Brett Volume 1: Chapter IX - St Leonards 1833
Chapter IX - St Leonards 1833
Turbulent weather and property in danger
Continued jealousy between town and town.
Parry's prophetic remarks
Extremely low rents and rates
A street discussion
Magdalen parish with only 3 ratepayers
An Election ball
The first Reform Parliament
Destruction of the House of Commons
Arrival of Royalty
A four-horse omnibus
Riding "Squimirington" by "Tawnser" Adams and “Jemmy" Hyland
Coach-competition: a ride of 40 miles for a shilling
political galley races and sailing matches
Archery Society established
Death of old inhabitants
Smith and Brett on the destructive tide of 1824
Cost of Commissioners' Act
£3,000 wherewith to pay £7,026
appointment of officers
Commissioners declining to be enrolled
The .first assessment and numerous protests
makeshift places of business
The obstructional Archway
Practical misnomer of the "Eastern Boundary"
New parade wall
proposed new town of "St. Mary's
Mr. Troup's fruitless efforts – “King” Eldridge beating the magistrates
The Saxon, the Harold and the Conqueror hotels
The builders of Verulam place
Discovery of ecclesiastical remains
The first National schools
Disagreement of parson and pedagogue
The Act and its provisions for the first church-Site of the St. Leonards…?
| 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.
Generally the transcription follows the guidelines set out by the National Archives. Work is in hand to identify and annotate hand-written sections and other annotations within the transcriptions, the main difference being that hand-written sections are indicated by a Cursive font on screen. If any portions are
Destructive gales and tides - jealousy anecdotes
Pg.82 The year 1833 was ushered in at St. Leonards by a good deal of turbulent weather, and much concern was felt by the founder and the builders, as well as by some of the inhabitants for the safety of the property, much of which was inadequately protected. The January and February gales of that year left their mark upon the newly formed parades, and also inundated the old roads between the new town and the old. The sea played havoc with the southern extremity of the old White Rock, and partially demolished the faggoted approaches to the steep road whosé summit was near where now stands the Hospital, and was nearly as high as the top of that building. A great deal of property was destroyed in the Rope-walk and other parts of Hastings by the storms and high tides of those months, and more so by the almost continuous storms of the following winter. It was then the belief of the Hastings people that the erection of the South Colonnade on the spring-tide high water mark of the beach, and the necessitous planting of groynes for its protection, together with the long parade wall which shut out the sea from where it used to flow, was the cause of encroachment upon the old town. The fishermen and other inhabitants of Hastings used to say "It’s all through Mr. Burton" or "It’s all through the walls and groynes at the new town." It was a frequent remark of a facetious friend of mine that "seeing how much of the new town has been built upon the domain of the sea, it is not at all wonderful that it has been named St. Leonards-on-Sea." Far be it from me, as a native and 24 years' inhabitant of Hastings, and (at the time I write) a 57 years' resident of St. Leonards, to wish to revive old animosities; but it would ill become me, as a local historian, to altogether ignore one of the most patent facts of the period to which I am referring. I have already stated that "as I proceed with my history, I shall have occasion to explain a few of the causes of rivalry and jealousy, but my readers may rest assured that nothing but a perfectly friendly review of those causes will be recorded by my pen."
The following anecdote is one instance of the petty jealousy which existed at about the time of which I am writing. In George street, Hastings, there was a good looking couple of the name of White, who sprang from the fishery class, but who kept a green-grocery store where now is No 21. To enter this shop, it was necessary to descend two or three steps from the street, on account of the previous heightening of the roadway with a view to keep out the The couple in question had a daughter—a bonnie lass—who, on being requested by a lady to send some fruit to 48 Marina, replied, "That’s the new town, mum, I suppose. Well then (at the same time putting her arms akimbo) I shall do nothin’ of the sort; nuther shall my mother, nuther shall my father; we've heer'd anuf about that place, and suffered anuf too!" At the present time, when the Hastings tradesmen are willing to send so small an article as a loaf of bread or a yard of ribbon to a purchaser at St. Leonards, it appears extra-ordinary that persons could be so blind to their own interests as was the shopkeeper here alluded to. Fortunately the trades-men of the old town were not all of Mr. White's stamp, or they might not have accumulated wealth as many of them did, and retired from business. Still the jealousy was very wide-spread; so much so, that it was difficult at first to get a sufficient number of men to carry on the building operations, many of the mechanics and labourers preferring to work in Hastings at less wages than were offered by the contractors at St. Leonards. But if there was a difficulty in getting workmen, it was a still greater task to get the tradesmen of Hastings to open branch shops at St. Leonards; and the result was that the early groceries, bakeries, butcheries, confectioneries, &c., were kept either by persons unacquainted with the business, or by tradesmen from Bexhill and ther villages or hamlets. By far the greater part of the money expended in St. Leonards, went, however, to Hastings, either at first hand by the well-to-do inhabitants or at second hand by the small shop-keepers for their wholesale purchases: This continued in a modified degree for many years, and it can hardly be said to have ceased even now. It is more than a truism to say that "St. Leonards was the making of Hastings"; that is to say Hastings in its commercial aspect.
Another cause of jealousy was the comparatively low rents at which the new and handsome houses at St. Leonards were let during the first ten or twenty years of the town’s existence. I have already stated that whilst such houses as those at Gloucester place, Hastings, were let for £8 per week, some of the large houses in the Marina, at St. Leonards, were rented at £35 per annum only. My readers will, of course, understand that the former were furnished and the latter were not. It may not be out of place to mention the rents of some of the smaller property in the year 1833. Mr. James Mann had a house and shop in the West Marina (then called the Market) for which he paid £12 a year; Mr. William Barham rented a house at the same place for £11; and Mr. Thos. Barnes a house and shop at £10. The rent of the smaller houses in the market itself, inhabited by Samuel Bishop, William Bell, James Oliver, and others, was £6 per year; whilst the Sussex Tap, kept by John French, was £8. But now what a change!
It used to be said by the Hastings people in derision of their western neighbours, that they only had one £5 note among them, and that the said note was handed from one person to another to "show off" with while feigning to make small purchases in the old town. Perhaps at a subsequent period this standing joke was a truer index of the negative wealth of the inhabitants than they would care to admit. That commercial failures were at one time of almost daily occurrence was a fact too well attested. Such a condition was thought to be mainly due to the too rapid growth of the town and a too inadequate support by those who took up their abode therein for short seasons, as well as by those of a humbler sphere who for labour supplied drew their wages from St. Leonards and spent them in Hastings. Certain it is, as already intimated, that there was a strong disposition on the part of both visitors and residents to spend the greater part of their money at Hastings, thus making it impossible for many of the tradesmen to succeed, or even to live. That I am not alone in the knowledge or belief of the somewhat unfriendly rivalry that existed between the two towns is shown by a passage in Parry's Coast of Sussex, published in the same year as that of which I am treating. It runs thus :-
After passing this [the White Rock] range of unfinished houses [ Verulam Place ] which exhibit a tendancy to connect St. Leonards with Hastings; in fact, this would be a desirable consummation. At present they have separate interests; and while that state continues, there must, in the course of things, be jealousies and oppositions between them; whereas, if, St. Leonards be made to form a 'new town' to Hastings, the mutual interests of both will be strengthened, whilst the feeling above mentioned which is always to be deprecated - will be abolished. The mother and the daughter will then play into each others hands without the matronly and girlish enmity of Honoria and Flavia in the Spectator. If such a junction does not place, it seems highly probable that one or the other will suffer from mutual opposition. Vaulting ambition in one or both of the rivals will overreach itself and fall on t'other side. These hints are thrown out without the slightest shadow of an interested motive; let the high contending parties look to it, and be timely wise."
I remember a street discussion carried on with some warmth by an inhabitant of each town. One’s name was Sinnock and the other’s was Pulford. The latter contended that St. Leonards was the place for quality, and the former that Hastings was the place for quantity. With no little jibing and jeering, and a fair admixture, of tall talk, the two argued at, some length for superiority, when Sinnock, with great vehemence, expressed himself thus :— "You! you! why you can’t go nowhere's! You can’t even go to jail nor to the workus without coming to: Hastings and being beholden to Pg.83 us!" Such a terrible retort was this, that Pulford at once confessed his inability to continue the discussion, and so gave in to his more powerful, if not more logical antagonist. Such an argument would lose half its force in the present day, for St. Leonards can at least boast of a police-station. It is still true, however, that such of the St. Leonards people as may have an unconquerable desire to become inmates a “workus” cannot gratify that desire without going to the other side of Hastings.
Only three ratepayers of Magdalen Parish - A four horse Omnibus &c.
They cannot be lodged in a private house at the expense of the public, as was the custom in the last century, when the inhabitants were few and far between, and when, as in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen — the greater portion of which is now incorporated with St. Leonards — there were only three persons to pay the rates and only one to collect them, the latter being himself the overseer and the "only principal inhabitant." In number 14 of My Father's Portfolio, edited by the Boy Brett, reference is made to the will of one Richard Roffe, a yeoman, bearing date 1781. Now to this said Richard Roffe, who, in an indirect line, was an ancestor of mine—was paid, in the year 1762, the sum of £3 as twelve months’ rent for a pauper named Roots. There was also paid £1 as a half-year’s rent for John Dunk. The overseer who paid the sums, as well as other sums for "jurneys" and payments at "sevril" times, was one Samuel Cramp, and the three ratepayers were himself, Sir Charles Eversfield, and Mr. Joseph Lingham. The last-named was, presumably, the father of “Old Ben” Lingham, of Hole Farm, with whom, it used to be said in my young days, the best of living could be had, upon "pickled pork, a foot thick." This triumvirate of ratepayers, at an assessment of 1/3 in the pound, contributed a sum of £10 5s. 74d., which enabled the said Samuel Cramp to pay the whole of the parochial expenses, with a balance of 10s. 44d. to the good. We are told that "union is strength," but I am afraid that with all our present systems of union and union houses we shall never have strength enough to bring back the cheapness of old times. Perhaps my readers would like to see a specimen of parochial diction and orthography of one-hundred-and-sixteen years ago; if so, it is here re-produced.
"Hastings Ss a Rate or Assessment on the Sevvral Inhabitants of the parish of St. Mary Magdalen in the Liberty of the Town and port of Hastings a fore Said the Eight day of September by me Samll Cramp the only principal Inhabitant and overseer of the poor of the Said parish of St. Mary Magdalen by and with the consent of two of his Majesty Justice of the peace of the said Town and port where of one is of the Quorum for and Towards the necessary Relief of the poor of the Said parish for the purposes in the Sevvral Acts ot parliament Relating to the poor being a Rate for Relief of the Said parish from the Sevent day June 1762 to Michs day at one shilling and three pence in the pound”
If it should appear that I sometimes diverge from the straight path of St. Leonards History, it is because the interests of the town are in many ways, so intimately blended with those of Hastings as to make it difficult to separate them. Thus in the ball described in the next chapter, as having taken place at Hastings there was a unity of two peoples and purposes. They met to do honour to the Liberal principles espoused by their candidate, as against what was then thought to be the Whigism or quasi-Liberalism of Messrs. North and Warre, the Representatives but recently elected and who were to take their seats in the first Reform Parliament a month later. It is no betrayal of secrets, however, to explain that the voters, with their wives, daughters, or sweethearts who formed the St. Leonards contingent of that merry company, were mainly those who resided eastward of the Archway, the majority of electors on the other side, through causes and circumstances which need not be stated, being swayed by a different political view or motive.
Having incidentally alluded to the first Reform Parliament which met on the 5th of February, 1833, at which St. Leonards - as included in the parliamentary borough of Hastings — was represented by Messrs. North and Warre, I may dismiss that allusion with the additional remark that one of the greatest Acts of that session of Parliament was the one which provided for the extinction of slavery in the British Possessions; and that one of the greatest losses of that year was the destruction of both Houses of Parliament on the 16th of October. But it may be mentioned that on the same 5th of February, when the great council of the nation assembled at St. Stephen’s, a more ordinary assembly welcomed to Hastings the arrival of Prince George of Cambridge, on a visit to his uncle and aunt, the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland. This royal Prince was but a youth of fourteen, yet his first visit to Hastings was witnessed by a greater number of persons than was his last visit, as Duke of Cambridge, 43 years later. As on the latter occasion he lost no time in taking a drive to St. Leonards, so on his former visit he honoured the St. Leonards people with his presence the first day after his arrival at Breeds place; that is to say, on Thursday the 6th of February.
A four-horse omnibus plied between St. Leonards and Hastings at this time, and although the distance over a heavy road, including the White-rock hill, was fully a mile and a half, the charge, if I remember rightly, was but sixpence for each passenger the whole of the distance. It was a well-appointed omnibus, and although it did not run every few minutes as the present omnibuses do, it made several journeys a day, and was well patronized. A praiseworthy innovation upon previous customs was made by the proprietary of this omnibus in a less amount of tight-fitting straps and other clothing for the horses. It was thus that persons of humane feelings sat behind the animals with greater comfort; and had such consideration for beasts of burden been more general and more lasting, there might never have been any occasion for a Society for the Suppression of Cruelty to Animals. When this omnibus service ceased, a few years later, much inconvenience was felt by persons who desired to get from one town to the other, although the St. Leonards tradesmen regarded it as being more a boon than a bane, because it lessened the facilities of intercommunication, and induced the public to make fewer purchases in the old town. It should be put on record, as a factor in the causation of jealous rivalry between the two towns, to which allusion has been made, that except under special circumstances, it has never been the custom for the East to purchase from the West, whilst it has always been the practice of the West to buy largely of the East. Perhaps it was the feeling engendered by this fact which, after the giving up of the omnibus service prompted those who were endeavouring to establish themselves permanently as tradesmen in St. Leonards to afford as little encouragement as possible to the two or three abortive attempts which were made to revive the said service. Then, too, as even in the present day, the omnibuses were not looked upon with a very favourable eye by proprietors of flys and other vehicles; for, although in those days one could not find a cab-stand at every turn, there were the proprietors of the St. Leonards, the Conqueror, the Harold, the Saxon, and the Sussex hotels ever ready to supply a carriage at short notice, whilst there was the all but ubiquitous riding-master, Edward Stevens, who could as promptly send out a horse or a carriage from, his several establishments at St. Leonards, at the Priory, and at Hastings.
An unfortunate episode in the career of Mr. Stevens was that during the time he held the St. Leonards Mews he not unfrequently quarrelled with a tipsomaniac wife, who resided over the stables which Stevens occupied close to the old Battery at Hastings. Whenever these family jars were of more than ordinary severity, two men (usually "Tawnser" Adams and "Jemmy" Hyland), one of them dressed in a woman's gown and bonnet, rode what was called the "Squimmington." They mounted a horse and with brushes, skimmers, brewer's grains etc., pretended to assault each other, at the same time mimicking the parties who were The subject of their burlesque, by repeating the words which the husband and wife were known to have used in their quarrel. This practice—which would not now be tolerated-whilst it amused the townspeople, gave the utmost publicity to the quarrels, and brought the parties under the ban of public opprobrium. One such scene was witnessed at St. Leonards in 1833; the horse which was used for the exhibition being the property of Mr. Burton, the founder of the town, and one which was ordinarily employed to drag up the three or four bathing-machines which St. Leonards then only possessed. The animal was taken from the stables with-out leave, and the men who had thus acted upon their own responsibility were sharply reprimanded by Mr. Burton; who, although admitting that he saw no great harm in riding a “Squimmington,” strongly objected to the authors of the burlesque taking his horse for such a purpose.
Thus dwelling on the existence of an omnibus service in the year 1833, reminds me that the coaches which ran through St. Leonards from Hastings to Brighton, and vice versa, were not infrequently taken advantage of to get “a lift” from one town to the other. The apparent distance of the two towns in those days was much greater than the space would be by actual measurement, there being no buildings between White Rock and the Saxon Hotel to relieve the weariness of a loose and rugged road, and a view of one town from the other being obstructed by projecting cliffs. Apropos, however, of the Brighton and Hastings coaches, the competition between them about that period was so severe that the fares came down to a shilling for a ride of forty miles. Even this was outdone by the proprietors of one of the opposition coaches offering a shilling to each passenger in addition to a free passage. The absurdity then ceased; for after enjoying the fun of it for a few days, the public found out that what they were expected to give the coachmen and porters was more than equal to the amount of a reasonable fare.
It was not by land only that there was competition in the means of conveyance, but by water also. Besides the annual regattas of that period, which were as well worthy of the name as any we have seen in later years, there were several spirited contests of a less pretentious character, but which excited even a greater amount of interest among the partizans of each side. They were, indeed, in a local sense, to Hastings and St. Leonards, what the University Boat-race has become tothe country at large; and, strange as it may appear, politics had not unfrequently a good deal to do with them. There were several contests between the Tory galley John Bull and the Reform galley Elphinstone; and, be it remembered, the galleys in those days were not the fragile craft which as we now see have to he carried on to the water by their crews, instead of the crews being carried on to the water by the galleys. They were strong boats, and they were also swift boats when manned by about 70 stone of pluck and sinew. What native is there of over three-score-and-ten who does not remember something of those stalwart “American” oarsmen, the Cobbys, the Braziers, and others, who rowed in the Elphinstone? It was that boat which, on Wednesday, the 12th of June, 1833, was cheered to the echo by the St. Leonards people as it overhauled the Emma in a grand match which had been arranged by the backers of each competitor. The course was from the Battery at Hastings to the St. Leonards Hotel and back, the Elphinstone winning, after a gallant struggle, by a minute of time. Then, again, these spirited contests were not confined to the boats impelled with oars. For, in the same year, on the 14th of October, large stakes were deposited and many bets were ventured on a race with the Spring and Nelson. These were pleasure luggers and occasional pilot-boats. They sailed over a course of twelve miles, and I remember that the enthusiasm was intense when, after a splendid contest, with all the canvas set that could be carried, the Spring came in only a quarter_of a minute before its rival.
Riding Squimmington - Royal St. Leonards Archers - St. Leonards Commissioners
My allusion to the use of the skimmer and other domestic utensils by the men who rode ‘‘squimmington” for Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, has brought a reminder that by his workpeople, Mr. Stevens was known by the nick-name of “Skimmer.” Whether this doubtful honour was conferred upon him at Pg.84 his own desire or because he occasionally underwent a flagellation with a skimmer at the hands of his wife, it is not within my knowledge to say; but the term, I am told, was only resented as an offence when it was apparently intended as such, or when, from some other cause there was an exuberance of ill-temper. At such a time he would indulge in the use of expletives while he took snuff, either as a stimulant or a sedative, from the same box as that which was used by the man against whom he was expressing his displeasure. But if there was eccentricity in the character of this well-known riding-master, there was also much geniality. This latter qualification sometimes stood him in good stead; as, for instance, when having the laugh of his companions turned against him for an error of 100 years in computing some historical event, he coolly advised them to restrain their hilarity; "for, don’t you see," he said, "I was within one" — meaning, of course, one century.
Among the many local events for which the year 1833 was noted may be mentioned the establishing of the Queen’s Royal St. Leonards Archers; or, as they were then styled, "The Society of St. Leonards Archers." The first meeting of members was on the 12th of August, and the place of meeting was what has since been known as the Archery Gardens. This now pretty spot was partly formed by Nature and partly by the hand of man. It was originally the site of a military encampment; and it has been stated that at the beginning of the present century, during our wars with France, an attempt was made to impose upon the enemy’s cruisers in the Channel by putting up a greater number of tents than the actual requirement, thus exhibiting a fictitious array of military force. Previously to conversion to its present use the site of the Archery Gardens was a brick-field. The founder of St. Leonards granted the use of the ground to the Society at a nominal rent, and although during the early meetings of the members the appearance of the place was somewhat bare and rugged, in a very few years - mainly under the superintendence of the late Misses Mackay — the gardens presented a rich foliage, a spacious lawn, and all that could make them attractive and beautiful. At the first meeting were instituted the two ivory Challenge Bugles and the two Honorary Enamelled Badges, designed to represent the crest of Mr. Burton, in compliment to him as the founder of St. Leonards, and to his family as the leading promoters of the Society. During the first year of the Society’s formation two lads, named respectively Edward Smith and Edward Hook, were employed to pick up the arrows for some of the lady members; and, as a simple act of generosity, they were presented with a bow and arrow by one of those ladies. As might have been expected, the two boys were not long ere they tried their skill in Archery; but, as might not have been so readily imagined, there elapsed only a brief additional period before they discovered that much smaller things than targets could be hit by juvenile archers. "Fire away !" shouted one of the youngsters, and "Fire away it was." The archer twanged his bow; and, as though he%were a Robin Hood, bent on killing his man, he lodged the arrow in the centre of his companion’s forehead. The wound was not serious, but the mark was sufficiently indelible to be a lasting attestation of the year in which was founded "The Society of St. Leonards Archers." I shall notice the Archery Society again and again as I proceed with my history, and especially when I am dilating upon the events of 1834.
I had it in my thoughts to state that, coeval with the establishment of the St. Leonards Archers, was the instituting of the St. Leonards Commissioners. But such a statement would not have been strictly accurate, as the latter body first commenced operations a year earlier. Those who have followed this History will remember that it has already been stated that Mr. Burton obtained, in '32, an Act for the Improvement of the Town of St. Leonards. It would have been more in chronological order to have then described the time and place, when and where, the Commissioners appointed under that Act held their first meeting. My memory and my notes did not, however, sufficiently serve me just then, but I have subsequently obtained from another source the information that was needed.
The first meeting, it appears, was at the Conqueror Hotel, and on the 18th of June, the very day on which was subsequently held a meeting at the Town Hall to decide upon the Reform Dinner. The new Commissioners were twenty in number, and their names were Messrs. J. Burton, H. W. Browne, Col. Jeffries, R. Deudney, R. Shepherd, J. Wells, H. Stapleden, T. Thorne, J. Rock, T. J. Breeds, Howard Elphinstone, B. Homan, E. Farncomb, W. Norsworthy, W. Waghorne, E. Smith, G. Ditch, H. Hook, W. F. Ditch and C. H. Southall. When the Act of Parliament was read over, six of the Commissioners pro tem., declined to make the legal declaration — some of them, probably, on the ground of their being excluded by a clause in such Act from taking contracts under the Commission. The persons who thus withdrew were Messrs. Brown, Shepherd, Smith, Hook, Southall and W.F. Ditch. I am not aware that Mr. Southall gave any reason for declining to serve on the Commissioner’s Board, but I remember that, many years afterwards, his reason for refusing to serve on the Hastings Council Board was — "I don’t want to, don’t mean to, and they can’t make me, because I am a Government officer." The joke of this was in the fact that Mr. Southall had previously served as a Councilman, and did not discover his disqualification as a postmaster until his re-election was opposed by the better prospects of another candidate.
To the list of old inhabitants who have died since I began my historical and anecdotal sketches in 1876, must be added the name of Francis Smith, Esq., a Justice of the Peace, and a partner in the late banking firm of Messrs. Smith, Hilder, Scrivens and Co., of Hastings. It would be out of place here to review the life of Mr. Smith, but as the death of that gentleman had occurred just at the time when I was about to connect his name with the early history of St. Leonards, I cannot do other than allude to his demise with a feeling of regret. Mr. Smith was a gentleman of quiet demeanour, but of friendly and cheerful disposition; and many there are, I have no doubt, in whose remembrance the deceased gentleman will hold a place of affection. Although not a native of Hastings, Mr. Smith had made the town his home for fifty or sixty years. That it had been over half a century may be gathered from a conversation which I had with him while witnessing the destructive effects of one of those abnormally high tides hich occurred in 1875 and '76. That conversation may be epitomised thus :—
Mr. Surry. "This is a grand sight; an awfully grand sight! You, of course, do not remember such a tide and such destruction of property."
T. B. Brett.— "I certainly do not remember so much havoc among what may be regarded as well-built houses, because until within a comparatively few years there was not such property to be destroyed; but I well enough remember the much higher tide of 1824, when some of the Hastings fishing-boats were dragged up into High street and All Saints’ street; when the huts, pig-pounds, bakehouses, &c., were scattered pell-mell in the Rope-Walk; and when, unable to pass on foot through the flood at York Buildings, I, with others, paid four-pence to be drawn in a waggon to the top of the Priory Bridge, there to see the wreckage float over the Priory Brooks to where are now the Gasworks."
Mr. Smith.— "Dear me! I had quite forgotten that very high tide; but now you speak of it, I remember being carried over the Priory Bridge myself, on a big man’s shoulders. How very curious that you, a younger man than I, should bring such an event so vividly to my recollection."
T. B. Brett.— "And the big man who thus carried you safely over the bridge, I believe, was ‘Tring’ Brazier; for, he was the man who afterwards boasted of having earned 16s. on that occasion by carrying people over the Priory Bridge."
St. Leonards Commissioners and their transactions
I could enumerate some good and generous actions in the career of Mr. Francis Smith, and I could refer to an instance of Christmas merry-making at Torfield House, in which Mr. Smith was the leading spirit and myself an accidental guest; but I must be turning to my more immediate subject. I have already described the first meeting and composition of the board of St. Leonards Improvement Commissioners, and it is for me now to say that Mr Francis Smith was appointed at that meeting to the office of banker. That was 67 years ago, and Mr. Smith was then 31 years of age. It was in the month of July, 1832, that the first sum of money — £250 — was ordered to be placed in the banker’s hands. It was a portion of the £3,000 which had been lent to the Commissioners by Mr. Middleton, of the Inner Temple, on a mortgage of the rates. The disposal of two other portions of such £3,000 was in this wise. A sum of £750 was to be paid to Messrs. Burton and Fraser, as expenses in obtaining the Act of Parliament, and £2,000: was to be handed to Mr. Burton, as part-payment of £7,026 for expenses incurred by that gentleman on works for the town. There was a clause in the Act for that purpose, and the several items for reimbursement were as here subjoined :—
In these figures it will be seen that the £2,000 was but a comparatively small instalment of Mr. Burton’s reimbursement, but it was all that was in the Commissioners' power to vote. The town was yet young, and, maybe, capitalists were not quite assured of a safe investment in its rating capabilities. Advertisements had been inserted in the London and County newspapers for the hire of £10,000, but Mr. Middleton’s offer of £3,000 was the only one received. It was therefore arranged that the rates should be mortgaged to Mr. Burton to the extent of £4,000 at 5 per cent., and that the remainder of his claim should be paid as soon as a sufficient sum could be obtained and other requirements would permit. Now that a governing body had been incorporated, the affairs of the town began to assume a much more practical shape, and the public began to evince more confidence. As already stated, £250 had been placed in Mr. Smith’s hands for immediate necessities, and to this was soon added £500 which Mr. Greenough had offered to lend on mortgage. In the course of a few months, the Commissioners effected another mortgage for £1,000 which had been offered them by Major Naylor. Perhaps I ought to say in justice to Mr. Burton, that his reimbursement claim of £7,026 was duly examined and found correct by a committee specially appointed by the town, with Capt. (afterwards Major) Jeffries as their chairman. Also that Mr. Burton waived his claim to a certain amount of interest computed up to a given time from the passing of the Improvement Act.
I have stated that six of the Commissioners first nominated declined to be enrolled; and as their places had to be immediately filled, a meeting of ratepayers was called and six other gentlemen were elected. These were Dr. Burton, and Messrs. Wood, Milsted, Stapleton, E. Honiss and B. P. Smith. The following business was then transacted without further delay :—
Meetings to be held quarterly in Oct., Jan., April and July. Mr. George Fraser to be Clerk, at a salary of £30 per year. Mr. Tom Leave to be surveyor at a yearly salary of £10, and to be collector of rates, at a commission of 24 per cent., he offering himself and Mr. George Scott as sureties for £300. Mr. Peerless to be collector of coal duties, and Mr. B. Homan to be his surety for £200. The commission to be 24 per cent. on a duty of 3s. per chaldron for coals and 1s. for coke; such duties to be collected weekly from retail dealers and monthly from wholesale. Mr. Burton to have the selection of a beadle at 16s. per week, and to retain 4s. a week for a place of residence. Henry Harmer to be beadle, and to have a hat from Mr. Phillips, at a cost of 23s.; also to be provided with a great coat and a truncheon. A drain-pipe to be laid down by Mr. Carey on the east side of the Library. A sewer to be laid down by Mr. Putland for the houses 59 to 64 Marina, at a cost of £35. A sewer to be put down for 14 and 15 Undercliff by Jas. Funnell, at a cost of £35. Homan and Scott, vice Edward Smith, to channel the East Ascent and to pave two footpaths Pg.85 south and west of Harold Hotel, Bowyer and Bishop to cleanse the streets, and the inhabitants to be served with notice to sweep the fronts of their houses. James Ball to construct two water carts for £45. Mr. Carey to erect a wooden pump at [[Marina[[ for £5. The channels at Quarry-hill road and Maze-hill road to be widened. Notice boards to be put upon the parade against open bathing on the beach. The beadle to be the only bellman and billposter. Edward Smith to finish the road from the Assembly-rooms to the Meeting house (Quadrangle Chapel) for £11 2s. Such was the work ordered to be done by the Commissioners during their first six months of office, notwithstanding that there were several more defections in their ranks. The resignations of Jas. Homan, Geo. Scott, J. Carey, T. Leave, and one or two others were accepted, and their places were filled by Messrs. M. Bland, W. D. Davies, E. Waghorne, R. T. Noakes, S. Putland, A. Burton and C. Deudney, But if the changes in the personality of the Commission Board were unexpectedly numerous during the first six months of its existence, they were vastly more so during the year following.
Doubtless there were various inducements for gentlemen and tradesmen to qualify for, and take part in, the government of a new town, and probably an equal number of reasons for the non-realisation of their intentions. The motives of such gentlemen as Mr. (afterwards Sir.) Howard Elphinstone, F. North, Esq., M.P., J.S. Warre, Esq., M.P., Musgrave Brisco, Esq., Wastel Brisco, Esq., Herbert Curteis, Esq., and Col. de Lacy Evans, might have been partly political and partly a desire to give a high social tone to the executive of a rapidly rising town, in whose outlines there was more of the aristocratic than of the commercial element. But with builders and other tradesmen, such as Messrs. Milsted, Honiss. Waghorne, Putland, Maddon, Homan, Norsworthy, Thorne, and others, the leading motive — apart from the more sentimental one of honour — was, probably, of a utilitarian character. When one reflects, however, upon the fact that during the year 1833 there were sixty new names added to the roll of commissioners, and nearly as many disqualified, one is led to the conclusion that the path of this new governing body was not strewn with roses; and that whilst some of the members became disqualified by causes which they could not very well control, and others simply through their inability to attend the meetings, much the larger number sent in their resignations either because they could not gratify their individual crotchets, or because as Commissioners they durst not enter into contracts for the several works which they knew would have to be undertaken. Not a few were disqualified by commercial failures which about that time were rife, and to which I have before alluded. Some, also, like Messrs. Edlin, Hodgson, Mollard and Milsted, were unable to act because they were publicans or hotel keepers. Then there were a few cases, like that of Mr. Beck’s, in which the newly-elected Commissioner found himself possessed of an insufficient amount of property. Altogether the changes and defections were very numerous and sometimes exciting, even if not serious. Several meetings of the inhabitants were convened to elect Commissioners to fill up vacancies, and on one occasion the meeting was adjourned in consequence of there being no response to the chairman’s call for nominations.
But the personal changes thus effected were not the only Commissional mutations of that year; for, there were also changes both in the times and places of meeting. The Commissioners first met at the Conqueror Hotel, then at the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms, and finally at the St. Leonards Hotel. The dates for the general meetings were also altered from the first Mondays of Oct., Jan., April and July, to the last Mondays of March, June, Sept. and Dee. Looking at the incessant changes as here indicated, and associating them with the large amount of business transacted, one is led to believe that much of the latter was due to the presiding genius of Mr. Burton and the support which he received from those of his family who were members of the Board. These were Dr. Burton, Decimus Burton, Alfred Burton, William Burton, T. Wood and J. P. Fearon. With £4,000 lying at interest upon the realization of the rates, and with many works necessary to be executed for the extension and improvement of the town, Mr. Burton had naturally a large interest at stake, and there can be no doubt that his personal energy and influence contributed largely to the development of his original design, notwithstanding that the management had been transferred to a legally accredited executive.
It was at the Commissioners’ January meeting in 1833 that the first half-yearly assessment was ordered. It was to be based on such estimates as the rating committee might agree upon, and to be computed from the previous July, at 9d.in the £. A rough draft of the rate book was also ordered to be prepared; and this, of course, was done; but, as the meetings were quarterly, the said book was not presented until the 1st of April. It was not long, however, before the ratepayers began to find fault with the new rate; for, be it understood that this was the Improvement-rate, not the Poor-rate. Mr. Rock remonStrated. against his assessment in Mews road, and got it reduced from £48 to £25. Miss Ranger, also — a lady who never appeared to be desirous of paying more than was demanded — obtained a reduction of 11s. 3d. from the amount charged. Encouraged by the success of these remonstrances, Mr. Edlin, of the Harold Hotel, made a similar application, and was allowed 24s. Then followed two gentlemen named Waters and Graeme, who got their rating reduced from £75 to £60; but, as though the difference had to be made up in some other way, it was determined to increase the rating of the houses 48 to 56 Marina from £90 to £112. This was a woeful jump from £35 at which such houses were at that time rated to the poor, and one doesn’t wonder that the owners and occupiers exhibited a little uneasiness on that account. Mr. Burton himself was among the malcontents, for he protested against the rating of the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms and Subscription Gardens, thus getting the latter reduced from £60 to £20. The discontent of some of the rate-payers continued, and before the year had expired an alteration was made in the rate of assessment from three-fourths to two-thirds. The Commissioners, however, made the second rate at 10d. in the £, instead of 9d.; and, as £25 of the first rate remained uncollected, they ordered payment of the arrears to be insisted upon. Twenty-five pounds in uncollected rates would not be regarded as a large sum at the present day, but it was then a twelfth of the whole assessment, and the money was much needed.
But, so irksome was the work of collection that, after taking legal proceedings against a few of the defaulters, the collector resigned his situation. The town of St. Leonards — and, I judge, the borough generally — was at that time in the throes of a commercial depression; and as a similarly untoward condition was being experienced at the time this was first written, it may serve as one means of estimating the growth of the place the seven or eight summonses issued in 1833 with the 480 similar missives sent out in 1878. But this was not the only historical item of the former year that was repeated in the latter. In 1878 one of the tradesmen of the South Colonnade was warned against obstructing the thoroughfare with his commodities; and this somewhat rare mandate as applied to that locality, was just a repetition of the warning which in 1833 was conveyed by the St. Leonards Beadle from the Commissioners to a Mr. Mitchell. The Colonnade tradesman of that name was in the habit of placing chairs and sofas between the columns which supported the covered way — not, as might be imagined, to rest the weary pedestrian who at that time found the public seats too few and far between, but to relieve, for a few hours during the day, his furniture store of that indescribable "pack" necessitated by a want of room which from that day to this has ever been an inconvenience to the tradesmen occupying that busy mart. So, again, a letter in 1878 found its way into BRETT’S GAZETTE, complaining in rather strong terms of some obstructions existing on the East Ascent, and this was but a repetition of similar complaints which were made in the year 1833. These complaints were not, however, made in the columns of a newspaper, and the obstructions complained of were not so quickly removed. Neither St, Leonards nor Hastings could then boast of a strictly local press through which a grievance could be made known, and the only remedy for a public evil was the more tardy fist of a quarterly meeting of the Improvement Commissioners. But if this process was more slow it was none the less effective. The beadle was instructed to give notice to the offending inhabitants of East Ascent, that if the obstructions complained of were not quickly removed, the authors of them would be dealt with according to law. For a time the mandate was obeyed, but in the following year, as I shall have occasion to show, the obstructions were renewed, and even greater nuisances were added.
At the earlier period here mentioned, only the lower and greater portion of the East Ascent wall was constructed, and so dangerous was the upper part of the road considered to be, that a tender of £28 was accepted from Mr. John Smith, to continue the wall from where Mr. Burton had left it to the south-east corner of Mercatoria, Mr. Putland was also employed to remove so much of the cliff as was needed for the construction of such wall. He was also directed to plant shrubs on the sharp sloping rock which formed the base of the new piece of wall. This wall, these shrubs, and this somewhat unsightly bank remain till this day, whilst the larger and lower portion of the artificial embankment was in 1878 vastly strengthened and improved by the Hastings Urban Sanitary Authority.
In referring to the obstructions at East Ascent, I cannot altogether shun the idea that the shopkeepers in that locality are as much entitled to excuse as to censure. Even as private residences — for which the houses in that part were designed—they were erected in such close proximity to the edge of the cliff as to leave but a very narrow road and footpath between them and the projecting wall; and the road was then practically narrower than it now is in consequence of the paved channel on the south side being about two feet from the wall. Shops became a necessity, and as Mercatoria was much too limited, and the South Colonnade, too remote or too difficult of access for the dwellers in the more elevated districts, some of the houses in East Ascent and Mews road were converted into makeshift places of business, and the traffic in those narrow toads was at times unavoidably impeded. Grand as was Mr. Burton’s conception of a new town, and elegant as was the design upon the whole, there were palpable defects here-and-there, and the narrowness of the thoroughfare in East Ascent was one of them.
Another narrow thoroughfare was that portion of the road which lay between the Colonnade and the Archway; and it is a noteworthy fact that whilst in 1878 much was done to improve the East Ascent, both by private energy and public authority, the latter had also just effected an improvement near the Archway by widening the road alluded to. The iron rails were set back in a line with a similar barrier on the east side of the Archway, and a greater uniformity of space thus secured. On effect of this operation, however, was to show more than ever the need which existed for the removal of the Archway itself, Whatever necessity there might once have been for such a structure to complete the town as originally designed, it had always been regarded as an obstruction; and since for nearly 50 years, St. Leonards had nominally extended eastwards as far as Verulam place, the said Archway, as the "Eastern Boundary of St. Leonards," was a misnomer. Then, too, the St. Leonards Commissioners, as a governing body, were defunct; and the town with her elder sister, Hastings, was under the sole jurisdiction of the Hastings Urban Sanitary Authority. Like the old Temple Bar of London, the St. Leonards Archway had outlived its utility, and at the present time the vast improvement effected by its removal is hailed as a boon.
It is a remarkable circumstance that as I proceed with this History — Jubilee History, as it was first called — I am met at almost every step by some incident or coincident which in an especial manner has linked the jubilee year of 1878 with the remoter years of the past. At one place, as in the occurrences above cited, it was History repeating itself; at another, as in the construction the West-Marina parade, it was the completion of an original design; and at a third, as at the East Ascent and the Archway, it was the reversal of first intentions or a modifica Pg.86 tion of them, to meet the wants of an altered condition, with a larger population. Improvement, however, was the keystone of the whole. It was improvement that was aimed at in widening the-road near the Archway as the next best thing to the abolition of the Arch itself; and it has been a still further improvement since then by the removal of the gateless "East Gate," never to be re-constructed.
The "Insiders" and "Outsiders" but St. Leonards the designation of both - Suggested new town of St. Marys
Yet, this last operation — and here is another association of dates — is the outcome of a different spirit to that which appeared to animate the "Improvement Commissioners" in 1833, On the 19th of August a special meeting was convened, at which there were present Messrs, Wood, Wells, A. Burton, W. Waghorne, J. Rock, T. Brown, and Capt. Jefferies. It was then resolved "That the Eastern Boundary of the town be more distinctly shown by the words and figures — Eastern Boundary of St. Leonards, 2nd. Wm. 4th, C. 45." I need hardly say that the "words and figures" of the resolution were forthwith inscribed on the Archway, where they remained until the whole fabric was levelled to the ground; neither need I dwell, just now, on the fact that this mark of exclusiveness gave umbrage to some whose habitations were eastward of the boundary, and who for many reasons, were compelled to regard themselves as inhabitants of St. Leonards, although not strictly within the district embraced by Mr. Burton's Act of Parliament. Rather let me direct my readers’ attention to a spot just westward of the Archway, where during the same year, an alteration was effected which resulted in a great public convenience. On the eastern front of what was the Conqueror Hotel — a house which, as though to keep up the coincidences, underwent another change in the jubilee year — there was, originally, a large piece of private ground extending nearly half-way across the open space at the Undercliff, and causing a decided impediment both to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
The ground in question was the property of Mr. G. B. Greenough, and that gentleman having offered to give up a considerable part of such ground, on condition that the town spend not less than £100 in ornamenting the remainder, the Commissioners wisely accepted the offer, and immediately set about to perform their part of the contract. The reduced area was enclosed with a dwarf wall and railing, the latter being fixed by Mr. Stanton Noakes for the sum of £28 10s. A pedestal was also erected, the ground was turfed, the walks were gravelled, and a semi-circular footpath was formed on the outside. The improvement thus effected at the "Conqueror" (now the "Brunswick") was much as it appears in the present day. One improvement often suggests another; and so, as though on the principle of a new carpet necessitating a new hearth-rug, it was deemed desirable to relay the Undercliff pavement with stones in place of bricks. This was done, the difference of cost being 50s. per house, which sum the owners were called upon to pay.
It was in the same year (1833) that the tender of Messrs. Homan and Scott was accepted for the construction of 125 yards of new sea-wall, westward of the first wall, the tender of Mr. Putland being also accepted for sloping and finishing the new parade. The other public works ordered by the Commissioners during 1833 were as follows:— Mr. Putland to furnish stone for the repair of the roads at 3/8 per ton; Messrs. Noakes and Mann to fix rails on the parade at 10s. each; Edward Smith to take away ashes at 2/6 per week; Mr. Lansdell to paint the lamp-posts; Mr. Norsworthy to alter his steps at 1 and 2 West Ascent; Mr. Johnstone to supply 1,100 feet of granite kerbing; Edward Smith to have one of the damaged water-carts in exchange for 25 tons of hard blue stone; and Mr. Putland to beach the road then in course of formation between 71 Marina and the Sussex Hotel.
Turning from the Commissioners’ meetings at the St. Leonards Hotel to the Vestry meetings at the New England Bank, I find that at one of the latter, in 1833, there were actually present the two overseers, Edward Farncomb and Charles Overy; the two assessors, Wm. Longley and Wm. Ridley; one parishioner, Wm. Payne; and the vestry clerk, John Phillips. The duties were not very heavy in those days, and it need not therefore excite surprise that the five officials and one non-official managed. to examine the accounts, nominate the officers for the ensuing year, make a highway rate at 6d. and a poor-rate at 1s. in the £.
I have said that the act of the St. Leonards Improvement Commissioners in ordering certain words to bé placed on the Archway that the eastern boundary of the town might be more distinctly marked, gave umbrage to those whose habitations were eastward of the said Archway, and who were obliged to regard themselves as St. Leonards people, although they had taken up their abode not strictly within the district embraced by Mr. Burton’s Act of Parliament. I do not remember, however, that the dwellers of the east and of the west exhibited any animosity towards each other of a more serious taint than that which was occasionally shown in a little tall talk and banter. The "Outsiders" taunted the "Insiders," with being "Burton-bound leaseholders," and the Insiders retaliated upon the Outsiders by'calling them "Freeholders of No-man’s land." If the "chaff" was a little more animated than usual, St. Leonards-within would rise to the dignity of saying to St Leonards-without, "You can’t belong to Hastings, and you shan’t belong to St. Leonards." Whether it was this show of exclusiveness that originated the proposal to consider the newer erections eastward of the Archway as a second new town I cannot say, but the idea was certainly mooted to have the district between the Archway and the Seaside Hotel known as the town of "St. Mary’s." Several circumstances appeared to favour this idea, one of which was the building of Verulam place and Cliff cottages, in the year 1838, the commencement of Seymour place soon after, the erection of the first buildings in connection with All Souls’ in 1834, and. the beginning of White-rock place in 1835. The proposal was also directly or indirectly supported by Mr. Troup, who in 1833 commenced Warrior Square with his own house near the centre and on the northern side of the road which divides the two gardens. This house which was taken down many years ago, had only two storeys above the level of the road, the larger portion of the building constituting the basement. In this basement were two wings, originally intended for baths, and which, if they had been completed, would, it was thought, have been a desirable acquisition, There was a subway communication connecting Mr. Troup's house with the two gardens, and the latter with each other. This subway, which is the only relic of what I have been describing, is now disused, and though its entrance and exit may still be seen from the road on either side, it appears to be more a receptacle for rubbish than a means of transit from one garden to the other.
Of the support which Mr. Troup gave to the proposal for a separate town between St. Leonards proper and the Seaside Hotel, it may be said that that gentleman stoutly and coutinuously declared that his property should never be called St. Leonards. And, certainly, he did his utmost to fulfil the realizetion of his edict — an effort, a fruitless effort, to which I bear personal testimony further on, I will only here say in reference to this question of a separate town, that whilst the growth of Warrior Square and the district east of it was a very siow one, the clustering of houses in immediate contiguity with the original St. Leonards was of a very rapid character. Adelaide place, Seymour place, London road, Norman road, Shepherd street, North street and Gensing road sprang into existence in a comparatively short space of time; and but for the fact that these localities came not under the jurisdiction of the St, Leonards Commissioners, it would not have been easy for many of the inhabitants to say whether they were living inside or outside of the St. Leonards boundary.
There was one thing they knew, namely, that it was more than "a mile to Edinboro' Town," or — in less ambiguous words — there was more than a mile of space lying between the Priory-bridge (the boundary of Hastings proper) and the bulk of the property which for reasons other than that of distance, had to take the name of St. Leonards. It stood in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen; so also did the greater portion of the town of which Mr. Burton was the founder. It was also included in the St. Leonards postal district; and — as Mr. Troup had the mortification to know — any person who was foolish enough to have his letters addressed "Hastings" would have to go to Hastings for them. Then again, the property was described in the title-deeds and instruments of conveyance as being situate in "St. Leonards" or "St. Leonards-on-sea." It should be here observed; however, that for many years the distinction of St. Leonards and St. Leonards-on-Sea was either expressed or understood. At the present time this distinction is not so general. It was in 1838 that Mr. George Hyland built the Warrior’s-gate Inn, on the site of the old Warrior's-gate lime-kilns. It was, I believe, designed by Mr. Walter Inskipp, and had — what would appear to be undesirable for a public-house — a central flight of steps for its approach, with a railed-in green plot on each side at the base. It stood, as it now does, on the west side of London road (with its front in Norman road), while on the east side of the same road was a house of corresponding architecture, built by Mr. Lamb. Both these houses had new fronts put to them at a subsequent period, and were otherwise altered, the designs for which were entrusted to Mr. Voysey. As having an immediate bearing upon the license first granted to the Warrior's Gate, the next paragraph may interest my readers.
"Give your verdict," said an eminent Vice-Chancellor, "but assign no reason." This was just what the magistrates did when they refused Mr. Mantel Eldridge a license for the Saxon Hotel. The "Warrior's Gate" had been built and the "Saxon" had been commenced, the notice of application for the latter's license being posted on the doorway. When the time came, Mr. Hyland obtained his license, whilst Mr. Eldridge's application was not complied with. Were I to suggest a reason for this decision of the magistrates, I should first look to the composition of the St. Leonards Commissioners, and endeavour to estimate the weight of influence which such a body could bring to bear on the magistrates at a time when the spirit of rivalry between the Outsiders and Insiders was practically manifest. I should next look at the fact that the Warrior’s Gate license was for an inn only, whilst the one required by Mr. Eldridge was for an hotel, of which character there were two houses already established in close proximity, on the other side of the Archway. It may be that the magistrates thought the "Harold" and the "Conqueror" were sufficiently representative institutions, and it may be also that they scarcely contemplated that the "Saxon," if licensed, would one day have its rival in a "Norman," and that both the "Harold" and the "Conqueror" would soon become defunct. But whatever might have been the magistrates’ reason for non-compliance with the application, they assigned none. Albeit, in their case, the Vice-Chancellor’s advice was acted upon to their detriment; for the King — as those who delighted in pseudonyms were wont to style Mr. Eldridge — was not to be denied his suit by any less regal body; and he therefore summoned the magistrates to Lewes, there to show cause for their refusal. Their pleas were deemed insufficient, and Eldridge, the "Saxon King," came off the Conqueror. In a very short time the Saxon Hotel became a licensed institution, and. during the sixty-three subsequent years of its existence it has been severally tenanted by Mr. Eldridge, Mr. Hutchings, Mr. Bacon, Mrs. Vaughan, and Mr. Vaughan. And as I have mentioned the "Warrior’s Gate," I may as well also enumerate the several persons by whom that well-known house has been successively managed. These have been Messrs, Hyland, Knight, Pilcher, Fuggles, Noakes, Wellsted, Lamb, Cuthbert, Freeman, Mrs. Lamb, and the London Distillery Company.
Having, by innuendo, charged the St. Leonards Commissioners (with whom were several members of the Burton family) with having influenced the magistrates in their refusal of a license for the Saxon, it is only fair that I should offer such explanation as would justify the exercise of such influence, whether as a corporate body, or as individual members. The two hotels which were just within the Eastern Boundary were at that time anything but prosperous, and it was ever Mr. Burton’s aim to protect the commercial interest of the town to the utmost of his power. He could not fail, therefore, to view with disfavour another house of similar pretensions competing for that which was inadequate for the support of those already established. His fears in this respect were not groundless; for, aided by the coaches, which took up and set down passengers at the Saxon, this hotel soon became a too powerful rival of the Harold and Conqueror, and the lessees of the two latter (Messrs, Edlin and Mollard) came to grief. Even in that very year (1893) a writer in Watering Places of Great Britain refers to these hotels Pg.87
in anything but a sanguine strain. In his description of the Harold he says - "Every comfort, luxury and convenience have been fprovided for thiose who honour this delightful town with their company." He next says — "The Conqueror Hotel is indebted for its title to the same historical circumstance as the Harold; and wishing well to both of them, we would that in a short period its spirited proprietor could be able to exclaim with the Roman Conqueror, Veni, vidi, vici. Even if he should not meet with success, he will have done more—deserved it."
Erection of Shepherd Street, Cliff Cottages, Verulam Place & the first National Schools
Having mentioned Shepherd street as one of the earlier creations outside of Mr. Burton's boundary, I will here show how it came by its name. In anticipation of the general exodus of the squatters from the Priory-ground in 1835-6 — of which I shall have more to say hereafter — a Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd betook themselves to 16 Marina, where, as lodging-house keepers, they resided for several years. Mr. Shepherd purchased some plots of ground in the Warrior field, and erected two or three small houses thereon. By-and-by, when other houses were placed alongside, the honour was done to Mr. Shepherd, as the owner of the first property, of calling the place Shepherd street, which name it has retained ever since. Mr. Shepherd died in the year 1840, at the age of 70, and his wife died in 1850, at the greater age of 81. They were interred in the burial ground of St. Leonards Church, and on their memorial stone was inscribed - "They lived many years in perfect unity with each other, and died much beloved by all who knew them."
I have also referred to Verulam place as one of the erections of 1833. The builders or first owners of this handsome block of houses, as nearly as I can recollect or ascertain, were as follows :— No. 1 was built or bought by Mr. John Austin; No. 2 by Mr. John Hudson; No. 3 by Mr. Twisden; Nos. 4 and 5 were built by Messrs. Burchell and Knight, and owned by Mr. David Manser; No. 6, by Mr. Dives, for Mr. Hilder, of Rye, and tenanted by Mr. Nelson Andrews; No. 7, by Mr. Pilcher, and tenanted for many years by Miss Hancock; Nos. 9 and 10, by Mr. Phillips, and also owned by Mr. Manser. It is an apropos incident that another Mr. Manser had been in the habit of getting water from a spring on the site of Mr. David Manser's houses, and after conveying it over the White-rock hill in a budge, selling the same to the folk on the "American" Ground at a penny per pailful. When the cliff was excavated preparatory to the building of these houses, a number of coffins and a quantity of human remains were found by the workmen; thus showing, together with traces of ruins near the cliff just by, that it had been a place of burial in ancient times. As a souvenir of this discovery, the late Mr. George Voysey, a respected architect, had some of the skulls in his possession for several years. This was the second discovery of ancient burial places and remains of religious houses which the workmen had made along the cliff subsequent to the commencement of St. Leonards town. The first was near the Archway, and has already been described. But, almost within stone’s-throw of Verulam place the remains of a third religious edifice was discovered in a similar way, in the following year. This is probably what was anciently known as the Church of St. Michael. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the finding in this case was the realisation of a previously entertained belief.
Years before that so-called discovery, I had been an occasional laundry-boy, and had dried clothes on Cuckoo-hill, and had fixed my line to a staple driven into a piece of old masonry that was understood to be the ruins of St. Michael’s-on-the-rock. There were, of course, no houses on that spot in those days, and only old Hastings people can at the present time imagine what Cuckoo-hill, together with its contiguous White-rock hill, Step-meadow lane, lime-kilns, etc., was like.
While on the subject of ecclesiastical remains, I may mention that at about the year 1878, a large number of human bones were found at Bohemia, close to an old wall on the Magdalen Charity Estate, and known to have been the ruins of an almshouse or hospital from which the parish, it is supposed, changed its name from that of St. Margaret's, "Thus, within five or six years from the commencement of St. Leonards by Mr. Burton, the pick and the shovel had revealed the hidden remains of no fewer than four religious houses and burial-places, all within the range of a mile.
In the same year—that is to say in 1833 - and on the 19th or 20th of March, one of his Majesty's revenue cutters - the Ranger I believe it was - captured at sea 120 tubs of contraband spirits, and passed St. Leonards with signal flying, to the roadstead off Hastings, whenee the same were landed by coastguard galleys at the Customs-house. About a fortnight later, namely, April 5th, the Hastings and St, Leonards smugglers were again unfortunate, they having allowed the Government officers to get hold of a waggon-load of tubs. On the same day The Coutts East Indiaman passed St. Leonards, and brought-up for a short time off Hastings, from which vessel Mr. Dudley North sent ashore for his aunt Milward a Cape sheep and a number of foreign fowls.
Dudley North- with whom, some ten years previously, St. Leonardensis had had many a romp in the garden, coach-house and "Old Martha's" apartments at Croft House - was brother to the late Frederick North, Esq. M.P., and his aunt Milward, who was afterwards Countess of Waldegrave, became a widow the same year - her husband, Edward Milward, Esq., having died in 1833.
It was also in the same year, and on the 21st of June, that a ship bound for Van Dieman’s Land, anchored off Hastings, and received on board a quantity of merchandize and other freight. This ship was commanded by Capt. Daniels, a favorite son of Mr. Thos. Daniels, of the Anchor Inn, Hastings, and who, at a subsequent date, was unfortunately drowned. I think it must have been on that occasion that a son of Mr. Foster, of the Priory Farm, set sail for the other side of the globe. I remember, seeing a large array of ploughs, harrows and other farming implements upon the beach, the said Mr. Foster after an unsuccessful career abroad, returning home, singing, as he rode into Hastings on one of the coaches, "There’s no place like home."
But as these associative reminiscences will be dealt with in chapter X, their more appropriate place, I will not stop here to give the details of the death of two children by burning at the Priory, nor the child similarly burnt on the Barrack Ground; nor will I describe tho(sic) rescuing a family from fire in High street, nor a second fire in High street soon after; nor the death of a Mrs. Hunter by falling into the fire in a fit the same evening; nor the application to the Board of Ordnance to extend the Marine parade by taking in the disused battery, of which Mr. Alderman Ross's father had been the Master-gunner; nor the déath of a poor-boy by falling from the East-cliff whilst taking birds’ nests; nor the burglary and robbery by Mike Wood at Mr. Hogsfiesh’s in West street; nor the burglary and robbery of money and valuables at Mr. Catley's; nor the finding and squandering of money by a man which had been buried by his transported brother; nor the commencement of the Hastings Waterworks; nor the suicides of George Gilmore by hanging at the Ship Inn, and of Coastguard Terry, of 38 Tower, by hanging in the Fishpond wood; nor of the death of a visitor by falling over the East cliff; nor the fracturing of an arm by a young gentleman falling a less distance over the cliff, and the breaking of a labourer’s leg on the same day. Nor will I stay to discuss the question of a harbour at the Priory which a Mayor's meeting took into consideration on the 2nd of April; nor the judiciousness or otherwise of selling the Theatre in Bourne street for a third of its cost, and converting it into a Wesleyan Chapel. I will not scant on the naming of the Prince George cutter at Ransom and Ridley's yard by Prince George of Cumberland; nor on the laying the foundation stone of the new Market by His Royal Highness; nor upon the generous donations of his father to charitable institutions and poor people.
I will now note that in 1833 a Fancy Bazaar was held in the St Leonards Assembly Rooms, by which means sufficient funds were realized to build the first National Schools of St. Leonards-on-sea. To these were attached the Sunday Schools which until then had been carried on in the Assembly Rooms, and which were first initiated at 36 Marina. The erection of the new schools did not, however, take place until the following year.
The National Schools were the first schools of a public character that were established in St. Leonards, and the first building that was specially erected for such schools was at St. Clement's place, at the top of East Ascent. It was completed in the year 1834, at a cost of about £270, and paid for with money that was realized by the fancy bazaar which was held at the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms in the preceding September. It was a long and rather low building, with less convenience and a meaner style of architecture than would suffice for the requirements of the present day; and certainly it would hold a very subordinate place if brought into comparison with the new Board schools at Silverhill, whose formal opening was taking place when this was first written in 1879, or with the larger and more ornate Board school at Tower road since opened. The old buildings for the St. Leonards National Schools now under review was entered by means of a small porch or lobby at the side overlooking the Undercliff houses, and from which a door at the right hand led into the Boys’ school and another at the left, admitted to the Girls’. The number of scholars at the time of opening was seventy, and for several years the building appeared to answer, although somewhat indifferently, the purpose for which it was designed. From what has already been stated, it will be understood that there had been previously a makeshift rendezvous for both secular and religious instruction, first at 36 Marina, and secondly in the crypt of the Assembly Rooms. It is shown in the Blue-book that the schools received a Government grant of £70 in 1836, but whether this was to pay off a balance due on the erection and fittings, or for some other purpose, I do not know. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Tebay were, I believe, the first master and mistress, and these were succeeded by Mr. Barnes and Miss Bulley.
Then in the Boys’ school there came another change, and about the year 1842, what with the difficulty of getting a competent master at the salary offered, and a change which had taken place in the ministerial arrangements of the church, the Boys’ school became disorganized, and for a week or two was actually closed. St. Leonardensis, who being at that time the pedagogue of a private establishment and a rather successful rival of the "National," was appealed to for help by a deputation consisting of Mr. Peerless and the temporarily officiating clergyman.
Disagreement of a parson and pedagogue - Deaths of old inhabitants
To successfully manage both a private and a public school at the same time appeared to be an impossibility, and to give up one for the other was at least undesirable; but, the importunities being repeated, an assistant was procured, and the attempt was made. The fugitive scholars were got together, the classes were arranged, and the whole thing was in a fair way of being re-organized, when an incident occurred which caused another collapse. The clergyman who was doing duty at the church pro tem., and who was also interesting himself on behalf of the school, entered the schoolroom as the first class was being exercised in Geography, and expressed his surprise that books on such a subject should be used in a school of that character. He then began to examine the boys in the Church Catechism, and finding them less ready in their answers than he thought they ought to be, requested an immediate discontinuance of the geographical lessons, and at the same time remarked that all that was required for boys in a parochial school to know was "how to read the scriptures, how to write a letter to their parents if they happened to be away from home, and how to cast up a few figures in arithmetic." In addition to that, however, he said, the most essential things to be learnt were the Church Catechism and the Collects, together with civility, obeisance and general good behaviour. He had noticed, he said, that not one of the boys made a bow to him when he entered the room. In the discussion which naturally followed between the master and the minister something on the one side was urged about the folly of educating poor boys above their station, and something on the other about the speaker himself having had, as a poor boy, to fight his way through all sorts of obstacles and difficulties to the position of a public instructor, he had naturally a sympathy for the poor boys who were coming after him, and thought that there should be no such restriction placed upon their educational training as was then pro- Pg.88 posed. Besides, observed the master, the books and other school-helps were not of his own choosing. He had simply followed the previous curriculum, and had used the materials which he found already to his hand. Objections were, however, still urged; and, as the views of the two disputants were not at all likely to be reconciled, my readers may not be surprised to learn that the one who had put himself to inconvenience to serve the other, or to serve the interest of the town through him, at once withdrew from the engagement. An apology was then tendered by the clergyman, and a sort of carte blanche was offered for the future. But the young man — for he was only a bachelor of some twenty-six summers — felt his pride wounded and his aspirations thwarted, and, not seeing his way clearly to "peace with honour," he again betook himself at the end of the week to the immediate superintendence of his own school, at the same time discharging the assistant whom he had only engaged conditionally.
This episode was, doubtless, in the mind of him who, in a "Poetic Address," a few years later, urged his plea for education in the following strain—
"Oh! teach the poor to read and write, and even teach them science;
Keep not their minds in thraldom bound, with lawlessness alliance,
Let every British soul be taught, and be him well taught too—
His mental pow'rs to think aright, his hands what best to do."
I had not intended to have introduced this somewhat personal matter just at this place; but not having any materials previously arranged, and having amidst other and multifarious duties, to write against time, I am sometimes compelled to relate the incidents as I think of them, even if they fall a little out of their chronological order. But having thus related the incident, it is only right to say that the narrow views of the gentleman who had temporarily assumed the charge of the two parishes were not those by which the school was generally guided. They might have been—and, doubtless, were—the principles of restrictions upon which many denominational schools, not subject to Government inspection, were conducted; but that they did not find favour with the original founders and subsequent promoters of the St. Leonards schools is sufficiently shown by what was done both before their accidental disorganization and for a long period since, during which, under the superintendence of Mr. and Mrs. Gibson and Miss Hall, they exhibited an unmistakable degree of efficiency; so much so, indeed, that I have more than once seen the very highest certificate awarded to the schools after inspection of the Government official. But of this I may have to treat at a later date in connection with the newer schools now existing.
The school building to which I have referred as having been erected in 1834 must not be mistaken for the present more commodious building, erected in 1847; and, that my younger readers may better recognize the site of the original school, I will give a few more descriptive particulars. Standing as it did near "Goat's Point," on the summit of rising ground, and approached from the west by the East Ascent; from the east by Norman road, from the north by Mercatoria, and from the south by the Harold steps; and being also unsurrounded by property which has since sprung up, the school in question was both conspicuous and airy, however much it might have been wanting in exterior elegance and interior accommodation. St. Clement’s place was not then in existence and - the edge of the cliff had not been utilized for the upper storeys of the British Hotel and two adjoining houses. Even the south side of Norman road was not built at that time, the site being then occupied by a few not very sightly gardens, with here-and-there a pig-pound or a tool house to relieve the monotony. At the north-west of Lavatoria (now incorporated with Norman road) was a timber yard and saw-pit, where now stands the Police-station and on the south-west corner, where now is Mr. Kennard’s workshop and warehouse, was an open piece of ground where the children used to play when out of school. With the exception of the few houses on the south side of Lavatoria, the "Horse and Groom" and the three or four shops below it in Mercatoria constituted the property in closest proximity to the National schools of St. Leonards-on-sea. And now, like many other associations of the past and the present which have curiously forced themselves upon me whilst writing this History, three deaths among the older inhabitants of St. Leonards occurred whose earlier habitations or means of livelihood were at this same Mercatoria. The first was that of Mary, the wife of Mr. William Beck, of East Ascent, at the ripe age of 73 years. At the time when the National Schools were in progress, Mr. Beck was residing at Mercatoria, as a baker, he having with his wife and two children, taken up his abode there four years previously — that is to say in 1830.
The family shortly after removed to 6 East Ascent, where, through all the subsequent time, Mr. Beck continued his industry until within a few years past, when it was handed over to one of his sons. When Her Majesty as Princess Victoria, was at St. Leonards, with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, Mr. Beck had the honour of serving the royal visitors, and had also the permission through Sir John Conroy, of making use of the royal patronage as is frequently done in such cases. But unless my perception is at fault, Mr. Beck never made the most of the favour thus granted, preferring for the most part, to trade in a quiet way until long years of toil permitted him to retire from business. This was the Mr. Beck who in 1833, declined the honour of serving on the board of Commissioners because he thought he had not then a sufficient property qualification. He died in 1896 at the age of 91. His grandmother also died in St. Leonards at the great age of nearly 98. As the son and daughter-in-law of the "Father of Wesleyanism in Hastings," Mr. and Mrs. Beck naturally took an active part in the Norman-road Chapel after its erection in 1836; he as vocalist and instrumentalist in the choir, and she in connection with other services, until the former, from failing sight, and the latter from failing health had to content themselves with duties less prominent. Mrs. Beck, after an unobtrusive and pious life of 48 years in St. Leonards, went to her rest, deep in the affections of her family and acquaintances.
The second death I have to notice was that of Mrs. Strickland, another of the early inhabitants, and one who, like Mrs. Beck, had attained to the age of nearly 73. She was a woman of humble sphere and industrious habits, and at the time of her death was acting in the capacity of cook to a lady at Tunbridge Wells, with whom she had gone from St. Leonards. Her husband, William Strickland — who, in 1838, was in business as a butcher in the London road, and in the same year assisted in establishing the Adelaide Lodge of Oddfellows — was an assistant to Mr. Edward Waghorne, who like Mr. Beck, had a shop in the Mercatoria at about the time when the first National School was built. And this, again, brings to mind another association, namely, the death of that same Mr. Waghorne, at the age of 75. On giving up the shop at Mercatoria, Mr. Waghorne removed, firstly, to the Undercliff (where the Star Inn now is) and secondly, to 10 and 11 South Colonnade, where he continued in business until he was succeeded by Messrs. N. and A. Parks. For some few years I lost sight of the veteran butcher, and was pained to hear that he ended his earthly pilgrimage in the workhouse of the Hastings Union.
As I referred to Mr. Manser as one of the water-carriers to the inhabitants of the “American Ground,” I may as well say that another man similarly occupied was Mr. Edmund Strickland, father of William Strickland referred to above, and brother to Mr. George Strickland, many years a corn merchant in George street, in whose house St. Leonardensis first saw the light of day. I could largely ramify and extend these associative reminiscences, but I must forbear. Of the boarding and other private schools in 1833 and '4 I will only say there were Mrs. Edgar's at 58 Marina; Miss Ranger’s, Double West-Villa; Mrs. Wood's, East Ascent; and the Rev. Joseph Wood's, West Hill.
Having described at some length the history and associations of the first St. Leonards National Schools, I will leave the consideration of the newer schools until I come to a date coeval with the period of their establishment; and, in the meantime, I will dilate upon & subject with which the schools are closely connected, namely the St. Leonards Church. Of the ox-roasting and other celebrations to commemorate the laying of the Foundation-stone by the Princess Sophia of Gloucester I have already dwelt upon, and it is for me now to say that the building was formally opened in the same year as were the first National Schools.
Divine service had been performed in the church for some time by permission of the Bishop, but the consecration did not take place until Thursday, the 22nd of May, 1834, when the rites were performed and the sermon was preached by the late Dr. Maltby, Bishop of Durham. Although familiarly known as the St. Leonards Church, or as the “Old Church,” to distinguish it from the several other churches subsequently erected in St. Leonards. its original title was that of “St. Leonards Chapel,” and its wardens were called Chapelwardens. In an earlier part of my “Jubilee History" I stated that in 1830 Messrs. Burton and “Fraser publicly announced their intention to apply to Parliament for powers to erect a chapel in the new town of St. Leonards. As is usual in such cases, there was a formal enquiry into the matter by a Parliamentary Committee, and among the persons who were examined by that committee on behalf of Messrs. Burton and Fraser were the late Mr. Alderman Deudney and Mr. Edward Farncombe. These gentlemen were two of the oldest inhabitants of St. Mary Magdalen and St, Leonards, respectively, for which parishes unitedly the Chapel was intended.
The Church act for St Leonards and St Mary Magdalen
Previously to the building of the Chapel, fees wore paid by the parishioners for "crying notices" in the then-new chapel of St. Mary-in-the-Castle, at Hastings, as being the nearest ecclesiastical building to the town of St. Leonards. It was said at the time — but for the truth of it I cannot vouch — that the late Bishop of Litchfield, having a predilection for St. Mary-in-the-Castle, put some rather close questions to the applicants and witnesses when under examination, The enquiry, however, resulted satisfactorily, and an Act was passed on the 30th of March, 1831, of which the following, largely stripped of its hyper-verbality is otherwise a copy:-
ANNO PRIMO GULIELMI IV.REGIS.
"Whereas the Parish of Saint Leonard is situate partly within the Liberty of Hastings, and partly within the county of Sussex generally; and whereas the parish of St. Mary Magdalen is also situate partly in the Liberty of Hastings and partly in the county generally; and whereas in no part of either parish is there any parish church or place of burial; and whereas in consequence of the great increase of population it would be a great convenience if a chapel were erected for divine service according to the rites of the Church of England; and whereas James Burton, Esq., claims to be seised in fee simple of a piece of ground in St. Leonards, and is willing to erect a chapel at his own expense, and to appropriate a part for a place of burial for the inhabitants of the two parishes; but as these objects cannot be effected without the aid of Parliament, may it please your Majesty that it be enacted, and that immediately after the passing of this Act, it shall be lawful for the said James Burton to erect a chapel, with all convenient appurtenances, to be for ever after appropriated for the two parishes, and for no other purpose whatsoever, And also to convert any other part of such lands into a cemetery; and to make vaults and catacombs under the floor ofthe chapel for the interment of the dead.
II. And be it further enacted that when the chapel is fitted up with all things necessary for divine service, provision shall be made for the minister for the time being in manner hereafter directed, and when the said cemetery shall be completed, it shall be lawful for the Lord Bishop to consecrate the said chapel by the name of St. Leonards Chapel, and that the perpetual minister hereof shall for ever thereafter be subject to the ordinary jurisdiction and presentation of the Bishop of Chichester for the time being.
Pg.89 III. And be it enacted that the said James Burton, and his heirs and assigns be empowered to nominate for the approval of the Bishop, a fit person, in Priest's orders, who shall have taken a University degree, to be licensed to the perpetual curacy; but on-failure of such nomination, for the space of six months, it shall lapse to the Bishop, and to the Metropolitan, and to the Crown, successively, according to Law in such cases of presentative benefices. And the right of Advowson, Patronage and Nomination to the said Chapel may be sued for, and the Incumbency thereof shall be determined as if the Curacy were a Presentative Benefice, but under the value of £6 18s. 4d. in the king’s books.
IV. And be it further enacted that the Minister shall on every Sunday morning and evening, and on every morning of Christmas Day, Good Friday and occasional Fasts and Festivals, read or cause to be read the prayers prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer or Liturgy of the Church of England; and also to preach or cause to be preached sermon; and at least eight times in the year administer or cause to be administered the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; and shall administer Private Baptism according to the Rubric of the Church of England, when duly required.
V. And be it further enacted that it shall be lawful for the Minister to publish bans of matrimony and perform the rites of marriage, burial and baptism, as if the same were by the parish church of St. Leonards and St, Mary Magdalen, and to demand such fees as are payable within the parish of St. Mary-in-the-Castle, without prejudice, nevertheless, in the case of burials within the said chapel to the right of the said James Burton to sell catacombs, graves or vaults in the Burial ground.
VI. And be it enacted that all the marriages, christenings, and burials solemnized within the Chapel shall be registered in the Public Register Books to be provided by the Minister according to the laws in force for keeping registers in England.
VII. And be it further enacted that the said James Burton, his heirs and assigns, shall, together with the Bishop, or his Chancellor, set apart a pew contiguous to the pulpit, sufficient to hold six persons at least, for the use of the Minister; and shall also select fairly from all the pews a number containing 160 seats in the whole, such pews being marked C on the outside, and to remain for ever perpetually vested and transmissible to the minister for the time being, and a list and situation thereof be placed in the registry of the diocese; and the minister is authorized to let the same for any time not exceeding one year; so as the rent thereof be by half-yearly payments on the 24th of June and December. There shall also be set apart a number of pews, seats or benches sufficient for gratuitous accommodation of at least 200 persons, to be distinguished from the other pews by the words Free Seats to be marked thereon.
VIII. And be it further enacted that out of the rents and profits of the said pews, the minister shall provide bread and wine for the Holy Communion, and pay the salary and wages of the clerk and sexton, and shall retain the residue for his own use and maintenance.
IX. And be it further enacted that the freehold of the said Chapel, the site and burial-ground thereof, with the vaults and catacombs, shall be vested in the minister by virtue of this Act, and the free seats before mentioned, and the rents, profits and proceeds thereof, continue to be vested in and at the disposal of the said James Burton, his heirs and assigns.
X. And be it further enacted that it shall be lawful for James Burton and his heir from time to time to sell any of the pews, or seats, and the catacombs, vaults or places of burial to any person (except such pews as shall be vested in the minister), and that after payment of the purchase money, such seats, vaults, &., be vested in the person or persons so purchasing, and may be conveyed, leased, or otherwise alienated and disposed of by the proprietors thereof for the time being.
XI. And be it further enacted that all such pews, seats, catacombs, vaults, or places of burial so to be sold by James Burton, shall be conveyed as neatly as circumstances will permit in manner following.
Here follows the prescribed. form
XII. Be it further enacted that it shall be lawful for James Burton, and his heirs and assigns to appoint one proper person, and the minister to appoint another proper person to be wardens; also for the minister to appoint proper persons as clerk, sexton, organist, and other officers, the same to be removed from time to time by such as appointed them, subject to ecclesiastical consure(sic) and jurisdiction. And the said James Burton, the minister and other owner for the time being shall be subject to ecclesiastical censures for not keeping the Chapel and Burial-ground in repair.
XIII. And be it enacted that every person appointed and accepting the office of chapelwarden shall keep a true account of all moneys received and paid during their term of office, and their books to be open at any time for the inspection of the said James Burton, his heirs and assigns, or by any owner of a pew or seat in the same.
XIV. And be it further enacted that each of the chapelwardens shall, when required, render a true account in writing, upon oath of all receipts, payment and other matters committed to their charge, and shall, within 14 days pay to such as are entitled to receive the same the balance of accounts; and if any such chapelwarden neglect to render such account, it shall be lawful for any two Justices of the Peace to commit such chapelwardens to the common gaol of the county, there to remain without bail or mainprise until he render such account and pay such balance."
The Act of Parliament thus summarised contains ten other clauses, but which are here omitted as being less essential to an explanation of its general provisions.
Even in its abbreviated form the foregoing Act of Parliament is a lengthy document, but as it is one with which the public are not familiar, and as some of its provisions have been modified or set aside by a later Act, which was rendered necessary by the erection of other churches in St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen, it is well for the public to know what the original conditions were. When I first gave publicity to this legislative provision I promised to describe the changes effected by the above-mentioned Act, which was passed in the year 1868. It divided the two parishes of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen into ecclesiastical districts or church parishes, in consequence of the erection of several newer churches within the said two parishes for which the older church was built and for which Mr. Burton’s Act of 1834 was obtained. By the Act of 1868 not only were certain districts appointed for St. Mary Magdalen, and the more recently built churches, but clauses were also inserted for legalizing marriages — past, present, and to come — in all the parishes, but especially in that of St. Mary Magdalen, where, previously to the passing of such Act, it was contended — and perhaps, rightly so — that the theretofore marriages were not strictly legal. Even at the old church (originally St. Leonards Chapel) it was doubtful if the first marriage would prove to be legitimate if its legality was at any time disputed.
As before stated, the church was not consecrated until the end of May, 1834, but between that date and the period of its erection, divine service was specially sanctioned by the Bishop. The first marriage, however, was on Dec. 24th, 1833. The bride on that occasion was Jessy, the youngest daughter of James Burton, the founder of ths town, and the bridegroom was John Peter Fearon, Esq., of the Inner Temple, London. That there might be no question of the validity of this matrimonial union, the marriage ceremony was repeated at Hollington Church. They were married by special license of the Bishop of Canterbury, the officiating minister being the Rev. H. Fearon. I did not see the wedding, but I have no doubt it was associated with a full flow of family festivities and a display of good feeling of the inhabitants.
The marriage rites were performed in the presence of James Burton (the brides father), Henry Burton, Alfred Burton, Septimus Burton, Decimus Burton (brothers), Eliza Burton (sister), Emily Jane Wood and Helen Wood (maids), Sarah Fearon, G. B. Greenough, Robt Trotter, P. Erle, W. Erle and J. L. Brown.
By the act of 1868, Mr. Burton's proprietory Chapel became legalised as the St. Leonards Parish Church, and its incumbent as rector. So of the other ecclesiastical parishes of St. Mary Magdalen, Christ Church, St. Matthew's, St. Paul's, and St. John's (Upper Maze hill), the ministers are called rectors. Old inhabitants, of course, need no reminding that the old parishes of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen have not changed their boundaries as regards the civil functions of overseers, guardians of the poor &c., and that the inhabitants are still free to use what church they choose, the arrangements of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners notwithstanding. I mention this because, some years ago, I was told by a District Visitor that as my habitation was now included in a parish which she named, it was my duty to worship at the church of that parish and no other. I did not coincide with that lady's opinion, and although I essayed not to be unpolite, I ventured to reply that my naturally free spirit would not allow me to worship at any other place than that of my own choice, let ecclesiastical arrangements be whatsoever they might.
In a portion of this History it is shewn that the anciently original St. Leonards Church, as well as the St. Leonards town, was on a site westward and southward of the present town — a site which is now under the Channel water. The information is given in Bishop Praty's Register that in the year 1344 "several parishes at Hasting including St. Leonards and St. Margaret's, were destroyed by the sea and depopulated," or, in other words, in the Bishop's Register of 1440, it is stated that within a hundred years, St. Leonards, &c., had been depopulated and diminished by the inundation of the sea. There was also a St. Leonards Chapel, the site of which appears to have been from or near the spot where I am now Writing to or near the site of the present Wesleyan Chapel, in Norman road. It was a so-called Free Chapel, and as most of such chapels were built upon manors and ancient demesnes, the one in question was probably built on ground in the manor of Gensing, of which the present Norman road was a part. The said chapel was leased to J. and R. Keyme in 1546. In 1458, at the court of John Godfrey, Lord of the Manor of Gensing, T. Chalke, the parson of the Church or Chapel of St. Leonards, near Hasting, was distrained for manorial dues, and as late as 1667, the parish or Chapelry of St. Leonards was named for contribution to the relief of the poor of St. Clement. This apears to have been a solitary exaction as regards the parish of St. Leonards, but as affecting the other extra parochial parishes, a rate was levied once or twice a year, the claim for which was thus worded :—
“1692—On complaint of the overseers and churchwardens that St. Clement is overburdened with poor and not able to support themselves, it is ordered that the out parishes of Holy Trinity, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Andrew's and St. Michael's be rated for their relief by virtue of the statute of 43rd of Queen Elizabeth at vjds pound on abilities and equal pound rates on land.”
The levying of these rates on the out parishes appears to have continued till about 1707.