Looking Back To The Future, A Tribute To Sidney Little. 1926-1950

What inspired me to write this book was the fact that Hastings & St Leonards took years to be brought into the 21st Century by a brilliant Borough Engineer only to fall 3 steps back into the past again when successive councils since the late 1960s have tried and failed to push the boundaries of planning further forward by pulling down some of the history of the town and thoroughly  succeeding in making matters worse, to a lot of people if seems as though Hastings was going back into the gloom years of the 1920s all over again.

The book focuses from the beginning when Hasting went through a very bad time in the early 1920s, when visitors started to take their holidays elsewhere.  The council at that time had very precious amounts of money, it really was a case of ‘mend and make do’, but having no money and a series of Borough Engineers either retiring or could not cope with the extreme pressure of the job left the Borough in one hell of a state, what options were left open to them?

The answer was to advertise for yet another Borough Engineer & combined Water Engineer.  Adverts were placed in many newspapers and journals all over the country when 47 applicants applied for the post, only one shone out above all the rest and that was Sidney Little.

After several interviews had taken place a short list was brought about, and only 7 people remained behind for a final decision. Mr Sidney Little won over the council on many a point, mainly because of his keenness, as he arrived in the Borough the day before the interviews and made many notes as to what needed to be done in order to make the towns of Hastings & St Leonards brought to the front again, whereby offering visitors and the residents a town to be proud of into the future.

Mr Little was offered the combined posts of Borough and Water Engineer, but for reasons unknown he originally declined to take up the offer, but was persuaded by many councillors to take the post, and he did so. At another meeting he then told the full council that he intended to drag the town into the 21st century and so he more or less did just this!

Lower Promenade & Car Park Construction at Grand Parade

Lower Promenade & Car Park Construction at Grand Parade

All his schemes are listed in detail as to how he tore the front line apart to make this a world first in using a void underground into a serviceable underground car park. Others before him had drawn up plans to extend the front line, but the void was to be filled in tending this as a useless space; luckily nothing ever become of the earlier plans and was shelved for all time.

His visions and thoughts were many times put into practice, needless to say there were many objectors but they were always overcome by supporters.  Money was short from every angle but Sidney managed to obtain massive loans from the Government for nearly all his schemes.

He also planned and built the largest outside swimming pool complex the first in the country, stating that this was to be built to European standards, but was it? The council here had the last say in the matter as you will read.

An aerodrome at St Leonards on waste ground was started, but alas was never used commercially.

Bathing Pool Complex - 1935

Bathing Pool Complex – 1935

And to top the list was a massive undertaking when he designed and built the new Darwell Reservoir holding millions of gallons of water to feed Hastings and the surrounding areas into the future.

His projects were endless to say the least, a vast majority were completed, but there were the few that never left the drawing office for one reason or another, mainly money and a change of party holding power in the town.  As during the war years 1940-1944 Mr. Sidney Little was seconded to the Admiralty to oversee the building of the Mulberry Docks used in the invasion and rescue with troops in France back to Britain.  Its during this period that political power had changed in the town and Sidney on his return to a war torn town after his duration of secondment to the Admiralty was told on no uncertain terms to mend and not replace properties damage caused by bombing and make Hastings & St Leonards look good again.  Now he had no influence over the new council and had to play along with what they asked.

It is sad really as he had designs on extending the Coast Road through to Folkestone and possibly beyond by building a road under the cliffs all along the coast line.  This would have stopped any further erosion of the cliffs as so much concrete would have been used at the foot of the cliffs, but this was never to be seen in action as the council threw them out like many others.

Opening of Underground Carpark

Opening of the Underground Car Park

He became very despondent by all the refusals so he just as they say took it on the chin and repaired and rebuilt Hastings & St Leonards after the war on minimal amounts of money.

As time marched on there was ready available money from the Government to help in a rehousing programme for many towns, so new housing estates started to rise up over a period of time from ‘Ore’ to the far end of ‘St Leonards’; all to contain many hundreds of new council houses.

This book does contain many council reports in full; these had to be included to tell the full picture of what the council was trying to do or in some cases, what not to do!

Many people who have purchased the book have all said that it is well worth the money and all in all a very good compelling read.

REVISED EDITIONS – NOW AVAILABLE.

When this reprint has sold out there will be no more prints of this book, so hurry!

Copies are available from ‘Waterstones’ Hastings Priory Meadow, or direct from the publishers richpenbooks@aol.com