Brett Volume 1: Chapter IV - Hastings 1830

From Historical Hastings

Chapter IV - Hastings - 1830

Gas works began
Six weeks frost
Brilliant aurora
Prevalence of, poaching burglary and incendiarism
Wreck of a French fishing boat
Opening of the Dispensary
Ball at the Swan Hotel and a criticism thereon in rhyme
Smugglers' losses
Suicides and fatal accidents
Emigrants leaving Hastings
Mr North elected mayor
Addresses by Ottway Cave and J. Ashley Warre on people's rights
Destruction of the Croft railings; £50 reward
A general demand of the scot-and-lot men to be made freemen, the example having been set by the townsmen of Rye: Success of the Ryers, but defeat of the Hastingers
Political movement and enthusiastic reception of Col. De-Lacy-Evans
Proclamation of William IV – Non-successful petition against the return of Planta and Fane
The Bourne street theatre re-opened
Moneys demanded from persons who had built property on the sea-beach
A poacher fatally shot
Successive owners and tenants of Bohemia Farm, erection of the mansion and the residence there at of the Princess Sophia of Gloucester
Medical controversy on the death of John Woodhams
Demands of agricultural labourers
Epistolary contention on the proposed removal of Beach Cottages.

Transcriber’s note

[ 21 ]

Syllabus of Events in 1830

Chap. IV
Hastings 1830
Gas works began
Six weeks frost
Brilliant aurora
Prevalence of, poaching burglary and incendiarism
Wreck of a French fishing boat
Opening of the Dispensary
Ball at the Swan Hotel and a criticism thereon in rhyme
Smugglers' losses
Suicides and fatal accidents
Emigrants leaving Hastings
Mr North elected mayor
Addresses by Ottway Cave and J. Ashley Warre on people's rights
Destruction of the Croft railings; £50 reward
A general demand of the scot-and-lot men to be made freemen, the example having been set by the townsmen of Rye: Success of the Ryers, but defeat of the Hastingers
Political movement and enthusiastic reception of Col. De-Lacy-Evans
Proclamation of William IV – Non-successful petition against the return of Planta and Fane
The Bourne street theatre re-opened
Moneys demanded from persons who had built property on the sea-beach
A poacher fatally shot
Successive owners and tenants of Bohemia Farm, erection of the mansion and the residence there at of the Princess Sophia of Gloucester
Medical controversy on the death of John Woodhams
Demands of agricultural labourers
Epistolary contention on the proposed removal of Beach Cottages.

[ 22 ]

Erection of Gasworks - Much frost and snow - The Dispensary Ball

Among the noteworthy occurrences at Hastings in 1830 were the erection of the Gas Works and the severe character of the weather during the winter and spring. The frost and snow which extensively prevailed in December 1829, continued with similar persistency until the 9th of February 1830, and with even greater intensity during the week ending January 18th when the depth of the hoary fleece was almost equal to that of the memorable winter of 1814. On the hill-tops at Hurstgreen, and the South Downs the snow was thick and crisp as late as February 15th, when there came a temporary break-up of the long frost, only to return in a short time, followed again by heavy snow on the 25th of March. After that date a remarkable change of weather and temperature took place, and on the 8th of April - which I remember was Thursday - a very sultry day, resulted in a severe thunderstorm. Another thunder and hail storm occurred on Easter Sunday (April 11th) and a brilliant display of aurora was watched by myself and others from Cuckoo Hill. This was immediately followed by dense fogs, merging into rain. I have also a diarial note that on the first of March the mail-coachman who passed through Robertsbridge from London to Hastings, experienced hail and thunder at one part of his route, and frost and snow at another. On the 20th of April it was more than some of the trees and buildings of a fragile construction could do to hold their own against the tempestuous winds, but after that the weather became more tranquil and more genial, thus bringing forth the vegetation of spring more rapidly than was anticipated, and later on, producing a fairly good harvest, to the joy of all concerned.

The year, 1830, however, marked a sad epoch in our local annals. The traffic was never more rife and never more disastrous, poaching and burglary prevailed to a large extent, and incendiarism was more than the authorities could cope with in the absence of increased powers. Corn-stacks and barns were set fire to at Battle, Robertsbridge, Guestling, Icklesham, Sidley, Crowhurst and other places, special constables were sworn in, and meetings were held to consider the condition of the labouring classes, and to start subscription lists on their behalf. On the 26th of January a French fishing boat was wrecked, eastward of , but, with assistance, the crew were saved, except one poor boy.

The Hastings Free Dispensary was opened in 1830 and on the first of February a fashionable ball was held at the Swan Hotel, which realised £40 for the new institution. Some facetious lines on that occassion were written by "D. J. O.", which in a revised form are here produced.
Famed Hastings town, by everyone 'tis known,
In winter drear has into fashion grown;
Here the rich, the gay, the happy meet,
And in its vale secure a calm retreat
Some seek fair psyche, others health alone,
For on its shore Hygia holds her throne;
Then let me give this goddess fair her due,
And to the fête my rapid strides pursue.
The first and greatest matron here I see,
Is one of talent, Lady of a B-----,
The next a title claims, advanced in years,
And on her face the tint of rouge appears;
Her husband's glittering vest attracts the eye,
And both, I think betray some vanity.
Yet tow'ring over all the rest is one
With whom this gay assembly was begun.
Good-natured, affable and kind is she,
As all whom favoured by her smiles agree-
One who promotes the pleasures of the throng,
And claims the thanks alike of old and young.
Lo! who comes sailing through the new quadrille,
As bearing down before her all who will?
Not this from me - her name I would not tell,
For, much I like her, since she means so well.
Of race the same, there's one, a maiden, too,
Whose deep-laid traps young men may chance to rue;
For damsels fair with brilliant eyes, she brings,
And with her toils for one the ball-room rings
The game if caught I really cannot tell,
I only know High-Sherriff's name sounds well
Now let us seek for one of cleric birth,
Where title is the happiest on earth,
Some think she's plain, and others plainer still,
Yet, when she speaks, I'll challenge all who will;
For so much sweetness dwells upon her smile
That such to win would your best thoughts beguile,
In her, or I mistake, good-nature dwells,
And this is more to me than Beauty's spell
Oh! Could I in that heart one corner find,
Then should I be most blest of all mankind
But now, what lofty figure joins the dance,
And looks around her with a haughty glance?
Who seems to think so much of Number One
That she evokes no small amount of fun
As to her beauty, when young belles are nigh
This Mrs. M----r's charms fall off and die.
A head, Parisian, next appears in view,
With languid eyes and fair complexion, too;
She's rather pretty, but that unique tête
Is too affected here at any rate.
A damsel often presses on our sight,
With face half hid with ringlets dark and bright
Both gallopades and waltz receive her votes;
No wallflower she , as her slight form denotes
The Oiseau pair still claim the place of belles
E'en though a wrinkle quite a secret tells.
Oh, fie! for shame! such can't appear at night,
And beauteous Birds look best by candle-light.
[ 23 ]
Say what meek, black-eyed pair with grace and vanity
Whom many a one surveys with sidelong glance?
Too little known to meet the praises due,
The names commencing with a W
A sable form evokes the next remark,
With laughing lips and eyes, and ringlets dark;
A dancing widow this - a waltzer she,
Who flirts with each gay beam alternately,
Yet should there be on favoured more than all,
It would be found in so, a monument tall
A flippant coxcomb, vain of certain lore,
A mere gay flint, upon this southern shore
Now here's a gallant beam I fain would share,
With countenance good humoured, sound & fair,
In memory of his grandsire's deeds and fame,
Who at Quebec immortalised his name
And hither comes a thoughtful sone of truth,
Whom some may say has lost the bloom of youth,
His soft, persuasive eloquence is known,
And yet he quits the scene of Beauty throne,
Ere half the evening hath time to wane,
As though our company he would disdain
Another of the cloth appears in file,
Who would with supplicant looks the fair beguile
But, oh! beware! From one he goes to two
Anon for S. he quits the W.
Thus might my pen flow on from rhyme to rhyme,
Till, I'm afraid I should exhaust your time;
And, lest satyrie you may judge me too,
I'll for the present say. Farewell! Adieu!

More Smuggling Ventures - Suicides

Although the smugglers made several successful runs during the year, they had also a considerable number of losses. On the 31st of March one of their boats, containing a large quantity of tobacco, was seized by Lieutenant Newman, and another seizure was made on the 22nd of April, when the boat "Dove" and 35 tubs of spirits fell into the hands of Comptroller Bevill and his crew. The smuggler's plans in this case were believed to have been disarrayed by the tempestuous weather on the two preceding days. The successful run at St. Leonards has been described in its proper place, but another loss has here to be recorded. The ever active Soloman Bevill on the 29th of July, captured the boat "Fox" with two men and 26 casks of spirits. Again, on the 16th of October, this vigilant Comptroller or Tide-Surveyor, seized a boat with five men and 106 tubs. On the 5th of December there was a conflict on the Marine Parade between the preventivemen and the smugglers, when several pistols were discharged, but no one was hit. Some of the goods were got away and some were left in the hands of the assailants. Three days later, Bevill and his men hooked up at sea 66 casks of spirits, which had been thrown overboard by the smugglers.

A fatality occurred on the 1st of March by a suicidal act at the back of Gloucester Place, as described in the "Postman's Reminiscences", thus:-
March the first of Eighteen-thirty
Saw a maiden fall from rearward hill,
Her mentality insanely flirty,
Urging on, poor girl, herself to kill,
Shuddering though to see a mortal flyer
Rashly, madly, to the arms of Death!
Painful, too, the scene of two days dying
Ere the final giving up of breath

Another suicidal act was that of a young married woman who on the 3rd of May, was found by her husband, when reaching home to breakfast, with a wound on her throat.

A third case of sudden death was that of a Brighton youth, 15 years of age, named Morris Dunn, who, on the 13th or 14th of August, was drowned while bathing.

Curious Fatalities and accidents - Political enthusiasm

The next lamentable fatality occurred to Sir Frederick Baker, who was staying at a house in Wellington Square. Having gone for a ramble to Fairlight, he ascended the steps to the mill-stage belonging to Mr. Edward Milward, for a view of the surrounding country, when the miller, not knowing of his presence, set the [ 24 ]sweeps in motion which struck Sir Frederick's head with such force that he died on the following day, Saturday, Oct 1st.

It was on the same day that the death of Mr. John Poole - father of the late Councillor Poole - took place. The unfortunate man was selected to fire a small cannon at the regatta held on the 30th of September, when, on the beach, near the Battery, the said gun burst, and a piece of the metal inflicted a wound in Mr. Pooles right side. The injured man was taken into Satterley's surgery at the Marine Parade, but his life could not be saved. His daughter had been married to an uncle of mine, and if some of the scattered fragments of the gun had travelled a few inches nearer to me, this History might never have been written. I was sitting on the beach, in charge of a younger brother, when one or more of the pieces bounded close by me.

I had another narrow escape from injury in November while looking into the open window of a blacksmith's shop during the making of squibs by an uncle for celebrating the anniversary of the gunpowder plot. The operator incautiously placed a quantity of powder on a bench close to him which was ignited by a spark from the anvil and he was terribly burnt about his face and hands - so much so that for several weeks his recovery was doubtful; a younger brother of mine was also burnt, but less seriously.

On the 6th of December, a man named John Woodhams was buried at All Saints, who, according to the verdict at an inquest was accidentally shot. This was a case of poaching, particulars of which are given further on. Another fatal accident of the year was that which befell a man named Buss. He, with others, on the 10th of December was working at the cliff near the Warriors Gate, when a quantity of earth fell on him and caused his death. One of the cleverest surgeons in Hastings at that time was Mr Charles Miller, who to my knowledge restored two persons to health after they had been given over by other surgeons. He was, however, unable to save himself at a later period of the year, he having accidentally inoculated himself with poisonous matter while amputating a woman's leg in the Rope Walk. Being at that time the parish surgeon for St. Mary's-in-the-Castle, he was succeeded therein by Mr. John Savery. At the same time the overseers of that parish contracted with those of St. Clement's for the maintenance of one or more of their paupers in the George-street Workhouse. On the 6th of April, the new iron railings, 600 feet long which divided the upper and lower Croft were thrown down, the noise of which was most alarming. It was always thought to have been maliciously done, and £50 reward was offered to anyone who would give information that would lead to conviction. I am, however, in a position to say that the wreckage was purely accidental. The supports were manifestly weak and during a romping game of some young men including Thomas Ranger, Henry Bell, John Shorter and John Sargent, some of them ran against one end of the railing, which fell over and carried the whole of the remainder with it. The secret was well kept and the £50 never obtained.

On the following day, twenty emigrants left Hastings, via Rye, for America, a scene which from its novelty at that time excited much curiosity and the expression of many good wishes.

On Sunday, May 2nd, Frederick North, Esq., was again elected Mayor, the church bells, as usual, ringing between the services, and the banquet held on the following day. On the 3rd of June, his Worship was under the necessity of refusing the demanded freedom of 62 inhabitants who claimed to have been born in the town, and to have paid scot and lot.

In the meantime, that is to say on

May the 28th in Eighteen-thirty, Mr Ottway Cave
Drawn in by hands of some reforming lights,
at Swan Hotel a warm oration gave
to Hastings people on their chartered rights.

Also on the 10th of June, John Ashley Warre, Esq. arrived and addressed a meeting at the Swan Hotel respecting the people's rights and privileges. As emanating from these addresses was the almost sudden enthusiasm of certain of the inhabitants in claiming the franchise upon the basis of them having paid the ordinary calls upon them for rates and taxes, and in their determination, if only to try the question to vote at the next election for the candidates with whose addresses they had been warmed into greater activity. I have said that 62 of such inhabitants demanded of Mr. North, the new Mayor, to be made Freemen, that they might in future have the privilege of voting for parliamentary candidates. This demand, on the 3rd of June, not having been complied with, a similar demand by 24 other inhabitants was made on the 7th of the same month, and still another request by 18 claimants was made on the 2nd of July, but with the same, negative result. Three days later, Mr J. B. Baker as solicitor for the applicants, served a notice on the Mayor to convene a Hundred Count for the purpose of taking into consideration the making of Freemen such as had claimed their right thereto. The Mayor and Jurats, however, resolved that it was unnecessary to hold such a count, or to take any other steps than such as had already been in practice.

[ 26 ]

Claims to be made Freemen - both at Hastings and Rye

Although the Hastings people had been spurred on by the address of Mr. Warre and other gentlemen to demand from the Corporation what they conceived to be their rights, the movement had been previously gaining ground by the example set in the same direction by the inhabitants of Rye.

As early as 1826 these latter claimants commenced an attack on their Corporation rulers, for the restoration of electoral privileges, which they declared had been withheld from them for 70 years, by applying to the Kings Bench for a mandamus to compel the Mayor to admit certain persons to their freedom. To this application, a rule nisi was not granted, and a petition to Parliament was equally ineffective. The next proceeding of the Rye people was to form a political association in furtherance of their aims and the same thing was done at Hastings. In that same year (still antedating the year 1830), Sir Charles Wetherall - of whom more anon - and Gen. Sir Henry Fane were elected for Hastings, whilst Richard Arkwright and Henry Bonham were elected for Rye.

They were all anti-reformers and all Corporation nominees. The candidature of the two last named gentlemen was opposed by Messrs. Benjamin Smith and S. B. Brockett-Chamberlayne. Mr. Smith, who had property in Hastings, where he and his family resided, was afterwards Member for Norwich, which city his father had also represented. Arkwright and Bonham were elected for Rye by the votes of 13 freemen, while their rivals received two votes of freemen and 62 men who for more than a year had paid their scot and lot, but whose notes were rejected. Near the end of the year a small newspaper of reforming tendencies, called the Rye Gazette was established, thus beating Hastings in the efforts of journalism by four years. In the spring of 1827, when there was a new ministry under the premiership of the Rt. Hon. George Canning, who had once represented Hastings, another petition was presented by the aggrieved men of Rye, and as this was of no avail, another petition was sent to the Duke of Wellington, with the like result.

In the following year (1828), additional efforts were made - firstly by an application to the Kings Bench (the expense of which was voluntarily borne by Mr. Benjamin Smith), and secondly, by a request - as was done at Hastings in 1830 - to the Mayor to call a meeting for consultation on the matter but which in both cases was not complied with. In this year, the death of Mr. Bonham occurred and to supply his place a new election at Rye was fixed for the 1st of March. On the preceding evening Col. de Lacy Evans appeared suddenly upon the scene, and offered to become a rival candidate to Mr. Pusey, the Corporation nominee, and also, if informally elected by the scot and lot men, to petition Parliament against the Corporation's choices for the morrow. Pusey was elected by 14 freemen, whilst a much larger number of other men, including freemen voted for the Colonel, who afterward lost no time in presenting his promised petition. The Hastings claimants were now eagerly watching and waiting for the result of such petition and were in ecstasies when after a committee had tried the case in April and May, they resolved, in effect, that the scot and lot men were free and that Col. Evans should have been returned.

Therefore Pusey was unseated and Evans took his place on the 17th of May. Thus triumphant, the people of Rye decided to give their victorious chief a public dinner, which took place in a spacious marquee erected in the Pole Marsh on the 16th of June. At some time before the dinner hour, the Colonel was met at the boundary of the parish on the Peasmarsh road by an immense crowd of carriages, horsemen and pedestrians, (and among them a considerable number from Hastings), who formed a procession to a triumphal arch at Landgate, where an address was presented. After that, the throng moved on to the George Hotel, where dismounts were effected nd the procession was reformed amidst the sounding of trumpets, the beating of drums, the flaunting of colours and the firing of guns. The principal thoroughfares were perambulated, after which about 200 persons sat down to the banquet in celebration of what was held to be a grand political triumph. Mr. Benjamin Smith - so well known at Hastings - being then in America, he was represented on that occasion by his brother. It was that success at Rye which stimulated Hastings into renewed action; hence the demands as before stated on the several dates of June 3rd and 7th, and July 1st and 2nd. Our own people believed that they need only to be persistent in these demands to get them ultimately complied with.

But even the Rye victory, as will be shown, was of short duration. [ 27 ]

Parliamentary Elections - Successful Candidates Planta and Fane

Apparently with the object of strengthening the hands of the Hastings Corporation, four existing freemen were called upon to take seats as jurats. These were Messrs. John Williams, jun. Nathaniel Crouch, Willm. Ball and Thomas Foster. At this time political events rapidly succeeded each other. The death of George IV. having occurred on the 26th of June, a letter was received from Mr. Thomas Paines, Registrar of the Cinque Ports, together with a copy of the Proclamation to be publicly read, thus notifying the accessions of William IV. as King. This was done with the usual formalities. It was first read from the Town Hall, next at the top of Oak Hill, and then at the gate-steps of the Upper Lane. Proceeding onwards, the next stand was made in front of Mr. Milward's house, thence at the Customs House and at the top of Courthouse Street. Accompanying the Mayor in his robes, were the Town Clerk, jurats, officers of the naval stations in uniform, the Town Crier, the freemen and the constables. In front of the procession was the Town Band.

An address of condolence to King William on the death of his brother was forwarded, and at an assembly of the Corporation on the 16th of July, a mandate from the Lord Warden was received, accompanied by His Majesty's writ to elect two Barons to serve in Parliament.

On the 26th of July, the nomination of candidates took place in the Town Hall, the Corporation nominees, as they were called, being Joseph Planta, Esq. and Genl. Sir Harry Fane. The opposing candidates were Otway Cave Esq. John Ashley Warre, Esq. and Capt. Taddy. The election was proceeded with on the 30th of the same month, when 17 jurats and freemen voted equally for Planta and Fane, who were returned by the Mayor (F. North, Esq.) as duly elected. The other pollings were 127 for Cave, 124 for Warre and 57 for Taddy. It will therefore be seen that if the higher numbers had been valid, Cave and Warre would have been elected by an overhelming majority. It proved to be one of the most exciting elections on record, although in a letter by the Rev. W. Whistler, that aged rector said "Our election passed off well here on Friday, but the Corporation were opposed, as at Rye and there will be a petition".

It may interest the descendants of those 17 persons who voted for the returned representatives, to see a list of their names, as follows;

  • C. S. Crouch, surgeon
  • J. G. Shorter, sen., Esq.
  • Walter Crouch, Esq.
  • Mr Scrivens, banker
  • Jas Edward Fagan Murray, Esq.
  • John Hannay, gent.
  • John Pollard Crouch
  • Nathaniel Grovely
  • John Williams, sen.
  • John Williams, jun.
  • Wm. Phillips, mariner
  • Thos. Tautley Bossom, carpenter
  • Wm. Standen, milkman
  • Wm. Ellis, grocer
  • Jas. Winter, builder
  • Thos. Foster, tailor

The elected members gave a dinner to their supporters at the Swan Hotel on the 4th of October, and it may be, for aught I know to the contrary that the alleged conjuring trick of placing something under each man's dinner plate was still in fashion. Be that as it may, the threatened petition against the sitting members was 'carried into execution', mainly as a test question, and on the 13th of December, a House-of-Commons Community declared Mr. Planta and Sir Harry Fane duly and truly elected. For a time this decision was a check to the aspirations of the "scot_and_lot" men and in writing to his son, the Hastings rector said "The Town is quiet, but we look forward with hope to the opening of the borough...It is so bitter a pill that Milward has gone to Bath to work it off"

Unsuccessful Petitions - The Bourne-street Theatre

The Rye election took place three days later than the one at Hastings, the candidates being H. D. Baillie and J. R. Roberts, B. Smith and Col. Evans. For the two former were recorded the votes of 12 freemen, and as for the two latter, 6 freemen and more than 200 inhabitant householders. A petition was lodged against the two returned candidates [ 28 ]Baillie & Roberts, but which had no more effect than had the one against the returned members of Hastings. A memorial was also presented to the Duke of Wellington, as Lord Warden, signed by the inhabitants of Hastings, Rye, Winchelsea, Romney and Hythe setting forth the chartered rights and privileges of the Cinque Ports, which were still to a great extent retained by Dover, Sandwich and Seaford. In this memorial, it was shown that Hastings had 730 ratepayers and only 17 voters, Rye had 300 of the former and 18 of the latter, Winchelsea had 80 ratepayers and 9 voters, Romney had 180 ratepayers and 9 voters, and Hythe had 210 ratepayers and 17 voters. As the Duke practically declined to "watch over and guard" the interests of the Cinque Ports of which he was Warden, and cared not to bester(sic) himself for the ancient town of which he had been a Parliamentary Representative, whilst evincing no friendship to Col. Evans who had helped him to win his battles both in India and the peninsula, the aggrieved inhabitants then, whilst congratulating King William IV. on his accession, begged of him to consider their claims, but all to no effect.

Yet the ball that had been set rolling, continued to be kicked nearer to the enemy's camp until in the following year it exploded like a bomb and after spreading devastation far and near, there came in its train the great measure of Reform. Another dinner was given to Col Evans for having shown hiself as valorous in politics as in war, the banquet on this occasion being prepared at the George Hotel on the 19th of October. He was again met at a considerable distance from the town by a large concourse of people, with banners on which were suitable mottoes, whilst the churc bells were rung and guns dischargd. Fireworks were also exhibited in the evening and tar barrels were set ablaze.

On the following day, Daniel Dawes, Esq., who had been one at the dinner, applied to the Master Sessions at Winchelsea to be admitted a freeman, but was told by Col. Brown, one of the jurats, that it was not convenient. The rejoinder was that the day would probably soon come when the magistrates would be obliged to make it convenient.

Rye at that time, was but little less free from the contrabandist traffic than Hastings, although the conflicts were not so disastrously fatal. One night in December, Mr. Chatterton, the Tide Surveyor, seized the smack Jane and 70 tubs of spirits, and on another date, the smack Dolphin was taken with 6 cwt. of tobacco on board. It was presumably, the first-named of these vessels to which the following lines had reference:-

Col. Evans built a smack,
And gave it to Jack Foster,
Who went to France to get some tubs,
But, coming home, he lost her

I turn now again to matters more exclusively to Hastings. I have already alluded to the Gas Works as having been commenced in 1830, and it may be added that as I had frequent opportunities of watching the then novel construction, I was a little astonished at the rapid progress of development. The time for the completion of the contract was said to be Feb. 1st, 1831, but when December had arrived, there seemed to be a prospect of seeing the town lighted a month earlier than promised.

The Bourne-street Theatre which was opened in 1825 by Mr. Brooke, and continued on and off with but little success, was re-opened, during the autumn of 1830 by Mr. Edwards, after it had undergone re-decoration; but Mr. Edwards, at the close of the season found, to his dismay, that the receipts did not balance the outgoings.

Corporation sales and leases of the Stone-beach waste-land

In administering the Saunders Charity for the year, the Corporation apprenticed Thomas, the son of widow Farroll to William Ransom, a printer, and Willliamson, the son of Francess Child to John Wheeler, a confectioner. The Corporation also ap[ 29 ]pointed to Jesse Turner, a sawyer, the stone-beach that he had built his house on at the west end of what is now Pelham Street, on payment of £30. They further granted to Thos. Jas. Breeds, the ground at the east end of Castle Street on which he had placed a coach office and billiard room, on payment of £50. Also for £20, was granted the waste beach on which a workshop was built between the Chalk-road and the Priory water (now Pelham Street), then occupied by Thos. Beaney, and afterwards the property of Joshua Huggett. To Samuel Satterley was granted, on payment of £5, a piece of stonebeach at the back of a small tenement of his at the N. W. end of West Street; whilst to Samuel Nash was granted on payment of 20/ a year a piece adjoining the Priory Water, which, in 1822, he had permission to enclose as a vacant ground attachment to some houses known as Kentish buildings, but whereon he had since erected a dwelling without permission, he to occupy the same as a tenant for the said 20/ a year. This was what is now a part of the ornamental enclosure in Harold Place. In the same year, Mr. George Clements was allowed to put down a footpath round his house and adjoining the Cutter Inn on payment of 1/ a year, whilst for a payment of 2/ a year, Mr. Thos. Jas. Breeds was permitted to make two openings in The Stade for passing casks into the cellars of the Queens Head Inn.

Having alluded to the poaching, and incendiarism that were so rife in 1830, it should be added that a meeting was held at the Town Hall on the 10th of November for discussing the proprietry of forming a volunteer Night Watch for the protection of the town. The Mayor (F. North) presided, and resolutions were passed to the effect that all persons willing to serve, under the direction of the Commissioners for the better security of the town or to find a substitute for the same were to enter their names on a list that would be prepared, that John Pollard Crouch would take the list round for subscribers; and a committee should be formed of Messrs.W. Thorpe, W. Bishop, J. B. Baker, J. G. Shorter, J. Townshend, J. Breeds, J. Emary, G. Duke, J. Chapman, R. Godlee and J. Hannay. The Night Watch was soon established for the three parishes of St. Clements, All Saints and St. Mary-in-the-Castle, and a certain number went out regularly each night, thus giving greater confidence of security both to visitors and inhabitants. Upwards of 260 persons enrolled themselves for this duty, or to find substitutes for the same, twelve of whom under a superintendent were to patrol the thoroughfares during the winter every night from 11 p.m. till 5 a.m. Only five months elapsed after the meeting for forming the night watch, when a second public meeting was convened to arrange for the relief of the working classes who were known to be in indigent circumstances.

My next item is in connection with Bohemia. It was on the 27th of Feb. 1830 that at a vestry meeting held at the Horse and Groom, St. Leonards a poor rate at 2/ in the £ was agreed upon, the Bohemia Land, then in possession of Boykett Breeds, being assessed at £65, and the mansion, tenanted by H. Bonham Esq. M. P. for Rye assessed at £90. It has been shown that Mr Bonham died soon after the above date and it was on the 6th of May that the Princess Sophia of Gloucester and suite came there to reside advisedly for two months, but her Royal Highness was so delighted with Hastings and its neighbourhood as to prolong her stay for twelve weeks, notwithstanding that the horses attached to her carriage had a fall while descending the road over the Pelham Arcade, she visited the Fishponds, Battle Abbey and other places of interest, witnessed the launching of vessels, was entertained by persons of distinction and took drives to St. Leonards where she promised to reside for a time if she lived to pay another visit to the locality.

The annexed view is that of Bohemia, together with portions of the Priory Buildings, Wellington Square, Meadow Cottages &c. at the time when the mansion at Bohemia was occupied by her Royal Highness. [ 30 ]In 1814 appeared the following advertisement:-

Bohemia, A very neat and well furnished farmhouse in the occupation of Mr. Vincett, late of the Bell Inn, Bexhill, has now become a much frequented resort of great fashion. It commands delightful views of the Castle and the Priory, Fairlight and a wide expanse of English Channel. But if this be too enlivening for those who count retirement for meditation, its environs possess equal conveniences and advantages, applying to which is the following quotation from Thompson:-

“Hence let me haste into the Mid-wood shade,
Where scarce a Sunbeam wanders thro' the gloom,
And on the dark-green Grass, beside the Brink
Of haunted Stream, that by the Roots of Oak
Rolls o'er the Rocky Channel, lie at large,
And Sing the glories of the circling Year.”

[ 31 ]
BohemiaHouse c1830.png

Fatal Poaching at Coghurst

Among the fashionable movements in 1830 was a well-attended subscription ball at the Swan Hotel on the 28th of December, followed by an invitation ball and supper at the residence of Mrs Camac in Wellington Square, at which no fewer than 300 of the elite of the town and neighbourhood were present.

One of the serious poaching activities of that year, and which resulted in the death of John Woodhams, already mentioned, took place close to Mr. Brisco's mansion at Coghurst, on the 27th of November. Shortly after 9 p.m. the gamekeepers were confronted by about 20 men, some with bats and some with guns, when William Brockhurst was knocked down and rendered insensible. The noise of the scuffle and cries for help were heard in the house, to which Mr. Brisco responded by going out and taking his indoor male servants with him. He alone carried a gun, but did not use it; and, as the gamekeepers had no such weapons, the accident to Woodhams must have been caused by his own party. Several guns were discharged by the poachers, and by one or more of the shots, Mr. Brisco's valuable Newfoundland dog was killed. Woodhams having been hit in one of his legs was conveyed the same night to Hastings for surgical assistance. Amputation was thought to be necessary, and this was done by, or in the presence of surgeons Chapman, Rankin and Whittaker. The man's subsequent death gave rise to a lively newspaper correspondence in consequence of "An Enquirer after Truth" asking questions which seemed to impute a want of skill in the operator. All the three surgeons replied with considerable hauteur and demanded the real name of the writer. That not being complied with, one of the surgeons treated "Enquirer" as a tailor because he used the sort stitching. It was, however, evident from the other terms employed, that the querent was acquainted with surgery, and my own belief favours the name of James Dutton, a clever but eccentric medical practitioner living at 40 High Street, who, as well as his father before him, had been a surgeon in Hastings for many years. He was then 77 years of age, and was noted for his generally successful efforts in restoring to life the apparently drowned. He was also a good friend to the poor. It was the opinion of some persons that a body of 20 men had a motive other than the act [ 32 ]of poaching, but that they were accidentally thwarted in their design.

Demands and daring attitude of agricultural labourers.

Be that as it may, the labourers of after assembling by appointment, went now to the farmers and landowners of the neighbourhood and desired them to meet at Stone Link next morning, and there agree upon the rate of wages they were prepared to pay in future. The morning came and as early as 5 o'clock the said labourers proceeded to the Superintendent of the Workhouse, named Sims, and told him his time was come, and that he must immediately quit the parish. They then put a halter round his neck and led him to Pett, where they took refreshments, and then went on to Stone Link where the farmers were already assembled. Such was the prevailing terrorism, that it was felt to be prudent to accede to the labourer's demands to any extent that might be within the bounds of reason. A higher scale had been adopted by the Guestling farmers, and, after some debate, the same scale was unanimously agreed to. This decision put the men in good humour, and they promised to protect the property within the parish and neighbourhood from injury. That they performed their promise may well be doubted after the next year's events are narrated.

The burning of agricultural produce still continued in the neighbourhood of Hastings and in other parts of the country, and on the 6th of December, a stack of barley was burnt to the ground at Eastbourne, which had it occurred later at night, might have ignited several other stacks close by. The owner of the property was Mr. Moses Fielder, who, two year later, was married to Miss Sarah Ann Brook, of Bexhill.

At this time, Hastings was beginning to be better than ever supplied with stage coaches to London and elsewhere as a means of conveyance, though not without its dangers, that was mostly very pleasant at times other than the winter, when, if amidst frost and snow, a seat on the outside did not often afford a theme for rejoicing. This brings to mind that on the 7th of November, a female passenger to London while on the coach asked a person who sat next to her to kindly support her, as she felt exceedingly faint. At the stopping place, a glass of wine was procured for her, but shortly after, she sank down, a silent corpse.

From coaches to roads is but a step, both figuratively and practically, and that step may be taken in the notice of a meeting which took place at Sedlescomb (sic), with Mr W. F Lamb in the chair, for the purpose of opening up the interior of Kent by forming a new road from Hastings and St. Leonards to commence at the Harrow and to pass through Westfield and Sedlescomb(sic) to Cripp's Corner in the parish of Ewhurst, thus giving access to Bodiam, Maidstone, Chatham, Strood &c. £2,000 was declared ready to be advanced, but as the expenses were estimated at double that amount, it was deemed advisable to defer the application to Parliament in the ensuing spring.

The Corporation claims disputed; correspondence thereon

Among the many changes sought to be effected in 1830 was an enlargement of the powers of the Commissioners. At their monthly meeting on the 18th of October with Mr. North as chairman, and a presence of 40 members, the committee appointed at a previous meeting submitted their report, which stated that it was expedient to apply to Parliament for an amended Act with clauses for supplying the town with water, for the erection of a market, for building groynes and for carrying with effect such other improvements as might be considered necessary. It was ordered that Mr. Walter Inskipp be employed to draw up plans for the formation of reservoirs, laying down pipes &c., but as no money could be taken from the Commissioner's funds to defray the expense of applying to Parliament, Mr. North promised a donation of £5 towards that object, and before the meeting closed, the additional promises reached a total of £52. At the December meeting, the proposed application to Parliament was fully discussed, and a list of houses necessary to be scheduled for widening the public thoroughfares was submitted, from which were struck out two or three houses near the Battery (including the Bank) that had been scheduled at a previous meeting. Then followed a piquant correspondence in the columns of the Iris, which journal as before stated was first published on the 23rd of October in 1830. There can be no obliquity in discerning the acerbity with which such correspondence abounds, but without a little preliminary explanation the motive on provocative of such is not so apparent. The proposal of the Commissioners to remove the property known as Beach Cottages and adjoining shipwright's yard. Most of this property was built before the year 1818, and as upon a site that had been frequently washed by the sea at spring tides, the same being claimed by the Corporation as stonebeach  [ 33 ]waste, but which the appropriators contended the Corporation had no legal right to. That the said officials sometimes doubted their own ability to enforce their claim is shown further on where is given a review of the case from 1596 to 1837; but in the present instance, after the beach-land had been appropriated and built upon for several years, the Corporation demanded payment for what they held to be stolen ground, and so far enforced the claim as, in 1825, to have realised a total of £1265, the then owners of Beach Cottages paying sums varying from £20 to £100. The proprietors of Pelham Place had also paid the Corporation £200 for the beach whereupon to construct a new piece of parade in front of those mansions; and as one of the improvements proposed to be effected by the Commissioners, was the extent of such parade to a distance that would require the demolition of the shipbuilding premises and the adjoining row of cottages. Not only on public grounds was the clearance advocated, but for private reasons also; and here, as will be seen the crux of the contention. The Pelham Arcade, Pelham Crescent and the central Church had been built, and the view from the whole of these was then obstructed by the Beach Cottages property, which of course lessened the value of the newer erections. It was but natural under such circumstances for the owners of the better property (whose names I withhold) to warmly support the removal of the source of detriment, and to the expense of which it was believed they would have liberally contributed.

Recollecting, as I do, now the owners of Beach Cottages had to withstand the assaults of the sea, and the great expense to which they were subjected in restorations and inadequate protection (both before and after the year now under review), I can but wonder that they resisted so strongly as they did the removal of property which they had built on so dangerous a site. It can hardly be imagined that they would not have been suitably compensated, but now let the newspaper correspondence, here abbreviated, tell the rest of the story.

On perusing the last number of your journal, I was surprised by a letter from three gentlemen who are mearly(sic) strangers to the town; and taking into consideration the evil consequences of such a communication, I venture to lay before my brother townsmen my opinion on the important measure to which that letter alluded. I conceive, sir, that a measure of such magnitude as removing property ought not to be carried into execution without a due regard to the claims of the owners, and a strict adherence to public justice, all of which has been lost sight of in this instance. I would ask those gentlemen who have favoured you with their epistle how they would approve of such conduct were they in the same situation as the proprietors of Beach Cottages?
I have but little doubt that they would express the same feeling as those who have been placed, as it were, on the brink of ruin by the avaricious disposition of a few lodging houses proprietors and a servile set of fools who have strayed out of the path which Nature had assigned to them. Was it justice that dictated the course pursued on Friday when it was put to the vote that Beach Cottages should be cleared away, thus to deprive several industrious persons of their little all? Also, was it justice to attempt to ruin the proprietors of a business which at times has above a hundred persons depending on it for support?
There is not in this town another place where those individuals could exercise their calling; consequently, if driven from their business, they and their dependants might be reduced to having to seek relief of those reckless beings who had caused their ruin for their own aggrandisement. If, sir, these large lodging-house proprietors intended to commence hostilities, why not have done it in an upright and manly way? Why not have given notice of their intention to the individuals interested? Was it justice to take advantage of the small number present, and doom to destruction that which is worth more thousands than the number of inhabitants there present? If the proprietors of the property in the background wish to get rid of Beach Cottages, why not purchase them? But no, they are too subtle for that! Get the public to do away with nuisances, say they, and we will advance the cash required on the rates &c.; it will be a good 
[ 34 ]investment of our capital, while our lodging-houses will be increased in value and the public at large will be taxed for our emoluments. But, thanks to the independent conduct of a majority at the meeting, the ingenious scheme was frustrated. Some may say that the proprietors of Beach Cottages would not have been injured. This I deny. Their houses let at any time at higher rents than any others in Hastings, and if the said owners were paid even one third more than the intrinsic value, where else could they lay out that money with equal advantage? Yet with all these evils, your correspondents affirm that the proposed measure would carry with it an overwhelming majority. In this they are grievously mistaken. Their letter has been the means of rousing the inhabitants of Hastings to a sense of their duty, and the time has arrived when they will protect their rights and liberties and not suffer themselves and their posterity to be ruined by innovations or wild theoretical schemes of a few who seek their own personal aggrandisement"

A Reply

"Sir, - your friend who dated his leter Nov. 21st went so far beyond the truth that even though he signs himself 'An Enemy to Tyranny!' it amounts to proof(sic) presumptive that he is on intimate terms with the father of lies. His letter, is in fact, a complete olio of falsehood and abuse, and I shall take the liberty of troubling you with a few comments thereon....As to Beach Cottages, I will now call the situation the Diamond Ground, and perhaps the eight or nine immaculate friends to whom they belong may not think it improper to place 'An Enemy to Tyranny' on a pedestal on the northern side with a poll in his hand inscribed 'Possession is nine points of the law!', himself being in the character of the ex-King Charles X. Second thought is best, I think the old name 'Condemned Hole' will be very appropriate to a person whose conduct is so much like that of a criminal. So there I'll leave him. The writer of that letter need not have built a wall to dash his head against, there are enough and to spare already for him to batter his skull with. Who but himself ever thought of destroying Beach Cottages without having due regard to the claims of the proprietors? Nor can they be taken down on the same principle on which they were erected - that is without right claim or title, they being built on the full of the beach. Such would not have been allowed at any other place in England...Your correspondent chooses to forget that some of the property already belongs to individuals who are possessed of great lodging-houses in the background, as he contemptuously calls the Crescent. Why should notices have been given to the eight or nine proprietors of Beach Cottages more than to the other seventy persons whose property was scheduled at the same time? And by whom was it scheduled? Not by a few individuals, but by a committee appointed by the Commissioners to select the most eligible places for a new market-place, for widening the streets, and for other improvements...The recommendations were laid before a general meeting of the inhabitants, each recommendation was fairly put to the vote and carried or lost by a majority...He seems to think little of recent settings in Hastings. But there are even Corporation men who much regret that such a nuisance as Beach Cottages should have been suffered to be erected, and would rejoice to get rid of them...As to the idea that Hastings would not benefit by such improvements it is as ridiculous as his obloquy, for every street, lane and alley in the town would reap advantage in consequence of the additional attraction given to this already favoured watering-place, which only requires a few nuisances to be abated to render it still more enticing!

A Rejoinder

{"Your correspondent alludes to Beach Cottages being erected without right, claim or title, yet, he himself built one of those cottages and afterwards sold it as freehold. I should judge that the purchaser would be highly pleased with his conduct. But, lo! a sudden light illuminates the horizon! When I see a Commissioner of the town hold up one hand to keep the old Warm Baths in position while he raises the other to doom Beach Cottages...He tells us that the [ 35 ]proposed measures would be as great a benefit as improvement to the town. I ask, if the measure be adopted with an outlay of capital, the interest of which would amount to £1,000 per annum, would there be a sufficient increase in trade through that improvement to enable the inhabitants to meet the additional rates? It is unreasonable to expect it....I also doubt the policy or taste in drawing comparison between St. Leonards and the old town. St. Leonards is an extensive speculation got up through the enterprising spirit of one man, and it is necessary for him on establishing a place of that description to have recourse to every measure that would add to the native beauty of the situation he has selected, and also to adopt every plan that would add to the accommodation of visitors; but the inhabitants of St. Leonards are not taxed for that purpose. I have only to repeat that the measure was suggested through the avaricious feelings of a few individuals, and if adopted, would be a great injury to the proprietors of Beach Cottages and to the town at large."

From the tone of the foregoing letters it will be understood that the removal of Beach Cottages was one of the improvements contemplated by the Commissioners in a new Local Act, for the application of which, public notice was given on the 30th of Nov.,1830.

References & Notes