Town House (Brett in Prose)

From Historical Hastings


The following was published in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer on the 27th of July 1901[1]:

In view of the demolition of Town House and other property in the Old Town, the following lines from Brett's Reminiscences will be of interest to many of readers:-


From Sargent to Williams, as postman I run,
In retrograde order, as three, two, and one;
The son, like his dad, is a dealer in wine,
With Wingfield above in the furniture line.
It's a coach office, too, where you book for the White,"
As well as the Mail, leaving Hastings at night.
But Williams will shortly retire from the trade,
And after a time be an Alderman made.
Then Moulton. George Edward, the wine trade will do,
Locating his office between One and Two;
Whilst Burfield and Co., noted brewers, at One.
Their office for orders Will soon have begun.
For many a year will this business be here.
And thus it "will have quite a lengthened Career.

But let me go back to an earlier date.
Some other particulars shortly to state;
As few are now living who rightly can tell
What people and places in Hastings befell.
Tis years now a hundred a century quite
Since there was a house upon this or near site
Which one Joseph Carswell, a miller by trade,
With wife and with mother a residence made.
They had a flock mill{sic)[a] the top of White Rock
Which ground into flour their wheat and else stock,
And which in the year Eighteen-eight was thrown down
By winds of great force that blew over the town.

Joe Carswell was then about 40 years old,
And soon after that went to Pett, I've been told;
And where his "wife Mary in 'Twenty-six died,
Himself, too, in Thirty, and placed by her side
A fuller account for the pleasure of these
Who like to read history written in prose
Is hereto annexed, which I wrote at a time.
When whims were not present to scribble in rhyme.

Mr. Carswell. who gave a guinea to the Jubilee Fund in 1809, was the Joseph Carswell who owned and occupied the house and shop at No. 1, George Street, which were taken down in 1810. or thereabouts, and larger premises erected in their place. Mr. Carswell had but recently possessed a mill, Which was previously his mother's, on the White Rock Hill, behind what is now the Beau Site Convalescent Home, and which was blown down by furious gale on the 19th of February, 1808. The miller, on that occasion, escaped as by a miracle. The said mill was just within the parish of St. Mary Magdalen, and had replaced a previous one, which was similarly wrecked by hurricane on the 9th of November, 1800. And that, too. was the successor of a mill that once existed on Cuckoo Hill, the adjoining parish of St. Michael (as shown in the map of 1746) and which was alike ill-fated. It was a bad time for millers, as well as for many people, when wheat was selling at from £41 to £43 per load, and consequently was out of the purchasing power of the poor.

Meanwhile the great tide that so ravaged the town
Swept round into George Street and found the house down;
And when it was re-built I cannot now say
But think it was absent for many day
Yet 'ere Thirty-one had commenced its career

The merchant, James Breeds, had his offices here,
Where others as well, in a different line, Had office or stores in the year 39.
The booking-clerk Gilmore; George Gilmore I mean—
In booking for coaches was roguishly keen;
And being well known to be frequently drunk,
About others' money was doubtless in funk.

He said he was robb'd of gold, silver, and coppers,
By someone unknown in the passage called Hopper's
Yet no believed him that such had occurred,
And only considered the story absurd.
At length, while he tracked the inebriate course,
And probably feeling some tinge of remorse,
He died by self-hanging, thus ceasing to be.

At the inn called the Ship, in the year thirty three
James Breeds by cold hand death being seized,
The house was then let by J.B. s assignees;
But 'ere came the year Eighteen-forty-and-three
Two brothers were here in their office to be.

These J. and C. Burfield, with sensible nous.
Re-christened the place with the name of Town House.
As beer-brewing merchants, with firm of same name.
They keep it still descendants of same name;
That is to the year Eighteen-ninety-and-five,
And, doubtless, will do so till others arrive.
But somewhere about Eighteen-fifty-and-six,

By Burfield and the house was played tricks.
They took them a part and called it 1a,
And traded as wine merchants, claim I to say.
Then Moulton, George Edward excuse my poor pun
Still kept at 1A, selling wines as A1;
And this. I believe, he continued do
Till Eighteen-and-eighty, or Eighty-and-two,

When changed was the firm to G. Moulton and Son,
And changed was the number, though still part of one.
From number 1A to the full number two,
The better, perhaps, greater custom to woo.

Returning to Burfield's at 1 in the street,
Still known as Town House - this is a fact to repeat—
They will of Town House have resolved to dispose
Ere Century Nineteen hath quite come to its close.
Our good Dr.Bagshawe will buy at a price.
And sell to the town for the same money precise
The house as bought - it a very good move.

For taking it down for the roads to improve.
So, too, the Hastings Corporation bought.
As doubtless many persons thought they ought.
Four other houses in Commercial Road,
And which had been the undernamed's abode
And which had been the number two in Eighteen-thirty-two.

When first Commercial Road the people knew,
Was where James Walmsley hats and caps displayed.
Which he beneath Zoar Chapel made.
Not many years elapsed ere Walmsley died.
And then his widow hats and caps supplied
Until she also went the common way;
And then George Wingfield hither came to stay.

But near to 'Forty-eight, the year of grace.
The tailor, Henry Phillips, took his place,
And traded here till Fifty-six or after,
Whilst otherwise evoking tears or laughter

As dramatist, although an amateur,
When he, with many could allure.
But when the year of Sixty-eight came round
At George Street forty-six was Phillips found;
Then gunsmith Brook from topmost part of town,
To number two, Commercial Road came down.

This Jerry Brook in Eighteen-eighty's year
Or, if not that, at other tempus near
Went to up to Ore that he might there reside.
And where, years after, wife and husband died.

Then carman Partridge, probably before
The year grace of eighteen-eighty-four,
Hero had his office; selling also coal.
For sixteen years about upon the whole.

To Number Three, Commercial Road, I track,
There, too. I trace my reminiscence back;
And if I do so in my simple rhyme,
Pray do not judge me guilty of a Crime.

'Twas in the 'Thirties, Forties, Fifties, too,
That Butcher Thwaites much business sought to do
And once a year he fifty lambs would show.
From which to buy the people were not slow.
He next to farming skill himself applied,
In Bexhill Parish, where lived and died;
A wealthy man was he, I dare say.
When, over four-score years, he passed away

Next, Charlie Barton, as his hired abode,
Engaged this Number Three, Commercial Road;
And here, for some few years prolonged his stay;
Then took himself and what was his away.

Before the year of Eighteen-eighty-five
Some Savages were destined to arrive
At Number Three. Yes, Savages, I say,
Although 'twas known no savages were they.

One Edward Savage, a confectioner,
Endeavoured here to make a bus'ness stir;
And, after him, 'twas Mrs. Savage who,
Her sweets to sell, both old and young did woo.

The Savages continued here to stop,
The last of whom who kept, the house and shop
Was Fred, or Francis—so I think, at least—
Who, in the 'Eighties, his connection ceased.

Then came the 'Nineties, with G. Adams here,
To sell coffee, tea, and ginger-beer;
Add with that bus'ness later to combine
An eating-house, where customers could dine.

But then at last the rulers of the town
The premises obtained and pulled them down.
So far, so good! 'twas deemed a proper move
The road to widen and the place improve.

And now we come to Four, Commercial Road.
Which William Breach did make his long abode—
Fishmonger Breach, I mean, a well-known man,
Who, ere that Eighteen-twenty's year began,
And on for thirty years did here reside,
And wholesome fish to rich and poor supplied.

When he gave up, Mark Breach did him succeed,
And also fish supplied to those in need;
For twenty years and more he kept the shop,
And when his service he resolved to stop.
F. Breach was who took the business o'er,
And kept it on a score of years and more.

But in the year of Twentieth century's one.
His business here was destined to have done—
That is to say, he had the house to quit
Because the Council Board had purchased it,

The first I recollect at number Five
Was Stubbs, who now is not alive;
Yes, was he, ere 'Thirty's year had come
Who made this house his bus'ness and bis home.

He sought, with diligence, a trade to gain,
But did not many years remain,
Some three or four, perhaps, and then withdrew
To Twenty, George Street, at a house then new.

The next at number Five was Boykett Breeds
And though too small for all his fam'lys needs,
He did well as others would perhaps.
And used the shop for selling hats and caps.

But when he died as die he really did
There nothing seemed his widow to forbid
Herself remaining many an after year,
As owner or occupier here.

She died, aged 83, in 'Eighty-two,
Surviving twenty years her husband, who
In Eighteen-sixty-one his life gave o'er
In such a way was not thought before.

When Widow Breeds bad finished her career,
Then Alexander took possession here—
I mean her son, the one of brothers three,
Who only now survives for us see.

But who first owned these houses, Two to Four?
Well, old inhabitants-a score or more-
Might truly tell you, 'twould be not a myth
Were I to answer, Frank and Tilden Smith!

Then came the failure of the Hastings Bank
And here those owners names became a blank,
And Mister Standen of a tailor's trade.
Or, if not he, his wife a purchase made.

Oh. yes, 'twas she, Penelope by name
Who of this lot proprietor became;
Though eldest by years twenty-three,
Penelope, widow'd was she;
Her husband to follow, in Salehurst ground hollow,
By other than human decree.

In Eighteen-and-eighty's good year.
Dame Standen was borne on bier;
But not. I'll engage, till the old lady's age
Attained ninety-seven or near.

References & Notes

  1. It is unsure whether Brett means 'Smock Mill' here - the typesetting clearly says 'Flock Mill'