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MARKET TOWNS OF SUSSEX (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Hastings in 1838

HASTINGS, a parliamentary borough and the chief town of the rape to which it gives name, is situated in the hundred of Guestling and county of Sussex, 64 miles south-east from London. Hastings is a town of considerable antiquity, but nothing is known with certainty respecting its origin, or whence it derived its present name. Dalaway, in his ‘History of Western Sussex,’ says, ‘In 893 the Danes, in 250 ships, commanded by the pirate Hastinges landed at the mouth of the river Rother, near Romney Marsh, and immediately possessed themselves of Apuldore, where and at Hastings (so called from their leader) they constructed forts and ravaged all the coast to the westward of the country,’ but it is probable that the town had an earlier origin, as in the reign of Athelstane, A.D. 924, it was a place of sufficient importance to have a mint. Edward the Confessor granted it a charter, and several other kings did the same down to James II, but the governing charter is that of Queen Elizabeth, dated 1588, and subsequently confirmed and enlarged by Charles II.

The borough council consists of a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors, and the style of the corporation is the ‘Mayor, Jurats, and Commonalty of the town and port of Hastings in the county of Sussex.’ (5 and 6 William IV, cap.76.) Hastings has returned two members to parliament since the reign of Edward III. It is one of the Cinque-ports, and is next in importance to Dover, the chief of those ancient communities. The town is pleasantly situated on the sea-coast, in a hollow, sheltered on every side, except the south, by lofty hills, and of late years been much resorted to during the bathing season. It consists principally of two streets, running nearly north and south, and separated by a small stream called the Bourne, which runs into the sea.

To the westward of the town, upon a lofty cliff, are the ruins of an ancient fortress, supposed to have been erected prior to the Norman conquest. The town-hall, recently rebuilt, is a handsome structure, supported on arches, with a market-place beneath it ; but the gaol is small and inconvenient. There are five principal hotels, which are said to be generally well conducted. The places of amusement and public resort are numerous, and comprise the theatre, marine parade, Royal Pelham Arcade, &c., besides subscription libraries.

The inhabitants are chiefly employed in the coasting trade and fisheries, but a considerable number are engaged in boat-building and in the making of lime. The kilns are situated to the west of the town, and produce on an average 120,000 bushels a year. Hastings is in the diocese of Chichester. There are two churches, both very ancient edifices, dedicated to All Saints and St. Clement. The living is a rectory, with an average net income of £300.

The port is divided into eight parishes, the aggregate population of which, in 1831, was 10,097. There is a school for the education of boys, founded and endowed by the Reverend William Parker in 1619, and another founded and endowed by James Saunders, Esq., in 1708. The average yearly income of Parker’s charity is about £210, that of Saunders is about £240.

About a mile to the west of Hastings is situated the new and well built town of St. Leonard’s. The principal range of buildings extends along the coast, about three-fourths of a mile in length, and is fronted by a very beautiful esplanade. As the town was only commenced in 1828, the public buildings are not yet very numerous. There is however abundant accommodation for visits, and the three principal hotels are erected upon a very splendid scale.