Brett Volume 2: Chapter XXI - St. Leonards 1839
Chapter XXI - St. Leonards 1839
The St.Leonards Commissioners
The projected railways
Purchase of a fire-engine
Charge of incumbents of the church
Rate-defaulters to be summoned
Storing meeting of turnpike trusts
Opening of St. Leonards and Sedlescombe road from Silverhill to Cripp's Corner
Eversfield Estate to repair the damaged sea-walls
Five days destructive storms
Injury and loss to the present writer
There is an emigrant ship (with view of the departure)
The Union Workhouse and its advertisements
The irrepressible Mr. Troup
the railway company and the overseers
An address to the Queen
Grand Archery meeting
Attempt to rob a toll-gate house
Accident to sawyer Brett
Interments during 1839
| This is a verbatim transcription of Brett’s work, which comprised both manuscript and typescript cuttings, and therefore reproduces Brett’s variations in style, capitalisation, punctuation and spelling. The only alterations made have been to the pagination and images whereby both page titles and images have been moved to the most appropriate paragraph as opposed to where they were pasted into the texts by the author. Where possible, personal names have been checked against census, parish records, contemporary newspaper reporting and the Central Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths. A number of footnotes have been inserted by the transcriber when this has been thought to be useful.
Generally the transcription follows the guidelines set out by the National Archives. Work is in hand to identify and annotate hand-written sections and other annotations within the transcriptions, the main difference being that hand-written sections are indicated by a Cursive font on screen. If any portions are
Railway progress - fire engines to be provided
I commence 1839 with an enumeration of the St. Leonards Commissioners at that time. These were Major Jeffries, A. and D. Burton, C. and R. Deudney, W. F. Burton, T. Wood, Dr. Harwood, C. H. Southall, Rev. S. H. Widdrington, A. Greenough, T. J. Rawson, J. Rock, T. Brown, and W. Waghorne. At their first quarterly meeting on the 28th of January, held as usual at the Victoria Hotel, Mr. Rastrick (engineer) and Mr. Briggs (solicitor) were present, and submitted plans and explanations which led to a resolution that "In the opinion of the Commissioners, the railroad projected by the London and Brighton Company to St. Leonards will be of essential advantage to the town and that the Clerk sign a declaration to that effect." About a week later Mr. Briggs also appeared at a meeting of the Hastings Town Council, when it was unanimously resolved, on the motion of Mr. Putland, "That the Council consider the railway as proposed by Mr. Briggs, of Lewes will be a great public benefit, and that they will give all the assistance in their power in furtherance of the object." At this very time the engineers of the South-Eastern Railway were engaged in taking levels for a branch of their line to terminate in the Fishmarket The project was to bring the rail from near Rye, round by the Military road to Cliff End, and thence through the East Cliff to the said Fishmarket. At a later period, namely, the first week in May, a Bill in Parliament was read a first time to alter and divert the South-Eastern Railway from a point in the parish of Chiddingstone, in Kent, so as to join the London and Brighton line at or near Redstone-hill (Redhill) in the parish of Reigate. Turning again to the London and Brighton Company it may be of interest to know what progress the said company had made during the two years of its formation, and in what way some of the St. Leonards gentlemen figured in the concern. The fourth half-yearly meeting of shareholders was held at the London Tavern on the 18th July, when the secretary (Thos. Wood, Esq., of St. Leonards) read the following report:-
"Under the provisions of the Act of Incorporation, the Directors have convened the fourth general meeting of the proprietors in order to put them in possession of the progress of the undertaking during the last half-years, and to lay before them the present state of the Company's affairs. The Directors have now purchased or agreed for the purchase of all the land which it is neccessary (sic) to purchase the total amount of which is about £340,000. In making these purchases the Company has been obliged, as it is usual, to take a considerable quantity of land not absolutely required for the site of the Railway, and which, when resold, will at a moderate estimate, realize £60,000. In some instances the Directors have been compelled to resort to juries, in consequence of the extravagant demands made upon them by the landowners, and in these cases the gross amount claimed was £120,000, and that awarded by the juries £33,000 7s., making a difference in favour of the Company of £86,999 13s., a result fully justifying the course adopted. When it is considered that the directors have had to settle the amount of compensation to be paid to about 1,500 parties interested in the land required for the Railway, and that the whole of their interests have been arranged within the two years limited by the Act, and that more than six months elapsed after the passing of the Act before the Company were in a situation to make a single purchase, they cannot but congratulate the proprietors that all this has been effected without incurring the risk and expense of applying to the Legislature, either for an extension of the time for the purchase of the land, or for fresh powers to deviate from the line authorised by Parliament, which the Directors believe to be unprecedented. The Directors proceed to lay before the meeting a Report of their Engineer containing a detailed account of the works up to the present period, but before doing so, it may be well to state that the gross amount at which the contracts are all let is £658,332 6s, exclusive of the tunnels, which are estimated at about £150,000.”
Mr. Rastrick then submitted a very lengthy and detailed report of the several contracts, showing the progress of the work and the forces employed therein. In that report it was shown that the Railway between London and Brighton, from which a branch to St. Leonards had been promised, was employing in its construction nearly 5,000 men and 600 horses; and so satisfied were the shareholders with the general management of the Directors, that at their meeting on the 18th of July, it was resolved "That the thanks of this meeting be given to Mr. Rastrick, the engineer, for his extremely gratifying report and his unwearied attention; also to the chairman and directors for the very able and satisfactory manner in which they have conducted the affairs of the Company to the present period." After such a resolution, carried (as will be hereafter shown) unanimously by the legitimate shareholders, it may seem strange that the harmony of such a meeting should have been disturbed by one man, and that man an inhabitant and property holder of St. Leonards. But so it was. Mr. James Troup, of the Warrior-square estate, who had gone late to the meeting, asked to see the accounts, and complained that he had never been able to get a detailed statement. Being reminded that he had never applied for it, he submitted that, with all deference to the chairman, he was advised that by a mandamus he could compel the directors to lay the details before the proprietors. He therefore claimed them as a right, and not as a favour. Mr. Troup then went on at great length, complaining that the purchase of land had cost £340,000, whereas it ought not to have cost more than £200,000; asserting that there had been a want of economy; and finding fault with the giving out of contracts. After the patience of the meeting had been pretty well exhausted, a shareholder asked if Mr. Troup, who was so fond of finding fault, was one of the gentlemen who had not paid his call, for if so he was not entitled to be present, much less to trouble the meeting. Laughter and cries of oh! greeted the chairman's announcement that the gentleman in question had not paid his call. Mr. Troup then tendered the amount, but was referred to the bankers. The irrepressible James was not however, to be put down; and so he launched out with another string of complaints, whilst he disclaimed any feeling of hostility to the directors personally, and only disired (sic) the welfare of the Company. It should be stated that Mr. Troup had sent copies of a circular to the shareholders, in which he advised them not to pay the calls upon their shares until a finance committee had been appointed to examine the accounts. The circular also stated that the contracts had been taken on terms unfavourable to the Company, and it requested that communications on the subject be addressed to Mr. Troup at his agents in Chancery Lane. On the motion being put by the Chairman to adopt the Report, Mr. Troup's hand was the only one that was held up against it; but it was ruled that as he had not paid his calls, he was not entitled to vote, and that the motion was therefore carried unanimously. Poor Mr. Troup! How anxious he was to carry all before him I have previously shown while treating of other matters; and it is more than possible that his persistency will exhibit itself again and again in the course of my narratives.
The construction of the London and Brighton Railway and the obstruction of Mr. Troup thereto having been brought under notice in consequence of the separate resolutions of the St. Leonards Commissioners, and the Hastings Town Council in favour of a proposed branch to St. Leonards that subject may be left where it is while I hie me back to the Commissioners' next meeting there to note the further identity of interests evinced by the ruling bodies of Hastings and St. Leonards, as well as the courtesies manifested by each to each. The second quarterly meeting of the year was held at the Victoria Hotel, and a letter was there read from Mr. Phillips as follows :-
The Commissioners for the Improvement of Hastings having had their meeting held this 4th of February under their consideration the efficiency of the fire engines in the town, and their disposal and management in case of fire; also the unprotected state of the property at St. Leonards from the want of an engine stationed on the spot, they have directed me to request that you will submit these suggestions to the Commissions for the Improvement of St. Leonards, feeling assured they will excuse the notice of this defect in their local establishment. It appears to the Commissioners of Hastings that very serious damage might happen to the property at St. Leonards before the Hastings engines could be brought into use; and that if the Commissioners of St. Leonards would procure a proper fire engine to be kept in their town under the Authority contained in their Act, not only would the inhabitants of St. Leonards have the benefit which an engine stationed there would afford in case of need but that the property in both towns would be more completely protected by the mutual assistance which might then be rendered by the several engines belonging to them.
To the above courteous communication, an equally polite reply was sent by the Clerk (Mr. Fraser), in which the writer assured Mr. Phillips that the St. Leonards Commissioners would feel gratified by the courtesy, but that the subject of the communication had been seriously considered by them three months previously, when it was resolved that £20 be paid by the Commissioners towards a subscription for a fire-engine to be stationed within the limits of the Act, and under their own control. As the engine afterwards purchased has done good service for 40 years, and is still one of the most efficient manuals belonging to the Borough Brigade, some account of it is here appended.
To the £20 voted by the Commissioners on the 29th of December 1838, towards the proposed subscription for a fire-engine, the collector reported at the next quarterly meeting that the subscriptions amounted to £80 13s., and that other sums had been promised. At a later period, Mr. W. F. Burton was requested to ascertain the price of a fire-engine and apparatus. This gentleman's report was that a new 14-manual could be had for £145 7s., and a second-hand 22-manual for £115, both from Mr. Tilley's factory. It was then resolved that Mr. Merryweather be applied to. It was further resolved that as only £70 of the promised £80, had been collected, the several bond-holders be asked for their assistance in the purchase of the engine. It may be presumed that the replies were not favourable, as more than twelve months elapsed before anything further was done. It was then resolved that Mr. Braidwood of the London Fire-brigade, be asked to report on the efficiency of the engine and gear offered by Mr. Tilley, and if approved of, the engine would be purchased at any sum not exceeding £120, if Mr. Tilley would take a bond of £50 as part payment at 5 per cent. interest. It would appear that Mr. Tillley was not willing to accede to those term; (sic) for, at the Commissioners' next meeting, a satisfactory report was received from Mr. Braidwood, and a motion carried "That the £70 subscriptions be paid to Mr. Tilley, and the further consideration to stand over." A second resolution was to the effect "That the thanks of the Commissioners be given to Mr. Greenough for paying £19 3s. 10d., half the deficiency of the collections for the purchase of an engine the other moiety being met by further subscriptions." The Commissioners were not often accused of doing things in haste and repenting at leisure and thus upon the negative of that principle, just two years after the question was first broached, it was reported that "The fire-engine which by Mr. Greenough's liberal assistance, has been recently purchased, is now placed in a coach-house in Upper St. Leonards Mews, hired of Mr. Chamberlin at £4 per annum, and is in charge of Mr. James Mann, who is to keep it in order for £1 per quarter." This it may be presumed, was held to be a pretty good two years' work, and, as no very serious fire had occurred during the time, the other requirements might be leisurely considered. Anyhow, it was decided at the expiration of another three months "That the posts opposite St. Leonards Hotel and at the back of 35 Marina be applicable for working the engine in case of fire, and at a cost of £1 12s. 0d. Also "That water-pipes be fitted with plug-holes, ready to receive the stand-pipes on the East ascent, between the Conqueror and Harold hotels, and between the church and the Victoria hotel, at a cost not exceeding £5 10s. ; and that a stand-pipe and screw be purchased at not more tham (sic) £3 8s.” Thus was the St. Leonards fire-engine purchased and other appliances provided.
Rev. J. C. Leslie succeeds Rev. Widdrington - Lively meetings of turnpike trust
It was sometimes thought by those who had to pay the rates and did not see the accounts that the Commissioners were not sufficiently economical in their expenditure; but it would not be difficult to show that in most cases their practice was to err on the side of parsimony rather than on that of extravagance. They even questioned their liability to pay a halfpenny per ton to a man named French for coal meterage, such meterage amounting to £4 10s. They understood that at Hastings the arrangement was for the ship's husband to pay that expense, and at their next quarterly meeting they resolved to adopt the Pg.211 same usage as that at Hastings. The Commissioners next disputed Mr. Edlin's charge for the room at the Victoria Hotel in which the meetings were held. The number of meetings had been eighteen, and the charge for the same was £8 5s. This was at the rate of 7/6 per meeting, which the Commissioners thought excessive, and they therefore resolved "that Mr. Edlin be paid £5 10s., and that £1 be given to the head-waiter." As it required two consenting parties to this arrangement, and as one of them declined to abate one jot or tittle of the claim, it was found easier to pass the resolution than to carry it into effect. The Commissioners had no town-hall wherein to congregate, and to meet in an ordinary tavern would be infra dig. They therefore made a virtue of necessity, paid the full demand, and vowed in the future that their clerk should pay ready money for the room everytime it was hired. As the meetings sometimes did not exceed an hour's duration, a saving was probably sought to be effected by the ready-money payments. Another saving was contemplated by a change of scavengers. Edward Smith had collected ashes for £2 14s. per quarter, and William Smith would supply similar service for £7 10. a year; and so the latter contract was substituted for the former. Among the other transactions of the Commissioners that year was the giving of their consent to the Rev. J. C. W. Leslie to make a carriage-way across the foot-path to his residence at 8 Maze Hill; also to make alterations in the approaches to the church at his own expense. It should be here stated that Mr. Leslie had just succeeded Mr. Widdrington as Incumbent of St. Leonards church, and that such succession brought with it one of those alterations which seem to have been the inevitable fate of the church to undergo with every change of incumbency. The annual meeting of ratepayers of £20 and upwards of the parishes of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen within the Commissioners' jurisdiction was held on the 17th of August, when it was resolved that as Robert Hollond, M.P., and Ephraim Bond had failed to subscribe to the oath or affirmation for 12 months after their election, the former be re-elected, and the latter give place to the Rev. John Charles William Leslie. A quarterly meeting of the Commissioners was then immediately held, and, among other transactions, it was ordered that no person be allowed to dry clothes, beat carpets or deposit rubbish on the beach eastward of the Market; and that all goats and donkeys found astray in the streets be impounded by the policeman.
As a matter of course, the two half-yearly rates of 1s. in the £ on houses and shops, and 6d. in the £ on agricultural buildings, were levied upon the inhabitants; and equally as a matter of course orders were given for rate-defaulter to be summonsed. It was so usual for certain of the ratepayers to require this reminder that the order became as it were stereotyped. Albeit, there would appear to have been a somewhat sympathetic feeling in that respect between the governors and the governed; for the Commissioners themselves, with an exchequer almost invariably low, were in the habit of treating rather cavalierly those persons who had demands upon them. Hence a proposition something like the following would not unfrequently appear on the minutes:- "Resolved that a draft of £100 be signed for Mr. So-and-so's interest, and that the remainder be paid when the balance in hand will admit of it." Having referred to the Rev. C. W. Leslie as having become the Incumbent of St. Leonards church, and as a Commissioner-elect for the town, I may add that he also took the chair at a vestry meeting which, for some cause not known to me, was exceptionally held in the vestry-room of the church, the previous and subsequent meetings (until 1845) having taken place at the "New England Bank." The overseers for that year were John Painter and Edward Farncomb; and the rates levied were a poor-rate at 6d., a borough-rate at 4d., and a county-rate at 3d. As a rule, these rates were paid with less reluctance than the Commissioners' rate, and the only amounts which the overseers that year were unable to collect were 23/2 on the borough-rate, and 30/6 on the poor-rate. Their contribution to the Union that year was £114 15s., a rather large amount, considering the then comparatively small population of the town. The Surveyors of Highways were Charles Deudney and Edward Farncomb, in whose accounts there was an item of £3 19s. 8d. paid to Richard Lamb for direction posts, which posts, I believe, are still existing near Shornden Villas and St. Leonards Green.
From a review of the year's work of the St. Leonards Commissioners, and then of the Overseers, and the Surveyors of Highways I turn to the proceedings of the Hastings and Flimwell Trust, as an institution of somewhat relative character, and as composed of influential gentlemen belonging both to Hastings and St. Leonards, as well as of others residing in the neighbourhood. Their first meeting in 1839 was held on the 15th of February, and if there was at times just a "leetle" absence of courtesy, it was perhaps more than compensated for by warmth of manner and plainness of sentiment. Of this, however, my readers shall be judges after they have perused the following summary of the proceedings. Among the persons present were Sir C. M. Lamb and the Hon. C. Lamb, of Beauport; Tilden Smith, of Vinehall; F. North, W. L. Shadwell, Wastel Brisco and George Scrivens, of Hastings; Hon. Percy Ashburnham, of Catsfield; E. B. Curteis, of Herstmonceux; R. and J. Watts, and C. and J. Laurence, of Battle; A. Burton, of St. Leonards; Archdeacon Birch, of Bexhill; the Dean of Battle, Rev. J. Pratt, of Sedlescomb; Rev. W. Pearce, of Fairlight; Rev. H. Vernon, of Westfield; H. Sharpe, of Oaklands; Rev. H. Rush, of Crowhurst; and Rev. R. Wetherell. The last-named gentleman having been proposed to preside, a storm of words arose in consequence; Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Curteis accusing him of partiality on a previous occasion, and of having said "yes" to a question, when his reverend brother, Mr. Rush, said "no," the former answer being inconsistent with truth. Mr. Wetherell denied this, and contended that he also said "no." "Decidedly not!" retorted Mr. Curteis, "you said no such thing!" Sir Charles Lamb here interposed, and said he cared not who was chairman, so that he acted fairly and with moderation; but he (Sir Charles) was obliged to say that he had invariably found Mr. Wetherall too much a partizan, and too unlikely to check any disorderly meeting, seeing that he himself had at previous meetings failed to uphold the dignity of the chair. Mr. Sharpe proposed Mr. Shadwell for chairman, but the latter gentleman declined. Well then, said Sir Charles, let us have any one sooner than Mr. Wetherll; but as during the confusion, no other trustee would undertake the office, Mr. Wetherell was elected, and immediately called on Sir C. Lamb to introduce the first topic. The hon. baronet then brought the financial condition of the Trust under consideration, pointing out that creditors had not been paid their interest for the last year, and that to many of the investors who looked to such interest as a means of procuring the necessaries of life, the non-payment of it was a great inconvenience. He could not conceive why the Hollington side-gate had been removed, which removal had caused a loss of £400 or £500 per annum. It might be said that the creditors had approved the removal by signing a memorial; but that document contained fallacies which needed only to be exposed to be censured. It struck him that one party had always had the ruling of the Trust through the majority of their votes, and that such rule had brought them into their present difficulties. He would suggest, therefore, that gentlemen of that majority should give their personal security for the sum required, when the money would be easily obtained wherewithal to pay their debts.
Then, to prevent future embarrasment (sic) he would suggest some additional check-bars - one across the two roads near the entrance to St. Leonards, and one at the Harrow, giving the right of clearing either the Hastings or Battle gates, but neither of the gates to clear the central gate. Thus, persons traveling from Battle to Hastings, or vice versa, would only have to pay two gates as theretofore, yet a profit would be derived from the whole of the immediate traffic, which would perhaps amount to £600 per year. Mr. Brisco disapproved of the suggestion, alleging that it would drive the traffic on to the Sedlescomb road. At this stage the chairman called on the Secretary to read a statement. This was to the effect that the mortgaged debt on the Trust amounted to £21,340, and that the liabilities were £4,380, which latter sum required to be borrowed. Mr. Sharpe contended that no more money ought to be borrowed until those who had removed the Hollington gate had recompensed the Trust for the loss sustained. The Chairman and the Clerk expressed their belief that the money would be forthcoming at the general meeting. Sir Chas. Lamb had no doubt that the two gentlemen had arranged matters to their own satisfaction, but he would reserve the right of bringing the subject forward at another time. Mr. Sharpe contended that no order had been given by the trustees for the removal of the Hollington gate, but he was sharply told by Mr. Brisco to go and look at the books. The chairman also ruled that the subject had been discussed before and had nothing to do with that meeting. Mr. Sharpe urged that the subject before the meeting was the pecuniary difficulties of the Trust, and that if £500 a year could be obtained by replacing a certain bar, it would be so much towards getting the Trust out of its difficulties. This was too much for the chairman, who shouted "Order, order!" Mr. Shadwell thought the subject before the meeting was the borrowing of money wherewith to pay their debts. "Again" (responded Mr. Sharpe) "do I complain of these interruptions. Some of you gentlemen caused an alteration to be made on our Trust without our sanction which has deeply injured the Trust, and I maintain that those gentlemen - be they who they may - are liable to be made responsible for that injury." But Mr. Sharpe at this stage had to "shut up," so overpowered was he by the eloquence of Mr. Brisco who said, "By replacing that gate, instead of gaining £500, you will lose £2,000; you know that, and that's all about it." Mr. Sharpe, while thanking Mr. Brisco for his courtesy, made one last effort to proceed, when he was again met by Mr. Brisco, with violent gesticulations, and reminded that "It has been discussed; it has, it has; you know it has." Mr. North then appealed to the meeting whether the course they were pursuing was not calculated to retard the settlement of the dispute then existing between the Hastings and Flimwell and the St. Leonards and Sedlescomb Trusts. He had that morning seen Lady Webster, who had expressed her readiness to abide by the decision of the referees if the whole subject were left to them.
"I beg pardon (exclaimed Mr. Brisco) she never told me so." "But she did me," rejoined Mr. North. Sir Chas. Lamb agreed with his friend, Mr. Sharpe as to the unjustifiable removal of the Hollington gate. The Clerk stated that the gates were then let for £2,730; that the expenses on the road during 1837 were £1,580; that the accounts for 1838 were not made up; and that in his opinion, if they incurred no heavy law expenses, their present means would meet the outlay. The Rev. H. Rush, in a lengthy speech, proposed that in placing a main gate between Battle and Hastings, it should clear the gates at those towns without those gates clearing the new one, which would restore the £500 lost by the removal of the Hollington side-bar; and by rendering the gate at the entrance of the Sedlescomb road unnecessary, would prevent a breach of faith with the Sedlescomb Trust, as well as with the Hastings party. He could not imagine a more ungracious action than that of placing a side-bar at the entrance of the Sedlescomb road; for, without the assistance rendered by the St. Leonards and Sedlescomb gentlemen, they would never have got their Act of Parliament. The Committee might not be aware of the situation in which they had placed themselves by the removal of the Hollington gate. According to the opinion of an eminent barrister, which he had obtained, and which he would read to them, they had rendered themselves individually liable to the creditors for their act. Those gates were given as so many securities when the mortgages were effected, and those securities had been lessened by £500. If, in the plenitude of their power the Committee had taken away all the gates, the entire security would have been destroyed. He would therefore adhere to his proposition with a view of restoring the £500 that had been lost. - Mr. Curteis said Mr. Rush was perfectly right; and then as to borrowing money, they might do so again and again, and the creditors still remain unpaid. He understood from a practical man that it would require £500 to remove the slips and otherwise repair the road between Battle and John's Cross; and the Committee were not justified in publishing wrong statements. This latter sentence was too much for some of the gentlemen, who at once repudiated the soft impeachment. Mr. Curteis, however, repeated the charge with greater emphasis, declaring that he would bet any one of them £50 that it was so. Mr. Brisco then started up with the rejoinder, "I know we are not liable, that's all about it; I'll bet a thousand pounds we are not liable, I will; I don't care a rush about it." Perhaps a rush - the Rev. Rush, his antagonist - was equally indifferent. "Really, gentlemen (interposed Mr. Shadwell), let us have no betting here, and let our proceedings approach to something like business." A letter was then read from the Earl of Eglintoun, as one of the mortgagees of the Trust, complaining of the diminution of the securities by the removal of the Hollington gate, and holding the committee responsible for the same. - Mr. Sharpe moved, and Mr. Rush seconded, that the Earl of Eglintoun's and others' letters should be entered on the minutes. It was contended that those who removed the Hollington Gate knew that the act was illegal, and it must be against them that the Trust should take proceedings. Even Mr. Stevens - as they had been assured by Counsel's opinion - could claim compensation for his loss by such removal. A resolution was passed in 1835 that no gate should be removed without proper notices being given. - After a further animated and irregular discussion it was resolved "That the clerk be ordered to make proper arrangements for borrowing £4,382, but that only £3,500 would be expended until the whole of the accounts had been investigated by a finance committee consisting of the Rev. Dr. Wetherell, Mr. Scrivens, and Mr. Tilden Smith. Upon this a protest was drawn up; signed by Sir. C. Lamb, Hon. C. Lamb, W. Margisson, H. J. Rush, Spirling, H. Sharpe, and J. Pratt, as follows:-
We the undersigned, trustees of the Hastings and Flimwell road, do hereby protest against the resolution passed by a majority at this meeting on the question of raising an additional sum on mortgage, as proposed by the Hon. Percy Ashburnham, and seconded by Wastel Brisco, Esq. And we also take this opportunity of recording our dissent from all measures of the same party, which have brought the affairs of the Trust into their present state of pecuniary difficulty, and more particularly by the undoubted illegal removal of the Hollington side gate, in order by that sacrifice to assist the improvident expenditure of another Trust; which dissent is proved by our votes at all the meetings we have attended, and will appear by the list of divisions which are, or ought to be, entered upon the minutes.
Sir Chas. Lamb, then, in support of a notice he had given, said he understood from the Report that no moneys were due to Stevens, but recommended that £50 be given to him as a gratuity if he paid up the balance due from him. He had not complied, and a prosecution had been commenced which must be ruinous to him. They had let him the road, with two side gates upon it for his protection as a contractor. They had removed one of those gates, and would they be acting as honest men if they insisted on his paying money which he never received, but would have received if they had done their duty? - Mr. North here stated that he was one of a committee who investigated Stevens's loss, and it was ascertained that it did not amount to £50, but, wishing to be liberal they offered him that amount. At this, Sir C. Lamb expressed himself satisfied. - Oil was now beginning to be thrown upon the troubled waters, and the meeting which was at one time so wanting in amenities, closed with the following resolution proposed by Mr. North -
"That this meeting is extremely glad to find that the Trustees of the Sedlescomb road will use their best endeavours to effect a reconciliation between the trusts, and to keep up good and cheap roads for the use of the public," &c.
This reference by Mr. North to the St. Leonards and Sedlescomb Trust brings me to the fact that on the second May in the same year the road under that trust was opened from the Tivoli () to Cripp's Corner, except the piece vexatiously withheld by Lady Webster, and that within two months from that date the road was opened for traffic throughout; A Bill having passed the House of Lords on the 14th of June for the removal of all obstructions interposed by Lady Webster. This new road to Sedlescomb was regarded with much satisfaction by the resident and visitorial population. It not only opened up to a comparatively easy access many villages, hamlets and farmsteads which before were approached by very circuitous and tedious routes, but it also reduced the distance to the celebrated ruins of Bodiam Castle from fourteen to ten miles; thus placing that historic spot within an easier as well as a shorter drive. I stated in a previous chapter that the Hastings and Flimwell road was opened in 1838. I also described some of the difficulties with which the competing road had to contend. Putting the two chapters together my younger readers may get an inkling as to the time and manner of constructing what are still the two principal roads out of the borough, whilst they rejoice that in consequence of Government purchase, those roads have become entirely disburdened of tolls.
I had purposed saying nothing more of railroads and turnpike roads until this narrative of events had extended over another year or even a longer period; but an esteemed correspondent of the Gazette having suggested that the proposed branch of the South-Eastern Railway to the Hastings Fishmarket "was perhaps a mere hearsay," and that the proposed branch from the London and Brighton Railway was inaccurate as to time, I feel it to be incumbent on me to produce proof of my statements. I may premise that the Fishmarket scheme was quite within my own knowledge, as I had opportunities at the time of conversing with one of the surveyors employed to take the levels; and as to the other scheme, I trow that the quoted resolutions of the St. Leonards Commissioners and the Hastings Town Council are sufficiently explicit. My readers may rest assured that I shall state nothing upon "mere hearsay," without qualifying it as such; but that I may in this case substantiate what has been described, I will here reproduce portions of two advertisements which appeared in the Cinque Ports Chronicle of Feb. 23rd, 1839. The correspondent alluded to has doubtless been thinking of the opening of the Brighton and Hastings Railway in 1845, Pg.212 and of the opening of the Hastings and Ashford branch in 1851; and has probably forgotten the earlier schemes and dates. The advertisements of the two companies were in substance as follows :-
"Notice is hereby given that application will be made to the next session of Parliament to make a Railway, with all proper works connected therewith, commencing by a junction with a line of the intended South-Eastern Railway, at or near a certain road in the parish of Smarden, in Kent, and terminating at or near the Fishmarket, in the parish of St. Clement's, Hastings; which said Railway is to pass through the several parishes, townships or places of Smarden, Bethersden, High Walden, Woodchurch, Tenterden, Appledore, Stone, Iden, Playden, East Guilford, Rye, Winchelsea, Icklesham, Pett and Fairlight, or some of them. And notice is hereby also given that maps, plans, sections, &c. will be deposited with the Clerk of the Peace for Kent, at his office in Maidstone, and with the Clerk of the Peace for Sussex, at his office in Lewes, on or before the first day of April next.— Dated this 14th day of February, 1839.
JOHN P. FEARON, Temple.”
"LONDON, LEWES, ST. LEONARDS AND HASTINGS RAILWAY."
"Notice is hereby given that application is intended to be made to the next session of Parliament for leave to bring in a Bill or Bills for making a Railway or Railways, to commence by a junction with the London and Brighton Railway (now in course of construction) in or near to a certain field in the parish of Keymer, and to terminate at or near the Fountain Inn, St. Leonards; and which said Railway will pass from, through or into Keymer, Cuckfield, Clayton, Ditchling, Wivelsfield, Westmeston, Plumpton, Chiltington, Chailey, Lewes (under the Castle), Barcombe, Hamsey, Southmalling, Southover, Iford, Glynde, Beddingham, Firle, Ripe, Chalvington, Selmeston, Alciston, Alfriston, Berwick, Arlington, Wilmington, Folkington, Jewington, Hailsham, Willingdon, Eastbourne, Westham, Pevensey, Hooe, Wartling, Bexhill, Hollington, Bulverhithe, and St. Leonards. Also that duplicate plans, sections, &c., will be deposited for public inspection, at the office of the Clerk of the Peace, in Lewes, &c. It is also intended to apply for power to deviate to any extent not exceeding 100 yards, and in passing through any town to any extent not exceeding ten yards on either side of the line delineated in the plans, &c.— Dated this 11th day of February, 1839.
SWEET, SUTTON, THURLOW, solicitors, Brighton.
H. FAITHFULL and R. BRIGGS, solicitors, Lewes."
The foregoing quotations from the advertisements of the rival railway companies, will, it is believed, convince the respected correspondent of the Gazette that my statements were thoroughtly (sic) accurate in connection with the projected railways to Hastings and St. Leonards in the year 1839.
Terrific Storms; the Writer on board an Emigrant Ship
And now, having gone back once more to the subject of roads, I may as well record the fact that on the first of July a meeting of property-owners of Grand parade, Cliff cottages, and other districts was held at the Saxon Hotel, to take steps to compel the Trustees of the Eversfield Estate to repair the roads along the front line, and to restore the wall damaged by the sea, as well as in future to secure the esplanade from the sea's encroachment. It was argued that the said Trustees had for a long time totally neglected their engagements, with the object of driving the inhabitants to accept the Act of Parliament sought to be obtained, with all the expensive machinery that would be necessarily attached thereto. After considerable discussion, the meeting was adjourned for a week, to see what the Trustees were disposed to do. At the adjourned meeting it was proposed "That the Eversfield Estate be requested to repair the frontage, and, together with Mr. Manser, dedicate the back roads to the public, as directed by the Highway Act." To this motion, the solicitor to the Estate (Mr. Benham) had the modesty to propose, as an amendment, "That unless this meeting, and every individual in it, disowns that he is the author of the paragraph relative to the proceedings of the meeting inserted in the Cinque Ports Chronicle of Saturday, this meeting do adjourn." The Chairman refused to put the amendment, and the original motion was carried. Of what nature was the paragraph complained of, this deponent wotteth not, as it never came before his vision. It may be stated, however, that the expense of repairing the road and restoring the sea-wall, leaving out the more dubious undertaking of protecting the parade from future encroachments of the briny monster, were sufficiently formidable to induce the Trustees to shirk it if possible. During the wet and boisterous March of that year the roads and parade had fallen into a wretched condition, and on the 31st of that month, during a fierce gale, 100 feet of the concrete wall opposite to Cliff Cottages (now 5 and 6 Eversfield place) fell into the sea with a terrific crash and splash. The parade and road were also washed out to a considerable extent. Four months later, namely, July 24th, another large portion of the wall was torn out, many smaller breaches were made, and the whole of the wall between the Archway and the White Rock, it was feared, would succumb to the ravages of the sea, if the gale continued till another flow of the tide. Fortunately, the wind lulled as the tide receded, and further destruction was averted. The damage, however, was roughly estimated at £2,000. There was considerable destruction also at Hastings among which was the carrying away of 100 feet of a stone groyne at the East Well, constructed by Mr. Major Vidler. On the following day, a smart off-land breeze having sprung up with the veering of the wind, the Channel presented such a scene as is witnessed not more than a few times during the period of a long life. From Dungeness to Beachy-head the sea was crowded with vessels of all kinds, and presented a complete forest of masts to the interested spectators who had taken advantage of the return of fine weather to view the ravages of the previous gales. For an entire week there had been a succession of these violent storms, and it was computed that at least a thousand vessels passed Hastings to the westward on that 25th of July, most of which had previously sought shelter in the Downs.
There was one, however, the good ship Wellington, an "American liner," that bravely ventured out from the Downs no fewer than three times during that week of tempests, and had twice to submit to be driven back by the storm to her anchorage. The present writer was an emigrant on board that ship, and a short account of the scenes he witnessed and the injury he sustained, which later caused him to return and take up his permanent abode at St. Leonards, would, he conceives, be quite in keeping with this history. Unfortunately, his journal, from the day he left Hastings on the top of the "Royal Blue Van" to the day when he rounded Dungeness Point and bade adieu to his native town as he just caught a glimpse of Fairlight Mill, was lost with articles of far greater value, on board ship, and a fairly retentive memory is now nearly all that remains from which to tell the tale.
I will therefore draw upon that memory to the extent necessary for a connective narrative, said narrative being unavoidably more biographical than historical. As already stated, I was an emigrant on board the President[a] during the tempestuous weather of July, 1839, which played such havoc with the sea-walls of Hastings and St. Leonards. But to show how I got me there, I must begin at the beginning. Smitten with republican notions - of which I have been long since cured - I resolved to emigrate to the State of Illinois, an extensive region of prairies which had then been admitted into the American Union about twenty years. I had been privileged to read the glowing accounts which came from Charles and Barlett Woods to their father, the Postmaster of Hastings, and my imagination, growing upon what it fed, conjured up a new world so superior to the old, that one only had to make up his mind to quit the latter for the former to secure a fortune. "Come out here, you deal old patriarch," said one of the sons in a letter to his father, "we have neither corn-laws nor game-laws; if we want a turkeycock or any other bird - domestic or wild - we go and shoot it; if we want a pig or two we go and catch them in the forest; if we want vegetables of any sort, we dig for them; if we want wood for our fire or furniture for our log-huts, we cut it; and if we want tobacco for our pipes we grow it." Well, thought I, that must be the proper country to go to! Here am I, working for the Government, Sundays and week-days, from a quarter past four in the morning until eleven at night, for the comparatively small sum of £20 per annum and my board. Albeit, I was by no means of a discontented spirit. I had known, ere then, what it was to live upon four shillings a week; so that, by comparison, I had already reached a position of luxury. But that position threatened to be a stationary one, there being no prospect either of lighter labour or more remunerative pay. Thus, with a limited area for advancement on the one hand, and a wide field for enterprise on the other, it appeared to be the proper thing to make choice of the latter. The idea was warmly encouraged by my employer, who was pleased to say "I shall be sorry enough to lose you, but you know it is my wish to join my sons in America, if I can only get their mother to accompany me; and my delight will be all the greater to find you with them, because I know that with your ingenuity and industry you can be of great service in a country where, if there is great abundance, there is also much practical application required to mould that abundance into old-world notions of comfort." "You have given us proof (continued my respected chief) that you can make your own clothes and mend your own boots; that you can make a table or repair a lock; that you can paint a door or paper a wall; that you can keep accounts or report a sermon; and that if you ever take to yourself a wife you can knit her shawls and mittens." It needed not all this enumeration of my humble capabilities to urge me to seek my fortune in a far off land; although, having once set my mind upon the venture, the too flattering testimony of my qualification for the undertaking afforded, without doubt, an additional encouragement. But how about the means? I had only been a little over two years in the situation I then held, and my small savings did not amount to more than enough to pay my "steerage" passage to New York and the still greater journey by land and river to my proposed destination. Here, however, a friend came to my aid. A retired Welsh banker, of the name of Morris, who had firstly taken up his abode at 1 Beach terrace, and afterwards at 10 Pelham Crescent, had been pleased with my civility, and having obtained satisfactory replies to some questions put to the Postmaster, invited me on two or three occasions to dine with him and his lady at a certain time in the afternoon when I could be best spared from my official duties. This generous invitation resulted in a still more generous offer to pay for many things which were deemed to be necessary for the voyage. It must be remembered that there were no eight-to-twelve-days' transatlantic passages at that period; and that one of the first requirements for a steerage passenger was to provide himself with at least forty days' provisions.
All these were supplied by my new-found friends, Mr. and Mrs. Morris, who showed as much solicitude for my welfare as though our acquaintance had been of many years’ duration. The provisions consisted of two or three bushels of bread, sliced and re-baked; hams, baked in paste; salted beef, in air-excluding coverings; soup-and-boulli; preserved milk; biscuits, various; split peas; potatoes; a canister of tea; a similar canister of coffee, a canister of moist sugar, and a corresponding one of lump sugar - all with locks and keys. To these were added a small medicine chest, two gallons of brandy, two gallons of rum, and two gallons of wine; which last-named articles my teetotal friends must forgive me for making so prominent. And then, that I might be able to amuse myself on board - as I had on one or two occasions amused the folk who had thus befriended me - my Spanish guitar was to be taken with me in as secure a manner as possible by being placed in a strong mahogany case made expressly for the purpose. The order was given to Mr. W. H. Honiss, whose factory was opposite to York Buildings, and whose foreman or manager was our present respected townsman, Mr. C. J. Womersley, who afterwards succeeded to the business.[b] The order was given at a short notice of two days, but the case was completed within the time, at a cost of £1 18s 6d. If I am tediously minute in the details of this "musical box," it is because that although it did not serve its original purpose, it has nevertheless served its owner for a period of forty-two years in other ways, and is the only relic of an ill-starred and unaccomplished voyage. These numerous articles, together with myself and personal outfit, were conveyed to London by the "Royal Blue Van," and were finally deposited at the St. Catherine's Docks. I immediately paid my passage money, and was thus partly relieved of the anxiety which I naturally felt for the safety of the coin which I was carrying about with me. I next went to the nearest outfitter and purchased bedding and cooking utensils suitable for the voyage; and after seeing them placed with my other goods and chattels, I went back to the city and there engaged lodgings for a week at a coffee-shop in Cannon Street. My readers must not imagine me taking rooms in one of the grand restaurants in the splendid thoroughfare now known by that name. No, no! The Cannon street of that day - Little Cannon street I ought to say - was a very narrow and crowded thoroughfare, with scarcely room enough for two vehicles to pass. A perfect stranger in London, without a single friend or acquaintance to advise or direct me, save the Van-driver, I had to depend mainly upon my own discernment for the success of my arrangements. So far everything had proved satisfactory; but when engaging my sleeping apartment, not wishing to be suspected of doubting that I should be placed in a comfortable room, I did not ask to see it; and when the time came to retire, I found myself in what might be fitly described as a white-washed closet, seven feet long by five feet wide. I felt at once that I had been taken in; and, as I had both heard and read of terrible things being done in London, my foremost hope was that I should not be "taken-in-and-done-for." I got into bed, after placing my money in as secure a place as I could think of, but to sleep was impossible. Even if the rattle of vehicles in the street and the fancied noises in the house had not kept me upon the qui vive, the sultry weather of July in such a pent-up apartment was quite sufficient to prevent me falling into the arms of Somnus. Glad was I when the morning came, and thrice glad to find that no harm had befallen me. Should I pay for the engaged lodging, and seek elsewhere for a more comfortable room? No! I would try it another night, when, after an additional period of unrest, it might be that "Nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep," would come to my relief. This second trial was made with complete success, and for the remainder of the term I traversed the to-and-fro of St. Catherine's Docks and Cannon street so frequently and so freely that I began to feel as much at home in mighty London as I had previously done in respectable Hastings. During the period of final preparation two large parcels had reached me from the latter town, one containing a quantity of choice seeds from Mr. Buchanan's Nursery, in the Old London road, and the other consisting of new and second-hand clothes. Both of these parcels I had undertaken to carry along with me for the Messrs. Woods, in the far, far, west. Two young men of the name of Foster had also joined me from Fairlight Down, and had selected berths in the big ship immediately under mine. All was now ready for the emigrants and their luggage to be brought on board, and with some confusion, together with an equal amount of amusement, the work was effected. Were it even of the greatest, instead of the least importance to this story, I could not recall a tithe of those amusing episodes, but there is just one incident which, as having made on my own mentality an abiding impression, I will briefly relate. Among some live animals that were being put on board was a sturdy pig which a brace of swine-herds were unavailingly endeavouring to pull and to push up an incline of planks. The squealing of the animal attracted crowds of on-lookers both from the quay and from the deck; and just as there appeared a likelihood of the wayward squealer taking a leap into the water, a sailor sprang to the rescue with a shout of "Get away you landlubbers!" and then by a short tug at the curly tail, sent the hitherto obdurate specimen of porcinity galloping up the planks with a "Wheek, wheek, wheek!" In an instant the quadruped was among the bipeds, some of whom were screaming in turn as they backed out of the way and stumbled over sundry obstructions on deck.
At nightfall, passengers' heavy boxes and bales having been put down in the hold, and their lighter trunks and hampers ranged alongside of their berths, permission was given to the emigrants to sleep for the first time on board. I was one of the motley throng who descended the steerage steps for that purpose; and truly, methought, the scene was a strange one. My berth was the top shelf of a triple tier abaft the midships and beneath me were the two young men from Fairlight Down. Immediately opposite were three of the "Canadian Rebels," who had been brought to England to be tried, and whose sentence was that of banishment to the United States. One of these had lost a leg, and another had lost his left arm, but the latter, with his right hand, made some very clever sketches as he lay in an uppermost berth immediately under a deck-light. Very near to me, in the same range of berths, was a man of gigantic stature from Tunbridge Wells; and, sad to say!! he was as coarse in language as he was abnormal in size. Sheets, table-cloths and other household articles were put up as temporary curtains to screen one family group from another, but most of the 103 souls in that part of the ship retired to rest without undressing. Morning came with nothing strikingly noteworthy until, at a suitable state of the tide, a steam-tug came alongside to tow the huge craft out of the docks and on to the bosom of Old Father Thames. The passengers now crowded upon deck to take, it might be, a long or last farewell of their friends and acquaintances. There was a large number of spectators at the Dock-gates to witness the scene, and a hearty cheer from the multitude announced the moment of departure of the noble ship, with its living freight of young and old, sad and gay, from the land of their birth to the new one of their adoption. - It was an impressive sight, and even the most callous could barely fail at such a moment to wish a pleasant voyage, a safe arrival, and ultimate prosperity to the emigrants. Again, as the ship was towed out into the stream, hats were raised, handkerchiefs were waved, and a loud shout of farewell was given from the shore, which evoked a cordial response from the Pg.213 ship.
It was then - if at any time - that the eye moistened and the heart melted with regret at the thought of looking for the last time on one's native land; which, although associated with remembrances of sorrow and suffering, was nevertheless consecrated by many ties of endearment. Then, too, it was that many would be ready to exclaim with the poet
"Farewell England! Blessings on thee,
Stern and niggard as though art;
Harshly mother, thou hast used me,
But 'tis agony to part."
A truce, however, to moralising! The President was on her way down the river, and before the sun had gilded the western sky she had anchored off Gravesend, where the second night was quietly passed. On the morrow an exchange of pilots was made, and all hands were piped to weigh the anchor and unfurl the sails. The landsmen were called upon to assist, with the shout of encouragement, "Now then, bear a hand all you strong men who want to get to America!" I have never forgotten the measured tramp of the sailors as they paced the deck, rope in hand, and singing the words, "Hurrah and up she rises, early in the morning." Equally well do I remember the plaintively musical voice of the second-mate, while heaving the lead and singing out the several depths as the ship sailed over a piece of shallow water. This was indeed so impressive as to suggest a musical composition which I afterwards set to Jessie Hammond's "Mariner's Grave," the first stanza of which was as follows :-
"I remember the night was stormy and wet,
And dismally dashed the dark wave;
While the rain and the sleet cold and heavily beat
On the mariner's new-made grave."
On board an emigrant ship during fearful storms
"Windy and wet" with a vengeance was the night which succeeded the brilliant day on which the musical accents in heaving the lead made such an impression upon my mind. The wind backed and blew "great guns," the rain descended heavily, all landsmen were ordered below, all lights were forbidden in the steerage, and the hatches were battened down. It was a terrible night; and as the big ship rolled immensely in a heavy sea-way, it was as much as all of us could do to hold on to our berths. At peep o'day, however, the storm appeared to have greatly abated, whilst the gradual steadying of the vessel denoted that we were getting into smoother water. Then was heard a splash and a running out of the cable, which gave rise to the exclamation of an old traveller, "Thank God, we have got to Spithead!" But how great was our disappointment to find, on the hatches being removed, that the ship, unable to weather the storm, had put back to the Downs, over which it had so saucily sailed on the preceding afternoon. The weather remained squally all that day, and the number of vessels seeking shelter increased immensely; but as evening approached the sailors had a notion that the gale had nearly blown itself out, and an order was given to set certain sails and weigh anchor. The order was obeyed with alacrity, and for a time the President bowled away in a jaunty style under a small spread of canvas. But the storm, which had only slightly abated, began again to increase, and in beating to windward the ship was found to be making leeway in dangerous proximity to Beachy-head. Again the pilot's order was obeyed to put back to the Downs. Another terrible night had been experienced. The screaming of children, the nausea of the sea-sick, the prayers of the pious and the horrible swearing of the Tonbridge giant, were all mingled in one confused din; and with many persons the second night of the storm, like the first, was one of intense anxiety, amounting almost to despair.
"All in the Downs the fleet was moored," and those who were able to get up on deck of the President, which once more formed a part of that fleet, aspirated a sigh of relief as they looked around and saw themselves again in comparative safety. After a few hours the gale died down, and a complete calm set in, during which a noteworthy incident occurred. Among the hundreds of vessels at anchor were several fishing-boats, some of them probably hailing from Hastings. From one of these a punt, with an old fisherman and two younger ones, came alongside, when, after a dealing of some of the passengers with the piscatorial merchants the following colloquy took place between the "old salt" and the second mate:-
"Where's the Cap'n?!
"Gone down to Portsmouth by rail as far as it will take him."
"Who sails de ship, den?"
"Why, the Pilot, you old Ninny!"
"Where's de Fust-mate?"
"What's that to you?"
"I want to see him."
"You can't; he's busy."
"Where's Second-mate, den?"
"Stands before you; what do you want with him?Q
"How many hands aboard?"
"Twenty, and two ducks."
"Not enough for big ship like dat. Jes like you Yankees; ought to have forty. Be ye gween to try it agin to-day?"
"We think of it if there comes a puff or two of wind."
"You no call to fear; you'll have anuf o'dat before to mor' mornin'; there's a wusser gale comin' than there's bin yet; you mark my words."
The old fisherman's words were duly marked as he desired by one at least of those who heard them, and that one was the present writer, his after experience making it impossible to do otherwise. Some light, but fitful breezes, which the sailors called "cat's paws" succeeded a brief continuance of the calm, and these in turn were followed by a steadier and stronger breeze and a lurid glow in the western sky. A score or more of the large vessels began to weigh their anchors and spread their sails, all of which vessels were soon out-stripped by the President, whose speed was such as to make it appear that the craft before her were sailing backwards. Something was said about taking the French course, which I found to mean the keeping well away from the English coast. The Channel was still in a disturbed condition, and the wind, while backing again to southward, showed signs of an increase of power. In a short time another furious gale burst upon us, and a repetition of battening down the hatchways was resorted to. The ship rolled and pitched to a greater extent than in the two previous storms; the wind howled through the rigging; the noises on deck were alarming; the sorrow and sickness of the passengers increased; the boxes, hampers, pans, pots and kettles, tumbled from side to side with every lurch of the ship; and amidst all this din and confusion I was thrown out of my berth on to the floor among the commodities and utensils just then in full riot. Unlike most of the other passengers, I had not been seized with sea-sickness, but I suffered quite as acutely from a so-called determination of blood to the head - a complaint to which I had been subjected in earlier years. How far this was accountable for my unfortunate precipitation and prostration it would not be easy to decide, but I remember that even in my then febrile condition I was sufficiently rational to be able to extricate myself from the peril that awaited me between the sharp angles of many movable objects with which my body came into contact. Without a light of any kind, I raised myself on my feet, and was in the act of climbing up to my (uppermost) berth, when I was beaten down again and crushed beneath the weight of two or three sacks of potatoes which, having been stacked in a corner by the Canadian exiles, were displaced by the violent motion of the ship. To my first ailment was then added an injured spine, and I remembered but very little after that until some few days had elapsed, when I found myself in bed at Portsmouth, and under medical treatment. I learnt, however, that the gale having backed to the eastward whilst it increased in violence, any attempt to get back to a place of refuge in that direction would have been abortive, and that therefore, the ship, after having her double-reefed sails split into strips, rode with almost "bare poles" before the gale to a safe anchorage at Spithead. I was further informed that a woman had been killed on board, and that several persons had been bruised or otherwise hurt. My case was considered to be serious, and as soon as the sea moderated sufficiently for boats to venture out of the harbour, I was sent ashore with some others (perhaps the dead woman among us), accompanied by the Pilot. My consciousness having been re-established, although still suffering from debility, I was led to a stable behind the inn that had served me for a temporary refuge, to see if my "things" were all right. Alas! they were all wrong. My companions (the brothers Foster) had, doubtless, done their best in pointing out to the ship's steward or carpenter the hampers and boxes that belonged to me, and these, or most of them either accompanied me or followed me to land. But when I came to take stock of them, I found many articles were missing, whilst the hampers containing my large store of provisions were all saturated with salt water. The ship, while at anchor, was undergoing some necessary repairs, and I was told that I might retake my berth on board, or might go by another ship, ten days hence, belonging to the same company. Failing that, my passage money would be forfeited. The surgeon who had been attending me strongly advised me not to proceed further on the journey, "for," said he, "irrespective of the injury to your back, you have incipient jaundice without sickness, and I have known several similar cases in which a long sea voyage has proved fatal." Acting upon his advice, I set out to return home by short but tedious stages. My first day's journey was by waggon from Portsmouth to Havant, where I rested at night. On the next day I travelled by the same conveyance to Chichester, where I was transferred, "bag and baggage," to another carrier, who took me on to Littlehampton, where I again put up for a night The third day and night found me travelling from Littlehampton via Worthing, to Brighton, where I began to feel myself a little more at ease, if not more at home. I was next taken charge of by Mr. Elgar, with whom I was well acquainted, and whose van, running between Brighton and Hastings, was almost exclusively laden with what, not inaptly, might be called the salvage of my unfortunate wreck. As pre-arranged, this was conveyed to the end of the journey, whilst, after traveling a distance of sixteen miles only, I alighted at the village of Chiddingly, where I had relatives, some of whom had previously journeyed to Hastings to bid me farewell. Nothing was known there of my disaster, and when the door was opened to me my altered appearance was antagonistic to recognition. As might be supposed this soon gave place to surprise and commiseration; and under the fostering care of an aunt and her family, a short time sufficed for a visible improvement, although from that day to this the effects of the injury have never been entirely eradicated. It was during this brief period of enforced idleness at Chiddingly that I first learnt that the series of storms which I had encountered had been as violent on land as in the Channel and that the sea, impelled thereby, had destroyed the parade walls to a serious extent, as described at the commencement of this personal narrative. A letter is now before me, from which the following is an extract:-
Hastings, August 3, 1839."
"Mr. and Mrs. Morris request me to write to you to say how sorry they are - as we all are - that you have been so ill, and how pleased they will be at your return. We thought enough of you in the terrible storm, which continued at Hastings for five days. Your brother and I wrote conjointly to Portsmouth to implore you to return, not venturing to hope that we should be successful; but happily, in one sense, your mishap, which we hope is not serious, will be the means of restoring you to us. You may be sure that we shall unpack your luggage with much greater pleasure than we had in packing it.— "J.C."
The letter from which the above quotation is made bears the postage figure of 6d. to Hailsham, and an additional 2d. for its further conveyance to Chiddingly. It also bears the familiar impression of the Hastings stamp, which it was my privilege or my duty to manipulate many thousands of times; a circumstance that will lead me to the promised description of the post-office system in general, and of the Hastings and St. Leonards Post-office in particular, before the Penny-post plan, which has now at the time of writing existed for 63 years, was introduced by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Rowland Hill. For descriptions see Chapter XXII, page 216.
I will now descant briefly on the institution with which St. Leonards as well as other parishes, was concerned - yclept, the Union Workhouses with its Board of Guardians. It was in the month of February, 1839, that the asylum at Cackle street afforded relief to 32 old or infirm people and 26 able-bodied men and women, thus presenting a noteworthy contrast to the 908 recipients of relief at the time I am writing. How the population of the Union must have grown during such forty-two years, or how much other conditions must have changed for the worse to have produced such a deplorable increase in pauperism! But that which is still more to be regretted is the present large number of lunatics chargeable to the Union. That there should be 69 of these poor creatures - exceeding by eleven the whole number of indigent but sane people who had to be relieved in 1839, is a subject for very sad reflection. The Clerk to the Board of Guardians who has since died at the age of 72 after a long and faithful service of about 32 years, must have had comparatively little to do in the year 1839. No wonder that, as I then knew him, he could find time to produce some pretty drawings and colored sketches, as well as to exhibit some bold caligraphy (sic) and generally good specimens of penmanship. Nor is it surprising that at that period he could find time to devote to his South-Australian Emigration-agency. Apropos of this agency, the following short extract from a letter received in Hastings may be even now not altogether void of interest. "The ship Metcalfe has arrived at Sydney after a passage of 106 days. The emigrants by this ship are a very desirable body and have all obtained immediate employment. Too many of such persons cannot be received; for if really of good character, especially domesticated women, they can all get good situations in respectable families. Equally desirable are ploughmen, shepherds, and country labourers of all sorts."
But another letter, more applicable to the Board of Guardians, was received on the 6th of February from the Poor-Law Board, informing the Guardians that Mr. Bond, proprietor of the Cinque Ports Chronicle, had complained of the Union advertisements being sent to the Brighton Guardian, and not given to the only local paper that was published. A discussion followed, in which the chairman (Mr. Beck) urged that mischief might result if reporters were admitted to the meetings. Apart from such admission, Mr. Putland held it to be a right thing not to go to another town for what could be had at home; and as they had a local paper, he was sorry the advertisements were not given to it. Mr. North, however, differed from the views of Mr. Putland, and thought that as it was necessary to give the advertisements the greatest publicity, the Guardians had done perfectly right. Here seems to have been a case in which was illustrated the saying that the best of men must sometimes err in judgment. Seeing what up-hill work it was to establish the first newspapers in Hastings for the want of that commercial reciprocity which in the shape of advertisements is as essential to the existence of the one as to the business progress of the other, one would have thought that Mr. North would at least have recommended the advertisements being given to the Hastings paper as well as to that of Brighton, especially as he had complained of the latter's attacks upon himself. It may be concluded that for the lack of such support the Cinque Ports Chronicle, like its predecessor the Iris, came to grief, after the former in its struggles for life, had more than once changed its printer, publisher and politics. There was, however, at a later period of the year, an advertisement which at the time was regarded as a very important one as it helped to exonerate Messrs. Harman and Putland (Surveyors of highways) from a grave offence laid to their charge by the irrepressible Mr. Troup. It was inserted at the cost of Mr. Putland, and the wording of it was as follows :-
"Saint Mary Magdalen, 27th November, 1839 - At a Vestry of the parish of St. Mary Magdalen, held at the Warrior's Gate Inn, on Wednesday, the 27th day of November, 1839, pursuant to due notice given thereof, to examine the accounts of the Surveyors of the Highways for the years 1836, 1837 and 1838; Mr. William Moon, Chairman. It appears to this vestry that the sum of £6 13s., charged in the accounts of the surveyors of the highways for the years 1836 and 1837, as having been paid for repairing a carriage damaged by the state of the road, has not been paid; and that the sum of £2 6s. 3d., the balance which appears in the said accounts to have been due to the Parish, has not been paid. And it further appears that there are arrears of rates, uncollected, for the same year, amounting to more than the above sum of £8 19s. 3d., which have been charged to them; and it is therefore resolved that the surveyors for that year shall pay over to the present surveyors the sum of £8 19s. 3d., which appears to be due from them, as afore-said; and that the present surveyors shall pay to the said surveyors, for the years 1836 and 1837, the sum of £9 13s. 9d., which has been charged to them, and which, it appears, they have not collected. Resolved, that the said sum of £9 13s. 9d. shall be discharged from the rate made in November, 1836.— William Moon, James Murdoch, James Smith, W. Hunter, W. Holloway, Stephen Pilcher, John Austin, George Roberts, Henry Hughes, Charles Fuggle, George Lamb, John Hughes, J. Wellsted, Geo. Head, John Pearson, S. Stubberfield, Edward Pilcher, Henry Hook, Joseph Beck, H. Chandler."
Mr. Troup and the Overseers - Address to the Queen
It should be explained that the subject had caused much excitement, and that the above resolution had been referred to at a magisterial meeting before which an investigation took place. Mr. Harman stated that the Bench having suggested the propriety of a vestry meeting being held, such meeting accordingly took place, when it was found that instead of the surveyors being indebted to the parish, it was the reverse. A list of "supers" was shown Pg.214 which left the parish £4 in arrear, which the parish ordered to be paid, and otherwise exonerated the officers. As Mr. Troup had previously applied for summonses against the surveyors, the meeting suggested the advisability of Messrs. Harman and Putland attending the Bench that day with the vestry book containing the resolution, and for that purpose, therefore, Mr. Putland had it in possession, when Mr. Troup applied for the loan of it for a short time. To their astonishment, when they called on Mr. Troup that morning, he refused to give it up, and they therefore hoped the Bench would grant them a summons to enable them to recover possession of it. The Mayor (F. Smith, Esq.) hoped that would be unnecessary; and, in reply to Dr. MacCabe, Mr. Troup took technical objections, but said he was willing to give up the book to Mr. Chester, as overseer, and not to the applicants. Mr. Mannington remarked that the surveyors were being deprived of the means of proving their exoneration of a grave charge which Mr. Troup had laid against them. Mr. Troup affected to be sorry that gentlemen on the Bench should prejudge the case. Major Jeffries asked, impatiently, "Do you mean to keep the book?" "Oh! not by any means if the overseer applies for it" was the cool reply. But, added Mr. Troup, "I shall apply for summonses against the late surveyors for a balance due to the parish, as there has not been a fair investigation." Dr. MacCabe dissented, and expressed his belief that all that was crooked was on the part of Mr. Troup. The case was adjourned, but the subsequent decision showed that in this, as in many other contentions of which he was an almost ubiquitous author, Mr. Troup had to give way. In railway matters, in postal arrangements, in school treats, in parochial management, in the choice of a site for the Infirmary, and in many other things of a public nature, Mr. Troup was almost invariably on the side of the opposition, although the carping, cantankerous spirit which this gentleman possessed was on some occasions not without its use. A mild and peaceable man will sometimes yield right to wrong for quietness' sake, but this failing - if it be a failing - was certainly not possessed by the "monarch of Warrior square." Howsoever vanquished in fact, he always sought to maintain his ground in theory, and would usually have the last word in letters to newspapers. But even in this he sometimes got a Rowland for his Oliver[c]. In consequence of a letter of his not appearing in the Railway Times, he again wrote to the Editor as follows :-
"Sir, - As the letter I wrote last week contains matter which you evidently wish to suppress, I claim as an act of justice insertion of the following fact, in answer to your base insinuation as to my motive for urging the shareholders to investigate the affairs of the Brighton Railway Company ... That you may have no excuse for withholding this letter, I will consent to pay for it as an advertisement, if you feel that you can, with propriety, charge for it.— J. TROUP."
After this, the Railway Times inserted both letters of Mr. Troup's, the contents of which must have been amusing to those who knew that whilst Mr. Troup claimed to be a shareholder of the Company, he had not paid up his "calls." He charged the Directors with misapplication of capital, waste, jobbery and extravagance; also with "not only calling for the last instalment to make up nine-hundred-thousand pounds, but also with having the assurance to threaten proceedings to enforce payment." "I propose," says the redoubtable champion of right, "to forward you next week a rough estimate of the value of work done up to the 1st of July, when the Directors made their last report; for a rod of brick-work, a cubic yard of earth, and a ton of iron rails are easy calculation by any persons who can keep a milk score." This is engineering made easy truly; but, methinks that in the reply of the editor of the Railway Times Mr. Troup received a well-merited rebuke. The castigation, if I may so call it, was as follows :-
Our conscience does not twit us with having, either in our last or any previous number, made any 'base insinuation' as to Mr. Troup's 'motives.' However, as his last week's letter has fortunately been saved from the flames - a fate to which many a better production was remorselessly consigned - we accept Mr. Troup's challenge, and shame ourselves by printing it here. Now, Mr. Troup, we hope we have pleased you for once. We could ill spare the space, but we would do much to oblige so good-tempered a gentleman. We think we might, 'with propriety,' have charged your letter as an advertisement,' but we are generous as well as just, and you have nothing to pay. Henceforth we shall be happy to accommodate you at so much per column; only recollect that your abuse and 'base insinuations' must be lavished on us alone, and not upon every respectable gentleman or body of gentlemen, who may have the misfortune to fall under your high displeasure.
The same system of letter-writing, with the view apparently of having the last word, or of justifying his conduct in the eyes of the public, was pursued by Mr. Troup in connection with his disproved charges against Messrs. Harman and Putland. Writing to the Cinque Ports Chronicle, Mr. Troup professed to have discovered, as a Trustee of the Sedlescomb Road and Chairman of the Finance Committee a something which led him to believe that the highway rates were not applied so strictly as they should have been for improvements, and for the employment of poor labourers; and he intimated that he accepted the office of Surveyor with the object of reforming all this. That he failed in this very laudable (?) desire has already been shown, but that he was not altogether wrong in denouncing the practice of Surveyors of Highways supplying labour and materials themselves and charging them to the public accounts was proved by his quotation of a clause in the Highway Act. This clause set forth that
If any surveyor shall have any part, share or interest in any bargain or contract for work or materials for any highway under his care or management; or shall, upon his own account, directly or indirectly use any team, materials, &c., in making or repairing such highways, he shall forfeit for every such offence, on conviction, any sum not exceeding ten pounds, and be for ever after incapable of being employed as a surveyor, with a salary under the authority of this Act.
Mr. Troup's contention was that Mr. Putland had violated the provisions of the Act by the item which appeared in the St. Mary Magdalen Highway accounts for March, 1837, as "Carriage of beach, and labour on roads, paid by Mr. Putland, as per account delivered, £38 1s. 0 1/2d." But he did not assert that Mr. Putland had paid that amount to himself, nor that even if he (Mr. P.) had so done, it was only what had been many times done by the St. Leonards Surveyors of Highways. It was not always that in a sparsely populated district teams could be had for the mere asking, and this was especially the case after the unprecedented snow of 1836-7, when every available cart and horse was called into requisition to remove the snow and to repair the roads with beach. Nor was it convenient for Mr. Troup to lay stress upon the saving clause in the Act "unless a license in writing for the sale of such materials, or to let to hire any such team, be first obtained from two Justices of the Peace." I do not know that in Mr. Putland's case such license was obtained, but that the account was officially passed by two Justices of the Peace is sufficiently proved by the signatures of Joseph Jeffries and John Mannington. It was generally thought that a political animus was the mainspring in most of the contentions where Mr. Troup appeared as a conspicuous figure, and his subsequent connection with the Cinque Ports Chronicle when that journal changed its politics by espousing the cause of Conservatism was regarded as a confirmation of previous suspicions. I may have something to say on that subject in due course, but for the present it will serve me to refer to two or three political demonstrations of 1839. It was one of the years, preceding Sir Robert Peel's levy of the Income-tax, in which the finances of the country were in a deplorable condition. The deficits amounted to about a million and a half, and this, following on a similar deficiency of the two preceding years, together with the bad condition of trade and manufactures, created general discontent among the classes whose subsistence depended upon manual labour. The Chartist agitation was growing in intensity, and meetings were held in our midst as well as in other parts of the country. From these meetings serious riots occurred in many parts of England, until, at last, Lord John Russell issued a proclamation authorising Lord-Lieutenants of the counties to accept the armed assistance of persons who might offer their services in the interests of the public peace. The riots, however, continued, and with the aid of the military, many of the leaders were arrested, and afterwards imprisoned. Matters did not take so serious a turn in this locality, although I could name one or two persons who declared their willingness to dare and die for "Universal Sufferage, (sic) Vote by Ballot, Annual Parliaments, Equal Electoral Districts, Paid Members, and No Property Qualification."
That they dared very much is doubtful, but that they died without accomplishing their purpose is certain. In some remarks of the Cinque-Ports Chronicle, the editor says, - "The Chartist meetings in this neighbourhood have passed off in so insipid a manner as to render any serious comments on our part unnecessary; but the fire-brands may have a more dangerous effect among the inflamable (sic) materials of populous cities, and certainly call for surveilance (sic)." The Government, however, was extremely embarrassed in dealing with this incipient rebellion; and to this difficulty was added the rebellious action of the Jamaica Legislative Assembly in refusing to ratify the decisions of the Imperial Parliament with respect to slavery. This latter action induced the Government to frame a Bill for a five years' suspension of the Jamaica Constitution, which being opposed by the Opposition by 204 votes against 289, led to a resignation of the Ministry. The formation of a new Cabinet was entrusted to Sir Robert Peel, who required the Queen to dismiss such ladies of her household as were related to the late Ministers. Her Majesty declined to do so, where upon (sic) Viscount Melbourne and his colleagues consented to remain in office. The Liberals then naturally sought to make political capital out of this event, and meetings were held in many towns to congratulate Her Majesty on the attitude she had assumed. Our own Liberal politicians shared in this congratulation, and on the 23rd of May a meeting was held at the Royal Oak hotel, presided over by the Mayor, P. F. MacCabe, M.D., when the following address was adopted:-
To THE QUEEN'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY.
- The humble address of the undersigned inhabitants of the borough of Hastings and St. Leonards sheweth that we, your Majesty's loyal and most dutiful subjects beg permission to offer to your Majesty our cordial sympathy in the trials to which your Majesty has been lately exposed, in an unprecedented and derogatory attempt to invade the sanctity of your Majesty's domestic life, and our humble and hearty congratulation in your Majesty's firm and successful resistance to the demands as contrary to usage as they were repugnant to delicacy. We trust your Majesty will always evince the same noble firmness, and ever cherish the principles which guide to salutary and constitutional reform, and ever rely on the affections of a dutiful and loyal people, who are determined to support your Majesty in the just exercise of your prerogative at the hazard of our lives and fortunes. We pray Divine Providence graciously to vouchsafe your Majesty a long, peaceable and happy reign on Earth, and everlasting ----
A week ---[e] to the number of 120, held their annual meeting at the Royal Oak, and celebrated the same by a banquet. The room was profusely decorated, and on the right of the chairman (Adam Smith, Esq.) was a beautiful banner, on which was exhibited the Queen's declaration to Sir Robert Peel - "I would rather be reduced to the level of a private subject than be deprived of the society of those to whom I am personally attached, and who have been the friends of my childhood." The meeting, as may be supposed, was a very harmonious and enthusiastic one; but even this did not suffice to develop all the loyal ardour that was within the Liberal body-politic of Hastings and St. Leonards; for, three days after, it being the aniversary (sic) of Her Majesty's nativity, the Mayor, with a number of gentlemen and tradesmen, dined together at the Swan Hotel to celebrate the occasion.
On the same day the Queen's Royal St. Leonards Archers met on the grounds for a prize competition, and afterwards continued the meetings at intervals until Saturday the 17th of August, when, as usual, the grand meeting of the season was held in honor of the birthday of the Duchess of Kent. At this meeting The Hon. Secretary, T. Wood, Esq., presented to the Society a silver coronation medal of Queen Victoria, to be worn by the President at all meetings. The President for that year and for several years after was the Right Hon. J. Planta. The meeting was largely attended, and the proceedings were enlivened by the strains of the St. Leonards Band, under the direction of Mr. Elford. The shooting of the gentlemen competitors was nothing to boast of, whilst that of Miss Mackay, the Misses Wood, and Miss Knox was said to be such as to place those ladies in the first rank of archers throughout the country. Miss Mackay obtained the 1st Royal Victoria and the 2nd Society's prize, whilst Miss Helen Wood won the gold bracelet, and Miss Knox the 1st Visitors' prize. Of the gentlemen competitors Capt. Norton won the 1st Royal Victoria, and Mr. J. Birch obtained both the 2nd Victoria and the 2nd Society's, whilst Mr. Wetherall secured the Visitors' prize. On leaving the ground the party, to the number of 100, adjourned to the Harold Hotel, where Mr. Dovey placed a sumptuous repast on the table, and at which the secretary officiated as chairman. Speeches and hilarity prevailed, during which the chairman eulogised the efforts of Miss Mackay, a lady to whom he said they were all indebted for the admirable care she had taken of the ground, and the taste which had been displayed under her able direction. "Oh!" added the speaker, "Miss Mackay declares it is not herself, but her sister who has done the ornamental part of the grounds; our gratitude must therefore extend to the whole family." The dinner on this occasion was supplemented by a ball, which was kept up till midnight.
Apropos of balls, there was one at the Swan Hotel on the 3rd of January, under the designation of "Hart's Benefit Ball," which was numerously attended, and at which the stewards were the Borough Members (Planta and Hollond), and Messrs. A. Burton, F. North, L. Shadwell, F. Smith and W. Scrivens. There were also the usual Christmas Ball at the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms, and the annual ball at the Oak; but the customary terpsichorean gatherings at the rooms and inns of minor note were almost nil. Politics and poverty were more than ordinarily rife, and there was either not the disposition or not the means for the people to engage in festivities as was their wont under more favourable conditions. Fortunately for the destitute inhabitants of both towns, the purses of Messrs. Musgrave, Brisco, Robert Holland and Francis Smith were again opened, as in the preceding year, for the purchase of coals, food and clothing. This alleviation of the necessities of the poor may account in some measure for the local discontent being of a less pronounced type than the manifestations in most other places. Yet, while giving generously to the poor, Mr. Hollond did not withhold his subscriptions or donations to other objects, even though they should be for purposes of amusement; hence, we find him contributing £50 to the fund for the annual races in September. These sports were still in high repute, and were held as usual in the valley just beyond Bopeep, the name of which recalls an incident that caused amusement to some persons and vexatious loss to others. It was no uncommon thing for some of the country butchers who attended the Hastings Market on Saturdays to meet on their way home at night at Bopeep public-house, known as "The New England Bank." On one of these occasions in the spring of 1839 they were indulging thereat in potations pottle deep, when some thieves made free with divers(sic) articles that were in the butchers' carts, including a round of beef and other articles, together with three parcels of other commodities destined for Ninfield. The thieves were never discovered, but the knights of the cleaver were ever after chary of affording another such an opportunity.
On the night of the 9th of December a desperate attempt was made by two men to rob the Hollington[f] toll-house. The gate-keeper was called up by these men who had driven a horse up to the gate, and whilst he was unfastening the gate, one of the pseudo-travellers threw a round-frock over his head and he was otherwise assaulted. Hearing the scuffle, the gatekeeper's wife got out of bed and called for assistance, at the same time locking the door. The fellows shouted to her that it was of no use her calling, for they knew there was no one else there. But they quickly found themselves mistaken, for a man who had been sleeping there made his appearance, and the would-be robbers made off after they had beaten and bruised the gatekeeper. As though the rascals had known that there was fifty pounds of money in the house, and as though they also had an idea that the gatekeeper's lodger would leave the house to give an alarm to the not very near neighbours, they returned for another attempt, but gave it up as soon as they found the parties within were prepared to give them a warm reception.
Robberies - Accidents - Pedestrianism - Interments at St. Leonards & Hastings
It was a fortunate circumstance that the Hollington toll-taker had a young man sleeping in his little house; and I have sometimes wondered whether that young man, whose presence so effectually assisted in frustrating the designs of the assailants, was only a temporary lodger like myself at another toll-house, a few months later. In my own case I had set out from London with a relative with the intention of walking from that great city to Hastings in one day, but on reaching Robertsbridge, my companion - who had been a laggard a good part of the way - declared his inability to proceed any farther. It was late at night when we arrived at Robertsbridge, and the houses both public and private, were closed. In this dilemma we applied to the toll-house keeper, to whom, fortunately my Pg.215 friend was known. With commendable generosity the toll-man gave us the privilege of lying down on his bed until the arrival of the Royal Blue (stage) Van on its down journey next morning, whilst he himself put up with the discomfort of dozing in this old arm chair. That we were sufficiently weary after our fifty miles walk to need the rest which my jaded companions so much coveted admits of little doubt; but whether it was my disappointment at being prevented reaching home that night as I had intended, or whether it was the recollection of the assault and attempted robbery only a few months before at a toll-house nearer homed that disinclined me to fall into the arms of Morpheus I am hardly prepared to say, but I still retain the impression that my slumber was not so profound as it might have been, and that my heart was not beating with so much thankfulness as it ought to have done at the proffered and accepted hospitality. To go back to the would-be robbers at the Tivoli Gate,[g] I am not sufficiently assured either by memory or memorandum as to whether they were ever detected and convicted; but a man named Wood was almost immediately taken on suspicion of being one of them, and after magisterial examination he was committed for trial at Lewes. There had been more than one offence of that sort during the year, and among the victims was Mr. Catley, the Borough Surveyor. His residence, Montpelier House, on the old London road, was broken into a second time, and a cash-box, with from fifteen to twenty pounds was carried off. This old gentleman was very much depressed at this second burglarious visitation, and to add to his depondency, (sic) about a fortnight later news was received of the death of his son in the city of York. Mr. Catley, jun., was 35 years of age, and was so much respected that more than a hundred citizens followed his remains to the grave.
Among the accidents to life and limb during 1839 were one of a serious, and another of a fatal, character, both of which occurred on the same. day. The first applied to a valuable horse belonging to Mr. Robert Deudney. While at work in a field the unfortunate animal overturned a harrow which it was drawing, and at the same time fell upon the spikes, which caused its death. On the same afternoon, a Mr. Brett was at work at a saw-pit in the Norman road, when several heavy pieces of timber rolled over upon him, by which he sustained very severe injuries, not the least of which was the fracturing of both legs. It occurred on the 6th of March, and has been quaintly described in the Anniversary notices of the GAZETTE as follows :-
"In Eighteen-thirty-nine one Sawyer Brett
Broke both his legs in timber-yard of Kaye's,
And other injuries thereat did get,
Which threatened there and then to end his days.
Surviving that, he running feats could do,
And as I write his age is ninety-two."
Yes, until within the last year or two, this venerable member of the "light weights," was noted for his agility, notwithstanding that his frame was so terribly shattered by the accident which befel (sic) him in 1839. He was remarkably fond of hunting, and for many years it was his practice to follow the hounds on foot, whilst he failed but rarely to be one of the first in at the death.It is said, "Where there's a will there's a way," and it is probably that this theory was well exemplified in the case of the plucky man to whom I have alluded. Perhaps I am as competent as anyone to give an opinion on this matter, feeling as I do, well assured that but for the strength of will and tenacity of purpose my own "physical force" per se would have many times failed me in the accomplishment of that on which I had set my mind. I have shown the disappointment which I experienced at being prevented completing the journey from London to Hastings without a break, feeling, as I did, that but for the restraint put upon me by the inability of my friend, there would have been no failure of the task thus undertaken. Chafing under this bar to my pedestrian feat, I resolved on the first opportunity to make the trial by myself. This opportunity was afforded me in the following year, when I traveled over the 64 miles of ground in 19 hours, which at that time was what I always regarded as my working day. It will be seen that this was a rather slow pace, but I must state that although averaging but 3 1/2 miles per hour, it included restings for refreshments, whilst the weight with which I was handicapped may be judged of when I say that in addition to my ordinary apparel, I carried a pea-jacket a camlet cloak, an umbrella, a violin, and a good-sized bag of merchandise. The journey was satisfactorily accomplished from London to Hastings between the hours of 4 in the morning and 11 at night. As there was no one with me to attest this feat of walking, it was usually assumed that I was "drawing the long bow" whenever I related it. But if a walk of that extent and under such conditions was somewhat of a rarity in those days, the more recent feats of Weston and other professional pedestrians dwarf it completely into insignificance. What I wish to prove is that man is capable of greater endurance than is generally supposed even by those who have made his physical structure a life study; as, witness the swim across the Channel by Captain Webb, contrary to the opinion expressed by the medical faculty. But many of the seeming impossibilities would never become realities without the confidence derived from the power of will; and it is the work of this will-power, prudently directed, which enters into association with the accidental or incidental allusions to mere personal matters while giving these sketches of local history. Perhaps, I ought to say, however, with Jean Jaques Rousseau, "As I decline into old age, I feel the recollections of childhood (early life) revive, and imprint themselves on my heart with a force and charm that every day acquire fresh strength, as if feeling life fleeing from me, I endeavoured to catch it again by its commencement." But what is perhaps more to the purpose as an excuse for these occasional personal interpolations if the fact that some of my oldest acquaintances have frequently asked me for an autobiography, believing, as they are pleased to aver, that a detailed account of my life would be useful to many young people of the present day who murmur at their position and think that no ever had so few opportunities for recreation as themselves. As it will be out of my power to comply with the request of friends in the specific form indicated by them, it may satisfy them to some extent if I continue to intersperse this history with personal experiences in connection therewith.
I have said that much is due to the exercise of will-power, and I would have my readers distinguish this from mere self-will or fixed obstinacy; for in reality, there is a wide difference between the two attributes. The man or the boy who possesses the former will often be the first to set upon the idea or advice of others when once convinced of the advantages of such a course, whilst the posessor (sic) of mere headstrong passions will at all times follow his own bent even to the extent of injury to himself or brutality to others. The latter may be an educated man and a warm politician, but he will put forward his own ideas or those of his party as infallible, and will on no account allow them to be modified by the opinions or statements of others. But I must cease moralising. It is my intention at this place to show the physical conditions under which the journey from London to Hastings was performed were the reverse of favourable, and that but for the mental resolve emanating from the consciousness of voluntary force, the attempt must have failed. I had had the misfortune, some years before, to displace both knee-caps, one of which accidents nearly cost me my life; and at the time when the journey was undertaken I was still suffering to some extent from injuries received in a storm-tossed emigrant-ship. Yet I experienced no after discomfort from the walk of 64 miles, loaded though I was to the extent described.
And now, that I may not arrogate to myself the sole possession of will-power for the accomplishment of these long-journey performances on the "marrow-bone stage," it behoves me to narrate a venture of that sort in company with Mr. Edward Godden, who, until a few years ago, was still alive to attest the fact. It was on the 24th of November, 1839, that I set out with my friend from Hastings on a walking journey to Chiddingly, a distance of about 23 miles, for the purpose of attending the funeral of an uncle whose death had taken place on the 18th of that month. The deceased was a man greatly respected, not only by his family and neighbors, but also by a large circle of friends in Lewes, Brighton, and other places at a distance. His remains were, consequently, followed to the grave by a numerous train of mourners, including the two young men from Hastings. He who had thus passed over to the silent majority amidst a concourse of sorrowing friends had been a man of many parts. He was a shoemaker, parish-clerk, drover, occupier of a small farm, musician and bandmaster. He was a performer on the clarionette (sic), flute and bassoon; and upon his conductorship and arrangements of harmony were dependent the bands of Chiddingly, Hellingly and East-hoathly. This last circumstance has for me a personal interest, because it was with some of these bandsmen that I played as a supernumary (sic) at a hotly contested election in which an ex-Representative of Hastings was a candidate, and in which money was to be had for the asking, the bribers and the bribed on both sides being as plentiful as blackberries. This event was about a year and a half after the more solemn occasion which took me and my friend to Chiddingly. This journey of 23 miles was a mere trifle of itself, but mark what followed! Early next morning we commenced a rural and seaside tour of over 70 miles which in the present day but few persons probably other than bicyclists would undertake to accomplish in the time. We had no riding and but very little resting, and the route which we pursued was from Chiddingly to Laughton and thence through Glynde to Beddingham, where we had an early breakfast. We then walked on through Rodmill, Tarring, Denton and Blatchington to Seaford, where Boniface, a relative, refreshed us with beer and biscuit. We then pursued our way to Newhaven where another Boniface and another relative, of gigantic stature and weighing 22 stones, magnificently entertained us with coffee, ham, eggs, etc., and sent us on our way rejoicing to Ovendeen (sic), Kemp Town and Brighton. At the last-named town we lionized until - as Tom Cladpole would say - we were "gran nigh spent,," A short rest and a short meal sufficed for our refreshment there, as it was evident that if we were to get back to our country lodgings before the midnight hour there was no time to be weary in well-doing. Away we trudged therefore out of Brighton and round by road to Lewes, where we arrived at dusk, and where we consumed an entire rice pudding for which we paid tenpence, and drank the best ginger-beer that ever gratified our palates. Leaving Lewes, our nearest course would have been through Ringmer and Laughton, but we were under a promise to go round again by Beddingham, and so down through the Cliffe and by the cliff from Lewes to Beddingham we went. Having received at the latter village precise directions for the remainder of our return journey in the darkness of night, we proceeded cheerfully, and - all things considered - briskly through Chalvington, Rype and Laughton to Chiddingly, were at about midnight we were comfortably ensconed (sic) by the side of a bonny wood-fire in a large chimney-corner, and there practically discussing the merits of a bowl of hot milk-and-bread. We recounted the course and the incidents of our journey and were told by those who ought to have known that we had walked a distance of nearer 80 miles than 70. But even allowing for a little excess in such an estimate, I am nevertheless of opinion that even now if traced on the map, the distance would be found to measure over seventy miles. We did not return to Hastings until two days after that, and if we did not deem it expedient to deprive ourselves of one intervening day's rest the excuse may be found in the fact that we were under no obligations of a wager character, and that what we were undertaking was solely to gratify the longings of our own sweet will. I have now only to say that the journey home of 23 miles was accomplished, after the one day of comparative rest, and in a gale of wind with a downpour of rain. Instead of this walking excercise (sic) covering a distance of 120 or more miles, as it has been shown to have done, the journey, out and home, was intended to have been limited to about 50 miles, whilst the sole object was to be present at the obsequies attending the interment of a deceased and respected relative. And now, to return from this digression, and to come away as it were, fresh from the grave of a departed friend, one's mind seems almost instinctively to call up associations of a kindred nature at home. How often have I said within myself "What a pity it is that our grave-yards which contain the mortal remains of those whose memories we love to cherish, should become despoiled by the sacreligious uses to which many of them are now put." If one looks into these repositories of the dead, he finds in one of them the vaults dilapidated, the tablets defaced and the perpendicular records either broken or altogether removed. Into another is turned a flock of sheep to eat off whatsoever herbage may remain previously to the animals coming under the hands of the slaughterman; and in a third are to be heard discordant sounds of female voices in unseemly confusion as to the right or privilege of drying clothes in
A burial place where rests the spirit's clay
Till God shall quicken at the last great day;
Where oft unheeded are the words "Here lies;"
Where unregarded what the tomb implies;
Where, undiscerned is each small mound of mould,
With mortal remnants of the young and old.
Methinks if I could have known that when the graveyards were closed, not only against additional interments,(sic) but also against the inspection of the living whose friends have gone before them - as some of them now virtually are - I should have bestirred myself in some sort of way to rescue the "memorials of the dead" from that entire oblivion which has already well night overtaken them. It is now too late to do much for that object, but I purpose, if life and time permit, to devote a short space in each year's history to a simple record of deaths as copied from the monumental inscriptions or as derived from other sources, accompanied occasionally by some associative reminiscences. The first collection will be for the year 1839, and as follows :-
INTERMENTS DURING 1839
In St. Leonards Burial Grounds.
How. Thos s(father of Chas. Thos) one of the first inhabitants, Nov. 30th, aged 56. His widow died three years later.
Houghton, Wm. Richard, July 5th, 5 years.
Kirby, Curtis Henry, May 28th, 11 months.
Price, Henry, July 1st, 3 years.
Reynolds, Robert Arthur, Sept. 14th, 25 years.
Russell, William, August 3rd, 2 years.
Southurst, Frances, June 21st, 3 months.
Talbott, Frank, June 24th, 4 months.
Wheeler, Emily Sophia, June 10th, 3 1/2 years.
In St. Clement's Burial Grounds.
Hazlewood, Wm. Peter, son of the Rev. F. F., of the Croft, December 18th, aged 18 months.
Page, Mary, late of Pimlico. Oct. 5th, aged 67.
Russell, the wife of John, Jan. 8th, aged 70. Her husband died 10 years previously, aged 42.
In All Saints' Church-yard.
Bell, Henry George, of the Cutter Inn, Dec. 18th, aged 24. His mother, Elizabeth Bell, on the 22nd of April in the preceding year, at the age of 63, and his father James Bell, on the 6th of January, 1823, at the age of 48. Alas, poor Harry! He was born to a calling which unattended by the moral restraint that was necessary, brought him, it is feared to an early death. He was sprightly, and good natured; and as a youth in the year 1830, was said to have been one of a party who, in larking, accidently threw down the new iron railings which divided the "upper" from the "lower" Croft. Once given a start (like a row of bricks standing on end) the railings swayed and fell by their own gravitation from end to end. It was supposed by the authorities to have been maliciously done, and a reward of £50 was offered for information of the miscreants.
In All Saints' Burial Ground.
Belsey, Elizabeth, wife of Thomas, April 3rd, aged 56. This was the mother of Mrs. Giles, wife of the late organist of that name, and of Mr. James Belsey, who, while acting as special constable at the Hastings and St. Leonards Races, in 1842, had the misfortune to fracture one of his legs.
Crow, Crissey, March 9th, aged 65.
Hide, John, Oct. 17th, aged 68. His wife Abigail, died nine years before at the age of 56. Six of their children died in infancy.
Smith, Henry, son of John and Hannah Smith, of High street, July 11, aged 14 years.
Streeter, John, drowned at Plymouth, with Wm. Harman, and three others by the upsetting of a boat. His remains were not brought home, but the event is recorded on a memorial stone at the grave of his widow, who died a few years later.
In the Croft-Chapel Ground.
Dee Eliza, late of Cambridge, May 14th, aged 21.
St. Mary's-in-the-Castle Cemetery.
Cheere, Harriett Emily, wife of the Rev George, March 17th, aged 28.
Lecky, Mary Anne, wife of Mr. J. H., March 31st, aged 23.
Tutt, Sarah, wife of James, March 9th, aged 64.
Turbutt, Helen, daughter of the late Wm. (in the catacombs) April 10th, aged 19.
Cooper, Anna Maria, daughter of Mr. Cooper, librarian, and granddaughter of Mrs. Roe.
Roe, Mrs. Mary, many years dealer in wools and fancy goods at Hastings, June 1st, aged 67.
In Bexhill Church-yard.
Bennett, Mary, April 14th, aged 62.
Deudney, Thomas, a yeoman, May 10th, aged 82.
Easton, Elizabeth, February 19th, aged 92.
Easton, Elizabeth, August 4th, aged 80.
Landsell, Thomas, March 25th, aged 79.
- In the previous paragraph, Brett said he was on board the Wellington! - Transcriber
- Brett has a 'struck out' passage here, which reads: "And who, with his son, has just opened some modernized and extensive premises at 12 and 13? York Buildings, immediately opposite to where he first commenced." - Editor
- This archaic term is equivalent to an equal return or 'tit for tat' cf. An Essay on the Archæology of Our Popular Phrases and Nursery Rhymes (John Bellenden Ker) Google Books
- The text ends here in the Histories - Editor
- This portion of text (approximating to 4-5 words) is missing - Editor
- Brett has crossed out 'Tivoli' here and inserted - transcriber
- In previous paragraph Brett crossed out Tivoli and inserted Hollington - Transcriber
Transcribed by Jan Gilham
- An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022