Thomas Ross (1810-1881)

From Historical Hastings

Mayor of Hastings five times[1], and author of an 1835 guide book to Hastings & St Leonards. Ross would also appear to have been an artist, producing many of the illustrations for both his guides and other printed productions, many of which were produced at his premises of 6 Castle Street. Ross started out life at school in Winding Street, the school being one of the fore-runners of what would become Hastings Grammar School. The 1861 Census gives his occupation as being a 'Proprietor of Houses', whilst by 1871 he is recorded as being a retired stationer[2].

Marrying the daughter of a London builder in 1843 he had one son, Thomas, with whom he was recorded as living with at Tudor House, St. Helen's Road by 1881[3]


There were, in total, 13 editions published of his Hastings and St Leonards Guide dated between 1835 and 1863.

“17 Views of Hastings and its Environs” - a set of engravings based on his own drawings.

“Ross’s Views of Hastings and St. Leonards”. This publication is undated but must be before 1849 because give Ross's address as 6 Castle Street (he having moved from there to Claremont in 1849).


His obituary, published in the Hastings & St. Leonards Observer reads as follows[1]:-

During the last few days Hastings has lost, in the death of Mr. T. Ross, one of the most useful men who have live and worked here during the last half-century. For some little time the deceased gentleman had been suffering from the effects of a cold, and on Thursday the dread climax came. Loved by political friends and opponents alike, although he had withdrawn from the political arena, his loss will long be felt by those whom he has severely mauled in Council discussions. Mr. Ross’ career has been, in truth, full of great interest to Hastings. In 1874, at the festive gathering in the Pier Pavilion, when Mr, (now Sir Thomas) Brassey presented him with a valuable service of plate, and an engrossed address, in which was set forth the appreciation of the borough at large of Mr, Ross’ long and untiring devotion to the interests of his native town, the recipient said :—“ In my early days I thought over the course of life I ought to pursue and I came to the decision that I must be attentive to my business, and that all my leisure time ought to be devoted to the promotion of the interests of my native town. have, I hope, followed out that course, and you, my fellow-townspeople, have sent me to the Council for a long and unbroken period of thirty years. You have also made me Mayor five times — the greatest honour in your power to bestow — and what more can I expect ?” Those were words worthy of the man that spoke them, and should commend themselves to every young man just entering upon life’s stormy sea. Mr. Ross was a resolute leader of his party, and when he was pulled down from his high seat as Alderman and sent from the corporate body, of which he had been a member for 33 years, he said he knew it was not meant as a personal slight, so universal was the personal respect that was shown him, Many years ago, but nevertheless within the recollection of several inhabitants of Hastings, Mr. Ross led on a little band of Free Traders to do battle, not merely against political opponents, but against political friends who had not the courage of their opinions. The rule of conduct which Mr. Ross laid down for himself in commencing his political and official life of first attending to his own personal concerns, and then devoting all the leisure time at his disposal to the good of his native town and his country, he seems never to have swerved from. Politician, " Councillor, Chairman of the Guardians, Alderman, Archaeologist, Mayor, Justice of the Peace, and in whatever capacity we take him, we found him always holding by his golden principle of working wherever there was work to be done. One thing which struck all his friends and acquaintances was the loving way in which he always spoke of his father and mother. He would point to the Portrait of Master Gunner Ross, and pour into your ears an eloquent account of the eventful life of the old campaigner. He would tell how, when his Parents were quartered in Gibraltar, and the fever was raging among the inhabitants, the Wives of the soldiers were forbidden to go near the plague stricken lest they should carry the contagion back with them. is mother, however, disguising herself in Portuguese attire, went forth, in utter defiance of orders, that she might minister to the sick and dying. Doubtless many were the blessings bestowed on the mother of the subject of this notice by the poor suffering inhabitants, Mr. Ross was born about nine years after his father and mother settled in Hastings; they arrived about 1800. The old soldier had memorialised his superiors to grant him a master gunnership; this was done: and a vacancy at Hastings was the first that occurred, He accepted this, and continued to hold it till the day of his death. Thomas Ross received the rudiments of his education at a school in Winding-lane, endowed by Parker's charity, and at that time kept by Mr, Rubie; from this school he was sent to a seminary at Beckley, conducted by Mr. James Parsons. Here he stayed about six months, when he returned to Hastings, and was apprenticed to Mr. Waghorne, a house painter, decorator, and grainer, who at the time lived opposite the Anchor Inn in George-street. It is worthy of mention that Mr. Ross did what might be said to be the first and the last stroke of painting for new St. Leonards, viz., he painted the notice boards for the roads before the work was begun, and was sent for from a job at Brighton to finish some graining at the Assembly Rooms Hotel, which the journeymen had been found incompetent to do without him for the grand banquet at which the completion of the work of erection of the new township celebrated. Mr. Ross’ next important step in life was the opening of a shop at No. 6, Castle-street, for the sale of pictures, stationery, and fancy articles, afterwards removing to the premises in the same street, now, and for several years occupied by Mr. Charles Amoore. The young tradesman throve in all his business undertakings, and married on the 16th March, 1843, the daughter of Mr. Bird, a London builder, who lived forwards of 30 years as the faithful companion of his domestic life. Here was born his son Thomas at whose residence his spirit passed away. Two or three years subsequently he was enabled to finally retire from business, and to accord to the promotion of the objects of his party and the prosperity of the borough the extensive leisure time which fortune had placed at his disposal. He about 1840 aspired to a seat in our local Parliament, which he succeeded in obtaining. It a somewhat singular that Mr. Ross' first election as a Councilor was not only opposed, but was actually sanctioned by the Conservatives. Whatever the reason of the uncontested return of the Liberal, it is clear his conduct in the Council afforded his opponents so little satisfaction, that they resolved, if possible, to oust him from the place to which they were greatly the means of placing him, and, upon his soliciting, re-election at the hands of the burgesses, he found himself opposed by a Conservative nominee in the person of the late Mr. Frederick Ticehurst, or, as he was more generally called, ”Doctor” Ticehurst. The contest was a most exciting one, and, to the surprise of the Tories, at the conclusion of the fight it was found that the “Doctor” had scored six votes less than his opponent. On his return to the Council, he was more independent in his conduct and more outspoken in his views than ever. This was not without its weight on the minds of the burgesses, for, in 1846, a subscription, limited to 3d. each, was started by the humbler voters, and a silver cigar-case, worked in a Scotch plaid, and inscribed with the donors’ sense of the recipient’s “straightforward conduct in the Town Council,” was publicly presented to him. . Ten years after that Mr. Ross was, for the first time elected to the civic chair, and it was either during this or a subsequent early mayoralty that he was appointed Justice of the Peace for the Borough. Mr. Ross was the prime mover in the Cemetery, an active agitator in demanding a comprehensive system of drainage for the town, the chief promoter of the erection of the Albert Memorial, of which structure he laid the foundation stone, the originator of the scheme for the acquisition of the Public Gardens and Park, the introducer of the Fitzroy signals and Russian gun into the town; an earnest student of archaeology, holding the post of local secretary to the County Society for 28 years. Nor will Mr. Ross’ name be confined to Hastings for in the modern history of the Cinque Ports he has registered his sign manual so that it cannot easily be erased, for, as Speaker of the Ports during two Mayoralties, he twice summoned their local parliaments. Long will he be regretted, and many of the features of this borough will be lasting monuments to his honour.

Works stored on this wiki

  1. a b British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 3 September 1881 Pg. 0005
  2. UK Census Return
  3. UK Census 1881