Photos show the changing face of Victorian and Edwardian Hastings

PUBLISHED: 15:17 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:21 20 February 2017

Hastings Pier, 1880

Hastings Pier, 1880


In the Victorian period Hastings enjoyed a tourism boom, thanks to the new railways and the vogue for sea bathing. These images from a book by the former planning development director of English Heritage show the changing face of Victorian and Edwardian Hastings

Hastings Beach, c1900

Hastings Beach, c1900Hastings Beach, c1900

Holidaymakers crowd the beach surrounding the sailing boats offering pleasure trips out to sea. To the fore is Skylark, advertising its 10 am sailing time along its hull; the 30-ton boat was built in 1852 to meet the increasing volume of visitors to Hastings after the railway connected the town with Brighton and London. The larger pleasure yachts could accommodate over 100 passengers.

A popular departure point was the beach at Denmark Place near to the Queen’s Hotel. At the end of the voyage the boats were hauled back up the beach by horse-powered capstans, then turned around on a turntable, bow towards the sea, ready for the next cruise. 

Palace Hotel, The Parade, Hastings, c1900

Palace Hotel, The Parade, Hastings, c1900Palace Hotel, The Parade, Hastings, c1900

The entrance to the Ladies’ Baths is in the centre of the picture. Sea bathing was considered very healthy, but modest Victorian ladies were not always keen to use the sea, so often salt water baths were built near to the beach. To the right of the photograph is a Bath chair – allegedly named because of its use at Bath Spa, but also perhaps because its shape was reminiscent of the hip bath. The invalid carriage had different designs, but usually accommodated the passenger in a high-sided seat with an extendable canopy for weather protection. A handlebar was used to tow the chair.

The Palace Hotel was designed by Arthur Wells and erected in two stages as buildings were cleared for its construction. The first half was the western section, completed in 1885; this was followed a year later by the eastern half, which replaced a previous hotel. The developers, Spiers & Pond, also owned the Holborn Viaduct Hotel in London. The Palace Hotel building survives, but is now in residential use. 

Hastings Beach, c1890

Hastings Beach, c1890Hastings Beach, c1890

The promenade and beach are crowded with holiday visitors with small rowing boats for fishing and pleasure trips in the foreground. Bathing huts line up waiting for custom with their horses standing by.

The huts were primarily for ladies, who could change then slip into the sea without being seen in their swimming clothes. Although the sea air was thought to be healthy, sun-bathing was eschewed by the genteel. Pale complexions were considered fashionable, and a tan equated with the outdoor labouring classes.

Hastings Pier, 1880

Hastings Pier, 1880Hastings Pier, 1880

View from The Parade with groups of people walking along the promenade. Promenades and piers allowed people to walk and breathe the sea air, which was believed to be healthy and a cure for respiratory illnesses. Two three-wheeled invalid carriages – wheelchairs of their time – are pictured being pulled along by men in front of the oriental-style kiosk.

The large advertisement next to the pier entrance is for a minstrel show at the end-of-pier theatre. Hastings Pier – designed by Eugenius Birch, who was also responsible for Brighton’s West Pier and Eastbourne Pier – opened in 1872.

Lost England 1870-1930 by Philip Davies, £45

Lost EnglandLost England

Published by Atlantic Publishing and available at all good bookshops.

Featuring more than 1,200 stunning photographs from the Historic England archives as well as private collections, Lost England 1870-1930 explores how England was transformed at the turn of the century from sleepy villages and ancient market towns into an industrial powerhouse of sprawling manufacturing cities. From the Great Depression, beginning in the 1870s, to the start of women’s emancipation, this visual exploration showcases the changing face of Victorian and Edwardian England and the seeming ‘Golden Age’ of the country’s history. From market squares and railway stations to factories and farms and seaside promenades and parks – every aspect of work and play is captured. 


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