Hastings

HASTINGS, the principal of the cinque-ports, a borough and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, and the head of a union, locally in the rape of Hastings, E. division of Sussex, 69 miles (E.) from Chichester, and 61½ (S.E.) from London; containing, with part of the parishes of Bexhill and St. Leonard's, 11,617 inhabitants. This place, which is of great antiquity, attained considerable importance during the Saxon heptarchy, and in ancient documents, prior to the close of the eighth century, is noticed under the appellation of Hastinges. In 924, Athelstan established a mint here, whereof some notice occurs in Domesday book; but no coins of this monarch have been discovered which were struck at this place, though several of Edward the Martyr, Canute, Ethelred II., Harold, William the Conqueror, and William Rufus, have been found. The Conqueror, on landing at Pevensey, took up his station in this town, and founded the castle, whence he marched to meet Harold, whom he defeated in that decisive battle to which Hastings has given name, but which was fought at the distance of eight miles from the town, on a spot where he subsequently built the abbey of Battel. Of the castle, which occupied a high hill to the west of the present town, there are still some remains, consisting of a considerable portion of the outer wall, in which are several towers and two gateways of Norman architecture, surrounded by a broad and deep fosse, with vestiges of a drawbridge and other fortifications. In the year 1090, almost all the bishops and nobles of England were assembled by royal proclamation at this castle to pay personal homage to William II., previous to his departure for Normandy; and during his detention here by contrary winds for nearly a month, Robert Blaze was consecrated to the see of Lincoln, in the chapel of the Virgin Mary, within the precincts of the castle. The interior has been cleared from the rubbish that for more than two centuries nearly concealed the walls within, and thus have been discovered the remains of the church and buildings of a free college for a dean and seven prebendaries, founded by Robert de Eu in the reign of Henry I., and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin: at the Dissolution, the revenue of the deanery was rated at £20 per annum, and that of the prebends, collectively, at £41. 13. 5. The church is 110 feet in length, and adjoining it are the site of the parochial church of St. Mary in the Castle, and the remains of the chapter-house and prebendal buildings, forming an interesting mass of ruins, which have been inclosed by the Earl of Chichester. Numerous Saxon coins, fragments of columns, pottery, and other relics of antiquity, have been discovered on the spot. In the reign of Richard I., a priory of Black canons, of the order of St. Augustine, was founded here, and dedicated to the Holy Trinity, by Walter Bricet; and its church and other buildings, having been destroyed by the encroachments of the sea, Sir John Pelham, in the reign of Henry IV., gave the brethren lands at Warbleton, for the foundation of a church and monastery, which were finally erected there, and of which, at the Dissolution, the revenue was £57. 19. By charter of William the Conqueror, this town, together with Hythe, was added to the three previously incorporated ports of Sandwich, Dovor, and Old Romney, and invested with peculiar privileges; and in the time of Edward I. it was rated at 21 ships, with 21 mariners in each, for the service of the king for fourteen days, at his own charge: it soon became, and has ever since been considered, the principal of the cinque-ports. In 1377, Hastings was burnt by the French, who made a descent upon this part of the coast; but it was soon rebuilt.

The town is situated in a valley formed by hills on the east and west, that rise to the height of 300 feet, and is sheltered on the north by the high land stretching towards Fairlight Down, to a height of about 600 feet; it is open towards the sea on the south. There are three principal streets, of which High-street and All Saints' street are parallel with each other, and, from their declivity towards the sea, always clean and dry; the third street is parallel with the sea. The whole is well paved, and lighted with gas, by act of parliament, the expense being defrayed by a duty of three shillings per chaldron on all coal brought into the port, and rates on houses, &c. The buildings are in general well constructed, and the inhabitants are supplied with water from a reservoir about three-quarters of a mile distant, into which are collected the waters of a stream called the Bourne, which formerly divided Hastings into two parts. St. Leonard's, a stately and handsome addition of recent date, is described under its own head. The salubrity and mildness of the air, arising from the sheltered situation of Hastings, which is defended from the north and east winds, render it peculiarly eligible as a residence for invalids; and these advantages concurring with the openness of the coast, and the smoothness of the beach, have made it a fashionable and well-frequented place for sea-bathing. At low water, the fine level sands afford a healthy promenade; and from the high grounds the prospects are richly diversified with scenery of luxuriant cultivation, and of boldly romantic character. Among the more recent improvements are, the erection of Pelham place and crescent, the Arcade, and Wellington-square; the formation of the Marine Parade, 500 feet in length, com manding extensive and interesting views of the sea, and enlivened during the summer months by a band of music; and the Esplanade, a beautiful drive and promenade along the margin of the sea to St. Leonard's, embellished with ranges of elegant buildings, and, together with that of St. Leonard's, forming a continuous line more than two miles in length. The Pelham baths are fitted up with hot, cold, vapour, and shower baths, with every convenience for their use; and numerous bathing-machines are kept on the beach. There are some good libraries, and assemblies and concerts take place during the season, at the Swan inn: a literary and scientific institution was established in 1831, for which a building has been erected by subscription, in George-street, at a cost of £1600; and a building for a mechanics' institute has been erected in High-street. Races, established in 1827, are held in September; and regattas are also celebrated annually.

There was formerly a harbour at the place now called the Stade, which afforded protection to the vessels of the town, at that time inhabited chiefly by mariners and fishermen. It was destroyed by a storm in the reign of Elizabeth, and though some attempts were made for its restoration in that of James I., the works begun for that purpose were never completed, and it soon afterwards went to decay: the piles and stones of the south pier are daily visible, and extend from the west of the fort in a south-eastern direction. The port is subordinate to that of Rye, but there is a customhouse here, with the usual officers. The trade is principally coastwise; only two vessels belonging to the port are engaged in the foreign trade. A considerable traffic is carried on in coal, employing in a recent year not less than 169 vessels, of the aggregate burthen of 17,640 tons. In the same year, 186 vessels in the coastingtrade entered inwards with general cargoes, and 113 cleared outwards with cargoes chiefly of hops, corn, and timber; eight vessels in the foreign trade entered inwards, and five cleared outwards with cargoes of cheese, butter, bristles, seed, and other commodities. About 100 boats are employed in the herring and mackerel fisheries, mostly for the supply of the London and Brighton markets; and there are nearly fifty pleasure-boats always ready for hire. Ship and boat building, for which the place is celebrated, is carried on extensively; and some of the finest schooners in the Mediterranean trade have been built at the port. An act was passed in 1844 for a railway hence to Brighton, which was opened in 1846. In 1845 an act was obtained for a railway to Ashford, by way of Rye, 29 miles in length; and in 1846, another act for a railway to Tonbridge-Wells, 26 miles in length. There are several large breweries. The market-days are Wednesday and Saturday, the latter for corn; and a good general provision market, established in George-street, is open daily. The fairs are on Whit-Tuesday, July 26th and 27th, and November 22nd.

The Government, by charter of incorporation granted by Elizabeth in 1588, and confirmed and enlarged by Charles II., was vested in a mayor, 12 jurats, and an indefinite number of freemen; the officers were a townclerk, two chamberlains, two pier-wardens, &c. The corporation regulated the port, and collected certain dues on vessels frequenting it, and on exports and imports; the mayor and jurats were justices of the peace, with exclusive jurisdiction, and the borough was exempt from the control of the sheriff of Sussex. By the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the corporation now consists of a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors; the borough is divided into two wards, called East, or Hastings, and West, or St. Leonard's, and the number of magistrates is 13. The elective franchise was conferred in the 42nd of Edward III., since which time Hastings has continued to return two members to parliament. The right of election was formerly vested in the mayor, jurats, and freemen resident and not receiving alms; but by the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, it was extended to the £10 householders: the limits of the borough, for electoral purposes, include 1897 acres, and the mayor is returning officer. The town has a separate court of quarter-sessions, at which the recorder presides; he also holds a court of record, for the recovery of debts to any amount, and for any action, real, personal, and mixed, every fifteen days. There is a petty-session of the justices weekly, at the town-hall; and the county magistrates hold petty-sessions on the first and third Saturdays in the month, for the Hastings division of the rape. The powers of the county debt-court of Hastings, established in 1847, extend over the registration-districts of Hastings, Battle, and Rye. Guestlings and Brotherhoods were courts held at uncertain intervals by the corporations of the cinque-ports: a guestling consisted of a full assembly, composed of five or six deputies from each port and ancient town, and their members, with plenary powers, the mayor of every port in turn issuing notices for the meetings; a brotherhood consisted of one or two deputies from each port and ancient town. The town-hall, under which the market is held, is a plain edifice, built in 1823, at the expense of the corporation. The common gaol of the borough is capable of receiving twentyone prisoners.

The town comprises the Parishes of All Saints, containing 2839 inhabitants, and St. Clement, 3189; with part of the parish of St. Mary in the Castle, 2933. The livings of All Saints' and St. Clement's, united in 1770, are rectories, the former valued in the king's books at £19. 12. 9., and the latter at £23. 6. 10.; patron and incumbent, the Rev. J. G. Foyster. The tithes of All Saints' have been commuted for £130, and those of St. Clement's for £35. Of the several churches anciently in the town, only those of All Saints' parish and St. Clement's remain: of the church of the Holy Trinity, which stood on the grounds of the priory of St. Andrew, to the north of Wellington-square, of St. Michael's church, at the White Loch, and of St. Mary's situated in the Castle, there are no vestiges. The church of All Saints' is a spacious and handsome structure, partly in the early and partly in the decorated English style, with a lofty embattled tower; the hangings of the pulpit are part of the canopy borne by the barons of the CinquePorts over Queen Anne at her coronation. The church of St. Clement's is ancient, and of similar style, with a square embattled tower, but, like that of All Saints', has suffered from mutilation and injudicious repairs: the ceiling of the chancel is painted in device; there are several monuments to the families of Collier and Milward, and on the pavement numerous brasses; the font is ornamented on the sides with a sculptured representation of the Passion of the Saviour. An episcopal chapel, in the centre of Pelham-crescent, was commenced by the late and completed in 1828 by the present Earl of Chichester; it is a handsome edifice in the Grecian style, with a receding portico of duplicated Ionic columns, and contains 1600 sittings. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of his Lordship; the income, about £200, arises from the seat-rents and surplice-fees. A district church has been erected in Hatton Field, near the barracks, in the parish of St. Clement's, at an expense of £2000, raised by subscription, aided by grants from the Incorporated Society and the Diocesan Association; it was consecrated on the 10th Dec. 1838, and is a neat edifice in the early English style, containing 542 sittings, of which 362 are free. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Bishop of Chichester; the income partly arises from an endowment of £1000 by Mrs. Milward, who also granted the site, and contributed largely to the erection of the church. There are places of worship for Baptists, Huntingtonians, Independents, and Wesleyans; and the Roman Catholics have purchased nine acres of land close to the sea, between Hastings and St. Leonard's, on which they have erected a chapel, &c.

A school for boys was founded in 1619, by the Rev. William Parker, who endowed it with 100 acres of land near the town, producing a rental of £162. 10.; another was founded in 1708, by James Saunders, Esq., who endowed it with estates yielding about £120 per annum. The Magdalene charity was endowed by some unknown benefactor with an estate producing more than £150 a year. A dispensary was established in 1830; and an infirmary for thirty patients, called the Hastings, St. Leonard's, and East Sussex Infirmary, more recently. The poor law union of Hastings comprises 10 parishes or places, containing a population of 14,847. In the grounds of Mount Pleasant, about half a mile to the north of the town, is a chalybeate spring issuing from a copse of wood in a deep dell; the water has been analyzed by Drs. Cook and Duke, and found to resemble that of Tonbridge-Wells: the situation of the spot is picturesque, and the erection of a neat pump-room and the laying out of the ground, might make it a pleasant place of resort. Titus Oates, the ministerial informer in the reign of Charles II., was the officiating clergyman of All Saints' parish, and lived in a house which is still in existence. Edward Capel, Esq., one of Shakspeare's commentators, resided in a house now called East Cliffe House, in the garden of which is a mulberry-tree planted by Garrick, being a cutting of the celebrated one that formerly existed at Stratford-upon-Avon. Hastings gives the title of Marquess to the noble family of Rawdon-Hastings.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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