During the 1930s, the Hastings & St Leonards Observer ran a series of 'retrospectives' with various elderly citizens of the town being interviewed by a reporter and the result of the inteview being placed in print. This is one of that series, given by Walter Mayo (1860-1942), who had moved to the town circa 1883, having been born in Leamington Spa.
Mr Walter Mayo's Reminiscences. Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 05 May 1934
"The Hastings of 1884 was very different from what it is in 1934 with wonderful improvements and developments in all directions. Apart from privately owned vehicles, I found the only means of transport was a two-horse omnibus run on very limited routes. The East and West Hills were inaccessible except to pedestrians. There were no lifts or modern approaches such as there are today.
In fact, these hills belonged to the Sayer-Milward estate, and were not acquired by the Corporation until some time afterwards. Then I witnessed the West Hill cut right in two to make what is now Wellington Road and enable the Sayer-Milward estate to be developed on the Western side of the hill.
This led to the existence of Milward Road, Milward Crescent, Nelson Road and Stonefield Terrace along with Wellington Road (through which buses have opened up a means of access to Halton, Ore and beyond). To widen the approach to Milward Road, a portion of the old disused St Mary In The Castle cemetery was acquired with the consent of the ecclesiastical authorities.
Otherwise, the West Hill, as I first knew it, was without a single house, except St. Mary's Terrace on the crest and Emmanuel parish behind it. The old Grammar school stood alone, gaunt and ugly, and without that consideration which has been given to it in recent times, and which, I trust, may lead to new school worthy of its traditions. At the bottom of the hill stood Castledown House, surrounded by stone walls, alongside St. Mary's cemetery, and divided by Wallinger's Walk. This took its name from Prebendary Wallinger, who at one time lived in Castledown House, and was a perpetual curate of St. Mary in the Castle Church.
The grassy slope of the western side of the hill ended at what is now the top of Queen's Road, close to the railway embankment, and the long insanitary tunnel through which everyone had to pass to reach Alexandra Park and the surrounding district. One of the greatest improvements in Hastings was the abolition of this tunnel, and the erection of the fine railway bridge which took its place, this being the outcome of an agreement between the Corporation and the railway company.
My object in writing, however, is not to describe the geographical or topographical features of Hastings, so I will only allude to one, other area where great changes have taken place in recent years, and which has led to long-continued controversy as to how to approach it through the Old Town. My first acquaintance with this district was through country lane, off Old London Road, with high banks and hedges on either side. Now it is a wide thoroughfare known as Mount Road, and a main artery to the upper part of, where residences cover what was then open country. All Souls Church was not built, and the district formed part of the old parish of All Saints'.
Fifty years ago the of Hastings was very different, being comparatively clean, picturesque, and always considered healthy. Influential residents were numbered among its population, such as Colonel and Miss Arabella North in The Croft, and Mr. Coventry Patmore Old Hastings House, formerly occupied by Sarah, Countess Waldegrave. This religious and philanthropic lady is commemorated the water fountain standing in close proximity to Holy Trinity Church in Robertson Street, and, as the inscription on it testifies, was erected by inhabitants of the borough to mark her constant devotion to the best interests of the town.
It was due to Mr. Coventry Patmore that the Roman Catholic Church of St Mary Star of the Sea was built. By his generous gift of £5,000, the " Pious Society of Missions " erected and has controlled the church ever since from its headquarters at the Italian Church, Hatton-gardens. It was not consecrated, however, until after the war, owing to heavy mortgage not having been previously paid off. I knew personally the first two priests who had charge of this centre of Roman propaganda - the Rev. Father (afterward Monsignor) Bannin and Father Arkell. The former was courteous and gentle and devoted to the consolatory part of the work, but the latter was a violent controversialist, and vehemently attacked the Reformation settlement."
Walter was recorded as being resident at 25 Mount Pleasant Road in 1891, having moved here around the time of his wedding in 1884 and had three daughters at that time. His occupation was given as that of a missionary preacher. By 1901, he was living at 160 Hughenden Road, where he remained until his death in 1942.
References & Notes
- UK Census Return 1891
- UK Census Return 1901
- UK Register of Civilians 1939