Re-Naming the streets!



January 24th 1903

Sir, -I take it for granted that Mr. Pain will forgive me for the annotating his descriptive history of the town evoked by the Council’s resolution to the re-name and re-number several of its districts, and which appeared in a recent issue of your paper.

Mr. Pain speaks of Union Street as one of the links of Old Hastings that connects with the present time.  But that street is more modern than probably he imagines.  Courthouse Street, so named from the Courthouse having, until 1700, stood at the bottom of that street, had no direct communication with All Saints Street, once known as Fish and Fisher Street, in which resided several families of the name Fisher.  What is now Union Street was a mere alley when the Bourne Street Theatre was built in 1824, and was closed at the top by one or two old houses in All Saints Street opposite the Crown Inn, such house or houses having a back outlet to the Bourne.

At the north side of that avenue were some premises belonging to the Aker family, one of whom was the wife of Mr. Duffy, an itinerant bookseller, and her sister the wife of School Master Stone.  These premises were immediately opposite to the pit and gallery entrance of the new theatre, and Mr. Stone’s school, where I was a pupil at the time, formed the lower part, overlooking both the gaol and the Bourne stream running between.  It was on the 3rd May, 1848, that at a Commissioners meeting their Committee reported the completion of the purchase of the old houses for £375, and an agreement with Mrs. Ann Stone (the school master’s widow) and others for the property that was necessary at an additional cost of £259.  This latter purchase, it was thought would be met by the sale of all the old materials and the £36 which the owners of neighbouring property had subscribed.  The report was adopted, and Union Street soon came into existence.  This great improvement was initiated by Mr. Womersley, who informed the Commissioners that he had the selling of some old property, the removal of which might make room for a direct thoroughfare into All Saints Street.

At this suggestion the Commissioners decided to negotiate for the purchase of such property, the result of which was as above described.

In 1747 a bridge or roadway was made across the Bourne stream into East-Bourne street, within the town wall, thus connecting the lower part of Market street with Fish street via the Town Walk and what is now Winding street.  The theatre was sold in 1833 at about a third of its cost.  Amphion Place (at one time known as the Creek Cottages) did not, I think, exist until after 1833.  These houses were built at the foot of the ground reaching down to the Bourne from premises owned or occupied by Mr. Elphick in All Saints Street, on a portion of whose premises was also a long building used as a school, supported by Mrs. Edward Milward.  The boys and girls of this school were liberally supplied with penny dinners during the winter months, for which they always appeared to have a good appetite.  The food consisted of suit pudding and mashed potatoes on one day, pea-soup the next, and raisin pudding on the third.  The same variety was repeated on the other three days of the week.  The dinners were prepared at the upper end of the school room, partitioned off for the purpose, and the monitors of the classes (of which I was one) were appointed waiters.

The reward for this service was a speciality of goodness in the food reserved for them till their work was done.  This school and contiguous premises were approached from the north side of the gaol over a strong plank, while Mr. Stone’s school was similarly approached on the south side of the gaol, attached to which were the watch house built in 1820, and the stock.

Between the site of Creek Cottages and the back of Breeds large beer house, and up from the Creek itself, there was a public outlet to All Saints Street, but not for vehicular traffic.  The latter was only to be had at the lower part of Bourneside, named “Great Bourne Street” in contradistinction to “East Bourne Street,” to “East Bourne Street.”  There were railed wooden bridges at the Lower Lane and the Upper Lane, at the first until the part on the All Saints side became a popular dwelling place and took the name “Waterloo” after that appellation had been changed for “Wellington,” first used as the name of the square projected by Messrs. Farncomb, Breeds, and Wenham in the Lime Kiln field, and still bearing the name of Wellington Square.  The first house here was the Castle Hotel, built in 1815, the year of Wellington’s great victory.  The wooden bridge for pedestrians only, at the Lower Lane, existed until the whole of the Bourne was covered in, to be afterwards known as Bourne road.

Church Street, as Mr. Pain correctly observes, is a thing of the past.  When it did exist it commenced at Paragon Buildings, which is now the Croft road, and the old rectory, which I believe is now Croft road, was No. 6. Church Street.  At a later period Church Street was continued with Hill Street, and the said Old Rectory House was altered from 6. Church-Street to 30, Hill Street and Croft road was originally distinguished as “On the Hill,” whilst a portion of it had also borne the appellation of the Cornhill and Butchery.

What Mr. Pain describes as the Lower Light at the end of Hill Street was the Upper Light, the long tarred wooden steps of which I have many times ascended and described.  The Lower Light was, and still is, in the Fishmarket, where it has been probably for centuries.  In 1692 0n the 16th July, it was ordered at a Corporation assembly “that whereas the Light which stood upon the stone beach is being taken down by reason of its being decayed and in danger of falling, there shall be allowed for, and towards the repairing and rebuilding of it, a quarter share to be paid out to every fishing boat, the herring season next ensuing to be paid to the “Pier warden,” etc.

“Sinnock’s Square,” Mr. Pain suggests may be aristocratic, but Tripe Alley reminds us that the Butchers shop at the bottom is not a thing of today only.  Certainly not; for it has been a Butchers shop for as long as I can well remember, since 1824, when it was tenanted by Mr. Edward Fisher, whom I well knew as an expert slaughterman.  I also knew at that time all the persons who lived in Sinnock’s Square, including a Miss. Guy, the widow Funnell, the widow plane (whose husband was drowned), Mr. Mace (a shoemaker), Mrs. Middlemas, the demented wife of a tailor, etc.  It was called Sinnock’s Square in consequence of most of the property being owned by Mr. Sinnock; and it has previously  it is thought, obtained the nickname of Tripe Alley, from the circumstance of one of Mr. Fisher’s predecessors selling tripe as well as other meats.  Although so described in common parlance by quidnuncs, this appellation was not legally or officially recognised.

The reference to Salters Lane involves a moot question as to its derivation.  Before the repeal of the salt duty in 1823, a tax which originated as a war tax in the ninth year of William III., and raised the price from 6d to 20s., a bushel, the salt houses and drying houses in Hastings, as well as other places, were under strict supervision, and one such receptacle was near the Lane referred to.

Whether that was used as an ice-house at the Coney Banks in Croft road was originally a salt-house, I have not been able to trace; but if so, then the public ascent out of High Street would have been called Salt-House Lane, afterwards changed to Salter’s Lane.  But as there was a family by the name of Salter, whose residence in the 17 century was on the site of what is now 106, High Street, adjoining the said lane, it seems more probable that Salter’s Lane was etymologically personal rather than objective.  This reminds me that the pathway leading out of Salter’s Lane between what was once Deudney’s Croft and the wall which enclosed the long gardens at the rear of the houses on the high pavement in the High Street to Torhill Field; bore the two names of Love Lane and Winney Cossams Walk.  The latter name was given to it by the townspeople in compliment to the octogenarian Miss. Winifred Cossam, whose practice was to make use of the path when going from the top of her garden to the top entrance of her niece’s (Mrs. Milward’s) garden when visiting the said niece.

Miss. Cossam was a very generous lady to the poor.  She died in 1834, and was buried at Fairlight.

I now come to Cobourg-Place, which Mr. Pain thinks, by a desire to favour Royalty; the old name of Harpsichord had to go.  No, that name is still retained, but only applies to one house at the top of the ascent, via Cobourg-Place to the West-Hill.  If any interested person will read the 700 metrical lines more or less applying to Bexley Cottage, Cobourg-Place and the Harpsichord, in the “Postman’s Rhymed Reminiscences” at the Reference Library, such person will learn more of that part of the town that might be conceived or otherwise acquired.

The last remark of Mr. Pain to be annotated is that of which he says “High Wickham may tell on honouring a now departed statesman, but its former name of Prospect-Place was almost a certainly of short duration.”  I do not know when or how long it was called Prospect-Place, but I know that before and since 1839 it has been called by the name of its founder, Humphrey Wickham, a retired Hastings butcher who, in 1823, had ten houses built there, and land besides.  There was no Prospect-Place at that time mentioned in any document that I have consulted.

Yours Truly

T.B. Brett.