HASTINGS

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THE town of Hastings is situated on the coast of Sussex, about sixty-four miles S. S. E. of London. It has been supposed that the place was so called from  Hastings, a Danish pirate, “who, where he landed for booty, built sometimes little  fortresses ; as we read, in Asserius Menevensis, of Beamflote Castle built by him in  Essex, and of others at Appledore and Middleton in Kent”*. This conjecture,  however, does not appear to be well founded ; for there can be little doubt of the  place having been called Hastings about the year 780, in the reign of King Offa,  whereas Hastings, the pirate, did not invade England till about 880, in the reign  of Alfred the Great. “Some there are,” says Camden, “who ridiculously derive the name from the English word haste; because, as Matthew Paris writes, ‘apud Hastings ligneum agiliter castrum statuit Gulielmus Conquestor’ — at Hastings William the Conqueror hastily set up a fortress of timber.” Truly, as old Fuller might have said, there has been more haste than speed in the endeavor to provide this place with a godfather.

It is said that the Old Saxon town of Hastings stood considerably to the southward of the present one, and that it was destroyed by the incursions of the sea previous to the Conquest. The town, however, would appear to have been in a short  time rebuilt ; for William the Conqueror, soon after landing at Pevensey, marched  to Hastings, from whence he advanced about eight miles into the country, where he  encountered the English army under Harold, at the place since called Battle,  in commemoration of the event.

Hastings, though not the oldest, is considered to hold the first rank among the ancient maritime boroughs called the Cinque Ports, which were originally instituted for the defense of the coast, and endowed with special privileges on condition of supplying a certain number of ships and manners for that purpose. Dover, Sandwich, and Romney are considered the oldest of the Cinque Ports, as they are the only ones which are mentioned in Domesday as privileged ports. Hastings and Hythe are supposed to have been added by William the Conqueror; and the number being thus increased to Jive, occasioned the community to be called the Cinque Ports.

• Camden’s Britannica, Bishop Gibson’s Translation.

Although Winchelsea and Rye, which had previously been members of Hastings, were constituted principal ports at some period between the Conquest and the reign of King John, the name of Cinque Ports still continued to be given to the community.  The Cinque Ports are governed by a lord warden, who is also governor of Dover Castle. A certain number of persons (called Barons) deputed from the Cinque Ports, have the privilege of supporting the canopies above the king and queen at coronations.

There was formerly a pier at Hastings, at which vessels could unload; but it was destroyed in a violent storm, about the commencement of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and never rebuilt. From the remains of this pier, which are still to be seen at low water, it appears to have run out in a south-eastern direction from the centre of the Marine Parade, below where the fort now stands. The fort, in a great measure, answers the purpose of a breakwater in resisting the waves, which in high tides, accompanied with a strong wind from the seaward, and would otherwise be likely to do serious damage to the lower part of the town.

The trade of Hastings is very inconsiderable; its imports being chiefly coals for the consumption of the town, and its exports principally oak timber and plank, for the purposes of ship-building. The great supports of the town are the numerous visitors who take lodgings there during the bathing season, and the fishery, which gives employment to about 500 persons. What may now be considered the old town of Hastings is situated in a hollow between two hills, the East and the Castle-hill, and consists chiefly of two streets, which run nearly parallel to each other, and are called High-street and All-Saints-street. The new town of Hastings, which has been almost wholly erected within the last thirty years, lies to the south and westward of the Castle-hill, so called from the ruins of the old castle on its top. There  are two old churches at Hastings, St. Clement’s and All- Saints’, and a modern  chapel, St. Mary’s, in Pelham-crescent, immediately under the Castle-hill. From  the accommodation which it affords to visitors, and the beauty and interest of the  walks and rides in its vicinity, Hastings is one of the most agreeable watering-places  on the southern coast of England.

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