The Great Deck Chair Rescue

From Historical Hastings

Four hundred deck chairs left on the beach at Hastings were caught by the tide on Tuesday the 6th of August 1929 and battered about in the rough sea. Crowds of holiday makers gathered on the wind-swept promenade and watched the waves play havoc with the floating, tangled mass, and with the next tide, fling the chairs in a litter upon the beach, stretching from the Fishmarket to London-road.

Feverish salvage operations were directed by Mr. E. McCully, the chair supervisor, and valuable assistance was given by fishermen, who saved 330 chairs by means of grappling irons from the beach and the Harbour arm. Only about 20 chairs were lost altogether.

The fishermen were in considerable danger of being washed into the sea while salvaging the chairs, as huge waves repeatedly broke over the Harbour arm, drenching them to their skins.

Describing his experience to an “Observer” reporter, George White, one of the men, said:

“We tried to save some chairs from the beach, but they were all broken to pieces, To get any whole chairs the only chance we had was to go out on the wall, They looked like a wreck on the water and they stretched right trom the pier in a line.” A lot went under the cliff and broke up. The water was running along the wall and it was a pretty dangerous job."

The Chairs Supervisor submitted the following report to Council:-

"As we had about 5,000 chairs on the beaches on Monday, 1 detailed three of our oldest chair attendants, who understand the tides, to go right through the beaches at 10 p.m., and make certain all chairs were stacked safely from the tide, and report if there were any unsafe. No report was made, so I naturally concluded everything was safe.

On Tuesday at 8.30 a.m., it was raining heavily, and there was a wind blowing, but nothing out of the ordinary. I had to make up my mind, as these men are paid daily, whether to keep them on or not.

Knowing high tide was not due till about 1 p.m. and there was no possibility of any collection taking place, also that some were in need of a rest after the hard week we had, I asked for volunteers to stand off No man was made to stand off. I kept on 15 hands and allowed 11 to go.

We started to tidy up the extension, which is our usual procedure, and dispatched a load of chairs to the Cricket Ground, and the men were about to go to their beaches at 10 a.m., when we received news from of of the boatmen the tide was running high.

I immediately split up the men into two parties, sent one party west under Inspector Weaver, and took the other party east myself, giving orders that all chairs were to be placed on the promenade.

My party succeeded in saving all the chairs on the eastern side, with the exception of twenty, which had been placed on the iron steps by the 'Bubbles' hut. and ten on the baths beach, which were buried by the shingle and recovered the next day.

Unfortunately, the party west, on account of the steps heing on the side of the beaches away from the deep groynes with a bastion in the centre. could not reach chairs stacked against the walls without danger to themselves, and these were the chairs seen floating in the water.

On seeing the first chair in the water, I went down to the harbour, and asked the fishermen to stand by with grappling irons. This they did wonderfully well, as they rescued over 250 chairs not damaged at all, and about 80 damaged. On taking a count the following morning I estimated about 400 chairs were washed away.

When the tide turned I took the pier staff up west and worked down through the beaches east, and salved all the chairs we could find, finishing at the extension at 8.30 p.m., when I allowed them to go.

On Wednesday evening, after gathering in all salved chairs and counting damaged, as well as undamaged (of course, it is impossible to be absolutely accurate), I do not think we have lost twenty chairs, due to the fact that water was running so high. The chairs were stopped by the harbour wall, and only eleven were seen floating around it. Eight of these have since been recovered.


References & Notes

  1. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 10 August 1929 pg. 10