Pen Portrait of Hastings 1889

From Historical Hastings

The following 'pen portrait' of the rapid development of Hastings appeared in The Hastings & St Leonards Observer of the 20th July 1889


It is a weil-known saying that a Londoner knows next to nothing about his city, and we might well and truly say that many a Hastinger knows but very little of the proportions his town is assuming. We would strongly advise our readers for once in a while to leave their homes and wander on the outskirts of the borough, and they will then realise the force of the remark with which we have prefaced our article. The land where, as children, many people, now old and grey, used to play, is occupied by houses, some of them already almost worn out, waiting to be re-built. During the last four years the amount of house property run up is simply enormous.

St Leonards

As the most important part of the additions, we will commence at the West End - that is, Bopeep - and give a review of the whole. Here we find the new pleasure gardens, reaching from 142, Marina, to the Bopeep Hotel, and composed for the most part of lawns, bordered on every side by walks and beds, and overlooking it, facing east, are at the present time six fine mansions, five of which are let, and in a very short time the whole line, consisting of eleven, will be in a condition to be occupied. By the time these are built, a number of semi-detached villas will have been begun on the opposite side of the road, under the cliffs from the Fountain Hotel to the Bopeep Hotel, thus continuing on to the Station that fine line of houses which go so far to make our seafront one of the best, if not actually the best, in England.

As a protection to this most valuable property the parade extension - as is also the case at Hastings - has caused the beach to collect in vast quantities thus forming a natural breakwater, over which it is next to impossible for the sea to flow. Passing further westward, the next building that meets our eye is that huge stucco pile known as the Pantechnicon. This warehouse, with others close by, and the present line of shops, are all erected on the site of the short canal which, many of our readers will recollect, ran the whole length of the Station road. On it a boat was at one time moored, and the water formed the home of a large number of ducks, well as the fresh water bath for the juveniles of the West End. On farther, the new steam mills, the Rocket Station, Local Board stables, all erected quite recently, bring us to the now all but completed and much improved railway bridge.

Following the road, on the left side only, are buildings at present seen, reaching the whole way to the Bull Inn. These include detached and semi-detached houses, and rows of houses, the Steam Laundry being prominent. Turning sharp to the right from Bexhill Road, a new road has been cut, coming out at the top of Maze Hill. So far, however, only about four mansions have been erected, though all of a substantial kind. A small road, shaped crescent fashion, has been the means of causing some builder to speculate, with the result that four houses are on their way to completion.


Along the Sedlescombe Road, after passing the blacksmith's shop, we find that on both sides right on to Silverhill, buildings have arisen, those on the right being, without exception, semi-detached, and those on the left side consisting chiefly of detached villas. At the foot of the hill, to where the London-road crosses at the fountain, and on the site of the old pond, a very substantial line of houses has been erected, affording excellent accommodation for the many working people who of late have emigrated to this part of the town. St Matthews Church and Rectory stand out prominently, and on the same side of London Road, we find two or three new houses built of red brick, while lower down the whole left side of Springfield Road, where was a few months ago a rich field, we now find an Eye Hospital and a series of extremely pretty villas. Indeed, such a change is here noticeable that the spot is hardly recognisable as the same place.


Across the field, at right angles to the London Road, and starting from the old Pay Gate, which stood opposite to the Tower Hotel, a new road, flanked on the right side by number of finished and unfinished houses, is now made, with a second running at right angles across, one end being at Springfield Terrace and the other Markwick Terrace. Traversing the first road, we find a great change at the top of Dane Road, for where once was a sand quarry and Jefferies' field, there now stand high-class residences, stretching from the Gensing Manor to Brittany Road, and from the same place to Markwick Gardens. Then, again, all the houses from St Johns Church have been built within the last year or two, and in very short time, in the remaining field space adjoining, a semi detached house, which at present rears its head in loneliness, will, we have no doubt, soon be the centre of a row of similar edifices.

St Leonards

Standing in London Road, just above the Gensing Gardens, and look across the valley towards that comparatively new line of villas in Chapel Park Road, one can hardly realise that but few years ago one of the finest spots near home to spend an afternoon was in this very valley, among the trees of what was then Cramp's Wood, a place where pig nuts -we crave pardon, "truffles" used to grow in great profusion, and were eagerly culled by the youthful of that day, and greatly enjoyed. But this is all changed, and where the pig nuts grew are now the kitchen gardens of proud villas.

The pretty spots in the wood are traversed by carts and carriages, and form a road which continues the Southwater Road on to London Road. Still another road reaches from Southwater Road over the hill, and joins Cornfield Terrace about midway. A. third new way runs out of Chapel Park Road into Cornfield Terrace, and continues on to Tower Road, thus making three high roads across what was formerly luxuriant green. We may here add that the right of way which always existed between London Road into Southwater Road, through the wood, is still there, the only difference being that the road is much wider, more easy of access, and better kept, and instead having to clamber down the steep bank, cross the stream, and mount the other difficult side, a convenient set of steps has been made, and the foot a handsome rustic bridge erected, the whole, with the rushing stream, forming a very pretty picture.

Park Gates/West Hill

At the back of Bohemia Road the off roads have been continued, and, instead of waste pieces of ground, lines of quite respectable small buildings are to be seen. Continuing our walk we reach the Park gates, and on the opposite side of the road we find a number of well-built houses have arisen,and the view to be obtained from these is very fine. We next wended our way on to the West Hill, and from that vantage ground scanned the country round for miles, and the view was superb. For a moment, and it was but a moment, we thought of but a short time ago when Hastings was but a fishing village.

There are at the present time a few who could almost have counted the houses up to some distance past the Pier on their fingers, and now what do wo see ? - street after street, road after road, as far the eye can reach, there are houses - nothing but houses. The way in which the building on the Milward Estate has sprung up in the last two years is marvellous.


Leaving the Hill we followed the top road to Halton,and there spread beneath us was Clive Vale, and the very look of the place is enough to convince anyone that nearly the whole of this pretty suburb is new; in fact a very large part of this popular district is still in the builders' hands. new town seems to be springing up, and being within easy access of the sea, will be possessed of many advantages. On the Workhouse side the hill, a large number houses have been built in shoots running off from the Old London Road. At the site of the old Pay Gate, a very vast improvement has been effected; the bank his been built up, and seats placed around at intervals, the top of the wall crowned with a very substantial wooden fence, and in the centre, on the very site of the former house, a handsome shop is built.

Turning down Union Lane (leading to the Workhouse) we crossed that apology for a river which is to be found. The stream is about three inches wide (not more), slowly coursing its way between broken pails, meat tins, bits of fire-places, hoops, flour barrels, broken china, glass bottles and the like, a disagreeable stench arising as we passed. Turning up the hill, evidences of new buildings are visible on every hand, but nothing of importance is to be seen until we near the Cemetery, when we find that the house adjoining the ground, lately occupied by the Jesuits, is soon to be converted into a school preparatory for Eton and Harrow.

Coming down the Ore Lane we cross over Ponbay Bridge, walk up the sharp incline, and turning down Laton Road, we find that one side of that road can be added to the huge list of new buildings, the number of which we have by no means exhausted in the above hurriedly compiled notice."

References & Notes