The Hastings UK Guide


History of Ore during & after WW2


By Michael J Errey

I have jotted down a few notes on life in Ore Valley from the time I was born there in 1932 and when I left in 1950 to join the army.

The two outstanding features were the railway station and the power station, both an attractive target for enemy aircraft during the war, but one they totally failed to achieve in spite of plenty of attempts. The geography of the valley tucked tightly away between the Ridge and the East and West Hills and anti aircraft defences and perhaps a little bit of what is known as a charmed life, kept them intact.

The first bombs I saw drop in Hastings were in fact in Pine Avenue and many houses were hit in Tin Town during the war, consequently a Bofors, anti aircraft gun was mounted in Broomgrove road, opposite No 24 on the railway bank above the station.

The station at that time was much more important than it is today with huge sheds which would hold four twelve carriage trains for servicing prior for returning on the trip to Victoria, While the Ashford line was double track all of the way and not as it is at this end now, This line was of course steam engine driven as diesel had not yet arrived on the scene, and as they had no means, as today of turning the engine round on the service to Rye, it had to run backwards in one direction. In the late 40s and 50s the railway embankment was cut and cleared each summer, and you could stand in Broomgrove Road and clearly see people getting of the trains on the platform below and there was an entrance to the station down steps, and a path opposite 17 Broomgrove Road were a family called Brewer lived. Mr Brewer worked for the Southern Railway and had moved from Polegate with his job.

With regard to the power station this was quite large and would have supplied all or most of the electricity for the town, I cannot be sure of this, because I do not know if a national grid system was in operation at that time but I suspect it was. It was fuelled by coal, which was brought in by goods train on a siding, which joined the main line opposite Hurrell Road, it consisted of four huge steel plated boilers, which omitted steam and smoke constantly day and night. This was a large power station I do not have any idea of its dimensions, but it was big and an obvious target for enemy action, with its admissions drawing attention to it, and giving off an eerie humming noise, particularly at night. The air raid warning alarm was fixed to the top of the power station, this was steam driven and could be heard for more than a mile away.

I was born and lived at the Fortune of War public house in Priory Road, near its junction with Mount Pleasant Road. From here we had a marvellous view across Ore valley, the Fortune as it was known as by our customers, was a tied house, that is that it was owned by a brewery and let to a landlord, in this case my father. It had originally belonged to a Hastings brewery Breeds who operated out of the High Street, the brewery premises are still in existence, they sold it to a Faversham brewery George Beer and Rigden Ltd. Who delivered to us and the Royal Sussex Arms about half a mile up the road in a steam driven Foden lorry which had a speed of about 20 miles per hour all the way from north Kent, takes some believing these days, I use to give my farther early warning of the brewers dray approaching by looking out of the window as I could see the smoke rising up over the roof tops as they stoked up at the Sussex prior to coming down to us.

That part of Hastings, were we lived was called Halton, it was not a particularly wealthy part of the town, but had a great historic connection, as I was taught at school, a lot of the houses that were pulled down in the 60s and converted in to flats, were part of Halton barracks which housed the troops at the end of the 1700s and during the period of the Napoleonic wars. We were taught also that the Fortune was part of this complex, in the form of an officers mess or similar. While the men would have drunk and been entertained in the other pub in the back street called the Dunn Horse. Quite a lot of commerce took place in Halton in those days we had two bakers one was called Hazell's and the other Clout's, 2 greengrocers, 4 grocers one which was run by a very industrious lady called Ada Fairall, a fried fish shop a off licence and a news agent called George Perch. Dairy and milk processing was carried out by Punch Funnell and his son who had a herd of cow up at Fairlight. A butcher that employed a staff of four owned by Bill Wells and other enterprising concerns that escape me. It is very sad to see these are all gone these days and replaced by a lot of faceless flats, but then they are probable more comfortable than the houses they replaced.

Wells the butcher used to keep a fair number of pigs at the lane, which turned up towards Priory Road at the end of Hurrell Road, and was consequently called Piggy Pound Lane, these were of course reared for slaughter for pork and bacon for the butchers shop, for which they had good reputation. Any place where live stock is raised always attracts vermin, and this was no exception providing hours of entertainment for small boys with an air gun. A useful alternative to trying to play football on the rough surface of Broomgrove Road, which I am surprised to see, is just as rough today as it was 50 to 60 years ago. One thing that has changed is that the road bridge over the railway line is not now open to traffic going through to tin town. A useful alternative to spending money on maintenance I suppose. Is this the same financial logic that has caused the Church of England to demolish Halton Church in the last few years.

The Fortune stood out into Priory Road and reduced the width of the road by half at that point, I expect that this was the reason for its demise during the 60s and of course when the Trolley buses were disposed and sent of to Maidstone to work out their lives, it was the end of the era as the overhead wires had been attached to the pub. People today would be surprised to know that we had buses or trolley buses along Priory Road ever 2 to 3 minutes during the day. Trolley services 3 from Silver Hill and 6 from Hollington came up Mount Pleasant, while buses service 35 from Sidley and 51 from West St Leonards Station came over the West Hill. An electrical sub station stood at the top of Mount Pleasant, by the steps going down to Broomgrove and Hurrell roads, this was solely to provide an electric supply for the trolley buses.

During the early 40s a trolley bus had just come up to the junction of Mount Pleasant and Priory Roads, the conductor having collected all the fares from the town centre was standing on the platform at the back, they had no doors in those days, when a huge bomb destroyed Halton school, blast does some strange things, on this occasion it took him off the bus into a phone box by the Fortune as the door miraculously swung open depositing him inside in a dazed condition. The driver did not know he had lost his conductor, he probable wanted to get the hell out of it quickly. When he got to Ore village he would turn to come back and would need his conductor to unhook the electrical connection poles to carry out this operation, this was when he discovered he was missing. Help arrived in the form of a No 11 circular route trolley coming round from the Ridge. On his return to the Fortune the conductor had recovered but somewhat shaken was waiting for him. No loss of children was incurred with the school bombing as it was closed, the pupils having been evacuated at the time.

The Hastings Round Table Club used to run a boys club in Halton, which provided table tennis, snooker and a football team, the club was open two nights a week Tuesdays and Thursday when refreshments were available. A Scotsman named Jock Dunoon who in his younger days had kept goal for Glasgow Rangers and Chelsea, ran the club on behalf of the round table. When Hastings United became a professional club succeeding the amateur Hastings & St Leonards F C. Jock was the first manager. The United' s first match was an away game in the Southern League against Tonbridge which they drew 2- 2. Other teams in the league in those days included, Colchester Utd. Gillingham, Hereford etc. My interest in football had been inspired at Priory Road school or the Central School as it was called in those days before it became Hastings secondary modern by the fact that one of the teachers was Burt White who was secretary of Hastings & St Leonards F C. While at school we used to walk along Bembrooke Road to a football ground by Halton church for football, cricket and sports.

For a period of two years in 1940 - 42 we had no school whatsoever with bombs falling around us each day, and then followed a period for the next two years when lessons were curtailed to mornings one week and afternoons the following week, due to a shortage of teaching staff. The civilian population of the town dwindled to something like 25,000 due to evacuation, and many that stayed behind slept in St Clements caves at night. No one was ever bored in those days you got use to the dangers and in fact life was quite exciting, most nights except when very overcast you could see the red glare of London burning in the sky 68 miles away. Then one day it was all over and we gradually got back to normal, street lights etc. But in those days they were turned on by a lamp lighter with a pole.

Michael J Errey - 25.3.06

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