A heyday for pictures of local views

This week in his continuing series Ion Castro takes a look at the The Wyndham Series, ‘40 Views of Hastings, St Leonards, Bexhill, Battle Abbey and Neighbourhood’.

Friday, 7th August 2015, 5:26 am
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He writes: We know that the period around the turn of the last century was the heyday for the production of local views in all forms and all sorts of publishers were jumping on the bandwagon to satisfy the public’s apparently insatiable appetite. One such publisher was Wyndham.

This publication has a brown card cover with period silver printing and contains 22 pages generously sized at 300mm x 200mm on good quality paper printed on both sides.

As a publisher, Wyndham is a bit of a mystery. The book title suggests that such publications were available for other towns but details have not been forthcoming. The firm does appear to have traded as a postcard publisher in late Victorian times and the early 20th century with views of many parts of the country but research has failed to reveal where they were based or who their photographers were.

However, they clearly enjoyed taking pictures from both Hastings and St Leonards piers; including a fine picture of the Grand Hotel (now demolished and replaced with Waverley Court) and the Royal Sussex Hospital (also demolished and now the White Rock Theatre) - this demolition allowed for the realignment of the road opposite the pier.

The view to the east from Hastings pier shows pleasure yachts drawn up on the beach by the Queens Hotel, the East Hill lift, as yet unbuilt (that had to wait until 1902) and the seafront before Sidney Little’s remodelling which widened it in the 1930s.

The view to the west shows the seafront before the construction of Bottle Alley and St Leonards pier is in the distance. The view to the east from St Leonards pier is dominated by its Hastings opposite number.

On the left is James Burton’s Crown House, 57 Marina built in 1828 where Princess, later Queen, Victoria had stayed in 1834,. To its right the eastern end of this magnificent terrace was demolished to make way for Marine Court at the end of the 1930s; further right the buildings on the seaward side of the coast road were demolished just after the second war.

Looking west, the original St Leonards Church cannot be seen but the approach to it was flanked by a fine pair of bow fronted houses which, along with the church, were to fall victim to the flying bomb that exploded on the church steps on 29th July 1944. The houses were never rebuilt and nowadays this affords a fine view of the new church with its iconic cross window that, when illuminated at night, can be seen for miles out to sea. Further west the seafront is largely unchanged today.

In the picture of Grand Parade, the double-deck Bottle Alley will later occupy the seafront on the right. The frontage of the Alexandra Hotel (in the centre of the picture) was remodelled when the hotel was converted into apartments.

A picture of Hastings shows St.Leonards pier in the background and the sails of the pleasure yachts near the Queens Hotel in the centre. In the 1930’s Sidney Little will widen the coastal strip

The picture of the Old Town was probably taken from the then new harbour arm. Fishermen’s wives took in washing to supplement the family income and it can be seen drying on the beach.

In the picture of the Old Town from the castle, the breakwater centre right is not the harbour arm – the trestle work for that can just be seen centre right. The East Hill lift is still not built.

All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and there’s more local history on his website, www.historichastings.co.uk.

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