Brett Volume 4: Chapter XLVII - St. Leonards 1852

From Historical Hastings

Chapter XLVII St. Leonards 1852

Transcriber’s note

[ 169 ]


Meetings and doings of the St. Leonards Commissioners — (Appointment of a Clerk; acceptance of a £16,000 loan, with which to pay off bonds; James Mann appointed custodian of Fire-engine; preparing case for Counsel’s opinion re payment of a map (ordered exclusively for Local Board of Health) — Parochial meetings — Railway and other accidents — The Magdalen Charity, carried to the Equity Court by the Rev. G. D. St. Quintin and Mr. A. Burton — The Ellsworth Charity — St. Leonards Mechanics’ Institution — The National Schools of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen — Lectures and Lecturers — An awkward dilemma in draining Mr. Smith’s new houses at Stanhope Place — Rapid increase of ​building​s, and the question Were they all wanted? — Election meetings — Politics and Passions — Excessive heat — Previous hot summers — Meetings of the Queen’s St. Leonards Archers — Boat races — St. Mary Magdalen Church and Parsonage — Farewell Sermons — The Railway Companies memorialised for better accommodation. Miscellaneous occurrences in 1852.

The Commissioners’ Transactions

At their meeting on the 25th of March, the Commissioners appointed Mr. W. B. Young as their Clerk, at a yearly salary of £30, service to commence from that day. — Permission was granted for Mr. Smith to drain his 14 new houses at Stanhope place, into the common sewer at East Ascent, on a charge of 6d. in the pound. Mr. Smith, however, declined the Commissioners’ terms.

At the meeting on the 24th of June, it was resolved to accept the offer of the Royal Exchange Assurance Company of £16,000, as a loan at 4 per cent., the money to be employed in paying off existing bonds. The resignation of [ 170 ]Mr. George Naish, as custodian of the fire-engine, was accepted, and Mr. James Mann appointed in his place. — The resignation of Mr. Walter Carey, as coal meter, was also accepted. — The coal duties were sold by auction to Messrs. Hughes and Austin at £275 for the year. — The Commissioners declined to put down a pavement, as requested by Mr. Jas. Mann, for his three houses in St. Clements place.

Preparing a Case. — At the same meeting, the Clerk was instructed to prepare a case to lay before Counsel to advise on the liability of St. Leonards to the rate lately ordered by the Hastings Town Council for payment of the map made by Mr. Gant under a contract with the Local Board of Health (See discussion on the subject at the Town Council meetings). The Commissioners had previously sent the following letter to the Town Council: —

The St. Leonards Commissioners beg to assure the Town Council of Hastings of their readiness and desire to fall in with the wishes of the Council so long as they are consistent with justice to the ratepayers of St. Leonards; but they must frankly declare that in their opinion, the cost of the map contracted for by the Local Board of Health for their own purposes ought, on every principle of justice to be paid for as agreed upon by the Local Board of Health; and, indeed, that the contractor has no legal and equitable claim on any other body than the Local Board of Health. The St. Leonards Commissioners cannot doubt that the characteristic straightforwardness customary with English public bodies, and so honourable to them, will always prevail, both with the Commissioners of St. Leonards and the Town Council in their intercourse with one another.”

Parochial (St. Leonards) Meetings

At the meeting on the 3rd of March, held at the Railway Terminus Inn, the persons named for overseers were Messrs. Payne, Lamb, Gausden & Chas. Farncomb. The Highways Surveyors were Messrs. Deudney and Draper. The Assessors were Messrs. Noon & Newton, and Draper and Farncomb (in bounds and out bounds, respectively). The Vestry Clerk was Mr. John Phillips, of Hastings.

The meeting on April 22nd was to pass a borough-rate at 5d. in the £, and a highway rate at 3d.

The only business transacted at a meeting on the 7th of October was the making of a poor-rate at 3d., to produce £60.

At another meeting in the same month (Oct. 15th) a borough-rate at 4d., to produce £76, was passed by the only three persons present. It was also resolved to increase the assessment of 72 to 77 Marina by £10 each, and to assess Nos. 78 and 79 at £110 each. Also to increase the Misses Dynely’s house, stables and grounds from £100 to £120; and to assess the new public-house (the Marina Inn) in Sussex ​road​ at £30. [ 171 ]

Parochial (St. Mary Magdalen) Meetings

At an unusually large meeting held at the Horse and Groom inn on the 26th of March, the parishioners named for overseers were John Wellsted, Sam’l Woodgate, Samuel Sinden, Chas. Pain and Newton Parks. Three of these resided within the Archway district, and two without. Mr. C. V. Levett was appointed collector of the borough-rate, and a deputation, consisting of James Mann and George Voysey, was elected to wait on James Everett to explain to him the appointment of C. V. Levett, and to request Everett to make up his a/cs., together with those of the highways and lighting rates, and to hand over the same, with the books, to the overseers.

At the meeting held at the Albert Tavern on the 26th of April, there were nine ratepayers present, but the only business transacted was the making a poor-rate at 3d. As Everett was not present and his books not produced, there was an informal conversation indulged in, and the conversation was not favourable to him as a rate-collector.

Another meeting was held on May 7 — this time at the Anchor Inn, with J. J. Ryall in the chair. There were seven persons present, but the meeting had to be adjourned in consequence of Everett not being there as requested.

The adjourned meeting was held on the 13th of May, when, after passing a poor-rate at 2d. the borough-rate was audited and a balance of £13 paid to the overseers. There appeared to be £38 15 11½ uncollected, and the collector was desired to clear up quickly.

The next meeting was held at the Horse and Groom, on the 12th of October, when Mr. Everett and his books were still absent. It was resolved that C. V. Levett be allowed 6½d. in the pound for collecting, and that a borough rate at 3d. be assessed.

The last meeting for that year was on Nov. 4th, at the Coach and Horses. Mr. S. Putland was in the chair, and the vestry-book received 12 signatures, but the only business was that of passing a borough-rate at 3d.

Railway and other Accidents

A railway accident occurred on the 8th of January to John Risbridge, aged 21 years. He was proceeding from Bopeep (St. Leonards) to Rye, with 17 waggons, drawn by an engine, and when nearing the Hastings station, on seeing the red light, the train was stopped. Risbridger being in the last waggon but one, stood up to ascertain the cause of delay, when the train again started and jerked him off. By that means his arm was so crushed by the last waggon as to necessitate amputation.

On the night of the 15th of August, out of a number of cows that had strayed on the South-Eastern railway near the Ticehurst-​road​ station, two were cut to pieces and the train was thrown off the metals, which caused delay, but no further injury. [ 172 ]On the 22nd of August an accident happened to two children who were playing in front of Grand parade, and were run over by a butcher’s cart. They were taken into Mr. Hempsted’s chemist shop and attended to by Dr. Marks, who found them without broken bones, but with severe bruises. The Hastings accidents are described in the next chapter.

Election of a West-Ward Councillor

Mr. Charles Neve was elected on the 22nd of January, to fill the vacancy in the Town Council by the retirement of Mr. Chamberlin. There were two candidates, but as an hour passed without a vote being recorded, the poll was closed, when there appeared (at half-past 12) 46 for Mr. Neve and 1 for Mr. How. Such result would indicate a foregone conclusion and a useless expense.

The Magdalen Charity Again

In consequence of a petition presented to the Court of Chancery by the Rev. G. D. St. Quintin, of St. Mary Magdalen, and Mr. Decimus Burton, of St. Leonards, a special vestry meeting of St. Clement’s was held on the 29th of January, when it came out during the discussion that in the reign of Edward I. a widow left certain lands to the brethren and sisters of a charitable or religious institution near Hastings; that in the reign of James I. the same passed into the hands of the Corporation of Hastings, by whom the funds were devoted to the relief of the town and port of Hastings; that the estate had been controlled by certain trustees, and the rental of the property and interest thereon distributed to the poor of All Saints and St. Clements — two fifths to the former and three fifths to the latter; that the revenue was £200 a year, and might be considerably increased by applying the Maudlin or Magdalen land to ​building​ purposes. The opinion of Mr. Langham and Mr. H. Bishop (both lawyers) as well as that of the Vestry Clerk (also a lawyer) was that the petition was informal, as no notice by Messrs. Fearon and Clabon had been served on the Churchwardens. It appeared that the petitioners considered that the town and port of Hastings included the whole borough, and desired that the revenue should be distributed to the poor of such. But the legal opinion collected at the meeting was that the phrase “town and port of Hastings” in its original significance included only the two parishes above-named. The Rev. W. W. Hume (in the chair), Earl Waldegrave, the Rev. J. Parkin, and about twenty other parishioners, were present, and it was resolved that the conduct of the churchwardens with reference to the petition be approved; that Messrs. Shorter and Phillips take the necessary steps to oppose the petition; that the £99 then in hand be not distributed until the proceedings in Chancery be known. Also that Messrs. Langham, Staines, Dunk, Pickerden, and Smith be a committee to watch the proceedings. A vestry meeting was held the same day [ 173 ]at All Saints, and similar resolutions were passed. [But for the fact that in this case the Chancery suit was commenced by a gentleman each of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen, and the Charity land itself being in the latter parish, it might be more appropriate to place these historical items under the head of Hastings]. In a letter to the Hastings News upon the Charity petition, Mr. John Smith wrote thus: —

” I feel some interest in the question from the circumstances of my assisting in the enquiries instituted relative to the charities of Hastings and Rye, in 1809; and likewise being one of the three at a St. Mary’s-in-the-Castle meeting some few years ago, who agreed to enquire into the distribution of the Magdalen funds, being informed that that part was given away more for politics and social influence than for alms. Preparatory to my submitting the case to the solicitor employed to enquire into the Guestling charities, I collected some information, but the proposers declined to proceed further. . . . During last century there was scarcely a tenant on the Magdalen Charity land whom the Trust had not allowed to take as his own something belonging to the Charity. About half a century ago the then occupiers of the land gave but £40 a year rent, and took as their own a long length of frontage called Spittleman’s Down that ought to have been added to the farm. It has since been sold in lots at a great price, and is now covered with houses, to the great annoyance and injury of the farm. The next tenant hired the farm by tender at £166 per year; he also took in an eligible piece of frontage, and built two houses, but not having enough outside the farm fence for his back conveniences, he took a piece from the farm, and afterwards a piece for a garden. These houses have lately been sold to one of the Charity Trustees who claims the ground as his own. An adjacent cottage, too, built either on the Charity ground or the highway, which I once bought and sold, he now owns, and has fenced in the ditch outside the farm hedge, abutting upon the ​road​ for a garden slip; thereby having possession of a great length of this valuable land — all of which, and all Spittleman’s Down, ought to have been enclosed within the fence of the farm.”

That Mr. John Smith rendered some good service in his investigations in connection with the local charities, — and especially, with those of Guestling — there is no denying, but if he had had access to the Corporation records, methinks he would have found it necessary to modify some of his statements. In the first place, the length of frontage called Spittleman’s Down, which he says ought to have been added to the farm receives some elucidation by the following memorandum: —

“Indenture, bearing date February 9, 1771, conveys to Thomas Deudney, farmer of St. Mary Magdalen, and his heirs, a tenement and garden, and land, containing one acre at Spittleman’s Down, in consideration of £5 paid to the Corporation, and a rent of 3s. a year.”

The money thus paid to the Corporation, as Trustees of the Magdalen Charity, would, as a matter of course, be added to the funds of that Charity. In that year (1771) and for [ 174 ]several years before, the said Thomas Deudney was a tenant of the Magdalen Charity land. In 1787, Edward Milward leased the land for 21 years, Thomas Deudney remaining as an undertenant. That not more than £40 a year was paid as rent for the land is true enough, but that sum was as much in proportion as was paid for other lands at the same time. In 1796, Mr. Milward declined to renew his lease of the Maudlin land, in consideration of the then recently enhanced value of lands in general. He believed that a greater rent would be obtained than had theretofore been, and which, as he said, would be for the benefit of the poor of St. Clement’s and All Saints. It was therefore ordered by the Corporation that the land be re-valued by Jeremiah Smith, of Crowhurst, and Thomas Cruttenden, of Westfield. What was the amount of their valuation I have not discovered, but I find that Mr. Deudney continued to be rated on the original assessment till 1813, when it was tenanted by Jeremiah Whyborn, who also paid on the same assessment of £39. This tenant failed, and from 1822 to 1828, the Charity (commonly called the Poor) land was carried on under the same rate of assessment by “Whyborn & Co.” When in 1810 the Chancery suit was commenced against the Corporation for alleged mismanagement of the Charities, through the “Information” tendered by Thomas James Breeds and Thomas Clark, the Corporation had to borrow £1232 at five per cent. to pay the costs of amending the Information — in other words for defending the action. It was then resolved to let the Charity lands by tender for 14 years as soon as the Corporation could legally do so, conformably with directions of the Court of Chancery.

In 1823, Mr. Newman-Collingwood (son-in-law of Admiral Collingwood), for whom Mr. John Smith was engaged to build Bohemia House — but which was sold to Thos. Breeds and Co. in its unfinished state — offered a much larger farm at Bexhill in exchange for the whole of the Magdalen land, but the offer was declined by the Corporation on the belief that if such an exchange could be legally effected it would not be to the advantage of the Charity. That such a belief was well founded later events have sufficiently proved.

It was in 1827 that the Magdalen land was let by tender, when Ransom and Ridley, the noted shipwrights, offered a rent of £105 on a lease of fourteen years. Another tender was that of Mr. Whyborn, the amount being £102. In 1832, the Charities Committee reported to the Corporation that the Magdalen land was in good condition and that the fences were well kept by the tenants, Messrs. Ransom and Ridley.

In 1834, the Corporation exchanged the “Jockey Field”, of 3a. 2r. 30p. and the “Bohemia Field” of 2a. 3r. 30p. for a portion of the “Horntye Field”, of 10a. 0r. 35p., thus leaving 3a. 2r. 35p. in favour of the Charity land; and for this addition, Ransom and Ridley offered a rental of £7 if they were put in possession. Soon after this date the first dwellings, at Bohemia (other than the two at Spittleman’s Down) were erected, and then known as “The New Houses”. If Mr. Smith was unacquainted with the facts here set forth, his statement might be excusable, but if he purposely [ 175 ]omitted them, then both his premises and conclusions were at fault. Mr. Smith at the time of writing his letter to the News in 1852 was residing at Stratford (now White-rock) place, and his close neighbour was Mr. Thomas Ross (1810-1881), at 1 Claremont, who also wrote to the News as follows: —

“In addition to the application to the Court of Chancery respecting the distribution of the produce of the Magdalen Charity, I learn from an undoubted authority that the Attorney-General has directed proceedings at law to be immediately taken for the recovery of the Ellsworth charity, belonging to the parish of the Holy Trinity. This Charity consists of one fourth of the Priory Farm which is presumed to be held in trust by the Milward family. The intention of the donor was the education of the poor. The cause was before the Court of Chancery in 1818, when Mr. Milward’s objections were overruled and the Master was directed to make certain enquiries, which have not been reported on. The case is now taken up in earnest, and no doubt full justice will be done.”

The discussion on the Ellsworth Charity by the Town Council was reported in chapter XLIV (Hastings, 1850), and the failure to prove the case as represented against the Milward family will be shewn further on. Doubtless, with the best intention and in the interest of the town, this Charity case was espoused by Mr. Ross more warmly than by others; but, as in some other matters, that gentlemen’s zeal carried him beyond the elements of success.

On the 27th of March, 1852, the Hastings Charity case came before the Equity Courts. An order had been made upon petition by which it was referred to the Master to enquire what parishes were comprised within the town and port of Hastings, and how the funds of the Charity had been applied, and to settle a scheme. The present petition was presented by the churchwardens of All Saints and St. Clements, praying that such order might be discharged. It appeared that the then income was £198 per year, arising from the rent of land and the dividends of stock, as well as the produce of some of the land taken by the railway company. No deeds or documents existed to show what was the original foundation, but by an old charter the lands were to be held by the Corporation in trust for the poor of the town and port of Hastings, and the proceeds had been paid to the churchwardens — three fifths to those of St. Clement’s and two fifths to those of All Saints — for a period of 240 years, on the ground that those were the only parishes within the town and port, and therefore the only ones entitled to participate in the charity. The present petitioners had not been served with the original petition, and they now contended that the matter was not one which could be dealt with in a summary manner under Sir Samuel Romily’s Act[1]. Secondly, that the Court would not settle a scheme adverse to the system which had existed for 240 years; and, thirdly, that the two parishes which now received the benefit were the only two entitled, and that the other parishes might be within [ 176 ]the “Liberties” of the port of Hastings, but were not within the “town and port”. — In support of the two propositions in this respect, ancient records and surveys were produced on each side. — The Vice-Chancellor said he thought this question could not be disposed of summarily. There was a substantial question as to who were the recipients of the Charity, and the order must therefore be discharged; but if the parties thought they had produced all the evidence they could procure and wished to avoid the expense of an Information, he was quite ready to decide the question. The parties having signified their consent, the Vice-Chancellor said he thought that upon the evidence the charity was confined to the two parishes of St. Clement’s and All Saints, and there must be a reference to the Master to settle a scheme according to that view. He was satisfied that the Court, as the evidence then stood, could never alter the distribution. The form of the order would therefore be, first to discharge the former order, and the parties having agreed to submit the question for the opinion of the Court as to what parishes were entitled to the benefit of the charity, the Court is of opinion that the parishes of All Saints and St. Clement’s were solely entitled to the benefit, and refer it to the Master to approve of a scheme for the application of the fund for the poor of those parishes; and let the costs of all parties of this and the former petition be paid out of the Charity fund.

A vestry meeting at All Saints was held on the 16th of April to consider the best means of applying the funds of the Magdalen Charity, and it was resolved that a committee of the two parishes should meet the trustees to discuss the question; also that the Vestry Clerk write to the Rev. G. D. St. Quintin, and Mr. Burton to ask if they were willing to pay their own costs, or intended to apply for them out of the Charity funds? The costs were expected to be heavy. The result of the conference of committee and trustees was reported to be to distribute the funds in the usual way, but that such distributions be not less than £2 nor more than £5. Also to arrange for ​building​ leases after the lease of the land had expired.

The St. Leonards Mechanics Institution

At a quarterly meeting on the 28th of January, the number of members was shown to be 193, with a favourable balance of 17s. in money. An offer having been made by Mr. Decimus Burton to present a piece of ground, whereon to build premises for the Institution, the Secretary was requested to ask that gentleman to state his proposal in writing, that it might be placed before the Committee. On the 3rd of March, Mr. Pitter delivered a lecture on “The Science of the Sunbeam”. On the 16th of March Mr. F. Beck delivered a lecture on “Our Country and its Elevation”, and on the 24th of the same month, Mr. J. Banks delivered a lecture to a full room, on “The Electric Telegraph”. On the 7th of April, the Rev. F. J. Sharr, gave his interesting lecture to the members on “Geology”. On the 2nd of May, the winter season closed with a concert given by members of the Institution, assisted by Messrs. Wood and Elford, which resulted in a profit of £2 7s. 6d., helping a favourable [ 177 ]balance to £8 1s. 11d. The Institution continued to progress in numbers and funds, the latter at the next quarter showing a balance in hand of £10 18s. 2d. In the mean time £21 4s. had been realised by two lectures by Dr. Darling on “Electro-Biology”, with manifestations, less ten guineas paid to the lecturer. Two guineas were also presented to Mr. Banks towards the expense of his lecture. The laws of the Institution were now revised and printed, and a committee appointed to search for a site for more commodious premises.

On the 21st of July it was resolved to join the Society of Arts, and the following declaration was sent: —

“The Managers of the St. Leonards Mechanics’ Institution hereby declare that they desire to place the said Institution in union with the Society of Arts, on the basis proposed by the resolutions adopted at the Conference held on the 19th of May, 1852. They engage that the required yearly payment to the Society of two guineas in advance shall be made by Alfred Burton, Esq., of 36 Marina, the President of this Institution, who desires to be elected a member of the Society of Arts.”

On the 4th of August, it was resolved that Mr. Decimus Burton be thanked for his offer to lease a plot of ground for ​building​ a new Institution, but that the Committee were not in a position to accept his offer.

The annual Soirée was held in October, and was an intellectual as well as an enjoyable reunion. Addresses were given by the Rev. W. W. Hume and other talented speakers; the music was provided by members of the Institution, assisted by Messrs. Wood and Elford, the latter two gentlemen receiving 10s. each for their services. Tea was supplied by Mr. Godden to 190 persons; the money for admission and refreshments amounted to ten guineas, and the surplus ten shilling[2]s.

The next winter session opened with an excellent lecture by Mr. Selway, of London, on “Wonders of Vision”, and the financial year closed with a balance of £10 18s. 2d. in hand.

The National Schools

On Sunday, March 7th, sermons for the schools of the united parishes of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen, were preached by the Rev. G. D. St. Quintin and the Rev. T. Sproule, realising a sum of £42. School-aid sermons were also preached on Sunday, the tenth of October, when £30 10s. was collected at the St. Leonards Church, and £24 1s. 0 at St. Mary Magdalen’s.

Lectures (Not already enumerated)

Dr. Darling’s two lectures on the so-called new science of Electro-Biology, under the auspices of the St. Leonards Mechanics’ Institution were delivered in the Assembly Rooms, the first in the afternoon and the second in the evening. At the conclusion of the lectures, the experimentor called for subjects from the audience, which was responded to by about a dozen [ 178 ]persons ascending the platform. Each of these took a galvanised disc in his right hand and gazed fixedly on it for about two minutes, the doctor occasionally stroking the foreheads with the back of his hand. When the discs were taken away the eyes were closed and several of the subjects were evidently under the power of the operator, and could be made to fancy and to do in an extraordinary manner anything that was desired. Amongst these involuntaryists was the present writer, who, though not opposing the will of the operator, had no sensation of his influence. He was certainly too “wide awake” to be “caught napping”, and like a schoolboy in disgrace he sneaked into his place while others suited their actions to the word of command. It appeared to be different with the reporter of the Hastings News, who described the effects thus: —

“We gave ourselves up to no nervous apprehension whatever; in fact, it may be a question whether we gave the lecturer what may be called a fair trial. When he gave the command ‘Now you can’t open your eyes, for the life of you’, we fully expected to be able to contradict him. But, no, not only were the eyelids paralysed, but the muscles above the eyebrow and almost down to the mouth, seemed perfectly rigid. ‘Now you can open them! All right.’, said the doctor, and we were able to open them immediately, but the lids still seemed somewhat paralysed, an impression which scarcely passed off for the rest of the day. He then endeavoured to seal our lips, but only partially succeeded, and then gave up all further attempts, remarking that in our case, he could not control the muscles of the mouth.”

The other young men operated on were Messrs. Skinner, Pulford, and Lawrence (the last named giving up after a time); also two lads, Brooker and Chapman. With these the experiments were simply marvellous.

An Awkward Dilemma

The fourteen houses built by Mr. James Smith (one of the railway contractors) at Stanhope place could only be drained through the sewers under the jurisdiction of the St. Leonards Commissioners, who required 6d. in the pound to be paid to that authority, whilst the property would be rated to the Hastings Board of Health. That being so, Mr. Smith would have to pay double rates, which could not be obviated. He had applied for advice to the General Board, but they could not interfere. The only consolation Mr. Smith could get from the Town Council was that if he “chose to build houses where there was no drainage, he must take the consequence”. Was it, then for such a principle that the Health of Towns Bill was obtained? It will have been seen, however, in the reported meetings of the St. Leonards Commissioners that they were more considerate than the Local Board of Health, by reducing their charge to Mr. Smith from 6d. to 4d. in the pound. [ 179 ]

Increase of Buildings; — were they all wanted?

At this time, 1852 and the following year, the rapid increase of ​building​s, and the general improvement in size, style and convenience were such as would have utterly astonished any person who had been absent from the borough only two or three years. Robertson street, Robertson terrace, Carlisle parade, Eversfield place and other sites between Hastings proper and St. Leonards proper, had come into existence or were being built upon as if by magic. In Eversfield place alone were erected what are now numbered as 7 to 30, and 41 to 67 — all within the two named years. Apropos of this ​building​ mania, the Hastings News, of August 13th, had an editorial, of which the following is an extract: —

“One hundred and fifty houses have, since the era of the Public Health Act been erected within the borough. At least a thousand individuals, from the babe to the patriarch, must be needed to fill these habitations. Our Building Societies are doing a great work by aiding the man of small capital to step into a good house, and ultimately to become a freeholder. But house-​building​ is only advantageous where occupiers are to be found; the value of the former must depend on the number and wealth of the latter, for an article is only worth what it will fetch. Taking this principle along with us, let us go on to consider the condition and prospects of the borough. How far are we favoured with a good supply of that ‘company’ which is essential to our well-being as a watering-place, and what reason have we to hope for holding the good we have or of adding to our store? In the first place, how are the sister towns of Hastings and St. Leonards situated as to visitors? St. Leonards, we believe, has less to complain of than Hastings, since the former is supplied with a more aristocratic class. But even St. Leonards has for sometime been far from overstocked with visitors. Proceeding eastward from the Archway what do the lodging-house keepers and tradesmen tell us? Despite their utmost efforts, do they not find a drag on the wheels somewhere? Have they not for many months past found their labours scantily requited? In 1850 we were dull; then it was the navvies. In 1851 dullness prevailed; then it was the Exhibition. In 1852 we are still dull, and yet we are in a very secondary state, considering that this is the ‘Season’.”

The article then goes on to show that the bane is due to the traffic arrangements of the two lines of railway, whereby a monopoly of charges and negative facilities are applied to these towns, whilst the same two compete with each other for better accommodation to places east and west of our own towns. After this a numerously signed memorial was sent to both companies. [ 180 ]

Eversfield Parade

As Punch remarked, “Building up and pulling down is all the go”. So it was with us, that whilst the ​building​s at Eversfield place were being rapidly erected, the parade wall in front of them was ruinously broken down by the sea. For repairing the large breaches thus made tenders were invited, the lowest of which was from Vennell and Wellard, but as they refused to find sureties or sign the contract, the next lowest tender — that of Hughes and Hunter — was accepted. The respective amounts were £531 and £666. Hughes and Hunter’s tender of £450 for a smaller restoration was also accepted.

Sudden and regretted Deaths

At Lynn, on the 22nd of March, the death occurred of Mr. Alexander Tyrie, who had been the local reporter of the Sussex Advertiser and Hastings and St. Leonards Chronicle, when Mr. Bacon was the proprietor of those papers and I was the sole agent for this district. I was therefore well acquainted with this literary and talented Scotchman, and, with others who knew him, sincerely deplored his later misfortunes and his death. An appeal was made through the Hastings and St. Leonards News for help to the widow and two children who were left entirely destitute. After struggling severely against adverse circumstances, Mr. Tyrie procured employment on the Lynn Advertiser. The labour, however, proved too much for a shattered constitution, and the unfortunate man gradually sank. The highest testimonials were received from his employer as to his ability and integrity, which served to increase the feeling of sorrow for his death.

Another lamentable death was that of Mrs. Edwards, a widow and schoolmistress of Norman ​road​, and the mother of William Carey Edwards, an accountant and occasional reporter. On Friday, the 26th of March, Mrs. Edwards took train at Bopeep for Bexhill, to see her daughter, who lived in service of Col. Lane at B​road​ Oak. She proceeded in an open carriage — the last one of the train — and on arriving at Bexhill, the station-master, seeing her alone, asked if she wished to alight, but she made no reply. When the train was again in motion, she was observed to become excited, rise from her seat, pace the carriage, wave her hand, and make other signs as if wishing to alight. The officials at the station watched her until the train was out of sight. Soon afterwards a person engaged on the line found the unfortunate woman, in an insensible state lying in the six-foot way, and bleeding extensively from a wound in the head. A doctor was sent for, but the sufferer, who was 67 years of age, soon died.

A misadventure of another kind was the cause of another death, in the [ 181 ]person of Thomas Farncomb Edgerton[a], a noted maker of tents and marquees. An inquest was held on the 20th of November, when the evidence showed that the deceased had been poisoned by having taken Burnett’s Disinfecting fluid, sent him by his London chemist in mistake for Dinneford’s fluid magnesia. After suffering from continual sickness, he had come to St. Leonards, and for three weeks had been prescribed for by Dr. Blakiston, but died from destruction of the stomach and consequent starvation. The chemist was summoned to the inquest, and admitted the mistake, which was made under peculiar circumstances, for which he had been truly sorry, and which he had done his utmost to remedy.

Politics and Passions

A political meeting was held in the St. Leonards Assembly room on the 7th of May, with Mr. Nelson Andrews in the chair. The meeting was addressed at great length by J. Ashley Warre, Esq., and J. Locke, jun. Esq., the Liberal candidates for the coming Parliamentary Election, at which they were unsuccessful. The proceedings of these gentlemen’s supporters at that election were of a degrading character, and to that circumstance was attributed by some persons, the defeat of the Liberal candidates. A report of that election will be found in the next chapter, but as the present writer (who voted for the Liberal candidates), like other quiet persons felt annoyed at the insults offered to the Conservative rivals, he could but endorse the sentiments contained in a letter by “Areopagus” which after the election appeared in the Hastings News as follows: —

“All zeal for reform that gives offence
To peace and charity is mere pretence.” [Cowper]
The issue of the recent contest has been a great blow to the Liberal interest. — The Liberal party by the very vehemence of their efforts have done so much to secure their own defeat that it is a question whether they have not done more to lose the battle for themselves than their opponents have done to win it from them. During the agitation which preceded it the inhabitants were fated to hear the keenest sarcasms and the loudest fulminations against the Conservative candidates. The flashes of wit and gleams of wrath were applauded to the very echo, till the mere mention of Mr. Brisco’s name and that of Mr. Robertson caused a grin of merry anticipation to quiver through the meeting. All was enthusiasm and all was victory! Hastings was going ahead! Mr. Warre would, of course be returned, and Mr. Locke was equally sure of success. Two Liberals were to represent Hastings in Parliament and Conservatism was to be extinguished. But out of doors there [ 182 ]was another voice. There were found many who although perhaps possessing Liberal opinions, hesitated and objected when they heard or read strong personal language used by the Liberal adherents. They were thus repelled by the very vehemence of the very men with whom they would otherwise have sympathised. The Liberals invoked a spirit of antagonism which did more to overwhelm themselves than it did to cripple their opponents. It is a question whether all the personality of Mr. Locke, of Mr. Moore, of Mr. Cooper, of Mr. Smith, or even of Mr. Andrews [the chairman at the St. Leonards meetings] gained so much as one vote for the Liberals; whilst, on the other hand, by these intemperate manifestoes, not a few voters were alienated from the cause thus injured by its professed friends. . . . . Even since the contest, the Liberals have continued their unwise manifestations. I need only refer to the uproar and insults of the chairing day. What kind of principle sanctioned the throwing of filth on the dresses of respectably attired and quiet females? What moral or political truth was conveyed in the pomatum pot which was thrown at Mrs. Brisco, but which, happily, struck some one of the rougher sex? What line of rectitude was developed by the ruler which was projected from the Liberal committee room at a Conservative carriage? What new light was thrown upon the question by the cloud of lime which flew into Mr. Brisco’s face? Who penned the recent bill against the clergy — was that written by one of the rabble or by one of the leaders? Who was the Liberal who, belonging to a party requiring all to enjoy liberty of conscience, yet maligned a body of men because they happened to vote against the interest which he had thought fit to advocate? Alas, alas! If a cause be good, the more need is there for goodness in its supporters. If Liberalism be right, assuredly its illiberal adherents are its greatest foes. I write conscientiously. I desire to see both parties carry on their warfare in an honourable spirit, being assured that truth is propagated in the same ratio as are kind and generous sentiments.”

Excessive Heat

The remarkably high temperature (over 90 degrees) which prevailed in the summer of 1852, gives interest to the following account of previous hot summers: — in 1132, the earth opened and the rivers and springs disappeared in Alsace; the Rhine was also dried up. In 1152 the heat was so great that eggs were cooked in the sand. In 1160, at the battle of Bela, a great many soldiers died by the excessive heat. In 1678 the heat was also excessive, and for the first three years in the 18th century, the temperature was abnormally high. In 1718 there was no rain from April to October, and the crops were burnt up, the rivers were dried up, and the theatres were closed, the thermometer having registered 113 degrees in the shade. In 1723 and ’24 the heat was extreme, and in 1746 it calcined the crops. Abnormal temperatures also prevailed in the years 1748,’54,’60,’67,’78 and ’79. In 1811 (the great comet year) the summer was hot and the vintage of that year exceptionally good. In 1818, the theatres remain closed for nearly a month, the maximum [ 183 ]heat being 110 degrees. In 1830, while fighting was going on the temperature rose to 97.95 degrees. In 1832, during the insurrection (5th and 6th of June) the heat was also 110 degrees. No wonder that men go mad, or die, under such trying conditions. In 1835 the Seine was almost dried up. In June, 1850, on the second appearance of the cholera, the thermometer registered nearly 100 degrees. These statistics have been culled from Galinani,[3] but a longer list of hot summers, as well as cold summers, and excessively cold winters, will be found in Brett’s St. Leonards Gazette. As already stated, 1852 — the year now under review — and 1898 — the year in which this was being written — were both unusually hot and dry, causing a large number of sun stroke deaths and forest fires.

Archery Meetings

The Queen’s Royal St. Leonards Archers opened their season as usual on the anniversary of Her Majesty’s birthday, when there was a fair number of shooters and visitors, but by whom the prizes were won I have no account. Yes! I have since found it. The winners, both of the Members’ prizes and the honorary stars were Miss Wood and Mr. Alfred Burton.

The Grand Annual Meeting was held on the 17th of August (the Duchess of Kent’s birthday anniversary), when the shooting was witnessed by several hundred persons. The day was fine and favourable until half-past six, when the competition terminated amidst a thunderstorm. A ball took place in the evening, when the prizes were distributed. The annual gold bracelet was awarded to Miss Bramley, whilst Mr. Augustus Day received the silver cup. The first-class Victoria Challenge prizes were won by Miss Bramley and Mr. A. Burton, and the 2nd-class ditto to Miss Fenton and Mr. Willis. The prizes for the most central hit were taken by Miss H. Wood and Mr. Brown.

On the 28th of August another meeting was held in the charming grounds at Quarry Hill, when prizes were awarded to Miss Helen Wood and Mr. Augustus Day.

The last of the season’s competition meetings was held on the 9th of October, when the Rev. J. Simpson and Miss Yeoman carried off the Members’ prizes, whilst Mr. Cancellor and Miss Yeoman won the Honorary Stars.

Boat Races

Two boat-races took place on the 24th of August, between the skiffs “Flying Dutchman” and the “Alfred”. The former was first rowed by Henry Roberts (cabinet-maker and Champion of the St. Leonards Amateurs), and the “Alfred” by Thomas Tutt, jun., a shoemaker. The Champion was considerably beaten by the Crispinian, [4] there being about two minutes of time difference. The second race was with the same boats rowed by George Burton and Samuel French, a St. Leonards waterman. French finding himself likely to be beaten, gave up before finishing the course. It was generally concluded that the Alfred was the faster boat, and thus made it easier for the winning oarsmen. But the result was a surprise, nevertheless. [ 184 ]

St. Mary Magdalen Church and Parsonage

Consecration. The church of St. Mary Magdalen was consecrated on Tuesday, Sept. 10th, in the presence of a congregation of 900 persons, among whom were the Earl and Countess Waldegrave, Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave, Mrs. Gilbert (wife of the Bishop), Lady Ashburnham, Lady Watson, Lady Caroline Legge, Lady Marrable, Lady Elizabeth Finch, Mr. W. D. Lucas-Shadwell, Mr. Wastel Brisco, etc. Mr. Elford presided at the organ, and the singers were the united choirs of St. Clement’s and All Saints, all the members of which were then in good voice and practice. The Bishop of Chichester and his chaplain, (the Rev. H. B. W. Churton), were met at the door by the Rev. T. P. Sproule, accompanied by Archdeacon Hare, Earl Waldegrave, Wastel Brisco, Esq., Several members of the Building Committee, and over thirty clergymen. The consecration sentences were read by the Rev. H. W. Simpson (vicar of Bexhill), and the prayers were read by the Rev. W. W. Hume. His Lordship preached from the 8th verse of the 103rd Psalm, the sermon being of course preached after the usual form of consecration had been performed. The offertory amounted to £218 17s. 6d. After the service, Mr. Brisco entertained at Bohemia House, the Bishop and about 100 other persons at an elegant dejeuner. A second service took place in the evening, the prayers being read by the Rev. T. P. Sproule, and the sermon preached by Archdeacon Hare. Another collection was then made, which realised £28 12s.

Other Circumstances. — On the day after the consecration, the Bishop and a large number of clergy and gentry, were entertained at dinner by Earl Waldegrave and on the same day the workmen were provided with a dinner at the Royal Standard hotel. The architect was F. Marrable, Esq., and the contractors were Messrs. Piper and son, of London.

Farewell Sermons. — On the Sunday preceding the consecration, the Rev. T. P. Sproule who for three years had been the licensed officiating minister at St. Leonards Church, preached his farewell sermon, and the Rev. W. W. Hume, who was the licensed incumbent, preached his farewell sermon as curate of St. Clements, the same evening. The future labours of Mr. Sproule were to be at Scaldwell Rectory, Northamptonshire.

The Organ. — Previous to the consecration (Aug. 19th) Mr. Elford and some of his choir tried a temporary organ from Mr. Holditch, builder of the St. Clement’s and All Saints’ organs, preparatory to the erection of a more effective instrument, and chose the south aisle as the preferential position.

The Parsonage. — In the month of November, a committee was formed for the purpose of collecting funds to erect a suitable residence for the Incumbent. The committee consisted of Dr. Blakiston, E. H. Paget, Esq., Councillor R. Deudney, T. Hickes, Esq. (Mayor), Mr. Hempsted and Dr. Marks. A site for the proposed parsonage had been given by C. G. Eversfield, Esq., and £985, including £500 from Mr. Hume, the incumbent, had been obtained. Towards the amount still wanted, £50 each had been promised by Lady Waldegrave and the Rev. J. G. Foyster, and £20 each by Miss Sitwell and Mrs. Offley. [ 185 ]Testimonial it was originally intended for the Rev. T. P. Sproule to be the Incumbent of St. Mary Magdalen Church, but the Rev. W. W. Hume being afterwards regarded as the more suitable minister for such district, and Mr. Sproule preferring the living at Scaldwell, the change was thus made. But the parishioners of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen, to mark their appreciation of their late curate’s three years’ ministrations, sent on to Scaldwell a substantial testimonial in the form of a silver service.

Railway Companies Importuned

A meeting was held on the 17th of August for the purpose of memorialising the railway companies for better accommodation, at which it was resolved “That Hastings, compared with Ramsgate, Margate, Dover, Brighton and the Isle of Wight, was less served than it should be, both as to speed and charges, and the town was therefore seriously injured”. The mover of the resolution (Mr. Harman) said it would be foolish to dictate to the two companies, as they had entered into a compact, which enabled the directors to defy them in such a course.

The Rev. W. W. Hume said they must be careful not to make a wrong step, for the least slip would be taken advantage of to throw them over. Though he had only been in the borough three years, he believed that during the last five years very important changes had taken place, many improvements made and speculations entered into, with the hope that there would be a great increase of visitors when the railways were opened. This expectation had led to large outlays in the erection of princely houses and handsome shops.

Almost all the gaps between Hastings and St. Leonards had been filled up; but houses without tenants were useless. Excursion trains had been named as being wanted. The idea naturally attached to such a phrase was one of temporary accommodation, which was very pleasing to a certain class, who were not exactly such as will confer on the town a lasting good. What was really wanted was a cheap fast train all through the year [Loud applause]. A train to start at a business-like hour in the morning, and return at a good time in the evening. He thought they should ask for that in a civil but earnest manner. He moved a resolution to that effect.

Another Memorial

Soon after the memorial had been sent to the railway companies another grievance was ventilated, and a petition thereupon was presented to the House of Commons, praying that the tax for lodging-houses might be made the same as that for shops. The equitable principle embodied in this petition needed no debating, but it was many years before it was conceded in a practicable form. [ 186 ]

Miscellaneous Occurrences

Her Majesty and Prince Albert, in the Victoria and Albert steam yacht, passed St. Leonards and Hastings on August 10th, en route to Antwerp, and a week later, the royal yacht and squadron re-passed on the return voyage from Belgium to the Isle of Wight.

Mr. John Parry entertained a full and fashionable company at the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms on the 24th of August, with his amusing “Portfolio”, he having excited the risible faculties of a similar audience, a few evenings before at Hastings.

A Brilliant Display of Fireworks, was made opposite to the Saxon Hotel on the 22nd of December, by Mr. W. B. Franklin. The display, which was witnessed by an immense crowd concluded with the ascent of a fire-balloon.

Sermons were preached, on Sunday, Dec. 20th on behalf of the Infirmary and Dispensary, which realised £27 at St. Leonards, £23 at St. Mary Magdalen’s, £48 at St. Mary’s-in-the-Castle, £27 at St. Clement’s, and £8 at All Saints. — In each case a few shilling[5]s over the sums named.

Mrs. J. S. Cooper, of 2 St. Margaret’s terrace, was attacked by a vagabond, who tried to wrest a parcel from her grasp, but the lady having shouted for help, the fellow ran off and was soon out of sight.

More Sermons — this time for the Church Missionaries — were preached, which realised a total of £212, made up of £39 at St. Leonards, £82 at St. Mary’s, £37 at St. Clements, £7 at All Saints, £8 at Halton, £16 at the St. Leonards meeting, £24 at the Hastings meeting, and the rest with the odd moneys.

Awnings. A suggestion was publicly made by a visitor that the parades would be much more agreeable if awnings were stretched over the seats, so that ladies and gentlemen might be able to sit down and gaze upon the ocean without being half broiled by the midday sun. The suggestion thus thrown out was ever so many years ago. Now, if that gentleman be still alive, he can gaze upon the ocean from a sheltered seat or read his paper by electric light.

References & Notes

  1. Brett may have made an error in the spelling of this name - it would appear to be Thomas Farncombe Edgington based upon research by H. Wojtczak; Mr. Edgington having been staying at 106 Marina in an attempt to recuperate.

Transcribed by Ian Shiner

  1. Sir Samuel Romilly (1 March 1757 – 2 November 1818), was a British lawyer, politician and legal reformer. The Act referred to provided for summary and therefore speedier resolution of disputes relating to the management of charitable trusts.
  2. An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022
  3. Giovanni Antonio Galignani (1757–1821) an Italian newspaper publisher. After living in London, he moved to Paris, where in 1814 he began publishing Galignani's Messenger, a daily paper printed in English. After his death in 1821, his two sons continued publishing the paper.
  4. Saints Crispin and Crispinian are the Christian patron saints of cobblers.
  5. An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022