Archery Gardens

From Historical Hastings

The Archery Gardens originated as a quarry, from which much of the sandstone for constructing the nearby Marina was mined. The founders of St. Leonards, the Burton family were known as keen archers, so perhaps it is not surprising that a facility for this sport was provided within the new town, with the gardens being laid out in 1833, with an archery club formed soon after. A visitor's guide published in the Hastings & St. Leonards Observer of 1869 describes the gardens as[1]:

Archery Grounds, Quarry Hill, St. Leonards, Admission for a small fee or by monthly subscriptions.

In addition to archery, the gardens hosted golf and croquet matches as well as being a venue for fetes, concerts and garden parties. The gardens notably had a visit from the Princess Victoria and Duchess of Kent, whereby the Queen's St. Leonards Archers were founded and gained royal patronage[2].

The turfed lawn area laid out for the main purpose of the gardens could accommodate 2000 people[3]The gardens had been run by a private company, funded by subscriptions since 1864, but were running into problems due to lack of subscribers in 1909. This led to a public meeting attended by Sir Charles King, E. T. Needham, Col. Ward, Major E. Barrington Crake, Messrs. Alfred Burton JP, T. Breeds, W. Carless JP, H. G. Phillips, Collyer and W. V. Crake (chairman and hon.sec. of the Archery Gardens Company Ltd.) being held at Bannow, after which the Mayor, Alderman F. Tuppenney JP, promised a cheque for £5 in an attempt to ease the constraints being felt by the company[4]. By 1912 W. V. Crake penned a letter to the Hastings & St. Leonards Observer reporting that the gardens were on the brink of closure[3]. Suffering from momentary closure during WW1, the gardens achieved a turn-around in their finances and subscribers following the appointment of the Rev. H. J. Boyd (former rector of St. Pauls Church)[5], with reports of dog shows, and an increase in the number of archers who numbered 150 by 1922[6].

Tennis superseded Archery as the predominant sport within the gardens during the 1930s, with the 'Archery Gardens Tennis Club's 1934 tournament billing no less than 30 Wimbledon competitors[7]. World War 2 saw the gardens being used by the military as a lorry park, the lawn being covered by an ash coating, rendering it useless other than for development[8]. By 1953, the site of the gardens was put up for auction[9]The gardens later became the site of Hastings College of Arts and Technology, most of the college being accommodated in a tower block. This was demolished during the 1990s and a housing development now occupies the site.


References & Notes