A mid-19th century miscellany
illustrated with old photographs, drawings and maps

Map of Hastings 1859 (85kb)
Map of Hastings Old Town c.1850s (330kb)
Map of St Leonards 1873 (271kb)

Part One: Hastings

On New Year's Eve, 1830, Hastings was lit by gas for the first time. It was a very blue light, but such an improvement on darkness that no-one cared. From November 1851, all 242 lamps were lit every night.

Hastings in 1840, complete with gas lamps. Looking west.
Centre, White rock; right, Cuckoo Hill (now Cambridge Road)

In 1836 Hastings Police Force was formed.

Until the mid-century, four firms of shipbuilders were producing luggers, sloops, brigs, fishing smacks and cutters. In 1848 Hastings had its first lifeboat.

Hastings Old Bank at 9 Pelham Place, operative for years, went bust in 1857. The Hastings & St Leonards Savings Bank started up in 1845.

Hastings in 1857.
Looking west across the Old Town from the top of the East Hill


The Theatre in Great Bourne Street closed in 1833 and none was opened until the Gaiety in 1882. However, plays were produced at the Hare & Hounds pub. From 1828, Pelham Arcade, with its closed stalls hidden behind shutters, was used for dinners, dances and concerts. A bandstand was built at Marine Parade for the Town Band.

Pleasure-boats plied a good trade, as did horse-drawn open coaches, which took tourists around all the local beauty-spots.

Both sexes rode horses through the town, novices under the gaze of a riding-master.

Hastings had a tradition of fairs but the corporation put a stop to them. The last Rock Fair was in 1855. The other two fairs declined and ceased by 1900.

There were several libraries, reading rooms and billiards rooms.

Crinolined ladies explore the ruins of Hastings Castle c.1850s

There was a craze for looking at the sea through telescopes.


From the 1830s there was an omnibus plying between Hastings & St Leonards but it had to take an inland route over Cuckoo Hill (now Cambridge Road).

Before 1846, to get to London, one could go by coach and horses or, after 1842, take the stagecoach to Staplehurst station and continue by rail. In 1846 Hastings & St Leonards Station was opened, "a temporary ramshackle kind of structure on the Salts at Bulverhythe". Five years later the line opened into Hastings town centre.

From 1856, telegrams could be sent via the South Eastern Railway Company Electric Telegraph System.

Hastings in 1857. Looking north from the beach.
Pelham Place can be seen top left. Drawing, W McConnell

The Rocks, 1857. Drawing, W McConnell

Going on Board The Pleasure boat, 1857. Drawing, W McConnell

Robertson Street in 1863. Looking south west towards White Rock. Drawing, Rock & Sons

View from St Michael's coastguard station,
looking east across Robertson Street to the Castle ruins c 1860.

print business cards

On to Miscellany Part 2: St Leonards on Sea