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Hastings Old Town History

All Saints Church

The current All Saints Church was built in 1436 and was more than likely erected on the site of a much earlier church building. It is very similar to the much older St Clements Church with its perpendicular architecture.

All Saints is often referred to as the 'upper church' and St Clements as the 'lower church'.

Restoration on All Saints and St Clement's was directed by William Butterfield in the 1870s and the interior retains a mural above the chancel arch depicting Doom.

From 1660 to 1674, the Rector was Samuel Oates, father of the infamous Titus Oates.

All Saints Street

Some of the oldest surviving houses in Hastings can be found in All Saints Street, dating from 1450. Much of the medieval Old Town would have looked like this, although the timber framing would have been lighter in colour.

All Saints Street

The Anchor Public House

The Anchor was often used as a courthouse. The ghost of one unfortunate soul who was sentenced to hang, is rumoured to haunt the present bar.

Barry's Marine Library

First opened in 1791, the Marine Library was situated on Marine Parade. Barry's was enlarged in 1814 by the addition of a first floor billiard room and lounge where elegant musical evening gatherings were held. In 1828 the library was acquired by William Diplock.

Belmont Villas

The villas at the West end of Belmont Road date back to around 1830 and were designed by Joseph Kay, the architect responsible for Pelham Crescent.

Belmont House, The Cottage and The Cupola are Grade 2* listed buildings.

Boating Lake

Situated over the remains of the original Elizabethan Harbour, the boating lake was built by Sidney Little using 60 unemployed men from the local labour exchange. They worked in shift pattern so as to keep their unemployment benefits in place while earning some extra money.

After the Second World War the Boating Lake became very popular once again. The original boats were motorised and had little Stuart-Turner engines. The boats were eventually sold off as collectors items.

Boating Lake

The Bourne

The Bourne originally had a brewery and properties survive there from the late 15th Century.

Bourne Street Theatre

Opened in August 1825 and proved to be initially popular, however this theatre only lasted eight years before being converted into a chapel.

Church of St Nicholas / Fishermen's Museum

Built in 1854 at Rock-a-Nore, the Church of St Nicholas cost £500 and was payed for by the Rector of All Saints Church. Shrimp nets, life buoys and painted sea views were used to paint the interior.

The church was used as a military store during the Second World War but became badly damaged by the 1950's. The Old Hastings Preservation Society saved the church from demolition and restored the building which was re-opened as the Fishermen's Museum in 1956.

The children of local fishermen are still baptised at the original church font that remains in position to this day.

Church Passage

An attractive lane behind St Clements church, running from Hill Street to the High Street. The timber clad cottages were built around 1800.

Commercial Road

This was a short road that lead off the High Street. It eventually reduced to just two buildings which were then renumbered and taken into the High Street.

Convent of Our Lady

The chapel of the Convent of Our Lady was erected in 1924-5 from designs in the Baroque style by John Hicks.

The convent intself was originally built in 1827 as Hastings Lodge, later becoming the home of Frederick North who was mayor and MP for Hastings.

From 1884 the house was used as the Hastings Hydropathic Establishment which utilised the natural spring that rises in the grounds, known as "Old Hastings Spring".

The Cutter Public House

The Cutter in East Parade was built in 1792. During the times of the Napoleonic Wars the landlord was James Bell, from 1807 to 1823. He had been a former valet to Lord Nelson. The facade has since been considerably altered.

The Dolphin

The Dolphin was built by Edward Ridley in about 1851, although records show that an inn existed in this location as early as 1798.

East Cliff House

At the seafront end of All Saits Street stands East Cliff House. This character property was constructed in 1762 by Edward Capell, the famous Shakespearean critic and censor of plays. At a cost of £5000 the house replaced the old East Fort that previously stood in its place.

After being left empty during the second world war the building deteriorated but was to be refurbished as a fish and chip shop by the early 1950's. Later used as East Cliff Guest House and a bingo hall, and by the Hastings Arts Workshop during the 1970's. The building eventually became Capels Restaurant and remains as such to this day.

East Hill Lift

Built some ten years later than its sister on the West Hill, the East Hill Lift was designed by P.H. Palmer (Borough Engineer) and carries passengers up the cliff to the picturesque glens. The lift was built in 1901-02 and was first opened in April 1902.

The East Hill Lift is the steepest funicular railway in the country with an angle of 38 degrees (1 in 2.8 gradient).

The power for the system was originally supplied by a water balance device with each car having a 600 gallon water tank underneath that was filled with water at the top and emptied at the bottom.

The original Victorian cars are still in use today but were converted to an electric motor system in 1974.

East Parade

Built in the late 18th Century, East Parade was an attempt to provide a fashionable walk by the sea for visitors.

The East Well

A natural spring at Rock-a-Nore still provides public drinking water to this day. The East Well is situated next to the East Hill Lift and was built in the 1840's with part of the money raised from a local fundraising campaign.

Ebenezer Particular Baptist Church

The original building on this spot of Tackle Way was built at the beginning of the 19th Century, known as the Cow Lodge Chapel. The current chapel was erected in 1817 by David Fenner.

Fishermen's Society and Institute

Founded by Sophia Mendham, the Fishermen's Society was originally established in Hughenden Hall, moving to the present building at All Saints Street in 1882. This is also the headquarters of the famous Winkle Club.

Fishing Boats

Fishing boats have been launched from The Stade, (landing place), for at least 600 years. The design of these boats shows a Viking origin, being built with overlapping planks fastened with clinched nails (Clinkerbuilt). Hastings Old Town has the largest beach moored fishing fleet in the UK.

George Street

The informal architecture of George Street hasn't changed much in appearance since the late 19th Century.

Harbour Arm

There was a harbour in Hastings as long ago as the late middle ages which was destroyed around 1560. Many efforts have been made to rebuild it including in Elizabethan times, the remains of which are now under the Boating Lake.

In 1889 a scheme was introduce to further commercialise Hastings Harbour which was enthusiastically backed by the town. The plans included two long harbour arms and railway facilities through a tunnel to be cut in East Cliff. In 1890 a Harbour Act was passed and construction began.

As the work advanced, serious difficulties were encountered by the irregular nature of the sea bed. The situation was worsened by difficulties raising the necessary capital for the project. Construction finally halted completely when the Corporation refused to guarantee a sum of £3000 a year to allow the harbour to be finished.

Hastings & St Leonards Golf Club

The club was started in 1893 with just £150 and based from No.3 High Wickham. The original course consisted of seven holes and ran from the back of High Wickham to Barley Lane. Permission to use the land was given by the Hastings Corporation.

Later the original seven holes were extended to nine. Over the years the club extended further, moving course and club house several times, but eventually closed down due to shortage of funds.

Hastings House

Dating back to the Georgian period, Hastings House stands at the end of the High Street next to Torfield. The property was originally named The Mansion and was home for many years to John Collier.

During the 19th century the house was occupied by Countess Waldegrave.

In 1876 the poet Coventry Patmore moved into the house but by 1891 was forced to vacate the property having invested the greater part of his money in other local property including St Mary Star of the Sea (the Church opposite Hastings House).

Hastings Theatre / Wesley Chapel

The old Hastings Theatre stood in Bourne Street and was converted into a chapel by the Wesleyans in 1835. The building survived until 1939 when it was demolished and replaced by the brick Neo-Georgian Chapel that is there today.

High Wickham

This was originally named Prospect Place and was mostly built by Humphrey Wickham (a local butcher) in the 1820s. The row of houses commanded a great view and were popular with artists and writers in Victorian and Edwardian times.

High Street

Probably one of the oldest streets in Hastings Old Town. The High Street was originally named Market Street.

Ice House

The Ice House was situated in Rock-a-Nore Road. The ice was used to pack the fish caught by local fishermen.

Marine Parade

A gas explosion in Marine Parade on 13 July 1963 destroyed houses to the left of the Royal Albion. Thirty people were injured but nobody was killed. The houses were never re-built.

Miniature Railway

The miniature railway running along the beach at the Old Town was constructed in 1948 and originally operated with scaled-down steam engines. These were replaced in time by diesel locomotives which are more efficient and don’t require water.

Net Huts

The prominent net huts on the beach in Hastings Old Town are made of clinker weather boarding and stand an average of 25 feet high. Style of the structures is possibly early 17th Century and the unique wooden buildings were originally used as workshops and storage for nets, sails and ropes.

In 1934 the Borough Council restricted the area allowed for each net hut to eight square feet because of the limited space between the cliffs and the sea. To overcome this problem the fishermen built their equipment stores upwards to maximise the allowed space and constructed three stories, one above the other.

About 45 of these unique structures can still be seen today and they are considered one of Hastings most famous and internationally known landmarks. Many more were originally built but have been destroyed by strong seas during the past 150 years. The council also demolished some during the 1950's to clear the beach area for development.

With the advent of nylon nets there was less need for workshops and the buildings main use became storage. The remaining net huts are still used for this purpose today and are regularly maintained to withstand the elements.

Old Town Hall / Museum

The original Hastings Town Hall was built in the High Street in 1700. This was replaced in 1823 by the current Old Town Hall building. Use as a town hall was moved to the current Hastings site in Queens Road during 1881, and since then te Old Town Hall building has been used to house the Old Town History Museum.

The Queens Head

First licensed in 1830, The Queens Head was situated in Each Beach Street. Said to be very popular with Victorian visitors and traders who's goods were bought in by sea and unloaded nearby.

The Rising Sun

Opposite the Victorian Lifeboat House in East Parade was a pub called the Rising Sun that sold ales from the Star Brewery Company of Eastbourne.

Rotunda Fish Market

The Rotunda was a Victorian fishmarket that was situated in the centre of the road at the foot of the High Street. An octangular building constructed in 1870 from corrugated iron by Hastings Borough Council.

Eventaully demolished in 1928 to make way for the trolleybus turning circle which was later turned into a car park.

Royal Oak / Infirmary

The town's first infirmary was opened in 1834 in what was previously the Royal Oak building in the High Street.

Shovells / All Saints Workhouse

The 15th Century cottage at 125 All Saints Street is well known to have been home to the mother of Admiral Sir Clodesley Shovell in the early 1700s. The property was later used as the workhouse for the parish of All Saints from the mid 1700s until about 1820. It was returned to a cottage in 1837 when the Union Workhouse was opened in Ore Valley.

St Clements Church

Originally the parish church stood nearer the sea but was destroyed by rough tides in 1236. its replacement was also destroyed during a French raid in 1378.

The current St Clements church was built with a perpendicular architecture design and dates back to 1377, being the oldest of all the churches in the Old Town.

The design of nearby All Saints Church is very similar but this was much newer, dating back to 1436. St Clements is often referred to as the 'lower church' and All Saints as the 'upper church'.

A full restoration of both St Clemens't and All Saints Church was carried out by William Butterfield in 1875.

The church has a mayoral pew and several monuments including those of the Milward family and John Collier. Also of note is a plaque commemorating the marriage of the poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Elizabeth Siddall at St Clement's in 1860.

St Clement's Caves

These caves are in the Ashdown sandstone of the West Hill above Hastings Old Town.

In about 1810 the owner of the land, Edward Milward, sealed the entrance, but in 1827 local trader Joseph Golding obtained permission to open the caves to the public.

The caves served as air raid shelters during the 1939-45 war.

Open to the public to this day, the Caves are one of Hastings visitor attractions named Smugglers Adventure.

St Clements Workhouse

Situated where 42 George Street now stands, St Clements Workhouse served the West side of the Old Town. It was demolished after residents were transferred to the new Union Workhouse at Ore Valley in 1837.

St Mary Star of the Sea

This church was designed by Basil Champneys in 1882-3. The erection of the church was mainly due to the poet Coventry Patmore who contributed £5,000 of his own money towards the cost of the church with the intention of making it a memorial to his second wife.

St Nicholas - The Fishermen's Church / Fishermen's Museum

Built by the Rector of St Clement's in 1854 and remained in use until the 1839-45 war. During the war the building was used as a military store and suffered considerable damage.

In 1955-6 the building was restored and converted into a fishermen's museum with the last of the old Hastings lugger boats (Enterprise) as the main exhibit.

Stables Theatre

An early 18th Century Grade II listed building which has been restored and extended. This was originally constructed as a stable building for John Collier's nearby Hastings House.

The building has also housed Wellington's troops during the Nepoleonic war, been used as a fire station and a temporary home for circus elephants.

From the 1920's the building was used for workshops until it was faced with demolition in the mid 1950's.

Local organisations campaigned to save the building for use as a theatre and arts centre. The new Stables Theatre was officially opened in June 1959 by Sir Ralph Richardson.

In 1975, a £65,000 extension appeal was launched.

The Stade

The fishermen’s beach known as The Stade has the UK's largest fishing fleet worked from a beach.

The Stag Inn

The Georgian frontage to the Stag Inn masks a much earlier building (originally known as the White Hart). Tunnels, possibly used by smugglers, run from the cellar (which was the original bar). At the beginning of the tunnels there was an opening, through which they might have looked to see if any excise men were present before they emerged. The mummified cats above the present bar were found when a fireplace was removed. Some believe they were walled up to ward off evil spirits.

The Starr / The Roebuck Inn

A popular inn during Victorian times, originally named The Starr and then changed to The Roebuck which lasted until 1939 when it was demolished as part of the Bourne Clearance. Roebuck Surgery now stands on the approximate site of the inn.

Swan Inn / Swan Assembly Rooms / Swan Public House

This celebrated coaching inn stood at the south end of the High Street and was perhaps the most important centre for social and general activity for some 400 years. The Swan hosted all of the town's important functions.

The building dated back to 1523 and some 14th Century references to the site have been found.

In 1771 Thomas Hovenden became landlord and the building (then known as The Swan Assembly Rooms) played an important role in attracting visitors to the new resort of Hastings.

The 16th Century building was pulled down in 1879 and subsequently rebuilt. At this point it was renamed the Swan Public House.

Finally destroyed during an air raid in 1943, the building has never been replaced and the site is now laid out as a garden of remembrance.

Tackle Way

Despite the obvious connection, the name of this road has nothing to do with fishing and instead comes from "le legill wey" as it was shown in a deed dating back to 1499. This probably translates into modern English as "the tiled way" or "the way to the tile kilns".

Tamarisk Steps

The Tamarisk Steps are named after the plant which once grew profusely on the edge of the East Cliff.


Situated next to Hastings House at the end of the High Street, Torfield dates back to the Georgian period and is thought to be a re-build of a much older structure.

Town Wall

This medieval wall extended from the West Fort at the lower end of the High Street to the East Fort at the bottom of All Saints Street.
The wall was erected in about 1400 as a necessary defence measure against French raids from the sea. The wall had 3 gates: Sea Gate at High Street, Water Gate at Bourne Street, and Pulpit Gate at All Saints Street.

The wall fell into decay in the mid 18th Century and had almost completely gone by 1800.

Lifeboat House

A splendid Victorian Lifeboat House with turret was built in 1882 on the site of the old Custom House in East Parade. It replaced the earlier lifeboat house that was situated in Rock-a-Nore. Strangely, Hastings Borough Council built the boating lake between the Victorian lifeboat house and the sea which hindered launches and the building was eventually demolished in 1949. The current day lifeboat house was built in 1959.

West Hill Lift

Originally opened by a private company in 1891, some ten years before its sister on the East Hill, the West Hill Lift operates through a 462 foot tunnel between George Street and Castle Hill.

The power for the system was originally supplied by a water balance device with each car having a 600 gallon water tank underneath that was filled with water at the top and emptied at the bottom.

The original Victorian cars are still in use today but were converted to an electric motor system in 1974.

The West Hill Lift was taken over by Hastings Council in 1947.

Winkle Club

Founded in 1900 by the fishermen of the Old Town to help the underprivileged, the Winkle Club is still flourishing today and supports many charities.

Sir Winston Churchill became a member of the Winkle Club in September 1955, greeted by over 5,000 onlookers and presented with a solid gold winkle made by well-known old-towner "Bunk" Harffey.

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