Storm of 1903
On Thursday the 10th of September 1903 a furious gale struck the town. The storm, which reached hurricane strength in intensity was forewarned, the winds throughout the day were increasing in strength and the warning cone was hoisted at the Lifeboat House to warn mariners of the coming bad weather.
By the time midnight approached it was almost certainly at hurricane intensity, the winds continuing through the night unabated and darkness concealed the damage caused. Hundreds of sight-seers were out however watching the scenes of carnage even though it was near-impossible to remain standing in the winds.
Most boatmen had heeded the warning of the cone and all manner of craft, from the smallest fishing vessel at the Stade to the most elegant of the pleasure craft beached opposite Denmark Place were hauled onto the roadways to hopefully remain safe from the clutches of the waves that were being whipped up by the winds.
During the early hours of the Friday morning, the seas breached the parade and sea walls - dashing bathing machines into splinters and causing flooding over a wide area.
In the Old Town, George Street had basements turned into reservoirs, the Albion Hotel lost furniture floating down the road together with a collection of bathing clothes and other items, West Street was impassable due to flood waters.
With daylight, the whole of the seafront from the White Rock Baths eastwards was piled high with shingle. Windows had been smashed, doors blown in and everything was either covered by water or stones. At Carlisle Parade , the large slabs of cement paving had been torn and either thrown down the sands below or heaped up on the Parade. The railings had been torn up and twisted out shape, and for the space of nearly yards the outside the Parade was practically ruined for all practical purposes for months to come. At places the Parade was torn up for the width of nine feet and a depth two, and not only cement but large blocks of stone were lying about. Only a ragged edge was left. Workmen were engaged trying to get the railings straight and in clearing up the debris. The wreckage extended for almost the length of Carlisle Parade, and opposite the Albany Hotel another part of the Parade had been torn up for distance of several yards. Outside the Albany the road was taken with double line of bathing machines, and with boats, lockers, etc., drawn up off the beach for safety. Fortunately none of the yachts had suffered much. The largest yacht, the "New Albertine" had been thrown on its ends, and several boatmen were engaged trying to put it on level keel again.
Huge heaps gravel were almost blocking doorways of the houses in Denmark Place, where the storm had taken a heavy toll of broken windows. A particularly hard-hit case was that the Primitive Methodist Chapel at Beach Terrace, by no means one of richest congregations in Hastings; the windows were smashed; the door was lifted off its hinges, and the floor was covered with broken glass and stones. The holes in the floor had let out the water, which, however, had rained the oilcloth beneath and the harmonium had been carried several yards and wedged tightly under the seats, being broken in the process.
Probably the heaviest private losers in the whole of Hastings were Hutchinson Bros., the bathing machine proprietors, who lost over forty bathing machines. Twenty-six were lost from the Marine Parade, and nearly 20 from opposite the Royal Victoria Hotel, with also a large quantity of towels etc. They were secured for the night, but the owners had no expectation that the gale would be that strong.
Farther along, the Norfolk Hotel had a long list of casualties to show. Catching the full force of the gale, tho door to the bar was thrown in, and the partition separating the privute from the public bar broken off. Inside the house gravel and broken glass were everywhere; the counter was broken, jars of spirits had fallen down, and spirits were floating about. A thick gas pipe was snapped in two, and it was stated that the ceilings of the cellar were coming down. The marble topped counter was split, and some automatic musical machines were broken open and the records lay scattered about. Prominent among wreckage of the Beach Pavilion was the wheel of a bathing machine, which apparently had started the damage by bursting open the side. At the extreme end of the parade Rock-a-Nore some damage had been done to sea defence works.
Alexandra Park had suffered considerably, one tree was blown down, and whole park was covered with broken limbs and branches and other debris.
Little damage was done to the Hastings Pier, but the St Leonards Pier was not so lucky. At the beginning of the structure considerable damage was done, two huge portions of the carriage way had been torn up and thrown one on top of the otner, the largest piece measuring four yards three. The railing had been torn up. huge beams weighing nearly a ton thrown a number of yards, automatic machines overturned, the hoardings blown down, and the western gates torn clean out of their sockets, leaving a gap of more than a yard wide between the parade and the Pier.
References & Notes
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 12 September 1903 Pg. 0006