"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on May 18, 2017 by Sioux under General
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We were up very early on the morning of my birthday & went back to the harbour to watch the sunrise. It was icy cold but crisp and fresh, and oh so blissfully quiet! 

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After having a breakfast surprise arranged by my sister, with candles on my hash-brown and balloons adorning our table back at the hotel, we headed for Hastings travelling via Winchelsea, stopping if we saw something interesting.

Our first stop was at the ruins of St John’s Hospital, which was in its day, more of an old age home than a hospital.

 

First mentioned in 1292, as the House of St John, and in use until the 1560’s, it was possibly the oldest hospital in Winchelsea. Of the four such churches – or almshouses – this wall is all that remains. 

We did a bit of a walk in the surrounding fields and then

went our merry way, heading for Hastings. 

                                                                                                  Hastings is a fishing port with a beach based fishing fleet within the

                                                                 historic county of Sussex, on the south coast of England, and gives its name to the

                                                                 Battle of Hastings in 1066. It later became one of the medieval Cinque Ports. The first

                                                                 mention of Hastings is found in the late 8th century in the form Hastingas. This is

                                                                 derived from the Old English tribal name Hæstingas, meaning `the constituency /

                                                                 followers of Hæsta’.  Evidence of prehistoric settlements has been found as well as

flint arrowheads and Bronze Age artefacts. Iron Age forts have also been excavated in the area which suggests early

habitation in the valley. The settlement was already based on the port when the Romans arrived in

Britain for the first time in 55 BC.  

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Well known for having the best natural harbour on the

South coast of England, Hastings was ravaged by massive

storms during the mid-13th century, which caused large

areas of the shoreline to be reshaped. With rivers being

forced to change their natural course to reach the sea,

previously accessible shipping harbours became blocked                                                        by huge deposits of silt, shingle and debris    from the storms. This shingle bank became known as The                                                      America Ground. Initially a no-man’s land 

of almost 8 acres, which included the now named Robetson Street. The area grew and was claimed by the Crown in 1827, and 

declared as part of Hastings. Attempts were made to build a stone harbour during the reign of Elizabeth I, but the foundations were 

destroyed by the sea during storms, and fishing boats are still stored on and launched from the beach, to this day. It must be a grueling

task to manually winch the boats up from water to dry land! 

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The Winkle Club is an internationally famous charitable organization formed in 1900 by Hastings fishermen to help the under-privileged families of Hastings Old Town. Their HQ building was given in trust for the use of Hastings Fishermen initially used for making and repairing their nets. Winkle Club members include some very famous names such as the late Sir Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother. Each Member (or ‘Winkler’) carries a winkle shell which they must produce when challenged to ‘winkle up’. Failure to do so results in a fine which goes towards local charities. During special occasions, members of the Club gather together on Winkle Island at the foot of All Saints’ Street. The giant winkle which stands on the pavement was used as a collection box.

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The sculpture of the prow of a Norman longboat is embedded in the beach to mark the 950th anniversary of the battle of Hastings. A time capsule has been included in which locals have stored letters to friends & family and it will only be opened in 2066. People supporting the sculpture have had their initials stamped into the sculpture. 

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The 4m high memorial on the promenade, constructed to remember the fallen servicemen of Hastings following the Boer War (1899-1902) is made from pink granite and commemorates the tragic impact of world events on this community.  

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The Hastings pier was built in 1872 and “reached its prime” as an entertainment venue in the 1930’s. Destroyed by the first fire in 1917 and rebuilt in 1922; closed during WW2 with a section having been cut away to prevent enemy use in the event of an invasion, the pier became popular again in the 1960’s as a music venue. Major storm damage in 1990 resulted in the pier being closed to the public and a second fire in 2010 destroyed 95% of its superstructure. The pier was re-opened in 2016 after a major reconstruction, the funding coming from a charity project. It now houses stalls selling everything from ice-creams to home-made jewellery and an interestingly shaped shop in the centre, with the paneling looking like it’s in relief but it’s actually flat! 

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                                                             We explored the seafront                                                                        area and then went off in                                                                        search of the “Piece of cheese cottage” – dating from 1871, and built for a £5 bet, this quirky cottage is said to be the only three cornered cottage in England, as well as being the 2nd smallest cottage in the country! 

Walking along the promenade, we saw a mini steam train and decided to take a ride, getting off close to the funicular we needed to take up to the castle. The station, called Rock-a-Nore, is the HQ of The Hastings Miniature Railway which opened in 1948, and is still a popular tourist attraction to the present day. Rock-a-nore is an urban area of Hastings, and officially adopted its name in 1859. The name was derived from a former building “lyinge to the Mayne Rock against the north”.  

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                                                                                                                      We walked until our feet hurt and belly’s squealed, stopped off in a quaint

                                                                                                                       little restaurant for refreshments, walked to the funicular station, to go up to the

                                                                                                                       castle, making a detour into the Hastings Fisherman’s museum, which was opened in 1956. Initially the 

                                                                                                                 Fisherman’s Church of St Nicholas which was built in 1854, it served as the mission chapel for the fishing community until requisitioned by the military to become a wartime store. The net houses (located near the bottom of the East Cliff Funicular Railway) are used to store fishing nets. If fisherman were caught smuggling, their boats were cut in half by officials, but the entrepreneurial fisherman still made good use of them! 

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St Clements Church of Hastings can trace its origins back to 1080 AD although it was ravaged by the French in 1339 and 1377, it was rebuilt in 1380.  

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The view from the top of the

cliffs was spectacular and once we saw the stairway, which could be used to get up to the castle, we were glad we had used the funicular. Walking along the top of Castle Hill, we saw some ships of the Russian Fleet, (apparently enroute to Syria), being escorted through the English Channel by a Royal Navy steamer.  

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Hastings Castle was built before the Battle of Hastings, on the orders of William of Normandy, in 1066, originally as a motte-and-bailey castle. In 1287 violent storms battered the south coast for many months, resulting in large sections of the soft sandstone cliffs falling into the sea along with parts of the castle. Throughout the next century erosion caused more of the castle to be lost to the sea. During the 16th century Henry VIII commissioned all Catholic monasteries to be destroyed and this left the site in decay for many years. After that the area was used for farming until the ruins had become so overgrown they were lost from memory. During WWII, the castle received more damage as Hastings was a target for bombing raids, and in 1951 the Hastings Corporation purchased the site and converted it into a tourist attraction. Walking through the roughly hewn tunnels was somewhat eerie, knowing the history that preceded us! 

On the way back to Rye, we stopped off to watch the magnificent sunset. All in all, a fantastic birthday!

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More adventures to follow after a fab dinner and a good night’s sleep. 

 

 

 

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