Bottle Alley

Bottle AlleyBottle Alley is the 480 meter long lower deck of Hastings Promenade that runs between the Pier and Warrior Square. It was built in the 1930’s by Sidney Little the ‘Concrete King’ of the South Coast. He loved concrete and also designed the baths at White Rock and West Marina, as well as the sea defences. His expertise was used by the Admiralty to assist in the design of the Mulberry Harbours used at Normandy after the D Day landings.Bottle Alley

It’s called Bottle Alley because embedded into the concrete wall are countless multicoloured pieces of broken glass bottles. It was for a long time a haunt for the local drunks. Your nose would be assaulted by the fragrant mix of the sea, spilt alcohol and urine as you walked down it. It was place to be avoided, especially at night. Recently though, it has been renovated and repainted. A kayak hire business now operates from a unit halfway along it, so now it’s a much more pleasant walk. I’d still avoid walking down it on my own at night though.

These photographs can be viewed full size on my Flickr page by clicking on them.

Flying the Union Flag

Union FlagThere are two Union Flags on the seafront in front of the De La Warr Pavilion. They stand out as the contrast well with the white painted cuplolas they stand next to. They also stand out because I don’t think that we see enough of the Union Flag flying in the country. I’ve only visited the USA once, but one of my memories of the trip was seeing the Stars and Stripes flying everywhere. Literally everywhere.

Now there is probably a whole series of books that could be written about the politics and history of our flag, but it comes down to being proud of where you come from. This is Great Britain after all. It would be nice to see the flag more.Union Flag

Pevensey Castle

Pevensey CastlePevensey Castle is an ancient fortification originally constructed by the Romans in 290 ad, rebuilt by the Normans and updated across the following centuries. It has been subject to three sieges and been a prison to several important historical characters. This webpage tells its tale well. For a castle with such a history, it is surprisingly undeveloped for tourists.Pevensey Castle

You’ll be charged by English Heritage to enter the central keep above, but the extensive grounds within the outer wall are free to access. Visiting now you might wonder why the Romans built a fort here. You are not seeing the land as it was 1,300 years ago though. Here at Pevensey the castle was built next to the sea, as this map shows. The castle was built as a part of a series of shoreline forts to help the Roman fleets protect trade ships from pirates. This chain of forts extended from the Isle of Wight to the Wash.

Pevensey Castle 9

You can still just see the sea from the castle, but it is two miles distant now. Pevensey is famous for being the site where William landed his army in 1066. Some doubt has been shed on this theory, mainly by the exhaustive efforts of Secrets of the Norman Invasion website. The author believes that the invading army landed at the Coombe Haven inlet before moving inland a few miles for the fateful battle.Pevensey Castle 6

Whether William actually landed nearby or not, he certainly came here after England had been won and converted the fort to a stone castle. By the time the Domesday Book was written a total 49 castles were built across England to help consolidate Norman rule over the country.Pevensey Castle 12

The Roman choice to build a defensive structure at this location was a sound one. Since it was built is has always served as a defensive hard point. At any time the country was under threat, whether from pirates, Vikings, the Spanish Armada, Napoleon or Germany the castle has been used as part of a network of defenses. The last from WW2 can still be seen incorporated into the ancient walls.Pevensey Castle

 

Old Scotney Castle

Old Scotney CastleI’ve blogged about Scotney Castle before, but the place is very photogenic that I think it is worth doing again. The day we visited was nice and calm, which meant there were some good reflections in the moat.

Old Scotney Castle looks like something you’d find drawn in a book about fantasy castles. This is exactly how the owners of the estate wanted it to look of course. The Victorians loved to renovate ruins so that they looked aesthetically pleasing. A great job was done here.Old Scotney CastleOld Scotney Castle looks lovely from every view you see it from, whether approaching it from the hills above or walking around its moat.

Each of these photos can be viewed full size on my Flickr page by clicking on them.Old Scotney Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor CastleWindsor Castle was first built by William the Conqueror, not from stone but of a wooden motte and bailey. Over the centuries various kings have improved and extended the fortifications making it the impressive building it is today. What struck me as I walked through was how clean the exterior looked. The Queen still uses Windsor Castle as a residence, and it is regularly used for various ceremonies and state visits. In addition an average of 5k people visit every day.

Windsor CastleThere are no crumbling walls or accumulations of soot here. But the exterior is nothing compared to the opulence within its walls. There is Queen Mary’s dolls house within which, if you were accidentally miniaturised, you could lead a very comfortable life complete with a full library and wine cellar. The state rooms are richly decorated and reflect the history of England and the British Empire. It is most impressive, even to a jaded National Trust tourist like me. You can’t take photos of any of it though.

Windsor 2

Every day there is the changing of the guard. The new guard marches in each morning accompanied by a military band and old marches out a little later. Windsor Castle is the 4th largest castle in the world. How many soldiers are on guard at any point during a day? Four. Perhaps there are more when the Queen is in residence. There are lots of armed police around as well

Windsor Castle

I suspect however that the soldiers mainly perform their duty there to please the tourists. Just like you see in American films, these guards stand by their posts stoney faced whilst being gawped at by the five thousand visitors. It’s probably something a foreign tourist expects to see when visiting our country.

Windsor Castle

Each of these photos can be viewed larger size on Flickr by clicking on them.

 

 

Fading Beauty?

Fading Beauty - Marine Court

From a distance Marine Court remains an impressive sight, a bright white beacon in the summer sun. Like most works of art, being viewed from afar is the best way to appreciate what the artist intended. Up close it’s a different story and Marine Court appears to be a fading beauty. It cannot easy for the owners of the building to keep it looking pristine. Sited by the beach, it takes the punishment of wind and corrosive sea spray regularly. The good news is that work is being done to restore this grade II listed building, funded in part by the shocking £5k a year service charge paid by the residents.

At the moment though I can’t help but be reminded of how the Costa Concordia looked when it was raised from the seabed. At least Marine Court won’t be towed away for scrapping. We can look forward to it being restored to its former glory.

The photo above is best viewed full size. You can do this by clicking on the image.

Chartwell

ChartwellChartwell in Kent is best known as Winston Churchill’s house. It has also been described as an example of ‘Victorian architecture at its least attractive, a ponderous country mansion of tile-hung gables and poky oriel windows’. It was described as such in 1992 by the National Trust who now own and manage the property. The National Trust website now says Chartwell is “the much-loved Churchill family home and the place from which Sir Winston drew inspiration from 1924 until the end of his life”. That’s a much nicer description, and much more accurate.

Chartwell

Churchill loved the place, but even he was unable to meet the costs of maintaining it. A group of his friends purchased the estate and allowed the Churchills to live there for a nominal rent after the war. As you can see, it is a beautiful place to walk around. The house has been set up to relate the story of Winston’s long and interesting life. It’s well worth a visit if you are interested in the man.

Chartwell

These images of Chartwell can be viewed larger size on Flickr by clicking on them.

Old St Helens Church, Hastings

Old St Helens ChurchAlthough I’ve lived in Hastings for all of my life, I didn’t know that this place existed. Old St Helen’s Church may have been built originally by King Offa in around 771. As with all ancient buildings it has been rebuilt and repaired over the centuries.

It was abandoned in 1868 because “It is in a most unsatisfactory state of repair, the roof being in a bad condition, requiring immediate and thorough reparation, both as regards the main timbers and the retiling, amounting to entire reproofing. That the main walls are in places, so falling over, that if the roof were removed it would be necessary to rebuild it in parts”. Having taking some of the stone work to incorporate into the new church, they left the place deliberately to look like a picturesque ruin.

Old St Helens Church

The graves in the site  date most commonly from the 17th Century, although older grave markers are still present within the church walls still. The oldest known is that of William De Ore, Lord of the Manor buried in 1333.

A notable burial in the grounds is that of General James Murray, who fought in the French Indian wars in Canada. He became Governor of Quebec, and seemed to have a very interesting life.

The site was subject to a comprehensive archaeological dig and renovation in 2012. It is now a scheduled ancient monument with grade II listing. The site has been left nice and neat, with three information boards present. The work done during was thorough and needed to ensure the building lasts for many more years. I think Old St Helens Church deserves a higher level of recognition than it gets.

Old St Helens Church

Marine Court, St Leonards-on-Sea

Marine CourtMarine Court in St Leonards on Sea was designed by Kenneth Dalgleish and Roger K Pullen. Construction of it finished in 1938. The building was meant to echo the design of the White Star Line ship the Queen Mary. When the building was first opened, all of the window fittings were exactly the same, and the ground floor shops painted black to reinforce the impression of ocean going majesty.

It was at the time of its construction the tallest residential block in England. It featured a ballroom and a tunnel under the road giving direct access to the beach. It was a unique piece of architecture. I think it demonstrates the draw that Hastings and St Leonards had in that pre war period. It coincided with the extensive remodelling of Hastings seafront by Sid Little.

If you search Google images for ‘hotels that look like ships’ Marine Court doesn’t appear at all. A hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico built in 1942 looks very familiar however. Wikipedia says it was modelled after the ocean liner SS Normandie by Puerto Rican architect Félix Benítez Rexach. The ship was special to him as that is where he met his future wife, a french singer. I wonder if he had heard about Marine Court.

The winner of the hotels that look like ships category, is without doubt the South Korean Sun Cruise hotel. It lacks the classy lines of Marine Court though.

Marine Court

 

London Monument

MonumentThe Monument was opened in 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London. It was designed through a collaboration between Sir Christopher Wren of St Paul’s Cathedral Fame and Dr Robert Hooke, a renowned philosopher. It is 61 meters high and there are 331 steps to climb to reach the top. The official website provides lots of information about the Monument for those that want to know more.

Quite often the time I have available to take the photographs I want is limited. So the photographs that I actually take have to count. So here, at the Monument I had two specific photograph opportunities in mind; the spiral staircase and the views from the top, as well as some photos from outside.

I knew that the spiral staircase photo would prove difficult because my camera’s sensor doesn’t perform well in low light and I didn’t have a tripod with me. Still I tried and failed to take a decent photo. This photo is a good example of what I had in mind.

Having climbed to the top I was disappointed to find that the entire platform was covered in mesh, which ruled out my ambitions of taking some panoramic photos. Why have they gone to such lengths to prevent people jumping off the Monument? Because according to officially recorded statistics more people have died by jumping or falling off (eight), than were actually killed during the Great Fire of London (six). The figure of six deaths seems low when you consider that nearly 90% of old London was consumed by the fire. As this article relates, the actual death toll was probably much, much higher.

Monument