Newsletter: Issue 16 (25th October 2019)
West Hill Community Festival Success
Our West Hill Community Festival was a great success. Held over the weekend of Friday 20 to Sunday 22 September, the events were well attended and the overall response most agreeable. All 200 tickets for the concert by Benyounes String Quartet at Emmanuel Church were taken, but some people who had accepted free tickets did not keep to the agreement that they would use them, or if unable to do so then return them to us or pass on to somebody who would use them. Nevertheless it was an almost full house, and the performance outstanding. Many people have asked if we can have the Quartet back again some time soon.
Benyounes Quartet sent this message to us:
“It really was a lovely venue and occasion. We would be delighted to come back and perform for the society again if you were able to secure funds for another festival! Do keep us in mind for future events such as this. It is so great for us that members of the audience responded so warmly to our performance. That’s what it’s all about!“
The weather was fine for the events on the recreations grounds on the Saturday, and although it was a dull afternoon for the display by Brighton Kite Flyers on the Sunday, many people stood about amazed by the size, shapes and colours of the kites. There was a maritime theme to the kites.
It was estimated that about 200 people attended the local history exhibition at the West Hill District Community Centre over the weekend. The display of the ancient Hastings Town Gun (small cannon), with information boards, in a gazebo on the recreation grounds on the Saturday also got plenty of attention.
A full festival report is here with several images from the events over the weekend. And as for the future? Well the 2019 Community Festival was intended to be a one off, as part of our West Hill (Hastings) Local Heritage project, for which the Society has received a grant from National Lottery Heritage Fund. We would need funding from another source to hold the festival again, and no decision has been made about this as yet.
Heritage Open Days
Several of the events in the West Hill Community Festival were registered as Heritage Open Days events. These included the Open Day at Emmanuel Church, which was well attended. People who have never been inside this church are always amazed by how attractive and interesting the interior is. A bonus is the rolling slide-show on the history of the church and the local community that Robin Fahie puts on for the Open Day. We thank Robin and the Parish Committee for putting on this event.
And thanks also to Alan Jeffries, H & St. L Society’s committee member and website manager, for the Hastings Town Centre Walk he led for HODs. Hastings Town Centre has a fascinating history and many interesting buildings. We all should take time to learn more and appreciate these buildings. And that comment applies particularly to the former United Reformed Church and Holy Trinity Church, both of which were visited during the walk. Alan will continue to add to the walk, so watch out for future dates – a Midsummer’s Eve walk is being considered so that people who cannot participate during the daytime can attend.
The dates for HODs in 2020 are: Friday 11 – Sunday 20 September.
Lord Boyce talk at Hastings Museum
As our contribution to ‘Hastings Week’ this year we were honoured to have Lord Boyce, Warden of the Cinque Ports, give a talk focusing on the Cinque Ports as “the cradle of the Royal Navy” and the Royal Navy today. This was at Hastings Museum on Sunday 13 October. This free event was very well attended, as was expected given the status of the speaker, and Lord Boyce gave a very interesting and entertaining talk. A report of this special event is here.
Group Visit to Rye
Another event we held in ‘Hastings Week’ was a group visit to Rye. Our hosts were Rye Heritage Centre. At the Heritage Centre we enjoyed the ‘History of Rye sight-and-sound model-show’. If you haven’t seen the model of the town of Rye, you really must do so. The entire model took four years for a retired couple to make, and it is superb in detail. Also at the Centre we enjoyed playing on the old Penny Arcade machines – purchasing seven old pennies (1d) for one decimal pound (ah, such is inflation). We then had a guided walk round Rye town with local historian Paul Goring. Paul is also Rye’s town crier, and therefore has keys to the Town Hall. So a viewing of the interior of the Town Hall was an unexpected extra, and this included a visit to the attic where many antiquities are stored.
This was our last outing for 2019. No plans are set for next year, and we welcome suggestions from our members, especially for a coach trip.
National Town Criers Championship
For the second year running, H & St. L Society provided the prize money for the National Town Criers Championships, held at Priory Meadow on Saturday 20 October as part of ‘Hastings Week’. We have been able to provide £200 prize money for this important heritage event – held in Hastings or St. Leonards for 67 years now – thanks to your annual subscriptions and purchases of our fundraising booklet, ‘A Bellow Of Criers’. The winner this year was Alistair Chisholm, the Dorchester Town Crier, who received the prestigious trophy (first presented by the News of the World in 1947) and £100. This was Alistair’s tenth win in the contest. He loves coming to Hastings for the competition and also for the bonfire and fireworks that follow in the evening. Alistair sent the Society this message:
“To the Committee and members,
I would like to thank you all for your continued support of this important Championship and for your generosity in providing the cash prizes. You may rest assured that every penny of my first prize was spent in the town and was enjoyed by many of my crying colleagues!
The more often I return to Hastings the more I discover – particularly in the rich, eclectic and varied “old town”, which is both extensive and clearly treasured by its community.
Thank you again for your kindness and for all you do to foster true and self-evident civic pride. We could learn a lot here in Dorchester from your example in Hastings.”
Open Meeting, 17 October
There was an Open Meeting hosted by the Society on Thursday 17 October, at the White Rock Hotel. The main item was a presentation by Jess Steele (Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust) on the proposal for the iconic Observer Building in the town centre. There was general approval for the proposals, which include affordable accommodation and workspace.
Virginia Vilela gave an update on the situation at the former West Marina bathing pool site. There is optimism that a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ will soon be approved, and this will be beneficial in the consultation process regarding plans for development.
Suggestions were invited for topics to be discussed at future Open Meetings.
The date of the next open Meeting is Tuesday 28 January (subject to availability of speakers).
The notes from the meeting are posted here.
Search for Society logo
The Society’s chair, Deborah Madden, recently contacted all members regarding a poll for a Society logo. We are ‘rebranding’ the Society in an effort to make membership and involvement more appealing to a wide range of ages, and we feel that a logo is essential. It will be good to have members’ opinions on this – and do feel free to offer your own designs for consideration.
New team at Hastings Museum
We were pleased that Hastings Museum provided the display of the Town Gun at our West Hill Community Festival. This was a Museum ‘outreach’ event, and Eleanor Lanyon from the Museum supervised the display. Eleanor is one of a new curatorial team at the Museum.
The three members are:
Eleanor Lanyon – Human History
Phillip Hadland – Natural Sciences and Archaeology
Lisa Finch – Fine and Decorative Art
Everyone who does local history research will be pleased that, after a period of difficulty getting access to resources at the Museum, the Local Studies Research room is now open regularly once again. The new LSR opening times are (with additional information provided by Eleanor):
Every Wednesday (except morning on first Wednesday of the month when it will be a Collections Conversations session), 10.30am – 12.00 noon and 1 – 3.30pm
Closed 25 December and 1 January
First Saturday of the month, 10.30am – 1pm: 5 October, 2 November, 7 December, 8 January, 1 February, 4 March
Our drop-in local history service is your chance to investigate our local studies collections including local books and directories, maps, newspaper cuttings, photographs and local interest journals and magazines.
First Wednesday of the month: 2 October, 6 November, 4 December, 8 January, 5 February, 4 March, 10.30 – 12.00 noon
Drop into our monthly Collections Conversations sessions where you can browse and explore our collections and share stories about the fascinating history of Hastings. We get out different material each month so there’s always something new to see.
The LSR makes use of volunteers to provide the services. Eleanor will be sending us details of volunteering opportunities soon, and we will circulate to our members.
Date for Annual General Meeting, 2020
Advance notice is given here of the Hastings & St. Leonards Society’s Annual General Meeting, 2020. This is to be held on Tuesday 17 March, 6 pm start, at the White Rock Hotel.
Hastings & St. Leonards Society Committee