Brett Volume 5: Chapter LI - St. Leonards 1854

From Historical Hastings

Transcriber’s note

Volume 5 - Chapter LI - St. Leonards 1854

Contents: Transactions of the Commissioners and parish offers
Appointment of a Burial Board
Difficulties in the search of site for a cemetery
Severe weather and a trying winter
The distressed poor
Sudden deaths
The Baltic fleet
The Jasper gun-boat destroyed by fire off St.Leonards and Hastings
Collections for those engaged in war
Horticultural shows
A sleigh ride in the snowy streets
Railways blocked
Fall of Sebastopol
Archery meetings
The autumn season
Public bands
The St.Leonards Mechanics' Institution – Lectures in connection therewith
Postal arrangements
An attempt to get the St. Leonards post-office abolished
For and against memorials thereupon
Humorous and serious letters concerning the same.

Like the year 1848, the one of 1854 was a very important epoch in the annals of Europe, the most prominent feature being the prolonged war with Russia. And not only was it an anxious and energetic time for the British nation in general, but it was also one of more than usual activity (as the following pages will show) in our own immediate locality.

The St. Leonards Commissioners

At the meeting on the 24th of March, the Commissioners received the Committee’s report to the effect that the Surveyor had been instructed to attend to the repairs of the sea wall, and that 1/6 per week had been added to Crouch’s and Miller’s wages during the high price of provisions.
At the June quarterly meeting, a coping to the sea wall was ordered to be done as Mr. Burton might think proper, and the groynes also to be attended to.
Finding that Mr. Smith had not drained his houses at Stanhope Place into the Commissioner’s sewer, as per agreement with the Local Board of Health in Sept. last, the Commissioner’s Clerk was ordered to write to the Town Clerk on the subject.
Mr. James Mann having removed the Commissioners wall at the east end of East Ascent and built on the site of it, it was ordered that he be told to desist from such ​building​, and to attend to the next meeting, of the Commissioners, the plan in the mean time to be sent to Mr. Gant. Mr. Mann being present, it was resolved that he be permitted to use the site, the ​building​ not to exceed 22 Pg.42 feet in height from the stone pavement at the south-west end of the Commercial Hotel, and that Mr. Mann erect and maintain a urinal on the south-west side of the hotel, without any claim on the Commissioners for the pavement in front of the hotel and the houses.

Commissioners' Meetings. Parochial Meetings

At a special meeting on the 12th of September Hughes and Hunter’s tender of £36 13s. 5d. was accepted for repairing the East Ascent wall.

At the quarterly general meeting, on the 29th of September, it was ordered that the drainage of Mr. Robt. Young’s five houses, 117 to 121 Marina, to be connected with the drain under No. 118. Also that a York stone paving to be laid down in front of the said houses, the owner paying £15 of the expense. A pavement for the late Dr. Harwood’s houses was also ordered to be laid down. James Mann, as agent for James Smith, promised to attend to the drainage of Stanhope place.
At a special meeting in December, instructions were given for a new public sewer, 9” in diameter, to be put down from the existing drain, opposite Hughes and Hunter’s new house in Maze Hill, to intercept at a convenient spot, the sewer, south of North Lodge. Also a similar drain from the sewer at Mr. Oak’s residence known as “Thatched Cottage” to within 100 feet of the S. W. corner of North Villa.
The last general meeting of that year was on the 26th of December, when Mr. Smith was removed from the office of coal meter, and John Bray, with W Bennett appointed in his stead. Mr. John Bayley of Hastings, was also appointed collector of coal dues, to succeed the resignation of Mr. Painter.

Vestry Meetings – St. Leonards Parish

Burial Board. At a parish meeting held on the 10th of March, it was resolved “That this parish write with such of the other parishes within the borough as may be willing to concur for the purpose of procuring a burial ground for the common use of such parishes; and that Messrs. Jas. Mann, John Peerless and William Payne be the appointed Burial Board, “ of whom one third shall go out of office yearly, and such Board to have full power to appoint such reasonable salaries, wages and allowances for the clerk, officers and servants as they may think expedient.” Also resolved “That the situation of the ground selected as a site for the cemetery on the Priory Farm appears to be well adapted, and as approved by this vestry.” “Also that it is the opinion that the most convenient and equitable mode for bearing the expense will be by taking the rateable value of the property assessed to the poor rate as the basis of contribution.” Further “resolved that the Burial Board take immediate steps for the purchase of the ground, with the necessary approaches on such terms, as can be arranged.”

Officers Elected. The overseers named for the year at the meeting on the 29th of March were Wm Payne, Richd. Lamb, Richd Gausden and Chas. Farncomb; assessors, Jos. Yarroll and John Carey (inbounds); Chas. Farncomb and Wm Draper (outbound); Vestry Clerk, John Phillips

Assessment. Resolved that Sir Woodbine Parish’s assessment be reduced to £225 gross rental.

Vestry Meetings - St. Leonards & St. Mary Magdalen

The Cemetery Site. At the vestry meeting on Aug 3rd. after a discussion on another site selected by the Hastings parishes, it was resolved that the distance of the ground selected by the Burial Board, as well as the difficulty of access from the St. Leonards parish, compelled a disapproval of the chosen site, and that if a majority of the parishes decided on purchasing the ground on Blackland’s Farm the members of the Board from St. Leonards parish withdraw and take no further part therein.

Adjusting Assessments. At the vestry meeting in October, after passing a poor-rate at 4d. and a borough rate at 3d., the parishioners resolved to increase the assessment of 100 to 103 Marina from £30 to £40; also to rate 104 at £50, and to reduce 110,111, 113 & 115 to £26 each.

Vestry Meetings – St. Mary Magdalen, 1854

Burial Board. At a meeting of the Magdalen parishioners on the 9th of March, the following resolution was passed:- “That increased burial ground for this parish is absolutely necessary to be provided, and shall be provided under the powers of the Act to amend the laws concerning the burial of the dead in England beyond the limits of the Metropolis, &c. That this parish shall write with other parishes willing to concur for procuring a burial ground for the common use under the provisions of the said Act. That Messrs Joseph Bannister, Charles Pain and Stephen Putland be appointed the Burial Board on behalf of the parish. “ &c (the remainder of the resolution worded the same as that of St. Leonards vestry meeting). Ten parishioners signed the vestry book. Parish Officers. At the meeting on March 9th, the persons named for overseers were J. Bannister, N. Parks, W. Hunter, Thos. Burgess and Jas. Ball. The elected assessors were Joseph Yarroll and John Carey. C. N. Levett was re-appointed collector of the borough rate. The Assessment Committee were S. Putland, J. Nicholas, F. Tree, Sam Woodgate, C. J. How, C. N. Levett and Hy Hughes. The parish bounds were ordered to be perambulated on the following Thursday. Seventeen persons signed the vestry book.

Rates. On the 21st of April twelve parishioners met at the “Warriors Gate” and passed a poor-rate at 3d and a borough rate at 3d.

Disapproval. On August 3rd a vestry meeting was held at the Saxon hotel, attended by 16 persons, with S. Putland in the chair, when a resolution, disapproving of the site on Blackland’s Farm, and worded in precisely the same manner as the one at the St. Leonards vestry, was passed.

A Poor Rate at 5d. was the only business transacted at the meeting held at the Commercial Inn, on the 8th of September.

Searching for a Cemetery site

The Burial Board.

The first meeting of the united Burial Board was held on the 17th of March, when Mr. J. Phillips officiated as Clerk. This gentleman said that Mr. Grainger, a medical officer of the General Board of Health, had approved of Pg.44 the selected site on an elevated portion of the Priory farm, the price of which was £100 an acre. This was considered to be very cheap, although land could be got near Hollington at £75 an acre. Public statistics founded on experience, showed that the average space for a coffin was 28 square feet, or 7 feet by 4 feet, which was at the rate of 1200 bodies per acre. Supposing they had to provide burial for a population of 20,000, the deaths at 2 per cent. per annum (which was the observed ratio in boroughs), would be 400 a year. These would fill one third of an acre; it would therefore take 7 acres to bury 400 bodies annually for 21 years, and then it would be safe to bury again in the same ground. In fact they could bury over again in five years, but that could only be done in common graves. On these datas, Mr. Grainger thought 14 acres would be sufficient, unless Hastings increased as fast as Brighton. Mr. Langham, (who was an hour late) enquired if they were aware of the great legal difficulties in the way of purchase? Three-fourths of the land rested with the trustees of Lord Cornwallis, and the other fourth with the trustees of Lady Waldegrave, the latter being subject to a Chancery suit [of no effect] and the former belonging to an infant. The Clerk said the trustees on both sides were consenting parties to the sale of the land, so that there would be no opposition. Mr. Putland, of St. Mary Magdalen, said the subject had been gone into by the vestries, and on his motion the meeting was adjourned. With regard to the trustees’ consent, it had been resolved on the 9th of January “That a request should be made to the trustees of the Countess of Waldegrave and of the late Earl Cornwallis to allow the parishes to apply to the Attorney General for an order from the Court of Chancery to proceed with the sale of the ground on the Priory estate, pending, and without prejudice to, the suit of the Charity Trustees versus Waldegrave. The Burial Board again met on the 24th of March and confirmed the selection of fifteen acres on the elevated portion of the Priory farm and directed the necessary steps to be taken to complete the purchase. This proceeding, as has been shown by the vestry meetings of St. Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen, was approved by those parishes. But at a Burial Board meeting on the 12th of May, a communication from the trustees of the late Lord Cornwallis, indicated the impossibility of getting possession of the Priory-farm land, and it was then decided to advertise for a site. At a meeting on the 27th of June the Horntye field, comprising ten acres, was offered by the Magdalen Charity trustees at £2000, which, with conveyance and other expenses, would require an additional £200 or thereabouts. Another offer on behalf of Mrs. Sayer was made, consisting of 10 or 14 acres of Blacklands farm at £150 an acre clear of other costs. The eastern parishes were in favour of the Blackland’s site, and a committee of the Burial Board drew up a report, recommending the same, and sent it to all the Pg.45 parishes for their approval or otherwise. The western parishes, considering the much greater distance than the Priory site and the very difficult approach to it from St. Leonards, decided not to support the choice of ground, and hence the resolutions at the vestry meetings of St. Mary Magdalen and St. Leonards to withdraw their representatives from the Burial Board; at the same time thanking the Committee for their ably written report. In the mean time the pending suit in Chancery against Earl Waldegrave, as the holder of the Elsworth’s Charity land on the Priory farm estate from his having married the widow of Edward Milward, was decided in his favour, and the “Inforation” was consequently dismissed. As the Burial Board was now divided, the further proceeding will be described in the next chapter, under “Hastings”

A Trying Winter - Much Distress

Severe Weather.

As a great contrast to the preceding winter which produced raspberries and wild roses, the year 1854 came in with weather of a very severe type. On the night of the 3rd of January a heavy fall of snow blocked many of the railways, including those of the South-Coast and South-Eastern. And on the same night the cold was very intense, the thermometer at Highfield Observatory, near Nottingham, falling to 8 degrees below zero, and only two degrees above the exceptionally low temperature in 1820, which a correspondent of The Times stated was 10 degrees below zero. During the frost and snow of the said night the Staplehurst mail which was due at 3-6 a.m., did not arrive till 8.45 a.m., and the East-coast mail had to leave Folkestone by horse and man, the ​road​ being impassable for a cart. It came on to Rye and there took train, thus reaching Hastings at 2.50 p.m., instead of 8.20 a.m.

A Sleigh Ride. Favoured by the frost and snow, the Hon. George Waldegrave got Messrs. Rock and Son to hastily construct for him a one-horse sleigh, on which he rode through the streets and on the contiguous ​road​s, with the jingling of bells.

Skating and Cricketing. At Coghurst, on the 2nd of January the beautiful lake in front of the mansion was 7 feet thick with ice, whereon about sixty skaters sought amusement. A cricket match was also played on the ice.

An Eagle Shot. The low temperatures caused a mortality among the feathered tribe, and even an eagle became the prey of the fowler on the Eversfield estate, but was not caught although shot.

Frost Accident. Thomas Balding, a post-office employee, slipped near the Ecclesbourne Station and fractured one leg on Jan. 1st. He was carried home by six coastguards.

The Distressed Poor. The severity of the weather had a distressing effect on the poor, more particularly on those of St. Clement’s and All Saints, for whom the Rev. J. A. Hatchard, of St. Leonards, exerted himself in collecting the means of relief. What else was done for the poor under their trying condition is told in the next chapter.

Accidents - Sudden Deaths - Martello Towers

A Fatal Accident occurred to Charles Mepham, aged 29, an engine-driver on the South-Eastern line of railway, on the 27th of March. He fell from the engine unperceived between St. Leonards and Crowhurst and a part of the goods train went over his body. He left a widow and four children.

A Serious Accident, on the 11th of March, befell Mrs. Charlotte Gutsell (of whom the present writer usually purchased eggs and butter). While crossing Norman ​road​ she was knocked down and run over by a horse and cart driven by one of Mr. Chester’s men and very seriously hurt. Dr. Duke and surgeon Adams were soon in attendance, and surgeon Watts, of Battle, was sent for, who had the poor woman conveyed in a fly to her own house at Westfield.

A Collision. On the 3rd of June, as a lad, with a donkey-chair was turning the corner of the Saxon hotel, he collided with a horse and fly. The horse reared and the donkey-chair was nearly demolished, the lad at the same time being severely cut and bruised.

A Fractured Leg resulted to a boy named Parfitt on Oct. 3rd through running as fast as possible with a hand-cart down London Road and colliding with a gentleman’s carriage, which knocked him down and ran over his legs. He was carried into Hempsted’s (chemist’s) shop where there happened to be Dr. Duke, Dr. Adey, and surgeon Dr. Marks, who, of course saw that the injured boy was attended to. Hastings accidents next chapter.

Sudden Deaths.

William Bishop, a young labourer of 17 years, died suddenly in St. Leonards, on the 14th of March, from an affection of the brain.
Death of Mr. Capell. On the 6th of October an inquest was held on the body of Mr. Capell, 42 years of age, and chief boatman of 39 Martello tower, at Bopeep. From the evidence given, it appeared that at night, when going home he would have gone up the steep railway bank and over a bridge, and in so doing might have slipped or fallen or rolled into the stream, about 16 feet below. Lieut Gill said the deceased was a remarkably steady man; also sober and intelligent; very attentive to his duties, and that by his death he (the Lieut.) had lost a valuable servant. He left a widow and children, one of whom (a son) afterwards became the talented Monseignor Capell. (The Hastings particular deaths are recorded in the next chapter.)

The Towers. The death of Mr. Capell and his connection with the Towers is a reminder that the Martello towers were at the time being put in a more efficient condition , and that in some of them soldiers were taking the place of those coastguards who had been drafted to serve in the Baltic fleet.

The Baltic Fleet - The Jasper Blown up - "Fall of Sebastopol" & c.

The “Baltic Fleet” as it was called, passed St. Leonards, on Sunday morning, March 12th, and as there was a thick mist at the time, the many persons on the parade who were watching for it could only see a portion of it, and that portion but dimly; but, as shewing the advantage of high ground, the present writer by looking out of the uppermost window of his house at nearly the top of Norman ​road​, was able to see every ship distinctly and to accurately count the number.

The Jasper Gunboat, which was also on its way to the Baltic on the 15th of May, caught fire off Hastings and St. Leonards, and ultimately exploded. She had been an old paddle-wheel packet, and was hastily fitted out as a gun boat with three guns. She carried 7 officers and 25 men. After two hours’ struggle to subdue the flames, the crew quitted the vessel in three boats, after which the Jasper blew up.

The French Fleet had already sailed from the Downs to join Sir Chas Napier, thus to increase the Baltic force to 70 ships, 30,000 men and 3000 guns. The doing of this powerful fleet in the Baltic, as well as the fleet at Sebastopol and the progress of the war in general were chronicled in Brett’s Penny Press (with illustrations) which was established that year, and the first newspaper issued from St. Leonards.

Fall of Sebastopol. The Rev. J. A. Hatchard, who, with the assistance of the Mayor, collected a large quantity of old linen, beside money, and sent the same to the army in the Crimea, was able to announce from the pulpit on Sunday morning, Oct. 31st that Sebastopol had fallen; and after a sermon by the reverend gentlemen, a collection was made for the relief of the families of British soldiers and sailors serving in the East, the amount collected being £65. The news afterwards proved to be untrue.

Other Collections. In addition to the £65 mentioned above, Mr. Hatchard largely aided the collection for the Patriotic fund, which in Hastings and St. Leonards, by the 1st of December amounted to £1,150. Also, after a sermon in the St. Leonards church on Nov. 26th, £36 for the schools. At St. Mary Magdalen church on the 1st of October, £86 was collected towards the expense of ​building​ the church steeple. For the augmentation of the ​building​ fund of this church, £160 was realised by a fancy sale at Fairlight, chiefly promoted by the Countess Waldegrave. This was altogether a novel undertaking. It was held on Sept. 6th, a day that was beautifully fine. On the east side of Fairlight Place, a spacious marquee was erected , within which there were stalls attended by Countess Waldegrave, Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave, Mrs. Robertson, the Mrses[a]. Hume, Mrs. Batley, and the Mrses. Paget. The naturally charming spot was rendered additionally attractive by a display of flags, a band of music, Mr. Banks’s large telescope, Electrical apparatus &c. Mr. Batley, the then resident at Fairlight Place, entertained about 60 guests at dinner, and the proceeds of the “fair” amounted, as before stated, to £160, including £42 taken at the gate.

Archery Meetings - The Autumn Season &c.

The collections for the Church Missionary Society during the year amounted to £758, and a net balance of £744 was remitted to the parent society.

Archery Meetings.

The Queen’s birthday day was celebrated as usual by the Queen’s Royal St. Leonards Archers with the opening matches of the season. The day was remarkably fine and the shooting was good. Mr. A. Flood won the Gentleman’s prize, and Mrs. V. Bartlett the Lady’s prize. The Honorary stars were obtained by Mr. A. Burton and Mrs. Bartlett. The second meeting was held on June 24th, with the accompaniment of fine weather and a German band. The Rev. H. Petley won the Gentlemen’s prize, and Mrs. H. Wood the Ladies’ prize. At the third meeting, on July 22nd – another remarkably fine day, Mrs. Brown took the Ladies prize, and Mr. A. Burton the Gentlemen’s. The Grand Archery Fête in celebration of the Duchess of Kent’s birthday, was held on the 17th of August, as usual, but as the afternoon was wet, the greater part of the shooting was deferred till the next day, which was very fine. The residents and visitors assembled in large numbers, and a band of music was in attendance. The silver cup was won by Mr. Day, and the gold bracelet by Mrs. Garth. The Victoria Challenge prizes were awarded to Mrs. Bramley, Mrs. Knapp, Mr. Willis and Mr. Knapp. The prizes for visitors were carried off by Mrs. Birch and Mr. Hutchens. The prizes for the most central hits were given to Mrs. Yeoman and Mr. Willis. The Archery ball in the evening was fashionably attended. The 5th of the season’s meetings was held on Aug. 26th when two handsome gold and turquoise brooches, presented by Mr. Robertson, M. P., were respectively won by Mrs. Trower and Mrs. Brown. The Society’s prizes were won by Mrs. Yeoman and Mr. Day. The sixth and last meeting for the season was held on the 9th of September, the successful competitors at the targets being Mrs. Brown, Mr. Brown and Mr. Keighley.

The Autumn Season.

The rapid disappearance of “apartments” bills, and greater length of the visitors’ lists gave indications of a good fashionable season, and among the arrivals at the Victoria Hotel was the Prince of Joinville. The Mayor having called and left his card, the Prince desired him to be ushered into his presence, and, in a courteous manner told him that he was not come to St. Leonards so much for his health as to enjoy himself by returning to a scene which excited so many pleasurable recollections of the past.

Public Bands.

For the delectation of visitors and others, Herr Klee’s German Band of 10 performers, was engaged for the season to play both in St. Leonards within and in St. Leonards without the Archway – that is to say from Verulam place to the West Marina.

Petitions, Lectures etc.

Horticultural Show. The autumn show of the Hastings and St. Leonards Horticultural Society was held on the 19th of September in the picturesque Subscription Gardens at St. Leonards. The weather was damp, raw and chilly, which, doubtless, militated against the attendance, and, consequently, the recipts(sic), the society being financially a loser by about £10. The summer exhibition, on June 23rd was held in the Wellington-square garden at Hastings, and although the area was much more limited and less inviting, the show was more successful in consequence of fine weather.

Petitions, signed by 246 persons in St. Leonards, and 514 in Hastings, for closing public houses on Sundays, were presented to the House of Commons by P. F. Robertson, M.P. on March 20th.


“Man, as a Subject of Education” was the title of a lecture in connection with the Mechanics’ Institution, delivered by Mr. Robert Mark, of St. Leonards, on Feb. 15th.

“Self Education” was the topic of an excellent lecture, also in connection with the same Institution, given in the Assembly Rooms on the 22nd of Feb, by the Rev. W. W. Hume.

“History Viewed in the Progress of Civilization” formed the subject of another entertaining lecture on behalf of the Mechanics’ Institution. The lecturer was R. H. S. Smith Esq., B.A. the place was the Assembly Rooms, and the date was the last day of Feby. The lecture was illustrated with coloured diagrams and was of an interesting and instructive nature throughout. The President (A Burton, Esq.) occupied the chair, and was supported by Vice-presidents J. A. Hatchard, P. O. Callaghan, Esq and Capt Hull. Among the distinguished company were the Marquis and Marchioness of Campden, the Earl of Brecknock, Lord George and the Ladies Pratt, General and Lady Mary Fox, the Ladies Sidney, the Marchioness of Abercorn and family, Sir W. and Lady Geary and family, Major-Gen. Sir John Eustace, Baron and Baroness Testerferrata(sic), Rev. W. W. Hume, Mrs. & Mrs. Wagner, and numerous respectable inhabitants, besides officers and members of the Institution.

“Electricity” (with experiments) was a theme on which Mr. John Banks dilated in connection with the Mechanics Institution on the 8th of March.

“Lyric Poetry”. On this subject another excellent lecture under the auspices of the said Institution was delivered in the Assembly Rooms by the Rev. Francis Garden. The lecture defined the lyric as poetry of emotion, and its primary aim as the expression of human feeling. Lyrics, like the emotions they express, should be variable, nervous, tense and emphatic. Simile was used by the epic poet, metaphor by the lyric poet. The lyric had a high rank, both intellectually and morally. The greater part of Scripture was lyrical. Among the ancients the most conspicuous was Pindar. The chorus of the Greek drama was also lyrical, and the Spanish drama itself was lyrical. The reverend lecturer then went through the lists of English poets, commenting on them as he passed on, and he particularly mentioned the late Thos. Pg.50 Campbell, whom he had the pleasure of knowing as a man of small stature, with perceptive faculties largely developed, eyes unusually lustrous, and a mouth whose movements were extremely nervous. At the conclusion of the lecture the chairman (P. O. Callaghan, Esq.) also made a few remarks on the late poet Campbell, and said he had found out, after much searching, that for five years he had resided at a house in the South Colonnade now occupied by Mr. Parks. The audience comprised several members of the nobility, and many of the gentry and principal inhabitants.

Lectures Continued - Mechanics Institution

“Geology” was the next lecture, hearing of which attracted a good audience of members of the Institution and other inhabitants of the town on the 21st of November, the subject being well handled and the lecturer being Mr. Macintosh.

Eastern Habitations, as a lecture, and the last of the year in connection with the Mechanics’ Institution, attracted a large audience on the 12th of Dec. Nearly forty lectures were delivered in the two towns during the year, notwithstanding the absorbing interest manifested in the war with Russia.
The Hastings lectures are dealt with in the next chapter.

The St. Leonards Mechanics Institution

The full details of this association and its rise and progress from its commencement in 1848 to its jubilee in 1898, are intended to be given in a separate History, its successful survival of several kindred institutions in the borough being deemed worthy of such distinction. The associative items which follow are, consequently, an enumeration merely of sundry occurrences. On the 31st of January the Committee purchased at an auction sale, for £505 an unfinished house in Norman ​road​, that had been the property of Mr. Jas. Smith, an early member of the Institution.

A quarterly meeting was held on the 9th of February, when an encouring(sic) report was read by the secretary, Mr. R. F. Davis. At the quarterly meeting on the 11th of May, another long and interesting report was read, showing the number of members to be 184, and the financial position to be better than at any time since its formation. On the 20th of September, the Institution being installed in its new premises, extended its advantages by passing a resolution to admit subscribers at 6d a week, and visitors at 1d. a day. The 6th annual soirée was held on the 14th of November, but owing to unfavourable weather there was a loss of a few pounds, which amount some of the members voluntarily drew from their own pockets. At a general meeting on the 23rd of Nov. the number of members was reported to be 193, and the balance of cash to be £15 6s. 8d. in favour of the society. With three exceptions the president and twelve vice-presidents, were all gentlemen of independent means.

The Post-Office Contention


Robbery on Open Day

On the afternoon of the 24th of August a robbery took place apparently in the following manner. The thief descended the area of 27 Eversfield place, which was unoccupied, cut out a frame of glass, unlocked the door from the inside, went to the top of the empty house on to the roof and over to the roof of No. 26, whence he entered that house by an attic window and descended to a room beneath. He there wrenched open a dressing-case, and carried off jewels worth about £100, and then retraced his way through the unoccupied house and got clearly away.


Although St. Leonards men might not surpass the ingenuity of the thief above described, some of them were at least his equal in more honest devices. One of these was Mr. Charles Blake, who invented a novel method of preventing draughs(sic) in doors. There was also another useful invention by a St. Leonards man in the same year, the description of which has got mislaid.

Postal Matters

The commencement of a secretly cherished ambition of a few persons to claim the portion of St. Leonards eastward of the Archway as Hastings was by an attempt to get the general post-office of the within limits of the Archway abolished. To that post-office the without district (which had also been named St. Leonards from its commencement) had been attached for 23 years the postal and other services, which by no other arrangement could have been so convenient either to the Post-office authorities or to the inhabitants. The contention over this question was even more prolonged than the disagreement over those of the Local Board map and the cemetery sites; as it led to a bitter feeling between the two towns, much space in this History will be required for the arguments for and against, as well as for the elucidation of the real bearings of the case. It will be shewn in the next chapter that a public meeting was held at the Town Hall for the purpose of removing the Hastings post-office to the Priory and to extinguish the St. Leonards post-office altogether – the latter to my knowledge being exactly 1½ miles distant from the former. The said public meeting was the outcome of a small number of persons , including the Mayor (Mr. Clift) who, at a private meeting at the Castle hotel, formed a committee of four to represent to the Postmaster-General “That there being two post-offices – one in St. Leonards and one in Hastings - was a great inconvenience, particularly to Hastings.” The said representation was in the form of a memorial to the Postmaster General, signed by the Mayor, Mr. Ross, Mr Paine (a reporter) and others. A counter-memorial was immediately dispatched to the same official from St. Leonards, far more numerously signed than the one sent out by the Mayor and his friends, as was also another counter memorial even from Hastings itself. In reference to the St. Leonards me Pg.52 morial, under the signature of A Resident, a correspondent of the Hastings News, wrote to the effect that a petition to the Postmaster-General was being signed by the people of St. Leonards, deprecating the removal of the post-office from that place on the ground of inconvenience being likely to occur. The writer stated that when the towns were a mile apart [a mile and a half between the two offices] there might have been some reason on the side of St. Leonar11ds, but now that they were indissolubly one town [one borough, as at first, but certainly not one town], the adherence to the original plan of having two post-offices was both incongruous and inconvenient. [Neither incongruous nor inconvenient; for, whereas by having only one office, even though such office were central, there would have been twice the distance to the extremes of east and west than there would be between two post-offices in the same area, and a similar disparity in other directions.] “The consequence of the present arrangements” (continued the writer) “ is that those who have resided in one part of the borough and afterwards moved across the imaginary boundary line, are subject to the inconvenience of a complete change in the channels of postal communication, and in some cases a day is lost, and double postage has to be paid for redirection of letters. [The so-called “imaginary” boundary had been a well-defined one for over twenty years, and if persons moved out of Hastings into St. Leonards or vice versa, I, as having been in the Hastings post-office for three years and acquainted with all its details, am in a position to contradict the writer as to double postage being charged except in some peculiar case in which the receiver himself was responsible. The writer’s statement of a day’s delay was also an error, as there never needed to be more than a few hours. If a letter was addressed Adelaide place, Seymour place, Eversfield place or Norman ​road​, Hastings instead of St. Leonards, or even “St. Leonards Hastings,” and thus got into the Hastings post-bag, it would be sent on, a few hours later, from Hastings, after the arrival of the East-coast mail. Under any condition the inconvenience of two post-offices – supposing such to exist – must have been far less than it would be if there were only one. Fancy the inconvenience of having to go two miles from the west end of St. Leonards to the one general office at George street, for post-office orders, poste restante letters, and enquiries on postal matters generally, instead of the shorter distance to the sought-to-be abolished one in St. Leonards. True, the pro-abolition party sought at the same time to get the Hastings post-office nearer to themselves at York ​building​s or Wellington place, but that would have been no compensation for the loss of the St. Leonards office, whilst even that change was strenuously opposed by the greater portion of the people at Hastings. The prospective inconvenience resulting from the abolition of the St. Leonards office, was to some extent illustrated by a letter which appeared in the same newspaper relative to the one (only) police office. The writer of that letter said – “I could scarcely credit it, when Pg.53 asking for some information about our police force, I was told that we have only one policeman on duty from six in the morning till nine at night on the west side of York ​building​s, which includes all St. Leonards down to Bopeep, a distance which, in starting from Hastings, prevents his completing his beat in less than four hours”]

It may be further explained, as helping to make clear the foregoing bracketed interpolation, that it being the rule in post-offices to read upward the addresses on letters, it follows that any letter with the address “Eversfield place, Hastings”, would be put in the Hastings letter-bag, and if addressed “Eversfield place , St. Leonards”, it would be put into the St. Leonards bag, and would be duly delivered from the St. Leonards post-office, the whole of the district west of the Infirmary or Hospital being then, as now, in the St. Leonards postal delivery. If addressed “Hastings” the letter would be regarded as “missent”, and would not be delivered until a few hours after the earlier delivery. This arrangement was well known to the inhabitants, as having existed for many years; yet one or two persons who were among the agitators for abolishing the St. Leonards office persisted in having their letters and newspapers addressed as “Eversfield place, Hastings”, with the object of showing existing arrangements to be inconvenient. It did not take a long time for the post-officials to discover both the move and the actors therein; and, as after events proved, the officials were staunch in their determination not to be influenced by such proceedings. Whilst, however, rejecting in toto the demand for one general office in the borough – and that at Hastings – instead of the two then existing, the Postmaster-General granted a second day mail, whereby all letters posted in St. Leonards for Hastings before one o’ clock, would be delivered the same afternoon, and vice versa. But this additional facility was not welcomed by the agitators for only one office. What they had secretly planned – as will plainly appear further on – was to claim as Hastings that which for over twenty years had been known as St. Leonards, without any protestation, and without any legal power to alter it. The postal arrangements were such as to support the original appellation; hence the desire of the little band of autocrats to remove what they regarded as an obstacle in their way, and by the extinction of the St. Leonards post-office to compel the coveted district to be served from Hastings. The contention went on, and a Hastings correspondent of the News, denounced the action of the originators. In a letter dated June 25th, 1854, the said correspondent, calling himself “Up Street” wrote – “Sir, - the complications of the Post-office movement seem to be endless. No sooner have the disagreeable discussions on the removal of the office westward appear to have drooped a little, than another more serious affray looms in the future still further west. Report has it that our new office is to embrace the district between Verulam place and the Archway in addition to what it had before. Hereupon the St. Leonards people start up alarmed. Nor can we wonder at it. Why unnecessarily stir up strife and rob St. Leonards of the most growing part of its acknowledged territory – namely the ​building​s Pg.54 eastward of the Archway – Grand parade, London ​road​, Norman ​road​, North street &c. Such a division cannot be for the benefit of us eastenders, and will only serve still further to embroil the wards in unseemly contention.” Also in the Hastings News of July appeared the following:-

“A Territorial Question”.
– “Sir – Sir – Dear Sir! Pray come to the rescue! We are in an awful predicament. We scarcely know where we are. We live in Norman ​road​, in London ​road​, in Stanhope place, in Grand parade, in Warrior square &c. &c; We always thought we were in St. Leonards; but, only think, everything is being turned upside down. You have heard or read of a famous “Wizard of the South” calling himself “Unrivalled Newman”. Well, he has come down here, and with a wave of his wand he has completely bewitched us. St. Leonards is to be left destitute – yes, destitute, Sir; is it not shameful? St, Leonards is to have no railway station, no Mechanics’ Institution, no Archery grounds, no National school, no brewery, no Wesleyan chapel, no Norman ​road​, no Saxon hotel, no Grand parade, its all going to Hastings – going eastward – going backward! Talk of retrogression, Mr. Editor, only think of this! Doesn’t it make you wild? Think of the severance of social ties. These are two excellent neighbours living next door to each other up near the Horse and Groom, and one is to bundled off to Hastings, while the other sticks at St. Leonards. Then there is Mercatoria (query Lavatoria), Sir! Talk of squaring the circle; why sir, our square is to be cut into two, and one bit is going to stop at St. Leonards , while the other is going to Hastings. Talk, too, of emigration and immigration; why, there is to be such in this neighbourhood as Mrs. Chisholm never dreamt of. Whole streets are going at once. The cry is “still they go!” Pray, sir, what is to be done? We shan’t know who’s who nor what’s what. Who’s to tell whether anybody is Hastings or St. Leonards? A respectable friend of mine has suggested that all the Hastings Houses should be painted blue to distinguish them from St. Leonards. If I say on my card that I live at Hastings, people will never find me; and if I announce myself as living in St. Leonards, my letters will drop into the St. Leonards bag, and have to get into the Hastings bag before they get to me. Talk of centralization, whoever gave the despot of St. Martin’s-le-Grand power to change the name of a place? Perhaps we shall be called Bexhill or Bopeep next. Then only think that when letters and newspapers and periodicals and what not come by post for the Mechanics’ Institution, who is to know whether they are for High Street or Norman ​road​? And won’t the same sort of thing happen to all sorts of people? And won’t there be a lot of beer shops sent off to Hastings? And won’t St. Leonards look funny in the newspapers? And won’t there be all sorts of odd mistakes, and all sorts of queer alterations, and no end of falling out and blowing up? Ah! Those up-towners, won’t they laugh in their sleeve? Aren’t they just pleased? But we will pay them off for this, some day. But I must not say too much, or I shall become desperate.

— Yours excitedly, Paterfamilias”
P.S. I can’t send my address, for I don’t know where I live; but it’s somewhere near the Archway.”

The foregoing humorous letter to the News from someone at St. Leonards and a seriously worded one from Hastings to that same journal were evidently written on the rumour that although the Postmaster-General declined to abolish the St. Leonards post-office, he, nevertheless, intended to place the disputed territory in the Hastings postal district. Such rumour had no foundation in fact; for notwithstanding that the Chief of the Post-office department was besieged with petitions and deputations, he never once moved from his determination to adhere to existing arrangements as connected with St. Leonards. Lord Canning was Postmaster-General, and in the next chapter it will be seen that although he consented to the removal of the Hastings post-office to a position further west, he, in conformity with the petition of the inhabitants both east and west of the Archway, decided to maintain the St. Leonards postal boundary at Verulam place. In the next chapter it will be shown how the postal question was discussed at Hastings. After that, the contention having ceased, slumbered or become languid, to be ultimately renewed with greater vigour, its further consideration is relegated to future chapters.


  1. This, and subsequent usages of the 'Mrses' prefix is a literal translation of Brett's writings. Whilst the term Mrs did not come into common usage until the late 19thC, Brett would appear to have been an early adopter, writing his histories commencing in the 1890s. It is possible, the plural of Mrs had not yet developed - Editor

Transcribed by Sally Morris