Hastings in the 1800’s

There would then appear to a prolonged episode of inactivity as far as the development of a harbour is concerned. Fishing vessels were brought ashore and Peak (1985) suggests that the stade was afforded some protection by the remains of the Elizabethan harbour In 1806 however, as the town grew in both prosperity and size Sir John Rennie, who was later responsible for the original Southwark and Waterloo Bridges, proposed the construction of a harbour to the west of the Priory Stream. No other details remain and it is suggested that the plans were too costly and/or ambitious to be carried out (Manwaring Baines, 1953; Peak, 1985). The need for an improved harbour would not only benefit the fishing fleet but trade as a whole as large ships were also coming into Hastings in the 1800s, eg The Roanoke, bound for Antwerp from New York which is listed as having been discharging at Hastings Harbour on February 13th 1829. Rennie’s plan was reassessed in 1834 but was again deemed to expensive. Consequently it was decided to construct a smaller 12 acre harbour at a cost of around £100,000. This too was shelved.

Several other harbour designs were considered but it was not until 1896 that a plan put in place some years earlier was actually underway. The harbour, designed by Alfred Carey, was to cover 24 acres and would be equipped with landing stages, wharves and jetties. The harbour wall was located to the east of the Elizabethan remains. The inshore section was to be constructed of open wooden staging in order to allow shingle to pass through. The design would also incorporate the recently constructed 76m long Rock-a-Nore groyne which was put in place to prevent the eastward movement of shingle and the subsequent loss of the stade. This had been a concern since the 1870s when the council constructed a large groyne to the west of the Old Town. The subsequent failure of shingle to move eastwards and replenish the stade, combined with its constant removal by local builders meant that the stade was rapidly decreasing in size and that boats were crowded together on a narrow strip of beach (Peak, 1985). To many people inHastingsit appeared that the failure of the council to construct suitable groynes to the east of the Old Town was due to their desire to see the local fishing industry relocate toRye. After all, the council had readily agreed to the construction of sea defences which benefited the New Town but it took severe gales which battered the Old Town in October 1884 and a subsequent public outcry to spur the council into action, so that by 1885 they had relented and constructed the Rock-a-Nore groyne which would now be heightened to form the eastern end of the harbour in accordance with Carey’s design.