Fishermen’s Museum

Hastings Fishermen’s Museum is a museum dedicated to the fishing industry and maritime history of Hastings, a seaside town in East Sussex, England. It is housed in a former church, officially known as St Nicholas’ Church and locally as The Fishermen’s Church, which served the town’s fishing community for nearly 100 years from 1854. After wartime damage, occupation by the military and subsequent disuse, the building (an unconsecrated mission chapel) was leased from the local council by a preservation society, which modified it and established a museum in it. It opened in 1956 and is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the town and borough of Hastings. The building, a simple Gothic Revival-style stone chapel, has been listed at Grade II by English Heritage for its architectural and historical importance.

History of the church[edit]
From its founding in Saxon times, Hastings has been a fishing town; fishermen have worked on The Stade at Rock-a-Nore, near the Old Town, throughout the town’s history, during times of prosperity (particularly the Middle Ages, when the industry was at its height), change (such as the 19th century, when the town was transformed into a holiday resort) and stagnation.[1] Until the Victorian era, when the area’s good climate and seaside location were exploited for tourism, Hastings’ fortunes were dependent on the success or failure of the fishing port’s activities and the associated boat-building industry.[2]

By 1801, there were only two survivors of the original seven medieval churches in Hastings: All Saints Church and St Clement’s Church.[3] The rapid growth of the town thereafter encouraged church-building, and by the 1840s the rectors of the two churches were considering providing a church in the heart of the fishing area to encourage fishermen and their families to attend: many worshipped infrequently or not at all, preferring to work on Sundays.[4][5] Rev. J.G. Foyster, the rector of St Clement’s Church,[6] arranged for a missionary, Tom Tanner, to base himself at Rock-a-Nore, and he commissioned architect William Gant to build a church.[4][7] Gant, who had worked with architect Sir William Tite in London, had moved to Hastings in 1852 and was primarily a house and estate designer.[8] His simple stone building cost £529 (£43,300 as of 2015)[9] and was built in early 1854;[4] the first service was on 26 March of that year.[10]

The church was not parished: it was instead designated as a chapel of ease to All Saints Church.[11] The fishing community was initially hostile to the church, and it closed during the 1870s; the selection of a popular new chaplain, Rev. Charles Dawes, re-energised it, and by the 1880s the 290-capacity building was full at every service.[4][5]

When World War II started, the church’s strategic location on The Stade made it attractive to the military, who requisitioned it and turned it into an ordnance store. It suffered damage, and its future as a church was endangered when Hastings Council (into whose ownership it had passed) only offered a short-term lease. The Diocese of Chichester therefore closed it, and in the early 1950s it was used for general storage by fishermen and traders on the beach.[4][5]

Opening of the museum[edit]
The Old Hastings Preservation Society, a registered charity, sought to save the building in 1955. They wanted to preserve the building and use it to display a traditional Hastings lugger they had acquired. Hastings Borough Council agreed to this, and leased it to the society for use as a museum. In April 1956, one wall was partly demolished to allow the lugger to be brought in, and the town’s mayor declared the museum open on 17 May 1956.[4][5] It now has artefacts, photographs and paintings relating to the fishing industry and maritime history of Hastings,[5] including many relating to the Winkle Club—founded in 1900 by the town’s fishermen to improve the lives of poor children in the town. Honorary members of the club have included Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.[4][12] The museum is one of the town’s most popular tourist sites, attracting about 140,000 visitors annually.[5]

The building was listed at Grade II by English Heritage on 14 September 1976;[13] this defines it as a “nationally important” building of “special interest”.[14] As of February 2001, it was one of 521 Grade II listed buildings, and 535 listed buildings of all grades, in the borough of Hastings.[15]

Architecture[edit]
St Nicholas’ Church was a small, simple mission church with little ornamentation, and the building has seen little change since its secularisation. It is built of pale Kentish ragstone[5] laid in courses, with a gabled slate roof and quoins faced with stucco. The east-facing gable has a small stone cross, and there is a bellcote on the west gable.[6][13] The style is broadly Early English, as suggested by the lancet windows.[5][16] The lack of an arch or other division between the nave and chancel created, in effect, one large interior space.[6][16]

Hastings Castle

History[edit]
Immediately after landing in England in 1066 William of Normandy ordered three fortifications to be built, Pevensey Castle in September 1066, Hastings (before the Battle of Hastings) and Dover, a few days after the battle. Hastings Castle was originally built as a motte-and-bailey castle near the sea. In 1070 William had issued orders for the Castle to be rebuilt in stone, along with the St Mary’s Chapel.

The Count of Eu held the castle for most of the Norman period, but King John ordered that the castle be destroyed to prevent it falling into the hands of the Dauphin Louis. In 1220, Henry III re-fortified the castle.

In 1287 violent storms battered the south coast for many months and the soft sandstone cliffs eventually succumbed to the elements. Large sections of the face fell into the sea along with parts of the castle.

In 1339 and 1377, the town was attacked by the French leaving many burnt buildings which included homes. Throughout the next century erosion was unchecked and gradually more of the castle was lost to the sea.

The mid 16th century saw the castle receive another blow as Henry VIII commissioned that all Catholic monasteries were to be destroyed and this left the site in decay for many years. After that the site was purchased by the Pelham family and used for farming until the ruins had become so overgrown they were lost from memory.

During World War II, the castle received more damage as Hastings was a target for bombing raids. In 1951 the Hastings Corporation purchased the site and converted it into a tourist attraction.

Hastings Pier

Hastings Pier was a pleasure pier in Hastings, East Sussex, England. Built in 1872 and enjoying its prime in the 1930s, though becoming a popular music venue in the 1960s, it received major storm damage in 1990, closed to the public between 1999 and 2002, then closed again from 2006. Efforts continued to save the pier, which was in need of much investment. In the early hours of 5 October 2010 the pier suffered from a devastating fire (the second in its history) that destroyed 95% of its superstructure.[1] The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust say that, pending a structural survey, the substructure (the cast iron supports under the pier) may be salvageable. However, developers for Hastings Borough Council confirmed in an interview on 20 October 2010 that no plans had arisen as yet.

The pier has featured in many films and TV series, such as the The Dark Man, ITV wartime drama Foyle’s War, which is set in Hastings. In 2009, it was featured in the music video for Ash’s A-Z series single “Tracers” and Kingmaker’s “Queen Jane” in 1993.

Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Pier access withdrawn
1.2 Efforts to save the pier
1.3 October 2010 fire
1.4 Redevelopment plans
2 Opening of the Pier
3 Gallery
4 References
4.1 Notes
4.2 Bibliography
History[edit]
The pier was opened on 5 August 1872 by the then Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Earl of Granville. It was designed by Eugenius Birch, who also designed the West Pier, Brighton and Eastbourne Pier, both west of Hastings, and it is often seen as an innovative design considering the technical constraints of the late Victorian period. The pier was “constructed by a local company”, while the contractors were the firm R Laidlaw & Son, Glasgow.[2] 600 guests sat down to lunch on the pier immediately following the opening ceremony, and included the local member of parliament Thomas Brassey and Egyptian princes.

The original 2,000 seater pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1917.[3] This was eventually replaced in 1922 and played host in the 1960s and the 1970s to notable artists such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Genesis, Tom Jones, Ten Years After, and Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett played his last ever show with the band here on 20 January 1968.

During the 1930s, the pavilion extension buildings received an art deco facelift and a theatre rebuild. This was to be its prime era. More renovation followed its temporary closure during WWII and it housed the famous Hastings embroidery during the 1066 celebrations in 1966. Elements of the pier became listed in 1976 and subsequently changed hands on a regular basis with erratic structural renovation input from its subsequent owners.

In 1990 it suffered considerable storm damage, requiring a £1 million refurbishment. In 1996 it was put up for sale, but the future of the pier was put in grave doubt as interested buyers were reluctant to invest due to the serious amount of capital needed to improve the unstable structural supports. Financial losses led to the appointment of liquidators Leonard Curtis who closed the pier in 1999.[4]

The pier was eventually sold in 2000 and reopened under new ownership in 2002. It was passed to Ravenclaw, an offshore enterprise in 2004.

Pier access withdrawn[edit]
In July 2006, Hastings Borough Council, upon discovering that part of the pier’s structure was unsafe, promptly closed the pier to the general public.[5] Protracted legal wranglings between the pier’s owners, Ravenclaw Investments, and Hastings Borough Council followed. Finally, Stylus Sports, a pier tenant who operated the gaming attractions, in conjunction with Hastings Borough Council, funded much of the needed £300,000 of repairs, which enabled the court order closing the pier to be lifted. This financial infusion enabled the majority of the pier to reopen on 4 July 2007.[dated info]

However, on 12 March 2008 the local newspaper Hastings Observer reported to concerned readers how storm damage had caused considerable damage and that two support columns were in imminent danger of collapse. To prevent public access and any resulting injuries, stronger barriers restricting public access to the damaged areas were put in place and repairs to the bracing fixtures prevented any disaster from occurring. Nevertheless, when the remaining major tenant closed for business, access to the pier was restricted. The failure of the owners to respond to appeals from the Council to repair the areas and the continual deterioration of the structure led to its long-term future becoming uncertain.

Efforts to save the pier[edit]
The Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust [6] was established to raise funds through various means to renovate the pier, ranging from community fund raising (cup collecting, raffles and quiz nights etc.) to larger scale grant applications. Their long-term goal is to acquire the pier and form a not-for-profit company to renovate, reopen and revitalise the pier as a community owned asset. The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust (HPWRT) strongly oppose to any decision to demolish and clear the site of the structure, which would cost an estimated £4 million of local money.

In August 2009, the Hastings Observer launched a campaign petition to Save the Pier, which is available for anyone interested in signing via an online website. More than 3,000 people have so far signed up. On Saturday 17 October 2009[7] more than 1,000 disgruntled residents marched along Hastings seafront to the Town Hall in protest of the Hastings Borough Councils’ alleged lack of impetus with regard to dealing with the pier as an eyesore and its alleged unlawful sale to a foreign business, although there was no domestic interest. The march concluded with members of the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust (HPWRT) handing a Compulsory Purchase Order pack, to the Council. It was hoped by many individuals and local small businesses that a decisive outcome would err in favour of promoting the seafront as a picturesque tourist attraction once again.

Hastings Pier from the beach

Hastings Pier at sunset
In November 2009 Kerry and Michelle Michael, along with a team of engineers, examined the possibility of purchasing Hastings Pier and restoring it to its former glory. These siblings also own The Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare, which caught fire in 2008 and destroyed the pavilion, but they rebuilt it at a cost of more than £50million. However, after a structural assessment of the Hastings Pier, it was estimated that repairs would cost in excess of £24million, with a similar amount needed to restore attractions to the pier head. The engineers dismally commented that the pier is “one good storm away from collapse”.[8]

October 2010 fire[edit]
The pier suffered extensive fire damage during the early hours of Tuesday 5 October 2010. Although the fire brigade arrived shortly after being alerted (at approximately 0100 BST), the fire had quickly spread causing severe damage to the wooden buildings. Estimates indicate that 95% of the superstructure of the pier was subsequently destroyed in the fire.[9] Two people were arrested on suspicion of arson,[10] but, despite numerous bail hearings, no charges were made.[9]

Redevelopment plans[edit]
Prior to its destruction in a fire on 5 October 2010, Hastings Pier was deemed to be the pier most at risk in the UK by the National Piers Society. Despite funding set-backs in 2009, such as the withdrawal of Capacity Builders grants,[11] the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust had made efforts to revitalise the pier. On 1 February 2010, Hastings Borough Council finally resolved to develop an approval in principle to compulsorily purchase the Pier on the agreement of a business plan and suitable funding source.[12] The decision followed a study which showed the pier could be made safe for public use for £3million. On 16 March, Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust successfully obtained a £75k Feasibility grant to fund the completion of necessary engineering surveys and architectural plans for their overall business plan of securing capital funding. “BBC South East News Report”. October 2010.

Following the fire in October that year, an English Heritage assessment confirmed that the previously noted heritage value of the substructure remained so the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust submitted an application for £8.75m to the Heritage Lottery at the end of November 2010 to restore the substructure of the Pier and renovate the remaining building.[13] Heritage Lottery trustees visited the project and pier on 16 March 2011 to assess the application.[14] Hastings Borough Council were granted £100k toward emergency works by English Heritage in April 2011. This funding was intended to pay for structural supports to be applied to the central section which was weakened by the loss of the deck in the fire.

In May 2011, it was announced by Heritage Lottery Fund that a Stage 1 development grant, releasing the first £357,400 of a total £8.75m grant was awarded by Heritage Lottery.[15] This development grant was intended to complete the business plan, develop the heritage learning and activities programme and raise the £1m funding match. In the meantime, Hastings Borough Council intended to progress the CPO. The remaining award (Stage 2) was subject to the funding match being raised, the authorisation of the business plan by the HLF and the successful completion of the CPO.[16]

Opening of the Pier[edit]
In August 2013, a Compulsory Purchase Order was enacted and the pier was returned to local ownership which enabled the £14m renovation project to go forward. Work has been underway and completion is estimated around Summer of 2015.[17]