Hastings – The Old Town

Hastings – The Old Town

View of Hastings' Old Town from East Hill

Today we are visiting the Old Town of Hastings. Actually there is very little left of the original Old Town, where the fishermen lived, and many others who worked in the industries related to the fishing industry.

In 1928 the ‘Slum clearance’ started in the Old Town and caused much stress over the following years. It was a long-term project that ended with The Bourne being constructed in the early 1960s. The first people made homeless were re-housed in the new council housing in Hardwicke Road, Halton. The main clearance started in 1935, after the Ministry of Health gave the go-ahead for this major ‘slum clearance’ project — actually a way of building The Bourne, a new road (see map). Over 600 people were to be re-housed in new council housing to be built at Bembrook, Ore and Hollington, despite much opposition.

I believe this house is in Crown Lane. Most likely it belonged to an owner of several larger fishing boats, in a time when the Hastings fishing fleet still was sailing all over the Atlantic.

Today the Old Town is a main tourist attraction.

This open-air amusements centre is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, although there are nicer parts more to the west, with a miniature golf track and a boating pond, and The Stade to the east.

George Street seen from the west. It’s a pedestrian zone and by far the nicest street in the Old Town of Hastings, with nice little shops and some very good restaurants and pubs.

George Street seen from the east.

Sweet Shop in George Street

 Yes, they do sell sweets, but in this shop you can also buy selected tobaccoes and snuff. Opposite is the Green Cafe, and if the weather is nice you can sit outside and enjoy a perfect espresso with your “sweets”.   

Butler's Emporium

Butler’s Famed Emporium was opened in 1888, at nrs 68-69 George Street, while Thomas Mannington was a blacksmith there from 1767 to 1791. Ironmonger and house furnisher John J. Butler started his Butler’s Emporium there in 1888.  After a disastrous fire in 1976, and the collapse of the pathway above the site in 1987, the place was cleared and a new wall and arches were built against the old sea cliff to support the pathway.

Butler's Gap in George Street

 In 2010 Hastings Borough Council refurbished Butler’s Gap, in close cooperation with Hastings Old Town Residents Association. The chess pieces are sculptures and not play equipment. 

High Street, on the corner of Courthouse Street.

High Street, on the corner of Swan Terrace.

Very nice antiques warehouse in High Street, with three floors full of interesting stuff.

Back in George Street.

The Anchor Inn, in George Street.

And who might that pretty little lady at Latham’s Brasserie be?

The West Hill lift, in George Street. The West Hill is littered with smuggling caves and tunnels. The West Hill Lift opened in 1871, originally fuelled using a gas engine. Nowadays, electricity powers the carriage up the steep gradient for over 100 metres of track.

Click here for my blog about the Stade, the Fishermen and the East Hill lift.

On May 26, 2011, Hastings Borough Council leader Cllr Jeremy Birch revealed the authority’s priorities for the coming year, the most eye-catching of which is to apply to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the Old Town to join the 911 other World Heritage sites recognised for their outstanding significance.

Cllr Birch told the Observer: “This is something that has been raised before so it’s not just off the top of our heads, but we think the Old Town fits the bill.

“It’s about getting much wider recognition, not just that Hastings is a nice place to visit but the quality of the heritage here is outstanding and should be appreciated by a much wider group of people.

“We need to investigate the criteria further but we think this is a legitimate aim for us.”

If successful, the Old Town would join the 28 other sites in the UK with World Heritage status, including the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and Stonehenge, as well as maritime Liverpool and Edinburgh Old Town.

And Cllr Birch believes it would be a fitting way to mark the town’s continuing improvement.

“The Jerwood Gallery and the restoration of the pier will put us in a new league. Getting World Heritage status would mark the beginning if a new era.”

Joining the prestigious list is far from straightforward though. First the Old Town would need to get onto the Tentative List, managed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It then needs to be nominated by the Government, pass two rigorous assessments from United Nations cultural bodies and then be ratified by a UNESCO committee.

There are 10 criteria for judging whether a site has “universal value” – these include representing a masterpiece of human genius, bearing a unique or exceptional cultural tradition and containing outstanding examples of a type of building.

But despite the tough process the Old Town would need to go through, Amber Rudd MP – herself an Old Town resident – added her support.

“I would welcome anything that puts Hastings on the map,” she said.

About Jack Vanderwyk

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One Response to Hastings – The Old Town

  1. ANN LARKIN says:

    My husbands 4 times back Grandad was James Larkins b.1702 he was a Fisherman and on the 1861 census was not at home. He was at sea on the boat Susannah of which he was Master. The family lived at 81 1/2 ALL SAINTS STREET. His youngest daughter Mary married John James Butler of 121 ALL SAINTS STREET, they went on to open BUTLERS EMPORIUM. It is wonderful that we can visit these houses with our Grandchildren it takes history back over 300 years for them. My husband’s Grandad was Joseph Larkin b.1884 he married Edith Godwin on the Wirral. We have traced the Godwins back to 1640 the house Arthur Godwin built is still standing and is a listed and protected building. These houses of history DO NEED PROTECTING. They have stood the test of time and in the world we live in today its nice to look back. Ann Larkin…..

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