September 1883 Storm

From Historical Hastings

On the 8th of September 1883, the Hastings Observer carried the following story[1]:-

We have again been visited by one of our old friends, or, more correctly speaking, enemies, a strong south-westerly gale. Happily, however, the amount of damage which has been sustained in the borough is but trifling compared with that neighbouring watering-places, and, indeed, in this town itself on several former occasions. Saturday night signs of a strong gale were apparent, but all doubts upon the point were soon put rest, for on Sunday morning the wind appeared to be blowing a perfect hurricane from the south-west.

Thinking of what had too often occurred on former occasions, the inhabitants of the houses on the front line of the central and eastern portions of the borough were up betimes on the Sunday, and soon employed at barricading all the windows and doors which it was thought the sea was likely to reach. That such precautions were needed was plainly seen as the hours advanced towards high tide, which took place at 11.45.

This was the hour for high tide, but long before that time the huge waves, terrible, yet grand in their magnificence, were dashing with the utmost fury over the seawalls and esplanade. Although the gullies for the carrying away of the water are fairly numerous, yet such was the immense quantity thrown up from the briny deep, that they proved quite inadequate for the purpose, becoming blocked with the excessive flow of water, which soon found its way into the streets of the Old Town, especially George-street and West-street, being fairly flooded, and rendered, for the time-being, completely impassable, while some few individuals, who foolishly enough had not taken ' the necessary precautions, had the misfortune to have their cellars and basements filled with salt water. At the Queen's Hotel, too, the sea over-leapt its bounds, and the water rushed far as Mr. Amoore's, the grocer's, the corner of Robertson-street. Tons upon tons of water were hurled against the houses on the front line, and the heavy wind which was prevailing at the time caused huge sheets of spray to be carried very considerable distances inland, and many persons walking along streets protected from the sea, were disagreeably surprised to find themselves deluged with salt sea spray. The land portion of new groyne at East-parade was broken off and washed away, and the roadway at the Fishmarket was eaten away by the waves to some extent, the faggots which had been placed there as a means of support being washed away, and scattered about by hundreds. It is very evident that a defence of much more substantial character is required at this portion of our front-line, and the difficulty must be settled ere long, or we shall see houses carried away as well few tons of earth and shingle. It is pleasing to be able to record that the fishermen succeeded in hauling their boats, and conveying their gear to a place of safety, and thus the loss sustained by our tan-frocks was but trivial.

Of course, such a sight as the gale Sunday last was a new sensation to many hundreds of visitors who are patronising the town at this season of the year, and every coign of vantage was lined with eager spectators, who watched the rough antics of King Neptune with unmixed interest. Numberless hats and bonnets were to be seen constantly bounding along the muddy streets, and several of the male sex, who had unadvisedly ventured out in "boxers," were to be seen picking their way with their headgear carefully stowed away under their arms, tired, doubtless, with the exertion of having constantly to hold those fashionable, but none the less troublesome, articles on.

Many of the smaller boats were pulled up into Wellington-place, whilst the yachts occupied a position in the space opposite the Queen's Hotel and Harold-place. As before stated, the damage was not of disastrous in nature, although two public-houses, the Queen's Head and the Jolly Fisherman, suffered rather severely, the doors being burst open by the waves, and the front bars and cellars flooded. Mr. Griffin, the landlord of the Belle Vue, also sustained some damage to his property. On Sunday morning, too, the front of a house in High-street, occupied by Mr. Jefferson, chemist, was stripped of its tiles, and there were not a few chimney pots and slates displaced. Huge limbs were torn off some of the trees in the suburbs, and the leaves almost all stripped off.

On Monday the wind was still blowing heavily, and about ten o'clock considerable excitement was occasioned by the spectacle of a dandy running close to the shore at the west end of the town. It was feared that she would run ashore, and that the crew had lost all control. The lifeboat was immediately called out, and the men forming the crew quickly put in an appearance, but eventually the craft ran towards Dungeness Point, and escaped in safety. Carcases of sheep were washed up on the shore, and various ' surmises were indulged in as to where they had come from; some people supposed they had been washed off the marshes, while the opinion of others was — and this seems to the more likely — that they were washed off the deck of some vessel. A bottle, containing a piece of paper bearing the following message, was picked up on the shore "Passed the Eddystone on July 30th, 1883, on board the 'Sir Francis Drake'. Enjoyed the trip very much."