Pilot Field

From Historical Hastings
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The first mention of this area occurs in 1560 as 'the Pilate Field' - probably due to a utilisation for growing pilled oats.[1][2] In 1886 it was proposed as the new site for the Hastings Workhouse,[3] however the proposal was opposed by many local residents and landowners and ultimately dropped.[4]

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.[5]

Previously the proposed new site of the Hastings Workhouse,[6] the site was acquired in 1920 by the Hastings Corporation and subsequently leased to the Hastings & St Leonards Sports Association,[7] playing host to its first fixture in September of that year, which saw Rock-a-Nore lose to Chichester in the Sussex County League.[8] 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.[5]

The main stand was opened in 1926 and further facilities such as car parking and turnstiles were constructed around the same time.[9] 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.[5]

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.[5]

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[10]. 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[11].

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[12]

During 2020, plans were submitted to redevelop the site, providing eighty-six homes[13].


References & Notes

  1. Pettit, Leon. "The Pilot Field". Hastings Football History. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  2. Dance, William (May 1999). "The Pilot Field". Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group Journal.
  3. "The New Workhouse Site". Hastings & St Leonards Observer. Hastings. 29 May 1886. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  4. "The New Workhouse". Hastings & St Leonards Observer. Hastings. 30 May 1891. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  5. a b c d Pettit, Leon. "The Pilot Field". Hastings Football History. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  6. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 30 May 1891
  7. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 21 June 1924 Pg. 0010
  8. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 18 September 19201
  9. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 1 May 19261
  10. Hastings-Saxons, accessdate: 17 December 2020
  11. Closure of Hastings Speedway, accessdate: 17 December 2020
  12. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 19 July 1952 Pg. 0003
  13. Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/OA/20/00673