Stephen Putland (1806-1880)

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Born in Beckley, Stephen Putland moved to St Leonards around 1826, first being resident in Lavatoria - a square which he was instrumental in 'opening up' to the rest of Norman Road and St Leonards by enlarging the opening in Burton's boundary wall in 1841. He worked as a councillor, lay-preacher in the Wesleyan ministry, surveyor and coal merchant[1]. By 1851, he was resident at 4 London Road with his wife, Mary and children[2]. The 1861 Census shows his address as being 7 London Road


Children of: Stephen Putland and Mary Ann Vine (-1878)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Stephen D. Putland (1827-1886)


Mary A. Putland (1829-1887)


Harry R. Putland (1833-)


Thomas Putland (1835-1898)


Walter Putland (1840-)


Septimus Putland (1843-)


Sarah J. Putland (1846-1929)


Alfred D. Putland (1847-)


Charles D. Putland (1848-1916) 1848 1916

Brett Eulogy

Brett in his Manuscript Histories writes:

If in these historic and biographic sketchs there are occasionally some abrupt transitions from grave to gay and from mirth to sadness, it is less the result of design than of fortuitous circumstances, which sympathetically impel me to "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." A considerable number of persons who lived in the pre-St. Leonards epoch have made their exit from this mundane stage since I began my story, and these events have given rise to a series of mournful episodes in the general narrative. But of all those departed spirits there was not one more closely identified with the history of St. Leonards as a whole than his whose earthly tabernacle found a resting place in the Borough Cemetery on the 22nd of February, 1880, when  Pg.159 this portion of history was being written. For nearly half a century he had filled, continuously, some public office or offices, and it is probable that in the collective records of the borough the signature of Stephen Putland appears with greater frequency than does that of any other unpaid official. Yet, like many others whose fortunes have been bound up with these towns, Mr. S. Putland was not a native either of Hastings or St. Leonards. He was born at Beckley in 1806, and received his school training - a very limited one - in the contiguous village of Northiam, where he remained until about the year 1820. He afterwards made himself acquainted with road-making and, in 1826, executed a contract at Uckfield. He also consummated a marriage contract in the same year with his cousin, and was soon after that event brought from his business pursuits at Buxted into the neighbourhood of Hastings, near to which town his uncle - a farmer and brick-merchant - resided. In 1830 or there about Mr. and Mrs. Putland took up their abode at Lavatoria (now an extension of Norman road), and in 1831 the cliff eastward of the late St. Leonards Arch was excavated for the site of Adelaide place under Mr. S. Putland's direction. In 1832 and the year following he was elected and re-elected as one of the St. Leonards Commissioners, he having in the mean time resigned the office to undertake and carry out a contract. For the next two or three years he continued to work for the Commissioners, and in 1834 he allowed himself to become disqualified as a Commissioner in consequence. Among the contracts which he thus undertook was one for watering the public roads, another was for drainage work, a third was for sloping and finishing 125 yards of new parade, a fourth was to widen the road near the Fountain Inn, and a fifth for trimming the cliff at East Ascent and planting the slopes with shrubs. About the year 1833 Mr. S. Putland erected some property on his own account in the angle of what were afterwards the London and Norman roads, and in these premises was a room that was used for the first religious meetings of the Wesleyans, with whom Mr. S. Putland was connected. On the 26th of December, 1835, the burgesses of the West ward sent him as one of their representatives to the first sitting of the Hastings Town Council' but as it was his lot to be one of those who had to retire on the first of November in the following year, his re-election was successfully opposed by Mr. Charles Deudney, whose claim to the seat, however, was alleged to be invalid. On the next occasion, Mr. S. Putland was re-instated, and in the mean time - 1836 - he took an energetic part in the erection of the Wesleyan Chapel, in Norman road. He was also a lay preacher, and in consequence of that some of his political opponents represented him as a Wesleyan minister, and urged that he was consequently ineligible for the office of Councillor. Some larger works in road making were next undertaken by the subject of this notice, including the London and other roads leading out of the borough. These contracts and their associations gave Mr. S. Putland some influence among workmen, and being himself a consistent Liberal, he was solicited to second the nomination of Mr. Hollond on the occasion of the general election of 1837. This he did in a well-chosen speech, and had the satisfaction of seeing Mr. Hollond triumphantly elected. After 1837 Mr. S. Putland's business transactions and public services, whilst still, in a subsidiary sense connected with that part of St. Leonards over which the Commissioners had jurisdiction, were primarily attached to the parish of St. Mary Magdalen, and in an especial degree to that portion of it which lay eastward of the Archway. It was there that his family were then located, and it was there that he established himself as a coal-merchant while he still worked as a road-surveyor. He had become by that time an important factor in the calculations of political rivals, and he seemed to have brought all his influence to bear against the opposing influence of Messrs. Deudney, Noon and Troup. Those who, like myself, remember the peculiarities and the unyielding obstinacy of the last-named gentleman, will not be surprised to learn that in 1839 he brought a serious charge against Mr. S. Putland and his colleague, as surveyors of highways, and that he applied to the magistrates for summonses against them, as he insinuated on behalf of the parish. A vestry meeting was convened - an unusually large one for those days - and at which the surveyors were entirely exonerated. An examination of the books showed that instead of the surveyors being indebted to the parish as alleged, the parish was indebted to them.

In the following year a newspaper paragraph informed the public that "Our esteemed townsman, Mr. S. Putland, has received satisfactory instructions in reference to a branch being formed from this borough in connection with the South-Eastern railway." In 1841 Mr. S. Putland interested himself, with a few other persons, to get the St. Leonards Commissioners and Mr. Burton's executors to consent to the opening of a carriage way through Lavatoria, and thus to connect Mercatoria, Maze-hill and the East ascent with Norman road. The effort was wholly successful, and a strip of land was also given up by Mr. Manser by being conveyed to Alfred Burton and Stephen Putland in trust for the public. The improvement thus effected was quite as great a boon to the people of Hastings as to those of St. Leonards, for by its means the brewers, the coal-merchants and other tradesmen of the old town who supplied the upper parts of St. Leonards, were enabled to avoid the long and roundabout distance to those parts via the Marina and East ascent.

Yet, notwithstanding Mr. S. Putland's recognised public services, a strenuous effort was at that time made to prevent his return to the Council by the circulation of a printed bill in which it was alleged that he, a pretended reformer of abuses, had, in common with the rest of the Radicals, neglected every opportunity for improvement unless something was to be got out of it. This ungenerous, not to say slanderous document was, however, inoperative, the subject of its attack being again returned, not only to the Council Board, but also to the Board of Guardians, at which latter the poor not infrequently found in him their best friend. Indeed, to help his fellow creatures when in distress was said to be one of his attributes. A goodly few could be named who in the hour of adversity appealed to him for advice, and were relieved of their embarrassment as far as circumstances would permit. It might happen that the arrangements were not always beneficial to others, but to the adviser in such cases must at least be given the credit of desiring to protect the weak against the strong.

In 1848 Mr. S. Putland took part in establishing the St. Leonards Mechanics' Institution, and was elected one of the trustees, which office he held until the time of his death.

At a meeting of the Board of Guardians in 1849 Mr. S. Putland urged that measures be taken for applying the Nuisance-Removal Act to the several parishes under the control of the Board; and in August of the same year he also advocated the application of the Health of Towns Act to the borough. In 1850 Mr Putland seconded the nomination of Mr. Emary for the civic chair, and commented upon the selecting of the chief magistrates from the middle as well as from the upper ranks. In addition to his being a trustee of the Mechanics' Institution, he was made a vice-president and was one of those who helped to raise the Institution from pecuniary difficulties by purchasing a life-membership. When the Public Health Act was adopted in 1852, and the Town Council became a Local Board of Health to the extinction of the old sanitary Commission, Mr. S. Putland obtained the office of Borough Surveyor, promising that if appointed he would resign his seat and pay the fine of £25. He did not however, retain the appointment very long, as he found that with the rapidly accumulating requirements of the office, together with the calls of his own business, imapired his health, and taxed his time and his energies to a greater extent than could be compensated by the salary of £150 per annum. In 1853 the Hastings and Tunbridge Railway opened, and building operations will in full swing; and as the subject of this sketch was already a timber-merchant as well as a coal-merchant, it may be conceived that both his hands and his head were pretty fully employed; yet he continued to give a large amount of time and attention, both as a Councilman and a Guardian, to public matters. He was by no means avers to improvements in the old town but he was ever a loyal representative of the new; and in 1854, he took part with the Rev. W. W. Hume and other influential inhabitants in opposing the scheme for a cemetery as first proposed by the Council. Also in 1858 he manfully stood up with others for what he considered were the rights and privileges of St. Mary Magdalen, when an attempt was being made to re-name as Hastings that which for six-and-twenty years had been known as St. Leonards. On this occasion his usual genial nature yielded to a righteous impulse, and he boldly accused his opponents of having a desire to blot out the name of St. Leonards. Anxious alike with the other West-ward representatives, to see a more befitting town-hall, and in a more central part of the borough, he strongly recommended the Council in 1851 - as he had previously done in 1849 - to purchase Kentish Buildings as a site for the same. In 1863 Mr. S. Putland took sides with the memoralists for a re-distribution of wards, and in his advocacy of the same he declared that the time must come when the greater rateable value of the two western parishes would so far exceed that of all the other parishes as to demand it. It wanted no very astute foresight perhaps to discern this, but urged on by his sanguine nature, it seemed to be Mr. S. Putland's desire to accelerate it. I remember expressing my dissent from his views when at a sitting of an assessment committee he favoured the raising of the rates, as I thought too extensively. Albeit, the worthy Councillor's prophecy has been well fulfilled in both conditions. Time went on until the November of 1867 arrived, when mr. Putland was elected to the mayoralty and was enabled to gratulate himself on his having attended every meeting. He was then made an Alderman, and in 1873 his selection as a Borough Magistrate received Government sanction. Three years later, on the 3rd of April, Mr. and Mrs. Putland celebrated their golden wedding, but the worthy Alderman had had an apopletic (sic) fit, by which he was so much shaken as to be compelled to withdraw from public life. He had brought up a numerous family, among whom there had been marriages and a second generation of descendants. Some of these, however, had been taken away by death, to which affliction Mr. S. Putland resigned himself with Christian philosophy; but in 1878, the partner of his joys and sorrows was taken from him after a union of 51 years duration; and this last bereavement again very naturally tried the aged gentleman's once robust constitution, and appeared to bring down his grey hairs in sorrow to the grave. But although weak, and not at all like his former self, Mr. S. Putland kept about until 1879, when he was again prostrated by severe illness from which it was thought he could not possibly recover. Yet again he rallied, but remained in a condition of bodily weakness until 1880, when on the 18th of January he drew his last breath, in the 74th year of his age, and with the full hope of a joyous resurrection.

Thus without aiming to give a eulogistic obituary of the late Mr. S. Putland, I have sought merely to place before my readers those facts drawn from person recollection or from my own private memoranda which, while they give an outline of one who raised himself from low estate to a position of honour, show also his connection with the town from its earliest history.

References & Notes

  1. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 19 March 1881 Pg. 0006
  2. UK Census Return 1851