Carlisle Parade Underground Car Park

From Historical Hastings

At the time of its opening in 1931 by Sir Hilton Young (Minister for Health)[1], the Carlisle Parade Underground Car Park constructed at a cost of £154,000[1] was the first underground car-parking facility in the United Kingdom.

Construction and design

The Borough Engineer, Sidney Little was required to find a solution to providing provision for cars to be parked near Hastings seafront without them blocking the sea views and his preferred medium of concrete provided a solution by means of enabling the car-park to be underneath the ​road​ surface.

The scheme Little proposed required 70 feet of land to be reclaimed from the beach to construct a ​road​ almost ¾ of a mile long to carry traffic along the seafront past what was originally a cul-de-sac outside the Queens Hotel. The coursed-stone faced concrete Victorian sea wall acted as the landward side wall of a space measuring 1,250 feet long for the underground car park[1], which has been made visible from the interior of the car-park and the entrance ramps since work was undertaken in 2018 to remove the surface coatings. A new sea-wall was constructed by Little, 70 feet further down the beach from the original wall. Re-inforced concrete haunched frames support the ​road​way above which consists of asphalt covered concrete slabs needing frequent maintenance to the surface[2].

Two ramps lead down to Carlisle Parade car park’s entrance (a third ramp from Harold Place is now used as pedestrian access to part of the car-park functioning as a subway under the coast ​road​), and cars are prevented from accidentally driving down off Carlisle Parade and into the voids by a decorative parapet wall and balustrade, consisting of fluted concrete panels, with a now-disused western ramp adjacent to the Robertson Street junction. Above ground, there is a sunken garden with fan-assisted ventilation for extraction of the exhaust fumes disguised as three shelters with seating. There was a rumoured proposal to elevate the lawns/gardens adjacent to Robertson Terrace to provide space for a large conference hall to be located underground[3], although this did not come to fruition. Grade II Listed (Historic England listing 1400579)

WW2 Usage

The car park was used as an air raid shelter with day & night accommodation for up to 860 persons and an associated first aid post during WW2

Murder - Suicide

Whilst walking through the car park from the Memorial entrance on the 14th of September 1941, a local resident saw what he took to be a long stream of blood coming from an area formerly used as a first aid post. Following this trail, he came across the semi-naked body of 74 year old Helen Jones, a former dressmaker. Miss Jones who was profoundly deaf had been bombed out of her house earlier in the war and had taken to sleeping in the car park. Underneath her head was a forage cap and near the body a valise strap. She was known to prefer the area that was used as a first aid post.[4]

Some hours later, the body of a soldier, Private McCoughlin was discovered in the boat-house at the opposite end of the car park. He had last been seen around midnight by another serviceman and was noted to be missing his forage cap and appeared pale. The Private's body was discovered soon after lunch-time[notes 1] when the serviceman who last saw him went to fetch his rifle from the rack for cleaning and found it missing. The missing weapon was lying on a bench in the adjacent boat-house, supported by two large tins with the muzzle pointing in the direction of McCouglin's body. All evidence pointed to McCoughlin having arranged the weapon in such a way as to commit suicide. Two notes were left, one which read Dear Dad, Something came over me this tie. There is no other ​road​ out, but don't worry, everything is for the best - Bill. The second note stated I am no good to you and never was.[4]

Private McCoughlin's forage cap and a valise strap were found to be missing - these were indeed the items found with Miss Jones' body. In addition, there were numerous blood stains on his tunic, some of his blood type and some of hers.[4]

At the inquest conducted in the Town Hall on the 17th of September 1941, the jury convened for an inquest into the deaths returned a verdict that the soldier, Private James William McCoughlin raped and murdered Miss Jones and then committed suicide whilst of unsound mind.[4]

Pedestrian Underpass

In 1972, the eastern end of the car park was partitioned off and construction of a pedestrian underpass started. This added entrances on the seaward side of the car park and also outside the Queens Hotel. The previous vehicle entrance ramp from Harold Place became the third entrance to the underpass, this explaining its increased dimensions compared to the other entries.

Lighting Upgrade

In June of 2017, the car park received a £40,000 lighting upgrade consisting of 222 led lights, most of which were in the original placements, although a number were either rotated or re-positioned to avoid shadowing. The upgrade was commissioned with Laser Energy UK and promised a saving of £15,500 annually[5][6]. The vertical components of the haunch frames were painted in a colour co-ordinated scheme every tenth pillar to assist drivers with locating their vehicles at around the same date[7].

2020 Repairs

Following an errant vehicle colliding with the western ramp wall in 2019, repairs were necessitated to re-instate the appearance of the ramp to the original design. This work was carried out in 2020[8]


References & Notes

  1. Hastings Police History states that he committed suicide when he discovered the police were looking for him

Grade II Listed (Historic England listing 1400579)

  1. a b c Hastings & St Leonards Observer 6 March 1937 pg. 14
  2. Hastings Borough Council: Underground Car Park Carlisle Parade.pdf, accessdate: 21 December 2020
  3. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 06 June 1931
  4. a b c d Hastings & St Leonards Observer 20 September 1941 pg. 1
  5. Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/LB/17/00229&&activeTab=documents HS/LB/17/00229
  6. CASE STUDY - Carlisle Parade Car Park, Hastings | Laser Energy, accessdate: 21 December 2020
  7. Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/LB/17/00721
  8. Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/LB/20/00171