This week, in his continuing series, Ion Castro takes a look at a Hastings stationers that ended up becoming a famous Robertson Street department store. Brooker & Jepson printed a number of view of Hastings and St Leonards in 1896 including images of both piers.
Ion writes: As their advertisement shows, Brooker and Jepson were a firm of stationers and booksellers operating in the town centre from at least 1880.
By the end of the century they appear to have split in two with Jepson retaining 12 Robertson Street and expanding into adjacent premises numbers 11 to 14 and Brooker retaining number 16 a couple of doors up where he traded as a bookseller.
The Wellington Place premises appears to have been given up by then. Jepson’s business was to evolve into a department store and stay in business right up to the 1970s.
The publication is a hardback Leporello view, that is it was printed on one side only as a concertina of 24 panels, each 225mm x 170mm with Brooker & Jepson’s advertisement pasted inside the back cover. It was a high-quality production for the time by an uncredited Bavarian printer – this may explain the typo on the cover “photogarphic”.
It wasn’t unusual at that time for local firms to have their publications, later including postcards, printed in Germany and this was to continue until the first world war intervened.
Books like these were in their heyday at the time but within a few years the sale of picture postcards would overtake books of views. The photographs were mainly by Perkins Son and Venemore of Lee in south-east London, supplemented by images from local photographer George Bradshaw. As was usual with these publications there were views from further afield and Normanhurst the home of Lord Brassey, Winchelsea, Rye, Battle, Bodiam were all included.
The image of Eversfield Place, looking west, is complete with wooden groynes. This shows the view from the pier before Bottle Alley was constructed some 40 years later.
Hastings Pier is still an uncluttered “promenade pier” with pavilion and landing stage at the end while St Leonards pier was roughly opposite the Royal Victoria Hotel. This fine structure had only recently been completed when the photo was taken. This pier was severely damaged during the Second World War and its sad remains finally removed in the early 1950s
A very busy view of the Fish Market shows the old rotunda fishmarket, demolished in 1928 to make way for the trolley bus turning circle. The Pelican was still operating as a pub as was the Rising Sun. The wooden tower structure in the centre was the “lower light” used in conjunction with the “upper light” near the Caves on the West Hill as a navigational aid for the fishermen.
No guide would have been complete without an image of the iconic Memorial marking Hastings town centre with carriages plying their trade.
In the view from East Hill, the line of buildings is recognisable today but the lifeboat house (in the centre with the tower) was demolished in 1959 when the totally inappropriate dual carriageway was built along the seafront separating the old town from the beach and a huge acreage of foreshore built up against the Harbour Arm. Washing taken in by fishermen’s wives can be seen fluttering in the breeze in the foreground and beyond the uncluttered Hastings Pier can be seen St Leonards pier
All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion’s own collection and there’s more local history on his website, www.historichastings.co.uk.