Eldridge and Cruttenden
Starting in 1876, Eldridge and Cruttenden, was one of the longest established building firms in the Hastings area, being founded on the principle that they would always handle the smaller jobs with as much attention as they gave to the larger contracts.
Albert Card started his employment as an apprentice with Eldridge and Cruttenden in 1938. He said,
“They were good employers but I cannot remember the rates of pay. Eldridge and Cruttenden built a row of houses at Battle; I used to cycle out there with a toilet tank tied under my crossbar and a bag of tools on the handle bars. Between the wars they built the end pavilion on the pier”
For many years the firm used a large, custom-built van; this designed for the men to sleep in when working away from home on large jobs. The van, which was towed from site to site, was divided into two compartments and equipped with bunk beds, with one of the labourers acting as cook. The van, named “The Dreadnought”, because of its size, was still in use during 1946 as an electrical and explosives store.
During WW2 they carried out a many of the repair and remedial works on bomb-damaged buildings all over Hastings and St. Leonards and were in even greater demand from all sections of the community at the close of the conflict. During the war one of the employees kept chickens and pigs next to the builder’s yard, boiling up swill to feed them in the plumber’s workshop, in a cauldron hanging over the fire. The firm played a major role in the reconstruction of the town post-war; in 1945 Eldridge and Cruttenden repaired St. Leonard’s historic Masonic Hall, damaged in an air raid in 1940, as well as making many war-ruined homes fit for habitation, together with rebuilding the Jenny Lind pub, destroyed in a raid in 1943. As extensive house-building schemes got underway post-war, Eldridge and Cruttenden were directly involved in building houses in five different villages on the Romney Marsh, utilising Italian prisoners of war as part of their workforce.
During the 1950s the firm secured a number of important contracts; building Red Lake Girls School, The Grove School for Boys and an out-patients extension to the Royal East Sussex Hospital. They also erected many residential properties in sections of Upper and Lower Glen Road, Parker and Hoadswood Roads and built an extension to the Buchanan Hospital. In addition to having a yard on the they helped to build some of the factories that make up the .
A shock wave rippled through the town when in June 1996 it was announced that Eldridge and Cruttenden were about to become bankrupt. A household name in Hastings and St. Leonards for 120 years passed into history; having trained many apprentices in all trades associated with the building industry and over the years employing thousands of local men, some of whom spent their entire working lives with Eldridge and Cruttenden.
References & Notes
- “Letters to a Part Time Barmaid” by Victoria Seymour.