Brett Volume 1: A Few Testimonial Extracts

From Historical Hastings

Transcriber’s note

A few Testimonial Extracts

[ a ]On the 12th of November 1892, when by weekly instalments, twenty years of this History had been completed, the following remarks appeared:-

The historian of the Gazette, who, for convenience, has assumed more than one nom de plume, is the possessor of many commendatory letters, which have encouraged him to extend his narratives of the past much beyond the limit of his first intention; and as he hopes to be able to carry them to a still greater length, he appends a few extracts from communications quite recently to hand, as an indication that his labour are not unappreciated.

A gentleman, writing from near London to his friend at St. Leonards, says:-

I thank you very much for the papers you kindly send me. I am very much interested in the history of old Hastings, and when I see the names of tradesmen and others of whom I knew so well, it takes me back to the days of my youth, and reminds me that I am getting old myself. About 46 years ago my father, when writing to me from Hastings said - 'We have been quite gay at the East End this week for 'Towser' has been married to 'Dahdedum' This event, I suppose, would have taken place in the aristocratic neighbourhood of Bourne Street; and although I have not seen the names of these notable persons mentioned in Brett's Gazette, I daresay the Editor knew both the and their ancestors

A gentleman clergyman at Dallington also writes:-

The copies of the Gazette I read with much interest, They contain matters about the Fuller family at Brightling, which I know to be correct. The instruments at the Observatory[a] I have seen many times, and with many friends. It was a pity to remove them all so completely and to so cut the connection of the Observatory with its importance in the past. A windmill used to stand on the site of the Observatory, and I have conversed with many persons who remembered it; but they are all now gone whence there is no return

Another gentleman, writing from Lewisham, says:-

Where would the name of Farncomb now be if you had not rescued it from obscurity; also that of Stone, a scion of the house of Farncomb? When I reflect on the honourable career of Mr. Alderman Farncomb and that of his favourite nephew, I can hardly believe the fact until the appearance of your history no trace remained of these two illustrious Lord-Mayors of London who were both Hastings men. In truth, so declining had been the Farncombs and Stones that the names had almost become extinct. How different it has been with the opulent family of the Earl of Essex and others who trace their pedigrees from a Lord-Mayor of London! As regards Mr. Farncomb and his nephew, it would appear that their honours, like an electric flash, though beautiful for an instant, quickly subsided into obscurity. I trust that health and happiness will attend your earthly career and the hope of everlasting happiness heareafter sustains you in every trial of life.

The foregoing few extracts from some of the more recent letters to the editor, are here given - firstly, to show that the historical and biographical productions of the Gazette are not unappreciated; secondly, that those extracts from communications have an interest of their own; and thirdly, that they, together with the too flattering encomiums of the local press, afford an incentive to the writer to continue as long as he is able his own reminiscences of the past and the use of such material as he may have collected. His only regret is that he probably may not live long enough to complete by more than half the work that of later years he has turned his attention to.

And now, even at the risk of being suspected of egotistical indulgence, another extract from the already quoted journal is here subjoined. On May 21st 1887, it said:-

Evidence has been afforded us from time to time of the interest taken in the historical and biographical sketches which St. Leonardensis has been introduced by a well known Hastings surgeon (Mr. H. G. Shorter) to the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Lennox Wyke, who has again visited Hastings after an absence of fifty six years, and who is naturally astonished at the immense growth of the borough during that period. Our contributor was enabled to answer all Sir Charles's (sic) enquiries to his satisfaction, and to relate to him some personal reminiscences of the visits of the Duke, Duchess and Prince George of Cumberland, the Princess Victoria (our present Queen), and the Dowager Queen Adelaide, all of whom our said contributor had, in one way or anther, the honour of serving. Sir Charles did not say why he was interested in the visit to Hastings in 1832 of Prince George of Cumberland (the late King of Hanover) with his father and mother, but the following information from official sources appears to afford an explanation. Sir Charles Wyke, who was born in 1815, was for some time an officer in the Royal Fusiliers, and was afterwards on the general staff of the late King of Hanover. He entered the diplomatic service in 1845, when he was appointed the vice-consul at Port-au-Prince. In 1852 Sir Charles was consul-general in America, subsequently becoming charge d'affaires, his next positions being those of minister-plenipotentiary in Mexico, and minister at Hanover, Oldenburg and Brunswick. His latest appointments were as minister to Denmark (1867-81) and to Lisbon (1881-4)

In one of the numerous letters from the late esteemed G. A. Kegworth, that gentleman says:-

We are really proud of you, ever were it only for your valuable history. May you long be spared to give us your treasury of local knowledge.

The Hon. Robert Marsham-Townshend writes

I have read with great interest your articles on 'Sir Cloudseley Shovell' in the numbers of the Gazette which Mrs. Rousby has kindly allowed me to see. Like her, I am descended from Sir Cloudseley and have closely investigated the subject of his genealogy, with fairly complete results, which I hope to print, ere long. When I bring out my book I hope to give due space to the Hastings traditions about Sir Cloudesley. I thank you heartily for your kindness in sending me copies of the Cloudesley and Shovell extracts. Sir Cloudesley spelt (sic) his name in the same way - "Shovell"! I am sending you a copy of a pamphlet by the late Mr. Cooke, containing, as you will see, a most interesting report of the circumstance of the finding of Sir Cloudesley's body made in 1709 and published for the first time in 1883

— Robert Marsham Townshend, Foot's Cray, Kent

From Mr. Noble:

Your exhaustive articles on Sir Cloudesley Shovell and Titus Otes (sic) do you much credit, and exhibit a painstaking research that to a practical antiquarian like myself is very gratifying. When you send me (as I anticipate that pleasure) the Gazette of tomorrow, will you kindly enclose me one of last Saturdays, which if sent, never came to hand! I do not wish to miss one of your papers on the 'Armada!!!

— J C Noble, Greenwood Road, Dalston.
(Mr. Noble was author of several curious antiquarian productions and supplied the writer of this History with the correct names of the Habel Mariners" (sic) who were registered for the Hastings contingent to repel the Spanish Invasion).

As a native of Hastings, though for 60 years past only an occasional visitor, I am always interested in anything connected with its early history! and I read your articles on that subject with the greatest pleasure

— Alfred Bryant, Enfield
[ b ]

Thank you very much for the papers you gave me when at Hastings, and in which there is such an interesting account of Powell's Library, built and established by my grandfather, Peter Malaport Thuiller Powell. I also greatly thank you for your kindness during my brief visit to Hastings, in showing me the old home of my mother, which I had always been anxious to see. I hope, some day, to visit Europe again, when I shall certainly devote more time to Hastings

— (Mrs). E. H. Redington, Washington, United States

Mr. Brett must have sacrificed a large amount of time, labour and money in getting together the material for his wonderful 'History', which appeared like Tennyson's book, to be able to flow on for ever; and it seems a great pity that such zeal and activity cannot be collected in some form that would preserve it for coming generations. There must be thousands of Hastings folk and their descendants scattered over the world to whom a bound record would be a priceless treasure!

— Hastings & St Leonards News

I have often asked why the interesting and valuable information which Mr. T. B. Brett has for years been engaged in pouring out in the columns of the Gazette has not been gathered up and published in book form. It is a thousand pities that so much local lore should be practically wasted in other words that the learned Editor's contributions should be confined to the columns of the Gazette, when, if published in printed volumes they might find a place on the library shelves of thousands and in the Reference Library and other institutions be accessible to all the townspeople. It may be thought a sweeping statement to make, yet I am firmly convinced that there is not a town in the Kingdom of the modern history of which so much has been written, and well written, as of Hastings

I have been so busy lately that I have not had time to tell you how much I have been interested in your researches amongst the oldest parish records in relation to the ship-owners and Captains of the Armada Period

I was interested to see in the Hastings News your articles on 'Fires and Firemen' and the Brooks of Bexhill and Hastings! They bear evidence of the indomitable energy and application which I have for so many years characterised you literary and other labours

— A. L. Hardy, St Johns, S.E.

I am much obliged to you for your sketches of Croft House. Great credit is due to you for such an accurate account and you must possess a wonderful memory to be able to recall so many incidents of former years

Your meteorological forecasts have been very correct

— J.B E__, Peterborough

As a member of an old Hastings family, I am very much interested in your 'True Story of the '

— W. H. Walter, Manchester

Your local records are wonderfully entertaining and instructive

— G. A. Keyworth, Hastings

Mr Thomas Geering writes -

"I am pleased to have made your aquaintance(sic) in an accidental manner at Hailsham on the occasion of the interment of your relative. I thank you for a paper with the article 'After Fifty Years'. The narrative relating to Chiddingly is very interesting to me and my wife as we knew that parish well. The early spring of 1834 I remember as I was then just out of my time as an apprentice. We had four plum trees that in February were in full bloom, but never a plum came from them, all the blossom having fallen off prematurely. In reference to the poor fellow who was charged with firing Breed's barn, I witnessed that trial and heard him condemned. If you read my book 'Our Parish', you will find my remarks at page 15. [The author of 'Our Parish' is a fascinating writer, and as he is now dead and his book is out of print, the following quotation may be read with some degree of interest:

I witnessed the conviction of one young fellow at the Assize at Lewes - the saddest sight I ever saw - for firing a barn in the neighbourhood of Hastings. As he turned to leave the dock he said, in trembling accents ' Jack you have sworn my life away'. In a few days the culprit was hanging by the neck. Under the beam his last words were 'I am innocent'. Ten years later, remorse and the approach of death made Jack exclaim 'I fired the barn in Jim's shoes'. These men had been fellow workers, and both had lived in the same house. It was the shoe prints that had sent Jim Buffard to the hangman!"

The foregoing extract from among many, other communications and the not a few persons, who, coming from a distance, have called the writer for information, sufficiently attest the fact that more than our own people are interested in our local 'bygones'."

  1. Presumably Herstmonceaux

References & Notes