Brett Volume 1: Chapter X - Hastings 1833

From Historical Hastings

Transcriber’s note

Chapter X - Hastings 1833

Elphinstone's Election Ball and Testimonial
An unfortunate episode
The Palmy days of the Pelham Arcade
Disaster to the “Lamburn", submergence (by collision) of the “Cobourg", and total loss of the "Four Sisters"
Collections for the fishery
More fatalities
Rifle Brigade assisting Coastguards
Duke Duchess and Prince George of Cumberland at Breeds Place. Commissioners under the Act
Proceedings of the Corporation
Purchase of a new fire-engine
Death of Mr. Milward
More seizures of contraband
Fatal falls from the East Cliff
Exciting boat races
[[Joseph Planta (1787–1847)|Mr. Planta's election entertainment.

[ 91 ]

Elphinstone's Election Ball - A collier run down - The "Four Sisters" lost

I have made allusion to Mr. Howard Ephinstone as the unsuccessful candidate for Parliamentary honours in 1832, and to the dinner which he afterwards gave in the Pelham Arcade at Hastings to 200 of his supporters; and now I have to mention that on the 4th of January, 1833, the same gentleman gave in the same building what was termed an Election Ball, at which there were 400 persons present. Although at that time St. Leonardensis was not a "Free and Independent Elector," he was, nevertheless, a free and independent votary of Terpsichore and in one way or another, through family connections, he was invited or permitted to attend most of the election balls and bouts of that most exciting period. On this particular occasion he remembers that Mr. Elphinstone was presented, during the evening, with an elegant silver cup, the dancers being the donors; in other words, the electors who had supported the candidature of Mr. Elphinstone presented that gentleman with a testimonial of their high esteem. There was another incident of a less formal, but more amusing character, which even at this distance of time I cannot refrain from alluding to. Gentlemen had selected their partners and a quadrille had already commenced, when, at the supreme moment of a gentleman doing the graceful in the figure of la poule, a noise was heard as of the tearing of calico or broadcloth. Eyes were immediately turned to the centre of the human quadrangle whence the sound appeared to emanate, and there to the discomfiture of one and the amusement of many it was discovered that the gentleman alluded to had rent a pair of "new unwhisperables" almost from top to bottom. In utter confusion the said gentleman made his way through the crowd to No. 7 Beach cottages (at that time rented by the Misses Woolley and Carey) where he exchanged garments whilst he showered down his "best blessings" on the head of his tailor. Nothing daunted, he returned to the ball, but in the meantime his disconsolate partner had been taken in hand by another gentleman. This unfortunate episode was the source of titter and amusement during the remainder of the night, and every gentleman thereafter was closely watched every time he attempted the faire la reverance. It was regarded as so good a joke that an acquaintance of mine— "a fellow of infinite jest" — put the account of it in rhyme, and had the effrontery, some years later, to recite the same at family gatherings and convivial meetings. Strange as it may seem, there were rhymsters(sic) and punsters even in those days; but there were also scribblers who did not shrink from a little plagiarism now-and-then; and this particular rhymester—as I have discovered by an entry in his diary—moulded his comic effusion after the fashion of "The Fractured Knee" in Costume Castle, a collection of adyertising rhymes which came into his possession. It may be asked by the Hastings, as well as by the St. Leonards people of the present day, Why was the Pelham Arcade selected for dinners, dances, concerts and other assemblies? The reply is, because the lessee, Mr. J. B. Moor, besides being a warm politician, had a keen eye to business; and because when the interior of the Arcade was cleared of its usual bazaaric contents, and the shops and stores were all closed with shutters on the inside and covered over with decorations it formed the largest, and perhaps the smartest room in the borough.

The next largest room in those days was that at the Swan Hotel, and at the present time the only buildings to which the Pelham Arcade could be likened are the Swimming Baths and the Pier Pavilions.

There was much destruction of property by the January and February gales of this year, as well as by the turbulant weather of the following autumn and winter. On Tuesday the 12th of February, a fine, new brig, of 100 tons, called The Lamburn, was launched from the yard of Messrs. Thwaites and Winter (which occupied the site at Beach terrace where the Russian gun now is) but in consequence of another gale springing up, her ballast got shifted while off St. Leonards, and she was run ashore at Bulverhythe. She was afterwards got off, and made many voyages between Hastings and the north of England. Also on the same day or the day before, the collier-brig Cobourg, belonging to Thwaites and Bailey, and laden with 120 chaldrons of coal for St. Leonards, was run down, off Hastings, by a schooner, the crew being saved.

On the 31st of August a severe N.W. gale sprang up, and the Four Sisters, a vessel belonging to Messrs. Breeds and Co., having, as it was thought, left the shore with too little ballast, was never more heard of. Then in the month of October another severe gale occurred, followed by a long season of boisterous weather, during which the fishermen were unable to put to sea for several weeks in succession: This caused such widespread distress among the fishery, that in the following January much was done to relieve it, and among the efforts thus made, the Rev. J. G. Foyster and his curate collected £200. One other freak of the weather in that year was that on the 12th of May the shaded thermometer registered at Hastings the unusual heat of 85 degrees, thus contrasting strangely with the weather of the 13th of May in the previous year, when there was a heavy fall of snow.

Smuggling dying out - A week of bell-ringing - Royalty at Breeds Place

By this time the contraband traffic was sensibly declining at Hastings, yet some of the Hastings men continued to take part in ventures at other parts of the coast. On the 23rd of January, at about 2 in the morning, the coastguard on the beach at Saltdean, while holding a conference with chief watchman George Pett, heard close inshore the sound of a horn, which was answered from land with a shrill whistle.

This created a suspicion in the minds of the men on duty, and put them quickly more on the alert. On mounting the cliff, one of the coastguard discovered a number of persons together. He immediately cried out "The Company! The Company!" This was no sooner done than Pett fired his pistol in the air as a signal for assistance. An immense body of men then rushed to the spot where the alarm was thus given, and poor Pett was mortally shot. The boat came ashore and a general skirmish ensued, while a number of armed men advanced and formed two lines on each side, thereby securing the safe working off of the heavy cargo.

Three other coastguards were seriously wounded, but in the first conflict the smugglers appeared to get off unscathed. Afterwards a mounted coastguard fell in with the party and fired among them and then retired to re-load. This act he several times repeated, and it was discovered by means of tracks of blood that some of the smugglers had in that way been wounded.

It may be supposed that the riding-officer was apprehensive of being made short work of if he came to close quarters, and that knowing his inability to seize the goods, he thus sought to kill or wound as many of the smugglers as he could from motives of revenge. This appears to have been the last fatal conflict on this part of the coast between the offenders and defenders, the latter's force being augmented by a company of Rifles.

Says Sir. W. H. Cope in his History of the Rifle Brigade[a]:-

"Early in the year 1833, Capt. Horatio Stewart's Depot Company was ordered to proceed from Dover to Hastings by forced march [ 92 ], the whole of that coast being in a state of great excitement in consequence of the proceedings of smugglers, who had not long before had an affray with the coastguard in which one of the latter was killed and others wounded. After an hour's rest and refreshment, the men were divided into parties, under officers, and directed to patrol the beach for [many][b] miles. This continued with good effect for 6 weeks, no smugglers being met with the whole time."

The tragic events here related not only determined some who are named in the "Last of a Family of Smugglers" to have nothing more to do with, but also determined the more daring sprint of Thomas Ranger from continuing the traffic with the avidity and frequency that had characterised his previous movements. However his exploits during 1833 where somewhat few and far between, he having settled down more steadily to his trade of boot-making, at which he was regarded as a superior workman. He, however, had still a vested interest in the now rapidly declining traffic, and it may be that he had some share in the loss of 120 tubs which on the 19th or 20th of March were seized by the crew of a revenue cutter and deposited in the Hastings Custom-house. But, as a set-off to that miscarriage, there was, I believe, a successful run near Bexhill, the exact date of which I am unable to give. In this affair one of Ranger’s comrades — one, I mean, at the fatal conflict near Fairlight — was pursued by Sergeant Hutton, on horseback, and was told that if he did not surrender, his pursuer would shout him. The smuggler, too, was armed with a pistol, but was careful not to use it except as a dernier resort.

Thinking that such emergency had not arrived, he, instead of using the pistol, picked up a stone from the beach and threw it at the officer's head. The missile so completely stunned the sergeant that he fell from his horse as though he had been deprived of life. The smuggler then seizing his opportunity, took a knife from his pocket and cut the horse's saddle, straps, so that when Hutton recovered consciousness and began to remount he again fell back, and had the displeasure of seeing his antagonist making off beyond the reach of capture. On another occasion R. C. - for those are the initials of this intrepid smuggler — walked from Hastings to Dungeness Point, to convey instructions for signalling a boat, and on the next night he was found at Beachy Head on a similar errand; thus walking over sixty miles within twenty-four hours. As Sergeant Hutton and R. C. were both domiciled in the Ropewalk (now Carlisle parade) — the former in the Priory watch house and the latter in a house having a boat, keel upwards, for a roof — they were anything but strangers to each other; and it is more than possible that this knowledge of each other was not obliterated even when their opposite callings brought them into unpleasant collision. Poor Sergeant Hutton! Methinks I see his stalwart figure now as it was familiar to me ere it was lain in a suicide’s grave at the Croft Chapel burial-ground. Why were our local records so often burdened with deaths by their own hands, of those whose duty it was to guard the coast against the clandestine importation of undutied goods? Was it the mental strain begotten of fear lest their persistent vigilance should fail in its object, or was it from a feeling akin to remorse for having been, at the call of duty, an unwilling agent in the deaths of others? These questions are suggestive, but are not easily answered. The very year under consideration was not a barren one in this respect; for on the 31st of May a preventiveman named Terry hanged himself in the Fish-ponds wood. As already intimated, however, the year was comparatively barren of ventures.

It was in 1838 - the year still under review — that there was a week of bell-ringing, gun-firing and flag-flying, from the 24th to the 31st of May. Does the reader imagine that because the writer's birthday-anniversary happened to return on one of those days there was one iota of enthusiasm the more ? Not a bit of it! This poor, hard-working, but un-miserable scribe has been permitted to see eighty revolutions of his so-called natal day, and has never kept one of them in any special manner. No,no! The rejoicings of that week had nothing to do with any plebian whose sire and grandsires happened to be natives of Hastings. They were really and truly in honour of the birthdays — real or kept — of the Princess Victoria, Prince George of Cumberland, King William the Fourth, and the Princess Sophia of Gloucester. Prince George, with his father and mother (Duke and Duchess of Cumberland), had left Hastings a fortnight previously, after a six-months’ sojourn at 5 and 6 Breeds place; the mother of the Princess Victoria (Duchess of Kent) had visited Hastings some time before; and the Princess Sophia had also resided at Hastings. Hence, the somewhat exceptional prolongation of loyal feeling in 1833. Were I to add to the above royal names a list of other distinguished persons who resided at, or visited Hastings, from 70 to 80 years ago, it is probable that the idea entertained by many of the younger members of our community that Hastings was a mere fishing illage, half a century since, would receive considerable modification. I am prepared to show that in proportion to population there never has been greater gaiety, more amusements for the “Upper Ten,” or more Court and fashionable patronage in Hastings than at the period referred to. Let me just enumerate a few of the great names as they almost promiscuously occur to me. These were (in addition to those already cited) Prince Leopold, the Princess Feodore, the Duke and Duchess of St. Alban’s, Prince George of Cambridge, the Dowager Duchess of Richmond, the Baroness Howe (with her costly chariot-and-four, the rival of Mrs. Camac’s ornate equipage), Sir Wathen Waller, Lord Chesterfield, the Marquis of Cornwallis, Lady Byron, the Earl of Chichester, Sir Astley Cooper, Sir Robert Stopford, the Earl of Sheffield, etc. I grant you, good reader, that within the last sixty years Hastings has made rapid strides in the march of improvement, and has grown to comparatively huge proportions, but I cannot let you lay the soothing unction to your soul that at any time during the Nineteenth Century this Ancient Cinque Port has been exclusively monopolised by fisher-folk, or that Hastings has been unroyal, unloyal or unfashionable until within the last forty years.

At the commencement of the year, the Duke, Duchess and Prince George of Cumberland were continuing their stay at 5 and 6 Breeds place, in consequence of which a new royal standard was daily to be seen at mast-high on the Castle. Among the charities dispensed by the Duke were £20 worth of coal to the poor and £10 to the Free Dispensary. On the 6th of February Prince George (now Duke) of Cambridge arrived on a visit to his uncle and aunt. On Easter Monday (April 8th) his cousin, Prince George of Cumberland, although blind, proceeded to the launch of a Government cutter of 6 guns, from Ransom and Ridley's Shipyard, and there named the vessel after himself, the "Prince George". It is a noteworthy circumstance that Henry Phillips - Capt. Phillips, as he was usually called, after retiring from the service - first sailed in this cutter, and 56 years later, died where he had lived, at nearly the exact spot from where the cutter was launched. Nineteen days after naming the vessel at the launch, Prince George, attended by Dr. Wilmott and Sir Wathen Waller, laid the foundation stone of the new market in George Street. He was preceded by the Mayor, Corporation and Commissioners, the procession being headed by the Town Band. There was a great concourse of people to witness the operation of H. R. Highness, who hoped the market would be attended with benefit, while he also wished prosperity to the town. [ 93 ]

Rubie transferred from Saunder's to Parker's School & Banks to take Saunder's

Although the Commissioners, under their new Act undertook the management of some of the town's requirements that might have otherwise been the work of the Corporation, the latter still retained the control of many of their heretofore duties. On the 21st of January they appointed Mr. George Rubie master of Parker's School, the same to be re-opened on Feb. 4th. Mr. Rubie, in the interim had resigned the mastership of Saunder's School to which, Mr. John Banks was appointed, as the only candidate, on the 28th of February. A new school-house for the last-named charity was designed in the parish of All Saints, and on the 21st of March, the sum of £139. 9s. having been recovered from the Court of Chancery, it was ordered that £44 9s. 9d. borrowed money be paid to Mr. North, and then, after the cost of application being paid to the solicitors, the balance be applied to the erection of the school-room. Mr Banks entered into agreement to occupy Saunder's new school-room at a nominal rent.

A previous schoolmaster, Mr. James Thorpe had died and left a widow and two sons, the youngest of these, named Frederick was apprenticed with the Saunder's Charity to William Shaw, a confectioner. The Corporation also agreed to pay half £500, the contract price of a new stone groyne which the Commissioners intended to erect at Rock-a-Nore. The heavy gales and high tides, however, which commenced on the 19th of October, entirely destroyed the work, and on the 24th, the Commissioners reported that it was inexpedient to re-construct it.

Among the transactions of the Corporation during the year were the following orders:- The Mayor, jurats and commonality to assemble quarterly; the owners of Beach Cottages to pay for the parade in front of their houses; Francis Henbrey not having complied with a previous order, to be proceeded against; George Prior and William Jordan to pay each £20 for the beach enclosed by them, and George Anstey, Esq., owner of the easternmost house to be applied to for a like amount; and in the event of non-compliance, proceedings to be taken against each. At a later meeting, it was ordered that proceedings against Jordan be suspended, and Mr. Anstey to be requested to remove the barrier to the public at his end of the parade. It was further resolved that Mr. Banks prepare a map of the stone-beach from the ship-yard adjoining Beach Cottages to the East Well. The Town Clerk reported that he had searched for entries relating to the three rope-shops which Thomas James Breeds intended to convert into dwelling-houses, but owing to the loose way in which the records were kept 30 to 60 [ 94 ]years ago, he was unable to find any. The Corporation upon the report ordered Counsel's opinion to be obtained.

A new fire-engine - Four Candidates for the Mayoralty - Death of E. Milward

It was further resolved that an additional fire-engine be purcased with money raised by subscription, and an engine-house be built in the Castle Workhouse yard. The subscriptions amounted to £95 8s. 6d., and the expenditure to £150 4s. 2d. The erection of the engine-house cost £41 5s. 4d. Another Corporation matter was the election of Mayor, which took place on the 28th of April, that being the 2nd Sunday after Easter. In consequence of the late great increase in freemen, the choice was less a foregone conclusion than theretofore, and was invested with greater interest. There were four persons proposed, the votes for whom were 49 for Robt. Ranking, 19 for Nathaniel Crouch, 6 for Jos. Hannay and 3 for Frederick North. The last-named gentleman was probably the most popular, but it was reasonably believed that he would require all his time as a representative in the Reformed Parliament. Mr. Shorter was elected Town Clerk.

The father of the Town Clerk was Mayor during the preceding year, and on the 2nd of April of the present year, he convened a meeting to consider the advisability of constructing a harbour at the Priory. This project is noticed further on. The minutes of the Corporation contained a

That on the tenth of May, 1833, Edward Milward Esq. departed this life.

The Postman refers to this event thus:-

The time had arrived for his spirit to go,
Occasioning thus lamentation and woe;
The Mansion presenting a sorrowful scene
For him who a mayor had twenty times been.
A magistrate, too, of the borough and shire,
And once when he might have been called to stand fire

Id, est, in the year Eighteen-hundred-and-three,

Of Volunteer soldiers in Hastings was he.
The Mayor's or Deputy’s oftice he served
Some thirty-eight years, and was seldom unnerved;
It fell to his lot to be coroner, too;
Hence, surely E. Milward enough had to do.
His father before him was Mayor, as well,
And his than the son’s was a still longer spell;
Those two great officials’ united careers
Just making a total of forty-six years.
With them, as with others, it can’t be denied,
None knew their full value until they had died;
But let those who knew the last Milward the best,
In marbled memorial tell you the rest.

Sacred to the memory of E. MILWARD, Esq , who during a period of 40 years, zealously and impartially discharged the various duties of a magistrate for the county of Sussex and the Town and Port of Hastings. He was distinguished in private life by the liberal exercise of the most generous and disinterested acts of Friendship and Benevolence, and died deeply regretted on the 10th of May, 1833, in the 68th year of his age.

Mr. Milward at death was really in his 69th year, he having been born on the first day of January, 1765, on which occasion - as he was the only boy of the family, and consequently his father's heir - three guineas were given to the bell-ringers, and "open house" was kept for all who chose to join in celebrating the joyful event.

Other Diarial records

The less classified events of the year were as follows:-
Jan. 7 - At the Priory, two children of the name of Howe, fatally burnt in the absence of their mother.
Jan. 11 - Another child severely burnt, this time on the Barrack Ground (). On the same night a fire occurred at a carrier's in High street; the family being rescued by neighbours, and the fire extinguished by the engines.
Feb. 5 - Another fire in High street, also extinguished by the engines. This was at Thomas Clatter's, a butcher at No. 28 - On the same evening a woman of the name of Ann Hunter, 63 years of age, was seized by a fit while at tea, caught fire and died the next day
At or near this date an application was made to the Board of Ordnance to extend the Marine parade by taking in the disused battery
Also a burglary committed at Montpelier House on the Old London road, the residence of Mr. Catley, the borough surveyor, and £50 besides other valuables, stolen.
March 19 - A smuggler's cargo of 120 tubs seized by a Revenue Cutter and deposited in the Custom House
Around this time the report was current that a man got drunk and lost a sum of money, which, according to the advice of a transported brother, he had searched for and found secreted in a wood near Hastings!
Apr. 8. A wagon load of smuggled spirits seized and placed in the Custom House; the new water-works commenced; and the stone groyne, which the sea afterwards destroyed during the autumn. Also

When April the 8th in due course had come round,
The Couts, an East-Indiaman, homeward was bound;
And while up the Channel the noble ship sailed,
NORTH, Dudley of Hastings, a ferry-boat hailed.
He then to The Mansion despatched a Cape sheep,
The same for his aunt, Mrs. Milward, to keep;
And also some fowls and other things rare,
All which he consigned to his aunt Milward's care.

April 30 - George Gilmore, who was almost daily intoxicated, hanged himself till dead in a bedroom at the Ship Inn
May 7 - The Hastings Theatre sold for one-third of its cost, and converted into the Wesley Chapel which was opened in the following September, the alterations costing £1,600.
May 9 - A female visitor was killed by slipping off the East Cliff near Ecclesbourne and falling a distance of 273 feet
Dr. W. H. Fitton, who for many years resided in The Croft with his two sisters published his work "Geological Sketch of the Vicinity of Hastings"[c]
June 12 - A poor boy, while taking daws' nests fell from the East Cliff and was killed.
June 21 - Capt. Daniels, a native of Hastings, hove to off Hastings, en route to Van Dieman's Land
June 22 - Some thieves broke into Mr. Hogeflesh's[d] shop, in West Street, and carried off £30 worth of goods. Also on the following night a burglary was committed at the "Pelham Arms"
[ 95 ]Sept. 30 - Mr. (afterwards Sir) Joseph Planta entertained at Fairlight Place with luncheon and music a fashionable company of 140 persons.
Oct. 6. A young gentleman fractured an arm and sustained other injuries by falling over the cliff. This was the third fall from the cliff during the year. At the same time a labourer broke both legs by a stone rolling against them.
Oct 14 - The Spring and Nelson, pleasure-boats, raced a distance of 12 miles out from shore and after a close contest the former returned first by 15 seconds only
Oct 28 - Burglaries at the Castle Hotel, St. Mary's terrace and several other places at about this time.
Nov. 24 - Musgrave Brisco Esq., offered himself as a candidate in the event of a dissolution of Parliament.

  1. This work is available online at The Internet Archive - Transcriber
  2. Brett missed this word out of his quoted text - Transcriber
  3. This book is available via Google Books - Transcriber
  4. This name is not clear to read - Transcriber