Brett Volume 1: Chapter XI - St Leonards 1834
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Chapter XI - St. Leonard 1834
Mackerel caught at the water's edge by hand
An additional seawall
A winter without frost
Destruction of the new wall
Removal of pig pounds from East Ascent
Further infringements of the Local Act
Abnormal temperatures and their effects
Pecuniary difficulties of the Commissioners
Reminiscences of "Tubal Cain"
Destructive gales and tides
White Rock Brewery and Rock's factory undermined
Rope-walk houses swept away
Destruction of Batty's Circus_
Arrival of the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria (full particulars)
Sad accidents and incidents during the royal visit
Great storm and maritime disasters
Royal patronage of the St.Leonards Archers
Drowning of Lieutenant. Gilly and five preventive men
Rare doings at the Horse and Groom
Fashionable gaiety at St.Leonards
Pre railway customs
The pleasure of being cheated
Situation of the old workhouses
Specimens of parish-book orthography
Poor-rates at 10/6 and 23/- in the £
Wheat at £40 per load
Loans not obtainable
Rates in arrears
Length of roads
Discovery of hidden money
The rich beggar Bennett
Establishment of All Souls Church
Chapel Barn Farm
Successive owners and occupiers of Bohemia; Princess Sophia thereat
The Whyborn brothers and centenarian sister.
Addition to the Charity estate by an exchange of lands
Searching of records
Gensing House and its predecessor
Reminiscences of St. Mary Magdalen parish
Old parish accounts.
"Old Sarah" and her son
The Royal George steam-ship passing Hastings in 1821
The White Rock battery
"Shepherds Hole" and smuggled brandy
The two Rope-walks
An aged cicerone
Dame Dabney, Dame Fowler, Old Jan Whyborn, Tom Standen, Ned Burchatt and draper Cossum
The eccentric doctors, Satterly and Dutton
The new Commissioners
Mr. Chester's movements
No offers for an eight-hundred pounds load
Clothing the beadle
The tailors' strike
Espousal of Chartism
Tailors superceded by tailoresses.
Commissioners' doings - A mild winter - Pig-pounds in East Ascent
period.[a] The first in order of date would be the Commissioners’ meeting of January sixth. The members present at that meeting were Messrs. Jeffries, Wood, T. Brown, H. W. Brown, J. Burton, R. Deudney, Musgrave Brisco, C. H. Southall, H. Farncomb, and W. Waghorne. The two offices of Town Surveyor and Rate Collector had been held by Mr. Tom Leave, who found the latter post a very troublesome one, and having tendered his resignation of the same, such resignation was accepted on condition of his collecting the arrears of £31 18s. 1d. within a week. He was then to be paid £7 10s. for extra services, not for collecting rates, but for his work as surveyor. Mr. John Peerless — who, in subsequent years, was honourably connected with the schools, the church, and other institutions of the town — was then appointed a rate-collector in the place of Mr. Leave, and for which post he gave sureties to the amount of £400.
This amount of sureties was considered at that time to be very large, taking into consideration the smallness of the collections. But the low condition of the Commissioners’ funds, and. the constant drain upon them, together with the extreme difficulty of borrowing money, made them, perhaps, all the more precise in exacting ample securities from persons holding offices of trust under them. The Act of Parliament required the formation of a Sinking-fund, and the clerk on this occasion, as on many others, reminded the Commissioners of such requirement. No action was, however, taken in the matter, for the simple reason that there was no money with which to establish such a fund.
It was sometimes a hard matter to find money, apart from other disbursements, to pay the Gas Company for lighting the public lamps, which at that time cost about £150 a year. The Commissioners had no "Bobby-blues" in their service to draw money from the exchequer, but they had the wages of their solitary beadle to pay and as it was cold weather just at that time, they ventured to tax the public purse for the purchase of a great coat and a truncheon for the use of their sole representative of Bumbledom. Mr, Burton lodged a protest against the rating of the Subscription-gardens and the Assembly-rooms, and the Commissioners, taking a favourable view of the protest reduced the rating of the former from £60 to £20, and that of the latter to one-half, The quarterly meetings of the board were again changed to the last Mondays in March, June, September and December.
The next occurrence that suggests itself as worthy of a passing notice is that of a large shoal of mackerel which on the 12th of February attracted the attention of the inhabitants. This was looked upon as quite phenomenal, both on account of the time of year and the floating of the mackerel close to the shore. Many of them were caught by hand, and one of the fish was got hold of close to the water's edge by a lady and gentleman, which on being put into the scale was found to weigh 3lbs. I remember a similar scene.at Hastings about 10 years previously, but that was in the summer time, and the weather was very warm. In the later instance too, although in the winter time, the weather was abnormally mild for the time of year, there having been a remarkable absence of frost all the season. This circumstance might, therefore, have had some. effect in bringing our piscatorial visitors before their usual time. And the general mildness of the winter does not appear to have been succeeded, as is sometimes the case, by any noticeable re-action of temperature in the spring. Indeed, the latter - or at least a portion of it - seems to have been as unseasonably warm as the former, for I find I have a note that on the 12th of May the thermometer at St. Leonards registered the extraordinary temperature of 85 degrees.
Whether this unusual heat exerted any influence on the temper of the inhabitants it would be difficult to determine, but I have it on record that some of them waxed rather warm at about that time when called upon for the rates; they alleged that they were unduly and unfairly assessed. One of the complainants was a Mr. Gill, of 32 Marina, who was also a lodging-house keeper at Pelham Crescent and Beach Cottages, who being also a Commissioner, remonstrated with his brother officials against what he thought was an exorbitant tax. Similar representations were made by other property holders, the effect of which was not so much to reduce their assessment as to increase the rating of those who were supposed to have been too highly favoured. Thus it was that Mr. Norsworthy’s assessment for 1 and 2 West Ascent was raised from £40 to £70 each, and Capt. Davies’s to £67. The meeting at which this particular stir was made was attended by Messrs. North and Warre, who at that time were the two Parliamentary Representatives as well as two of the St. Leonards Commissioners.
On the 11th of March the Commissioners held a special meeting to receive tenders for the construction of an additional sea-wall, to extend 300 yards westward of the then existing wall. The only tender received was that of Messrs. Homan and Scott's which was £735. This was accepted with the understanding that Mr. Burton would undertake to pay interest on that sum until the rates should amount to £800.
Among other business transacted was the giving permission to Mr. Burton to lower and otherwise reduce the footpaths under the Archway of the North Lodge. Also, in consequence of the sea breaking over the new wall whilst in progress of construction by Messrs. Homan and Scott, the contractors were to be instructed to build the said wall three feet higher, with twenty counterposts to be added for the better security of the west-end, and two step-ways to be made. The estimate for this additional work was £124 1s, 2d. This 300 feet of wall extended from nearly opposite the church to the Sussex Hotel, and was about five or six feet nearer the sea than the more substantial wall which has since taken the place of both it and its immediate successor. The wall was completed about two months before the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria came to reside at St. Leonards, but - as was predicted by those who had many times seen the roads submerged at high spring tides - the sea very soon made inroads upon it, and the wall became a source of constant trouble to the Commissioners until its final destruction, some two years later.
Up to this time it had been the practice of the inhabitants to dry their clothes on the beach, but the beadle was instructed not to allow it to be continued. He was also desired to give notice to Messrs. Minster, Burgess, Beck, Hawkins and Stevens, that unless they removed their pigs and other nuisances from their premises before two o’clock on the morrow, they would be immediately summoned. What! exclaims the reader, Was there ever such a thing as a piggery in East Ascent? — Is it possible that a principal thoroughfare in a fashionable town could have ever been a region of swine-herds? Yes, it was even so; but not, perhaps, in a manner quite in conformity with the picture in the reader’s fancy. The porcine odours might have been present to the sense of smell, but the subjects of them were not prominently-visible to the sense of sight.
The "other nuisances" complained of were to be seen any day on the road and the footpaths, but the pigs and pig pounds were only to be found in the rear of the houses. As it was a practice in the old town to keep herds of swine on the sea-fronts of houses in the Rope-walk and along under the cliff at East-well, as also in the rear of houses contiguous to the Bourne, so when some of the inhabitants of the old town migrated to the new, it was thought to be the proper thing for piggy to have a sty within a moderate range of its proprietor’s own dwelling.
It could not, however, be tolerated by the authorities that swineherds and human habitations should be in such close proximity in a town of so fashionable and refined a character, and hence the fiat went forth as above described. The mandate was obeyed by removing the pigs and their appurtenances to a site behind the St. Leonards Mews, which at that time was sufficiently away from the houses, but is now occupied by Stanhope place. Albeit, in a district which was neither in the jurisdiction of the St. Leonards Commissioners nor the Hastings Commissioners — I mean on the east side of the Archway, a dame (whose name if applied to one of the precious metals would be to that which is of greater value than silver) was once known to keep a member of the porcine family in a bed-room. She did this, probably, on the sentimental plea of "Love me, love my hog."[b]
But, turning again to the St. Leonards beadle, it was his unpleasant duty to once more caution Mr. Mitchell not to infringe the Act of Parliament by obstructing with his furniture the footway at the Colonnade. I have before alluded to the almost impossibility of a would-be purchaser getting into Mr. Mitchell’s shop on account of its extremely limited capacity; but, apart from this, I believe there was a reluctant spirit in this furniture dealer to conform to the orders of a legally constituted authority which had not been long in existence, and was continually changing its members.
Walls broken down by the sea - "Tidal Cain" and the East Ascent &c.
It is not infrequently found that the unusually mild winters are in other ways the most turbulent; and this was in a great measure the case with that of 1834. Strong winds were of frequent occurrence during January, February, and March, and it was during the last named month, more particularly, that Messrs. Homan and Scott were put to much trouble and expense in repairing the damage to the sea-wall which they were then building, and which, as I have shown, was subsequently made higher and stronger agreeably to the wish of the Commissioners. During the summer months the sea was less menacing, and the work was completed by September, notwithstanding that a severe gale on the 31st of August put it to a rather severe test. But it was on the 18th of October — two days after the destruction of the Houses of Parliament by fire — that the sea’s turbulence did the greatest damage. A violent gale blew from the Pg.97 south-west, and the waves at high tide broke over the wall and into the road with terrific grandeur. The wall was greatly damaged, and as it had but recently been taken over by the Commissioners from the contractors, the former had become responsible for the repairs. At the next meeting, therefore, a resolution was passed to obtain estimates for facing the wall with hard stone and for further protecting it from future aggressions of the sea with faggots or other materials.
The extent to which the "Jubilee History of St. Leonards" has already reached and the still greater distance to which I have now purposed to carry it has grown out of the demand that portion of the public designated as my readers. I have before explained that the original intention was to occupy only a few columns of space in describing, as I scampered over the ground, a few of the more prominent features of the town’s half-century history. But as the interest appeared to deepen, and suggestions came thickly upon me to extend and amplify what I had already commenced I yielded to the solicitation. I then found it necessary to collect and collate numerous loose memoranda and records, some of which were the originals of a much more perfect set that, through some strange accident, found its way, several years ago, to Lloyd’s paper mills. It will readily be conceived, therefore, that as my story had to be formed from unarranged materials and from associative reminiscences drawn from memory alone, an occasional slight error in matters of secondary importance might accidentally creep in. Hitherto, however, only two or three trivialities of that nature have occurred, and these I have lost no time in correcting as soon as I discovered them.
The parade wall from the Church, westward, having been handed over as finished by the contractors in the month of September, and again damaged by the sea during the October gales, the responsibility of repairing the same fell upon the Commissioners, whose misfortune as a corporate body it was to be almost continually without means to meet the increasing requirements. It may be imagined that Messrs, Homan and Scott had done much to tide them over some of their difficulties by undertaking work which other firms did not care to compete for; and it is not improbable that the losses of the latter were sometimes greater than their gains. I had an opportunity of hearing the opinion expressed of more than one of Homan and Scott’s workmen upon the too often unremunerative price of their tenders; and, as regards their sea-wall contract, it was generally considered that they had not allowed enough margin for contingencies.
Certainly when one recollects that their work was greatly impeded by even the ordinary spring tides, and still more so by the extra-ordinary ones; and when one reflects, more-over, that their price for building 300 feet of stone wall was only a little more than what, nowadays, is paid for a timber groyne, one can hardly charge the workmen referred to with being guilty of a malignant criticism.
Then, again, when one finds that they were sometimes inconvenienced by being unable to obtain instalments of cash from the Commissioners to which they felt themselves entitled, one ceases towonder that pecuniary difficulties beset them only a short time after the wall was completed, and that the balance of their contract had to be paid to a gentleman named Hopkinson, who was the ground-landlord of their houses in East Ascent. It was chiefly with the erection of these houses, or more particularly with the existence of the stone-yard and counting-house behind them, that the writer’s own interest in St. Leonards first became identified. The period of this identification was coeval with the commencement of the town; for
His step-sire was a Tubal-Cain,
And a Tubal-Cain was he,
Who worked with all his might and main,
A youthful smith to be.
From twelve to fourteen years of age
Young Tubal did his best,
And of the red sparks fiery rage
Bears marks upon his breast.
While other striplings were at school,
He, with acknowledged skill,
Re-sharpened many a mason’s tool,
and wrote the weekly bill.
And with this weekly bill he went
To Scott and Homan’s place,
Whose site, behind the East Ascent,
He even now can trace.
The entrance to the stone-yard and clerk’s office in question was by a doorway in a passage leading up between Nos. 5 and 6 East Ascent to the Anchor Inn (St. Leonards) and to the coachmen's dwellings in the St. Leonards Mews. The avenue was called Mews Passage, the entrance to the works being on the right-hand side, where a similar door still marks the spot, where still exists the somewhat rugged wall which was then hastily "run up," and which at the present time is a curiosity in its way. The Anchor Inn, to which the passage also serves as an approach and which—as its name indicates—bears alike the arms of the town and its founder, was at first a beer-house only, Mr. Burton having previously stipulated with Mr. Milstead[c], of the Horse-and-Groom Inn, that there should be no full-licensed house between the last-named and the St. Leonards Tap, beneath the Hotel. The Anchor has been successively tenanted by Mr. Ballard, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Skinner, Mr. Vidow and Mr. Wells. It is here-about that the buildings exhibit the greatest traces of decay.
The stables, coach-houses, walls, etc., being among the first erections of the town, and composed almost solely of friable sandstone, have yielded to the influence of time and the weather, and at the present moment present quite a contrast to the other erections which have been preserved by their external coatings of cement and paint.
But I have promised to say something more of the destructive gales and high tides which occurred in the month of October. The weather had been of an unsettled and threatening character for several days, and on Saturday the 18th, whilst the wind was blowing almost a hurricane, the sea at high water dashed over the new wall and effected a considerable amount of damage thereupon.
It also washed away much of the bank and road in front of the houses at West Marina then known as "The Hundreds," and rushed through the arched passages into the coal-yards, workshops and the quadrangle constituting the Market. This was not the first time that the property in that district had been inundated, and certainly it was not by a good number of times, the last. The situation, indeed, was deemed to be so insecure that during three or four subsequent years there were occasionally 18 or 20 habitations in and about the Market tenantless at one time. A serious breach was made in the wall opposite to the "Seven houses" (65 to 71 Marina), and the Commissioners were sadly perplexed as to how best to repair damages and guard against future irruptions of unruly Neptune.
If the information which I derive from the late William Kirby is correct - and I have no reason to doubt it - it was during the progress of the storm that Mrs. Birch, the wife of an Indian officer, with her family was residing at 106 Marina, and a black boy who was in her service being visited by the sea in the middle of the night, ran out upon the road with no other clothing than his shirt, shouting "Murder!" This was repeated two or three times, first to the consternation and afterwards to the amusement of the neighbours. On that occasion the sea rushed through to the archway leading to the Market and up the Sussex road into the Mews, drowning several pigs and damaging the property. Mrs. Birch afterwards left for India; and it had been said that she and her family were among the victims of the Sepoys during the Indian mutiny. I am indebted to the same source for the information that during the same storm or its after effect, a soldier named Hitchcock, one of two who used to ride out at night with the Government riding officers, Edwards and Gill, met a simila fate to that of the private of the 10th Hussars in 1810, in his attempt to cross the Sheepwash bridge on the Bulverhythe Salts, he and his horse being carried away and drowned by the flood.
Arrival of the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria
A few days after the storm it was known that the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria had signified their intention of coming to St. Leonards, and on the 24th of October, Mr. Burton and the leading inhabitants of St. Leonards met the Mayor and other influential denizens of Hastings to consider the best way of testifying their respect to the royal visitors. The result of this meeting will be seen from what follows :—
The Duchess of Kent, aged 48, and the Princess Victoria, aged, 15, came to St. Leonards on the 4th of November, 1834. It was on a Tuesday, and the day was very fine in its meteorological conditions, Exactly at half-past two o'clock the royal ladies and suite in three carriages, each drawn by four horses, made their appearance at the triumphal arch which Mr. Musgrave Brisco had caused to be erected at the borough boundary, near the Hare-and-Hounds Inn, They were escorted by Mr. Brisco and a party of horsemen, who joined the royal visitors at the Harrow, and were welcomed at the improvised arch at the borough limits by the Mayor (W. Scrivens, Esq.) and Jurats. His Worship, with Mace-bearers, and other persons, in a carriage-and-four, preceded the royal carriages in their further journey to St. Leonards.
The town band, also, together with "Friendly" and other societies and an immense mounted party from the towns and neighbourhood, swelled the procession. Flags, garlands and evergreens were suspended from buildings along the route; but, on arriving at White-rock street (now the centre of Robertson street) the huge cavalcade had to make a detour between the "Black Pond" and Belvedere House to a steep and narrow road over Cuckoo Hill. This part of the route was along a road now occupied by the houses in Trinity street passing to the wost of the picturesque Priory Pg.98 farmhouse and the Step-meadow (where now stands the Central Wesleyan Chapel), and between the cliffs whose places have since been usurped by Dorset place and St. Michael’s terrace. So narrow was this road that only in one short portion of it was there room for two vehicles to pass. And it had been even narrower before some lime-burners and other labourers in the employ of Boykett Breeds had somewhat widened and trimmed it. In that operation it was my will and pleasure to contribute many a quarter-of-an-hour’s gratuitous assistance — a circumstance, the elucidation of which only requires the reader to recollect what has been said about “Young Tubal Cain,” and to know that he then lived and worked at the sign of “By hammer and hand all arts do stand,” on almost the identical spot now occupied by the Holy Trinity Church. That slight improvement to the Cuckoo lane was made, however, some three or four years before Royalty was compelled to make use of it, and about an equal period of time before I had entered upon a new occupation which brought me into more frequent intercourse with St.Leonards, although still residing at Hastings. The condition of the road at Stratford place on the 4th of November was such as only to be passable by pedestrians over some planks which bridged the yawning gulf, and for which privilege a halfpenny toll was exacted by some speculative workmen. Great was the inconvenience even then, but fancy what such an interruption to that crowded thoroughfare would be in the present day! My readers will perceive then, without further explanation, the cause of the circuitous route taken by the royal and loyal procession; and which diversion must, methinks, have left no very exalted impressions on the mind of that amiable young Princess who, three years later acceded to the British Throne.
But in my own digression I have left the procession at the top of Cuckoo Hill; and my readers will please imagine that long and brilliant cortège wending its way over a rocky road at the southern extremity of White-rock field and descending the road at the rear of what is now the Hospital, at the top of which was a cottage known as "The Shepherd's House", with Mr. Vincett's slaughter-house opening out from the basement. The annexed sketch represents the old road over the White Rock and a branch therefrom leading to the slaughter-house and cottage here named, as well as to some cavities in the cliff on or near the site of some disused lime-kilns. The spot is now occupied by White Rock Villa, but on less elevated ground.
At the bottom of the road then newly erected Verulam place, nicknamed "Rascal’s Row." The descent from the hill required even more care than the ascent; and when the procession regained the main road the travelling in many parts of it over loose beach and faggots was a very different proceeding to what it would be if Her Majesty should deign to visit us now. There was but little to note, however, during the remainder of the journey to St. Leonards, except that the people crowded upon the balconies of the houses and upon the slopes of the cliffs and bade the royal party welcome with lusty cheers and the waving of handkerchiefs. This was vehemently done by a party collected on the cliff close to Saxon House which then stood by itself, but which is now 14 Grand parade, and which has been severally tenanted by Walter Inskipp, John Mitchell, W. Duke Soane, Robt. Hempsted, Mrs. Josephs, & F. Rossiter. In 1896 it was nearly rebuilt for the Capital and Counties Bank.
On arriving at 57 Marina, the Mayor handed their Royal Highnesses out of the carriage amidst a salute of cannon and a shout of welcome. The coastguard were also drawn up as a guard of honour. The royal visitors soon appeared on the spacious balcony and acknowledged their reception in an affable manner, the band playing the National Anthem. I should have mentioned that there were several triumphal arches on the route in addition to the one at the borough boundary, and that the mounts, headed by Mr. Shadwell wore white scarfs. Of the numerous body of horsemen who accompanied the procession on that auspicious occasion all or nearly all have long since passed away. The bailiffs and workmen of Mr. Brisco, together with their families, followed the procession from Ore in newly-painted waggons, drawn by teams of magnificent horses, belled and ribboned for the occasion. There were also six of the oldest fishermen, in characteristic garb, who landed from a boat at the royal residence and presented an offering of the produce of their nets. The proceedings closed in the evening with a display of fireworks on the parade, and a grand illumination of the Marina houses and Colonnade shops.
Unfortunately, there were some few contretemps which detracted from the otherwise joyous event. In firing salutes from the cannon on the beach, a pensioner named Martin McDermot had one hand blown off, and by way of compensation for the injury, he was afterwards allowed a pension from Her Majesty of £20 per year. It was reported that he had been previously in the receipt of two pensions, one under one name and one under another, and that he lost one of them as soon as the facts were investigated. He was known, however, as a quiet, frugal man; and what with his pensions and his earnings as a jobbing tailor, he must have lived and died in moderately comfortable circumstances.
On the same day a coachman named Brett or Britt hanged himself in the St. Leonards Mews, and his lifeless body was cut down by Mr. Murdoch and another man. The unfortunate man had been in the service of Lady Lubbock, and having thus a comfortable situation, no cause whatever could be assigned for his committing the rash act. His conduct was all the more mysterious from his having frequently expressed surprise at people committing suicide.
Another unfortunate occurrence was that of a young man named Davis and his sweet-heart falling from a perpendicular height of some fourteen or fifteen feet into a cutting by which the road over the hill from St. Leonards to Hastings was being formed. They had been to see the fireworks, and in returning had taken the track over the hill, without knowing the danger which awaited them. The night was dark, and when they reached a spot just eastward of where Albert Villas have since been erected, they suddenly trod the air and fell over the unguarded bank. The young woman was seriously injured, but Davis being more frightened than hurt, ran first to St. Leonards and then to Hastings for a Surgeon, shouting as he went that a woman had fallen over the cliff. The whereabout of this fall not having been described, I, with a small party of men, immediately went in search of the supposed dead or dying woman. We took with us a lantern and a hand-barrow, and proceeded to the cutting which one of the men, who was a navvy, suspected was the scene of the accident, and there we found the sufferer moaning in a pitiful manner. We took her up gently and carried her to the only house near, namely, the cottage on the cliff at White Rock. Mr. John Savery was soon in attendance, and after ascertaining the nature of the young woman’s injuries, obtained a pair of blankets, and sewed them together himself. In the mean time two poles — clothes props, I think they were — having been found, they were put through the blankets, and an easy stretcher was thus improvised, on which the sufferer was placed and taken to Mr. Cork’s, a draper in High street. The young woman was quite a stranger to me, but she earnestly entreated me not to leave her until I had seen her safely taken to her employer's house. This was done, and after her recovery, which was by no means rapid, I had the gratification of receiving a visit from the patient to thank me for my attentions. Pg.99
The Presentation of an address – Sad Suicide and Melancholy Drownings
On the day immediately after the arrival of the royal visitors, they received a deputation and an address from the Hastings Corporation, the address being as follows:-
"To Her Royal Highness The Duchess or Kent.—May it please your Royal Highness, we, the Mayor, Jurats and Commonalty of the Town and Port of Hastings, together with the Magistrates, Clergy, and other Inhabitants of Hastings and St. Leonards, beg most humbly to approach your Royal Highness with this dutiful and heartfelt expression of our Attachment and Respect. We hail, with the most lively satisfaction, the opportunity that is now afforded us of welcoming within our limits your Royal Highness and your Illustrious Daughter, to whom, as the Presumptive Heiress to the throne of this great and happy country, an interest of the most engrossing nature must necessarily attach.
“Toward your Royal Highness we have long turned our anxious and respectful attention; and we feel deeply grateful for the tenderness and judgment with which your Royal Highness has applied yourself to form for us a Princess which, under Divine Providence, appear to wait her.
"We heartily trust that the genial climate Pg.100 of this neighbourhood may induce your Royal Highness to make a lengthened stay amongst us, and that the present visit may prove an auspicious presage of our again welcoming your Royal Highness to this our Ancient Town and Port.
"We entreat your Royal Highness to believe that nowhere are feelings of Loyalty to the King and attachment to the Royal Family more deeply entertained than among the Corporation and Inhabitants of Hastings and St. Leonards; and that towards no part of that Royal Family have they more sincere gratification in expressing those feelings than to your Royal Highness and your Illustrious Daughter."— "Witness the common seal of the Mayor Jurats and Commonalty of the Town and Port of Hastings, and the hand of the Chairman of the general meeting of the Inhabitants, the 24th day of Oct. 1834."
The Deputation for presenting the address consisted of Wm. Scrivens, sen., Esq. (Mayor); Fredk. North, Esq., M.P.; W. Lucas-Shadwell, Esq.; Jas. Burton, Esq.; Wastel Brisco, Esq.; Robt. Montague Wilmot, Esq.; John Harwood, M.D.; Robt. Ranking, Esq.; J. G. Shorter, Esq.; the Rev. J. G. Foyster; the Rev. G. S. G. Stonestreet; the Rev. W. Davis, and the Town Clerk.
The Duchess of Kent replied as follows:
Gentlemen, — It affords me the most sincere pleasure to hear the sentiments you have just conveyed from the Mayor, Jurats, and Commonalty of the Town and Port of Hastings, in conjunction with the Magistrates, Clergy, and other Inhabitants’ of Hastings and St. Leonards. The Princess and myself feel most grateful for such marks of interest and regard which your loyalty to the King leads you to evince towards us as members of his family. I must also express our sense of our reception yesterday, distinguished, as it was, by a hearty cordiality from all classes, which we know how to appreciate. My maternal feelings, and those I owe the country warmly respond to the interest you express for the Princess. Providence seems to have destined her to fill a great station (you will believe how anxiously I pray it may be at a very distant day), and if she feel and act as a Constitutional Sovereign, called to preside over the destinies of a free and loyal people. "I can hardly trust myself to advert to the sentiments expressed to me personally. The only way in which I can repay them is by my devoted attention to the care and education of the Princess; and when I close these important duties, may I then have the great reward of witnessing the happiness and prosperity of the people so interwoven with her own as to prove to me that my efforts have not been unavailing to render her deserving the respect and regard of all classes in this country.
Each member of the Deputation was then presented to their Royal Highnesses, and then withdrew, thereafter to meet at the Swan Hotel, where dinner was served to about 150 persons,
It is probable that no English watering-place has been more patronized by royalty than has St. Leonards combined with Hastings. Our royal visitors have included many members of Queen Victoria’s family, and it has often been a matter of surprise that her Majesty herself has not paid a second visit. I can only account for it with the supposition that although in many particulars her sojourn at St. Leonards was a pleasant one, in some other respects her memory was saddened by several untoward occurrences, the associations of which tenaciously located themselves in her mind at an impressible age. There was her journey to St. Leonards via the narrow and rugged lane over Cuckoo Hill, necessitated by the irruption of the sea at White Rock; there was the suicide of Lady Lubbock’s coachman and the gun-accident to MacDermot on the same day; there was the damaged parade in close proximity to the royal residence which a succession of high tides threatened to sweep away entirely; there was the subsequent necessity for opening the drains in front of Victoria House; there was the great fright which the Princess and her mother sustained when the royal carriage was made the sport of runaway horses until my own uncle (of whom more anon) and Mr. Micklethwaite stopped their wild career, and the latter afterwards made a baronet as a recognition of his services; there was the drowning of a lieutenant and five seamen at St. Leonards, three weeks after the arrival of the royal party; and there was the subsequent pension to MacDermott as a yearly reminder of the several associative episodes.
The case of drowning was as follows:— On the 24th of November, 1834, the sloop "Good Intent" was observed to be dragging her anchor during a strong wind, and was thought to be waterlogged. With the object of rendering assistance, as was mostly believed, or of ascertaining whether the vessel was laden with contraband, as some asserted, Lieut. Gilly, of the Royal Navy, and five men, named respectively, Weeks, Conelly, Andrews, Sheehan and Alexander, put off from 41 Martello Tower, contrary to the advice of those who deemed the sea too rough for such an adventure. This was between seven and eight o’clock in the morning; and, as at that time of the day and at that period of the year, the light might not be sufticient to satisfy a coastguard’s curiosity, it is quite within the scope of possibility that in Lieut. Gilly’s view the water-logged appearance might be due to a heavy cargo of smuggled goods, or that the vessel was dragging something more than her anchor. Be that as it may, the galley put off as stated, and had nearly reached the shore again in safety when she filled with water and sank with all the crew. Those who witnessed the catastrophe were powerless to render aid, and the event created great gloom throughout the town. Among the monuments on the east side of the St. Leonards Church may be seen the stone which was placed there as a memento of the sad event.
And now I will close my promiscuous narrative of maritime disasters with a brief allusion to the last great storm of that stormy year. On a Thursday night in the latter half of December — probably the 18th — further damage was done to the parade wall at St. Leonards, and the townspeople began to lose all hope of ever being able to efficiently protect the town from tidal irruption except at an outlay quite beyond their means.
However discouraging were the prospects of maintaining the sea-wall in a state of efficiency at the time of the royal sojourn, the Commissioners grappled with the difficulty as far as in them lay, and at their December meeting they recommended measures to be adopted for repairing and strengthening the wall and, among other provisions, ordered an estimate to be prepared for facing it with hardstone. They also gave an order for a stone crossing to be laid down from Victoria House to the parade, and for an opening in the parade rails to be made for the convenience of the royal party.
It was in the same month of December that their Royal Highnesses became Patrons of the St. Leonards Archers, which Society, I have before stated, was established in 1833. The patronage thus bestowed was followed by sundry presents to the Archers at subsequent periods (which I shall notice as I come to the dates), and in recognition of the honours thus conferred, it was afterwards the established practice of the Society for over thirty years, whenever the weather and other circumstances permitted, to hold the first prize-meeting in each season on the 24th of May, in celebration of Her Majesty’s birthday, and the annual grand meeting on August 17th, in commemoration of the birthday of the Duchess of Kent.
The melancholy drowning of Lieut. Gilly and five seamen heretofore described reminds me that on that same day Messrs. William and Thomas Ranger took possession of the Horse-and-Groom Inn as successors of Mr. Stephen Milstead; and although I allude to this fact in but little more than an incidental manner, I shall have, by-and-by to relate an exploit of the two brothers which in its object and results stands out quite alone in the history of St. Leonards.
At a time when the town had already attained to considerable dimensions; when royalty and nobility were largely patronizing it; when the Archery Society had just been established, as a revival of old customs; when hawking, as well as hunting, was in vogue; when stage-coaches and mail-coaches and post-chaises were in full swing; and when, next to the hotels, the Horse-and-Groom was the principal tavern in St. Leonards, the business transactions of that house were, as may be conceived, of a multifarious and extensive character. It was not only a public-house in the ordinary acceptation of the term, but it was also a coffee-house and an eating-house.
Thus, practically, as well as nominally, it was a licensed Victualler's house. On almost every week-day evening, there were card parties in one room and bagatelle parties in another, whilst in the large room there was a ball, a supper, or a "free-and-easy". Then on Sunday evenings there was a quiet but numerous party assembled to hear the newspaper read — the eightpenny broad-sheet, with its compulsory stamp, being in those days beyond the purchasing power of any save the rich or otherwise well-to-do inhabitants. St. Leonardensis, who, amidst other pursuits, had just entered upon a career of music, was frequently engaged for some of these parties at the Horse-and-Groom; sometimes alone, and sometimes in conjunction with others, among whom was a noted hard-handed violinist familiarly known as Tom Reed. This unpretending and untiring fiddler followed also the occupation of a carpenter, and both he and his wife died at very advanced ages.
This has been shewn at another place, but it may here be said that in 1871 Tom Reed, at the age of 84, was still working at his trade, and his wife, aged 86, was still doing her house-work. They had then had 60 years of married life and a previous 7 years of courtship.
Messrs. Ranger's sister (Mrs. Raven) acted as cook and manageress at the Horse-and-Groom, and a youth, whom they called George, lived in the house as pot-boy. It may be assumed that even pot-boys have their occasional whims and fancies; and as George stood in no exceptional position in, that respect, it was one of his peculiarities to object to beef-steak puddings being made with suet in the crust. "I really can’t eat it, Missus," said our man-of-all-work, one day. "Well," replied the Mistress, "if you will promise me never to tell anybody that I make my puddings without suet, I will see what I can do." The promise was made and faithfully kept, and ever after that time, George — in blissful ignorance of the fact that the only deviation from the ordinary method of pudding-making was the chopping the suet into smaller particles — declared that he never tasted such delicious puddings before. Somebody has said that "there is as great a pleasure in being cheated as to cheat," and the simple anecdote just cited appears to be a fair illustration of such statement.
It was in the same year (1834) that the late Frederick Ticehurst — who was afterwards Borough Coroner and several times Mayor of Hastings — obtained the appointment of surgeon to the St. Leonards parish — at a salary of £5 per year. For this magnificent stipend he was to supply medicine and attendance to all paupers within five miles, but to be paid at the usual rate for journeys beyond that distance. Even this amount was an increase of £3 upon his salary of the previous year, when having succeeded Mr. Robert Watis, of Battle, he was content to accept the £2 which the latter gentleman had been receiving for some years previously.
The St. Leonards' Poor-house - Rates from 10s. to 23s. in the £ - The parish a/cs
It was also in 1834 (on the 14th of Aug.) that the Poor-law was passed which necessitated the formation of Union Workhouses, and the abolition of separate poor-houses for each parish. There are many of our old inhabitants who remember the St. Mary-in-the-Castle poorhouse, opposite York buildings; the St. Clement’s, in George street (where Mr. Clark's printing-office now is); and the All Saints near the Old London road, on the present site of the Springfield Nurserys Pg.101 but there are, probably, very few who could answer the question — Where was the St. Leonards poor-house? It was a less pretentious building than any one of those just named, and this is accounted for by the fact that although St. Leonards was a larger parish than the others, its inhabitants, and especially its pauper inhabitants, were much fewer. The parish had, in fact, no recognized poor-house until a few years anterior to the time of which I am writing, when one of two thatched cottages (near the present site of Tileworth, the late Mrs. Cumberlege’s residence, above St. Matthew’s Church) was obtained by the Overseers, together with a rood of ground, and by them appropriated to the purpose mentioned. Before that period, it was customary with the Overseers, both of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen, to arrange, whenever practicable, with persons tenanting private houses in Hollington, Hastings or Bexhill, to lodge, or to lodge and board, the recipients of relief at so much per week or per year, as the case might require. And whenever such arrangements could not be effected, or whenever other circumstances rendered it more desirable, the somewhat less economical plan was had recourse to of placing the paupers in a poor-house at Hastings, Battle or Bexhill. Sometimes an aged man or woman, or an orphan boy or girl would be able to earn nearly his or her livelihood, and in that case assistance would be rendered them in the shape of clothes or fuel, and the overseers would of course debit the parish with the amount. Hence, in one of the old parish accounts, is found the following items :—
|"Paid the shipard for one Mounth
lodging for old Dunk.
|"Paid Master Roffe for a years rent
history 2for Dame Rutes
|"Let Ben Dabner have to pay
|"Paid Dame Grithenden 5/ for looking|
after Dame Britt."
|"Gave old Britt to buy Waskot
|"Paid Bexhill Workus for Sarah
|£8 5 0."|
|"Boght a shurt Mor Jack Waters
But at that early period when the overseers both of St. Leonards and of St. Mary Magdalen were farmers, and had only a few other occupiers of land with them to bear the burden of all the taxes, they had to mutually agree upon such a scale of rating as would utterly astound the inhabitants of these parishes in the present day. Not only had they to keep the poor whilst they lived, and bury them when they died, but they were also subjected to a Lewes county-rate, a Hastings county-rate, a Hastings gaol-rate and a Dover-Castle-rate. They also had to repair the damages which the sea frequently effected over the beached and faggoted roads, two or three miles in extent; and it need be no wonder, therefore, that their rates during the war times — say from 1797 to 1815 — averaged 10s. 64d. in the £. nor that in the year 1801, when wheat sold at forty pounds per load, and was quite out of the reach of the poor, the rating was as high as 23/- in the pound. Even after the conclusion of peace in 1815 and up to the year 1828, when the town of St. Leonards was begun, the rates averaged 5/10 in the £; but in 1880, when the rating first assumed an urban character it was reduced to 4s. How thankful, then, ought the pre-urbanites to have been that it ever entered the mind of Mr. Burton to build a town in their midst.
In these long-ago days, when the parish of St. Mary Magdalen — which now contains many thousands of inhabitants, and forms the greater part of the town of St. Leonards was possessed of only two or three land-tenants or "Principal Inhabitants," the collection of rates and the provisions of the poor were, of course, very different to the present arrangements for similar purposes. There was no need then for stipendiary collectors of rates and distributors of relief, although it must be apparent in the following "pickings" from the old records that both the time and the pockets of the two or three "Principal Inhabitants" were rather heavily taxed in providing for the maintenance of the sick and aged poor, and for the casual relief of strangers. One need not wonder, therefore, that when Sam. Steers was told that the time was come when his cottage would have to be rated, he, rather than be made a ratepayer, exchanged his situation for one under Mr. Milward at Hastings, where he could still live in a cottage unmolested by rate-collectors.
For 70 years (1762-1832) the parish accounts were kept in a small foolscap quarto book of 88 leaves, of which about 16 are still blank; and, as during that long period the vestry meetings were usually held at the Gensing Farm-house, the book in question remained in the successive possession of three generations, namely, Thos., Chas. and Robt. Deudney, the influential tenants of Gensing House and lands. It commences, however, with the declaration of one Samuel Cramp as the only "Principal Inhabitant-and Overseer," but in a later assessment of the same year (1762) Mr. Thos. Deudney is associated with him. The accounts all through are very fairly written, but the orthography, as has been shown, is extremely variable, not to say curious. The following extract merely indicates the four ratepayers of the parish and their assessments in a year of moderate requirements:
"A rate on the Inhabitants of St. Mary Magdalen by us Thos. Deudney and Samll Cramp the only principal Inhabitants at four shillings and sixpence in the Pound full rents.
|Thos. Deudney for Sir Chas.
|Samll Cramp-for Mrs, Colliers
|Joseph Lingham for poor Land||4||1||0|
|Thos. Deudney for the Newgates
Turning again to the doings of the Commissioners, I find from my memoranda that there was a meeting of ratepayers in the Assembly-rooms on the 19th of December, when it was announced that Messrs. T. J. Breeds, B. Homan, W. Norsworthy, B. Honiss, S. Milstead, Herbert Curteis, Joseph Planta, E. Parrett, W. Fraser, H. Wingfield, C. Dynely, J. Wood and G. B. Greenough had through various causes become disqualified. Six new members were then elected, whose names were G. B. Greenough, Esq., Mr. Norsworthy, Mr. Chester, Mr. C. Deudney, Mr. Beck and the Rev. J. H. Randolph. Mr. Beck, however, voluntarily withdrew, stating at the same time that he had not sufficient value of property to qualify him. The commissioners afterwards met and voted a sum of £5 12s. for a new suit of clothes for the Beadle. They also sanctioned the proposal of Mr. Burton to alter the road up to the West Cliff, by which the gradient would be rendered less steep. But no offers were received of the £800 loan which the Commissioners had been advertising for during the previous six months, and no motion was made upon the question of a sinking-fund which the Clerk again reminded them was required by the Act of Parliament. A new rate was, however, levied, at 10d. in the pound, and notice was ordered to be given to defaulters that unless their arrears were paid within a week, summonses would be issued against them. This continual difficulty with the ratepayers seems to have arisen from the dislike which many of them had to the "new order of things," there being no difficulty of the same magnitude or of the same frequency when the poor rates were demanded. Perhaps it was that the scale of assessment of the latter was lower; albeit, in the same year, a committee was formed for making a new valuation of the property, the said committee being composed of the two overseers (Messrs. Farncomb and Overy), with Messrs. Burton, Homan and Deudney. The poor-rates at that time for the St. Leonards parish were usually 1/6 in the pound, and two rates a year, whilst for the St. Mary Magdalen parish they were generally 2/- in the pound. These rates had continued the same with only one or two exceptions, from 1830, at which date the first regular assessment was made on the inhabitants in their position as townspeople. For several years the vestry meetings were held respectively at the New-England-Bank inn at Bopeep, and the Horse and Groom inn at the Mercatoria. The highway rates were usually 6d. in the pound, which must have been very moderate, bearing in mind that at that time, when roads were less numerous than at present, the extent of St. Leonards parish alone was just upon six miles. The exact measurements, I believe, were two miles of town roads: one mile, three furlongs and twenty-one poles of turnpike; and two miles, four furlongs and fourteen poles of other roads. The poor-rates, notwithstanding they were higher than the same rates in later times, they compared very favourably with the poor-rates of the two parishes before the town’s existence, when, as before shown they ranged from four or five shillings to 23s. in the pound.
But to return to the purchase of the St. Leonards poor-house and adjoining piece of land, it should be said that the Earl of Chichester displayed his liberality in selling the same for £20, whilst a further sum of £40 was paid to the executors of John Taylor for giving up possession. The overseers at the time were Messrs. Edward Farncomb and Charles. Overy, and to the former gentleman the property was conveyed, he executing a deed, declaring that he held it in trust for the parish. The John Taylor here named was, I believe, the grandfather of a Mr. Taylor still, or lately living in St. Leonards. He was also related to Jesse Chapman who, in 1885, died at the age of 84—a man who must have witnessed a number of local events such as have come under the observation of but few other persons. This octogenarian was born at Pear-tree Cottage, the once existing habitation adjoining the one that was purchased for the St. Leonards Poor-house[d].
Curious discovery of Money - Erection of the Convent - Bohemia built for Mr. Newnham Collingwood
It is said of old John Taylor that whilst in receipt of parish relief, his daughter — who kept house for him after Mrs. Taylor's death — endeavoured to get out with a knife a thin sixpenny-piece which had got into a chink in the bottom of an old chest, when, to her astonishment, she discovered, that the chest had a false bottom. Curiosity led her to remove it, when she made the further discovery of about £80 in money. The old chest, as the story is told, came to her mother at the death of a relative who had previously resided at Yew-tree cottage, near Westfield, but without the recipient’s knowledge of the valuable treasure which it contained .
Curious is the coincidence that whilst I am writing the account of this discovery, my son is reading from a newspaper of current date a similar discovery of money that had long lain hid in an oak chest. The newspaper paragraph is prefaced with the remark that "Materials for an exciting novel might be found in the case of Orme v. Shipton, which was recently heard on appeal before the Lords Justices." The case is described at some length, but for the sake of brevity, the following condensed account must suffice. At an auction sale a man named Shipton purchased an oaken chest for the sum of 4s., and whilst examining it he discovered a secret drawer at the bottom in which were 40 "spade" guineas of a date anterior to 1792. The chest was part of the goods and chattels which the executors of Mrs. Ann Midlan had ordered the sale of, the said executors making a claim to the money as soon as the purchaser had incautiously made known his discovery. Along with the guineas were two memoranda one of which contained the words "When my uncle Brown gave me fifty guineas as a Christmas present for waiting on him during his illness. Anne Lofton Broomieshall, 1790." Justice Bramwell tried the case, and gave judgment for Shipton, it having been shewn on’ his behalf that a person named Anne Lofton had lived at Broomieshall in 1798, and that she died at the age of 83, when her Pg.102 niece’s husband sold her effects. It was also shown that Anne Lofton was in no way related to Anne Midlan. A new trial was, however, granted, and when the case came on again, Justice Brett reversed the judgment of Justice Bramwell, and found for the plaintiffs a right to the forty guineas — or to so much of them as had not been melted by a neat little bill of costs.
Fortunately for John Taylor and his daughter, in the St. Leonards case, there was no rival claimants to dispute the ownership; and thus in one particular only the coincidence is wanting in completeness. Yet there is another coincidence brought about by the reading of the newspaper paragraph from which I have quoted. It is there stated that the second memorandum found with the 40 guineas related to the repair of a watch belonging to a certain John Bennett, and it was proved that Anne Lofton had relations of the name of Bennett. "Oh! how curious,” exclaims a person sitting at my elbow, and who has also relations of the name of Bennett. “I knew two old men in Winchelsea, some forty or fifty years ago, of the name of Bennett, one of whom lived in a cellar, and towards whose maintenance the inhabitants occasionally and voluntarily contributed, on the supposition that the man was in indigent circumstances. After his death, however, it was discovered that old Bennett was possessed of a considerable sum of money.” Whether the Winchelsea Bennett hoarded his money in an oak chest, or whether he was related to the Bennetts who in turn was related to the hoarder of the forty "spade" guineas, my deponent sayeth not.
It was in the year 1834 that the first building in connection with All Soul's Convent was first erected, but the establishment did not attain to any considerable magnitude until some six years later. It was built mainly at the expense of the Rev. John Jones, whose liberality to the poor and considerate practice of giving unemployed workmen something to do, endeared him to many of the inhabitants of both towns. The building in its original dimensions was rated to the parish at about £40 per year, and was enclosed in about 15 acres of land, upon which there was an additional assessment of £30. It was erected either in the "White-rock field" or the adjoining "Eighteen-acres," and for several years it stood in an isolated position. St. Leonards-without was beginning to grow, but the nearest erections to the Convent building were Mr. Troup’s cottage in the centre of Warrior-square, and the two houses known as 1 & 2 Cliff cottages, which now constitute Nos. 5 & 6 Eversfield place. No. 1 Cliff cottages was owned and occupied by Mr. Walter Inskipp and Mr. John Jeffery. The older habitations in proximity to the new convent building were the [[Chapel Barn Farm|Chapel-Barn farm], the Bohemia mansion and lands, and the houses occupied by Messrs. Whyborn and Weller on the Bohemia road, near Mr. Brisco’s Lodge.
In tracing back the history of these three or four habitations—all that existed in the district now under notice before the Convent house was built—I find that what is now recognized as the Bohemia mansion and grounds was known in 1762 as "Mrs. Collier's Land," and was farmed by Samuel Cramp, at a rental of £53 10s. This occupier continued on the farm until 1769, at which time it came into the possession of General-Murray, the hero of Minorca, and the son-in-law of Mr. Collier. The tenancy then changed hands from Samuel Cramp to Benjamin Foster.
Ten years prior to this transfer, General Murray was Governor of Quebec, but from 1770 until 1796 the gallant General appears to have principally resided in the neighbourhood of Hastings. Anyhow, the property at Bohemia was described as "General Murray’s land" during that 26 years, although it is known that the mansion at Beauport was rebuilt for him and that he resided there, and not at Bohemia, during great part of the period here named. Benjamin Foster continued the tenancy of "General Murray’s Land" from 1770 till 1782, when William Foster — probably his son — carried it on till 1804, when he was succeeded by Mrs. Ann Foster, who, I presume, was his widow, and who kept on the farm for two years longer. During the 35 years’ tenancy of the Fosters and the previous occupancy by Cramp, the house and lands in question appear to have let at the same sum of £53 10s., although they had passed through three ownerships and four tenancies.
The third owner was Mr. Green; and from 1797 to 1805 the property was described as “Squire Green’s Land.” In 1806 Mr. Webster Whistler became the tenant, and the rent was raised another eleven guineas, thus making it £65 per annum. After being held by Mr. Whistler for four years, Mr. Henry Farncomb succeeded to the occupancy, when the name of "Bohemia" appears to have been first associated with the farm. Mr. Farncombe held it from 1809 till 1813, when it was passed over to Mr. John Vincett, who occupied it for eight years. In 1821 a new tenant was found for Bohemia in the person of Anthony Crisp (a son-in-law of Mr. Vincett’s), who built a malt house on the land, but instead of using it for its intended purpose, made a dwelling of it for himself and let the farm-house to visitors. Hastings was then becoming a place of fashionable resort, and it was no uncommon occurrence for visitors to take up their abode for a season even in the neighbouring farm-houses. Among that class of persons was a Mrs. Newnham, who first hired Bohemia farm-house, and subsequently purchased it. Her son, Mr. G. L. Newnham, — who after the death of Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood, married one of the two daughters of that distinguished officer, and took the name of Collingwood — became its possessor in 1824[e], whilst from that date until 1827 the land was in the tenancy of Messrs. Thos. Breeds and Co.
Mr. G. Newnham-Collingwood, however, decided on having the pleasant farm-house converted into a mansion, and employed Mr. John Smith as his builder. But the progress of the work was so slow that the owner took himself off to Hawkhurst, where he became a permanent resident. In a short time Mr. Newnham-Collingwood returned to Hastings, and whilst temporarily locating himself in Wellington square, gave instructions for the house to be sold in its unfinished state. Mr. Boykett Breeds, it is said, became its purchaser, but it soon got into the hands of his assignees and afterwards into those of Henry Bonham, Esq.
In the same year (1830), the mansion was let to the Princess Sophia of Gloucester, who entered it on the 6th of May for a fortnight's sojourn, and liked it so well that she stayed for three months. It afterwards passed into the possession of Wastel Brisco, Esq., who by consent of magisterial and other authority, enlarged the ornamental grounds, and by diverting the original footpath through the step-meadow (now Cornwallis Gardens) did away with one of the prettiest walks out of Hastings. It was supposed, however, to have enhanced the value of the estate; for, in 1837, the mansion and its appurtenances, together with the lands, were assessed at £578; the previous assessments being upon rentals of £53 from 1762 to 1805, and on £65 from 1806 to 1829. The prestige derived from a royal occupancy—as in the case of Gloucester Lodge and Victoria House—might have had some influence on the estimated value of the mansion, but even that assessment has been subsequently augmented in consequence of the general increase in the value of property. Mr. Brisco continued in possession of Bohemia House until 1878, when he quitted it for another world at the great age of 85 years. His father died at the age of fourscore, in 1834, the year to which my History of St. Leonards is supposed to have reached.
The Whyborn family - Another enquiry into the Magdalen Charity
The next contiguous property to the Convent building in 1834 consisted of the Charity Land, the two houses looking down southward over the Convent land towards the sea (separated from Mr. Wastel Brisco’s mansion by Bohemia road), and the two tenements just opposite and below the pond at the junction of what are now the Bohemia and Magdalen roads. The latter dwellings were owned by Mr, Brisco, and tenanted, I believe, by two of his work-people, Messrs. Chapman and W. Whyborn. The higher and more pleasant situated cottages were at that time occupied by Henry Weller (who, as having married Mr. Jeremiah Whyborn’s widow in 1824, became his own landlord), and Mr. John Whyborn, who was a tenant of Mr. Brisco’s. These houses, which are still in existence, are worthy of notice; firstly, as being situate but a short distance from the spot where the late Alderman Deudney’s grandfather resided when he came with his family from the western part of the county in 1750, to be the agent of Sir Charles Eversfield; and, secondly, as the habitations of Jeremiah and John Whyborn, the former of whom rented the Charity Land from the year 1814 (just as the news reached England of Napoleon’s defeat and the entry of the Allies into Paris) until 1821 before the town of St. Leonards was commenced). This small farm was familiarly known as the "Poor Land" — a name that was suggestive of poverty as well as of charity; the more so, as Mr. Whyborn’s many years toil thereon were not rewarded with ultimate success. Ere he entered upon the land in 1814 the rent was £37 per year, but at the declaration of peace in the following year, it was raised to £67, upon the supposition, it may be assumed, that peace must necessarily bring with it its sentimental concomitant of plenty. Such was not the case however, for the total failure of the harvest in 1816, the destructive gales and floods of 1818, and the cold summer of 1821, contrasted unprofitably with the year 1815, which is recorded as having been one of the loveliest and luxuriant periods ever remembered. It is probable, however, that in the augmentation of the Charity-land rent to almost double its previous fixture, Mr. Whyborn was his own tax-master, it having been previously decided by the Corporation to carry out the instructions of the Court of Chancery, to let that and other charity lands by tender to the highest bidder.
I have already stated that visitors to Hastings were in the habit of taking up their abode in the neighbouring farm-houses, and it will therefore not surprise my readers to be told that the Messrs. Whyborn eked out their precarious incomes by letting furnished apartments in their small but pleasantly situated houses. It was no uncommon thing in those days, even when house property was of much less value than it now is, for the persons named to let a parlour and bed-room in each house for 30s. per week. Jeremiah’s domestic affairs were managed by his wife, but his brother John, being unmarried, had his sister to keep house for him. It should be here explained that when Jeremiah entered upon the Charity-land there was no dwelling-house attached to it, and so in consideration of a quit-rent being paid to the Earl of Chichester, as Lord of the Manor, or by some other arrangement, permission was given to the Whyborns to build the houses in question on a piece of waste-land contiguous to the farm.
Hitherto I have only mentioned the Whyborns who resided in the houses thus built, but there were five members of the family altogether, and it was with money contributed by all the five, when they migrated from Westfield, that the builder obtained payment for the erection of the new houses. The two brothers not hitherto mentioned were Thomas and William, the latter of whom resided in a separate cottage lower down, where, as previously shewn he continued to live even after the commencement of the Convent in 1834. The site was ultimately enclosed by Mr. Brisco’s wall, and is now marked by an arched door-way in the said wall immediately opposite to the pond at the junction of the roads.
The Whyborns were all long-living people, Jeremiah dying at the age of 79, through a fall over a bank, one dark night; John, dying at the age of 84; Thomas and William, living until they were between 80 and 90; and "Betty," dying, on the 17th of Feb. 1874, at the extraordinary age of 100 years and five months. She retained her faculties almost unimpaired until the last, and had been heard to say that she did not remember ever being afflicted with even a day’s serious illness. About three years after Jeremiah’s death, his widow was married as before intimated to Mr. Henry Weller, who thus became the possessor of one of the houses, and continued to occupy it until after his wife’s death, some eighteen years later; and he, too, has gone over to the majority away from the conflicts of terrestrial life. The other house was purchased by Mr. Brisco, and for many years his gardener, Mr. Morris, — a man who used to take an active interest in the local flower-shows — was the tenant. The centenarian sister of the Whyborns was transferred to Mr. Brisco’s estate along with the house, she taking up her abode at the Lodge of Bohemia mansion, where she added another Pg.103 forty-four years to her existence.
In 1828, the year when St. Leonards was commenced, William Whyborn, then of Holy Trinity, was married to Jemima Hutchings, at Hollington church, and in the same year at the same church, John Whyborn, of St. Mary Magdalen, was married to Sophia Standen (1809-1867). In 1850, William Whyborn, who died at Ore, in his 83rd year, was buried at St. Leonards. In the preceding year (1849) a son of Jeremiah Whyborn, named Jeremiah Charles, who followed the occupation of a gardener, died in his 29th year, at one of the semi-detached cottages that his father helped to build. This deceased son, only the year before, was married, also at Hollington church, to Jemima Bissenden, a dressmaker, who survived the death of her husband till 1875, when at the age of 67 (47 years after her marriage) her spirit also made its exit from its mortal tenement. I have thus dealt somewhat minutely with the Whyborn family, because there was another family of the same name in the same parish, to the support of whom as paupers, Mr. Jeremiah Whyborn, as an overseer and ratepayer, had to contribute. So far as I have investigated their pedigrees, they were two distinct families; and, as I may have at a later occasion to show, the Whyborn recipients of relief cost the only three or four ratepayers, in cash and kind, not far short of a thousand pounds.
As Jeremiah Whyborn died before his lease of the Poor-land expired, it was for a time carried on by his brother Thomas, together with Messrs. Ransom and Ridley, the noted ship-builders, of Hastings. It ultimately merged into the occupancy of the last-named firm in 1829, who were still the lessees in 1834, the year now under review, and so continued until about 1840.
I suppose it is known only to a very few persons now living that the 55 acres, or thereabouts, of the Magdalen Charity Land received, in 1834, an addition of 8 acres, 2 roods and 21 perches. This was effected by the Corporation consenting to exchange the so-called Jocky field of 3a. 2r. 30p. for 10a. Or. 35p. of the Horntye field; thus leaving the first-named difference of over three acres in favour of the Charity. The applicant agreed to pay all costs, and Ransom and Ridley, the lessees, promised to pay an addition of £7 per year. It may be here also said that when Mr. Newnham-Collingwood purchased the Bohemia farm in 1823 (not 1824 as previously stated) he offered the Corporation a large farm at Bexhill, for which he was then in treaty, in exchange for the whole of the Magdalen Charity Land. The offered land was said to be more than an equivalent in the number of acres, but the Corporation declined to entertain the proposal, under the belief that such an exchange would not benefit the Charity. Taking a view at the present time of the enormous increase in the value of the Charity, even if the Corporation had heen gifted with prescience, they could not have arrived at a better decision.
While having the Magdalen Charity under review I may say that the Corporation of Hastings appointed a committee to enquire into the local charities generally, as they had done in 1832 (see numerous details in Chapter VIII) and in their report it was shown that the Magdalen land, at that time leased by Ransom and Ridley was better used and the fences were better kept up than were those of the other charities. It was in this same year, 1834, that the Magdalen Charity Committee delivered the following interesting report:-
“That they have caused the records of the Corporation to be searched and have made such other searches at some of the public offices in London and of the rolls of the Manor of Gensing as they were able to do without incurring considerable expense, in order to ascertain when and how the estate called the Magdalen Lands came into possession of the Corporation; and although they have reason to believe from the results of those enquiries that it was given, with other estates, by the charter of Queen Elizabeth, yet they cannot satisfy themselves that it was certainly granted by that charter.
“That they beg to submit, in an appendix to this report, copies of the extracts and other information on the subject which they have found for the consideration of the Corporation.
“That it appears, however, clear to your committee that for a very long time, and as early as the year 1610, the rents of the said estate have been received by the Corporation and applied to the same charitable uses as at present; also to have been divided in the same proportion between the parishes of St. Clement and All Saints as they now are.
“That it moreover appears that within the last 20 years the sums in which the rents have been distributed by the churchwardens among the poor have been very much reduced in amount, and the number of objects increased in the same proportion, so that the sum now paid to each family seldom exceeds 2/- at a time, and is often 1/6 or 1/- and is therefore become of comparatively little service to the many persons among whom it is divided.
“That after giving the subject the best consideration, your committee find it very difficult to point out any other scheme for the application of the rents than that which has for so long a period been adopted and which was found to be useful and beneficial to the objects of the Charity before the late more extended distribution took place; they, therefore, recommend that the church-wardens of the respective parishes be directed to apply the proportion of the said rents among the poor in sums of not less than 5/- and not more than 10/- to each family; that they make a list of proper objects, yearly, and submit the same for approval of the Mayor and jurats in November of every year; and that in selecting objects they prefer old and infirm persons and such poor persons as maintain themselves without parish relief.
“Appended to the report is copy of an old deed of the widow Petronilla de Cham.
“Also in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Gensing the said Hospital is charged for 12 acres of land by way of quit rent, 6d. a year from the time of Edward VI. to the 30th of Elizabeth; and in a survey of the said manor taken in the Ist and 2nd of Elizabeth the said Hospital or Prior of the same is returned among the freeholders of the said manor; and again, in the 30th of Elizabeth, and is in each case charged at 6d. In the commencement of the reign of James at a court of the said manor, the Mayor and Jurats of Hasting are presented for lands late of the Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, then in the occupation of James Hunt; and the said Mayor and Jurats are continued on the roll to the present time, and pay the said 6d. a year to the said manor. The charter of Queen Elizabeth was granted in the 31st year of her reign, wherein she gave to the Corporation, inter alia, all those lands, tenements and hereditaments called Magdalen Land and Church Fields, with the appurtenances, situate and being in Hasting or within its Liberties. In the year 1604 it appears by the records of the Corporation that at an assembly they agreed to let to James Hunt, the house, barn and lands called the Mawdlyn on a new lease, and it appears he was tenant of the same farm even before that period.”
One can hardly suppose that either the present or any future generation will be more successful than the before-named committee in discovering the original benefactor of this Charity.
The Magdalen Hospital and Chapel Barn
The story - which has only tradition for its support - is that some Frenchman having been saved by Hastings fishermen from being drowned gave the land in question, or the greater part of it, for the benefit of the poor of St. Clement's and All Saints. This might have been in the 12th or very early in the 13th century, but a period before the commencement of the existing local records. But in the committees appended deed of gift mentioned in their report it would appear that whatever part of the 55 acres and 31 perches constituted the original gift, there was at a later date attached to the Hospital built thereon 5 additional acres by the widow de Cham. In the still unfinished story of The Premier Cinque Port, Chap. C11., the old deed, divested of its superfluous verbality and put into modern orthography appears as follows:-
“Let men, present and future, know that I, Petronilla[f] De Cham, of Hasting, in lawful power of my widowhood, have given by my present deed, and have confirmed to the Brothers and Sisters of the “Hospital of St Mary Magdalene 5 acres of my land in the parish of St. Margaret, adjoining the land of William de Walderne and of the said Brothers and Sisters on the eastern part, that of Gilbert of Gensing on the western part, my own land on the southern part, and the land of the Brothers and Sisters on the northern part, in perpetual alms for the salvation of my soul and the souls of Godard, Matilda, Robert, William, Richard and Henry, and for the souls of my heirs, relations and friends, the aforesaid 5 acres of land, with the precincts, to be held by the Brothers and Sisters for ever. And the said Brothers and Sisters have granted for themselves and successors that I, Lady Petronilla, and all the aforenamed shall be participators in the masses, vigils and prayers in the said Hospital for ever. And that this my gift may have perpetual confirmation, I have strengthened this deed with the impression of my own seal; aud for the greater faith in the promises I have procured for this deed the seal of the King’s Commonalty of the illustrious Barony of Hastings, in full Hundred thereof, held on Sunday, the feast of St Benedict, in the twenty-second year of the reign of King Edward, with these as witnesses — William of Waldern, Bailiff of Hasting, Henry de Meleward, and many others."
From this document we learn that not only was Willliam de Walderne the Hastings Bailiff in 1294-5, but that the hospital contiguous to his lands was also a religious institution.
In 1626 the Rev. Jermie Woodman was rector of St. Clement's, Hastings, and in that year, on the 1st of October, it was recorded that Nicholas Cooke was buried at Pg.164 "Madelin Chapel" which means, we presume, the chapel of the Magdalen Hospital. Other entries in the St. Clement's registers reveal the fact that on the 22nd of January 1627, John Gladdish was buried at the "Maudlin Chappel", and after that date the Maudlin (or Magdalen) Chapel is not mentioned, the several entries being the "Maudlin Parish". This may be an indication, but not a certainty of the period when it fell into decay. There is no dubiosity, however, that the so-called Hospital was on the site of the subsequently named Chapel Barn or [[Chapel Farm, leading to which, as well as to De Cham road is the present Chapel-park road. The ruins of the "Chapel Barn" were familiar to the present writer in his early life just as presented in the annexed view.
Occupants of the Charity land - Reminiscences & reviews - re the White Rock
Pg.105 I have said that Jeremiah Whyborn died before his lease of the Magdalen Charity-land had expired, and it may be added that Thomas Whyborn became the tenant of Hole Farm, vacated by Mr. Benjamin Lingham, in whose capacious chimney-corner, previously to 1826, I had many a time supped on home-made bread, and creamy milk. From an occupancy of the Chapel-farm or Poor-land, in St. Mary Magdalen, of which a Joseph Lingham was the lessee some 60 or 70 years previously, Mr. Whyborn succeeded to the Hole Farm, in St. Mary-in-the-Castle, which a Benjamin Lingham had previously quitted. I am reminded by these associations that whilst the Charity-land was let to Joseph Lingham in 1762 at only £18 per year, the Whyborns, in 1815, paid £65. The intermediate tenants, Mr. Thos. Deudney and his son Charles, paid respectively, £18 and £37. The elder rented it from 1769 to 1789, and the younger from 1790 to 1814. In 1838, however, after Messrs. Ransom & Co. had farmed the same land for ten years, one finds the rental increased to £110. But what is the amount realized by the Charity Commissioners, now that valuable property is being erected upon the land, and the proceeds, or a portion thereof, are applied, with other local charities, to the building and maintenance of a Grammar school and its scholarships ?
I was not one of those who, some years ago, claimed a share of the Magdalen Charity for other parishes than the two for which the Charity was originally and specifically intended, but I, nevertheless, opine that it is an injustice for those other parishes to be called upon through the medium of the School Board to contribute to the excessive price paid for a site on the Charity-land whereon has been erected a new Board school whilst the enrichment of the Charity fund by such purchase is for the exclusive benefit of what are called the two older parishes.
I mentioned that the two houses originally built by the Whyborns near the present Convent grounds were also in close proximity to the site of the old house which Mr. Thomas Deudney first inhabited when he came from Horsham in 1750; and it only remains for me to add that the said house was taken down in 1759, and that the site of the same is now occupied by No. 16 Oxford terrace, the uppermost house in Magdalen road.[g]
Having already described at some length the somewhat important connection of the Whyborn family with the Magdalen Charity lands from the conclusion of the Peninsular war in 1814 to the commencement of St. Leonards town in 1828; and some of my readers having subsequently expressed satisfaction that the associations had enabled me to carry their minds back to a few scenes and events of pre-historic St. Leonards, it occurs to me that a little additional gossip upon the place, period and persons thus treated of may not be altogether unacceptable. I shall, for the present, confine my remarks to the parish of St. Mary Magdalen; not only on account of its embracing the larger portion of St. Leonards town, but also because, of the two parishes it is one of which my earliest reminiscences are the most vivid. It has been truly remarked in the columns of the St. Leonards Gazette that "In bygone days, when the parish of St. Mary Magdalen — which now contains many thousands of inhabitants and forms the greater part of the town of St. Leonards — was possessed of only two or three land-tenants or Principal Inhabitants, the collection of rates and the provisions for the poor were very different to the present arrangements for similar purposes. There was no need then for stipendiary collectors of rates and distributors of relief, although it must be supposed that both the time and the pockets of the two or three ‘Principal Inhabitants’ were rather heavily drawn upon in providing for the sick and the aged, as well as for the casual relief of strangers." During the 14 years occupation of the Poor-land by the Whyborns, and for 24 previous years, Mr. Charles Deudney, of Gensing-farm and the Newgates, was the leading overseer of the parish, his coadjutors being Mr. John Vincett, of Bohemia Farm, from 1814 to '16; Mr. Jeremiah Whyborn, of the Poor-land, from 1817 to ’19; and Mr. Anthony Crisp, of Bohemia, from 1820 to’23. During that period, as well as throughout the 27 years overseership of Mr. Charles Deudney’s father — altogether an epoch of 65 years — the poor-rates were levied by the overseers on the authority of a Town-clerk’s warrant, without the sanction and signatures of magistrates as is now the custom, and with no further formality than that of writing in the parish account-book something like the following extract:—
April 18th. 1814. Charles Deudney and John Vincett, overseers of the poor of the parish of St. Mary Magdalen have agreed to make a book of seven shillings and three pence in the pound, to defray the maintenance of the poor last year.
Then follows a list of the five persons only who at that time were rated to the parish, together with the several amounts of assessment :—
|Chas. Deudney, Gensing Land||38||1||8|
|do. for the Newgates||1||12||7½|
|Jeremiah Whyborn, Poor Land||13||8||3|
|John Vincett, Bohemia land||23||11||3|
|Wm. Eversfield, Esq , Wood land||5||8||9|
Rejoicing as Britannia has had cause these many years to do over the blessings of free-trade, when she looks back to the taxation - fetters of the yeoman during the early part of the century she can hardly wish to exchange places with him in the "good old days of Protection." But, as before explained, the so-called poor-rate really included several other taxes, such as the county- rate and the Dover-castle (prison) rate, as well as the occasional disbursements for repair of roads. I should also add that although the cost of maintaining the poor was usually a heavy item in the parish accounts, such maintenance was mainly for those who as farm-labourers or lime-burners had grown old in the service of the landowners, or for such members of their families as by injuries or other misfortunes were unable to earn the means of living. Several of these were personally known to me; and if I venture to write anything concerning them it will be more in fulfilment of my promise to make these historical sketches also anecdotal, than because such personal allusions possess in themselves any special feature of interest. The first I shall refer to was an old lady whose name might have been Waters, for aught I know to the contrary, but who was best known to me under the appellation of “Old Sarah.” She was called Old Sarah when she lodged at my grandmother's in the days when "George the Third was King," and to suit my purpose she shall be called Old Sarah still. It was with Old Sarah and another person that I, when quite a child, went to see the antics of the "Mountebanks" (an open circus) on the Priory Ground, where the so-called America was afterwards built, and upon whose ruins there rose at a later period the present Robertson street. The same elderly dame, in the year 1821, led me by the hand to the top of the White-rock hill, for the purpose of seeing, according to report, the first steam-ship that had ever passed Hastings. We took up our station by the isolated but pleasantly situated house which occupied a site not far from the present White-rock villa, but upon more elevated ground, I have already referred to this habitation as the one to which I assisted in conveying a young woman who had fallen over a cutting in the cliff, but it will bear another reference as the only house which dominated the road over the old White Rock and commanded an uninterrupted view of the Channel from a point southward of Dungeness to Beachy Head. From its windows could be seen the battery of three guns upon the White-rock promontory (where the Pier now is) which had formed part of the 112 guns of Le Sans Pareil, captured from the French, by Lord Howe, on the "glorious first of June."
I remember, however, seeing but one of these guns in 1822, near to which was the track traversed by a solitary man-o’-war’s-man, who there kept watch by day and night upon the doings of the "fair traders." The White-rock house, if it had had the faculty of speech could have told many a tale of a tub; for, unless I am greatly mis-informed, it had been more than once used as a beacon by the crew in charge of a cargo of contraband. I am not sure that both it and the pit lime-kilns near it had not in their time been convenient depositories of a successful "run," but I am more conversant with the fact that the spot once known as Shepherd’s Hole — a little to the west of them and slightly rearward of the present houses 32 to 34 Eversfield place — was once the hiding-place of a smuggled cargo of brandy, from which the spirituous tubs were spirited away under cover of a layer of boulders, which at that time were used for paving the streets of the old town. But I am getting away from my cicerone! Well, we saw not the promised steamship in consequence of its non-arrival so soon as was expected. It was named George IV., and it passed Hastings at a slow rate on 2Ist of August, 1821. The townspeople were again gratified by a sight of the Royal George on the 10th of June, 1823. It was a vessel of 300 tons, and as it only travelled at the rate of seven miles an hour, many persons in ordinary boats were able to get a near view of it.
Other objects from the White Rock - The Magdalen parish paupers
As before remarked, we saw not the vessel on its first trip when we ascended to the solitary cottage on the White-rock eminence, but we saw the two Rope-walks, some 800 feet in length, which about thirty wears later were to be occupied by Carlisle parade and Robertson terrace. We also saw the blockmaker’s shop and the smithy, in one of which my grandfather had previously toiled, whilst in the other there still laboured the father of Mr. Edward Bowmer and his brothers. But we did not of course behold the 14-gun brig and the 20-gun sloop-of-war which I used to hear spoken of as having been constructed several years earlier on a spot near to where is now the Queen's Hotel. Nor could we see from where we then sat the 18 houses in York buildings, nor the 8 or 9 houses forming Meadow cottages; our view in that direction being intercepted by Cuckoo Hill, which at that time had not been lowered for the foundations of Prospect place and Pg.106 St. Michael's place. But we could discern in the fore ground of the Rope-walk the ware-house whose loft, by the generosity of Mr. Breeds, had been previously occupied by the master and scholars. of Saunders's(sic) Charity, and beyond that we could see the buildings which the "squatters" were erecting northward of the Rope-walk; also the Priory bridge, the St. Mary’s Workhouse, and the Hastings Castle, which last named object not having been excavated and the cliff not cut down, had a very different appearance to that which it now presents.
I do not know what was the age of my venerable guide in 1822, but as she was an occasional recipient of relief as long back as 1783, and was described as "Old Sarah----" in 1796, I calculate that she must have been at least between 70 and 80. Of course there was a time when Old Sarah was Young Sarah, and it may be possible that she was as fair to look upon as was Sarah, the wife of Abraham. But whatever might have been the charms of her youth she had not a husband to make provisions for her either in her prime of life or in her declining years. When able to work, it was her practice to go to Mr. Deudney’s, Mr. Mannington’s and other houses for daily employment, and when not thus able, her temporal wants were supplied by the parish of St. Mary Magdalen. And, not only were her own needs thus administered to, but also the necessities of a boy who , in his simplicity, might have explained, like Topsy, "I neber ’ad no fader, I neber ‘ad no moder, I ‘specs I growed." Be this as it may, the boy in question was sometimes described as "Swift’s boy," and sometimes as "Sarah’s boy," but seeing that he was kept for several years by the parish at a total cost of not less than £40, I think he ought to have been called the Parish’s boy. Old Sarah, herself, was not particularly burdensome to the quinary band of ratepayers, her various sums of relief during forty-two years, from 1783 to the time of her death in 1825, amounting only to about £20, Whether it was thought that Sarah could earn sufficient to keep herself even without that comparatively small amount of relief it is not for me to say, but that the jurats considered she was entitled to it is evidenced by an order from the court in 1796 to Charles Deudney as overseer of the Magdalen parish, to pay the arrears of £6. 15s. due to her for her child.
Having said thus much about "Old Sarah," I might also bring under my readers’ notice a few of her contemporaries, who notwithstanding that they, too, were -billited(sic) on certain people af Hastings derived the major portion of their means of maintanance from the five occupiers of land in St. Mary Magdalen ere Mr. Burton, both in a literary and figurative sense, "dreamt" his design for the town of St. Leonards.
I might speak of Dame Fowler, Dame Dabney and Dame Whyborn; and I might give a few life-sketches of "Old Jan Whyborn," and of Richard Roots and Arthur Fuller, both the latter of whom lived in the lonely cottage on the cliff. I might also tell of the four girls who were severally named after the Misses Deudney. I might refer to John Dabney, father of the said four girls, who was killed in the hay-field by a waggon running over his neck; also to his brother William and the latter’s noted wife — parents of the late drill-sergeant Dabney — whose residence was at the once existent tower and turnpike-gate, from which was named the present Tower road. A painting of the said tower and its adjuncts, built by Mr. Burton, and appearing in an earlier chapter, depicts the original object as an old familiar friend. I might tell of Tom Standen who became paralyzed whi'e hoeing turnips and of his blind namesake who used to sit on the summit of the road leading to St. Leonards over the White Rock. I might also describe "Ned" Burchast, who used to travel round on Sunday mornings to measure the paupers and others for boot & and shoes; also Mr. Bryant and Mr. Cossum who supplied clothes on the parish a/c.; together with the eccentric "dockters" Satterly and Dutton, who supplied medicine, as well as attendance,to paupers and non-paupers of St.Mary Magdalen. But this task I will defer to a more convenient season, being anxious as I am at present to recover my foothold of 1834, thence to take another step forward. I think, however, before quitting this part of my narrative, I ought to extract from the parish a/cs. a few specimens of orthography, so that those who may be trained in the school now on the Charity land here so frequently referred to, if ever taught phonetic spelling, may have some proof that the system is not altogether modern.
The following are a few examples:-
Sa’t Marymagdelings Parish. Payd owd Dank—for a Munth 8 0 Paid for a waskcot 3 3 Paid for Mending Shoues 1 6 Paid Sheepards wifes logins 4 0 Briches for ould Dunk 8 9 Coffen and Sroud 1 3 0 Work on the hy ways 1 5 0 Paid the Saxton for Bering Dame Britt 5 0 Paid Cossum for two Shurts 6 3 Makeing Cloase & thrid & Butons 6 3 Dabner Recevd half hogs fleed wayed
Gave Wiburn to berry his gal 5 0 For work in the hiy ways 2 6 Gave Old Britt a shurt and sheat 8 0 Paid for Sitifie [certificate] 3 0 Releaf to Wibourns famaly 5 0 Put the White Rock out to blow or
Clive [cleave] , 1792
10 0 0 Moveing old Master Wiburn from
the Tobackerhouse to Hasting
3 0 Paid Carry [Carey] for a paier of
7 6 Affedavid for Tom Wibourn 1 0 Paid Dockter Watts 11 0
- Setelled this Account  and the book is in Debeted to us £1 1 0.
I have before stated that the persons elected in 1834 to fill the vacancies on the board of Commissioners were G. B. Greenough, Esq., the Rev. J. H. Randolph, Mr. Norsworthy, Mr. Chas. Deudney and Mr. Samuel Chester. Mr. Chester, with his, family, had only taken up his abode in St. Leonards that same year, but it might have been felt by those who elected him that they were not bestowing their favors on a stranger. He had carried on the business of baker and grocer for some ten or twelve years previously in the adjoining parish of the Holy Trinity, and had removed to St. Leonards when the property of the so-called "America" was claimed by the Crown. Mr. Chester thus transferred his grocery business to 12 East ascent, a house which at that time was estimated at a greater value than the other property of the same character immediately above and below it; yet, being approached by means of a flight of steps, it was ill-adapted for such a business. I remember hearing it once said of a man that he could establish a trade even in the middle of a wood. Whether Mr. Chester’s business capabilities were equal to such a consummation I am unable to pronounce, but I know that he was generally painstaking and punctual in the execution of orders; and I take it that this attention to the requirements of his customers more than counter-balanced the inconvenience of so undesirable an approach to the shop. By-and-by, another house was added to the establishment, and the business appeared to keep pace with the growth of the town. At length, after training his family to industrial pursuits, and seeing that they were in a position to apply their industry to advantage, Mr. Chester relinquished the business at 11 and 12 East ascent, having already laid the foundation of that commercial enterprise which, under the subsequent management of his eldest son, grew into enormous proportions.
I do not forget that although I am led by many trains of associations to be frequently discursive, I have still to keep in view the chronological bearing of my story. Starting, therefore, once more from the last Commissioners’ meeting of 1834, immediately following the town meeting at which the elder Mr. Chester was elected, I find that an estimate was to be prepared for facing the new sea-wall with hard stone, and that additional protection was to be afforded it by the imbedding of fagots at its base. It is worthy of a passing note that the same sort of materials had to be used for a similar purpose throughout the year 1878 — the Jubilee Year of St. Leonards, which suggested the present History. Unfortunately for the Commissioners, in 1834, they could get no response to their advertisements for tenders, and no offers of the £800 loan which their clerk was instructed at every meeting to make fresh efforts to obtain. The Gas Company wanted the amount of their account, the bankers were pressing for repayment of £250 lent cash, and many of the ratepayers either could not or would not pay up their arrears. Under such difficulties the Commissioners were compelled to postpone the much-needed repairs and additional protection to the parade wall, notwithstanding that their future Queen was residing amongst them. In smaller matters, however, the cost of which was in their means, the governing body displayed a judicious action which some persons think might be worthily imitated by the local rulers of the present day. They ordered a paved crossing to the church to be laid down, and an opening in the parade rails to be made opposite to Victoria House; also another crossing to be laid down between the two points just named. They had already effected similar crossings at the Harold hotel, the Conqueror hotel, and the St. Leonards hotel and, at their next meeting, they resolved to have a paved footway from the East ascent to the St. Leonards hotel, and from the Sussex hotel at West Marina to the parade. These several crossings were always looked upon as a public boon; and the complaint in the present day is that whilst the Town Council spend immense sums of money in the purchase of parks and pleasure-grounds which only one visitor out of a hundred goes to see, a few pounds cannot be spared to lay down an additional crossing here-and-there, which is so much needed by the other ninety-nine visitors who have to cross the many intersecting roads on their way from one part of the town to another. The late Rev. Henry Robinson, writing to a Hastings newspaper, said—"If you wish to maintain your supremacy, you must render it possible for a carriage to be driven in your streets without its springs being broken, and you must make crossings in many places by which delicate women can pass from one side of the road to the other without being up.to their ankles in mud!!" Of late years many of the stone crossings have been taken up, and were it not that at the present time a substitute for them is found in dirty weather with the aid of Local-Board brooms and a little fine gravel, I should still say as I did in the first edition of this History - namely, that I had seen ladies. walk long distances in the endeavour to find a comparatively clean crossing. I also said, there are numerous churches and chapels, public institutions, places of business, railway approaches, pillar letter-boxes, &c., in and about Norman road, London road, Warrior square and other thoroughfares, to which people desire to have access, and yet there is not a crossing to be seen. I think, then, that whatsoever improvements have been made since the St. Leonards Commissioners. flourished, their practical wisdom in providing clean crossings was not to be gainsayed.
It was close upon the year 1834 that the Commissioners treated with Mr. Burton for the removal from Mercatoria of the St. Leonards Watch-house or Lock-up, and at the same time another new suit of clothes was ordered for the Beadle, the price to be £6 15s., and the maker to be Mr. Richard Gausden. So far as I can remember, the only tailors at that date residing in St. Leonards were the Mr. Gausden referred to, and a Mr. Edward Minister, the latter of whom resided at 9 East ascent, and of whom many amusing anecdotes might be told.
The unfortunate tailors strike - A haunted house
I dare to say that these good knights of the bodkin were inconvenienced in proportion to the extent of their trade as were Messrs. Standen and Forest, Messrs. Clement and Inskipp, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Harman, Mr. Lock, Mr. Tyhurst, Mr. Foster and other tailors or tailor-merchants of Hastings, in consequence of the tailors’ strike which took place in that same year, 1834. The spirit of Chartism was just then gaining a hold upon the affections of the people, and it was thought that the tailors — who were always great in politics — imbibed the “spirit to a larger extent than any other class of operatives. It was also believed that the strike of the tailors for better conditions was in a great measure the outcome of discontent engendered by the espousal of Chartism. Be that as it may, the ramifications of the tailors’ strike were very extensive, the number who engaged in it in London alone being thirteen thousand.
The strike among the tailors in 1834 had a very different result to that which the strikemen had contemplated. An important factor which they had failed to use in their Pg.107 calculation was that the needle, thimble and scissors were implements which women could ply with as much dexterity as men, and that as seamstresses were: being paid ae work at a rate much below the scale of earnings enjoyed tailors, there needed but the occasion for the gentler sex to open up for themselves a new source of income. The opportunity was then present, and such females as could turn their hands to needlework other than that of, dressmaking or shirt-making were soon in pressing demand. At shops and private houses they were eagerly sought for; but, as at first they were insufficiently numerous to meet the sudden demand, the mothers of families came to the rescue by disintegrating the old apparel of their sons, and using the several parts as patterns in the cutting out of new garments. The success which attended the mothers’ efforts in making the boys’ clothes led them in course of time to attempt similar work for their husbands and if the latter happened to be too fastidious in the matter, the good wife still showed her solicitude for the respectable appearance of her liege-lord by brushing and cleaning or sending to the dyers such garments as at less critical times would have found their way to the dealers in old clothes. Women’s work thus went on apace; and, seeing how this new female energy was working against the tailors, more than one journeyman snip, even within my own knowledge, gave a clandestine support to the movement until the close of the strike by secretly assisting in the work which the women undertook to do. By-and-by, "Mrs. Stitchem, tailoress" or some equally euphonious name and calling appeared on painted board or printed card in many a window, and the tailor on strike soon found to his cost that the public could do better without the tailor than the tailor without the public. Not only did the women turn their attention to the making up of men’s and boy’s attire, but the men and boys themselves who had no wives, mothers or sisters to restore a missing button or band to its place, or to "finedraw" a rent, found that necessity had no law nor impossibility a place when the occasion arrived for their own digits to apply the needle and thread. St. Leonardensis had not quite arrived at man’s estate, but he had been able to do his own "making" for several years; and this strike among the tailors served as an impulse to further efforts in that direction. He had no ambition to he professionally the "ninth part of a man," but having seen a good deal of the tailors’ "art and mystery" from the time when Messrs. Middlemas, Gallop, and other "snips" sat on Robinson’s shop-board by the Hastings Town-Hall, until he himself, entered the service of a draper and merchant-tailor, he acquired a knowledge of the trade which in after years he was able to turn to practical account. The comic periodical Punch was not at that time in existence, but it had its prototype in the Caricaturist. and there are, doubtless, many persons living who remember the skits and sketches of which the tailors strike formed a fruitful subject in that and other comic prints of the period. The "De’il among the Tailors" was a cartoon more bold than elegant in conception, whilst "Men and Measures" and "The Tape of the Tailoress" were equally pictures of ideal suggestions: rather than correct illustrations of the new work which women had engaged in.
The operations of the tailoress were limited to the cutting-out and making-up of garments from old models; but had it been necessary for gentlemen who required "splendid fit" to undergo artistic measurement at the hands of the gentler sex, it would have been a travesty of no greater intensity than that in which St. Leonardensis many years later, was unconsciously enlisted as one of the principal actors. A graphic account of this was published at the time, and the story needs only to be repeated in the simplest manner. A gentleman and his "son" having taken apartments at East Ascent, began immediately to patronize the tradespeople, and among those whom the visitors delighted to honour was the present writer. A superfine broad cloth had been selected from which a suit of clothes was to be made for: the "young gentleman"; and, as a good fit was desired St. Leonardensis waited upon the party at their lodgings to take the necessary measurement. As, however, the gentleman and his "son" were strangers, a deposit was asked for, but which request not being complied with, the order remained unexecuted. Certain incidents of the next few days revealed the fact that the assumed gentleman and his son were a couple of swindlers, and that the person who had been so carefully measured for a suit of clothes was not a gentleman, but a lady.
Well, after a time, the tailors resumed their seats on the shop-board, and matters settled down quietly; but the tailoresses never entirely evacuated the ground on which they had taken their stand. Some of the single women, indeed, made choice of tailors for their husbands, and when freed from their household duties were enabled to increase the family income by working at their husband’s trade. Others, I fear, who contracted such marriages found, to their sorrow, that the burden of the work — when such work was done at home—too often rested upon themselves, the husbands finding it more to their liking and less to their credit to be otherwise engaged. The town of St. Leonards was, however, growing apace, and some of the needlewomen found profitable employment in the work of household drapery and upholstery. I can call to mind several such persons who thus worked for Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Carey, or Messrs. W. and E. Honiss: but who, as well as their employers, have quitted this work-a-day life for that which is beyond the region of mortality.
The mention of W. and E. Honiss reminds me that their younger brother George suddenly quitted this earthly sphere in 1879. He died on Easter-Tuesday, April 15th, at his residence, 1 Portland place, Hastings, in the 70th year of his age. On the preceding Monday I was gossiping with an old acquaintance named Ellis, who had been upwards of forty years a resident in Rye, but who, as a native of Hastings, shared with me and others the fun of an incantation which nearly 70 years back the boys had learnt from the old’gossips of the day for raising ghosts. Of course, every town had its haunted house, and Hastings was therefore not excepted. But the curiosity in our case was that instead of the haunted house being some ancient tumbledown building as in most cases, it was, new one in an unfinished state at Cavendish place. Whether the troubled spirit had there taken up its quarters from an uneasy bed in the Rev. Webster Whistler's "Dog-kennel" or in the other contiguous burial place, it is not given me to say; but this much is certain—that despite our charms, and despite our throwing of missiles night after night, as a provocative, the ghost refused to show up. But this by the way! I have referred to my casual meeting of Mr. Ellis — which was at the Albert Memorial — because Mr. George Honiss, whom we both knew, passed us somewhat hurriedly on his way home. I noticed that his face was of a peculiarly livid hue of red and purple; but although I was amazed at my friend’s appearance, I had no thought that his life’s journey was within a few hours of completion.
At the period to which this History has reached (1834), he was principal painter and decorator in the firm of his brothers, who had show rooms both at Hastings and St. Leonards. Messrs. W. and E. Honiss carried on business as cabinet-makers, upholsterers, decorators, painters and glaziers, at 43 Marina from about 1831 until 1838; and during the earlier portion of that period their next door neighbour was Mr. Minister (son of the Minister at East Ascent), who was the fashionable tailor of the day and himself the publisher of "Gentlemen's Fashions." This brings me back again to the tailors’ strike’ of 1834, which I will not further dwell upon, except to say that there was another strike among the tailors, 33 years later, which ended as ingloriously for those who engaged in it as did that of 1834. On the latter occasion Punch apostrophised thus :—
“The tailors strike I do not heed,
Let dress grow costly as it will;
For if my clothes have ran to seed.
Full many a day they'll last me still."
I had no intention of further dilating on the tailors’ strike, but the death of an octogenarian at the time when this was being written in 1879 recalled a circumstance that had an immediate bearing on the subject. The said death was that of Mr. John Jinks, a man whose occupation was never that of a tailor, but whose pecuniary resources were nevertheless, affected in some measure by the strike. This action of the tailors had already given an impulse to the ready-made clothes trade, and had augmented the sales of two business establishments in Hastings, carried on respectively by Messrs. Bell and Strong. Before their time the little that was done in "slop" goods were mainly controlled by Mr. Richard Selden, a sedate, but much respected grocer and tea-dealer, who also sold ready-made clothes, in a small shop opposite to the Town-hall. But the most noted store was one of those previously alluded to and at the time of the tailors’ strike, and for some years after, the name of Strong was regarded almost as a talisman for cheap goods and honest dealing. But it was a long distance to the upper part of All Saints’ Street for the people of St. Leonards, and even for those of “America,” to trudge, after they had taken their wages on Saturday night; and it occured to Mr. John Jinks, who was a working bricklayer, that there was an opening for a “slop shop” in what was then the via media of Hastings and St. Leonards. He therefore opened a small store at White-rock street, just about where is now 40 Robertson street, It frequently happened, however, that even Jinks’s clothes store could not be reached on Saturday night by the St. Leonards workpeople, in consequence of the non-receipt of their wages until midnight. I have therefore seen Mr. Jinks’s small shop beseiged(sic) on a Sunday morning by workpeople in quest of new garments. But this did not last long; for, in common with the rest of the “Americans” John Jinks had to take himself off at the expiration of the seven years’ lease which was given to them in 1828 when Government laid claim to the ground. Mr. Jinks removed to Spittleman’s Down (now Bohemia place), and applied himself more exclusively to his bricklaying work. He was employed by Mr. James Troup in the erection of that gentleman’s cottage in the centre of Warrior square, and in the work of enclosing the two pieces of ornamental ground. He subsequently became the landlord of the Wheat-sheaf public-house at Spittleman’s Down—sometimes called the "New Houses," and in course of time he left the Wheat-sheaf for a similar house at Rye, Not succeeding there to his satisfaction he again took up his abode at Bohemia place, where he died on the 19th of April at the age of over 80 years. He had been a sort of right-hand man to Mr. Wastel Brisco for about 36 years, and was employed in the erection of the wall which enclosed that gentleman’s grounds, as well as in the building of the houses in White-rock road and Cambridge road, first known as Trinity place, and Trinity Terrace.
For strength and industry Mr. Jinks had not many equals, and although I knew some of his family, my only reminiscence of him at the present time is "Jinks's Passage" at Bohemia.
I have stated that the St. Leonards workmen did not get their wages sometimes before Saturday midnight. This was especially the case when the London road and the Eversfield parade were being constructed. Men made longer working days of Saturdays than they now do, and public-houses were open till a later hour than they now are; and as the wages were usually paid at a public-house, the time occupied in settling with the workmen as they were called in from the street one by one, was very considerable. Not only had the employers to find money wherewith to pay the weekly wage, but they had also to depend mainly on the efforts of the publican to provide for them a large stock of silver and perhaps an equal value of gold. The Horse-and-groom was the great rendézvous in those days, and it was no uncommon thing for Messrs. Ranger to collect in Hastings or elsewhere a requirement of forty or fifty pounds of silver to be dispensed by the contractors who used their house on a Saturday night, notwithstanding the taunt of the Hastings péople that there was "never but one five-pound note in St. Leonards." The tenancy of the Rangers was from November 1834 to January 1637, and it was. within that period that another Mr. Ranger, a relation of theirs undertook the contract for the Eversfield parade.
Occupants of the Horse and Groom - Summary of Events
Pg.108 But I ought to have mentioned that their predecessor was Mr. John Woods, an ex-draper and grocer, firstly of Winchelsea, and secondly, of Hastings. Mr. Woods - as I had an opportunity of knowing — was a man of almost child-like simplicity, sterling integrity, cheerful disposition, and strict morality. He was, however, ill-fitted for the business of a publican, his unsuspecting nature placing him at a disadvantaged(sic) when in contact with roguery or trickery. Either for gain or sport, some of his designing customers, after taking a drink from their pint or pot of beer, would shout "Look here, Woods! do you call this proper measure?" The landlord so addressed would apologise, and refill the pot, not thinking that he had been duped.
The summer of 1834 was very hot and thundery. It was a noted season for fruit, but the disease known as English cholera was also prevalent. In consequence of this, there was a very brisk demand for brandy, and as Mr. Woods was a thorough hater of shams, it afforded him amusement to describe an occurrence something after this fashion:— The first was a woman, who, as an excuse for drinking brandy early in the day, felt so queer, and hoped she was not going to have the cholera. The next was a temperance man [teetotalers and good templars were not then known], and he, whilst putting his hand on the where a pain — real or feigned - was located, declared that he could not go any longer without a drop of brandy. The third person was a man who having overheard the other two, shouted lustily - "Come, Woods, give us a stiff glass of brandy, for I love it."
Another incident in Mr. Woods’s experiences as a publican was this :—Two men were engaged in a friendly banter whilst drinking at the bar, when one of them suddenly exhibited a fit of ill-temper, and threatened to do something desperate with his foot. His companion who was a much bigger man, examined the nether extremity with which the threatened indignity was to be inflicted, and then quietly retorted— "No you won't! for it is my invariable rule never to be kicked by a foot that dosen’t(sic) wear a silk stocking." The little man’s anger was subdued by the studied coolness of his antagonist, and the friendship of the two men were again established. Well would it be if there could always be such a practical exemplification of "a soft answer turneth away wrath."
But, as already intimated, Mr. Wood was anything but qualified for the rough life of a publican it was indeed rough in those days — and so, after a period not exceeding twelve months, he gave up the tenancy of the Horse-and-groom for an appointment much more congenial to his tastes, namely, that of Post-master of Hastings.
I have been reminded that the tailors were not the only working-people who struck for better terms in 1834, and the reminder is accompanied with an expression of opinion that it is hardly fair to "single out the poor snips from all the rest." If my critic imagines that I "single out" the tailors of that period for animadversion, he alone is guilty of unfairness, because he has put an interpretation upon my comments which they do not bear. I am quite conversant with the fact that there were several other strikes during that year, but I am not aware that any other than that of the tailors extended to our locality. There was, of course, the strike on the 28th of March, among the men of the London gas companies; but, so far as I know, its effect hereabouts was to induce one or two the Hastings gas-hands to go to London to take places vacated by those on strike. The London men demanded their wages to be raised from 28s. to 35s. per week, with the daily addition of two quarts of porter per man. Then there was a strike of 3,000 factory hands at Leeds, in consequence of the mill-owners’ announced determination not to employ members of trade-unions. This again did not affect St. Leonards in my direct manner. Then, on the 28th of April, occurred the tailors’ strike, on which we already fully dilated. In fact, the whole year was noted for strikes, and among the evils which resulted from them, was the sentence to death passed on two men for shooting their employer; also the riot at Oldham, on the 15th of April, which was dispersed by a troop of Lancers, after a factory had been nearly destroyed and one person killed. On the 17th of March six Dorchester labourers were sentenced to seven years’ transportation for being members of an illegal society, and a petition was sent up from Hastings and St. Leonards on their behalf. Their case, indeed, excited great sympathy throughout the kingdom, and among the numerous meetings which wore held, was a gathering of 25,600 Unionists in Copenhagen Fields, who marched in a body to the Home Secretary for a remission of the sentence. The strikes and other proceedings of the trades-unions excited the anger of the well-to-do classes, and the Government of the day were appealed to put down the system by force. This was not done, however, and on the 18th of August, 10,000 other workmen went out on strike in consequence cf the builders declaring against the employment of society men.
But even this did not extent to St. Leonards; and, perhaps, in some measure for the following reasons. The St. Leonards builders had been paying their workmen at the rate of 4/6 per day, which was 6d., and in some cases 10d. more than was being paid at the same time in many provincial towns.
But it so happened that the town — then only six years old — was suffering a reaction from over-speculation in its rapid growth, - and the visits of the Boader of Dover Castle were more frequent than agreeable. scarecrow even to the workmen, some of whom were glad to obtain employment at Hastings at 3/8 per day. They were in no mood, therefore, to follow the example of their London fraternity. Still, the work continued, but it was at a more steady pace, and it was less within the jurisdiction of the St. Leonards Commissioners’ than in the district familiarly known as “St. Leonards-without.” Adelaide place, Saxon hotel, Saxon mews, Saxon house, and the greater part of Mr. Putiand’s property had been finished; Seymour place was being commenced, a few houses in the lower parts of what are now London road and Norman road were already occupied; and the smaller habitations in Shepherd street and North street were in a steady course of extension.
The Warrior's Gate Inn, as previously stated, was built by the lime-burner, familiarly known as Old George Hyland, on the site of the six or seven lime-kilns owned by Mr. Deudney; and it was here, as well as at the Saxon hotel, the Horse-and-Groom inn, the St. Leonards hotel and tap, the Harold hotel and tap, the Conqueror hotel, and the Anchor inn, where the warm politicians of that period chiefly assembled to read -the newspapers or to hear them as well as to criticize the doings in Parliament and talk over the affairs of the nation.
The structural life of St. Leonards during the first few years of its growth had been barely less exciting than its political life. The periods immediately preceding and succeeding the passing of the Reform Bill were full of political energy all over the kingdom, and it need not be supposed that there was anything exceptional in a comparatively young community to depress its political ardour or to check its aspirations under the electoral privileges newly acquired. The year 1832 had been a year of extraordinary excitement, and the following year, memorable as the first of the Reformed
This important personage became almost a scarecrow even to the workmen, some of whom were glad to obtain employment at Hastings at 3/8 per day. They were in no mood, therefore, to follow the example of their London fraternity. Still, the work continued, but it was at a more steady pace, and it was less within the jurisdiction of the St. Leonards Commissioners than in the district familiarly known as "St. Leonards-without." Adelaide place, Saxon hotel, Saxon mews, Saxon house, and the greater part of Mr. Putland’s property had been finished; Seymour place was being commenced, a few houses in the lower parts of what are now London road and Norman road were already occupied; and the smaller habitations in Shepherd street and North street were in a steady course of extension.
The Warrior's Gate Inn, as previously stated, was built by the lime-burner, familiarly known as Old George Hyland, on the site of the six or seven lime-kilns owned by Mr. Deudney; and it was here, as well as at the Saxon hotel, the Horse-and-Groom inn, the St. Leonards hotel and tap, the Harold hotel and tap, the Conqueror hotel, and the Anchor inn, where the warm politicians of that period chiefly assembled to read the newspapers or to hear them as well as to criticize the doings in Parliament and talk over the affairs of the nation.
The structural life of St. Leonards during the first few years of its growth had been barely less exciting than its political life. The periods immediately preceding and succeeding the passing of the Reform Bill were full of political energy all over the kingdom, and it need not be supposed that there was anything exceptional in a comparatively young community to depress its political ardour or to check its aspirations under the electoral privileges newly acquired. The year 1832 had been a year of extraordinary excitement, and the following year, memorable as the first of the Reformed Parliament, had been one of very great interest; but it was to the events of 1834 that the politician turned his attention with unwonted zest. North and Warre were representatives for Hastings; and, as the former gentleman was suspected by his family and immediate connections to be too much of a Whig, and by the Reformers to have imbibed too much of the Tory traditions of his surroundings, his votes in Parliament were closely watched and commented upon by both political sections. I will not, however, dwell on that subject at present, as I am anxious to arrive at the end of 1834, a year which has already occupied a considerable portion of this history. I will therefore briefly enumerate in chronological order those local events of the year to which reference has been made, and will associate therewith such parliamentary transactions of the period as were taken part in by our Borough Members, or as had an indirect local interest on account of their national importance:-
Jan. 6 — Mr. Leave, the first surveyor and collector of rates to the St. Leonards’ Commissioners, tendered his resignation of the latter office, whilst Scott and Homan undertook the construction of an additional seawall for £735.
Jan. 30 - Flowers in full bloom which usually blow in May; the winter having been one of extraordinary mildness.
Feb. 12 - Shoals of mackerel so close to the St. Leonards shore as to be caught by hand.
March 17 - Petitions from Hastings, St. Leonards and other towns to remit the sentence on the Dorchester labourers.
March 10 - Mr. Edlin formerly of the Harold hotel, having succeeded Mr. Hodgson at the St. Leonards hotel, the new management was celebrated by a public dinner, the chair being taken by Howard Elphinstone Esq., supported by F. Sharpe Esq. of Northiam Park, Col. Gant, Sutherland, Graeme, Esq. and James Burton, Esq.
March 31 - Messrs. North and Warre (the two M.P.’s for Hastings) attended a meeting of the St. Leonards Commissioners.
May 22 — St. Leonards Church consecrated by Dr. Maltby, Bishop of Durham.
June 30 — Mr. Howard Elphinstone, chairman at the St. Leonards Commissioners’ meetings, between his defeat and success as a candidate for the representation of Hastings.
Nov. 13 — The people of St, Leonards, as well as of every other town, startled at the news of King William dismissing Lord Melbourne’s Ministry, rather than consent to John Russell being leader of the House of Commons in lieu of Lord Althorp, who had gone to the House of Lords on the death of Earl Spencer.
Nov. 20 - Drowning of Lieut. Gilly and five seamen at St. Leonards.
Dec. 27 - Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth[h], sister to His Majesty and Landgravine of Hesse Homberg arrived at Edlin's St. Leonards Hotel from Dover attended by Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence and two of the Kings pages. The party were received with 21 rounds from the battery mounted for the occasion.
Dec. 29 - Mr. Planta, Mr. Herbert Curteis, and other gentlemen disqualified as St. Leonards Commissioners.
- This word appears in isolation at the start of the line where Brett has pasted a typeset portion of text - Transcriber
- Ian S. notes that this could refer to Rosina Gold, who was married to Edward Gold and had a child baptised at St Clements Church in 1831. Mr Gold later absconded, leaving his wife destitute and having to be returned to Eastbourne (her birth-place) and the work-house. The couple reconciled by 1851, when they are recorded as resident at Doble Cottage, St. Leonards - Editor
- Brett would appear to have got the spelling of this chap's surname incorrect - Editor (thanks to HW)
- This passage and the two following appeared in St. Leonardensis column of the 5th of April 1879 - Editor
- Brett later corrects this date to 1823 - Editor
- This name is also spelled Petronella in other sources - Editor
- Brett would appear to be mistaken in the location of this terrace, census returns placing it at the top end of Church Road - Editor
- Princess Elizabeth (1770-1840) was the seventh child of King George III Wikipedia page