St Leonards Bathing Pool

St Leonards Bathing PoolThe St Leonards Bathing Pool, designed and built by Sid Little, was opened in May 1933. The pool space measured 100m by 27m with a 10m high diving board. Unsurprisingly, given the architect, the bathing pool was an entirely concrete structure and cost approximately £3.5m in today’s money to build. Upon opening it was very popular with residents and visitors, hosting galas and beauty pageants, like this one in 1936. It was an impressive structure, as can be seen in the aerial shot below. Despite the initial popularity, it was a loss making facility after the first year of opening.St Leonards Bathing Pool

The site and surrounding area was used as a holiday camp from 1960, but a gradual decline in use led to the St Leonards bathing pool being closed in 1986. It was eventually demolished in 1992, with parts of it being used to beef up the sea defences.

It is no doubt a great shame that this facility and iconic building has been lost to the town. However some consideration is needed as to why the structure was lost. The main issue was probably the running costs. A modern swimming pool is expensive to run, and many operate at an annual loss. These running costs can be mitigated where the pool is part of a larger facility, but there was little scope for that at the bathing pool.

The numbers of people visiting the pool would have declined over the years. The closure of West Marina train station (which can also be seen in the above photo) in 1967 would have has a significant impact. The increasingly affordable flights to hotter countries changed tourism habits, impacting the revenue coming into the town as a whole. Already continually loss making, any decline would have made the pool unsustainable in the long term. I doubt the council could have made any other decision.

Did they have to demolish the whole structure though? What else could have been done with the site? There was a rumour that a new Shipwreck Heritage museum could be built there, including a Mary Rose style display of the recovered remains of the Amsterdam. And of course there is the West Marina Lido, for which planning permission was granted in 2012, but that development has gone very quiet…

The two photos used to create the first image are below. The two black and white images were obtained from the East Sussex Libraries Service photo archive.

St Leonards Bathing Pool

St Leonards Bathing Pool


Ghosts of the Hastings Seafront Bandstand

Hastings Seafront BandstandThe image above shows where the Hastings seafront bandstand used to be. There isn’t much information about it on the internet, but it was definitely there in 1902 and probably was a victim to Sidney Little’s renovation of the seafront.

The area is part of what used to be White Rock Baths. Built in 1870 as a spa and Turkish baths, Sidney Little expanded its use to incorporate a swimming pool and viewing gallery. In more recent times it became an ice skating and roller skate rink, before closing about 15 years ago.

As recently as 2011 the council put together a valuation report for the baths, stating that whilst in need of major renovation, the overall structure was sound. They assessed it’s rent value at £18k per annum. You can read the full report here. The report suggests the site would be viable for a retail and leisure facility, but stops there.

This excellent image collection by Brian Rybolt shows what the baths are now like inside. The images hint at its former grandeur, but it’s irritating that this asset to the town is going to waste.

Perhaps a Hastings seafront bandstand could be built again. There are few beach side facilities at this end of town, and when the Pier reopens pedestrian numbers should increase rapidly. Although old fashioned, the bandstand in the park is still popular, as is the one on Eastbourne’s seafront…

The two photos used to create the image above are below. The original image was found on the East Sussex Libraries Flickr page here.

Hastings seafront bandstand

Hastings seafront bandstand

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

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


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


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.



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

Ghosts of Breeds Place, Hastings

Ghosts of Breeds Place

If you drive or walk along Hastings seafront from the old town to the new, you can’t help but notice the change in architecture immediately after Pelham Crescent. There are two 70’s office block monstrosities. One of them is Aquila House and the other Cavendish House, sited in an area known as Breeds Place. The change is particularly jarring as Pelham Crescent, with its fine town houses and classically inspired church, is one of the distinctive landmarks in Hastings.

The composite image above overlays how the area looked in around 1920 with how it looks now.

As you can see the buildings that once formed Breeds Place were far more in keeping with the rest of the seafront. They were demolished in the 1970 and replaced by these fine examples of brutalist architecture. I supposed it’s easy to look back and wonder at the madness of the council’s decision to put such buildings up. This type of architecture was in its heyday then though, cheap and long-lasting. Still, they are an eyesore.

The original photo was found on the West Marina to Hastings Pier Facebook page. The two original images are below.Breeds Place

Breeds Place

The Shard of Glass, London

Shard of GlassThe Shard of Glass is London’s tallest building so it only seemed right to show the entire structure. Shame that lady walked past, but then you don’t see that many yellow coats these days. I haven’t been to the viewing platform yet. At £25 a pop it seems quite expensive. However, I discovered that on the viewing platform you can enjoy the call of nature whilst admiring the view. That almost makes a visit up there worth while. Almost.

Shard of Glass

That thought made me wonder how the plumbing works in the Shard of Glass. After all, everyone likes to throw a stone down a well and listen out for the splash when it finally hits the water.

My good friend Google came up trumps again. It is of course a significant engineering problem. Pumping water up requires pressure, and the amount needed increases the further away from the ground you go. When water decends, it draws air with it. This is a problem for lower floors as the air, infused with delightful toilet smells, tends to escape the system. The problems, and how they are dealth with are well explained in this interesting article.

Key fact: If the Shard is ever at full capacity thirty-six litres of sewerage per second will flow out of it. That’s 3.1 million litres per day. To put that into some perspective, an olympic size swimming pool holds 2.5 million litres.