Brett Manuscripts Vol I to III (Rod Lavers)

From Historical Hastings

Transcriber’s note

Extracts taken from the unpublished manuscripts concerning:

'The America Ground’ and the subsequent site of Robertson Street.

Volume 1 - 1828 – 1835

Page 13/14 - 1828

, reasons for claim by crown, Names of residents or owners of properties on the America Ground:- James Lansdell *(builder), William Vennall, Richard Richardson, Mary Brazier *(widow), Thomas Manington, Robert Noakes, Walter Vincent, Thomas Lusted *(carpenter), William Picknell *(carpenter), Samuel Chester *(baker), Charles Emery plus picture of Ground.

Ground spanned by Wooden bridge until washed down by the sea in 1820 and then replaced with a more substantial construction of Brick, Stone & Iron. Sea destroyed much of the then existing property on 24th November 1824, some of which was only temporally rebuilt

Page 24 - 1830

In 1830 Charles Miller, - Surgeon, accidentally inoculated himself with a poisonous matter whilst amputating a woman's leg in the Rope Walk area of Hastings - at that time he was the parish surgeon for St. Mary in the Castle

Page 68 - 1817

On 5th October 1817, after several years of suspension of the Saunders School, (about six years no schoolmaster, two schoolmistresses had only been paid part of the time) the Corporation appointed Mr W.H.Prior as Schoolmaster, who, not being able to afford, as required, or even to obtain a schoolroom in the town, had to put up with the loan of a loft over Breeds Warehouse at the White Rock end of the Rope Walk. Also in the same year Mr Jas Sharpe was engaged as master of Parkers School, using an inconvenient ​building​ near The Croft.

"From eighteen fifteen until thirty three, It was his right and privilege here to be, He bought the house, adjoining store as well, The last for school, the first wherein to dwell, This Mr Thorpe for fifteen years or more, At Cobourg Place, schoolmaster was before, In eighteen seventeen Mr Thorpe became, Of school the master - Parkers school by name"

Page 94

Dr W.H.Titton (he lived in the Croft area of Hastings) published "Geological Sketch of the Vicinity of Hastings"

Page 110

Excellent View of White Rock and Rope Walk sometime before 1834

Rocks Coach Factory, Deudney and Faggs Brewery, newly erected properties in Stratford Place (formerly known as Precursion Place), partially undermined by the sea and the storms on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th October 1934 - the prompt use of faggots, piles, stone and other material during the intervals of ebb and flow, further damage/danger was avoided. The White Rock ​road​ had been so broken into as to become quite impassable, whilst another used as a substitute was in a condition not much better. Gales accompanied with heavy rain. Houses in Rope Walk were also greatly damaged, some wholly destroyed. Mrs Murdock * (Mary Murdock widow - brick cottage No 2), South West Corner of America Ground, a house which had formed a prominent object (near to where 1 Carlisle Parade is today) as seen from the top of the White Rock was washed down by the great tide of October 1834, soon after which the ​road​ was levelled, the picturesque cliff cut back, a parade formed and some houses re erected. Driven out of house and home by a merciless sea and further threatened to be driven away in the following year by Mr Driver of the Woods and Forests board of commissioners, some of the inhabitants took up their abode in St. Leonards. Mrs Morris and her infant were taken out of a bedroom window and carried to a place of greater safety and lived many years after in St. Leonards

Page 115

Another storm on 18th December. Mr Clement, a draper by trade, was otherwise a pushing man of business and he engaged to take down the Coastguard Station in the Rope Walk and erect a more suitable one on Cuckoo Hill. The few remaining ruins of St. Michaels Church on the Rock were removed in order to make fast the foundations of the new ​building​.

Page 116

In anticipation of a clearance of the Priory Ground in 1834, and Mr Burton having obtained permission to build a pier at St. Leonards, a requisition was made to the Mayor to call a meeting to consider getting permission to build a Harbour at the soon to be vacated ground, (a plan having first been produced in 1806 or 16 by Sir John Rennie at an estimated cost of £50 or £500,000 but rejected as being to large a scale)

Page 117 - 17th November 1834

Notices were placed from Mr Driver of the Woods & Forest Commissioners to remove the whole of the ​building​s on the Priory Ground before Michelmas 1835 - those who had taken out leases in 1828 were now allowed rent free from November 1824 to Xmas 1835.

  • (---) listed in Crown Document

Volume 2 - 1835 – 1840

Page 123 - 1835

In 1835 the North side of Norman Road began to be formed with a few houses which Milstead *(plumber), Naylor *(Gentleman) and others transplanted from the Priory Ground in consequence of it being cleared. The houses in question were those which led the way up from the Warriors Gate Inn and had no architectural features of any note to recommend them. They were quite unpretentious both in size and appearance, and but for improvements in their shop windows they might be regarded as an average sample of the tenements that once existed on the America Ground. Some 3 or 4 of the Priory Houses were also re-erected at White Rock whose ​road​ had just been levelled. Names mentioned include :-

Valentine Levett, Stephen Milstead *(plumber), Joseph Naylor *(gentleman), William Strickland, Jas Hyland , Richard Starnes, Wm Russell, Chas Neve, Stanton Noakes, Wm Kirby, Mrs Fitzgerald, Samuel Chester *(baker), - Morriss, Thos Beaney, Sam Sinden, Geo Savage, Jno Prendergast, Thomas Thorne *(bricklayer), Hy Sinden, Thos Barden, James Murdoch *(widow murdock), Wm Shaw, Robt Shepherd, J Pulford, Chas Chapman, Edmund Chapman, Geo Lee, - streets mentioned include Shepherd Street, Norman Road, London Road and North Street

"many a contest took place between the occupiers of no mans land, arising from the desire in some to possess themselves of what others had laid claim to, and when only six or seven years of age I was witness to a painful scene between a blacksmith and a sweep over a disputed claim, and on the 10th March 1823 there was another desperate struggle on the Priory Ground (see also Page 226) over disputed rights to certain ​building​ sites. Ultimately the original assailants were beaten off and a blue flag was hoisted by the defendants as a token of victory. On the 26th June 1823 hostilities were resumed near to the Rock Fair ground in consequence of two persons claiming the same piece. The battle was long and desperate in which wounds and bruises were inflicted, and on the following night the windows were broken at the private residence of Mark Boykett and James Breeds. Several cases ended in Law suits as that of Mark Boykett Breeds versus Sol Bevill, when at the home of E Milward "

Page 131

One of the last ​building​s removed from the Priory Ground was the Coastguard Station whose site was near the centre of what today (1878) is now the wall which spans the front of Carlisle Parade and Robertson Terrace. The first stone of new ​building​ on Cuckoo Hill or St. Michaels Rock was laid on 14th April 1836

Page 134 - 1836

In 1836 from White Rock (recently been levelled) were six ​building​s in White Rock place commencing with what is now (1878) No 20 and finishing with what was then Deudney and Flaggs Brewery and the lastly a new parade, a new ​road​, plenty of lampost, but no lamps nor lights. - the eastern limit of St. Mary Magdalen parish, and still further eastwood were Albert Place, Stratford or Precursor place and the "Desert"

It was in the last week of March 1835 the ground was surveyed by Walker and Driver of the Commissioners of Woods and Forest with the help of George Thwaite, recommendation of erecting a stone wall and wooden groynes as necessary barriers against the tidal actions of the sea. Wall built later by Hughes & Hunter of St. Leonards and was said to be the best wall of its kind along the coast - withstood the buffeting of the sea for over 40 years without displacing a single stone. Wall of Carlisle Parade.

Page 135 - 1836

On the 24th December 1836, weather extremely mild until evening, suddenly became cold, during night temperature dropped as much as 25 degrees, accompanied by a snowstorm of a magnitude and intensity of which is not on record. It continued throughout the night until the breakfast hour of Christmas Day, abated about 2 o`clock as people sat down for dinner. I was one of those sorry sights whose parents, a year previously were evicted by the woods and forest commissioners from squatter land at the Priory, and on the day I had rejoined the family circle in the "Old House" at home in St. Andrew's Terrace (now Queen's Road) which had been reconstructed with the materials from the original site on the Priory Ground.

Page 146/7

List of Owners or Occupiers of Property in 1837 in St. Leonards, east of the St. Leonards Archway

Page 148/49

List of Houses from America Ground and the sites on which they were re-built;

1 27 London Road - Edward Picknell

2 19 London Road - John Tyhurst

3 Small House in East Street - Mr Tyhurst

4 33 / 35 Norman Road - Mr. Milstead[a] (occupied by Mr Wilson & Mr Gilham)

5 37 / 39 Norman Road - Mr Naylor

6 57 Norman Road - Mr William Weller (projecting windows, one of the smartest of the 'America' importations - removed to its present position from what was called 'The Mount' in White Rock Street near the site of the present "Bodega" in Robertson Street).

7 28/29/30 Shepherd Street - Mr William Weller

8 Foresters Arms, Shepherd Street - Jemmy Hyland (formerly the Black Horse beer house and its adjoining property)

9 6 / 7 Shepherd Street - Mr Milstead (from where Holy Trinity Church now stands)

10 10 / 11 Shepherd Street - two larger houses, Mr Hammond of Bexhill

11 22 / 23 North Street - C Chapman

12 11 North Street - Mr Milstead

13 12 / 13 North Street - John Foord sen.

List of marriages at Hollington between 1822 and 1834 where the Bride or Groom gave their parish as Holy Trinity (181 couples) - very few marraiges (6) at a Hastings Church during same period, but Hollington also had 29 couples from the Magdalen parish and 66 from St. Leonards parish - their churches not yet built – See Holy Trinity Marriages

Page 150/52

Much comments on Lawful band of people residing on the America Ground. As a test of respectability take the names already mentioned as having removed their property to St. Leonards and add those of Messrs Beale, Coe, Thorne, Weller, Reeves, Noakes, Newell, Harding, Chester, Levett, Picknell, Gallop, Stanley, Prior, Brook, Barnes, Hills and Woolgar; also those who were afterwards honoured members of the Town Council such as Mr Rock who was twice Mayor, Mr Neve, Mrs Austin, Mrs Picknell and others.

Page 227

Rumours in 1840 that the Commissioners for Woods and Forests were about to turn over the Priory Ground to the military to construct a Cavalry Barracks

  • (---) listed in Crown Document

Volume 3 - 1841 - 1849

Page 239 - 1841

On the night of 4th January 1841, six armed men entered the farmhouse of Mr Holland, and whilst one of them kept guard over the principal, the other five plundered the house of notes and cash to the amount of £120, besides a watch and other articles. An elderly man named Fuggle who was on a visit was knocked down, and the ladies were all secured in their rooms. The villians were afterwards caught tried, and transported for life. Their names and ages were Henry Easton, 28; Charles Foster, 19; James Foster, 23; James Martin, 25; Thos Balcombe, 23; and Jonathan Thompsett, 30.

Page 250 - 1841

At the quarterly meeting of the town council on the 3rd of August a communication received from the Commissioners of Woods and Forests respecting a new ​road​ over the Priory ground. Letters were received from Lord Cornwallis and Mrs Millward in answer to some communication made to them on 28th May on this subject. Some discussion then took place - resolved to proceed at once with the ​road​ without reference to the claims set up by either of the individuals in question

Page 253 - 1842

A new venture in journalism appeared in the publication of the Illustrated News

Page 254 - 1842

Death of Mr Edward Towner, aged 65, one of 13 children of the late Thomas Towner who with a portion of his family came from Seaford on the 29th May 1828 and located himself in Duleys cottage at the eastern end of the Rope walk - now the site of the Queens Hotel.

Thomas Towner was a builder and one of his first contracts in this neighbourhood was to convert the cabinet making workshops of Mr W.H.Honiss (where now stands the Holy Trinity Church) into the Blacksmiths Arms Public House. He was later with his eldest sons engaged in the construction of property at St. Leonards including the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms, lower portion of East Ascent, Central portion of Mercatoria, North West corner of Lavatoria where he occupied one of them and brought the remainder of his family from Seaford. Towner like Woolger, is a very old name at Seaford, and work of reconstruction or conversion to which Mr Towner was entrusted in the parish of Holy Trinity was for a member of the well known and numerous family of Woolger of Seaford.

Page 266 - 1843

Reference to the new wall on the Government Ground at the Priory which Messrs Hughes and Hunter had built for the Woods and Forest commissioners as against the in​road​s of the sea, afterwards known as Carlisle Parade.

Page 268 - 1843

John Lewis Linney, about 1857, when in association with Mr Homer took the bookselling and stationery business at 9 Robertson Street which had previously been carried on by Mr Edward Pierce. At the end of 1850 Mr Linney succeeded Mr Diplock at the Marine Library while Mr Homer with the assistance of Mr Giles continued the business at 9 Robertson Street. About 1865/6 Mr Linney removed his business to 9 Breeds Place and afterwards opened a shop in London Road St. Leonards which was later conducted by his daughters. It was here he died in 1843 aged 82

Page 269 - 1843

Mr Putland complimented on the due fulfilment of his engagement to construct the ​road​ over the Government Ground for £150 (£100 from Commisioners of Woods & Forests, £48 from Subscribers) - necessary to light same but to light with Gas from York Buildings to White Rock would be to take action over a portion of the borough which was not included in either of two local acts under which portions of the borough were lighted. Payment would fall on Mrs Foster of Priory Farm, she being the only ratepayer in the parish of Holy Trinity - matter deferred.

Page 274 - 1844

St. Leonards Caves - situated under the cliff in rear of, entered from Caves Road - formed by Mr Smith in the operation of sand getting for ​building​ purposes. Entire length of the excavation was upwards of 400 feet, led to a reservoir from which St. Leonards was at one time supplied with water. It contained several neatly trimmed and furnished apartments including kitchen, parlour, bed rooms etc, occupied by Mr Smiths family, and the whole together with babys cot in the rock used to be shown to visitors for a small fee. The founder of the caves died in 1855 at 56 years of age - his widow moved to Undercliffe. Entrance is now blocked up by debris falling from the cliff. Was once the secret depository of smuggled goods and about 1835 there was a private still at work in them.

Page 288 - 1846

The thoroughfare through the parish of Holy Trinity construction of a terminus.

Sale of water from Priory Farm to squatter Land at 1 penny per load (two pailfulls) by Mrs Foster

Page 332 - 1849

In the month of April, brickmaking was commenced in a field near the hop gardens (Alexandra Park) to be used in the erection of the mansions on the Government Ground

References & Notes

  1. Brett would appear to have got the spelling of this chap's surname incorrect - Editor (thanks to HW)