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.

Fairfield Church, Romney Marsh

Fairfield ChurchFairfield Church sits in the middle of a field, in the middle of Romney Marsh. In 1595 there used to be a village here named Fayrefelde but it has long gone. It’s rumored that the church was originally built in the 1200’s after a traveller (or the Archbishop of Canterbury) fell into a dyke and nearly drowned, but was saved after praying to Thomas a Becket.  It was rebuilt using some of the original timbers in 1913.Fairfield ChurchWhilst there are a few houses nearby, you still get how isolated the church was. Fairfield Church 5The church has no boundary or gravestones. Services are no longer held there, but it is still maintained by the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust. You can view some more pictures, including the interior here.

All of these photos can be viewed full size on my Flickr page by clicking on them.Fairfield Church 1

Sissinghurst Castle

Sissinghurst CastleSissinghurst Castle is a house and garden in the care of the National Trust. Situated in the Weald of Kent, it is not really a castle at all. It is more of a moated manor house, but with the turreted gatehouse I guess it could be described as a castle. It certainly isn’t what an excited child would imagine a castle looks like.Sissinghurst Castle

Instead the property conveys what has happened to it during the five centuries it has existed. In its past it has been host to overnight stays by royalty, a prisoner of war camp, farm and finally a household for Vita Sackville-West, who was responsible for the formalising of the gardens.Sissinghurst Castle

Like all National Trust properties it is a good place to spend several hours. When we visited the sun decided to make a rare appearance, and the spring flowers were in full bloom. There were a lot of visitors there on that day, which caused a crowding problem on the narrow, maze like paths through the gardens.Sissinghurst Castle

Like in supermarkets, people amble along in their own world of thoughts. I’m the same probably, but my attention is looking through the viewfinder of my camera.

These photos of Sissinghurst Castle can be viewed full size on my Flickr page by clicking on them.Sissinghurst Castle

Land Army Girls at Lewes Town Hall

Lewes Land Army GirlsThis then and now image shows Land Army Girls at Lewes Town Hall in 1919. The Women’s Land Army had recently disbanded and these women were awarded a presentation medal and parade for their efforts. During WW1 about 23,000 women served in the land army, which was split into three sections; agriculture, forage and wood cutting.

Like the military, those that signed up were expected to wear a uniform, and even allowed for breeches to be worn which was a culture shock for the rural communities that the workers were based in. Official guidance stated “You are doing a man’s work and so you’re dressed rather like a man, but remember just because you wear a smock and breeches you should take care to behave like a British girl who expects chivalry and respect from everyone she meets.”

Women who volunteered for service were interviewed and given a physical examination to ensure they were fit to do the work. Training typically took four to six weeks to complete. In East Sussex the pay for this work was 25 shillings less 17 for board and lodging. You can read much more about the Women’s Land Army here.

The effectiveness with which they did the work shattered the entrenched view that women could not do a man’s work. In 1919 The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of made it illegal to exclude women from jobs because of their gender. And whilst the battle for equal rights in the workplace continues still, it was World War 1 that started the equal opportunities ball rolling.

This image is part of a series of Then and Now images I’ve created for East Sussex Council’s World War 1 commemoration website. The website is focused on the contribution that the men and women of East Sussex made towards the war effort.

The two photographs used to create the image of Land Army Girls at Lewes Town Hall are below. Both photographs were taken from the balcony of the White Hart Pub. You can view the top image full size on my Flickr page by clicking on it.

Lewes Town HallLewes Town Hall


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

The Flats along Bexhill Seafront

Bexhill SeafrontWe have had weeks of miserable weather, so last weekend when the skies were blue I went for a walk along Bexhill seafront with my family. It was a truly beautiful day, barely any wind and some warmth in the sun. It was almost like a spring day. I think the seemly unending rain and wind we’ve experienced recently helped to emphasise how nice it was.

The tide was out so after a walk along the promenade we went down to the water’s edge to throw some pebbles in, and write our names in the sand. The low tide reveals the sandy beach and you can see how the groynes help to slow down the east – west movement of longshore drift.

As we walked back down the beach, I noticed the reflections of the flats in the wet sand. I thought it would make a good shot. As a bonus the moon was rising over Bexhill, adding to the scene. I took more photos of the moon of course, but they are for another blog post.

We ended our stroll along Bexhill seafront by finally giving in to my daughter’s regular requests for an ice cream. We sat on a bench facing the sea whilst she ate it. It was a good way to end our walk.

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

Flooding at Bodiam

Flooding at BodiamThese pictures show the river Rother flooding at Bodiam. This flooding occurred after several days of very hard rain. In the days since these were taken there was even more sustained heavy rain and the road was temporarily closed.

Flooding at Bodiam

Bodiam Castle, which can be seen in the photo above, was built at this location to defend against potential raids by the French up the river Rother. It used to be navigable up to this point. A wharf was sited where the cafe and shop now stand, seen in the left of the photo.

Flooding at Bodiam

Bodiam castle tower provides good views across the Rother valley. This area was still considered to be a defendable place during World War 2. The pill box seen at the bottom in this picture has great views of the road and bridge.

Flooding at Bodiam

When the Rother is in flood, it can help you to picture how the land might have looked 700 years ago. The river floods every year, but the extensive drainage systems installed during the 1960 are very efficient at draining the river. Before the systems were installed, the land either side of the river could be inundated for months at a time. It’s unusual for flooding to take more than a few days to clear now.

Flooding at Bodiam

Larger versions of these photographs showing the flooding at Bodiam can be viewed by clicking on them.



Hastings Beach at Low Tide

Hastings beach at low tide 1These photographs of Hastings beach at low tide were taken in 2011. I haven’t been able to take many photos recently so I’ve started trawling through old photos to see if any are better on a second viewing. I should be more disciplined at deleting unused photographs. The space on my hard drive is decreasing, and there are a lot of photographs that aren’t very good on there.

Sometimes my procrastination about hard drive housekeeping has an upside. Quite often, when you are reviewing a large batch of photographs there are one or two that stand out. These can outshine other worthy photos in the batch. I skipped over these two initially but think they are worth posting on here.

The beach at Hastings is mainly shingle, but at very low tide there is plenty of sand to enjoy. The seagulls love low tides, as they can scavenge for food like their ancestors did. For a time they probably feel like real birds, rather than the low rent thieves they become around humans and their waste.

The top photograph shows the Harbour Arm and the castle rocks. The castle rocks are what remains of the cliffs that toppled into the sea during the great storms of the 12th century. On top of the cliff was Hastings Castle, and about half of it fell into the sea as well. These rocks now make interesting rock pools, where gulls and children alike can poke around for sea life.

If you click on either of these images of Hastings beach at low tide you can view them on my Flickr page.

Hastings Beach at Low Tide

Pett Level Flood Defenses

Pett LevelThe picture of Pett Level above shows the height of the sea defences. The land is only just above sea level and it is these defences that keep the sea at bay and usable for livestock. Of course, it used to be underwater, and the hills that can be seen were the old coastline. The land between Cliff End and Folkestone has a 1 in 5 risk of flooding in any year. This risk will increase if sea levels rise due to climate change. Nearly 20,000 homes are at risk of being lost permanently due to floods or cliff erosion as well as acres of prime farmland. In an attempt to avoid that the Environment Agency has developed a strategy plan to reduce the risk over the next 50 to 100 years. It is an interesting document, if you find that type of thing interesting.

If the worst did happen, and Pett Level and Rye Bay were inundated there is a comprehensive emergency plan in place. Written in 2007, and not updated since then as far as I can tell, it gives some great insight into how a disaster would be managed. The warnings system includes using Ceefax and a vehicle mounted loudhailer, presumably driven by climatologist Pierce Brosnan, with the recently divorced local weather expert and her children as passengers.

The emergency services will coordinate the evacuation, and rendezvous areas have been identified. They will try their best to evacuate those people considered vulnerable, using the ‘Identifying Vulnerable Persons in a major Emergency’ document. People requiring evacuation will be able to take their pets with them, as long as they are not considered to be exotic. Especially snakes. No one wants snakes in an emergency rest area.

If you intend to stay at home and fight the floods, you are entitled to obtain and fill a maximum of 12 sand bags for free from Rother Council. Sounds stingy, but they’ll be fighting alongside you to limit the flooding and will need all the sandbags they can get.

The map within the document shows how extensive the flooding would be if the defences were ever breached. It’s good to know that a disaster plan exists, but lets hope it never happens. Pett Level is too beautiful to lose to the sea.

Pett Level