Ghosts of the Albany Hotel, Hastings

Albany Hotel, HastingsLeading on from last week’s post about the anti aircraft guns along Hastings seafront, this image illustrates why the town needed. Despite the best efforts of the gunners and the RAF pilots who were trying to counter German attacks, the enemy planes often bombed the town.

The Albany Hotel was hit by a bomb dropped by a Focke Wolf 190 on 23rd May 1943. This early afternoon raid, carried out by 10 aircraft was the second worst of the war in Hastings, resulting in the deaths of 25 and injuring 85 others. The Swan Hotel in the Old Town and four other public houses were destroyed. The bomb that hit the Albany Hotel had deflected off of the Queens Hotel where  a large number of people were eating. Just five people were injured as a result of the explosion.

You can see the hotel in its heyday here.

Nathan Goodwin kindly provided me with the original image.  His excellent book, Hastings at War – 1939 – 45 paints a detailed picture of those dark days. It is available to buy on Amazon here. The two photographs I’ve used to create the image above are below.

Albany Hotel

Albany Hotel

Anti Aircraft Gun on Hastings Seafront

Anti Aircraft Gun Hastings Seafront

This image shows an anti aircraft gun on Hastings seafront during World War 2.

Hastings had been preparing for the possibility of war as early as 1935, with the formation of an Air Raid Precaution (ARP) Committee. Due to the proximity of the European mainland the town was deemed to be at high risk of air raids. The ARP worked for four years to install first aid stations, wardens and other infrastructure. This was contrary to the prevailing apathy to the prospect of war by the residents of the town, and most of the country. As the prospect of war became more apparent the effort was stepped up in 1938 with extensive sandbagging, trench digging, bomb shelter construction and the purchase of 47,000 gas masks.

When war broke out on 1st September 1939 the town received nearly 3,00o evacuees from London. At the time the South Coast was not considered to be at risk from invasion. That changed after Dunkirk. The town’s own children began to be evacuated out, and a great stretch of the south-east coast became a defence area, which restricted movement in and out of town to residents only. During that time the town’s population dropped from approximately 65,000 to 21,000 people as families moved away.

German aircraft began bombing and strafing the town in the latter part of 1940 as the Battle of Britain took place. The first anti aircraft defences were finally installed along the seafront on 14th October 1940. The gun shown above is a Bofors 40mm, a design so successful it is still in use today. This old news clip shows how they were operated by the men and women of the Army Anti Aircraft Command.

I’m grateful to Nathan Goodwin who kindly provided me with the original image.  His excellent book, Hastings at War – 1939 – 45 paints a detailed picture of those dark days. It is available to buy on Amazon here.

The original photo of the anti aircraft gun and the same scene today are shown below. It looks like it was a pretty miserable day when the picture was taken.

Anti Aircraft Gun Hastings Seafront

Anti Aircraft Gun Hastings Seafront


Parade at Pelham Place

Pelham PlaceThis image, taken from Pelham Place, shows a military parade taking place, possibly as part of the Hastings Invasion that took place in March 1909. That event was initiated by Arthur Du Cross, a local MP, with the idea to see how quickly 600 guards from London could use motorised transport to react to an invasion of Hastings. The soldiers used over 400 vehicles to transport them and their equipment down to Hastings. The day was declared a great success, and rounded off with Irish stew for all. More pictures from the day can be seen here.

I’m not entirely convinced that this image is from the Hastings Invasion, but it seems the most likely explanation!

The houses across the road from Pelham Parade were part of Beach Terrace. These buildings were demolished to make way for the redevelopment of the seafront. This photograph shows how close they were to the beach, before the shingle built. One of those buildings is the Primitive Methodist Chapel, a hardline branch of the Methodist Church.

The two images use to make the one above are shown below. I decided to convert the old photograph in to black and white to make the contrast with the colour photo better. The old photograph was found on the Hastings Forum, which is full of interesting images and information about Hastings and St Leonards.Pelham Place

Pelham Place

Ghosts of Battle Road, St Leonards

Battle Road, St Leonards

This was taken in Battle Road, St Leonards just up from the pedestrian crossing. When I saw the original image, whilst browsing the Hastings Forum Old Buildings and Streets pages. the scene seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite work out exactly where it was taken from. It was the buildings that confused me. The only thing left over from the time this photo was taken in the brickwork gate where the shorter of the two boys are standing on the right. Everything else has gone.

I can’t find out what what happened to the cottages, although it appears that three bombs hit nearby during WW2. In addition, when you look at the road layout depicted in that map, with the road layout today there has been a considerable change. Perhaps these buildings were simply victims of redevelopment and improvement of the road system.

The tram service only extended up Battle Road a little further than shown here. This particular tram would take you to Silverhill, St Helens (Cemetery) and Ore. The tram lines were removed after 1927, to be replaced by trolley buses. The entire overhead power system was finally dismantled in 1959 and replaced by motorised buses.

The two photos I’ve used for the image above are shown below. You can view the top image larger size on my Flickr page by clicking  on it.

Battle Road

Battle Road



Ghosts of St Leonards Church

St Leonards ChurchSt Leonards Church was built by James Burton and consecrated on 22nd May 1834. It was built to service the growing population of St Leonards and proved popular with the residents. It was even visited by the future Queen Victoria during her stay in Hastings during the autumn of 1834.

An ancestor of mine, John Pelling, was married at the church to Polly Tree. Her father was the founder of the Silverhill Potteries, and his daughter was known as Polly of the Potteries. John Pelling specialised in making decorative pottery, particularly that resembled bark and wood. It’s said he did this in honour of his wife’s maiden name. The pottery works were substantial enough to warrant housing for several families, but the enterprise ceased in 1886. Silverhill School now stands on the site it once occupied.

Built into the sandstone cliffs, St Leonards Church survived a number of rock falls pretty much intact. Its demise came on 29th July 1944 when a V1 rocket was damaged in flight as it flew over the Channel, presumably by an aircraft or AA gun. The rocket’s flight took it on a collision course with the Marine Parade building, before veering off up Undercliffe Road and impacting near to the church. The explosion caused irreparable damage to the church. You can get an idea of the explosive damage caused by a V1 rocket by watching this video of another one hitting Hollington near Old Church Road.

Unfortunate though the damage to the church was, no one was injured. Had the rocket hit Marine Court, it’s likely that there would have been a large number of casualties as a party for servicemen was being held. Added to that, instead of the impressive Marine Court gracing the seafront we probably would have, given the record of the town council, had some ugly 70’s building there in it’s place.

Once the site was cleared, by German prisoners of war no less, plans for a new church were drawn up. Funded by the War Damage commission, architects Charles and Adrian Gilbert Scott were appointed and building started in 1953. The new St Leonards Church opened for worship in 1955, with the south tower finally completed in 1961. Adrian Gilbert Scott was quoted as saying “”no architect could wish for a more romantic or inspiring site on which to build a church”.

The original photograph is from the East Sussex Libraries Flickr page and can be accessed by clicking on the image below. The photo I took at the same place is below it.

St Leonards Church

St Leonards Church


Ghosts of St Leonards Parade

St Leonards ParadeThis image shows St Leonards Parade as it was mixed with the scene as it is today. The scene in the original photograph was easily recognisable to me. It was only when I overlaid the photo onto the same scene today that the change in the distance between the buildings and the beach became apparent. It is the work by Sid Little that has had this effect, rather that the shingle build up caused by the Harbour Arm further along.

Sidney Little’s plan to modernise Hastings seafront included underground car parks. To accommodate these, he needed to extend the promenade out toward the sea. Hastings was the first British town to have an underground car park.

The other notable thing about the original image is the attire worn by the people on the beach. It is not possible to estimate the time of year that the photo was taken, but it was a sunny day and not too windy. All the people there are well dressed up, with hardly any bare skin on show. This is another indication of the change that time brings. The photo of St Leonards Parade was taken between 1905 and 1910. The prevailing social attitude was still Victorian, but times and attitudes were to change radically in a short period of time, starting with the Suffragette movement, then the onset of World War 1. This interesting article outlines how the huge changes in social attitude between 1900 and 1950 affected women’s fashion.

It’s another reason why I find these old images so fascinating. They show Hastings and Britain just before everything changed. Telephones, radio waves, combustion engines, electricity, flight, teddy bears and tea bags were all just becoming viable for mass development. These are images of society at the cusp of change.

The original picture was taken from the East Sussex Libraries Flickr page which you can access by clicking on the image below. The matching photograph taken by me is below that.

St Leonards Parade

 St Leonards Parade Today


Ghosts of Hastings Parade

Hastings ParadeThis photo merge of Hastings Parade and the old Hippodrome Theatre shows how much land has been reclaimed since the Harbour Arm was built. The original photograph was taken around 1905, six years after construction of the harbour stopped. Through the process of longshore drift, the town has been able to grow the land available for use considerably. It’s not clear if this was intended by the designers of the harbour, but at least the project benefitted the town despite it not being completed.

The stand the children are looking at is a shell stand. This photo shows the same stand and its owners.

The Hippodrome Theatre, originally known as the Empire Theatre of Varieties opened in 1899 and was operational until it closed in 1978. Houdini performed there in 1905.  It is a lovely building, if you can see past the orange paint on the lower level and the canopy that runs for its entire length. It’s best viewed from across the street. It’s a good illustration of how unsympathetic renovation can detract from an attractive building. There is some good information about the Hippodrome on the website here.

Leney’s, written on the side of the building in the distance refers to Leney’s Brewery who were based in Dover.

Below are the two photographs I have used for this composite image of Hastings Parade. The original image is part of the Frederick Nutt Broderick collection. The image scanned from the photographer’s original glass plate negative, located at Hastings Library. I’ve used it with kind permission of the Hastings Reference Library. Their excellent Flickr page can be viewed here.

Hastings Parade and Hippodrome

Hastings Parade and Hippodrome

Old Police Station in Bohemia Road, Hastings

Old Police Station

Here is an image that shows the location of the old police station in Bohemia Road, Hastings on the junction with Salisbury Road. St Peter’s Church can be seen in the distance. The building displays no sign of its old purpose now. The original picture was taken between 1905 and 1913. I couldn’t find any information about the old police station, other than it was one of several that dotted the town.

Whilst searching for information I came across an interesting link via the forums on 1066 Online. This was a link to the National Archives and reports from Hastings Borough Council between 1820 and 1992. Short descriptions of filed documents that provide an intriguing insight into  policing in Hastings, particularly in the early days of law enforcement. There are some routine reports such as:

25 May 1835: List of constables appointed at the Hundred Court for the parishes of St Clement Hastings, All Saints Hastings, St Mary-in-the-Castle Hastings, Holy Trinity Hastings, St Leonard, St Leonards and St Mary Magdalen, St Leonards.

18 May 1836: Printed notice for tenders for the supply of twelve complete sets of clothes and accoutrements for the police and also a new suit of clothes for the town crier.

14 Aug 1838: Draft notice of discharge of Sergeant [Stephen] Mann and PC J[ohn] Russell for neglect of duty – they came on night duty drunk having been drinking in a public house all day.

10 Aug 1841: Letter from John Phillips, clerk to the Hastings Improvement Commissioners to the Hastings Watch Committee stating that ‘complaints have been made to them of nuisances committed by persons easing themselves and exposing their persons under the Fort and among the rocks in front of it, at all periods of the day, and of the fish dealers and others cleaning their fish, and throwing the offal and refuse of fish on the beach, above the distance from the stone’s foot pointed out by the Act’ and requests that orders be given to the police to prevent such nuisances.

20 Apr 1848: Letter from PC G[eorge] Adams, Hastings to the Watch Committee asking permission, while he is off duty, to empty a cesspool for Anthony Harvey because he finds ‘it a difficult matter to maintain my family of seven children on my weekly pay’

[?26] Dec 1852: Report by Inspector [John Campbell to the Hastings Watch Committee] concerning the escape of a prisoner from the Watch House: George Edwards otherwise Dick Turpin was apprehended with two others and charged with stealing potatoes in Guestling, he was taken to the Watch House on 25 December, searched and locked in an upper cell, Edwards was supplied with food between 9 and 10pm and was last seen going to bed, 11-12pm, he escaped via the window by breaking the sill and removing two bars and tying his rug to a bar, this was spotted by George Swaine, fisherman at about 2.20am who did not raise the alarm, this was not raised until 5am .

And some entertaining ones:

24 Jan 1837: Letter from [Mrs] Eliza Rainer, 24 Marina, St Leonards to J[ohn] G[oldsworthy] Shorter, town clerk thanking him for his letter and is not in the least surprised at its contents as her man-servant, Edward Sexton, is a conceited idle disobedient fellow and, if it were not that she, her daughter and the women servants are all ill with influenza, she would dismiss him, she lives at Chailey and she has only been in St Leonards a few weeks and she cannot risk sending him away without checking her plate.

25 Apr 1845: Letter from J[ohn] G[oldsworthy] Shorter, Hastings to Hibbert and Company, [Pall Mall East, London] returning PC [Elias] Mortimer’s hat which is too small and made according to the first measurement and not the amended one, both Sergeant [Samuel] Ginner’s trousers are too small in the seat and down the leg and he cannot stoop in them nor can he button his coat by four inches, measurements sent were correct, he must have a new coat as there is not enough cloth in the seams to let out.

17 Aug 1855: Evidence of Mrs Jenkins, a cook at the ‘Hastings Arms’ as to the misconduct of PC [William] Fryman: on 6 Aug between 7-8pm Fryman came into the ‘Hastings Arms’ with a woman, when Jenkins went into room she ‘saw Fryman’s person exposed and also the woman was lying on the table on her back, her clothes were up – the woman was drunk’ 

4 Jul 1859: Letter from Sergeant R[ichard] Wood, 61 George Street, Hastings to Superintendent [William Montague] Glenister on 29 Jun he was on duty with PC [Henry] Wood, at 12.15am they heard a party of men coming down by the Catholic Villas and along the Warrior Square wall ‘hallooing and shouting’, when asked to be a little quieter Pope said ‘oh ass hole to you’, when warned about his language he said ‘I am as good a man as you are’, I took hold of his collar and [Isaac] Farley said ‘stop a minute you are too fast’ and attempted to take hold of Pope’s collar, I pushed him away, let go of Pope and persuaded them to go home quietly, then Farley and Alfred Tapp came up to him and encouraged Pope to say ‘oh I daresay that you are fine man dressed up in that fine clothes, oh you do take a carrot, I don’t care more for you than that bloody lamp post, that man is worth two of you’, he then took Pope into custody.

The full list of reports can be read here.

The image of the old police station above is a part of my ‘Ghosts of the Past’ series. The two images I’ve used to create the composite are below. The original photograph of Hastings old police station was found on the West Marina to Hastings Pier Facebook page.

Old police station

Old police station