Before a Committee of the House of Lords
A Select Committee of the House of Lords heard the case, and the following is a summary of the proceedings: — Mr. Taylor first addressed their lordships in opposition to the petition to the St. Leonards, and explained that the bill before the committee was a public one, which embraced an order of the Board of Health, applying the Public Health Act to the whole borough of Hastings, which included the town of St. Leonards. The order for applying it to Hastings did not appear in the bill originally introduced by Lord Seymour, the noble lord having struck out the name to give the petitioners against the bill time to further consider the matter. At the third reading a motion was carried for the re-insertion of Hastings. The first step in the proceedings was a petition from Hastings for applying the Act to the whole borough. Mr. Cresy was then sent down to inspect the locality, and in his report strongly recommended the application of the Act not only to Hastings, but also to St. Leonards and the intermediate district. The reason assigned in the petition as constituting a hardship if the Act were applied to St. Leonards were to the effect that, however desirable the application of the Act to Hastings might be, the same necessity did not exist in St. Leonards, since the latter was of recent erection, and consisted principally of first-class houses. It was clean and well ventilated and every house was provided with a water-closet, etc. It had a southern aspect, was situated by the sea-shore, and had excellent natural facilities for drainage. It was already provided with an Improvement Act, efficiently administered by a board of commissioners acting gratuitously. Altogether it did not require the application of the Public Health Act. Such were the allegations in the petition. Now, the borough of Hastings contained two bodies of Commissioners, one for each town, and each having a distinct Act of Parliament. The Public Health contemplated the extinction of both these bodies and vesting the Town Council with power to act in their room. It was a fact that the drainage of the borough could not be carried out in except by one general system [afterwards disproved by there being two separate systems]. It was a general principle that local boards should be consolidated, and it remained to be considered Pg.93 whether St. Leonards presented any peculiar features to warrant a departure from the general rule. He would call witnesses to show that the allegations in the petition were not supported by facts. When opposition originally appeared in St. Leonards against the introduction of the Act one reason alleged for it was that out of 24 members of the Town Council, only six could be elected from St. Leonards. The General Board took this into consideration that whenever the Town Council sat as a Board of Health, it should be accompanied by two assessors on behalf of the ward in which the St. Leonards is situated. It was said that the Board of Health had no power to make this provision. He hoped their lordships would be able to decide upon the point thus raised.
The Chairman expressed an opinion that the Committee could not go into an enquiry as to the legality of the provisional order. The question before them was whether the Act was to be applied; not as to the manner of its application.
Mr. James Emary, as the first witness, said he was Mayor of the borough of Hastings, the Town Council of which consisted of 24 members, of whom 21 were in favour of the Health of Towns Bill. It was important that it should be applied to the whole borough. St. Leonards required it as much as Hastings. The borough comprised two wards. The East Ward returned 12 members, and the West Ward six members. Hastings and St. Leonards were a mile apart, and the intervening space was nearly filled with houses. He was Mayor and an hotel-keeper; but he was no party to getting the Borough Members to move in Parliament with reference to the Bill. He knew nothing of it. The oldest houses in St. Leonards were about 25 or 26 years, but Hastings had been going on for hundreds of years.
Mr. Frederick Ticehurst, a magistrate and an alderman, had practised in Hastings as a surgeon for nearly 20 years. He was medical officer to the Board of Guardians under the Nuisance Removal Act, and had certified a great many nuisances. As magistrate he had witnessed prosecutions under the Commissioners bye-laws with reference to vehicles applying for hire, and he considered it would be a benefit to have the various jurisdictions consolidated into one.
Mr. Cresy, civil engineer and inspector to the General Board of Health, had inspected the borough in Feb. 1850 [17 months before]. He should not call St. Leonards one of the cleanest and best ventilated towns in the kingdom. The water supply was deficient at that time. He was paid three guineas a day and his expenses when on such duty, and if the borough is brought under the Act it will have to pay the cost of inspection. He had reported in favour of the Act for every town he had visited, except that of Stonehouse in Gloucestershire. His report respecting the drainage of St. Leonards was correct at the time, but he could not answer for its present condition. There was plenty of water available at the back of St. Leonards. The extremities of the two towns were about 2½ miles apart. He did not contend for having his own plan of drainage carried out, and did not know that he should recommend that plan now. When he first proposed it he was not aware that it was generally objected to. Pg.94 Dr. Peyton Blakiston, was living in the immediate neighbourhood of St. Leonards, and was of opinion that the town required sanitary improvement. It might be one of the cleanest and best ventilated towns in the Kingdom, but it was not so.
Mr. Stephen Putland, surveyor and merchant, resided a short distance eastward of St. Leonards proper; was a member of the Town Council and Board of Guardians. He could corroborate the statement of Mr. Cresy as to the action of the tides on some of the drains. The intermediate district comprised upwards of 100 houses and more were being erected. That portion of the borough had no act of parliament. The St. Leonards Commissioners, he believed, were lengthening the outlets on the beach, and were building a tank to improve the water supply. There was no general system of drainage at Hastings, and it was not so well drained as St. Leonards. Hastings was thickly populated, and a sanitary remedy was required. The greater portion of St. Leonards was in the Magdalen parish. There were three turnpike acts in the borough and two railway acts, but still a deficiency of power.
Mr. Thomas Ross (1810-1881) lived in the intermediate district — namely, Claremont, in the Holy Trinity parish; was a member of the Town Council and the Board of Guardians. He acted as Secretary to the Sanitary committee in 1849. Several houses at the western extremity of St. Leonards were then in a bad state, but he could not certify to the existence of those nuisances at the present time.
Mr. John Peerless was also a member of the Town Council and the Board of Guardians. He had lived in St. Leonards twenty years. He had served with Mr. Ross on the sanitary committee in 1849, and believed that some of the houses referred to, up to three months back were in the same condition.
Mr. John Goldsworthy Shorter, Town Clerk at Hastings, said the length of the borough along the front was about 4¼ miles. It was divided into two wards. The East Ward contained 11,853 inhabitants, of whom 968 were burgesses. The West Ward contained 5,680 inhabitants, of whom 253 were burgesses. The value of the borough assessment was £38,760 in the East Ward, and £17,371 in the West Ward. Twelve councillors were elected by the East Ward and six by the West. Did not consider it any opposition to the Government to oppose the General Board of Health as it first appeared with Hastings excluded. When he took steps to oppose the Bill he communicated with the Mayor, and he did not think the Mayor had sworn to the contrary. This terminated the case for the Bill.
Mr. Talbott , on behalf of the petitioners, then addressed their lordships. He would not now consider the legality of the provisional order, nor whether the town of Hastings ought to receive the application of the Health of Towns Act, but whether it was proper and expedient that St. Leonards should be included in the provisional order contrary to its expressed will. In its present form the Bill was conducted by one of the officers of the Board of Health, and he had told them that he was promoting that Bill contrary to the views of Lord Seymour. Their lordships would take that as a sign of Pg.95 the risk and peril which the country suffered at the hands of the Board of Health, the latter being determined to get all it could into its own hands. It was originally proposed to ratify the whole of the provisional orders. Circumstances were afterward brought to the knowledge of Lord Seymour, who concluded that the borough of Hastings ought not to be included in its full extent. The great majority of the electors resided in the East Ward; it was therefore evident which party would have the greatest pull upon the representatives. The decision was ratified by two Divisions, but on the third reading the county members were in the field and succeeded in beating the Government. Hastings then triumphed, but in what? — in obtaining an engine to oppress St. Leonards. On the part of St. Leonards there was an antipathy to the Bill as strong as any love which could exist for it in Hastings. Nothing could be more dissimilar than the aspect of the two towns. Hastings was confined within surrounding cliffs, was of great antiquity and abounded in narrow thoroughfares. Many of its houses were very old and of an inferior description. It was quite true that it had large houses in the front, but these might be deficient of drainage. St. Leonards had wide roads and most of its houses were first-class. It was built in 1828, and in 1832 it obtained its present Improvement Act. Under this Act gratuitous Commissioners were elected, and there were employed a clerk and surveyor at a total cost of £55. This organization had drained the town, supplied it with water, and worked to the satisfaction of the ratepayers. He would show their lordships that the reports of the bad state of St. Leonards were not founded on fact. When the Local Act was obtained for St. Leonards, it was as patent as now that there was a another Local Act in the borough, yet no opposition arose on this ground [Both Acts were passed in the same session — 2nd of William IV., 1832. See Local History for that year, chapters VII & VIII.] But now it was asked that St. Leonards should be handed over to the Board of Health because Hastings wished it to be so. The six councillors to be elected in the West Ward might be chosen without the limits of St. Leonards; therefore not only were the inhabitants of that town to be governed by the twelve gentleman who appeared in the plan of the district to ride in pink, but there was also a possibility for every one of the Council to be elected from parts of the borough exclusive of St. Leonards. Be the case as it might, St. Leonards was left in an inevitable and miserable minority. The gentleman who opened this case had implied that Mr. James Burton had consulted his own private interest to the injury of the public. This was a most unfounded misrepresentation. The Board of Health did not pretend to repeal the St. Leonards Improvement Act, but kept it alive with exceptions. If their lordships will examine that the Act they would find that the exceptions formed a very large part of it, and that nearly every clause was struck out. In this way the Board of Health Pg.96 might repeal dozens of Acts of Parliament, and actually make use of the authority of Parliament for that purpose under cover of getting their provisional order ratified. He did not wonder Mr. Greenough petitioned against the Bill. Mr. Greenough was a creditor to the Commission, and it was one thing for him to lend money to the St. Leonards Commissioners, with whom he was acquainted and who lived in the town [where he himself had considerable property], and quite another thing to advance money to the Town Council of Hastings, of whom the bondholder might know nothing, and, for aught he knew, might have an interest directly opposed to that of St. Leonards. Contrary to the opinion expressed on the other side, he was prepared to argue that the Bill was uneconomical. The Board of Health were remarkable for the extravagantly philosophical character of their views, which were not very practical. Though there might be eight surveyors of highways in the borough, as stated, yet they were no tax upon the town. They had heard much of the principle of consolidation, but he would remind them that the plan of summary condensation and combination was an expensive process. He protested in the name of St. Leonards against making that town succumbed to the grasp of the Board of Health. There was to be condensation and concentration of manure. Mr. Cresy had planned it, but now he would not say that he would recommend it; neither did he say it was the best plan. Mr. Cresy had published statements, carrying with them all the weight of a Government inquiry, and now he admitted he was not prepared to recommend them, or even to support them with facts. What could be more wretchedly fanciful than his plan to manufacture in close proximity to the town, liquid manure into dry manure? Could anyone doubt that Hastings seemed to be bent on seeing St. Leonards sacrificed? Lord Seymour had protected them, but his officials appeared to exercise a power superior to his own. It was evident that if St. Leonards ever came under the control of the Hastings Town Council there was no power to protect them but such as came from above. But the inhabitants were prepared to pay for counsel to oppose the recommendation of the inspector; they were prepared to show that there drainage was improving, and that that part of the town against which complaints had been made was to have been drained into the haven, but an unavoidable delay with the Commissioners of Levels had retarded the work. He had heard no shadow of an argument for the inclusion of St. Leonards in the Bill except that of consolidation to which he had already referred. He only appeared on the present occasion for St. Leonards — not even for the intermediate district. Whatever their lordships might do with the rest of the borough, they would allow St. Leonards the privilege — not merely to vegetate, but to improve; and St. Leonards would promise that if Mr. Cresy should pay another visit he would find a town admirably drained and well supplied with all the means of sanitary reform. Witnesses were then examined by Mr. Johnson. Pg.97 Mr. John Dainter had lived in St. Leonards sixteen years. The town contained 230 houses, the annual rateable property was £12,050, and at the present rate it yielded £1,200 a year to the Commission. The qualification for a Commissioner was to be a resident and to have £50 a year freehold. The limit of the rate was 2s. in the pound per year. The Commissioners possessed ample powers for the construction of gas-works, waterworks, etc. The population was about 2,000. The Commissioners could borrow £16,000, and they had already borrowed £14,300. He was collector of rates for the Commissioners. £7.026 had been repaid to Mr. Burton for the town improvements. [See chapter IX for the manner in which the sum was applied]. The remainder of the debt was for the general improvement of the town. St. Leonards was opposed to the Health of Towns Bill and so was he. As collector he had £40 a year by percentage. Hotel-keepers were precluded from serving on the Commission. Out of the 230 houses 176 were first class.
Mr. Henry Hughes had lived in the town from the commencement. He was a builder and had been engaged in the construction of some parts of the town. The drains were very good. The main drains had a fall of one in twenty and had their outlets 100 feet from the sea-wall. Was not aware that of any of the houses having bad smells from the drains. Their intention was to put St. Leonards into such a state as should make it attractive to visitors. He thought the town did very well under its present management.
Mr. Samuel Woodgate, builder and house-agent, had never heard any complaints from visitors about bad smells more than at other watering places. Cesspools which once existed at the west end of the town had all been removed. No town in the kingdom was better supplied with water.
Mr. Louis Gordon, civil engineer, had been engaged to take the levels of the houses along the Marina and examine the drainage. He found the facilities for draining perfect. Drainage into the sea was the best plan. There was a fall towards the sea sufficient for all the houses except a few at the west end.
Mr. Alfred Burton was deeply interested in the prosperity of the town. With few exceptions, the inhabitants were most anxious not to be included with Hastings under the Health of Towns Act. One main drain went down the valley and another down the road which led round it. They discharged by means of iron pipes on the beach, from 100 to 150 feet from the sea-wall. Never knew the sewerage to be pent up by the tide. He had lived at St. Leonards more or less ever since its commencement, and never had known, except in one instance, when by a great and sudden upflow, the water to rise through the pipes. Tenders were now being received for lengthening the outlets. It had been intended to drain the west end into the Haven, but as the sluice-gates were to be taken away by the Commissioners of Levels, it had been now decided to drain the west end into the sea, with proper valves, etc. All Pg.98 the houses were well supplied with water except Lavatoria, where there was a well. There was also water in the Market, procurable by means of a pump. The six cottages behind the Market had water close at hand in the Caves, and by means of a service-pipe they could be supplied from the engine at the waterworks. Within the last-few weeks an additional supply had been obtained from the South-Eastern Railway Company. He was owner of 75 houses. £7,000 had been paid to the estate of the late Jas. Burton in respect to local improvements. Personally, he had received nothing worth mentioning, and he had never exerted more influence in the town than was right and proper. — This concluded the case for the petition, and Mr. Taylor having briefly replied, the committee-room was cleared. After a few minutes, the parties were re-admitted to hear it declared that an amendment clause would be prepared, to omit St. Leonards from the operations of the Bill. The Committee expressed a hope that the arrangement would tend to produce a feeling of unanimity in the borough and foster a spirit of self-government. — Mr. Taylor remarked that however energetically the St. Leonards Commissioners might carry out their Improvement Act, the authorities at Hastings were resolved that Hastings should be fully as irreproachable as St. Leonards. The case occupied nearly five hours.
The animated discussions on the same subject by the Hastings Commissioners and Town Councillors will be found in the next chapter.
Saint Leonards Mechanics’ Institution
“On the Progress of Knowledge” was the theme on which Mr. S. A. Bacon of the Saxon Hotel lectured at the above named Institution on the 9th of February.
“Atmospheric Electricity” was the title of a lecture delivered in the Institution rooms, by Mr. John Banks, on the Feby 15th. The lecture was illustrated by experiments.
A lecture on “The Sights of London”, was delivered by T. B. Brett on the 12th of March to a full room. Referring to the said lecture, the Hastings News, of the 21st of March observed — “A lecture was delivered last week by Mr. T. B. Brett on the engaging subject of ‘Metropolitan Sights, or a Week in London’. The lecturer set out with observing that one object he had in view was to provide those who intended visiting London during the Exhibition season with some information which might be useful to them. He then proceeded to give a general view of the great metropolis, remarking forcibly on some of its social characteristics. — After some statistical details the lecturer, enumerated some of the calamities that had befallen the great emporium. He next proceeded to treat of the public edifices of London. The dearest Pg.99 sight in the modern Babylon was described as St. Paul’s. The numerous objects of interest were treated of in a very graphic, and occasionally very amusing manner. The lecture was well got up and gave great satisfaction”.
“On Wednesday, March 26th,” said the same journal, “Mr. T. B. Brett gave a second lecture on ‘Metropolitan Sights’. We are glad to find this amusing and instructive lecturer prolonging his ‘Week in London’”.
“On Monday evening,” to again quote the Hastings News, (April 11th) “Mr. Brett, of St. Leonards, instructed and amused an attentive auditory with another portion of Metropolitan Sights or A Week in London. The lecture was well received.”
“On Wednesday evening,” said the same journal, “Mr. T. B. Brett resumed his agreeable lecture on ‘Metropolitan Sights’, and carried his audience as far as ‘Thursday Night’. His observations on this occasion, were in the vicinity of the Tower, Billingsgate, and the Docks. The subject was handled in a very entertaining style (with musical illustrations) and the rambles proved by no means fatiguing.”
On April 23 Mr. John Banks delivered a lecture in the same rooms, his subject being “Optics”.
At the quarterly meeting on the 15th of May (Mr. Chamberlin in the chair), it was shewn that the number of members was 239 and that the treasurer had a balance in hand of £1 17s 3d. The retiring committee were re-elected — viz. T. B. Brett, J. Beck, R. Coleman, W. Beck, J. Banks, S. Putland, W. Gilbert, J. S. Cooper, & T. Elworthy. The Chairman sympathised with Mr. F. Gausden (the Treasurer) in his illness, and passed a high commendation on his worth, both in public and private life.
The next quarterly meeting was held on Aug. 28th, when S. Putland, jun., was elected honorary treasurer in the place of F. R. Gausden, deceased. The meeting had been deferred through the illness of several officers.
The third annual soirée was held in the Assembly Rooms on the 28th of October, with the President, A. Burton, Esq. in the chair. The rooms were crowded, both at the tea and at the after proceedings. This enjoyable meeting was severally addressed by the Chairman and by Messrs. Chamberlin, Passmore, Edwards, J. Banks, _ Selway and J. Smith. Mr. Edwards’s address, of an hour’s duration, was a splendid oration. The sub-committee for managing the soirée were W. Walter, T. B. Brett, J. Smith, S. Putland & J. Beck. — Mr. Brett sold 52 tickets, Mr. Beck 27 and Mr. Walter 26. Mr. Elford and his son supplied the vocal music at a cost of 15/6. Mr. Brett provided a band of 8 performers for its 25/- and gave his own services gratuitously. Mr. Edwards’s expenses were 25/-. These and other items, left a deficiency of £1. 5 .1. But the soirée was a most enjoyable affair and brought a considerable accession of new members.
During the summer however, in consequence of many persons leaving the town and other causes, the number of members again declined, but at Pg.100 the annual and quarterly meeting on the 13th of Nov. the treasurer showed a favourable balance of over four guineas. A. Burton, Esq., was re-elected president; Messrs. Hollond, M P., D. Burton, Esq., W. Chamberlin, S. Putland, J. S. Cooper, & J. Beck, were elected vice-presidents; S. Putland, jun., Treasurer; C. T. How, and R. Coleman, secretaries; T. B. Brett, J. Banks, _ Bennett, W. Beck, J. Smith, W. Walter, S. Woodgate, A. Parks and J. Davis, committeemen. — The names are here placed agreeably to the number of votes.
A Furious Bullock
On the 24th of February an extraordinary scene was presented between Bopeep and the Fountain Inn. Two bullocks were being driven from Bexhill to Hastings by Henry Tindall and his brother, when one of them went astray, and the other made a rush at Tindall and knocked him down. To prevent being gored, Tindall held the animal hard by the horns, and after two or three unavailing plunges the bullock galloped off to a railway plate-layer named Clark, whom he knocked down & gored in a frightful manner. The injured man was taken up insensible, bleeding profusely from a severe wound in the leg and thigh. The bullock then ran against a mounted horse, and with one horn tore off the saddle and threw the rider over the roadside rails almost into the Haven. The reckless beast then ran at a man who laid hold of the unsaddled horse and threw him also to the ground. It then ran to a dray-man who took refuge behind a brewer’s vehicle. Being now opposed by a man with a pitchfork, the bullock speedily threw his antagonist, and after treading on his shoulder, got into collision with a horse and cart driven by Mr. Godden, a backer at the South Colonnade. The bullock’s head struck the horse’s breast and caused the horse to rear upon its hind legs. A female was also knocked down but not greatly hurt. Having remained master of the highway for about an hour the restless being galloped off under the railway arch at Bopeep, and on the following morning was found near its old quarters at Bexhill, where it ran at a fish-dealer and knocked him down. The animal was ultimately secured and placed from whence it had been taken the day before, and where its strayed companion, had also arrived.
To the east and the west, as well as to the north of the Archway, additional buildings continued to arise, and among them were three fist-class mansions contiguous to 79 Marina. Unlike others in that direction these were being built on freehold ground. There were also two houses being built by Mr. Robt. Ransom, west of Verulam place, which he named Helmington place — now 62 and 63 Eversfield place. Mr. Thos. Woodford has purchased 1 and 2 Cliff Cottages, and changed the name to “Lossenham”. He was also having built for him four other attached houses to which he gave the general appellation of Agincourt Terrace, in consequence of an ancestor Pg.101 of his being knighted for valorous deeds at the battle of Agincourt. The same new houses were also separately named Glenstone, Alma, Rockbourn, etc. These houses are now 5 to 10 Eversfield place. I am here reminded that in the same year (1851) Mr. Woodford was slowly recovering from an attack of brain fever, from what cause I do not know, but perhaps from overwrought anxiety in the building of his property. But a still greater undertaking in the same year was that of Mr. Benjamin Tree and his son, Henry Went Tree, in the erection of nine large houses next to Mr. Woodford’s, and to which they gave the names of Eversfield House and 1 to 8 Eversfield place. At a later period these numbers were altered to Nos. 12 to 20, and five of the said houses now comprise the elegant Eversfield Hotel. There was then a long stretch of unoccupied land until were reached the house, to be called Yverdon, just built by Mr. Voysey and the adjoining four houses also being erected by Mr. William Winter, which, ere completion were partly consumed by fire (See “Fires” further on in the same chapter). Then, further eastward were Mr. Ransom’s two “Helmington place” houses, already noticed, with vacant spaces of ground on each side. Thus the front line between Warrior square and Verulam place became a scene of active building operations in 1851; but, even then there remained spaces to be covered by 41 houses out of the 67 now existing as Eversfield place.
A Question of Bands
On the 21st of May “A Tradesman” wrote to the Hastings News thus: —
- “In the Sussex Advertiser of Tuesday last was inserted a letter which began with ‘It is a question which arises from year to year as to how the parades of Hastings and St. Leonards shall be supplied with music for the season?’ Now, Sir, this is the very question that for several months agitated the minds of a few energetic individuals having the welfare of the town or towns at heart, and caused them to institute an enquiry as to the practicability of forming such a band as would better meet the requirements of the place than the then existing local band or bands. The result of this enquiry was the speedy organization of a new brass band [the first of its kind in the borough], composed of eleven performers, of steady and temperate habits, and provided, at a great expense with instruments of modern and improved construction. This band has now been six months in good practice, and should it meet with suitable encouragement, it is not difficult to foresee the advantages likely to be derived therefrom. There are many occasions, both in summer and winter when the services of a band are Pg.102 required at a very short notice, and when a foreign band is not to be had even if desired; and it is at such times when a good local band gives evidence of its utility.”
On June 4th “Another Tradesman” — this time a St. Leonards man — wrote to the same local journal as follows: —
- “Hastings and St. Leonards are almost destitute of public amusements. Standing as they do, second to none as watering places, some further attractions should be presented to those from whom we, as tradesmen, receive our support. There is now here a band of foreign musicians who give us selections from first-rate composers in a creditable manner. We have also another band, who have been labouring hard for a considerable time to be in a position to offer their services. Native talent ought at all times to receive due encouragement. If Hastings secures the services of a good band, St. Leonards must follow her example; but can there not be in this case a union of interests? Let both bands be engaged. They could then perform at Hastings and St. Leonards alternately. The St. Leonards people came forward liberally last year, and will again do so. Allow me, therefore, to suggest to the Hastings Committee the propriety of inviting the co-operation of the St. Leonards residents; and I have not the slightest doubt the invitation will be responded to.”
The writer of the foregoing letter was too sanguine. The Hastings Band Committee could not condescend to invite the co-operation of St. Leonards while St. Leonards declined to co-operate with Hastings in the application of the Health of Towns Act. Perhaps where there ought to be harmony there might be discord; besides which they were already subjected to jarring notes in a feud with the Hastings old Band. The self-appointed committee has engaged a German band, or were intending to do so, when someone, in remonstrance, sent a long letter to the Hastings News, of which the following is an extract: —
- "the Town Band have borne the heat and burden of the day — have supplied us with music on every case of emergency — have struggled on for a number of years, and, without remuneration have played for whole seasons for the amusement of ourselves and visitors — and shall strangers be brought to enter into their labours now that pecuniary means can be found? Fellow subscribers! Shall persons, in their desire for notoriety, call a select meeting, appoint themselves a committee, and dictate to the town what band shall be had? Can you now afford — as that committee says you must — £10 a week for a band of eight Germans, when during the few seasons in which you collected subscriptions, you paid the Town Band only £5 a Pg.103 week for twelve performers? Consider these questions before you be made the dupes of any plausibility, or suffer a band of respectable fellow townsmen to be cast aside by Messrs. Clift, Grenside, etc., to make place for a band of itinerant Germans. [Mr. Grenside had German relations, and Mr. Clift, as a member of the imperious society of H.I.P.S., two years later, was anything than the best of Mayors or even one of the best].”
As an illustration of the aphorism that “a prophet has no honour in his own country”, this patronage of German bands tended to break up one of the best local bands in Sussex. The new Brass Band, however, could not be put down by any combination. Conscious of its own strength and favoured by the public for its rehearsals of popular music, it had the gratification of seeing the Germans give it a wide berth. It had the further pleasure in a test of ability at Eastbourne with a German band, of carrying off the honours. And here it may be remarked that the said Brass Band could only get paid two guineas for a musical advertisement in a march round both towns and playing all the afternoon at a flower show, whilst by simply playing at the Rye Cottagers’ Show and the Eastbourne and Hailsham Shows it could readily obtain five guineas and all expenses; its pride being further gratified by the posted notices that “The Celebrated Hastings and St. Leonards Brass Band” would be in attendance.
Turning again to the Hastings contention, it is not unlikely that the favour shown to the St. Leonards Brass Band in preference to the German Band, helped to put the Hastings Town Band upon its mettle, the members of which, in the early part of July, challenged the Germans to a musical combat, the conditions being that both bands should use the same sort of instruments, and the judges to be competent, but disinterested persons. The challenge was held to be a fair proposition as a test of skill, but it was not accepted by the Germans themselves nor by the committee on their behalf.
Fires at St. Leonards
In 1851, on the 2nd of February, there was a serious conflagration at where are now 42 to 46, Eversfield Place. These houses were in course of erection and nearly ﬁnished. They formed a block by themselves, four of them belonging to Mr. William Winter, a shipwright, of Hastings, and the other —a larger one — to Mr. Voysey, architect and builder, of St. Leonards. The houses were already roofed in and ﬂoored, and whilst some of the workmen were on the premises at dinner, a fire that had been lighted and supposed to have been out, was re-kindled by the strong draught from an open window, which scattered the sparks among shavings and thus ignited them into a flame. In a few minutes the ﬁre was communicated to the timbers, which in turn were quickly ablaze, and the roof being as quickly attacked by the ﬂames, afforded only sufficient resistance to send a large volume of smoke and flame through the window openings, thus setting alight also the wooden frames. The roof, too, was soon burnt through, and the immense volume of black smoke which arose therefrom attracted a crowd even as far off as Norman Road. The present writer, with several other persons, hesitated not to rush to the scene, where he found a large number of willing hands exerting themselves to annihilate a ﬁre from which the heat was almost unendurable even in the road. Two engines were already hastening to the conflagration, one belonging to the Hastings Commissioners, which was kept in the Castle parish, and the other belonging to the St. Leonards Commissioners, which was kept in the Victoria Mews. Owing to the want of water, however, they could only be worked by that which was brought up in buckets from the sea, and here a mistake was made by pouring it, unﬁltered of its sand and grit, into the engines direct, thus choking the pipes. Next came the three engines that were kept in the late market-place under the Town Hall, the whole ﬁve being then assembled within 45 minutes from the time of the discovery. But the ﬁre was then raging ﬁercely from top to bottom of what we will call No. 2, where it had originated, and had leapt over on each side to Nos. 1 and 3, the party walls not being carried above the roof, so that three out of the four houses belonging to Mr. Winter were now being consumed. Renewed efforts were made to prevent the ﬁre spreading, but the want of water was still the hindrance. Seeing the dilemma, Mr. Clark, proprietor of the new water-works, took a pickaxe and broke into the main, thus affording a sufficient supply for most of the engines to be worked. The Castle engine was the most effective, it having the ﬁrst pull at the water. The St. Leonards engine was the second in good effects, while the other three, being less powerful, played upon the lower portions of the buildings. After a time a couple of hose did good service by being carried round to the back, and by three o’clock the further spread of the ﬁre was felt to have been stayed. By that time three of Mr. Winter’s houses were rooﬂess, and the fourth nearly so, whilst all the timber was burnt out of one and a good deal of it out of two houses immediately adjoining. But Mr. Voysey’s house was fortunately saved. The damage was estimated at from £900 to £1,000, but the five houses, as a block, were insured for £1,600. Some of the workmen failed to recover their tools, whilst others succeeded in removing them to safer quarters. Pg.104 Fears were entertained that the gable wall of the westernmost house would fall, and policemen were stationed at the spot to warn people of the danger. The wall, however, preserved its perpendicular until two days later, when it tottered under the force of a westerly gale, and at last the upper portion fell inwards with a loud crash, and carried away such of the ﬂooring and joists as had been spared by the fire. The coast-guard men rendered good service, and several other helpers ran great risk by getting on to the roofs tor the purpose of pouring down water. The firemen also worked excessively, those from High Street having to drag their engines by hand over the heavy shingle in Robertson Street.
The Hastings Commissioners having held a monthly meeting on the evening of the same day, it was very natural for the fire here described to be a topic of discussion. The chairman (Mr. Dunk) remarked that it was evidenced by the conflagration that had occurred that afternoon that some more effective agency was required to defend the town against the hazard of fire. It was grievous to see the futile attempts of an engine to convey water even up to the ﬁrst floor. Mr. Wrenn contended that the Castle engine — the only one belonging to the Commissioners — threw the water over the very top of the buildings. Nothing, we believe, was wrong with the men or the said engine, but the old engines were certainly defective. Mr. Vidler thought, however, a master-hand was wanted to make the staff more perfect. The Commissioners engine was first at the ﬁre, but two or three pipes burst through the stopping up of the muzzle by the beach contained in the sea-water. The St. Leonards engine appeared to be a very good one for power, but the case of the inefficient ones rested with the Town Council. Mr. Wellerd, the superintendent of the Commissioners’ engine, having been called, stated that a party obtained the engine-house key of Mr. Vidler and took the engine to the fire before the brigade knew anything about it. The consequence was that as the party were unacquainted with it they soon put it out of order. All parties, however, concurred in praising the firemen for their energy and hard work, but the opinion was general that an efficient leader was required.
On the 20th of the same month in the same year, at about seven o'clock in the evening, a fire occurred at the West Marina in a shop occupied by Mr. Cope, stationer, tea-dealer, and tobacconist. Mrs. Cope received the ﬁrst alarm, while descending the stairs from an upper ﬂoor, by her four-year-old son running to her from the shop, saying there was at fire. (The said son, when grown to manhood, was a violinist, also organist at St. Mary Magdalen Church, but since dead). On going to the shop Mrs. Cope saw ﬂames rising over the counter. She immediately rushed out for assistance and obtained the help of Mr. Bray, a neighbouring baker, and two other persons. Water was thrown on the ﬂames, and the fire was ultimately extinguished, but not till nearly the whole of the stock was destroyed or damaged. The shop windows were broken, and much of the plaster fell from the ceiling. The ﬁre, which arose from the child playing with matches, resulted in a serious loss to his father.
0n the 9th of July in the same year, a ﬁre was discovered at the house in London Road, St. Leonards, tenanted by Mr. Joseph Beck, a baker, and a relative of Councillor Beck above mentioned. A bond timber had got ignited in the chimney of the adjoining house (Mr. Stubberﬁeld's) and had communicated with a bedroom in Mr. Beck’s house. Fortunately the smell of fire induced a search, which resulted in the discovery of some bandboxes being consumed. These were near to some curtains, and had not prompt measures been taken to extinguish the work of destruction thus commenced the result might have been serious.
Nine days later an alarm of ﬁre was shouted by a female, the only inmate at the time of 11, Grand Parade. A violent thunderstorm was in progress, and the house having been struck by lightning, and the person in charge being enveloped by darkness, imagined, in her fright, that some part of the house was on ﬁre, she hastened to alarm her neighbours. That her suspicion was natural may be learnt from the following abbreviated details. At about two o'clock in the afternoon the lightning struck the house with a terrific report, attracted apparently by a zinc chimney shaft raised high above the brickwork stack. The combined metal and masonry was shattered, the roof entered, the bell-wires twisted and separated, the bells made to ring, the wall-papers discoloured, some of the windows broken, the kitchen fire extinguished by falling materials, and the kitchen in darkness. No. 12, was also visited by the electric current, its chimney-stack damaged thereby, whilst a clock was stopped, a ceiling cracked, and an umbrella dashed out of a servant’s hands just as she was opening it. The concussion was most alarming, and was felt also in No. 10, where the cook lost her sense of hearing for fully two hours. The telegraph wires at the Bopeep railway station were affected and the bells set ringing.
The same storm also set ﬁre to a stack of wheat in the Kiln Field, St. Leonards Green, belonging to Mr. Robert Deudney. A column of smoke ascended from the centre of the stack as if from a funnel, and, notwithstanding a copious fall of rain and hail, the ﬂames of fire quickly followed the smoke, and the entire destruction of eighty or ninety pounds worth of grain appeared to be imminent. The present writer, with a crowd of other persons, witnessed the great exertions which were made to remove as many sheaves as possible from the burning mass, whilst a number of rats hied them to safer quarters. The ﬁre was not ﬁnally subdued till after midnight, and only a comparatively small portion of the stack was saved. Mr. Deudney had, however, prudently insured it.
Another fire in 1851 was a very destructive one, which occurred near Bexhill and which was plainly visible on the high ground at St. Leonards. At about nine o'clock on the eventing of September l9th an immense glare was observed from St. Leonards Green which proved to be that which was caused by large ﬁre at the Lower Barnhorn Farm between Bexhill and Hooe, occupied by Mr. Thomas Christmas. The conﬂagration — which was believed to be the work of an incendiary — broke out in a barn; and, owing to a scarcity of water, consumed a stack of thrashed pea-haulm, a stack containing 20 tons of hay, a barn, a lodge, a granary, 30 loads of peas in haulm, five loads of wheat-sheaves, a quantity of potatoes, some threshed tares, and several fowls. The entire loss was estimated at £500. In this case had it been possible for the Hastings and St. Leonards firemen, with their engines, to be present in ever so short a time, the want of water would have made their energies of little avail.
A fire also occurred at St. Leonards, on the 3lst of August, but it turned out to be only a bonﬁre on the beach. Being, however, on a Sunday evening, a great crowd of people proceeded to the spot from both towns, those, from Hastings imagining that at house or houses at the South Colonnade had caught ﬁre, and those from westward of the St. Leonards Archway supposing it to be one of the new houses which now form a portion of Eversfield Place. A party of boys had managed to get a large quantity of shavings together, with small pieces of wood, close to the wall in front of “Lossenham,” which they kindled and raised an immense bonfire. The whole place was lit up by the flames, thus causing a consternation and the hastening of people to the spot. Such a foolish freak on a Sunday evening was very reprehensible, but it was understood, even by juveniles, that the police had no authority to interfere with anything that took place on the beach.
Though not strictly coming within the limits first contemplated by the writer under this heading, yet, as the effects of Nature’s fireworks have sometimes invoked the aid of ﬁremen to arrest the progress of destruction, there can be no incongruity in associating with the present theme some of the cases of local damage caused by electrical storms. The lightning-struck houses at Ground Parade have been already referred to, and I will now add that a thunderstorm occurred on the 27th of September, during which two sheep belonging to Mr. Edward Farncomb, at Filsham Farm, were killed by lightning.
On the 4th of the following October, not by storm, but by the dangerous practice of letting off ﬁreworks in the public roads, a valuable animal of a team of horses was so affrighted as to rear and to fracture a thigh bone, thus necessitating his being deprived of life by shooting.
Natural and other Phenomena
During squally weather on the 19th of November (1850), a very clearly defined lunar rainbow appeared in the south-west. Rather more than a quadrate of prismatic hues stood out vividly on a dark cloud, the lower extremities of the bow dipping into the sea.
On the 17th of April, a large shoal of porpoises passed St. Leonards, unusually close to the shore. On the following morning a solar halo, with brilliant prismatic colours, was observed, and on the evening of the same day nightingale notes were heard in the neighbourhood. On the 23rd, vivid light was seen in the north.
A beautifully marked turtle, with lively motion was seen at the Marine Hotel in the month of July; and a turtle, weighing 84 pounds, was the creature which terrified a man in the sea at Bulverhithe on the 13th of August. On closer acquaintance the nature of the strange visitor was discovered, and, after a hard struggle was captured and sold to two men who were fishing for prawns, for the sum of 10 shillings.
Three white spoonbills were shot on the Pevensey Levels on the 2nd of October, out of a flight of six. Such birds are so rare in this locality as not to be seen Pg.105 more than twice or thrice in 50 years.
A hare was chased by a dog down into the sea on the night of October 16th. After swimming out and performing a circle in full moonlight, it came again to land and was captured by its pursuer.
Another large shoal of porpoises passed up Channel on the 12th of November, probably in pursuit of herrings, large quantities of which, were caught by the fishermen during the night.
Two beautiful meteors. Were observed on a Friday night in December — the first at about 7 o’clock, and the other at 10.30.
Accidents and Incidents
An accident occurred on the railway works, to a man named Hawkins, who got jammed between two waggons, and had to be taken to the Infirmary. Also, on the 10th of February, a man named Laurence, serving on the line as a breaks-man, (sic) had his left foot completely crushed by a wheel of the engine passing over it. He bore, with great fortitude the amputation of his leg below the knee, the operation being performed at the Infirmary.
A fall of cliff occurred on the night of February 9th at Caves road, when a portion of what was known as the St. Leonards Caves fell in. This subterranean region was the residence of Mr. William Smith and his family. It was comfortably fitted up and was shewn to visitors. It also comprised a coach house, a stable, a chicken-house, etc. A portion of the cliff fell at 10.00 p.m. when Smith took the precaution of removing his horse from the stable. A greater fall took place towards morning, which destroyed both the stable and the kitchen. It also crushed to death 27 unfortunate chickens.
Arailway accident occurred on the 27th of February, when a man named Frederick Leeves had a thigh broken by a fall of earth on the line between St. Leonards and Battle.
A strong gale on the night of March 22nd sent the sea across the road at West Marina, flooding the basements of the houses, breaking windows and doing other damage.
A frightful railway smash on the Brighton and Hastings line occurred on the 6th of June. The accident occurred near Falmer, and was caused by a sleeper being placed across the metals. Five persons were killed and several injured.
Five days later, George Easton and was killed by an express train from St. Leonards and Hastings on the Ashford line as the train was nearing the Rye station. He jumped off from a ballast waggon just as the train was near.
Two days before the last-named accident, another accident happened to a workman on the railway, but the injuries was slight and the man soon recovered — On July 22nd, a child rolled down the face of the cliff near the St. Leonards Caves, a distance of 80 feet, and fell into the road, with no other injury than a few bruises, to the surprise of all.
Pg.106 An accident of a far more serious form occurred at the houses already referred to as being built in Eversfield place. This was on the 9th of July, when a young man named Henry Tapp, slipped from his position whilst hauling up a piece of timber, and fell between the joists, a distance of 16 feet, thus receiving a severe fracture of the ulna and ribs, and injuring the scapula. His case at first was thought to be all but hopeless, and although he recovered and was able to work, he did so under crippled difficulties.
Another personal mishap occurred on the 27th of August, when a man named Coot was severely injured by a mass of earth falling on him, & hurling him down a distance of 9 or 10 feet. He was standing near the railway line at Bopeep when the earth was sent adrift by an explosion of gunpowder by which the workmen were separating some rock. On the same day an accident occurred at Hastings, but which is described under a similar heading in the next chapter.
Injury to two workmen occurred on the first of September, by a large fall of earth at a cutting of the still unfinished line between St. Leonards and Battle.
A perilous position was that which was experienced on the following day (Sept. 2nd) by a young man who had rowed out from land with a stiff N.E. breeze, and was unable to return against wind and tide. Seeing that he was being carried away in a S.W. direction, two boatmen rowed to his assistance and overtook him after a chase of several miles. The incident should be an object lesson to inexperienced rowers.
Through getting jammed between two waggons at the Bopeep cutting of the South-Eastern Railway, Charles Morris, aged 28, was obliged to undergo the amputation of one arm.
More railway accidents occurred near the same place in December. On the 14th, when James Chapman, aged 30, sustained a fractured thigh while at work on the South-Eastern line; and, four days later, James Turner, and aged 50, was buried by a fall of earth, and when dug out, one leg was so crushed as to require amputation.
A severe accident occurred on the 17th of December to a young gentleman named Pepys, son of the Countess Cottenham. A horse on which he was mounted started off from the Marina, and on reaching Warrior square threw its rider and kicked him with his hind legs. Bleeding and insensible, the sufferer was carried into the corner house (now the East-Sussex Club) which had just had then been purchased by the Rev. G. G. Stonestreet. Two doctors were sent for, who after dressing the young man’s wounds, had him taken to his residence.
A railway labourer, named William Martin, fell over a cliff on the railway line, north of St. Leonards, on Sunday evening, Dec. 21st, and broke his thigh. His cries attracted the inmates of a neighbouring hut, who came to his assistance. He was taken to the Infirmary, where the fracture was restored by Mr. Savory.
The Queen’s St. Leonards Archers
Pg.107 At the opening of the Archery fêtes for the season on the Queen’s birthday anniversary, the winners of the Victoria prizes were Miss Bramley, C. Marrable, Esq., Miss Yeoman and R. Cumming, Esq. The winners of her Majesty’s annual prize and the gold bracelet and silver cup were Miss. Fenton and F. Marrable, Esq.
Of the minor meetings between Her Majesty’s birthday and that of the Duchess of Kent I have no reliable account, but on the latter occasion, which was always regarded as the grand day of the season, the attendance was brilliant and numerous, the company consisting of between five hundred and six hundred persons. The competition was keen, and lasted till the shades of evening rendered further shooting impossible. It commenced at midday and consisted of two matches. The Ladies’ prize, a handsome gold necklet was won by Miss Fenton. The gentleman’s prize, a silver inkstand, was borne off by Mr. Marrable. In the second match for the Royal Victoria Challenge prizes presented by the Duchess of Kent, the winners were Miss Bramley, Mr. Cumming, Miss Yeoman and Mr. Willis. The Society’s Honorary Stars were awarded to Miss Bramley and Mr. Cumming. The Society’s prizes for members were won by Miss R. Yeoman and Mr. Willis. The Society’s prizes for subscribers were won by Miss Brander and Mr. Hutchons. The prizes for the most central hit were obtained by Miss Bramley and Mr. Day.
At a meeting on the 30th of August, when the Prince and Princess of Wied were present, prizes were won by Miss Bramley, Rev. J. H. Bramley, and Mr. A. Burton.
Another meeting was held on the 13th of September, when the prizes for ladies and gentlemen were carried off by Miss Bramley and Mr. Cumming, respectively. The same lady and gentleman were the successful competitors at the last of the season’s meeting on the 27th of September.
The first horticultural show of the year was held on the 26th of June in the St. Leonards Gardens, the use of which was gratuitously granted by Mr. Alfred Burton. The day was fine and favourable, the show was good and the exhibits were greatly admired. Among the presentations were a basket of beautiful geraniums by the Rev. W. W. Hume, an elegant bouquet by Mr. Wood, and a five-pound note by J. C. Strode towards the cottage-garden prizes. The St. Leonards Brass Band played during the afternoon and tended to enliven the scene. The St. Leonards Gardens were always regarded as the prettiest place for these bi-yearly exhibitions.
Diverting the Haven
Pg.108 The Commissioners of Levels held an adjourned meeting on the 15th of March, Earl Waldegrave being present with other Gentlemen on the Commission. The paper was read by Mr. Ellman, by which Mr. Eversfield and Mr. Brisco engaged to contribute £1,000 towards the expense of shortening the Haven and removing the hutch or outlet from Bopeep to westward of the Railway Arch. Mr. Brisco, as lord of the manor, consented to give the land or beach for that purpose, on condition of the land forming the bed of the existing sewer being conveyed to the owners of the adjoining lands. The annual saving by the proposed alteration was represented to be very considerable. The Commissioners, therefore, having obtained the signatures of the principal persons rated to the sewage, gave orders to Mr. Major Vidler, their expenditor, to take the necessary steps for immediately making the alterations. The original hutch and outlet of the haven were where the Grosvenor Gardens are now.
A band played on the parade & other places during the fashionable season.
A ball was given on the 11th of February to one hundred of the elite of the town and neighborhood, by a Mrs. Denne, of 66 Marina.
In the week ending May 10 there was an overflowing audience at its St. Leonards Mechanics’ Institution, to listen to a musical entertainment given by members, assisted by professionals Wood and Elford.
The Archery fêtes have been already described, and the amusements at Hastings are recorded in the next chapter.
The St. Leonards Brass Band on Sept. 10th accompanied 114 boys & about 50 teachers and friends of the British School to Battle in six vans and six flys.
After a pigeon-shooting match, a party connected with the railway works on the St. Leonards contract were entertained, at Mr. Paine’s Railway Terminus Inn, by the contractors, Messrs. Newton, Smith & Co.
On Christmas Day, the 14 houses erected by Mr. Smith (one of the railway contractors, at Stanhope place) having been covered in, a dinner was given by the proprietor to 54 tradesmen and workmen engaged in the work. This “rearing feast” was provided at the Mason’s Arms.
References & Notes
Transcribed by Ian Shiner
- Brett's spelling varies, correctly Edward Cresy, F.S.A., C.E., Superintending Inspector for the General Board of Health for the purposes of the Public Health Act, 1848
- Hastings Independent Political Society, which was established in 1851 by a Radical section of the Liberal party, who had got disgusted with the Whiggism of their older colleagues. PEN PORTRAITS OF LOCAL MEN. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 11 February 1888 Pg. 0006