The Pilot Field is a football ground which has been home to Hastings United since 1985. The ground was the home of the former Hastings United club who folded in 1985. Though primarily used as a football venue since opening in 1920, there are records of the ground hosting speedway, cycling, athletics, rugby, baseball and a music festival. Despite proposals there are no records known records of hockey, cricket or greyhound racing taking place.
Previously the proposed new site of the Hastings Workhouse, the site was acquired in 1920 by the Hastings Corporation and subsequently leased to the Hastings & St Leonards Sports Association, playing host to its first fixture in September of that year, which saw Rock-a-Nore lose to Chichester in the Sussex County League. During the 1920's, the Pilot Field also played host to rugby and baseball, and cycling after the construction of the cycling track around the lower pitch in 1922.
The main stand was opened in 1926 and further facilities such as car parking and turnstiles were constructed around the same time. By the 1930's the ground had become primarily a football ground, with Hastings & St Leonards (former Rock-a-Nore club) being the main tenants, though the track was still used for cycling and athletics.
In 1948 the newly formed professional Hastings United moved into the ground, forcing out the amateur club. A record attendance of 12,527 was set in 1953 when Hastings United faced Norwich City in the third round of the FA Cup.
Following an agreement between the Hastings Speedway Ltd and the Borough Council, the Saxons speedway team took out a seven-year lease on the Pilot Field in the summer season of 1948 - this being the year of the first race held on the cinder track on the 29th of April 1948 - the opening being attended by the mayor, F. W. Chambers. 4,000 spectators were present and saw the Hastings Saxons beat Stoke by 44 points to 39. Races were held mid-week on Wednesdays. Unfortunately, complaints about noise and claims of nearby properties suffering a depreciation to their value led to the track closing after a few short years with a hearing at the Assizes resulting in an injunction preventing use of the track.
In the early 1950s, the field also hosted a 'Searchlight Tattoo' which featured performances by massed military bands, a flypast of military aircraft and culminated with an air raid siren being sounded as searchlights swept the sky and a salute was fired on anti-aircraft guns dotted around the stadium
References & Notes
- Pettit, Leon. "The Pilot Field". Hastings Football History. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
- Hastings & St Leonards Observer 30 May 1891
- Hastings & St Leonards Observer 19 June 1920
- Hastings & St Leonards Observer 18 September 19201
- Hastings & St Leonards Observer 1 May 19261
- Hastings-Saxons, accessdate: 17 December 2020
- Closure of Hastings Speedway, accessdate: 17 December 2020
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 19 July 1952 Pg. 0003