West St Leonards History
This area includes Bulverhythe (thought to be the landing place of William the Conqueror), West Marina, Bo-Peep with its smuggling history, Filsham and Pebsham.
In 1749 the “Amsterdam” set sail for Java in the East Indies carrying soldiers, sailors, a few passangers and provisions for the 9 month journey ahead. The ship encountered stormy seas and eventually lost it’s rudder so the captain was forced to drop anchor and came to rest on a sandy strip at Bulverhythe. After a month the Amsterdam had sunk 14 feet into the sand and was in no way salvageable. The remains can still be seen at low tide to this day.
Purpose built open air pools and lido's were very fashionable in the 1930's with over 300 operating nationwide at one point.
Plans were revealed for the St Leonards Bathing Pool in 1931. The Daily Express ran the headline "£60,000 lido for Hastings" announcing the news.
Commissioned by Hastings Council and built by Sydney Little (known as the Concrete King) who claimed it would be the biggest and best pool in Europe. Indeed it did rival the giants of Blackpool and Southport when it opened in May 1933.
The olympic sized pool had staggered seating for 2,500 spectators to the sides, plus a gymnasium and car park beneath. The attraction of the pool was enhanced due to the fact that you could alternate swimming in the pool with swimming in the sea on the adjacent beach. Organised games became very popular on the terrace between the pool and the sea.
Although admitting 33,000 in June of its first year, unfortunately the council closed the pool in 1959, having only made a profit in for the first year. The council offered the pool to private companies in 1946 but nobody took them up on the offer until 1960.
Under new owner Dennis Carrington, the pool complex became known as Hastings Holiday Centre and included chalet hire for 300 guests.
By the 1980's the appeal of outdoor pools in the UK was on the decline and the pool finally closed for good in 1986.
Convalescent Home of Chelsea
This substantial building at 119 West Hill Road was originally owned by Hertfordshire County Council and used as a childrens convalescent home. In 1937 it was passed to the Chelsea Hospital for Women and was opened by the Countess Cadagon. Under its new owners the building was once again used as a convalescent home and remained so until 1980. The building still survives today, although now renamed Senlac House and divided in to several private residences.
Eversfield Chest Hospital / West House
Situated in West Hill Road and built in 1881, originally named The Eversfield Hospital and Home for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest and Throat. The hospital became part of the National Health Service in 1948.
Situated in West Hill Road and named after Dr Thomas Gambier who opened the Hastings & St Leonards Throat and Ear Dispensary in Trinity Street in 1882.
Hertfordshire Convalescent Home
On Thursday 28 October 1880 the Hertfordshire Seaside Convalescent Home was formally opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Christian. The money for the scheme had been provided by voluntary subscriptions by the people of Hertfordshire.
The home received people for periods of convalescence and recuperative holidays. It was a non-profit making charity run by a voluntary committee and was never part of the National Health Service.
In 1982 the home was sold and the money remaining was invested and used to send convalescents to appropriate surroundings under the Hertfordshire Convalescent Trust.
Read more on Hertfordshire Convalescent Home
National Children's Home - Malmesbury House
Situated at 125 West Hill Road, St Leonards, Malmesbury House stood in a prominent position overlooking the West Marina at St Leonards.
The House was the Sussex General branch of the National Childrens Home and catered for up to 38 children. The building had a tradition of child care going back to 1869 but the National Children’s Home came here in 1953 when the children and staff of the Malmesbury branch found a new home in these premises.
Malmesbury House was eventually demolished due to subsidence and the plot (opposite the entrance to St Vincents Road) still remains empty to this day.
Once stood where the steps are between a house called Captains Corner and Railway Cottages. The infants school was established by the Church of England in the single roomed building which was rented from the railway company for £1 per year. The school became far too small over the years until on 13th May 1898 the 116 children were moved to a new infants school which was built next to the existing Junior School in Bexhill Road (built in 1895).
Translated as “landing place of the citizens”, Bulverhythe once had a small harbour and a pier. In the 13th Century Bulverhythe was a self contained village situated under a small headland known as Gallows Head which has dissapeared over time due to storms and heavy tides changing the shape of the coastline.
Situated behind the current Garden Centre and once the site of a race course. Ddue to continued flooding the racecourse which was moved to where South Saxon Playing Fields are situated today.
Now known as Filsham Farmhouse and situated in Harley Shute
Road, this building dates back to Saxon times. The house was
rebuilt in 1682 and part of this remains today.
The Fountain Inn was built in 1832 on the banks of the River Asten which used to run along the route of Grosvenor Crescent. At this time the area was mainly agricultural and the Inn served the needs of the local farming community of the Filsham and West Hill Road area. By the 1830’s the Fountain was feeling the effects of the unemployment which was effecting agricultural areas due to the introduction of farm machinery.
Luckily in 1839 the railway was approved for St Leonards and an influx of thirsty labourers arrived to build the track. The Fountain Inn was situated nicely to take advantage of this influx of drinkers and later to provide refreshments to day trippers and holiday makers.
The pub survives to this day, although renamed the Marina Fountain. It is popular with bikers in the summer months and has a welcoming atmosphere for all.
Harold & Edith Statue
The statue of Harold and Edith that stands in West Marina Gardens was created in 1875 by Charles Augustus William Wilke and was originally situated in the grounds of Hastings Museum. The statue depicts Harold II being found by Edith Swan-Neck (his second wife) on the battlefield during the Battle of Hastings when he was killed on October 14 1066. The statue was given to Hastings by Lord Brassey MP along with the Brassey Institute (now Hastings Library).
Operational since 1933, but not officially opened until 1948 by the mayor. The airfield was laid out by Hastings Council at Pebsham (behind the A259 where the football pitches are today). The site closed as an aerodrome in 1959.
St Mary's Church
The ruins of St Mary’s can be seen in Bexleigh Avenue directly behind the Bull Inn. The church was built by Robert, Earl of Eu. The last known preist was William Tracy in 1452 when the chapel fell into disrepair. In 1861 the site was excavated by Mr T Ross and up until 1930 the remains of the church were owned by the Sackville family and then the Eversfield Estate. In 1930 they where taken over by the council with the intention of preserving them. Instead of which a road was built through the western portion which destroyed the foundations of the tower and nave. The chancel is the only part of the building to remain today.
Situated by the side of what is now Haven Caravan Park, this has been the site of a bridge for hundreds of years. Execution by drowning was normal in the Cinque Ports and it was said that Sheepwash Bridge marks the spot where many felons met their death.
Bulverhythe Racecourse / South Saxon Playing Fields
What is now South Saxons Playing Fields was once the site of a racecourse. It was moved here in 1826 from its previous location at Bulverhythe Salts due to continued flooding. Here the crowds could watch the racing from the slopes surrounding the flat ground.
A year after opening here the course recorded a huge 200 carriages and 5-6,000 people attending one meeting which is on a par with a modern day race course. At the time it was said to be one of the finest race courses in the South of England.
West Marina Esplanade
Opened on 14th June 1878, the West Marina Esplanade (promenade) is 2,000ft long and 50ft wide, with a sea wall that is 15ft thick.