From Historical Hastings

Other than the fishing harbour situated on The Stade, Hastings almost certainly had a natural harbour at some point. There is quite a degree of conjecture as to where this was situated; at the mouth of the Bourne Stream, the Priory Stream or further west at (the confluence of the Hollington Stream and the River Asten). The valleys carved out by these numerous waterways have been silted up over the centuries and the eastward drift of the shingle banks making up the Beach have ensured the closure of the waterways to navigation.

Record exists of the Priory Stream being navigable at least as far as Hole Farm and Step Meadow is identified as a possible site where William made his camp prior to the Battle of Hastings, implying his vessels were moored nearby. Yeakell and Gardner’s Map of 1783 shows a brook running down the valley to the west of the Castle Hill at Hastings, flowing into the sea near to the site of the Queen’s Hotel, off which was a pond on the site of the Central Cricket Ground, and two lagoons behind the beach, east and west of the brook. The Ordnance survey of 1823 still shows the pond at the Cricket Field, but the two lagoons had disappeared and the eastern lagoon was by then covered with houses[1].

During the height of the Cinque Ports and around the time of the Battle of Hastings, there are recorded visits of presumably large vessels; the Royal Ship was moored at Hastings whilst Henry the 1st was on the throne[2]

Elizabethan Harbour Construction Attempts

There were a number of attempts to construct a pier in the rough location of today's Marine Parade Boating Lake, all of which are documented as being part of the Elizabethan Harbour.

Further proposals were made during the 19th century; a report in "Hastings, Past and Present" by Mary Matilda Howard has the following:-

The Harbour and Pier.—-The old pier ran in the direction of the piles of wood still visible when the tide ebbs. The masses of rock a little to the eastward were brought there to form the foundation of the new pier. (See Moss, p. 127.) In the Tanner MS., Bodleian Library, ccxli., fol. 5, there is the copy of a letter from the Lords in Council to the Sheriff and justices of Norfolk, authorizing a collection for a haven at Hastings, March 1st, 1573, before which time, therefore, the old pier had been destroyed. Surveys have been made at different times with a View to the formation of a new harbour and pier.

In 1806, Mr, afterwards Sir John Rennie, furnished a plan for the construction of a harbour with an inner basin. (See Horsfield, vol. i., p. 4--L9.) In June, 1837, Mr., now Sir William Cubitt, submitted a plan for a harbour, to embrace the whole extent of the town, from the Fort to the westward of the Priory Marsh stream. In 1838, two different plans for a smaller harbour to the eastward, the cost not to exceed 60,000l., were laid before the authorities by Lieut.-Colonel Wflliams, R.E., and Mr. John Smith, stonemason. Colonel Williams‘ plan, which excited the most attention, was for a harbour near the Fishmarket, comprising about 24 acres at high water, having two breakwaters-the western 1,500, and the eastern 900 feet long, with an entrance between them of 150 feet in width. The harbour was also to have a landing-wharf 30 feet broad and three hundred feet long, carried out from the centre of the base line, and perpendicular to it. The estimated cost of this work was 57,800l. Mr. Cubitt was requested by the Hastings Harbour Committee to report on these plans, and in his letter to John Phillips, Esq., dated Oct. 10, 1838, he says, “ If sufficient funds could not be obtained for the construction of the harbour proposed by me, to embrace the whole extent of the town, from the Fort to the westward of the Priory Marsh stream; and if funds could be obtained sufficient to construct such a smaller harbour as would be deemed suitable for the town,-the Fishmarket may be a preferable site for such smaller harbour than

any spot to the westward, supposing it to be possible to keep such harbour open without having any recourse to scouring or backwater," &c., also. Lieut.-Colonel Williams wrote a letter, dated October 20, 1838, commenting on several objections which Mr. Cubitt had made to his site and plan, in which he says, in reference to Mr. Cubitt's preference of a capacious harbour, extending from the Priory Marsh to the Rock-a-Nore Cliffs, covering-the whole town— “ I have always allowed, and still readily admit the advantages of a large harbour ever a smaller one. Let it be remembered, however, that we are not in a condition to choose, but must confine ourselves to a work of such dimensions as may probably be constructed for 60,000l., - a restriction prudently and honestly imposed with reference to the revenues which the trade of the town may fairly be calculated to yield.” Amongst the reasons assigned by Colonel Williams for his preference of the eastern site, were the greater value of the properties on the western side of the town, and the danger, if any harbour were placed westward of the Battery, that the sea would rise about the Fishmarket, unless a massive wall were built to keep it out, debarring the inhabitants from the use of the open beach. At s meeting of the Council of the Borough of Hastings, held November 30, a scale of dues for the proposed harbour was presented, by which it appeared that ‘there would be an income of 3,500l. per year. A Committee of Management was appointed, and a resolution passed to call a General Meeting of the owners and rate-payers of the Borough, to decide upon the best means of raising the requisite funds to defray the expenses of the Act of Parliament, &c. The money required for the erection of the works (70,000l.) was to be borrowed, and a rate levied on the inhabitants in aid of the harbour dues, should they at any time be found inadequate to keep up the interest of the borrowed capital. (From printed documents, with drawings, in the possession of John Phillips, Esq. The project was not carried into execution, in consequence of the impossibility of getting the funds without a loan, which the inhabitants would not allow to be charged on property in aid of tolls.)

1890s Harbour

In the late 1890s, £50,000 was set aside to construct a harbour around The Stade area of the beach. A novel form of concrete was poured, giving a homogenous foundation and a monolithic concrete arm took shape[3] A wooden trestle bridge completed the western arm and the groyne to the eastern side of The Stade was extended to effectively 'enclose' the harbour. The western arm was completed by the installation of a narrow-gauge railway to facilitate unloading of vessels. Storms in 1911/12 destroyed the bridge and the eastern arm was subsequently demolished.[4]


References & Notes