Posted 5 December 2014 by Andrew Gardner
The Sussex coast seems to be very much on the radar at the moment. In October we had the centenary of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, in which the seaside town of Mugsborough was based on Hastings, and news that there's a campaign afoot for a statue of the author, Robert Tressell (real name Robert Noonan), to be put up.
Then we had the good news that Hastings' Pelham Arcade had been taken off the English Heritage 'at risk' list - although that was tempered by Eastbourne pier and the shipwreck Hazardous, at Bracklesham Bay, being put on it. Forgive me, but on first impression adding a shipwreck to an 'at risk' list seems like locking the stable door long after the proverbial horse was last seen galloping into the horizon. Hazardous, incidentally, was wrecked in 1706 when the captain ran her ashore in a raging gale to save his crew; the site is run by English Heritage and a collection of recovered artefacts is on display at Earnley Gardens near Bracklesham Bay.
A happier maritime tale is that of the lifeboat Priscilla MacBean, now newly restored and on display in Hastings and saved from what appeared to be her future as a chicken coop. Priscilla MacBean was the first motor lifeboat to be launched off a beach; she was built in 1921 for service at Eastbourne but wasn't suitable for the English Channel, so she was moved to another station. Later she was brought back to Sussex with the idea of running her as a pleasure boat, but that didn't happen and she ended up in a field. Not natural habitat for a boat.
But my favourite restoration story lately is that of a historic shopfront being uncovered in Worthing. Builders renovating a bar uncovered a green and gold sign reading 'H.W. Hales, Pastrycook & Caterer' that's thought to be 120 years old. It would have been quite a pretentious sign, in the days before neon, in what was the up-and-coming area of Rowlands Road. The bit that made me chuckle was that apparently HW Hales would have also run it as a licensed premises - so being a bar isn't far from its roots - but he lost his licence after being caught selling bootleg cider from (whisper it) Another County. It wasn't even Sussex cider - shame on him.
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