My name is Richard Pollard born and bred in the old town of Hastings back in the 1940’s.
I grew up in the Old Town and went to school in All Saints Street starting with, All Saints Infant School at the rear of the Bourne Technical School near to what was the ‘Creek’.
My immediate family were all brought up within the Old Town too, as one of my Great Grandfathers was a printer and book binder who originally had premises in ‘Post Office Passage’, then later on moved to East Parade where he had a bigger business facing the Fish Market. My other Grandfather was a professional carpenter by trade, and having recently found evidence of some of his work in a row of terraced houses at Bulverhythe St Leonards, where he signed his name on the staircases he made back in 1894.
My father worked all his life in the High Street for PT Brigdan & Son builders and carpenters, my father was a master carpenter in his own right too. My Mother worked some of her married life as an invoice clerk at ‘Mastins Bros’ Castle Street.
I grew up like most boys in the Old Town playing games in and around the old Bourne Stream (that was!) getting very muddy and wet to say the least, and having to endure the moans when getting home in that state. We used to go the Stables garage at the top of High Street (now the Stables Theatre) and pinch old car parts that were thrown out on the scrap heap and build super rockets and go carts of which none ever worked; you could say that we were all mischief makers and scallywags as well! The best one was where we tied a rope to a tree overhanging the muddy stream and see who could get across without falling into the mud, well many did, but many times I didn’t!!
Most of my playmates lived in the All Saints Street area or at Hastings Wall, most of them stank with fish as their fathers were fishermen, after school nearly every night many would push a barrow up through Clive Vale selling left over fish from the days catch, yelling out to outdo others “A tanner a dab”, as others hearing this would knock on everyone’s door saying “do yer wana buy fresh fish at 3d a pound misses”.
I’m sure that the fish smells were a permanent impregnation in all these lads as even when sitting in a class room the air was filled with rotting fish smells! Most of them couldn’t afford proper shoes so they wore old plimsoles with soles that flapped about when you walked, but the best bit is when they used old cereal boxes or newspaper stuffed in the feet to keep the water out, only to make the smell even worse when they did get wet, as many of the kids didn’t have proper baths so their feet were on display for all to see and smell.
I went from All Saints Street Infant School to Dudley Junior School in Harold Road opposite the old Belmont Pub, and when they got tired of us there we all went up on the west hill to ‘Priory Road Secondary School for boys’, this is where after all the schooling we had completed to date we found that this was just a boys school and no girls were let in, they went up to the new girls high school on Rye Road!
We all had what one might call a variety of education in the last school, none of us could wait to leave; so at the tender age of 15, at the ‘Easter’ holidays we left education for good and now it was the big bad outside world with no one to protect us, it was simply a case of finding a job to help in supporting the family in buying food and clothes etc, and yourself.
Whereas most of the Old Towner’s had no job to go to or no prospects either, they were more or less forced to join their family’s tradition and go to sea, I was extremely lucky in that field as for 2 years previously I was ‘employed’ (well worked for no pay) with what was to be my future employer ‘Farley Paine Electrical Contractor’ of Castle Hill Road. Dedicated to the workshops at the back to repair the large amount of irons, hairdryers, shavers, heaters etc that customers brought in for repair, this was all valid experience for the future. I stayed with this company throughout my apprenticeship and then went wandering further out into the world gaining yet more valuable experience in not only domestic wiring but heavy commercial as well, dealing with a wide range of voltages from your simple finger ouch 240 volts to 415 volt 3 phase even bigger ouch!
During the 1970s I was lucky in securing a job at ‘Hastings Power Station’ working and operating the gas turbine engines. Here we had to pass an exam to work in the transformer compound in Parker Road as a sizzling few feet above your head was 132,000kv straight from the national grid. We only went in there on a permit to tap the transformers when needed, quite exciting but quite scary too, as you never once thought about that if you jumped up for any reason you became a fried mess!!
I did have a break from my profession a few years back when I thought that driving service buses might give you a bit more excitement and free time in your life, but how wrong could you get from the truth there?
The only thing that came out of that was me gaining my PSV licence, this is now stored away never to see the light of day again, driving buses is not recommended to any one especially in the summer with thousands of students cramming on board and not showing their passes nor paying, sorry I speaky no englishhhhh. Oh yeh!
Also In my younger days I was accepted as a part time Fireman (retainer) with our station being at Priory Road, quite a travel from the old town up onto Halton top especially in the middle of the night, but one consolation was that there wasn’t any traffic on the roads then. Having spent many a weekend at either Lewes, Eastbourne or Maresfield, we all succeeded in passing out as a fully trained Fireman we were all issued with an alerter (like a mobile phone that went off with a continuous bleep bleep at all hours, day and night when called to man an appliance). We were called hundreds of times only to get to the station to be told that we could stand down! And they woke you at all hours of the night too just so you could get some exercise and go back to bed. I remember one night the alerter went off about 4 times calling us to the station for standby, by the time daylight appeared on the scene we were all flaked out and had to go to work as well!
Still that’s life I suppose all full of ups and downs, but do we moan………………………………YES!!!
The added bonus I got was in being one of the few selected to train and drive personnel carriers and appliances, when needed. We were a happy bunch of retainers, but the party broke up when nearly all of us left when the station closed down and moved along the Ridge; this was too far to travel in the 3 minute allocated time slot in safety. Mind you we all made a fair bit of money when called out even on standby, as we got paid by the alerter call, then every hours thereafter, and if you got a shout whilst on station you could be out for a couple of hours or so, unless the east hill was on fire then that was an all day callout.
Now-a-days, I have had to leave all the excitement behind me and revert to sitting at a computer for hours on end searching local history, as I have been interested in local history for years previous and wanted to pursue my interest further, this is basically to how the two books I wrote came about.
I am by no means an author but thought that what knowledge I had stored away in my head and on the computers and also piled up in paper form wasn’t doing anyone any good, so we sat down and tried to put all that I knew on paper and way and behold two books came out of the past now everyone could enjoy reading about Hastings past.
I do go around clubs in the town and surrounding area doing lectures on my two books using a digital projector, and now have resorted to making more visual lectures too on Hastings & St Leonards in the past from old picture postcards and scanned glass slides from my collection.
I have been collecting picture postcards and ephemera of both Hastings & St Leonards for the past 45 years, but there is always something you haven’t got and still look out for.
I sincerely hope that this small piece of information didn’t bore you too much, but the past still holds very precious memories for me, just sit back and look back into the past with my books.
If you have any questions for me, then please use the contact page for any enquiry and I will get back to you.