Rather like Brighton & Hove, or even Ant & Dec, Hastings & St. Leonards are inseperable. I would say indistinguishable, but unlike the northern celebrities, the Sussex towns have plenty that sets them apart from each other. While St. Leonards was originally built for pleasure and tourism in the early 19th century, Hastings goes back to beyond the famous battle of 1066, as its medieval streets testify. And to this day, is at its heart a fishing port. On the sunday morning of my birthday weekend, we wandered along the seafront towards Hastings. Although most of the architecture is Victorian, there was a spurt of development in the 1930s, including a new promenade and wind shelters. Most was designed by Borough Engineer, Sidney Little, otherwise known as King Concrete. He injected a dash of Gaudi into his promenade walls, which to this day is known locally as “bottle alley”. It may have seen better days, but it deserves protection. I hope when the adjacent burnt out pier gets its makeover, they can spare a little cash for this rare piece of seaside design.
Skipping past Hastings “New Town”, the Victorian town centre, we reach the picturesque black fishing net huts, huddled beneath the cliffs of the Old Town. Sitting quietly, and almost unnoticed in its black surroundings, is the wonderful new Jerwood Gallery designed by HAT Projects. Clad in beautiful iridescent black ceramic tiles, the gallery, an offshoot of the one in Southwark, is a key project in the regeneration of the seaside town, although I can’t help but feel that the high entrance charges, are not going to help it draw in the visitors.
On the inside, all may be the standard white of contemporary galleries, but the spaces are thoughtfully detailed, with lovely framed views outward, of the town and the beach.
Our next stop couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the gallery. Winding our way up the High street, we reached A.G.Hendy & Co., a wonderful vintage homewares store, but also our lunch venue. Despite looking like it’s been around since 1842, it actually opened in 2012. How much of the store is genuine, and how much artifice, I don’t know, but either way I loved it.
After tucking into shrimps, cobnuts, dover sole (and complimentary lettuce), buttery potatoes, and home made coconut and raspberry ice cream, all served up in wonderfully rustic surroundings, I couldn’t resist exploring the 3 floors of this retail curiosity.
So, Berlin will have to wait until another birthday. I wouldn’t have missed Hastings & St. Leonards for the world!
For more trips to the seaside, you might like to try this blog.