History of Hastings

Explore the history of Hastings!

The Hastings fishing fleet has a long history. Fishing boats similar to those in use in Hastings today have been launching from the same beach under the Hastings cliffs for at least 500 years.

While the sea has provided the economic backbone of Hastings for many centuries, erosional process and long shore drift combined with human intervention have been responsible for reshaping the coastline and consequently the town over the last millennia. The harbour has steadily moved eastwards from its original location in the vicinity of what is now the Priory Meadow Shopping Centre to its present location on the stade (Saxon for landing place) in front of the Old Town. What was once a significant fleet of around 100 boats in the early 1800s (Peak, 1985) now numbers just 29. In common with fleets from across theUKthe beach launched fleet at Hastings has been negatively affected by the implementation of European fishing quotas. Nevertheless steps have been taken to ensure its continued viability and it now has Marine Stewardship Council certification for the sustainable fishing of Dover sole, herring and mackerel thereby enabling those fishermen who are part of the accreditation scheme to charge a premium for their catch.

The current coastal processes have been affecting the Hastings coastline for hundreds of years.  Long shore drift is thought to have resulted in the accumulation of shingle against East Hill which used to project further into the sea at Rock-a-Nore thereby forming a shingle beach, or stade, which acts as the present location of the fishing fleet opposite the Old Town. This is known to have been in constant use by the fishing fleet since at least the 1500s. The stade, however, is just one of several locations that vessels have used as a harbour throughout the town’s history. The location of previous sites has been the subject of some debate and an important aspect in the position of any harbour/port and associated settlement is the morphology of the coastline.

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References

Leslie, K. and Short, B. (1999). Historical Atlas ofSussex. Phillimore,Chichester

Manwaring Baines, J. (1953) Historic Hastings. F.J Parsons Ltd,Hastings.

Marsden, P. (2003). The maritime archaeology of Sussex. In: Rudling, D (ed.) The Archaeology of Sussex to AD 2000. Centre for Continuing Education,University of Sussex.

Martin, D. and Martin, B. (2009). Hastings Old Town: an Archaeological History to 1750.East Sussex Architectural Research Report.

Peak, S (1985). Fishermen of Hastings:  200 Years of the Hastings Fishing Community. Speaks Books,Hastings.

Salzman, (1921) Hastings. S.P.C.K.,London