Brett Volume 5: Chapter LIII - St. Leonards 1855

From Historical Hastings

Transcriber’s note

Volume 5 - Chapter LIII - St. Leonards 1855

Contents: (See also general index).
Meetings and transactions of the St.Leonards Commissioners, pages 140 and 141
Vestry meetings and Burial Board proceedings of St. Leonards parish, 141-142
Ditto of St. Mary Magdalen parish 143-144
Local Health statistics, 144
Slanderous reports refuted, 145
Royal visitors sojourn, 145-146
Concerts and other amusements, 146-147
Mechanics Institution and its progress, 148-149
Atmospheric, Celestial and meteorological phenomena, 149 to 152
prize meetings of the Queen's Royal St.Leonards Archers, 153 & 154
The Parochial Schools, 154
Founding of the St. Mary Magdalen Schools, 154 & 153
Proposed Towns Improvement Association 155 – 156 Collections, Offertories, etc., 155
Railway matters (Great fall on the Hastings and Tonbridge route, & the line obstructed for six months) 157
Railway accidents (personal) 157
Robberies, etc., 158
Antiquarian discovery, 158
Flower show, 158
Repairing the Martello Towers
Fetes and pyrotechnics at the Tivoli Tea-Gardens, 146 & 147
The St.Leonards Choral Society, 147
The "Wizard of the South", 147
Lectures, various, 148
Phenomenon, 152
Destructive thunderstorm 153.

[ 140 ]

The Commissioners Meetings 1855

At the first quarterly meeting, March 26th, the Commissioners present were Alfd Burton (chairman) Rev. G. D. St. Quintin, Sir Woodbine Parish, C. H. Southall and J. Carey. Bills and interest ordered to be paid, including £25 to Jas. Mann for ironmongery; R. Deudney, for clearing away snow and beaching the ​road​s £15 12s. 9d; ? gas £147 5s. Resolved that Bayley collect coal duties once a month; that a channel be relaid and the footpath repaired in Quarry ​road​; that Mr. Gant’s offer to add new houses and drains to present map, together with the boundary of the Commissioners’ jurisdiction, for £5, be accepted; that the clerk communicate with Local Board of Health re nuisance from the outlet of 1 Grand parade; that William Smith have the ashes contract without payment; and that he have the watering of the ​road​s during summer at one shilling[1] an hour.

At the meeting on June 25th, it was resolved that Mr. Coster be permitted at his own expense, to remove the lamp post opposite Allegria[ 141 ]and suspend a lamp over or under an archway there; that the assessment of 8 Maze Hill be reduced from £60 to £50; that tenders be got for repairing the wall at East Ascent; that Mr. Brown’s new house, when occupied, be rated at £100, and Mr. Mann’s new houses at £50 each; that Mr. Carey be paid £17 9s 2d for repairing groynes; that Mr. Bridgeland’s tender for repairing East Ascent wall at 3/6 per yard be accepted; that a copy of Miss Pennington’s letter complaining of accumulated putrid matter in the sluice between her houses and the railway station be sent to the Local Board of Health, it being in their district.

At the October quarterly meeting it was ordered that John Smith make a cesspool opposite the Fountain Inn for £8 15s to oviate(sic) the nuisance complained of by Miss Pennington, as at least a temporary remedy; that the Gas Company be paid £100 on a/c.; that Mr. Gant be paid five guineas for additions to the map; that William Ford Burton be disqualified as a Commissioner for non-attendance during the past twelve months; and that the Surveyor prolong the back rails of seats opposite 68 Marina.

At the quarterly meeting, Dec. 26th, it was resolved that George Bridgeland, of the Lower Croft, Hastings, be paid £20 for repairing the East Ascent wall; that Hughes and Hunter reinstate fences opposite their own ground between 82 Marina and Sussex House; that Mrs. Johnson put up a rail opposite her ground between Sussex house and the Marina Inn; that the proprietors of houses in Caves ​road​ (Burfield, Emary & Hoad) direct their tenants not to throw slops in the ​road​; that the footpath at Miss Morleys, West Hill, be repaired; that the new posts and seats at the west end of the parade be painted green; and the ashes be tendered for unless Smith will take them for at least £5. Smith agreed to give £8 for them!

Vestry Meetings (St. Leonards)

In 1855 there were no fewer than twelve parish meetings, the expense of which for hire of room at 5s. each meeting, was £3. The first was held on Feb. 28th, at which the following constables were appointed:- Wm. Gower, Richd Catt, Geo. Standen, Aaron Foord & Jno. Fuller.

On March 7th a highway rate at 1½d in the £ was passed and 1½ acres of land was assessed to Dr. Blakiston instead of to Mr. Eversfield.

On March 16th, the only business was the election of Mr. Charles Farncomb and Mr. Wm. Draper as assessors.

On Mar. 19th, Wm. Payne and John Carey were appointed auditors of the Burial Board. Mr. C. J. How was also elected a member of the Burial Board. It was resolved that this vestry approve the site on the Magdalen Charity land selected by the Burial Board on the terms mentioned in the report, and authorize the said Board [ 142 ]to expend a sum not exceeding in the whole, of £5,500 in providing and laying out the said ground, and ​building​ the necessary chapels thereon, and to borrow such sum, and charge the future poor-rates with the payment, and to appoint such reasonable salaries and allowances for their clerk, officers and servants, as they may think necessary.” The number of parishioners present at this important meeting was eight only.

On March 26th, the persons named for overseers were W. Payne, Rich. Lamb, Rich. Gausden, and Chas Farncomb, the first two being afterwards appointed by the magistrates. The Inbounds assessors were Jos. Yarroll and Jno. Carey; the Outbounds, W. Draper & Edwd. Farncomb. Resolved that W. Payne be paid £8 from the borough rate and £4 from the highway rate for collecting those rates and the poor-rate, and otherwise managing the parish affairs.

On the 27th of April, after passing a poor-rate at 3d. and a borough rate at 4d., it was “Resolved that as it appears from the report of the Burial Board now read that a general cemetery for all the six parishes cannot be provided, this parish is willing to concur with St. Mary Magdalen’s and any other parish willing to unite for the purchase of 12 acres of the Magdalen Charity Estate lately approved.” During the discussion it was mentioned by Mr. S. Putland

At a meeting on May 3rd, presided over by the Rev. J. A. Hatchard, the report of Messrs. Peerless, How and Mann showed that the solicitor to the trustees of the Magdalen Charity land had no doubt that such trustees would sell 12 acres at the same rate of £200 per acre as had been named for 15 acres, that the ground would have to be divided from the unsold part by a 7 feet wall and a belt of trees 15 feet wide, the purchasers to pay all expenses. It was resolved that the parish unite with the Magdalen parish for the purchase of the same and that a sum not exceeding £4,500 be expended in providing and laying out the ground for the proposed cemetery. It was resolved that in the event of the Hastings Town Council petitioning the Queen in Council for power to provide a burial ground for any district including this parish, such steps be taken as may be necessary to prevent such being given, and that the members of the Burial Board be a committee for that purpose.

At a meeting on June 8th, the only business was that of appoint[ 143 ]ing Charles Farncomb and Wm Draper assessors for the outbounds of the parish. At the next meeting (Aug 30th) it was resolved that the following names be placed on the Jury List:- John Hutchinson, Wm. Mantel Eldridge, Chas. Farncomb, Rich. Lamb, jun., Wm. Draper, Robt Eldridge, Edw. Farncomb and John Murray.

At the meeting on Sept. 28th it was carried by resolution “That the meeting approve of the basis of rating proposed by H. Jones, Esq., appointed by her Majesty’s Justice of the Peace for the Eastern Division of Sussex, wherein the county part of the parish is to be rated at £1170 as its proportion of a general county rate.”

The meeting of Nov. 14th consisted of only five persons, who passed a poor-rate at 6d. and a highway rate at 2d.

St. Mary Magdalen Vestries.

As was the case with the St. Leonards parish meetings, those of the Magdalen parish were also augmented to the unusual number of twelve by the proceedings in the matter of providing a cemetery.

At the first meeting, however, on March 1st, when 9 parishioners signed the vestry-book, the only business was that of passing a poor-rate of 4d. the third rate during the twelve months.

On the 19th of March – same date as that on which the St. Leonards meeting was held – a resolution re the Magdalen Charity land, was passed in words identical with those of the St. Leonards parishioners. On that occasion Mr. W. P. Beecham presided.

At the next meeting, with Mr. S. Putland in the chair, the persons named for overseers were Wm. Hunter, Jas. Ball, Thos. Burgess, Jos. Hadden Job, and Thos. Ranger. Messrs. Yarroll and Carey were appointed assessors and Mr. W. P. Beecham vestry clerk.

The meeting on the 27th of April, was on the same evening as that of the St. Leonards meeting, and was for the same purpose – namely, to receive the report of the Burial Board. Mr. A. Burton was in the chair, and the resolution passed was also worded like the one passed at the St. Leonards meeting. It was in effect that the two parishes unite for the purpose of a cemetery; that 12 acres of the charity land be purchased; and that any other parish be permitted to join. Twenty-five of the parishioners present signed the minute book.

On May the third, another meeting was held - this time at the Albert Inn, and presided over by the Rev. W. W. Hume, whilst at the same time a St. Leonards vestry was being held at the Railway Terminus Inn, presided over by the Rev. J. A. Hatchard. The Magdalen meeting was a crowded one, and the one resolution [ 144 ]at both meetings was precisely the same. To put it briefly, the Burial Board of the two parishes were authorised to spend a sum not exceeding £4,500 in providing and laying out the ground, ​building​ chapels, etc. and to oppose the Town Council should the latter petition the Queen in Council for powers to provide a cemetery that should include the two western parishes.

Another crowded meeting was held on May 10th, with the Rev. W. W. Hume in the chair. It was then resolved that John Austin, Nelson Andrews, Samuel Woodgate, Benj. Bickle, J. Beck & Geo. Johnson be appointed to act with the existing Burial Board. The Magdalen meetings were naturally more numerously attended than those of St. Leonards, in consequence of the former being a larger community, though a smaller area. The Magdalen parish not only supplied ground for more than half of the St. Leonards town, but also extended eastward from the Victoria Hotel within the limits of that town to White-rock place, where now is the Palace Hotel. Hence the greater number of inhabitants eligible to attend the parish meetings; hence, also the above addition to the Burial Board elected from parishioners both from St. Leonards within and St. Leonards without.

The next meeting was on the 25th of May for the appointment of an assistant overseer, the fixing of salary and the amount of bond. There were five candidates – namely, John Ward, S. H. Willard, Wm. Novis, Wm. Neve and Wm. Walter. A poll was demanded, and the result was the election of Mr. John Ward, on the 26th of May at a commission of 6½d in the £ for collecting the poor-rates.

At a meeting on July 26th, after figuring a poor-rate at 5d., it was resolved that the assessors and collectors be required to find sureties.

A meeting on the 31st of July was adjourned to the 13th of December, and again adjourned till the 18th, when the only business transacted was the passing a poor-rate at 6d. Twelve parishioners were then present, and Mr. S. Putland

Municipal Officers

The annual election of municipal officers took place on the 1st of March and resulted as follows:- Assessors for the West Ward, Mr. Samuel Chester, East Ascent, and Mr. Anthony Harvey, East Hill. Assessors for the East Ward, Mr. Charles Pope Hutchings and Mr. Jas. Reeves. Assessors of the borough to revise the Burgess Lists, Mr. Wm. Birch, Mews Road, St. Leonards, and Mr. John Howell, White Rock, Hastings. Auditors of the borough, Mr. Eli West Stubbs, Halloway place, and Mr. Robt. Burchell, Bedford place.

Refutations of Slanderous Reports of Disease and Deaths

The Local Health.

During the summer, reports were ill-naturedly – not to say maliciously – circulated in Eastbourne, Brighton and other places (the same reports having reached London) that [ 145 ]disease[a] was ravaging Hastings and St. Leonards to a frightful extent, and that in one street a black flag was flying as a caution to avoid that particular locality. If calumny could have worked its will, both St. Leonards and Hastings would indeed have been in a bad way, but although the reports were utterly untrue it became necessary to prove them so. Perhaps the reports originated with some jealous person who knew that these towns were enjoying at the time a greater immunity from disease than any other town along the coast. During the last twelve months only four deaths had occurred in the borough from a disease which had been said to be rampant here – four deaths out of a population of about 20,000. Add to this that in the poor parish of All Saints, not a single death from any cause out of a population of about 300, had been registered from the 24th of May to the 28th of July. These facts ought to have been sufficient to refute the mischievous report emanating, as was suspected, from the jealousy of other watering places.

The twelve months up to June would include the last quarter’s return of the Registrar-General, of 1854, which showed the mortality of the Hastings district (including St. Leonards) to be lower than that of any other town in Sussex, except Battle, which latter was at the rate of 14 to the thousand, whilst that of Hastings was 16. The rate of mortality at Brighton was 22, and the average of the entire county was 19.

In his quarterly Return for March, 1855, the Registrar-General stated the health of the population in general had been bad, and that the number of deaths had been 20,000 in excess of the corrected average. This, he said, was attributed to the extreme low temperature of the winter quarters which besides making the times hard for the poor, had cut off children and persons of advanced age in great numbers. But even this mortality it was further stated, was much less than in other countries where was no system of relief such as is administered under the English poor-law. The average mortality in rural districts was 26 to the thousand, and in towns 32. It was gratifying to know that the same high rate of mortality did not apply to the Hastings district, the number of deaths during the same quarter, even with the increase of population, being only 13 more than in the previous year’s corresponding quarter, and only 5 more than in 1853. The facts and figures here given are of themselves a complete refutation of the mischievous reports already referred to.

The ex-Royal Family of France - Balls, Concerts &c.

Visits of Royalty.

The favourable returns of the Registrar-General as respects our own locality, and which have been used in refutation of the baseless rumours of great mortality, may or may not have influenced the French ex-Royal Family to pay another visit to St. Leonards, but in either case their former sojournings [ 146 ]were of so healthful and pleasurable a nature as would probably induce them to anticipate a repetition. On the 1st of March, then, the ex-Royal Family of France arrived at the Victoria Hotel, where Mr. Starkie had prepared for their reception a large number of rooms. The party consisted of the ex-Queen Amelie, the Duchesse de Marnier, Duchess of Saxe-Cobourg, Prince de Joinville, Comte D’Eu, Duc D’Alençon, Princesse Sotilde[b], Princesse Amelie, Princesse Marguerite, Prince Auguste, Prince Phillipe, Gen. Dumas, Gen. Comte Chabannes and Abbé Guelle. The Earl and Countess of Arundel and Surrey were also at the same hotel.

The distinguished visitors took their departure on the 31st of March, after a month’s sojourn. They had taken numerous walks and rides, had visited shops and libraries, and to all appearance had experienced much pleasure. A few days before they left St. Leonards, the Prince de Joinville, with a numerous party, went on board a steamer which had been brought round from Rye, and proceeded to a fishing ground about twenty miles off on a fishing excursion, for which purpose the steamer was in charge of Mr. G. V. Daniel and Harry Bumstead (of the British Lion pleasure yacht). The steamer left at nine in the morning and returned at 5 in the afternoon. It was said that the distinguished party greatly enjoyed themselves. Herr Kloss, an excellent pianist, residing at Hastings, had for his pupils the Princesse de Nemours, and the Princesses Clotilde and Amelie de Saxe-Cobourg. He also had the honour of appearing at a soirée before the distinguished visitors, performing on his own Erard’s Grand pianoforte a number of choice pieces by Thalberg, Liszt, and others. On leaving the pianist was presented with an elegant souvenir.

Balls, Concerts, and other Amusements.

A Soirée Dansante, to mark the opening of the new year, was given at No. 1 Upland Views by Mr. and Mrs. Daniels and Miss Mackay to about 130 of the haut ton. The amusements commenced on New Year’s Eve and were kept up till three o’ clock next morning.

A Sacred Concert was given in the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms to a crowed(sic) audience on the 1st of March, by the St. Leonards Choral Society. Mr. Jacob, organist of St. Mary Magdalen, and Mr. Hayden, organist of St. Leonards, assisted in the musical accompaniments, they having previously trained and conducted the Society. The solos were taken by Messrs. Diprose, Moore & J. O. Davis, and the choruses were sustained with great correctness. All present appeared to be delighted, and the Choral Society thereby added to the reputation previously possessed.

Tivoli Fetes. During the summer, on Monday and Thursday evenings, the proprietor of the Tivoli ornamental gardens in the rear of the Tivoli Tavern (now the site of Silverlands ​road​) provided attractive amusements for the public in the form of music, dancing, fireworks &c. The remaining evenings were reserved for private tea parties and pic-nics. On the 27th [ 147 ]of August, nearly 800 well-dressed persons assembled to witness one of the best pyrotechnical displays which up to that time had ever been seen in Hastings. A large number engaged in quadrille, polkas and other dances to the well marked time of Brett’s Hastings and St. Leonards Brass Band. The concluding amusement was a repetition of the caldron(sic) scene in Macbeth, with the wierd(sic) sisters celebrating their orgies ‘mid fumes of unearthly appearance. This was greatly applauded as a master-piece of representation.

Edmond’s Menagerie (late Wombswell’s) entered the borough on Saturday Aug. 25th, and left on the following Wednesday. In addition to the show, its band was very attractive.

Another Grand Pyrotechnic Display, with illuminations, dancing, and other amusements, took place at the Tivoli Tea gardens on the evening of Oct. 7th, on this occasion for the benefit of the Hastings and St. Leonards Brass and Quadrille Bands, conducted by T. B. Brett.

The St. Leonards Choral Society gave, on the 30th of October, another enjoyable concert in the Assembly Rooms, to a crowded company. Mr. Hayden conducted, and Mr. Jacob presided at the piano.

The “Wizard of the South” was not the Mr. F. K. Jacob, of St. Leonards, who assisted at the Choral Society’s concerts, but a Mr. Jacob, a Kentish man, who many times performed in the same Assembly Rooms as a mesmerist, ventriloquist and illusionist, with musical accompaniments by the present writer and a portion of his band. He was also an extraordinary composer of impromptu verse and song from any number of topics given him by his audience. He traveled in nearly all parts of the civilised world, and when in Australia (as reported in a Sydney paper), he was one day walking up George street and saw a mischievous fellow tearing down his (Mr. J’s) bills from the walls. He observed to a friend who was with him, “Just mark how I’ll punish that scoundrel.” He then walked up to the man, who was just raising his arm to tear down another bill, and looked straight in his face, when an instantaneous mesmeric effect took place. The offender stood motionless and fixed erect to the spot, stiff as a statute(sic) and utterly powerless. Now stand there, said Mr. Jacob, till I release you, for no one else can. And he left him there, the ridicule of a vast crowd (who had gathered round this practical illustration of biology) for upward of half an hour, when the wizard returned and released him, warning him not to again attempt to pull down either his or any other person’s bills, or he would serve him a worse trick than that, for committing an outrage on common honesty and industry.

The Annual Christmas Ball was held in the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms on the 26th of December, at which there was, as usual, a very numerous and fashionable gathering. (For Hastings amusements see next chap.) [ 148 ]

St. Leonards Mechanics’ Institution

A Lecture on Zoophites was delivered in the rooms of the Institution by Mr. William Walter on the 28th of January.

A Lecture on Astronomy, illustrated with a revolving orrery and transparent diagrams, was delivered in the same rooms to a crowded audience by Mr. Butler, of the Eversfield Library. In reporting this lecture, the proprietor of the Gazette was complimented by the lecturer on having avoided the mistakes made by other reporters, such avoidance being due to his more itimate(sic) acquaintance with subject of the lecture.

A Quarterly Meeting of this spirited and flourishing institution (so described by the Hastings News) was held on Feb 8th, when the Committee’s report showed the Society to be in a healthy condition. The number of life-members being 26, and 45 new members being added during the quarter brought up the total to 216. A half-year’s mortgage interest had been paid, chairs and other furniture had been purchased, three more daily papers had been supplied, and still a small cash balance remained.

A Second Lecture on Astronomy, by Mr. J. E. Butler, was given in the rooms of the Institution on the 20th of February, and was attentively listened to, as was the first lecture, by a crowded audience.

Local Botany was the title of a lecture delivered by members of the Institution on February 13th by Mr. Arthur Ransom, the lecture being illustrated with a collection of natural specimens.

A Lecture on Chronology, of a useful and entertaining character, was delivered on the 27th of February by Mr. C. J. Womersley. The weather was bad and the attendance was smaller than usual.

Australia and its Gold Fields” was the title of a lecture delivered to the members and others on March 20th, by the Rev. J. Stent, and a lecture on Joan of Arc was given in the following week by Mr. Young.

A Lecture on Local Geology was given by Mr. Joseph Pitter, the subject being illustrated by a map of the wealden, a section of the coast from Beachy Head to Dover, and an elevation showing the Hasting’s cliff near the East Well; also a specimen of glass made from the sand of the same cliff, together with numerous fossils.

A Quarterly Meeting was held on the 9th of August, when it was shown that there was an unfavourable balance of £6 19s.; that increased accommodation in the new premises had augmented the expenses; that it was contemplated to slightly raise the price of admission; and that, Mrs Cripps, of Verulam place, had presented through the hands of T. B. Brett, a large case of Australian birds, two cases of English birds, a glass case of coral, a case of ferns and a guinea in cash.

The 7th Annual Soirée of the Institution was held on the 16th of October in the Assembly Rooms, kindly lent by Mr. Burton. Tea was served by a committee of management, under the superintendence of Mr. Cope. The after proceedings consisted of appropriate addresses, songs by Mr. J. Skinner, and music by amateurs (chiefly members). A. Burton, Esq. presided, and the soirée was altogether a successful one. The Secretary read the Committee’s report which showed an augmentation of [ 149 ]life-members to 34, and (as a consequence) the reduction of subscribing members to 180. It may be here remarked that the ordinary members who paid £5 each to become life-members, did so to help the ​building​ fund. The report further stated that through Mr. Brett, the Treasurer, Mr. Cripps, of 8 Verulam place had given materials for a museum, and an additional ten guineas to a previous donation of one guinea. Four pounds had been saved by the reduced price of newspapers in consequence of the abolition of the Government stamp. This, however, though not anticipated at the time, except by the treasurer, proved to be a greater boon to the public than to the Institution, as many persons took to purchasing newspapers instead of joining the society to read them. The Rev. J. Stent, in an address, dwelt chiefly on the importance of Mechanical knowledge to the female housekeeper, and caused some amusement by the homeliness of his examples to which mechanical principles night be applied. Dr. Hale spoke at some length on the present advantages of education over that of earlier times. Mr. Skinner sang “The British Man of War”. Mr T. B. Brett gave a humorous rhyming address (which, said the Hastings News was quite a novelty, and gave great satisfaction). Mr. W. Ransom dilated on Mechanics’ Institutions as a means of healthful recreation and as places that might be resorted to for the highest mental culture. Mr Selmes proposed a vote to the chairman, and the meeting broke up after singing “God Save the Queen” and “Partant pour la Syrie”[c]. The financial result of the soirée was a profit of £2 7s. 6d. It should have been mentioned int he report that the St. Leonards Choral Society handed over to the Institution the sum of £12, as the proceeds of a concert at the Assembly Rooms (already described under the head of Amusements), which helped to change an adverse balance of £6 19s. to a favourable one of £14 13s. 11d.

A Lecture on Pneumatics to a full room was given by Mr. Butler, on the 13th of November, some interesting experiments added to the interest of the said lecture.

Wit and Humour” was the title of a lecture given by Mr. Grossmith, of London, in the Assembly Rooms for the Institution, with which the audience were convulsed with laughter.

Atmospheric, Celestial and Meteorological Phenomena

The rare conjunction of Mercury, Venus and Mars, and the occultation of Mars by Mercury on the 8th of February was not observed at St. Leonards, but when seen two days later they were even then very near to each other in appearance. Saturn was also stationary on the first-named day, from which stellar combination was predicted “Severe wintry weather.” On the said Saturday night on which the closeness of the planets was clearly visible, the thermometer at Hastings fell to 16 degrees, and at Uckfield to 13. The foam of the sea left on the beach and among the rocks by the receding waves was frozen into dense masses. On the night of the 12th also, when Jupiter was in quartile to Herschel[d], and Saturn in quartile to [ 150 ]Mercury and Venus, the thermometer in this locality fell to 17 deg., and in London to 13.

On Saturday morning (when Saturn was also stationary) the margin of the sea at high water for three or four hundred feet from the shore, appeared, (as seen from a distance) as if covered with some oily substance, but on viewing it from a closer standpoint, the strange appearance was caused by small ice crystals. As the tide receded, the icy particles were left on the beach and sands like salt or snow, but when tasted they seemed to have lost their saline character. The masses were immensely thick round about the rocks and the general contour of the surface was wave-like, as though the turbid waves of the sea congested before they could return, notwithstanding that when the thermometer was place in the mass it recorded a temperature of 5 degrees of frost only, whilst in the open air it had marked 16 degrees, and during the whole day there never was less than 10 deg. of frost. There was a piercingly cold east wind and cloudy sky from morning till night; but on Sunday, after a minimum temperature of 15 deg. (17 deg. of frost) the weather became clear and bright, but the maximum temperature did not exceed 23 deg. On that day the marine phenomenon was even more extraordinary. The whole shore was coated with crystallized foam, while the advancing tide pushed upwards a ridge of the same two or three feet in thickness. The wind was less strong than on the preceding day, but that alone would not account for a waveless sea. The shingle was concreted into a hard mass, and the Priory stream was frozen. The ponds too, on the West hill, then existing, and known as the Eft Pond, (on the north-west side of the Castle mound) and French’s Pond (at the top of Croft ​road​, now the site of the Board schools) were frozen to a thickness of 6 to 8 inches. On the following days, Monday to Thursday, many hundreds of conger eels were seen floating on the sea, whilst a large number came also to the shore. Some of the ferry-boats and small fishing-boats put off and took on board from 100 to 200 each, as well as some other fish, that were similarly affected by the intense cold. Some fishermen who were returning from Brighton on Sunday suffered greatly, and one of them had his “nor-wester” frozen to his head. During the month of February there were no fewer than 18 so-called aspects of the refrigerating planets Saturn and Herschel, the effects of which were to make it the coldest February within living memory. There were 25 frosty nights, and the average temperature collected from 112 observations, was 10 deg. below the general mean of that month.

A phenominal(sic) frost also occurred on the 19th and 20th of the preceding month (January), when the salt water pools on the sands were frozen, and as the tide rose the ice flowed in upon the beach. On the night of the 19th was the minimum tem[ 151 ]perature of the month, when Saturn was in parallel declination with the sun and in trine aspect with Venus. The maximum temperature was on the 1st of the month, when the heat-producing planets Mars and Jupiter were in conjunction.

But turning again to the phenomenal month of February, and referring to its dates promiscously(sic) by accident rather than design, I find that the 13th was the coldest day in London, when the thermometer fell to 13 degrees – 19 degrees of frost. Ice was 6 inches thick in the parks, and was thus capable of bearing the thousands of skaters who resorted to it. On the Serpentine Capt. Wheatley, of the Foot-Guards drove a splendidly decorated sledge, whilst another sledge was drawn by an Esquimaux[e] dog, at a charge to each rider. On that particular day, too, Saturn was in quartile aspect with Venus. Then, from the 1st to the 3rd there were two angular influences of the cold-exciting Saturn and two of Herscel(sic), coincidentally with wintry weather in the form of “winds, frost, cold rain and snow” as predicted by astra meteorologists. The frost that visited Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne, Brighton and other parts of the south coast on Saturday morning, Feb. 3rd, affected such a scene as was never before witnessed by persons proverbially of good memory. There had been a strong wind during the night, with a fall of snow, succeeded by a heavy descent of rain towards morning with a sharp frost. At daylight it was discovered that every part of the ground not protected by snow was covered with thick ice, whilst the vertical surfaces of walls, doors, trees, lamp-posts and other objects were crystalised(sic) with ice and formed one of the most beautiful scenes imaginable. The trunks and branches of trees, even to the most delicate fibres, were clothed with ice in a most rigid and beautiful manner, and every beholder stood amazed at finding himself in a sort of Crystal palace. Locomotion was both difficult and dangerous – ay! almost impossible. Persons residing in elevated districts had to slide, rather than walk down to a lower position, whilst those who wished to ascend from a lower to a higher level were obliged to crawl on all fours. Such, indeed, was my own case. Newspapers then being stamped, came to the vendors from London in large bundles in the post-office sack, and I being necessitated to go to the St. Leonards post-office – then on the parade - for my daily and weekly supply, found it totally im(sic) to walk down the East Ascent from the top of Norman ​road​, and my only alternative was to slide, which I fortunately accomplished without a fall. But how to manage the return journey with my heavy parcel was a complete puzzle. To walk upwards on the ice, with the burthen on my shoulder was a thorough impossibility, and the only practicable way I found was to jerk the parcel forward, and crawl to it on my hands and knees, and then repeat the operation many scores of [ 152 ]times till I reached home. But notwithstanding such exertion my hands and knees were almost as rigid with cold as the ground itself. In a few hours the ground became warmer, and before midday the frost disappeared.

Another Phenomenal Appearance. On Monday afternoon, July 9th a curiously shaped cloud rolled in from the south overland, and not much above the writer’s head, as he observed it from above the All Souls Convent. The same phenomenon was witnessed by many other persons, among whom was Mr. John Banks, who described it pretty much as I had done, thus:- “As seen from the West hill (Hastings), it had the appearance of a double cone, extending in apparent angular dimensions from the East hill to Pevensey Bay, and slightly curved upwards in the middle. At its eastern extremity was located a small fuzzy-looking cloud of a light colour, nearly white. The cloud, no doubt, owed its appearance to a horizontal whirlwind, proceeding westward. The part of cloud next to the land indicated by the lines on its surface that it was rolling onwards like an immense wave of the sea. When it became vertical over the West hill its well-defined outline was no more seen, but the extraordinary commotion – the eddying of its various parts , plainly indicated great atmospheric disturbance. I understand the whirlwind struck the land near Mr. Chamberlin’s houses at Eversfield place, but only a few yards in extent” There was a thunderstorm at night. A similar phenomenon was witnessed by myself from near the Gening(sic)-farm house on the morning when the tide so mysteriously and alarmingly flowed a second time from about half ebb; but on that occasion the longitudinal or horizontal whirlcloud appeared to roll forward on the surface of the water, and was very dark. This latter phenomenon has been elsewhere described.

A Spectral Phenomenon. This was witnessed by a visitor at Carlisle Parade who described it thus:- On Sunday the 22nd of July 1855, as myself and wife were on the height of the cliff immediately above the Lovers’ Seat, at about half-past 7 in the evening, watching the gradual approach of a fog-bank towards the shore, which extended itself for some distance, we observed, as it broke against the base of the cliff and rolled in fantastic forms through the valleys on each side and beneath us, one large mass of vapour which rose perpendicularly a little farther eastward. In a few moments we were not a little surprised to see it become quite luminous and our own shadows perfectly reflected in it, surrounded by a halo of most beautiful prismatic colours like a series of rainbows. It immediately struck me, from what I had previously read – though I had never witnessed one, that it was a mirage. I then turned my attention to the sun, which was just setting, with a red appearance, and about a quarter dipped below the horizon; and on again turning to the phenomenon before me I found it resembled that orb, not being a complete circle, but forming at its lower extremity  [ 153 ] a sort of base or platform on which we appeared to stand and magnified to about three times our natural size. We made several movements – my wife with her parasol, and I with my walking-stick &c., all of which were answered distinctly, as if in a large mirror. When we stood close to each other we could see one another so reflected; but on my moving a step or two on one side I could only see my own shadow. This continued for about five minutes, when it gradually disappeared, and we became enveloped in a fog. I calulate(sic) that this fog or vapour to have been about a quarter of a mile distant from us, and to have been two or three hundred feet high.”

Prize Meetings of the St. Leonards Archers

The above stated phenomenon was evidently similar to the “Spectre of the Brocken”[f] and one which on rare occasions had been witnessed previously on the Hastings and Fairlight hills. I have sometimes thought that this natural phenomenon suggested the invention of the Magic Lantern. A similar phenomenon was seen in India by the talented artist and traveller, Miss Marianne North, of Hastings. In her Recollections of a Happy Life, Vol II, page 33, she says “I took possession of paintings at Joubos? next day, and saw a most civilous? reflection of myself and the sun’s disc in the mist opposite the setting sun, with a gold halo and rainbow tints around. It would have made a good suggestion for a Madonna or saint’s picture.”

A Thunder Storm. Although in the sense in which the foregoing occurrences are regarded, a thunderstorm can hardly be described as a phenomenon, yet the one here noticed, in consequence of its local effects, may be worthy of record. At about half-past six on the morning of June 7th, during a violent thunderstorm, two cottages near to Mr. Wyatt’s residence at Mount Pleasant were struck by lightning and one of them was completely wrecked. The electric discharge appeared to pass down the chimney of one of the houses, and shatter everything in its way. The staircases of the premises were blown up, and nearly all the glass in the windows, as well as the crockeryware was smashed to atoms. It seemed to be marvelous that Mrs. Butchers and four children, who were in their beds, should have been unharmed except the shock resulting from fright. The site of the said cottages was where is now the Congregational Church.

Archery Meetings.

The Queen’s St. Leonards Archers held their first meeting for the season on her Majesty’s birthday anniversary, at which the Ladies’ prize was won by Miss Beecham, and the Gentlemen’s by the Rev. J. Simpson.

At the 2nd meeting, on the 28th of June, Miss Yeoman carried off the Ladies’ prize and Mr. Alfred Burton, the Gentlemen’s. The Visitors’ prize was taken by Miss L. Willan.

The 3rd meeting was held on Saturday, July 28th, at which there was a good attendance, albeit the weather was showery. Miss Brown won the Ladies’ prize, and the Rev. J. Simpson the Gentlemen’s. Miss Sheen and Mr Boger gained the Visitors’ prizes.

The Annual Grand Meeting was held as usual, on Aug. 17th, and was attended by about 300 members and visitors. The day was fine, the beautiful grounds were in good order, [ 154 ]the shooting was excellent and the music was enlivening. A gold bracelet was won by Miss Beecham; a silver cup by Mr. Day; a silver inkstand, by Miss Brown; a walnut inkstand, by Mr. Knapp; the Victoria Challenge prizes, by the Misses Brown and Yeoman, and Messrs. Knapp and Day; the Subscribers’ prizes, by Miss Willan and Mr. Moore; the Best Golds, by Miss Sheen and Rev. J Stills; and the Honorary Stars by Miss Beecham and Mr. Day.

The ball which usually terminated the Grand meeting, took place at night in the Assembly Rooms, and was numerously attended.

The 5th meeting was held on Saturday, Aug. 26th, when Miss Brown carried off the Ladies’ prize, and Mr. Day the Gentlemen’s. The Subscribers prizes were won by Miss Willan and Mr. Boger; and the Honorary Stars by Miss Brown and Mr. Day.

At the 6th meeting, on the 8th of September, the shooting competition was witnessed by a very numerous company. Mrs. Knapp won the Ladies’ prize, and Mr. Knapp, the Gentlemen’s. The Subscribers’ prize was awarded to Miss Willan.

The 7th meeting was held on Sept. 21st, the weather being superbly fine and the company numerous. Miss Yeoman won the Ladies prize and Mr. Day the Gentlemen’s. The Subscribers’ prize was taken by Miss J. Willan. The music produced by Brett’s Brass Band was much appreciated and several times applauded by the visitors.

On the preceding Wednesday there was a bye-meeting, when Miss H. Wood won a prize presented by Mrs. Knapp, and the Rev. J. Simpson, a prize presented by Mr. Knapp.

The very successful season closed with the 8th general meeting on the 6th of October, the Ladies prize being won by Miss Wood and the Gentlemen’s by Mr. Day.

The Parochial Schools

On Sunday, the 18th of February, £22 16s. 6d. was collected, after a sermon by the Rev. W. Bleasby, for the school fund of St. Mary Magdalen’s.

Over 300 children of the St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen Schools were treated by the Rev. J. A. Hatchard on the 1st of June to a roast beef and plum-pudding dinner and a substantial tea at his country residence, Silverhill, where they also engaged in rural sports in an adjoining field. Teachers and the children’s relatives joined the juvenile party.

New Schools. On the 3rd of December, the Rev, W. W. Hume sent out a circular, inviting subscriptions in aid of the fund for new schools for St. Mary Magdalen, the one in St. Leonards originally built for the two parishes being no longer equal to the greatly increased requirement. It was stated that the estimated cost would be £2,600; that £750 had already been raised; and that the schools would have a well arranged kitchen for the benefit of the sick poor. On the following day to a consecration of the new burial ground for Ore parish – namely Dec. 17th, the foundation stone of the Magdalen schools was laid by the Dowager Lady St. John, previously to which, a service was held in the church, the prayers being read by the Rev. W. W. Hume, and the sermon preached by the Bishop of Chichester. The architect for the schools Mr. S. S. Teulon, [ 155 ] of London, and the builder was Mr. J. Howell, of Hastings. The contract price was £2,243. On the foundation stone was inscribed

To promote the Glory of God
by educating the children of the poor,
according to His Word,
and in the doctrine and discipline of the church
of England
this foundation stone
of the schools in connection with the church
of St. Mary Magdalen
is laid
by the hand of Louisa, Dowager Lady St. John
with the benediction
of the Bishop, Ashurst Turner,
Dec. 17th 1855.



In aid of the Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews, sermons were preached in St. Leonards Church on Feb. 26th, by the Rev. Thomas Goodwin Hatchard, M. A., rector of Havant, Hampshire. The offertories amounted to £21 2s. 6d.

At the annual meetings for the Church Missionary Society £21 10s. was collected at St. Leonards, and £20 2s. 7d. at Hastings. The dates of the meetings were March 19th & 20.

On the appointed day of Humiliation (Wednesday, March 21st.) nearly all places of business were closed as though it were Sunday. The collections at the churches were £21 2s. 10d. at St. Leonards, for the endowment of National Schools; (text erased) at St. Mary Magdalen, for (text erased); £30 17s. 5d. at St. Mary’s-in-the-Castle, for the schools of the orphans of soldiers and sailors killed in the war; £8 10s. 4d. at St. Clements’ for the local poor; £7 6s. 6d. at Halton for the poor.

Proposed Improvement Association.

For a society under the title of “The Town’s Improvement Association,” a meeting was convened at the Norman Hotel, St. Leonards, on Friday evening, Oct 12th. The chairman (Mr. T. A. Young) in an introductory speech, remarked that it had been said there was no place round the Kentish or Sussex coast equal to Hastings for natural advantages. She was warmly, healthily and beautifully situated; then why should she rank inferior to Brighton? It was because whilst Nature had done so much for her, art had done so little. At the same time art had done much for Brighton and Nature has done but little. The object of the present proposed association was to cultivate and improve on what Nature has so bountifully given, A combination might, perhaps, bring the railways to better terms in the bringing of visitors; and when they came more amusements were wanted. . They (the meeting) were aware that placards had been posted warning people not to come to Hastings; they were also aware that there had been no illness in [ 156 ]the borough to give colour to such warnings [see page 145. Now, had such an association existed as they were about to form, such reports would at once have been refuted. He would call on Mr. Dawson to read a prospectus which had been prepared. R. Dawson, Esq. said, before he did that he would make a few remarks. Their sole object was to improve the borough and benefit the inhabitants; and in order to embrace all parties, politics would be discarded and religious questions not meddled with. Hastings was not a manufacturing town; it had no tall chimneys and deep mines, but simply depended upon a good supply of visitors for her prosperity. The many houses and apartments to let showed anything but prosperity. In altering this depression a change in the railway arrangements was of the utmost importance. To get this might be an up-hill game, but they must bestir themselves for the purpose. Then, they wanted evening concerts by talented musicians. It would be the aim of the association to watch over the interest of the entire borough, and to co-operate with the Town Council in its efforts to improve the borough – to see to the water supply and an efficient drainage. Mr. Dawson then read the prospectus. In a memorial to the railway companies which he had seen, Hastings was described as superior to all other places except Brighton. Why such exception? Had Brighton such a promenade as Hastings and St. Leonards, or such beach and sands? And what was the surrounding scenery of Brighton compared with that of these towns? He considered Hastings far superior to Brighton, and that the only thing wanted was for the townspeople to go hand in hand, and for the two towns to sink all minor differences and petty jealousies which were prejudicial to both. Then prosperity to the borough at large would follow. Mr. J. E. Butler, in moving a resolution, said they were, doubtless, suffering from a depressed season, and whatever might be the cause of it that cause was aggravated by those obstacles which the proposed association sought to remove. Among other St. Leonards persons who spoke was Mr. Putland, who regretted that gentlemen in Hastings had scarcely a share in the local railways. Plenty of money was invested in foreign railways, whilst no persons lent a hand in the Hastings lines. The resolution was carried unanimously.

The same gentlemen carried their views to Hastings, and as a provisional committee, convened a meeting at the Swan Hotel, where, however, the proposal was not taken up with the same warmth by those who were in attendance. Mr. R. Dawson took the chair, and Mr. Butler, of the Eversfield Library, in moving a resolution, remarked that no towns on the coast could rival Hastings and St. Leonards in natural scenery and salubrity of climate; yet, during the last two or three seasons there had been a great deficiency of visitors. This, he believed, was due to a want of accommodation on the part of the railways; also to the lack of amusements. There was a want of a good music hall for nightly entertainments; also more cordiality instead of the still existing jealousy [ 157 ]between the two towns. It was the wish of this new association to be instrumental in remedying these unfavorable(sic) conditions, and he would there move a resolution pledging the meeting to sympathise and co-operate with the association in carrying out its objects. Mr. J. Rock, jun. said he agreed generally with the objects of the movement, believing, as he did, that there was room for improvement, and that such movement was a good field in which to bring out the energies of new men. Mr. T. A. Young, of St. Leonards seconded the motion, which was carried.

Railway Matters.

Lines Blocked. Owing, it was thought, to the late severe frosts, a fall of earth occurred in the Mountfield tunnel on the 8th of March which caused a stoppage on the railway. After the passing of the first two up-trains from St. Leonards, both lines of rail were blocked on the Hastings and Tunbridge Wells branch, and the traffic could only be continued to and from the tunnel on each side. The first down train arrived at Hastings more than two hours behind time, and the second experienced a similar delay. The accident was far more serious than was at first imagined and took about six months to repair; but in the mean time everything was done to lessen the inconvenience as much as possible. Passengers to Hastings and places below Robertsbridge were conveyed on the Company’s main line as far as Ashford, and thence to their respective destinations on the Ashford and Hastings branch., from which last named town trains ran to Battle. The repaired tunnel was re-opened for traffic about the middle of August.

Sunday Excursions. On the 2nd of September the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company ran the first of four Sunday excursions to St. Leonards and Hastings, the arrangement being for two by that compy. and two by the South Eastern.


A Window Smash. “Guns that shoot round a corner (remarked the Hastings News) are supposed to exist only in Ireland, but on the morning of Feb. 2nd, some unknown person or persons supposed to be shooting at seagulls, used such a curious fowling piece that it broke 19 squares of glass in a house on the Marina, and cracked a twentieth pane.

Accident to Prince Phillipe. This young prince[g] – a member of the French Royal Family then staying at the Victoria Hotel – while mounting his pony on the afternoon of March 12th, the animal reared, threw him off and fell over upon him. A slight wound in the head was fortunately the only result, and under the treatment of Dr. Adey, soon recovered.

Narrow Escape. On the 23rd of February, two young townsmen went to sea in a small boat to do a little shooting. When about 5 miles from land they let the boat drift towards some birds, and whilst one was sitting at the bow waiting  [ 158 ]for his chance, the other raised himself for a look and fell overboard. His companion hearing the splash turned to his help with one of the oars, which the other grasped till he could lay hold of the boat. But on getting in he pulled the side of the boat under water, and if his companion had not had the presence of mind to throw himself back to equipoise the little craft, they might have both been drowned. The luckless wight was so benumbed by wet and cold as to be unabled to row. They however reached St. Leonards with safety.

A Runaway. On the 27th of April as four ladies (daughters of the Rev. W. W. Hume) were driving a light carriage through Warrior square, the horse took fright and threw them out, but the harm they received was a few bruises. The animal then rapidly ran along on the pavement at Eversfield place, and although one or two children in charge of nurses fell down in their haste to get away, no material harm resulted.

A Fractured Leg happened to a gentleman residing at 49 Marina, on Sunday evening, Sept. 9th by his falling backward over the parade wall whilst looking up at the sky (The Hastings accidents are described in the next chapter).

Robberies and other Occurrences.

Some live ducks and fowls were stolen on Sunday night, Oct 28th, from Mr. Price’s, in Gensing ​road​; also from Mr. Smith’s in the St. Leonards Caves. On the same Sunday night, two legs of pork and a leg of mutton were stolen from the Hastings Market. On one night in November, a sheep belonging to butcher Waghorne, of Castle street was killed, skinned and carried off by some unknown thief from Mr. Troupe’s field near Warrior square.

The Martello Towers were at this time undergoing repairs, preparatory to their being mounted with heavy guns, those in this district being entrusted to John Howell, a local builder.

Newspapers. The Act for legallising(sic) unstamped newspapers came into operation on the 30th of June, when the Hastings and St. Leonards Penny Press, a monthly publication, was transformed into the Hastings and St. Leonards Gazette, published weekly. It existed for 42 years.

The Flower Show. The first of the year’s Horticultural Show took place in the St. Leonards Subscription Garden on the 3rd of July, the exhibits being good and the day remarkably fine.

Troops en Route. On the 29th of March, 597 rank and file of the Queen’s Own Staffordshire Militia, with 21 officers, 49 women, 16 children and 24 infants passed through Hastings and St. Leonards per railway, from Dover to Portsmouth, en route for Malta.

Mr. Charles Blake of St. Leonards exhibited a model of an ingenious invention to prevent the disastrous effects in a collision of vessels at sea.

Interesting Discovery. On the 30th of Aug. while Mr. John Howell’s men were excavating earth on the west side of Warrior Square, they found a quantity of broken pottery, and about 40 old coins, supposed to be Roman.


  1. This was Cholera, the third such 'outbreak'. The disease had been in London during 1853-1854 and was one of the turning points with regards to fighting the disease when an outbreak was pinpointed as being around a particular water supply - Wikipedia B​road​ Street Cholera Outbreak - Editor
  2. Most likely to be 'Clotilde' -Transcriber
  3. Partant pour la Syrie” is a French patriotic song written around 1807 - Transcriber
  4. Not sure why he is calling the planet Herschel, assuming it is Uranus, as that name became universal in 1850. When Herschel discovered it in 1781 it was originally named after King George III, (Georgium Sidus) but it was subsequently renamed Uranus to follow the mythology theme. - Transcriber
  5. a former spelling of Eskimo - Transcriber
  6. A “Brocken spectre” is the magnified shadow of an observer cast upon clouds opposite the Sun’s direction. - Transcriber
  7. Prince Phillipe d’Orléans, August 1838-September 1894, so would have been 16 at the time. - Transcriber

Transcribed by Sally Morris

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