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Historic Hastings
This article first appeared in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer  24th April 2015  Hastings & St Leonards Observer
Dorman's Guide

Dorman’s “ A Guide to St.Leonards-on-sea and Hastings; Their Natural Beauties and Objects of Historic Interest in the Neighbourhood”

Historic Hastings Looking Back
Dorman Map
The section shown is less than a quarter of the whole map and what is particularly interesting is that it shows the line of Martello towers which stretched westward from  Grosvenor Gardens (Bo peep) with tower at number 39 to the last of the line, 74, at Seaford. By the mid 1860s three of the towers which had only been built less than 60 years previously, had already disappeared numbers 41 and 45 had been demolished and number 42 had been lost to the sea. Tower number 38 was at Pett Level and they continued eastward to Folkestone where tower No 1 was to be found. Each tower was visible from its neighbour. Other interesting features of the map include the location of the Gasworks in Queens Road and the general lack of building.

Historic Hastings Looking Back
Title page to the first edition

Opposite the Royal Victoria Hotel, on the seaward side of the road, was the Royal Victoria Library and James Dorman appears to have acquired these premises at some time in the early 1860’s. In the 1930’s the library and adjoining buildings were to disappear as part of Sidney Little’s seafront improvements.
Dorman’s predecessor at the library, Southall, had produced a series of guides the first edition appearing as early as 1837 and the last, the ninth, in 1859. It was therefore quite natural for Dorman to produce his own guide and this he did in 1863, printing the slim, 102-page pocket volume at the Columbian Press that he also owned in St Leonards. There were no illustrations but a large foldout map by J Laing the Borough Surveyor was included. Perhaps, as a bookseller, Dorman hoped that local pictures would then be bought as an additional purchase.

The guide contained all the usual content of such publications of that time including, of course, descriptions of places of interest in the surrounding area but Dorman also devotes four pages to the sport of archery which was played on the archery ground behind the Royal Victoria Hotel to the west of the Subscription Gardens, and is today remembered in the name Archery Road. Dorman reminds us that members of the club were entitled to call themselves the “Royal St Leonards Archers” recognising the favour granted in 1834 by Queen Victoria as a princess and her mother, the Duchess of Kent who were living in Crown House on Marina. In 1840, the Prince Consort, Albert, consented to add his patronage to the club. We are informed that the Royal prizes, to a value of £20 were shot for on 17 August each year - the birthday of Queen Victoria’s mother. Membership was £1 per annum (about the same as a servant girl’s wages for a year).

A new, undated edition had appeared by 1865 or 1867, still 102 pages and only minor updates. It still contained the same map but also included half a dozen steel engravings by Newman & Co of Watling Street, London bearing Dorman’s publisher imprint and it’s these that are reproduced here. New, updated editions of the guide were to appear every year or so until the final, eighth edition, in 1877. It appears that from the fifth edition real photographs had been included as an optional extra in the more expensive editions and such editions are now very rare.

Historic Hastings Looking Back
Subscription Gardens, St Leonards on Sea
These were private gardens for residents and their guests and paid for by subscription. In 1880 Hastings Corporation purchased the gardens and they were then formally re-opened to the public as St Leonards Gardens.

Historic Hastings Looking Back

The Albert Memorial, Hastings
An early view, displaying a fair degree of artistic licence and failure of perspective! The elements of the representation are still recognisable today.

Historic Hastings Looking Back
The Archery Grounds, St Leonards on Sea.
Over a hundred years later the area was to be blighted by the totally inappropriate siting of the college and the site is once again being redeveloped The houses in the background are still there on West Hill Road.

Historic Hastings Looking Back
Warrior Square, St Leonards on Sea
Once again the elements are all there but the relationships are all wrong and of course the Queen Victoria Statue wouldn’t be in place until the beginning of the 20th Century

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