Priory Meadow,Â in the centre of Hastings, was once part of the Hastings Priory. The marshy land, probably once part of the harbour before it silted, up was used asÂ farmland before being converted into a cricket ground in 1864. Becoming known as the Central Recreation Ground, it was home to theÂ Sussex County cricket team and saw several historical events.
One of the earliest of these was hosting the first Australian team to tourÂ in England during 1868. The team was made up entirely of Aborigines, who played 47 matches across the country during that year. Cricket legend W.G. Grace frequently played at the ground, and this photo shows him leading out his team there in 1902.
Cricket continued to be played on Priory Meadow until 20th August 1989. In that final game, Middlesex beat Sussex by four wickets, the full score can be read here. The original photo I used for the image above was taken by Howard White from the West Hill and shows that last game in play.
Priory Meadow Shopping Centre was opened in 1997 by the Queen. The fate of the cricket ground had been sealed back in 1982 when the council voted to build a shopping centre. They made the decision following the construction and evident success of the Arndale Centre in Eastbourne, worried that Hastings would suffer financially from not having the same. Protracted financial problems and recession delayed the build for years.
I was young when the plans for the redevelopment were shown in the Observer. I’ve always remembered one of the plans being for a marina being dug into the recreation ground, with an access channel to it following the Harold Place road to the sea. I always thought that this would have been a great thing to do. No doubt that it was an expensive project, requiring considerable rerouting of major roads. However it would have turned Hastings back into the harbour it once was, which would be much better than a bland shopping centre.
The two photographsÂ I have combined to make the image above are below. In the original image the old train station can also be seen, which has been replaced by the college, medical centre and new train station. You can view the image full size on my Flickr page by clicking on it.