Brett Volume 3: Chapter XLII - Hastings & St. Leonards 1850

From Historical Hastings

Transcriber’s note

Chapter XLII (cont) - St. Leonards and Hastings - 1850

[ 340 ]

St. Leonards, 1850

Commissioners' Transactions

Though the first quarterly meeting of the St. Leonards Commissioners in 1850 was not held until the 25th of March, I will follow my rather usual course of reviewing those meetings first, and this will afford an explanation of some of the business transacted or matters discussed at the meetings of the Town Council. Presiding at this meeting was Capt. Davies, and the other Commissioners present were Messrs. Alfred and Decimus Burton, James Mann, H. W. Brown, and the Rev. G. D. St. Quintin. The following report was received from the Committee :—

The Superintending Inspector from the Board of Health, having, in consequence of a petition from the borough, given notice of his intention to come down for the purpose of obtaining evidence as to the sanitary state of the town, and as the Commissioners had on a previous occusion expressed their disapprovation of the Health of Towns Bill being applied to - St. Leonards, your Committee considered it their duty to obtain the feeling of the inhabitants on the subject by having a petition to the Board of Health drawn up, praying that the Act might not be applied. This was signed by about fifty householders. The clerk subsequently had an interview with the Inspector (Mr. Cressey), who intimated that the Act would be applied to Hastings only, but suggested that certain improvements might be made in the local Act by means of a provisional order of the General Board of Health, to be sanctioned by a public General Act, which, if approved, would be noticed in the Inspector's report. But doubts having occurred as to the possibility of making alterations in the local Act without the town being put under the application of the Public Health Act, a case was submitted to Mr. Lawes. for Counsel's opinion. This opinion was that such amendments could not be effected except for the purpose of applying the whole or part of the Public Health Act to the town.

A copy of this was forwarded to Mr. Cressey.

Whether R. B, Brander, Esq. and G. F, Jarman, Esq., were for or against the application to St. Leonards of the Health of Towns Bill does not appear, but it was announced at this meeting that they declined to serve on the Board of Commissioners, to which they had been elected in the previous December.

At their next quarterly meeting on the 24th of June, the members present were Messrs. St. Quintin, Davies, A. Burton, D. Burton, W. F. Burton, C. H. Southall, J. Mann, 3, Chester and G. B. Greenough, the last-named gentleman in the chair. The business transacted was that in future every proposition, intended to be made should be made in writing and sent to the Clerk a week prior to the meeting; that a committee confer with Dr. Harwood, he having applied, to lay down water-pipes to his houses at The Uplands from a well that Messrs. Eversfield and Deudney had allowed him to sink; that the east line of boundary be correctly laid down in Commissioners’ map; and that Mr. Decimus Burton be permitted to drain his houses leading west from the National schools into the sewer at Mercatoria.

At the September meeting it appeared that Mr. Jarman had revoked his determination to resign, and then took the usual oath to serve, The matters discussed were few and the decisions arrived at were that Mr D. Burton be allowed to drain his "cottage" at Maze Hill, and Dr. Harwood his houses at The Uplands on certain conditions of payment.

On the 17th of December, at a meeting of rate-payers, Messrs, George Henry Malcolm Wagner, Newton Parks, John Carey and Henry Hughes, were elected to supply the places of Major Jeffries, Dr. Burton, and Mr. Thomas Adams, all of whom had died, and of Mr. Robert Deudney, who had declined any longer to act, The next meeting was regarded as a very important one. [ 341 ]Mrs Ann Tapp, of the Old Market, St. Leonards. He had eaten two mussels and two pickled onions, with a wine-glass full of vinegar, and died almost immediately in consequence of the vinegar getting into the windpipe.

The other death was that of Henry Page, aged 25 years. He conducted the beer shop, near the toll-gate on the Old London road at Hastings. He went with Robert Kent to see his uncle Jessop, a police officer at Rye (previously of Hastings). They took a gun each with which to shoot birds on their way. When returning next day, under the cliff by Lovers Seat, a blackbird was seen and both guns were let off at the same instant. Page was unfortunately shot in one knee, but with his companion's assistance, he managed to walk home. Mr. Ticehurst was sent for, who after a consultation with surgeons Duke, Cummings and Savery, amputated the leg above the knee, after administering chloroform. The other surgeons were present, and they all thought that Page would have otherwise recovered. But in a few days, lockjaw supervened, and death was the result. The accident to Page occurred on Dec. 28th, and to the boy at the Old Market, on the 27th.

It has been shewn that the year 1848 was fruitful of most important events - local as well as general - and that in 1849, in their relation to Hastings and St. Leonards, two occurrences of an unusually sensational character were developed in the trial of Pearson for the murder at West Hill, and the conviction of Mary Ann Geering for poisoning her husband and two sons at Guestling. I will follow the account last given by a narrative of some other, but less serious misdoings in 1849 by burglars and robbers.

The first occasion on which some persons (undetected) gratified their desire to appropriate to their own use the property of others was on the 27th of February, when Mr. Johnstone's house at High Wickham was entered during the night, and many articles carried off, including silver spoons, seals, a ham, three bottles of wine, bread, &c.

The next burglarious achievement was on or about the 2nd of June, when four larders were cleared of their contents at Verulam Place, and another intrusion - an unsuccessful one - was attempted at the Priory Farm.

In the same month (June 19th) the All Saints' Church was clandestinely entered by thieves, who carried off two bottles of sacramental wine, and endeavoured to break open the poor-box.

On the early morning of Sunday, Nov. 25th, some undiscovered thieves attacked a hen-roost on the barrack Ground, belonging to Stephen Dunk, and carried of 15 fowls, including cocks as well as hens. The said hen-roost was near the old "Fighting Cocks" public house, and the thieves, doubtless, went off with the fowls all cock-a-hoop, but theirs was both a fowl and a foul deed notwithstanding.

On the night of the corresponding day, a month later, a sheep of 14 stone weight, was stolen from a flock belonging to Mr. Newton Parks, that were in a field between where now are Stainsby Street and London Road. Some portions of the skin were afterwards found on the beach.

A somewhat curious robbery was effected on the night of December 6th. It was discovered next morning that some one, by taking out a pane of glass from the kitchen window, had gained access to 35 Marina, a house which was being prepared for Lady Howden, and had taken therefrom a quantity of coal, a coffee pot, a frying pan and a block-iron.

As all the above-stated robberies were committed without the thieves being detected, it may be assumed that the organisation of our police force, 46 years ago, was very different to what it now is.

Having described the numerous accidents and fatalities of 1849 and dilated on the evil courses pursued by the actors in the West hill and Guestling murders; and having moreover, narrated the burglaries and robberies committed during the year - mostly, it was believed, by navvies employed on the new railway works - it will now be more pleasant to enumerate the good deeds of our own townspeople and others, as an addition to those heretofore dwelt upon. For this purpose a suitable heading (not in its objectionable sense) would, methinks, be


On the 22nd of January, the Rev. William Davis - a truly good man - gave a lecture at the Hastings Mechanics' Institution on Scepticism; and on the following evening Mr. John Banks lectured on Astronomy to 130 members and their friends of the St. Leonards Mechanics' Institution. On the 26th of the same month, Elibu Burritt (the learned blacksmith) and his companion, the Rev. Hy. Richards, addressed a meeting in the Swan Assembly Room, on behalf of the Peace Movement, on result of which was the obtaining by T. B. Brett and others 450 signatures to a petition. At this time, all Europe rang with the news of the California gold washings, which it was believed would have a great effect in financial circles. The great stir thus made suggested to T. B. Brett his song on "Alta California", which had more than a local popularity. On Feb. 20th, Mr. James Rock, jun. (afterwards and alderman and twice a mayor) gave a lecture to the members of the St. Leonards Mechanics' Institution on "The Steam Engine," and on the 19th, Mr. Tyrie, the then local reporter of the Sussex Advertiser, delivered a lecture to the sister institution at Hastings on "Popular Amusements". On the 12th of March the lecture platform of the same Institution was occupied by Mr. Henry Winter (afterwards a mayor and at present a J.P.), who advocated "The Sanitary Condition of the People", including a good supply of water, a better system of drainage and more thorough ventilation. Following Mr. Winter was Mr. Wm. Ransom, who in the same rooms on March 20th, gave an excellent lecture on "The Beauties of Literature." On the 25th of April, Mr. Perfitt, of London, delivered an instructive lecture on "Physiology and Pathology", in which were introduced some curious statistics in connection with the computed 12,500 population of the two towns, made up of 2,500 families, among whom there were 20 butchers 15 greengrocers, 14 drapers, 30 bakers, 18 tailors, 71 grocers, 12 booksellers, 13 hatters and 85 dealers in alcoholic drinks. These had 13 churches and chapels, 8 public schools and 3 institutes. It was also shewn that the butchers, bakers, booksellers and drapers only outnumbered the dealers in strong drink by two.


The public Improvements in 1849 were not so far reaching as in some other years, but they were improvements nevertheless, even if only considered in the light of conveniences. A few of these have been shewn when treating of other matters, and the following details will explain the rest.

The Town Surveyor reported to the Commissioners at one of their earlier meetings, that since the order of the preceding year, All Saints' street, which was previously paved with boulders had been macadamised. On the 19th of February, two postal receiving houses were opened at places nearly equidistant from the Post-office, and were regarded by the residents in each neighbourhood as adding a convenience, if not an improvement. Another convenience as well as an improvement was the removal of the watch-house adjoining the gaol in Bourne street, and the water stand-pipe in the same locality, thereby giving free access to the new Union street which completed the thoroughfare from High street to All Saints' street. There were complaints in 1849, as there are even in 1895 that the paved footpaths in front of many houses are not sufficiently cleansed by sweeping. The question was asked at a Commissioners' meeting as to what were the liabilities of the inhabitants in that respect. The reply was that the householders were bound by law to sweep the pavement daily before a certain hour, but no restriction was placed on after sweepings.

As again concerning Post-office facilities, in consequence of the difficulty experienced by strangers in finding the Post-office at No. 4 George street, where Mr. John Woods was Postmaster and the present writer had been Post clerk, the Commissioners resolved to have the lamp removed from the opposite side and to have the word Post-office written on it.

It happens that about the time that I am writing, the house in George street, where until lately was the Literary Institution, has been sold to Mr. Clark, and this is a reminder that the Commissioners having placed a lamp at the passage which leads under a portion of such house up a flight of steps to the West Hill, an extract from the Cinque Ports' Chronicle was sent to the Hastings News, which stated that on Feb. 4th, 1839, Miss Catherine Sayer having been at considerable expense [£55 15s.] by the alteration of steps leading up to the hill and giving up to the Commission more than she stipulated to do, she thought the Commission might be willing to bear a portion of the expense. The members of the Commission did not, however, feel themselves in a position to comply with the suggestion, as they were then under the necessity of borrowing £200. Miss Sayer died before the year now under review, but it was in 1838 that she applied to the Commissions to remove the ascent to the hill, then close to her house to where it now is, the site of which she purchased for the purpose.

Orthographical Profundity}

Says the Hastings News of Feb. 2nd, 1849. "We recommend to the especial notice of the friends of popular education the following specimen of orthographical profundity with which we have been favoured, being a verbatim copy of a bill made out in East Kent a few days ago.

John Amos
To Anors afarda 5
To aggettinonnome 4 6

This enigmatical document simply relates to the hiring of a horse half a day and getting on him home. The figure 5 means 5/- although placed in the pence column. The last word relates to the happy conclusion of the business.

From the same journal, of a later date in the same year, is the following paragraph:- "An editor recording the career of a mad dog say 'We are grieved to say that the rabid animal before it was killed, bit Dr. Hart and several other dogs' 'An excellent young horse, would suit any timid lady or gentleman, with a long silver tail.' A newspaper announcing the wreck of a vessel says, 'The only passengers were T. B. Nathan, who owns three-fourths of the cargo and the captain's wife'. The editor of a western paper observes - 'The poem in this week's Herald was written by an esteemed friend, for now many years in the grave for his own amusement."

Also from the Hastings News, of 1849, we extract a specimen of medical erudition:-"The following specimen of the state of learning among country practitioners (!) has been handed to us, with leave to copy it for the amusement of our readers. It is a certificate received by a local benefit society, declaring the illness of a member and specifying the nature of the affliction. 'to certify Steven Hassall of Breda parish, Sussex, were take Ill Tuesday 10 Day of July With Spinall disese. A batouction. Requires assofishonce From is Benefit Society, Hastings.
Dr. F. Walder, Northiam
Friday 13 July"

Hastings 1850

Commissioners Transactions

Having on the preceding page reviewed the proceedings of the St. Leonards Commissioners during 1850, I will now summarise the transactions of the Hastings Commissioners during the same year.

Their first meeting was on the 7th of January when John Goddard, Richard Martin and A. Thorpe, newly elected members qualified as such.

On a complaint that there were too many fly-stands in front of York Buildings, it was ordered that the number be reduced from 8 to 5.

No answer had been received from any of the parties concerned as to whether they would contribute to the expense of lowering the Priory culvert for drainage purposes. Also no reply had come from the Railway Company nor from the Woods and Forests. The joint owners of the Priory farm (Lady Waldegrave and Earl Cornwallis) wanted more information thereupon.

Mr. Paine was desirous of seeing the town properly drained. He thanked the committee for having bestowed so much time and labour on the plans and estimates, but there must have been some great error in their calculations. The proposed main drain, 1,610 yards. was less than a mile, for which the estimate was £2,300. In a town similar to Hastings, he found that 7 miles of main drainage had been laid down for £5000; so that their own estimate was too high. They should be very cautious in spending such a sum of money on work which, after all, the Board of Health might not approve. On a late occasion a gentleman offered to prepare a plan, showing every drain in the town, every house that had water on and every house with proper sanitary arrangements for 100 guineas, and that gentleman [Mr. Gant] was still willing to undertake it. He would therefore move that "before any further steps be taken, the town be properly surveyed."

Mr. Harman had every confidence in the committee’s capability, notwithstanding that it had been said that the Commissioners sat from time to time without doing any good for the borough. He contended that there never was a question introduced that did not receive due consideration. He, however, approved of Mr. Paine’s motion, and believed if they could get the town properly surveyed for a hundred guineas it would be money well spent.

Mr. Vidler presumed that both the surveyor and the committee knew how to take levels, knew the quantities in a certain space, and the price of brickwork and digging; and it was on this knowledge that they prepared their estimate.

Mr. Shirley opposed the estimate as being extravagant, and hoped to see the town drained at less cost. Mr. Womersley would support Paine’s motion, and had no.doubt that Mr. Gant would do the surveying as Government would require. Motion carried unanimously.

The office of coal meter having become vacant by the death of David Brazier, four candidates were proposed, when the votes were 28 for George Brazier (the deceased's brother), 26 for Robert Plane, 10 for Robert Hinkley, and 1 for William Wellerd.

Mr, Gant arrived at Hastings, agreeably to the appointment of the Commissioners, for the purpose of surveying the town, and on the 4th of February, the Commissioners at their meeting received a letter from the Woods and Forests Commissioners respecting a contribution for lowering the Priory culvert, which stated that the Crown Lands adjoining the culvert had been let on a lease of 99 years. A communication was also received from Mr. C. F. Mott that he rejected the application to set back the fence of a house in York Buildings occupied by Mr. Womersley.

At their meeting on the 4th of March the Commissioners accepted Mr. Howell's tender of £81 9s. 6d. for ​building​ a six-stall stable at the Ash yard; the higher tenders for the same ranging from £89 to £120.

The dedication of Russell street and Bedford place was the next business, Mr. W. B. Young on behalf of the owners and occupiers having applied to have them taken over.

Mr. H. Beck, in support of the application, said he had lived in Russell street 33 years [since 1817, about the time when the houses were built, the bricks for which were made on the spot under the superintendence of Mr. Beck’s father], and he had regularly paid rates during that time. In the preceding year the committee recommended the request to be complied with on payment of £114 — two-thirds of the estimated cost of repairs, but that was rejected. Then it was thought that the Railway would have done something in the matter. Since then the proprietors had effected some sanitary improvements.

Mr. Vidler referred to the heavy pressure of the rates. He thought Mr. Beck had been in his house quite long enough. It was all very well for Mark Breeds to build his houses below the level of the sea, and then when floods arose for subsequent owners to want the Commissioners to put the place to rights. The property would prove very troublesome, for even when there came a shower of rain there would be someone running after the surveyor with, "Oh! there's all my furniture floating about!"

Mr Paine thought the cost of the late improvements should be deducted, and that the ​road​s should be taken over on payment to the Commissioners of £50. This was agreed to.

It was thought at the time that the ​road​ between Russell street and the lower range of Wellington square was included, but such was not the case, and it was more particularly this narrow thoroughfare — a receptacle of ashes and other refuse — that probably induced Mr. Cresy, a Government Inspector, to libel the town as one of the worst he had ever been into. Certainly it was very different 45 years ago to what it is in the present day, yet even at the former period it could show a remarkably clean bill of health. Those of our townspeople who remember the unsightly premises on the meadow side of Russell street, and now view the locality with its Recreation Ground, its Municipal Buildings, its Gaiety Theatre and its handsome shops, must be ready to exclaim "What a metamorphosis is here !" [ 342 ]The Committee, at the meeting on April 1st having recommended £63 to be spent for better lighting the town, Anthony Harvey objected, saying that the Commissioners were already £400 in debt, and a bill of £165 for paving being then presented, it was most imprudent to incur further expenses. But Henry Beck, who was chairman, denounced the Commissioners’ conduct as being "abominably stingy." To this, Harvey replied that if they were so unwise as to let their expenses exceed their income, they must borrow money to make up the deficiency, and he hoped it would be a lesson to them, for if they continued in that course, they would have to obtain a fresh Act to increase their borrowing powers.

The next business was to appoint a committee to consider the application of Richard Styles, for straightening the ​road​ [originally known as the Chalk ​road​, leading down to the sea, as he was about to build at the corner of Wellington place. [I am reminded that there was a sad fatality in connection with the said ​building​, but more of this anon.]

Of the transactions of the Commissioners at their June meeting I have no account, but the Hastings News comes to my assistance with the following article in its issue of July 8th :—

We have heard of throwing away a sprat to catch a herring; of a Chancellor of the Exchequer disposing of a surplus revenue by so adjusting a graduated tax as to make it yield more; of an Irishman trying to lengthen his blanket by cutting a piece off the bottom and sewing it on the top. In short, we have heard of a variety of schemes in the shape of ways and means; but all these little stars are made to hide their diminished heads when compared with the brilliant experiment commenced in our local Commission on Monday night. The herring was there sacrificed to the sprat; and an inefficient revenue aided by a reduction in the income. It was resolved that as there was an apprehension that 'as the St. Clement's parish was paying off its debt rather too fast, the parishes of All Saints and St. Mary-in-the-Castle should have their half-yearly rating reduced by a penny in the pound.' The insanity of this resolution will be evident when we consider that lately the three parishes have been rated up to the highest point allowed by law — namely, 4d. in the pound per half year; in despite of which the heavy expenses incurred by the recent improvements have sunk the Commission deeply in debt — a thousand pounds being overdrawn at the Bank! The point of support upon which the Archimedians of this new movement have placed their lever is this: Some half century ago, when St. Clement comprised nearly the whole of Hastings, that parish got deeply in debt by its paving and other expenses. At the time when the present Local Act was obtained, St. Clement agreed to take a thousand pounds of its debt upon itself solely, in order to pay which it was to be rated a penny in the pound higher on the half-yearly rates than the two other parishes. The utmost rate to which any of the parishes could be rated was four-pence. Under this arrangement things went on smoothly enough till lately, when the increased expenditure rendered it necessary for all the rates to be at a maximum, When those rates came in January last, the St. Clement’s debt had been much reduced, and the only step taken for its further reduction since the fourpenny rate was levied has been an order for paying off of £50, which was made last month. Nevertheless, some of the Commissioners in All Saints and St. Mary’s appear to have been seized with a horrible apprehension that they were being taxed to pay off the St. Clement’s debt; so in order to remove that contingency and to satisfy their own minds of the impossibility of such benefit arising from their unworthy liberality, they have turned round, and resolved by cutting down the taxes in their own parishes, to plunge the whole Commission into a gulf of financial difficulties; plainly saying by their action that they would rather run the risk of swamping the whole Commission than by any possibility assist in removing the paltry residue of The St, Clement's debt. Thus a narrow parish feeling is allowed to prevail, to the injury of the town.

At the Commissioners’ meeting on the 1st of July, Dungate Thwaites was re elected surveyor, and with an increase of salary from £75 to £100.

The Clerk said there was due a half year's interest on the debt, which at 4 per cent, was £213, There were also sundry bills, including £64 for paving at Pelham place, amounting to over £188. They had overdrawn £1,000 at the Bank, which constituted a temporary loan at 5 per cent. Mr. Beck remarked that they could neither borrow money nor spend it with facility. They ought to follow the example of Brighton, who, the other day, had bought the Pavilion. Mr. Harvey differed, and said they had been going on too long upon a false principle, by supposing that they were richer than they were, when they were really poorer than they ought to be. He should like to see some alteration in collecting the coal duty, and he could not see why one part of the borough should be able to obtain coals at 3s. per chaldron lees price than another part. If they had a new Act, he would like to see Holy Trinity and St. Michael's parish included. They might even have St. Mary Magdalen and St. Leonards, although he knew those parishes would fight hard against it.

The next was a special meeting. held on the 10th of July, when Mr. Harman attacked the veracity of Mr. Cressy's report, especially that portion which, as was shown at the Town Council’s meeting that morning, was altogether untrue. He would move that their own meeting be adjourned, and that a public meeting be called by the Mayor.

Dr. Mackness seconded the motion, remarking that Cressy’s report was certainly erroneous in detail, but that the main facts were undisturbed.

The Surveyor being asked for his opinion, Mr. Cressy estimated the cost of the main sewers at £5,000, whereas they could not be constructed for less than £8,800, which, added to the cost of branch drains, engine power and other items would amount to a sum of £12,960.

Mr. H. N. Williams addressed the meeting at considerable length, but being several times interrupted by Mr. Paine, retorted that he was rather glad of interruptions, because they would serve to put the matter in its true light. He wished it to go forth by means of the Press that whereas Mr. Cressy denounced Hastings as being unhealthy, even the tables of mortality in his report proved the direct contrary. He proposed, in lieu of Harman's motion (then withdrawn), that a committee be formed to take such steps on Cressy’s report as might be thought best, This was carried, and the following committee appointed:— H. N. Williams (wine merchant), C. Womersley (upholsterer), "Spike" Harman (tailor), J. Wrenn (brewer's manager), H. Beck (baker), A. Paine (reporter), H. Dunk (grocer), C. Duke (tailor) and J. Mackness (physician).

Notwithstanding Harman’s withdrawn motion to memorialise the Mayor for a town's meeting, such meeting was convened, seven days later, and as the discussion at such gathering shows that the general feeling of the town was not so much against improved sanitation — howsoever costly - as against the Government Inspector's exaggerated and damaging report, a summary of the arguments adduced is here given as a prelude to the Commissioners’ next meeting.

At the said public meeting, Dr. Mackness expressed himself in favour of sanitary reform, as tending to the duration of life, and as the drainage of Hastings needed improvement, he moved that the introduction of the Health of Towns Act would be an advantage.

Mr Harman opposed the motion, and said they had nothing to do with Derby, Dover and Bradford, for whom the Doctor had pleaded so eloquently, with never a word for the poor working men of Hastings. As for the alleged bad condition of the town, he would remind Dr. Mackness that a few years ago he wrote a pamphlet, in which he made out that Hastings was the most beautiful and healthful place imaginable [Hear, hear and laughter]. Had, then, our town grown worse during the last ten years? [No, no! A great deal better]. To be suré it had. Much attention had been paid to drainage, and if it had not been thwarted, a more comprehensive sanitary system would have been adopted. By the present proposal they were called upon to lay out forty or fifty thousand pounds, and to appoint a staff of officers at an expense, perhaps, of £500 per year, whom the Town Council might appoint, but whose acceptance and dismissal would rest with the central board. If the town wanted cleansing, the inhabitants could do it better and cheaper than any set of strangers. As to Cressy’s report, it went to show that Hastings people were the most pauperised and demoralised community in Europe; for it stated that the poor-rate last year amounted to £12,876, and the borough rate to £3,468; thus making it appear that they were nearly all paupers, and required a large police force to keep them in order. Cressy had more than trebled their poor-rate, and had represented their borough-rate as £3,468, instead of £1,643, Mr. Harman pointed out other gross inaccuracies, and then moved as an amendment, that in the opinion of the meeting, Mr. Cressy’s report was calculated to do serious injury to the borough. Mr, Burton (of St. Leonards) and Mr. Harvey (of Hastings) also condemned the report, the latter speaker declaring it, amidst Hear, hears ! to be a libel upon the town. He therefore seconded the amendment.

Mr. H. N. Williams, in a speech of 40 minutes duration, went over the main points, both of the report and the Public-Health Act, condemning the former for its inaccuracies, and supporting the latter for its promised benefits. He combatted the assertion of the town's unhealthiness, and contended that during the last three years the death-rate had been considerably below the average of the United Kingdom, notwithstanding that for some time past the town and neighbourhood had been inundated by railway labourers, who indulged in every kind of dissipation. This speaker was greatly applauded, and the Mayor having put the motion and amendment to the vote as though they were independent motions, the latter, as censuring Cressy’s report, was carried by a majority of nearly 60, and the latter, as favouring the Bill, by 20.

At the adjourned special meeting of the Commissioners, on the 22nd of July, the committee appointed at the previous meeting, presented a long report, the chairman (Mr. Dunk) remarking that they had given the matter the closest attention. His own feeling was that as they had now reached the limit of their allowable expenditure, they must adopt some other means to carry out desirable improvements. Mr. Shirley, in moving that the report be received, said he thought we were so compromised by Mr. Cressy’s report, despite its errors, that the Health of Towns Bill must come sooner or later.

He thanked his stars that he was not one of those who were the means of bringing Mr. Cressy here and supplying him with information so erroneous that could not fail to seriously harm the town. Mr, H. Winter, in moving that the committee’s report be adopted, said he had something to do with first mooting the sanitary subject, but had given Mr. Cressy no information, and had he seen his report before it was published, he would have corrected some of its errors. Last year’s deaths from cholera were set down as 65, but the statistics of the registrar showed only 40, Dr. Mackness remarked that the registrar was not so good an authority as the doctor (Oh, oh!], Mr. Edwards, in seconding Mr. Winter’s motion, said if other towns improved their drainage, visitors would go there. Mr. N. Wingfield thought that despite the numerous errors in Cressy’s report, we should let visitors see we were earnest for improvements. Mr. N. Williams, in some lengthy remarks [his speeches were always lengthy, but usually sound] said that the previous discussion had cleared the way for the real business of the evening, and he would at once move that in the opinion of the Commissioners the introduction of the Health of Towns Bill is desirable. He was certain that either that or some other bill was necessary for the acquisition of larger powers in the way of improvements imperatively demanded, They all knew the expense of Local Acts, It cost them £1500 to get their last one. But here was a Bill of extensive provisions ready to their hands, and the question was whether there were any disadvantages formidable enough to counteract its many advantages. Although he was once opposed to the Bill, he confessed that it was because he did not know what it was like, It was said that under its provisions we should have to borrow £60,000, a sum represented as enormous; but which would not really be without a prospect of a proportionate income with which to pay it off.

Suppose the drainage, estimated by Mr. Cressy at £5,000, should cost £6,000 with interest at 4 per cent. and a sinking fund at 2 ½ percent., and reckoning £135 a year for repairs. such would make it 5/- a year to each house, and in 30 years there would be an end of both capital and interest. If landlords could add to the comfort of their poor tenants for about 1d. per week, he thought they aught to do it. Even some of the best houses had nuisances of which they ought to be rid. Then as to the increase of water supply, Mr. Cressy said it could be got for £5,000, but say £7,000; that would not be an expenditure without a return, as there would be an income of £1,000 a year from the improved supply. There was, however, one recommendation to which he was opposed—namely, the erection of a house for tramps at a cost of £5,000, which he feared would be an encouragement to vagrants to visit the town. One other advantage was that the railways, coming under the provisions of the Bill, would contribute to the rates. He therefore moved that this meeting approve of the new Bill, Mr. H. Thwaites, in seconding, believed that the chief objection to the Bill had been through an idea that it would be worked out by an irresponsible Board. He would suggest that 600 copies of the committee's report be circulated to counteract the effect of Mr. Cressy’s report. Mr. Williams, in reply to some objections, said it was wrong to suppose that the Board in London would have the appointing of officers; the local bodies were empowered by the Act to do that. In regard to the controlling body, the Town Council, it was a matter for deep regret that the election of persons to that body was too often made the battlefield of politics [Hear, hear]. He hoped it would not in future be a question of Whig, Tory or Radical; but that of fitness for carrying out the important powers devolving on them [Cheers]. After further remarks, Mr. Williams concluded, amid loud cheers, and his motion was carried by 24 votes to 8.

Here is a proof that Mr. Horatio Nelson Williams - named after the hero of Trafalgar — had shot home in the most convincing manner, and that he, though regarded by Radicals as an unbending Tory, was in this, as in the Town-hall business, the Water-supply, and in many other public matters, a veritable reformer. He said, at the commencement of this long and practical address, of which I have given but a summary, that previous discussion had cleared the way for business, but it was himself who really cleared the way out of what was little better than a chaotic impasse; and it was he, as will be seen, when I review the proceedings of the Town Council, who practically initiated the Health of Towns Act. Talk of Williams being a Tory of the old school, who wanted things to go on as they hitherto had done; why, he was 40 years of time before even the present Mr. Cousins and his Non-Political Municipal Association.

The August monthly meeting of the Hastings Commissioners was of a more routine character than that of the preceding meeting, and consequently less exciting. As touching the water supply, it, was shewn that the receipts from the rate amounted to £821, such sum being £44 over the receipts of the preceding year. As regards the borrowing of money, capitalists did not appear to be much more enamoured with the Hastings Commissioners than they were with the kindred board of St. Leonards.

The only response to the former's advertisement for the loan of a thousand pounds was that of Mr. Aubert’s, of Wellington square, at 5 per cent. interest. The question of fly-stands came up once more for discussion, in consequence of a complaint from Messrs. Lansdell, Shirley, Goldsmith, Noakes and Murray, owners of property in Breeds place and Castle street, that although there were stands, in front of Breeds place for only four flys, there were frequently as many as 9 or 10 at that spot, the extra carriages having to stand on the beach, thus proving a nuisance in more ways than one. No remonstrance was sufficient to remove the additional carriages, the owners or drivers contending that the beach was not within the Commissioners’ jurisdiction. In the discussion which ensued, Mr. Ginner said that to provide stands for all the licensed carriages (just the number that there were weeks in a year) would require the whole of the space from the town's western boundary at the lower end of York Buildings to Diplock’s Library in George street. ‘The discussion ended with an order to the Clerk to inform the complainants that the Commissioners could not interfere with carriages on the beach.

At an adjourned meeting, a week later, it was resolved to accept the loan of a thousand pounds offered by John Daniel Aubert, Esq., at 5 per cent, on the security of the rates, tolls, &c, It was further resolved that £100 then lying in the Bank be paid over to any creditor who would receive it in discharge of such portion of the St. Clement's debt.

At their next monthly meeting, on Sept. 2nd, the Commissioners got a sort of quid pro quo from Mr. Lansdell, as a set-off against their inability to interfere with the flys in front of Breeds place, Mr. Lansdell had been requested to abate what was held to be a nuisance by lengthening the drain-pipes from his houses to the beach. He, however, refused to comply, but in such a manner as could not well be complained of, His objection, he said, was based on the consideration of the Health of Towns Bill being in the near prospect, and which would provide for a general drainage. At the same meeting, Mr. Styles applied for permission to place a pavement, 6 feet wide, with sundry gratings, from Wellington place round to Pelham street, in front of the houses he was then having built. But, as he [ 343 ]had carried up the ​building​s on the full extent of his ground, and required the pavement to be taken from the ​road​, a committee was appointed to investigate the same. Also a committee was appointed to arrange with the South-Eastern Railway Company to exchange a piece of the Company's land for that at the Priory, on which stood the water wheel, the tank and the donkey-stand, their removal being required for the approach to the station — now the lower part of Havelock ​road​. The next matter was a proposal by Mr. Beck (the chairman) to reduce the water-rate from 9d. to 6d. in the £, Mr. B. being of the opinion that as the debt was so nearly annulled, and with the prospect of the works soon passing into other hands, then was the proper time to make the reduction. Mr. Harvey contended that such reduction at such a time would depreciate the property to a serious amount when it came into the market. Mr. C. Duke was in favour of a reduction, but there should first be a greater supply. Mr, Womersley argued against the system of making people pay a price beyond the cost of production; and in reply to certain questions, was told by the Clerk that the works cost £5,300, the debt on which was £1,600, such debt being in process of reduction by the excess of rents over expenses.

This was a condition which materially differed from Mr. Beck's statement that the debt was nearly annulled, yet it required Mr. Williams's eloquence, as usual, to convince the meeting that the rate should not be reduced. Mr. Williams — our local Rupert of Debate — in a long speech, contended that had not received a farthing[1] benefit from the works, recollecting, as the Commissioners ought to, that in estimating the cost of the works they were chargeable with £600 and interest for their share in the expenses of procuring the Local Act, the cost of which had been £1,500. It had always been understood that such cost was distributable in equal portions on the Market, the Waterworks and the general improvement of the town. They had also for the last month or two been soliciting a loan of £1,000. Was that, then, a time for reducing the town’s income? These and other arguments were so far effective as to induce more than two-thirds of the Commissioners present to negative the motion for reduction.

This, however, turned out to be the last meeting of the Board of Commissioners, their powers, under the Local Act having been absorbed by the Town Council as the new Local Board of Health.

But as a last item in connection with the Commissioners as pertaining to the water supply, just previously to their becoming defunct as a body, it should be noticed that it was publicly announced to be the intention of the proprietors of the Eversfield Waterworks to add to the existing reservoirs an additional one comprising seven acres of surface, with a depth of 40 feet, to be thus capable of supplying both towns, each with 60,000 gallons of pure filtered water daily at a price which would enable the Commissioners to reduce the water-rate by one-third, and perhaps half of what was then charged.

The Eversfield water was supplied from springs in the Newgate and Shornden woods, and was said to be of excellent quality. It was conveyed in pipes of 6 inches diameter through the lands of the Countess of Waldegrave, who gave her permission for the laying down of pipes, which were continued under ground past St. Andrew’s terrace, across the Priory ground to the St. Leonards archway, thus supplying the consumers in Norman ​road​ and other elevated districts to a hundred feet, if necessary, above the front ​road​. There were also stand-pipes connected therewith, of which the several parishes availed themselves, for the purpose of watering the ​road​s. The rate levied by the proprietors from the commencement of the year 1850 was 6d. in the pound on the poor-rate assessment of each house, which was one-third cheaper than the Hastings water-rate, which some of the Commissioners strove but failed to get reduced, in consequence of their increasing debt. It was resolved at a public meeting that a memorial be presented to C. G. Eversfield, of Denne Park and St. Leonards, stating the benefits which the enlarged supply would confer om the district, and soliciting that the additional works might be completed as soon as possible.

  1. An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022