Newsletter: Issue 19 (20th July 2020)
Keeping In Touch in Troubled Times
The Society has been forced into a spell of inactivity in recent months, so this newsletter is mainly to say “hello” to all members (and anyone else who is reading this Hastings & St. Leonards Society newsletter on our website), and give notice of our future intentions. We hope you have all kept free of the coronavirus and will continue to do so. It seems that the Hastings area has been one of the safest places to be during the pandemic, but we must not get too complacent.
The West Hill of Hastings booklet
In our last newsletter (dated 24 March) we announced the completion of the one-year-long project to research and celebrate the heritage and social history of the West Hill area of Hastings. A 72-page illustrated booklet had just been published and a limited number of copies made available free to our members and the community. We had arranged with Hastings public library for this to be the main collection point for the booklet, but the library had to close soon after we had deposited some booklets there. We now have an alternative method of distribution arranged, so if you had reserved a copy for collection at the library but didn’t pick it up before closure, please e-mail David Robinson (firstname.lastname@example.org). The booklet is free, but donations to the Society are welcome. (Once our overheads are met, we invest all funds in projects for the benefit of the borough.)
2020 Annual General Meeting
We had also intended to distribute the booklet at our Annual General Meeting, scheduled for 17 March. The AGM was cancelled due to mounting concerns about Covid-19, and at present we have not endeavoured to reschedule the meeting. If the easing of the socialising restrictions looks to be satisfactory, we would hope to hold the AGM in September, at the White Rock Hotel. Failing this, we would initiate an e-mail meeting, with all paid-up members being invited to participate.
As mentioned in the last newsletter, one item on the agenda for the AGM was a vote to determine if H & St. L Society should continue to provide the prize money for the National Town Championship in ‘Hastings Week’. The committee decided we would indeed provide £200 in prize money once again, and there were no unfavourable comments from members in response to this announcement in the last newsletter. Kevin Boorman of HBC, who is one of the organisers of this event, is delighted with our continued support: However, will there be a ‘Hastings Week’ this year?
Events and Outings
We have lost several great annual events in the Hastings & St. Leonards calendar this year, due to the health crisis. But some residents may say a break from ‘routine’ is a good thing, and all being well we will see a revitalised enthusiasm when events such as ‘Jack-in-the-Green’, ‘Pirate Day’, and ‘Hastings Old Town Carnival Week’ return next year. At the time of writing this newsletter, we are receiving communications from the national ‘Heritage Open Days’ (HODs) team encouraging registration of events. H & St. L Society has organised several events for HODs since we became operational, and last year we held the West Hill Community Festival to correspond with HODs. No events have yet been registered by the Society for this year’s programme (10–20 September), but if we are able to hold public events come September, we do have some in mind. For example, Emmanuel Church will hold open days once again, when the West Hill of Hastings exhibition and playback of our oral history recordings will be added features.
And we have not yet scheduled any more of our popular Open Meetings. These are an important part of our work to involve the community in local heritage and civic matters, so it is hoped we will soon be able to reinstate the meetings. If there is some topic, or matter of concern, you want to have discussed at an open meeting, please let us know. Ideally we would require a presentation prior to discussion. Of course we have also been unable to arrange any outings so far this year. The proposed group visit to Royal Tunbridge Wells is ‘on the back burner’ at present.
Although most of our activities are on hold at present, we are pleased that we have had some additional members recently, and some students interested in our work. We also continue to get interesting inquiries through our ‘info@…’ facility on the website. These are circulated to persons we consider likely to be able to provide adequate answers, and all inquiries have been answered satisfactorily – so far. Here is a recent example, which is likely to be of general interest:
Subject : Edward Pugin’s Convent of the Holy Child Jesus and estate
”I am interested in the history of this site, especially the chapel. I note its description in the draft St Leonards on sea conservation area appraisal and management plan for Hastings Borough Council completed in October 2018. What is the current status of the plan and conservation please – I note from the HBC website this plan was due to be adopted in 2019 but there appears no
further news so I wondered if you knew?
Also, what is the whole site used for now and is is always closed to the general public – the last I heard it was a language school and generally private.
Your help in answering the above would be appreciated please.”
The whole of the convent site is privately owned and there is no access. It is still being used as a Spanish language school, some of the site is occasionally rented out for use for films and specific sports etc.
Edward Pugin was the architect for the chapel only and this is listed grade II*. The other convent buildings were built to the designs of Charles Parker and William Waddell and these are listed grade II.
The development of the White Rock site is currently under discussion and no formal plans have been published. The convent site would not be considered whilst it is privately owned. The listing of the convent buildings would put a constraint on what
would be allowed and also there is the problem of the burials within the grounds.
The best book for the history of the convent including the chapel is “A Woman Styled Bold The Life of Cornelia Connelly 1809-1879” by Raedegunde Flaxman (1991).
Thanks to our member Lynn Gausden (also of Hastings Local History Group and local researcher for Sussex Gardens Trust) for providing this information.
Hastings & St. Leonards Society Committee