Letter from 1884 visitor to Hastings

From Historical Hastings

Taken from a letter to a newspaper.

A Visitor’s Impression of Hastings. In 1884.

On a recent occasion we made up our mind to leave the roar, din, and bustle of city life, and take change. When a child, struggling how to master the letters of the alphabet, we little thought bow, when we arrived the age of maturity, we should constantly be brought into contact with three, and always the same three, of these letters, viz., L.S.D.; but such is the case, and, having laboured hard for many months to amass some of the precious metal these three interesting signs represent, we thought we deserved a change, and so resolved to spend a little time, and, necessity, money, at a seaside resort. We chose Hastings, and it reflects great credit on our judgment that we did so, for we have been thoroughly well repaid, both in enjoyment and recruited health and spirits.

At first, however, we felt the heat to be well-nigh overpowering, the perspiration literally pouring off us. To daily undergo a regular Turkish bath— which sort of bath we were never partial—was found, the outset, be somewhat troublesome, but, like everything else, we got accustomed to it, and so “went on the even tenor of our way rejoicing,” consoling ourselves that philosophic proverb: What can’t be cured must be endured.

On arriving at Hastings we looked up an old bachelor friend, who was afterwards our daily companion, and we thus went in company—two “old bachelors.” Our equanimity received severe shock on the occasion of our first visit to the beach. Such array of female loveliness, and beauteous costume well nigh overcame us, and we could not help reflecting that it was a good thing for us we were not suffering from susceptible hearts, or the effect might have proved fatal. Our friend referred to above informed us that he was not the habit of often visiting the beach, but on this occasion we had the utmost difficulty, after a reasonable time (three hours), in persuading him to come away. He stood on the Parade mutely admiring the scene. His eye would be fixed on one lovely form flitting gracefully along, when lo! she was eclipsed by one more beauteous still, and so, as the eye wandered from one aerial figure to another, it was a difficult matter to say which carried the palm. This being so, we thought what with this pleasing sight, and the noise of merry laughter, telling of light and gladsome hearts, mingled with the gentle rippling of the waves on the shore, no wonder we had some difficulty in influencing our young friend to retire —for although an old bachelor” he was young in years.

Whilst we were admiring the sight just described, we could not help noticing that there was a deal of flirtation going on, which was considerably enhanced the practice of pebble throwing—this seems to be a great institution here. For instance, we espied a young fellow laying the beach, pitching stones at some young ladies, who were reclining at a short distance from him, and who replied in a similar manner, accompanied pleasant smiles. We thought this easy and agreeable mode of striking an acquaintance. It is well-known that young ladies at the sea-side allow themselves certain licence which they would not, least in most cases, indulge in home. Occasionally we observed a young lady would be accompanied by an extremely careful duenna; in such instances we observed there was no pebble throwing. What young man would have the temerity to attract the attention of a girl with an old lady, whose severe eye was constantly fixed on her? We venture to say we dare not do so, at any rate. We have horror of irascible old ladies, sailors on the beach constantly besought us, sometimes with tears their eyes, to come for a sail or row, until they made themselves complete nuisances. In fact, we were asked one evening to go on the sea, attired we were, evening dress. It is needless to say we did not comply with the request. It is pity the sailors are so assiduous in this respect, as it must undoubtedly be a source of great annoyance to visitors. The beach, parade, and pier at Hastings are by no means the only attractions. With those lovingly inclined, Fairlight Glen and neighbourhood are suitable localities. To the students of botany, the Alexandra Park must be a favourite resort, the various plants, etc, are neatly marked with the correct botanical name. We could not help admiring this lovely park, for lovely it certainly is. The charming walks, shady glens, the placid lakes, and rippling streams, are all most enjoyable. There are two springs here, One mind chalybeate, and the other pure water we discovered these accidentally, and partook of a refreshing draught from each. We often lingered in this park, and would fain linger little longer now in endeavouring further describe its beauties; but space will not permit.

The St. Leonards Park is also very fine, with a magnificent collection of flowers. Whilst here we were forcibly reminded of Kew Gardens, everything is so well kept. There is gigantic fuchsia with a seat around it—the largest shrub of the sort we ever saw. We went on an enjoyable walk one evening round the hills. The old town, nestling for shelter below, and the ruins of the Castle on the hill, presented a most pleasing spectacle, and are very picturesque. On the opposite side from the old town is grand panoramic view of Hastings proper, which is very imposing after dark, the electric light showing up well.

By the courtesy of a gentleman, we were shown over the Conservative Club. The comfort of members is evidently made a great study here. The arrangements are very complete, and might profitably be followed by many similar clubs. We take interest in politics, and are Conservative in principle. We are the more confirmed in our views when we see that, without one solitary exception, the whole policy of the present Government has been a signal failure. We were informed one day that Sir Thomas Brassey was to be made a Peer, when our bachelor friend observed that one Pier in Hastings was quite enough. We thought this would appear to be a good joke, but couldn’t help wondering whether it was his own.

One day, being much fatigued, we indulged in one glass of West’s old ale, which is full of body and spirit—we had well nigh said soul—and is most refreshing and invigorating when partaken of in moderation. At last the time came for us to leave this town, with its beautiful surroundings, which we did very regretfully, fully resolved, however, to visit it again from time to time, as opportunity would serve. We shall always look back with feelings of pleasure and interest to this visit to Hastings.

A visitor to where his home town is full of choking smoke and the bustle of people all the time.

September 1884

References & Notes