Brett Volume 3: Chapter XXVIII - Hastings 1842
| 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.
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Chapter XXVIII - Hastings 1842
Progress of the Infirmary Commissioners' money difficulties
The Lamentations of Euthymas
Coaches meeting the railway at Tunbridge Wells
Regattas and tub races
The Afghan war (predictions and fulfilments)
Sussex Advertiser office burnt down
Town Council denouncing the Home Secretary's appointment of magistrates
Marriage of Miss Shuttleworth
Deaths of influential inhabitants
Municipal elections – Other deaths in 1842
The turnpike gate nuisance
Mismanagement of the Hollington road; the clerk accused of misappropriation, and Mr. Tester, the contractor, unpaid
Petition trial for wholesale bribery at the Lewes Election and curious compromise; astounding admissions; Mr. Elphinstone’s expenses £6,000
The Battery at Marine Parade.
Jealousy Taunts - Lamentation of Euthymus - The Season's Amusements
The Infirmary at the White Rock, as heretofore shown, was the outcome of the united efforts of both towns, and it was gratifying to find at a meeting on the 18th of January, 1842, that the £867.12s of the preceding year had reduced the debt of the establishment to £96.15.10d. With the object of clearing off the balance as well as to meet the current expenses, the committee were desired to promote a fête champetre in August and in the mean time to write to every clergyman in the rape of Hastings, expressing a hope that they would kindly exert themselves in behalf of the funds. With what good results will be seen in the next year's report.
The great difficulty experienced by the St. Leonards Commisioners in obtaining loans frequently made that governing body the object of sport among the quidnuncs of the older town, where an unconcealed jealousy continued to spring from a mistaken notion of imperilled interests. But the taunts were sometimes returned with interest when the Hastings folk were ironically questioned about their own Commissioners. The force of this rejoinder may be seen in the fact that at the same time the Hastings Commissioners were similarly advertising for money, and the only response to their appeal was by a St. Leonards tradesman. On the 4th of July the Clerk reported that only one offer had been received in reply to the advertisement for £150 at 44 per cent., which was from Mr. Newton Parks, of St. Leonards. This offer was at once accepted. At a later meeting of the Hastings Commissioners (Sept. 5th), the clerk reported that he had advertised for sums of money in the Times and the Sussex Express, and no offers had been received.
Mr. Ross expressed an opinion that further efforts ought to be made, and that some of the Liberal papers ought to be patronised jn the matter of advertisements. Mr. Joseph Brown concurred in Mr. Ross's views, and a motion was carried to that effect. This want of money and other considerations weighed so heavily on the Commissioners’ minds that when Mr. Henbury, the collector of coal-tickets at the Hastings-hill gate applied for his salary to be raised, from 5s. to 6s. per week, the increase could not be granted. It was stated that although the loss on the scavenger's account, owing to an improved system, had only been £6 during the last year, the loss had previously averaged £105 per year. Like the St. Leonards Commissioners, the Hastings board were unable to form the much-desired sinking-fund. Also their advertising in the Liberal papers gave them no greater success; for at a meeting on the 4th of October the Clerk reported that no offers had been received of a £2,400 loan through the advertisement in the Brighton Guardian.
The indications in chapter XXVII of a want of reciprocity between the two towns in matters of amusement was ascribed - perhaps without much foundation for its truth - to the old-town sacerdotal influence of the period. Races, balls, and other amusements of a similar kind, were exclaimed against from the pulpit, and these denunciations were actively abetted by certain members of the lay community who thereby obtained for themselves the not very enviable appellation of Mauworms.
"If," said a writer in a county paper, "These Mauworms would only reflect that St. Leonards, even more than Hastings, depends for its existence on the presence of visitors, ‘and that those visitors expect to have the means of amusement provided for them, they would perhaps pause in their efforts - which, after all are futile - to drive the said into churches and meeting-houses at all times and in all seasons, the effect of which is only to drive them away from the town." Whether the "Lamentations" of Euthymus in the Sussex Express were founded on the active influence of the so-called Mauworms, I will not attempt to decide, but leave my readers to judge for themselves when they have read the following effusion :—
“Dear Hastings, that was once so full,
Has now beeome uncommon dull,
The reason I can’t tell ;
Unless all invalids agree
The air of the unbounded sea
Has ceased to make them well.
The lodging-houses everywhere,
From Fairlight Hill to Castle Square,
Extending on to Pett,
Present a most distressing view,
So desolate and empty too;
'Apartments to be let.'
The Band that last year sweetly play’d
Upon the throng’d Marine Parade -
Eliciting much praise—
I fear this year will only find
As much attention as the wind,
Or when a donkey brays.
The tottering baths on ponderous wheels,
Where 'gents' could wash their heads and heels,
And swim, if they were able,
And flys that formerly yon’d meet
On hill or dale, or in the street,
Are snug in shore or stable,
The tradesmen are as civil quite,
And Boniface much more polite,
And provender is cheap;
And though the fish are somewhat scarce,
And reading-rooms are quite a farce,
A harvest still they reap.
But strangers I should like to see,
Drawing their purses frequently,
To benefit the town;
And purchasing from every shop,
From leg of lamb to mutton chop,
From silk to satin gown.
Perhaps the season’s not set in,
Or visitors are short of tin,
And that’s the reason only;
Or else they've found some other place,
Which suits as well their lungs to brace,
And makes sweet Hastings lonely.
'Tis true to Brighton they may go
By rail as swift as any crow,
But lodgings there are dear ;
Where Royalty has spread her wings
You can’t expect to get cheap things -
The peasant or the peer,
Is it because the London cits
Have lately almost lost their wits
About their sovereigns, light;
And so remain in smoky town
Until the Sovereign of the Crown
Has set their money right?
Now, West, the landlord of the Anchor,
Will promise to become their banker
(On which he has a bet),
Provided they, with sovereigns light,
Frequent his house by day or night,
To drink his heavy wet.
Another month, I hope to find
The town of Hastings not behind
The Isle of Wight or Brighton ;
And if Euthymus then is here,
To see the visitors appear,
Depend on it he'll write on."
That in the comparative absence of visitors at both towns in the month of June there was all the dulness(sic) that Euthymus described I could not venture to doubt, nor would I deny the disappointment: felt by tradesmen and lodging-house keepers that the coach communication which commenced on the 23rd of May between St. Leonards and the South-Eastern Railway at Tunbridge Wells had not as yet brought them the benefits that had been expected. But if I skip over a period of two months and lead my readers into the second week of August - the week which in a series of years immensely surpasses all other weeks of the year for an influx of visitors - I shall be able to show that the "Lamentations" of Euthymus were somewhat premature From that date, throughout the autumn and winter, the town of St. Leonards and its elder sister Hastings were remarkably full of good families, and the fact was regarded as some sort of proof that although the South-Eastern railway was still 30 miles distant, and the Brighton railway 40 miles, they both contributed to the altered condition. But perhaps the most important factor in the calculation was the great reduction which had been made in the rents of houses and apartments, Knowing that Brighton and Tunbridge Wells were both in direct communication with London, and seeing that Hastings and St. Leonards were more than usually unfilled even for an off-season, the owners and occupiers mutually accepted the seeming necessity to lower the rents to nearly half what they had previously been as an inducement to a migratory public to travel farther and fare better.
Whatever might have been the cause, the effect was undoubted, The town was full of visitors, and amongst them were Lord and Lady de Tabley, Gen. Sir E. and Lady Paget, Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph and Lady Littledale, Sir J. and Lady Hanbury, Col. the Hon. Douglas Pennant and family, Lord Marsham and family, the Marchioness Cornwallis, Lord Faversham, Dowager Countess Sefton, Lady Shadwell, Lady Clomel, the Marquis and Marchioness of Hastings and suite, Lord Henry Hastings, and many other distinguished families.
In a newspaper paragraph of that date, the townspeople were gratulated uponthe returning tide of prosperity, as well as upon the efforts put forth to provide innocent recreation and rational amusement. It said
It is gratifying that the town towns are recovering something of their former gaiety, and that the amusements are likely to be carried on in the spirit which was wont to enlighten the favoured and fashionable watering place in olden time.
The writer had probably his mind’s eye upon an anterior period of some five-and-twenty years, or say from 1815 to1828, when amusements, more than politics, occupied the minds of the people, and, when the old town of Hastings could boast of more aristocratic visitors than it has ever been able to do since the passing sing of the Reform Bill. It will probably come in my way to give proof of this hereafter, but for the present I will confine myself to the narration of a few more of the amusements of 1842. In addition to, the Archery balls, the Race balls, and Assembly-room balls alrendy referred to, there were Mr. Hart's annual ball, a Regatta ball, the Christmas ball, Mrs. Lushington's balls and suppers, and a ball and supper given by Mr. and Mrs. Hollond, the last-named on the 24th of September, two nights after the annual rages at Bopeep. There were also frequent races.on the water, some of which may be here described.
Fulfilled predictions of the Afghan War - Marriage of Miss Shuttleworth
Pg.237 There was a regatta on the 19th of July, and another on the 26th of August, the particulars of which I do not appear to have at hand. There was also a novel aquatic competition (at Hastings) on the 29th of August, got up by Mr. Cresswell, a gentleman at that time residing at Verulam place. Eight men, each in a fish-tub, and using a shovel to paddle with, started from the Battery to go round a tub off Beach cottages and back. It proved to be tough work, and only two out of the eight accomplished it, the other six having capsized at different parts of the course; but being good swimmers, no harm befel them. The successful men were Chas, Brazier, 1st; Richard Hide, 2nd. There was a second match, in which the eight competitors were boys. These made rather a better race than the men did; but six of them, as in the first match, were swamped; and so, following the example of the seniors, they swam over the course unencumbered by tubs or shovels. To James Stonham and George Harman were awarded the 1st and 2nd prizes. The contest afforded much amusement, and was witnessed by a crowd estimated at 3,000. On the 26th of September, a galley race was announced for the prize of a £25 cup between four gentlemen of London and four amateurs of Hastings. I did not see this contest and do not now remember who were the winners; but about twelve days later, namely, October 7th, there was a galley race between, the John Bull and the Swift, the former being rowed by Messrs. W. and J. Carswell, Charles Ansoore and S. Gill, and the latter by Messrs. Wm. Scrivens, Thos. Cogger, F. Emary and George Barton, The Swift won easily.
Among the important events of 1842 was that of the Afghan war, a startling feature of which was the melancholy reverse sustained by the British forces as made known by the news which reached Hastings on the 1st of April. The total destruction of an army of some 13,000, including camp followers, was received with as much consternation as regret, whilst it brought forcibly to mind the prediction in Zadkiel’s legacy, published in March, 1841, in which, while treating of the great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter on the 26th of January, 1842, the author said:-
“Moon and four planets in Capricorn, transiting the. cusp of the house of war, denote the crash of armies; the onslaught of thousands upon thousands in the wide-spread fields and by the broad rivers of Asia. There shall be seen in Chorassan and Afghanistan, and throughout Baloochistan, from the Caspian Sea, to the Bay of Bengal, myriads of martial men striking liberty in many a blood-stained struggle.”
And now that I have introduced the subject - more by accident than by design - it will not be innapropriate to quote another prediction from the Legacy of 1842, which, by a noticeable coincidence, is receiving fulfilment at the very time that I am writing. It runs thus:-
“The naval powers of the conntry will feel the effects of these numerous planets in the 6th house. The modes of naval warfare will undergo extreme mutations, and, ere many years, destruction will be hurled at the foes of this country upon the waves by means of instruments at present unknown.”
Another event which caused a flutter of excitement in Hastings and St. Leonards, not unattended with regret, in 1842, was the burning of the Sussex Advertiser office at Lewes. Be it remembered that after the death in 1841 of the spasmodically resuscitated and briefly existent Cinque-Ports Chronicle, the Hastings people were mainly dependent for their local news and advertisements on the Brighton Guardian and Sussex Advertiser, from which latter afterwards sprang the Hastings and St. Leonards Chronicle. It may be easily understood, therefore, that the total destruction of such a newspaper plant was looked upon as a local calamity. To me, at least it was of personal interest, as I was then and for several years after, the sole agent for the paper in St. Leonards. It occurred on the 2nd of May. and in a copy of the paper for May 10th, is the following notice :—
“We beg to announce to our readers and the public that notwithstanding the late Fire by which the Printing Materials and Stock-in trade of the ‘Sussex Advertiser' were completely destroyed, that paper will continue to be published as usual every Tuesday morning, owing to a continuance of that kind assistance of Messrs. Baxter, by which the last numer was got out immediately after the calamity, those gentlemen (in the most handsome manner and with a manly cordiality which will ever be rememdered with feelings impossible to be conveyed in, words having placed at our entire disposal one of their Printing Offices, completely fitted with type, machines, and everything requisite for the publication af a Newspaper, and where our men are now employed in preparing the 'Sussex Advertiser' as usual, until our own stock can be replaced.”
Having shown that the fashionable season of 1842 was an unusually good one, and that it did not justify the “Lamentations“ of Euthymus, it may not be out of place here to mention that the visitors coming in on the splendidly appointed coaches finely horsed and well “guarded“ by red-coated bugle-men - were incessantly, annoyed by the disreputable system of touting which then so extensively prevailed in both towns. No sooner had the coaches from London, Tunbridge Wells, Dover and Brighton set down their passengers than the latter were literally besieged by the touters of people calling themselves respectable tradesmen. This annoying practice was perhaps more reprehensible as applied to St. Leonards than to Hastings, seeing that in the newer town the rivals, such as grocers, butchers, poulterers and fishmongers, were usually only two in number, and with fair dealing could command a good trade as well without the touting system as with it. Nay ! a better one even; for it came to my own knowledge that families were actually deterred coming & second time in consequence of these cruel importunities. Not only were ladies and gentlemen harassed for their custom on alighting from the coaches or their private carriages, but in many instances, they were also followed into their apartments by professed touters like a pack of hungry hounds. To such a pitch was this carried that the touters came to blows with each other, and the infliction of fines by the magistrates in a few cases of assault, and a threat to award heavier punishment for repetitions of such scandalous scenes, did more than anything else to bring the system to an end.
The above remarks when first published brought the query from an "Old Subscriber," "Did not the disgraceful competition you speak of between butchers, bakers, and others have its origin in the new town?" My answer is, certainly not! ‘The system was practised in Hastings. though perhaps to a less annoying extent, before St. Leonards existed. As long ago as 1823 a gentleman named Lambert, who took apartments at York Buildings, complained of the annoying system of touting, he having had no fewer than 72 cards either thrust into his hands or delivered at his lodging within the space of four hours. This, I submit, is conclusive that the touting system was of an old-town origin.
I turn now to other matters of a personal nature, and these will lead ultimately to political actions and conditions of 1842. On the first of January it came to the knowledge of the Hastings people that Sir James Graham, as Home Secretary, had recommended to the Lord Chancellor the names of Robert Ranking, Wastel Brisco and Wiliam Staines to be added to the Bench of Magistrates. These gentlemen being of Conservative politics, their appointment was so distasteful to the Liberals that the representatives of the latter at a quarterly meeting of the Town Council on the 4th of February commented pretty freely upon it. The Mayor (Mr. Duke) considered it an uncourteous treatment of the Council Board, whilst Mr. Yates held it to be an infringement on the rights of the Council. The latter gentleman admitted that the law was against them, but he nevertheless was of opinion that the Home office had greatly insulted the town by not consulting the Council. Alderman Smith remarked that there had been persons appointed before then who had not been recommended by the Council. Mr. Thwaites had no fault to find of the gentlemen appointed, but he would move “That this Council deprecate the conduct of the Secretary of State in not showing that courtesy to the town which is due to it.” Mr. Emary would not go quite so far, because he recollected that on a previous occasion when Mr. Brisco’s name was included in a recommended list, it was struck out, and a Liberal substituted. It was therefore the same, politically speaking, with Whigs and Tories; so that what they could not prevent he thought they should bear with a good grace. Mr. Ginner thought it a very discourteous act, but hoped Mr. Thwaites would not press his motion. Mr. Putland was for a resolution of a milder character without forgetting what was due to themselves. Mr. Thwaites would try and meet the objections by proposing "That the Council disapprove the conduct of the Secretary of State by recommending gentlemen to be placed on the Commission of the Peace without previous reference to the Town Council; and that the additional magistrates were unnecessary." Alderman Smith objected to the last sentence for the reason that when he was in office he frequently had great difficulty in getting the attendance of a second magistrate. - The motion was carried by a majority of one.
On the 27th of January the Liberal Member (Mr. Hollond) paired off with Viscount Eastnor till after the Easter Recess, and on the 7th of April the pairing was extended till the 25th. On the 21st of June Mr.Hollond (Hastings) and Mr.Elphinstone (Lewes) voted in the minority of 157, against 290, in favour of the Ballot. Two days later the Conservative Member (Hon. J. Planta) left Hastings for London, promising on his return to take up his abode at St. Leonards. At the same time Mr. North and his family left Hastings for Rougham Hall, Norfolk.
A few months previously, namely, on the 24th of February, Mr. North's daughter-in-law, Miss Janet Shuttleworth (only daughter of the deceased Robert Shuttleworth, Esq., of Gawthorp Hall, Lancashire) was married at St Clement's church by the Hon, and Rev. N. Eden to James P. Kay Shuttleworth, Esq. This lady was much beloved by the people of Hastings, and it is by no means out of place to notice her marriage, seeing that her eldest son, Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth (now Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) was destined, 27 years later (1869), to succeed his step-grandfather, Mr. North, as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Hastings, and later on to marry a daughter of Sir Woodbine Parish, of St. Leonards. But, to return to Mr. Hollond, that gentleman was seriously unwell in the month of July, and being thus unable to attend to Parliamentary duties, he paired off with a Conservative Member for the remainder of the Session. He, however, recovered his health, and in the fourth week of September arrived, with Mrs. Hollond, at St. Leonards, and immediately issued invitations to a grand ball and supper at the Allegria.
My next notes on personal and political topics relate to the Municipal Election on the 1st of November. In the West Ward there was no struggle, Mr.Austin (Liberal) and Mr. Deudney (Conservative) being elected unopposed; but in the East Ward the political fight was a severe one, the result being the election of three Tories (Messrs. Ticehurst, Amoore and Ransom) and one Whig (Mr. Kelland), and the consequent rejection of three Radicals (Messrs. J. D. Thwaites, H. Thwaites and J. Ranger. The united numbers polled by the Tories were 839, whilst those for the defeated candidates were 507. The votes recorded for the Whig or Moderate Liberal were 5 below those of the lowest Tory, and 78 above those of the highest Radical. The winning candidates regarded their success as a great triumph for Conservatism, and celebrated the event with a dinner at Carswell’s Swan Hotel. For the information of some of my younger readers, it may be explained that Mr. Ticehurst was a surgeon; Mr. Amoore, a grocer; Mr. Wm. Ransom, a ship-builder ; Matthew Kelland, a retired draper; John Dungate Thwaites, a block-maker; Henry Thwaites, a grocer; and Joseph Ranger, a surgeon. The last-named gentleman béing lowest on the poll might have been in some measure due to a fear among the burgesses of having too much doctor-craft, there being already a surgeon in the Council and a surgeon in the civic chair. William Duke was the gentleman who filled the office of chief magistrate at that time, and it was he who had to preside for the second time at the Mayor's dinner on the 9th of November. This was not because he had been re-elected to the office of Mayor, but because Mr. Wastel Brisco - who had been elected without his sanction, demurred to such election, and claimed the privilege of five days’ grace to make up his mind. He was naturally piqued at the discussion which had taken place at a recent meeting of the Council anent his appointment as a Justice of the Peace, and he also reminded the Council that when he wished to decline the invitation to become Mayor two years before they talked about compelling him to accept office. Mr. Ross, in his objection to Mr. Brisco, stated that it had been affirmed of Mr. Brisco that if he were proposed for the office, rather than accept it he would ‘fine off; and as Mr. Brisco had been a resident for fifty years, and had deprived the town of one of its most picturesque walks, he (Mr, Ross) would oppose his election, even if he stood alone. Mr. Brisco denied ever saying he would fine off; he had only said that he was disinclined to accept the office because he had seen 60 little of public life. Ere the five days’ grace expired, however, Mr. Brisco acquiesced in the decision of the Council, and became Mayor for the next twelve months. This election of a Conservative Mayor and the previous defeat of the advanced Liberals at the municipal election naturally depressed the supporters of the latter, and - as is usually the case with the vanquished - they set about to discover the means whereby the positions might be reversed.
Having in chapter XXVII described the fatal mishaps of 1842, such as the running down of a fishing boat, the upsetting of a coach, the terrible accident in the harvest field, and the drowning of four persons by the submergence of a pleasure-boat, I now proceed to the record of some other deaths, including those of a violent as well as those of a natural occurrence. Mr. Thomas Emary, of the Albion Hotel and previously of the Castle Hotel, died on the 7th of February, after a brief illness; and on the Sth of September a highly esteemed and charitable lady died at St. Leonards in her 71st year. Her name was Marion Charlotte Wakefield, relict of Edward Wakefield, Esq., of Springfield, Antrim, Ireland. Her remains were interred in a vault within the St. Leonards Church, the service being read by the Rev. James Murray, at that time curate. Also in the month of October a vault in St. Clement’s Church received the remains of Mrs. Sarah Gillbe, Pg.258 relict of Humphrey Gillbe, Esq. These good people were referred to in the Reminiscences of Hastings as having been long residents at what is now 9 Cobourg Place.
Turnpike Trust Misappropriation
A few days before the death of the last-named lady, the demise of Elizabeth, the wife of William Lucas Shadwell took place. In connection with the name of Shadwell much local history might be written, but for the present I will merely say that Mrs. Shadwell was 82 years of age, and her remains were followed to Fairlight church on the 15th of October by many sorrowing relations and friends. Exceeding the age of Mrs. Shadwell by four years was that of Mr. Hannay, a well-known schoolmaster and Jurat of Hastings, who at one time received the endowments both of Parker’s and Saunders’s Charities (which ought to have been kept separate) and under whose guidance an elementary education was received by many persons of the old town; a few of whom are still living in 1882. Mr. Hannay was of a quiet, respectable deportment, and was generally esteemed by those with whom he had intercourse, and especially by those who, like himself, belonged to what is sometimes designated the Old School of Politics. He died in the 89th year[Notes 1] of his age on the 3rd of June, and was interred in ground at All Saints’. On the 23rd of November was buried at St. Leonards, and followed to the grave by a number of workmen and others, the dead body of Samuel Homan, nephew of Benjamin Homan, one of the first contractors for the building of St. Leonards. The deceased was not quite 24 years of age, and although his death was sudden, a coroner's inquiry showed that it was by no unnatural cause. Another sudden death took place on the 28th of November, but of a still more painful character. It was that of Richard Symes, a coastguard, who shot himself on the beach, and, as was alleged,from remorse or some other feeling through having quarreled with his wife. He left a widow and eight children. On the same day a woman named Mary Ann Back fell over a fence belonging to Mrs. Milward in a field adjoining the Rev. G. G. Stonestreet's house at Halton, and was killed. Thus, no fewer than three inquests were held by Mr. J. G. Shorter, the Borough Coroner, within five days. The other deaths in Hastings and its neighbourhood during the year 1842, together with the ages and place of burial, so far as have come to my knowledge, are as follows:—
Britt, James, 80, about May 31, Bexhill.
Chatfield, Hannah, 89, April 18 or 19, Bexhill.
Cochrane, Jeremiah, 78, late of Regent’s Park, All Saints.
Glaisher, Mary, 69, wife of Samuel, Jan, 24, All Saints,
Hall, Elizabeth 42, wife of John, of Lincolnshire, April 12, St. Leonards.
Harrison, Henry John, 33, son of Richard, Esq., Feb, 20, St. Mary’s,
Harvey, Jane Elizabeth, 30, wife of G. D., Esq., May 24, St. Mary’s.
Homan, Elizabeth, wife of James, 32, May 1, St. Mary’s.
How, Ellen, 51, wife of Thomas, April 12, St. Leonards.
Hughes, Edmund, Esq., barrister, 42, Nov. 18, St. Mary’s,
Johnson, Jane, 49, wife of George, Esq., Nov. 8, All Saints.
Joyce, Evans, wife of Rev. John, April 18, St, Mary’s.
Kite, Ann Alpine, 25, daughter of Robt., Esq., St.Mary’s.
Lingham, Joseph, 78, April 8 or 9, Bexhill,
Longley, Mary, 72, widow of John, Aug. 3, All Saints,
Lennard, Mary, 88, July 17 or 18. Bexhill.
Mason, Eliza, 32, daughter of William, April 13, Croft Chapel.
Maplesden, Ann, 86, wife of Thomas, January 25 or 26, Bexhill.
Picknell, Richard Shepherd, 23, mariner, Aug. 19, Fairlight.
Reeves, Henry, 84, August 14 or 15, Bexhill.
Robinson, George, 18, son of George, December 5, St. Clement's,
Ross, Mary Ann, 44, August 5, St, Mary’s,
Sherwood, Elizabeth, 31, wife of William, Feb, 1, St. Mary’s.
Smith, Jane, 61, wife of Joseph, June 11 or 12, Bexhill,
Wallis, William Blyvers, Esq., 76, Feb. 17, All Saints.
Wimble, Nicholson Harrison, 63, of Lower Croft, Dec, 20. All Saints.
Wimbourne, Thomas, 78, May 22 or 23, Bexhill.
At this time the borough was so shut in by turnpike gates that visitors and residents complained alike of the expense and delays occasioned thereby. The insolvent position of the Flimwell and Hastings Trust (between those places by way of the old London Road), the mismanagement of the Hastings and Holing(sic) Trust (the shorter road was to join the Flimwell route at Beauport) and the new St. Leonards and Sedlescome road (to Staplehurst via Cripps Corner Hawkhurst and Cranbrook) had so many gates that there was no means of travelling to and from the new towns without the said expense and annoyance. Yet was it proposed by the Hastings and Hollington trust to erect another gate at the Tivoli, thus aggravating the evil already complained of.
When the Act was obtained for that piece of road it was expressly stated that a gate should not be erected there, and on the faith of such promise, it was believed that some of the people at Hastings subscribed their money, they rightly considering that to be envisioned with numerous and expensive turnpike gates was extremely detrimental to a watering place. But as respects the Hastings and Hollington Trust, the following summarised report of a meeting held at Battle on the 4th of April will indicate what, in such terms, may be called its difficulties by mismanagement. Mr. Paine of Hastings, as reporter to the Brighton Guardian, having understood that it was the intention of the chairman (Rev. Mr. Munn) to propose the non-admission of the press, waited till that gentleman arrived and then followed him in. The said expulsion was quickly moved by the chairman and seconded by Mr. Watts, the explanation being that there was a running comment on the previous meeting. Much conversations ensued, in which several gentlemen expressed their desire for an open court. Mr. Paine sad he was willing to leave the room if desired by the meeting, but he could not, if allowed to remain, be bound to that which the chairman had pointed out. It had always been his rule, as far as possible, to discharge his duty faithfully to his employer and the public, and he would suggest that he be allowed to continue that course. A general consent was given and the business proceeded. The clerk (Mr. Ellman) read in an imperfect manner, a form of agreement of settlement of the outlay of £3,000 which he had borrowed, and which, if ratified would lead to the abandonment of a Chancery suit. Mr. Ticehust said he would agree to it, because the terms were the same as he offered to Mr. Ellman a year ago, only that another £100 must be added to the expenses for law proceedings. Being asked if he would give up possession of the gates, Mr. Ticehurst replied that he would concur in an arrangement for letting the tolls, but he could not give up his legal possession of the gates. He would keep them on for a few years, if only to show to the trustees that the road could be kept in repair for £100 a year instead of four or five hundred.
Turnpike Trust Misappropriation, &c.
His account from November to March showed receipts £118 18s. 3d. and expenses £46 1s. 8d. including £27 law expenses in seizing the gates leaving a balance of £79 16s. 7d. in hand. As to the £500 said by the clerk to have been paid to Tester, he (Mr. Ticehurst) repeated his former denial. If a man had £900 due to him for five years on which interested had accumulated, how could it be said he had been paid. He admitted that some money had been paid to Tester, but it was only for work Pg.259 since done. The chairman thought all matters had been settled. Yes, said Mr. Ticehurst, the Chancery suit has, but it now came to the truth between him and Mr. Ellman. He still said that Mr. Tester had not been paid a farthing on his account of £900. He was willing to go into the whole case, and prove his accuracy. The following communications, in corroboration of Mr. Ticehurst's statement were then read by he chairman
We, the undersigned, hereby certify that we were present at the George Inn, Battle, on or about the month of March, 1839. At that meeting Mr Fredk, Ellman produced a paper with the signatures of several gentlemen giving a priority to any one who would advance the sum required on the Hollington road.
Mr Ellman stated a person was ready to advance all that was required, and went into statements shewing the road was in debt £3000, Tester the contractor’s portion of it being about £900, or nearly one third. He did not produce any written list of debts, but state the money required was to clear the road from all debt, and the future income, after paying repairs, would go for interest to the shareholders. Many questions were asked, and Mr Ellman repeatedly made use of the hardship of Tester’s case to induce those to sign who were reluctant to do so. We distinctly recollect that Mr E. Weller was unwilling to sign, that he asked for many explanations, the last of which was 'if I sign this, then will Tester get his money' Mr Ellman replied he would, Mr Weller then taking the pen said, 'I dont like it, but as it is for that poor fellow to get his money, I will' We further certify that we are of the opinion the parties who at that meeting did sign were principally induced to do so that Tester the contractor might be paid his £900. We further certify that we have never heard until since your last meeting that Mr Ellman ever denied any part of this statement.'
Date 21st March, 1842, and signed by T. Ticehurst, Wm. Noakes, Charles Emary, Wm. Weller, James Landsell, Wm. Ticehurst, J. Shaw, and E. Weller. "We, the creditors, having mortgaged our shares on the Hollington road hereby certify that we were induced to do so from the representation of Mr. F. Elman that a person was ready to advance the money required to pay all the outstanding debts, £3000, being due to the contractors and others; and had we not distinctly understood the contractors would be paid out of the money so raised, we would not have given such priority to the person who lent the money" — Dated March 12th, 1842, and signed James Burgess, G. Slatter, Wm. Neve, and John Kenward.
This, said Mr. Ticehurst, was all true, and the fact was that Ellman had borrowed the £3,000 and misapplied it. Sir Godfrey Webster, turning to Mr. Ellman, said - "I am afraid that when you applied for a priority of claim you told my mother that you wished to settle with Tester and to pay the money that was owing on the road, and thus obtained her signature with that of others. I now understand that the money has been otherwise applied, and I shall not sign your paper for the abandonment of the Chancery court. Sir Charles Lamb was of opinion that Mr. Ticehurst had proved his assertions, and he moved that such be recorded on the minutes. It came out that it was in consequence of the creditors not having been paid, they had seized the gates. It had been proposed to erect a gate south of the Tivoli to clear the Hollington Gate, to which Mr. Brisco observed that such a proceeding would be breaking faith with the public and particularly with the people of Hastings. They were bound in honour not to put up such a gate. Mr. Lawrence would only give his consent to the new gate remaining till the catch gate on the St. Leonards and Sedlescomb Road was removed. Now for the commentary on these proceedings by the Brighton Guardian, which under its sub-title of the Hastings and St. Leonards Journal, was as follows:-
The proceedings of the trustees of the Hollington road at their last meeting (a report of which appears in another part of this day’s publication), are as extraordinary as they are censurable and to every honourable and unprejudiced mind they must carry the conviction that it is high time not only that the clerk but that the whole of his supporters resigned the trust they have held, but neglected to fulfil. We are quite satisfied to leave Mr. Ellman to the verdict which public opinion will pronounce upon the facts which were disclosed and confirmed at the meeting.
The calm but cutting observations of Sir Godfrey Webster, and his refusal to confirm the consent of his mother, on the conviction that her consent for himself to the Priority had been obtained under false representations, cast a lot upon the clerk’s proceedings which can never be effaced. Added to this, there is the overwhelming testimony of the principal tradesmen of the town of Battle supporting the assertion of Mr. Ticehurst, that they had been deceived by Mr Ellman; and yet in the face of these facts, no one trustee had the moral courage to second the straightforward motion of Sir Charles Lamb, which would have placed, as ought to have been done, on the minutes of the trustees the justification of the whole of the proceedings taken by Mr Ticehurst. Among the Trustees, falsehood has triumphed over truth and justice; but they may rest assured that the verdict of the community will be given in favour of Mr T.'s statement.
It is indeed astounding to see such men as the Rev. Mr. Vernon, the Rev. Mr. Haley, and Mr. Laurence lending themselves to such proceedings, There can be but one conclusion that other reasons for it exists than are within the knowledge of the public. The waste of money has been great; and that the whole might be finished with as great a proof of wanton extravagance as possible, Mr Ellman drives parties to run the trust to a hundred pounds expense, and then is glad to beg on his knees almost the terms offered to him a year ago. And all this is allowed to pass without one word ‘of reproof! and what is still worse, the refusal of the trustees to place on their minutes a statement of their belief in Mr Ticehurst’s assertions gives a virtual contradiction to them, and sets at nought the testimony of their superiors in business and manly bearing. We understand that Mr. Ellman says now, that he has not resigned, that he never intended to resign, and that he shall not resign his shadow of the clerkship to the trustees of the Flimwell road.
We could readily believe almost any inconsistent act this inexperienced young gentleman may be guilty of, feeling satisfied that he is reading up very fast to qualify himself as a candidate for Ticehurst; but this last freak and denial of what he had so solemnly stated out-herods Herod. Will Mr. Vernon, Mr. Haley, or even Mr. Wetherall who lamented over that resignation, support Mr. Ellman in his present disclaimer of resignation? We will not believe that they will, If there is not a resolution to record his resignation on the minutes of that meeting, it is an omission, perhaps designed, on the part of Mr. Ellman, for its reception was moved by the Rev. Mr. Haley and put from the chair and carried, that it should be entered on the minutes, With these observations, we leave the subject for the present; but not without again expressing our regret that this unwarranted contention is to be continued and to find it promoted and upheld by the countenance of the clergy who alone set themselves up to support that which all around them condemn."
Letters of censure on these proceedings were sent to the county papers, both from Hastings and Battle, and further comments in the same direction appeared in the Brighton Guardian of June 29th, but enough has been reproduced for the present.
At a vestry meeting in the month of April, the Castle parish resolved that £60 be paid to attract poor people to emigrate, and to expend as much as might be expedient, to help off to Canada. William Went, his wife and 7 children. Also on the 5th of May, the overseers and others of the said parish perambulated the boundaries, and finished with a dinner provided by Mr. Yates at the Oak Hotel.
Within a few days of the fatal boat accident described in Chapter XXVII, an accident occurred on the road from Rye to Hastings by the overturning of a cart, in which Sergt. Jessop was conveying a prisoner charged with felony. The sergeant being considerably hurt, the prisoner, although handcuffed, made his escape.
A Curious Election & Parliamentary Enquiry
In chapters LXXX & LXXXI of The Premier Cinque Port, I gave a biographic sketch of Sir Howard Elphinstone and the pedigree of his family. This circumstance is here mentioned because reference is there made to Sir Howard's contrived election in 1841, which, as admitted by him Pg.260 self cost him £6,000, notwithstanding that he declined a renewed contest for Hastings in 1837, because of "the ruthless expenditure of a previous election", which was not half so expensive as his election at Lewes. The numbers polled at Lewes were for Summers Harford 411, Howard Elphinstone 409, Hon. Hy. Fitzroy 407, and Lord Cantalupe 388. A petition was afterwards filed against the return of the two Liberals, and in consequence of this, the agents of the sitting members and the defeated candidates effected a compromise, whereby Mr. Harford consented to retire, that Mr. Fitzroy might take his seat. By that contrivance, the borough of Lewes was represented by a Liberal and a Conservative instead of by two Liberals. As Mr. Elphinstone was regarded as a Hastings sham, the whole proceedings in connection with this contest were watched by Hastings people with keen interest. It was well known that there had been extensive treating and bribery on both sides, and as the sitting members had also a retaliatory petition in preparation in the event of their losing their seats, there was a certainty - so it was believed - that all four would be turned adrift and prevented from seeking re-election during the existence of that Parliament. Some idea of the system pursued at Lewes may be gained from the following very condensed narrative of the later parliamentary enquiry of which was held in 1842 - the year still under review. In answer to questions by the chairman, the London parliamentary agents for the Liberals said
"I had no negotiations for a compromise with the defeated candidates or their agents, but about 7 weeks before the Petition Trial, I met Mr. Clarke, one of the opposite solicitors, who said, "You have a nice mess to defend in Lewes", to which I replied "I thing you had better attend to your own, which is even worse". I was receiving some money and so was he. We did not meet again until in the Committee room. In the mean time some preliminary negociations(sic) between the sitting members took place as to one of them resigning his seat, and I was requested to make an offer of it before the Committee met. The case was opened by the Petitioner's leading Counsel on the 18th of March. On coming from the Committee that day at 5 o'clock, I had a consultation at my house with our two counsel and the sitting members, when I stated it would be perfect lunacy to let the case be further opened, for in a day or two, the evidence could be such that the Committee could not possibly allow any arrangement to take place. We have only 14 or 15 hours to decide, and it is urgently necessary for you to make the arrangement. This was done with the understanding that Mr. Elphinstone would retain his seat, and that I should make the best possible terms with the other side for Mr. Harford's seat. After the first day's proceedings, I was doubly alarmed for the safety of the seats, the whole case of bribery and treating having been fully opened. I wrote to our leading counsel that I thought by scrutiny we could put Mr. Fitzroy in Mr. Harford's place, but if that could not be effected, Mr. Harford would accept the Chiltern Hundreds. The committee resumed its sitting next morning and in going thither, I met one of the opposing counsel, who said it was not possible to carry out such an arrangement, because Mr. Elphinstone was lower on the poll than Mr. Harford. I replied that although it was a curious finesse, I had a calculation that by cutting off and putting on certain plumpers and split votes, I could make Mr. Fitzroy even with Mr. Elphinstone, thus placing Mr. Harford and Lord Cantalupe lowest on the poll. I then saw Mr. Clarke, the agent on the other side, who said he was very glad we had come to terms. We all sat down in front of the Committee. and there I explained the reduction of the poll which I proposed to effect, all the room by that time being aware that the matter was settled. It was of course understood that the usual indemnity would be given to drop all actions that were pending. In carrying out the manoeuvre we struck off 5 or 6 plumpers and when we had reduced Mr. Harford's poll by the votes being shuttlecocks in that way we contrived to make the operation. The Committee sat in silence for half an hour, they showing us the usual courtesy when coming to an agreement by no pressing us, and I think Pg.261 one of my counsel first communicated to the Committee that one of the sitting members for good reasons would not continue to defend his return.
Election Petitions and Parliamentary Enquiry
The Hon. H Fitzroy being examined, said
I am at present one of the members for Lewes, for which I first contested in 1834-5, when I was defeated by 33. I again contested in 1836 and beat Sir John Easthorpe by 31. I stood again in 1837, when myself and Sir Chas. Blunt (one Liberal and one Conservative) were returned, the defeated candidates being Mr. T. Brand and Capt. Lyon. On the death of Sir Chas. Blunt in 1840, Lord Cantelupe was elected, unopposed. I was again a candidate last July, in conjunction with Lord Cantelupe, with whom I was to pay an equal share of the expenses. After our defeat, a petition was presented by two electors on our behalf. Messrs. Clarke and Fladgate were our agents. I attended the opening of the Committee to try the petition. On the second morning, Mr. Clarke called me aside and asked if Mr. Harford withdrew would I be content. I said yes! it is all I expected. If the technical difficulty could not have been got over, it must have been evident that Mr. Harford would be bound to go out, bt as to any opposition, it was not likely because in a single election at Lewes nobody could beat me. After it was arranged it was quite understood that all actions that were pending should be given up. I am quite confident that no man received money from me r for his voting for me, but if you call it bribery the giving of beer and tobacco to men when one has to make a long speech, I admit that I have always done that, and am afraid must always do it. There are a great many public houses in Lewes, and it is expected of a candidate to make a speech at each. I have put beer and tobacco on the table before the writs have been issued, but never had open houses for people to go and get what they liked. I paid my own bills and know how every farthing of my £2,000 was spent. One great expense at Lewes is the putting the town in a state of seige to prevent voters from being carried off. I do not recollect what the expense of that was in 1841, but I know that in 1837, the expense of watching the many roads for a week was £500. I had always confined my people to beer and tobacco, but, unfortunately, the other side began a new system at the last election of giving punch, wine and hot suppers, and I was forced to give hot suppers too, but that was before the writ came down. Also the night after the receipt of the writ, they again gave hot suppers, and my committee said I must do the same or must give up the contest. I had a dispute with my committee over it and told them if it was done, I would walk out of the town. I did not permit it, and so my poor voters went supperless to bed. Had it not been for our agents, Lord Cantalupe need not have given up and he and myself might have both won. The other side objected to 64 of our scot-and-lot voters, who had not paid their rates and taxes, and we had objected to none of theirs. We saw then that if those 64 were to be knocked off, Lord Cantalupe could not be put in a majority on a scrutiny. That was the reason of our giving up the chance of our obtaining more than one seat. I had every reason to know that it would be a very expensive proceeding, if only by the expense of one day.
Howard Elphinstone, Esq. M.P. during his examination, said
"I was returned at the last election with Mr. Hanford. I promised to be a candidate if the expense did not exceed £1,000, which with Mr. Hanford's promise not to go beyond £1,500 would make together £2,500. Our canvass was favourable, but after the election, I am sorry to say the bills far exceeded what was intended. Mr. Hanford's majority was four and my own was two. A petition was lodged against us, and we defended the seats, our agents being Mr. Parkes, of London and Mr. Briggs, of Lewes. I desired Mr. Parkes to consult counsel, the result of which was the expression of doubt whether both seats could be retained; also that the defence of both seats would be enormously expensive, because of the scrutiny that would be gone into. The arrangement which followed between me and Mr. Hanford was that if I retained the seat, I should pay all the outstanding liabilities and the expenses of the petition, which latter Pg.262 amounted to about £1,000.
The Contrived Election - Wholesale Bribery - Parliamentary Enquiry
Mr. Hanford paid £200 of that, and I was liable for the remainder. The cost of the contest was £5,000, which with the expense in defending the petition was £6,000. I believe the treating cost about £2,000 and sundries (which may be interpreted as bribery) about £1,500. I did not know what was the Lewes election practice, and was hardly acquainted with a single voter until I went there. In fact I was either in Hastings or London during nearly the whole of the canvass. I was not cognizant of any bribery by agents or partisans until after the election. When the compromise was arranged, I was cognizant of an agreement that all pending proceedings should be stayed, and I especially stipulated that all bribery actions should be withdrawn. When the bills came in after the election, I and Mr. Hanford was startled at the enormous amount, and I thought that the publican's charges for treating - some of which occurred after the testo of the writ - would endanger our seats, yet, so far as I am aware no charge of direct bribery could be substantiated.
Summers Hanford, Esq. being examined, said -
I had an understanding with the party at Lewes that the probable expense to me would be £1,500, and my arrangement with Mr. Elphinstone was that he should pay £1,000 to my £1,500. I had to pay, however, between £2,000 and £2,400, my agent having the bills and receiving from me the money. Although Mr. Elphinstone was lower than I was on the poll, I consented to give up my seat because I would not spend any more money, and not because I was sure that I could not retain my seat. Being at the head of the poll, I thought I might as well be in Parliament as Mr. Elphinstone.
Mr Clarke, of the firm of Clarke, Fynmore and Fladgate, in the course of his examination said -
We were employed as agents for the petition, Mr. Fitzroy being really our client, Lord Cantelupe having separate solicitors who communicated with us. We received about £400 whilst the case was going on. The whole amount of our bill was about £1,200, a considerable portion of which is unpaid. Lord Cantelupe has not paid any portion, but I expect he will, it is now under consideration. In the case for the petitioners, there were charges of extensive abduction, cooping and treating ater the testo of the writ. The case against Mr. Elphinstone was not so strong as against Mr. Hanford, but I think we should have succeeded against both Members. It would have been a very expensive proceeding.
Mr. A. R. Briggs, a Lewes solicitor, well known at Hastings, was examined at great length, during which he said -
I principally managed the election for Messrs. Hanford and Elphinstone. My estimate of the election expenses was £2,500, and to this I was limited at the beginning, Mr. Elphinstone being responsible for £1,000 and Mr. Hanford the remainder. That amount was afterwards greatly increased, and before the election terminated, the candidates agreed an expenditure of £3,500, which I think was positively to be the extreme limit, but when the bills came in, we discovered they amounted to nearly £5,000. The accounts were made up in my office and have never been rendered to the then returned Members. The treasurer to whom the cheques and money were handed was a very leading partisan. I have brought a vast number of papers in consequence of the summons which I received, to show how the money was spent, but I can state from memory what the sums were. The public-house bills were about £2,000. When we found that the writ was about to come down, I gave instructions that no further expenses should be incurred at the public-houses, but when the bills came in, there were charges to nearly £1,000 Pg.263 for treating after the testa of the writ. In some cases those charges have been objected to, but in others they have been paid. The legal agency was about £350, but there were other persons who had money given to them for services renderd(sic), the total being about £250. I became acquainted with the fact that money had been spent in direct bribery after the election, though I knew nothing of it at the time. I think it possible that from £1,200 to £1,500 might have been distributed among about 50 of the mechanics and low labouring people who were scot-and-lot votes and Reform Bill ten-pounders, who are usually in some sort of difficulty at election times. I should say that the treating was about the same one one side as on the other. Paid messengers to do something or nothing is a species of bribery that prevails in Lewes to a considerable extent, it being the custom for persons to come and demand to be "put on". There was also some cooping of voters to avoid being annoyed by what were called ballies. About a dozen had to be taken care off(sic) who went to the Globe Inn at Brighton, and some others who went to Patcham. Being engaged to defend the petition, it became necessary to investigate the cases of bribery, and I learnt that of the more than £1,200 there was £25 given to one man. I got up the defence brief for the seats, but Mr. Parkes was the London agent. I still think we could have successfully defended the particular cases of bribery that would be brought against us, but it is likely we should have failed in the charges of treating. Then the sitting Members would have been unseated. But I had an enormous mass of evidence of bribery and treating on the other side that would have ousted the two gentlemen if they had taken the unseated Members places. The paper that I was desired to lay before the committee is as follows:-
|Gift of Tea and Sugar, about ...||133||-||-|
|No. 1 ...||233||-||-|
|13 Tavern ...||230||8||5|
|Ditto, Tap ...||31||17||6|
|Beer-shops, various, about ...||250||-||-|
|Servants, about 5 per cent. on the above accounts."|
I have to explain that instead of the names of the parties, I have represented them by figures - 1, 2, 3, &c. The commodities were bought of tradesmen in the town, and were sent round to the voter's wives as the "free gift of a lady", an electioneering liberty with the name of a lady being thus taken, as was done on the other side, but which the candidates themselves knew nothing about.
With such admissions before them, the readers of this investigation may well question if there could have been a much more glaring system of bribery and corruption even in the palmy day of rotten boroughs.
I was nearly forgetting that at our January Quarter Sessions, the Recorder (E. Clarke, Esq.) complimented the borough on the comparative lightness of the preceding year's calendar, thus showing, as he said, a fair condition of morals. Of those who were brought before him more than half could neither read nor write and the rest were more or less deficient of education.
The said Sessions were held at a time when Sir Jas. Graham was censored by Radicals in the Town Council for his appointment of three Tory magistrates. Also when the gaol question was being discussed, and the magistrates in their endeavour to comply as far as possible with certain instructions from the Secretary of State, recommended to the Council that the then Gaoler who was 71 Pg.264 years old and had held the situation 22 years, be pensioned at two-thirds the amount of his salary; that a man and his wife be engaged as gaoler and matron at £55 a year, with coals, candles, &c.; that a Chaplain be appointed at £20 a year, a surgeon at £10 a year; and that prisoners be employed in 'picking oakum'. These recommendations were agreed to except the appointment of surgeon and chaplain.
Assault and Battery on the Battery and Parades by the Sea
At the same meeting the fire-engine Committee reported that they had found accommoation for the engines under the Town Hall.
Also at the same meeting, t was reported that Mrs. Camac had encroached on the stone-beach in repairing her stables, but that the encroachment might remain on payment of 5/ a year. This was rather sharp practice, seeing that Mr. Camac had already paid a large sum for his piece of waste beach, and that the alleged encroachment was a small piece of cemented stonework to protect the stables from further damage by the sea.
This leads me to notice another sought-for means of protection from further ravages of the sea, the discussion on which by the Hastings Commissioners may not be altogether wanting in interest to students of local history, and especially to such as imagine that the, difficulty recently experienced in protecting the parade walls from the ravages of the sea is entirely without a parallel. On the 3rd. of September in the same year, there was a burly sea, doing damage to some vessels which were ashore, and causing two serious breaches in the Battery adjoining the Marine parade. Most of our old townsmen know that the said Battery was strongly built, and was strengthened by piles, cement and additional stonework at the base; yet the fabric was so undermined on this occasion of a high sea as to excite the fears of the Commissioners for its safety. By the next spring-tides It was further damaged, and appeared likely to fall into entire ruin, the Board of Ordnance taking no steps to repair the breaches. Government had ceased to use the structure, and when appealed to, made an offer of it to the town on certain conditions; also intimating, in consonance with the asseverations of the fishermen and others, that the damage to the battery and a portion of the parade had been caused by the construction of groynes to the westward of the spot. It was a St. Leonards writer who, at the time, published some vaticinations upon the subject, and then declared that ”as regards the harbour, it appears the agitation of that question is buried with the years beyond the flood, never again to raise contentions nor to draw forth plans and estimates; but the groynes, just now, area more serious matter, and unless some steps are taken to counteract their bad effect, these predictions will not prove to be fallacious.”
At the Commissioners’ meeting on the 7th of November a plan was presented for a new parade wall in place of the battery, the same to be 3 feet thick at the base, and to be raised 20 feet from the same. Tenders for the work were also received, that of John Akehurst, £118, being accepted, The ot”her tenders were James Putland’s, £1375 Hughes and Hunter's, £465; Jonathan Reed’s, £488; and Sinden and Phillips's £597. The work was to be completed by the 6th of January, and Richard Cramp was to be employed to superintend the same at 30/— per week. Easier said than done, as we shall presently see. Another special meeting was held on the 18th of November, when the parade and battery question — that fruitful source of contention — was again discussed.
Motions, counter-motions and amendments were proposed, and the whole of the previous proceedings were revoked, A long discussion ensued as to whether Akehurst conjointly with Jamnes Putland, should hold the contract, Mr.Stephen Putland being surety for the due execution of the work, It was ultimately decided, on the motion of Mr. Langham, that the work to done by subscription, and that £80 be expended in securing the battery for the present. Five new Commissioners had been elected—two carpenters (Lock and B. Tree), 1 cabinet-maker (C. J. Womersley), 1 publican (John Tree), and one musician (Jas. Ryall). These all took part in the discussion in favouring or opposing the decision ultimately arrived at. Then followed another special meeting during the Christmas holidays, when the committee’s report stated that at least 50 feet of the wall must be underpinned, and that even that process would be no absolute security against further inroads. No more effectual way, the report stated, could be found than to build a strong wall strictly in accordance with the original specification. After a stormy discussion the recomendation(sic) was agreed to, and £70 more added to the £80 previously voted. Even that did not settle the matter; for, at another meeting, a few days later, the committee appointed to collect subscriptions reported that £137 10s had already been obtained, and that £20 more was expected. Mr. Shadwell and Mr. Lord had promised the handsome sums of £50 and £20, respectively.
As these sums were still insufficient to meet the estimated cost of the new parade wall, it was resolved to borrow £360 additional for that purpose.
At the same meeting it was resolved, on the motion of Mr. Harvey, that the eastern-most groyne at the parade be reduced one plank, and be extended further seawards to prevent the washing away of the stade, The committee were also instructed to report on the expediency of building a more substantial groyne. This report recommended the construction of a stone groyne, 360 feet in length, at an estimated cost of £2,150, which it was believed would render the existing smaller groynes unnecessary, and would much improve the condition of the Fishmarket, West street, &c. Mr. Thwaites reminded the board that it was no new project, for it had been suggested nine years before. He remembered being on a committee when several plans were submitted, one of them being by Mr. White, of Brighton, which, it it had been adopted, would have saved much subsequent expense. He believed it would cost £250 a year to maintain a wooden groyne in repair. The one at Rock-a-Nore, built 9 years ago, cost £900, and considerable sums had already been spent on it. Neighboring towns, he contended, were devoting large sums to improvements, and we must also assist Nature a little if we desired to attract visitors to our delightful walks and romantic scenery. It needed but the expenditure of a moderate amount of money to make Hastings one of the most favourite watering places in the kingdom. It had been said that they would bring the town to beggary, but a halfpenny in the £ would be enough to discharge the interest on the parade wall and the stone groyne as well, whilst about 280 feet of new ground would be made, which might be let out in plots at £10 a year. Although such sums would go to the Town Council, they would help to relieve the rates. There was a life-boat in Hastings [the Ariel], but it could not be used in times of danger for want of launching facilities, but a stone groyne would help to obviate that. The Clerk was of opinion that such a groyne could not be built, and he read the opinion of Sir W, Follett, that no jetty or pier could be erected under present Parliamentary provisions except for the accumulation of beach or protection of the town. Mr. Richardson expressed disapproval of the report, and said it was the most unfounded one he ever heard of; whereupon a warm discussion ensued, in which Messrs. Catley, Langham, George Wingfield and Thwaites took part. Mr, Harvey remarked that suck a scheme would cripple their funds They were only empowered to borrow £12,000, and their debt already was £9,500. Mr. Catley thought the present groyne could be repaired and lengthened at a small expense. A scene of great confusion and contention then followed, ending in Mr. Harvey's motion being carried "That the Surveyor inspect the groyne and estimate the lengthening of it 70 feet."
The absorbing interest manifested in our groynes and other sea-defences at the time of writing has led me to give more details of the Commissioners’ contentions on a similar theme forty years ago than I might have otherwise deemed necessary. And now, as a fitting terminal to this subject I may say that within a month of the meeting here referred to the parade wall was completed at a cost of about £607, or £189 above the contract figure, but from which the sum of £29 10s. was deducted as the sale price of the old rails.
Apropos of the tide which on the 7th of September, so extensively undermined the Battery, it may noticed that there were three sloops at the time on the beach, unloading cargoes. Two of these were Hastings vessels, and were wound up as the sea rolled in without sustaining any damage, but the third one, laden with malt, from Lynn, whose captain refused to pay a guinea for the use of a hawser, was washed broadside on to the full of the beach, and was afterwards floated with difficulty and delay, as well as at considerable expense. Here was another instance of a "penny wise and pound foolish" expense.
- Brett probably meant to write Hollington Here - Transcriber