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Historic Hastings
This article first appeared in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer 5th June 2015  Hastings & St Leonards Observer

The Hastings & St.Leonards Illustrated Review, F J Parsons

We know that F J Parsons, the proprietors of the Hastings &St Leonards Observer from the early 1860s until the early 1970s, produced guides to Hastings & St Leonards at the end of the 19th Century but lesser known are the almanacks they printed between 1884 and 1899. Variously called the ‘Hastings & St Leonards Almanack’ and ‘Hastings & St Leonards & Neighbourhood Illustrated’ and other permutations they purported to be published annually. Printed on ‘Demi Royal’ size paper in landscape format (12½ inches wide by 10 inches high) the volume under review was published in 1891 and ran to 58 pages including the paper cover. As in the guide books, there are details of attractions and facilities in the local area and further afield with a dozen pages devoted to ‘Excursions by Road and by Rail’, indeed many of the printing blocks were the same as those used in the guides and no doubt elsewhere. The paper was not high quality and very few of these almanacks have survived. An almanack, as opposed to a guide is an annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information such as climate data and tide tables and this is confirmed on page 14 as well as other pages. Page 14 also shows the hospital before it was replaced by the Royal East Sussex in Cambridge Road in the 1920s and the site redeveloped into the White Rock Pavilion (now Theatre). It’s difficult to know how many of each edition were printed but the 1892 version ran at least two editions, the second proclaiming “Second Edition, twentieth thousand” and the size increased to 80 pages – all for sixpence (2½p). The market was certainly there because the population of Hastings and StLeonards in the last decade of the 19th century had risen to around 60,000 without counting the visitors.

Looking Back - Historic Hastings Looking Back - Historic Hastings
Looking Back - Historic Hastings Looking Back - Historic Hastings
Looking Back - Historic Hastings

Looking Back - Historic Hastings

It is the advertisements that convey the flavour of the time – according to the ads on page 15 you can buy corsets for your entire family, male as well as female, infant or grownup!. Beater & Co of 94 Queens Road are selling coal, and on page 31 the same company appears to be cabinet makers, house furnishers and bedding manufacturers with a fine illustration of their (horsedrawn) delivery van and a shop that seemed unchanged until conversion to a dwelling started last year. On page 29, the shop at the end of Robertson Street now ‘Sweet Selection’, hasn’t really changed in 130 years

These almanacks did not bear a printing date but there are usually clues within the text to identify the year of publication, this one states, on page 16, ‘St.Leonards pier is almost finished’ – the 960-feet long pier was official opened on October 28 1891 by Lady Brassey

Looking Back - Historic Hastings Looking Back - Historic Hastings

Page 35 advertises the large drapery store, Mastins, in Breeds Place (where Iceland is today). On Dec 9th 1904 most of the building was destroyed in the largest fire ever faced by the Volunteer Fire Brigade but it was rebuilt and stayed in business until 1969. The original Mr Mastin, a Belgian immigrant, was to register the first motorcar in Hastings and gain the registration mark DY1, much later this registration was transferred to the Mayor’s car and the council is now trying to sell it. Page 37 includes the Shakespearean actor Capel’s house as a secondhand furniture store

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