The Hastings and St. Leonards Boundary
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Since the birth of St. Leonards in 1828, Hastings' west-most point was the Priory Bridge and St. Leonards east-most point was the St Leonards Archway with very few (if any) properties in-between - the land mainly being arable with a cliff face acting as its shoreline.
As in-fill properties - mainly hotels and lodging houses filled the gap, forming today's Eversfield Place extending to the east from the archway and, once the White Rock headland had been removed, Robertson Street, the White Rock Brewery and Palace Chambers together with properties as far as Hastings Pier and the General Infirmary westwards from Hastings met in the middle, there was a considerable number of properties that were colloquially described as being 'Without' - the properties in London Road towards Magdalen Road and beyond in the parish of St Mary Magdalen - St. Leonards Without. Each town had its own main post-office with deliveries and collections taking place daily from both towns to London and beyond. Hastings had a Borough Council providing governance over a wide area - some parts of the borough being in Kent, this was purely for administrative purposes, and whilst the area under question was under the 'umbrella' of Hastings Borough Council, it was, in fact a number of distinct towns/villages which each had their own identity. The disputed area - between the Infirmary and the St Leonards Archway, whilst under the borough of Hastings had, in fact, grown eastward from St. Leonards.
The status quo was rudely interrupted at Christmas of 1857 when the Hastings Mayor, Thomas Ross proposed a successful motion in Council (carried by 15 to 5 - the objectors being representatives of the affected area) that the portion between the General Infirmary and the St Leonards Archway be renamed to 'West Hastings', and that the properties should all be marked up as 'Hastings' - this area having been traditionally known as 'St. Leonards Without' - or St. Leonards for short. Not only this, but his motion proposed the doing-away with the St. Leonards post-office. The properties affected were, particularly on the sea-front, large villas, hotels and other lodging houses which brought in a substantial holiday trade - Ross going as far as to suggest that by renaming this portion to Hastings, that Hastings would gain much tourist trade that had previously gone to St. Leonards. For some reason, this portion of the Council meeting was un-reported in the press. Brett in his Manuscript Histories, however, devotes a considerable number of pages permitting this to now be reported upon.
Paint pot battles
A team of volunteers set to work, painting the word 'Hastings' upon every street corner - this was then erased at night by a similar team, who operated under the very nose of police constables and other watchmen tasked with preventing the obliteration of the new sign; the paint-pot team would utilise an old overcoat with a special pocket which held a narrow paint-can and brush, the members of the team would have walking sticks that could be joined with the paint-brush permitting the easy reach and masking of the offending sign. In addition, a number of ruses were devised such as calling out 'Fire' or a lady screaming for help, out of sight of the watchmen necessitating their removal from their posts. Finally, some of the perpetrators of the 'Paint Pot' side went out one night, equipped as per normal - but with no paint and the addition of a ladder to their equipment. Acting furtively and whistling, it was not long before the group were arrested - the arrest being reported follows:-
"Capture of a Notorious Gang" - "We learn, with unbounded gratification that one of the most active of our ever-watchful guardians of the peace, assisted by his chief (who knew 'there was something in that whistle'), succeeded at 8p.m. on Christmas Eve, in capturing, after a smart chase, a trio of the most notable exponents of devilry, whose favourite pastime of late is supposed to have been the beautifying the face of poor old Hastings with a cosmetic of ebony every time the venerable creature overstepped his boundary. Their mischievous designs (happily frustrated) may be judged of from the fact of their having in their possssion some very suspicious implements, consisting of a long pole, a short ladder and an empty paint-pot, and which they refused to surrender upon any other terms than that of indulging in a most audacious display of merriment, which (it being Christmas time) was so powerfully infectious as to assail even the well-known gravity of the beaks. It may well be imagined how serious were the charges against them when we say
Following many exchanges of letters both in the press and to-and-fro the Postmaster General, the issue was resolved by means of the following letter from the Postmaster-General dated the 18th of February, 1858:-
– I am directed to inform you that the Postmaster General has again had under his consideration the subject of the postal arrangements at Hastings and St Leonards. His grace has duly weighed the statements contained in several letters that have been addressed to him upon this subject, and he has felt bound to pay especial regard to two considerations – first, that it is the duty of the Post Office in a question of this kind, primarily to consult the wishes of the persons most directly interested, viz the owners and inhabitants in the district to be served; and secondly, that it is also its duty, so far as may be practical and consistent with the general arrangements of the service, to forward and deliver letters in conformity with their directions. Applying these rules to the case now before him, His Grace has determined that the proper course for this department is to leave undisturbed the existing arrangements for Eversfield Place and the adjacent localities, unless it can be shewn that the persons above indicated as being most nearly concerned, or such of them as receive a clear majority of the correspondence desire that the letters be forwarded to and delivered from Hastings instead of St Leonards, and will take effectual means to ensure their being properly addressed to Hastings accordingly.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant