Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This is about Hastings in England. There are other uses of the name Hastings
|Borough of Hastings|
Shown within East Sussex
|Region:||South East England|
|Admin. County:||East Sussex|
- Total (2002 est.)
2,886 / km²
|Hastings Borough Council|
|Leadership:||Leader & Cabinet|
Hastings is a town in southeastern England, in the county of East Sussex. Population (2000) about 84,000. Now known as a seaside resort and education centre (Hastings College and University College Hastings), it is near the site of the Battle of Hastings, fought in 1066. Hastings was one of the Cinque Ports, but its significance as a port declined after the Middle Ages and its main industry became fishing. It still has the largest beach-based fishing fleet in England.
Main article: Battle of Hastings
Hastings was not a Roman settlement, although there are traces of Iron Age or Romano-British earthworks. The town of Hæstingas (probably referring to the followers of an Anglo-Saxon leader called Hæsta), is mentioned in documents from the eighth century, and a royal mint was established there in the reign of Athelstan.
William the Conqueror made his headquarters here on his arrival in England, and the Battle of Hastings was fought a few miles a way near the present town of Battle. In this battle, William defeated and killed Harold Godwinson, the last Saxon King of England, and destroyed his army, opening England to the Norman conquest. After the conquest, William built a castle at Hastings, as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry - probably the earthworks of the existing castle.
In the early middle ages Hastings was one of the Cinque Ports - it claims to be the "Premier Cinque Port".
In the thirteenth century much of the town was washed away by the sea. In 1339 and 1377 the town was raided and burnt by the French, and seems then to have gone into a decline. As a port, Hastings suffered over the years from the lack of a natural harbour. There were many attempts to create a sheltered harbour, and in 1897 the foundation stone was laid of a large concrete structure; however there was insufficient money to complete the work, and the "Harbour arm" remains uncompleted. The fishing boats are still stored on and launched from the beach.
The fortunes of Hastings revived with the coming of the railways and the growth of seaside holidays in the nineteenth century.
Hastings is situated where the sandstone beds, at the heart of the Weald, known geologically as the Hastings Sands, meet the English Channel, forming tall cliffs to the east of the town. Hastings Old Town is in a sheltered valley between the East Hill and West Hill (on which the remains of the Castle stand) and the East Hill. In Victorian times and later the town has spread westwards and northwards, and now forms a single urban centre with the more suburban area of St Leonards-on-Sea to the west. Roads from the Old Town valley lead towards the former village of Ore, from which "The Ridge", marking the effective boundary of Hastings, extends north-westwards towards Battle. Beyond St Leonards, the western end of Hastings is marked by low-lying land in the direction of Bexhill-on-Sea.
The sandstone cliffs have been the subject of considerable erosion in relatively recent times: much of the Castle was lost to the sea before the present sea defences and promenade were built, and a number of cliff-top houses are in danger of disappearing around the nearby village of Fairlight.
The beach is mainly shingle, although wide areas of sand are uncovered at low tide.
With the reform of English Local Government in 1888, Hastings became a County Borough, in other words responsible for all its local services, independent of the surrounding county, and long had its own police force. Today it is a district within the administrative county of East Sussex.
The most important buildings from the late medieval period are the two churches in the Old Town, All Saints and St Clement's.
On the beach near the Old Town are the so-called "Net shops", said to be unique to Hastings (however similar huts can be found in Whitby) - these are wooden constructions, weatherboarded and tarred, of various shapes and sizes, used for storage. The buildings were built tall and narrow to avoid payment of ground tax. The huts were never used for net drying, this is a popular misconception, nets were dried on the beach or on the piece of land known as the Minnis.
Not much now remains of Hastings Castle apart from an arch of the chapel, some walls, and underground dungeons.
In front of the castle is an elegant Georgian terrace, Pelham Crescent, at the centre of which is the classical church of St Mary in the Castle (its name recalling the old chapel in the castle above) now in use as an arts centre. The building of the crescent and the church necessitated further cutting away of the castle hill cliffs.
For many years the traffic intersection at the town centre was marked by "The Memorial", a clock tower commemorating Albert the Prince Consort, subsequently demolished.
Until the development of tourism, fishing was Hastings' major industry. Steve Peak's monumental book on the fishing fleet2, is a major work of scholarship and affection, available from the town's museums. The opening paragraph gives a flavour of the subject:
- "The Hastings fishing industry has a long and unusual history. Fishing boats similar to those used at Hastings today have worked from almost the same beach under the Hastings cliffs for at least 400, and quite probably 600 or more years. Despite the exposed landing site the Hastings fleet has survived many difficult times because the town lies next to one of Britain's most prolific fishing grounds, Rye Bay."
Hastings being no longer a port, fishing vessels have to be registered at Rye, and thus bear the letters R.X.
Near the castle, on the West Hill, are "St Clement's Caves", partly natural, but mainly excavated by hand from the soft sandstone.
The bathing pool at St Leonards was regarded in its day as one of the best open-air swimming and diving complexes in Europe, but it closed some years ago, having meanwhile become part of a holiday camp.
To the east of the town is the Hastings Country Park.
Hastings is linked to London by two railway lines. The shorter is the former South Eastern Railway (SER) route to Charing Cross via Tunbridge Wells, Kent, opened 1852, and the longer is the former London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) route to Victoria via Eastbourne and Lewes. There is also a branch line via Rye to Ashford. The ex-SER route suffered for many years from the narrowness of some of the tunnels, so that special locomotives and rolling stock had to be built to meet the restricted loading gauge, for instance the Southern Railway's Schools Class and later the flat-sided Hastings diesels . This problem was eventually overcome, permitting the electrification of this line in 1996 and much improved services. The town currently has four railway stations: from west to east they are West St Leonards, St Leonards Warrior Square, Hastings, and Ore. West Marina station (on the LBSCR line) was very near to West St Leonards (on the SER line) and was closed some years ago.
Hastings is linked to London by the A21 trunk road. Improvements in this road over the years, notably the bypasses for Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, and Pembury, have improved this route, but the dual carriageway stops well short of Hastings. Long-term plans for a much improved east-west route and a Hastings bypass were abandoned in the 1990s, but a new road to Bexhill-on-Sea was announced in 2004.
Economic and social status
Hastings has long been known as a retreat for artists and painters.For example, the pre-Raphaelite painters including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt admired the town for its light and clear air. In the 19th century the towns became prosperous on the basis of the tourist trade from London and the Midlands, with the rise of international tourism from England it has declined substantially. It is now one of the most economically disadvantaged districts in south-east England.
However, it is easy to overplay the disadvantage argument. There is, at first glance, no immediate clear reason why Hastings should suffer from disadvantage when compared, for example, to its large neighhbour to the east, Brighton. It has a very attractive setting, many very fine houses and a remarkably conserved Old Town, and contains within its Borough boundaries a major clifftop country park. It has a well-documented depth of history. A key work is Historic Hastings1 by a former curator of Hastings Museum.
Hastings is currently the site of major redevelopment work, otherwise known as 'regeneration', which is not without controversy. The change in status of the former College of Further Education into a University College, through an arrangement with the University of Brighton, is funded as part of this process.
Noted former residents
- John Logie Baird, pioneer of television
- Jo Brand, comedienne
- Catherine Cookson, popular novelist
- Spike Milligan, comedian
- Titus Oates, inventor of the "Popish Plot".
- Grey Owl, author, nature conservation pioneer, and Canadian icon
- Keane, Brit award winning pop/rock band
- Robert Tressell, socialist novelist
- Gareth Barry, Football legend for Aston Villa (2005)
- Paula Yates, Late TV Presenter
- Desmond Llewelyn, seen as 'Q' in the James Bond movie series ('From Russia with Love'  to 'The World is not Enough' )
- Paul Merton, TV Presenter/comic
- John Manwaring Baines FSA, Historic Hastings. F. J. Parsons Ltd, Hastings (1955 and 1963).
- Steve Peak, Fishermen of Hastings - 200 years of the Hastings Fishing Community (1985),
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