Visiting Hastings

Monday, May 21st 2018>

Hastings on the map
Hastings on the map
(Click for Bing Map)

We are spending a few days in Hastings but will also explore some of the neighbouring towns. The map above shows Hastings and its immediate area. Click for the corresponding Bing Map. We have visited Hastings many times in the past and you can find more posts about it by typing ‘Hastings’ in the search box in the sidebar.

The origins of Hastings are unknown but certainly ancient. The earliest mention of the town dates from Anglo-Saxon times. In 915 it was recorded as Hæstingaceaster, where ceaster means a settlement built in or near a Roman town and Hæstinga(s) indicates that the settlement belonged to the family, tribe or followers of a man called Hæsta. Hastings was to give its name to the famous battle of 1066 though this is fact occurred several miles to the north at Senlac Hill. In the Middle Ages it became a member of the defensive alliance called the Cinque Ports. Today, Hastings is a quietly pleasant seaside resort but also provides a base for the UK’s largest beach-launched fishing fleet. For more on the history of Hastings, see here.

Hastings bus station
Hastings bus station

We reached Hastings by train, of course, and caught a bus to the town centre from the bus station next to the railway station. We were too early to register at the hotel so we filled in the time by exploring the town.

Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity was consecrated in 1858 and is a Grade II* listed building, despite its unusual design necessitated by the awkward site made available for it. Local resident and philanthropist Countess Waldegrave contributed largely to the expense of building it.

Waldegrave Memorial Drinking Fountain
Waldegrave Memorial Drinking Fountain

In front of the church stands the Waldegrave Memorial Drinking Fountain, erected in 1861 in honour of Countess Waldgrave. Although the fountain is missing some of its parts it has been found worthy of a Grade II listing.

White Rock Hotel
White Rock Hotel

We are staying at the White Rock Hotel which is nicely placed on the seafront near the pier. It turned put to be a pleasant place to stay with friendly, helpful staff.

White Rock Theatre
White Rock Theatre

Next door to the hotel is the White Rock Theatre. The original building was called the White Rock Pavilion and was created in 1927 as a home for the Hastings Municipal Orchestra. It was modified in 1985 to become the White Rock Theatre and is owned by the local council.

Hastings Pier
Hastings Pier

Almost opposite the hotel is Hastings Pier. Like many piers, it was built in the Victorian period (1871) and enjoyed a fairly prosperous life until it suffered serious storm damage in 1990, causing it to be closed for a while. It was sold in 2000 but was subsequently found to be unsafe owing to deterioration of the structure, and was closed in 2008. Two years later, a fire destroyed most of the pier which now seemed doomed. However, the pier was brought back into council ownership in 2013 and, with the help of a Heritage Lottery grant, refurbishment was able to begin and the pier reopened to the public in 2016.

View of the pier from the entrance
View of the pier from the entrance

On entering the pier, you find yourself looking out across this vast empty space. No doubt there are plans to do something with it.

Retail units disguised as beach huts
Retail units disguised as beach huts

Gigantic staircase
Gigantic staircase

Although there are some facilities for visitors – a shop, a pier museum and a cafe – there is a general feeling of emptiness, as if everyone has shut up shop and gone home… or not arrived yet. Nonetheless, on a sunny day it is quite pleasant to stroll on the pier and perhaps sit a while looking at the view.

A view from the pier
A view from the pier

Looking east along the beach from the pier
Looking east along the beach from the pier

We strolled along the seafront reacquainting ourselves with some familiar landmarks, such as the old Palace Hotel, reminiscent in design of a French chateau.

The Old Palace Hotel
The Old Palace Hotel

The Grade II listed building dates from 1885-6 when it was created as a hotel with shops on the ground floor. Under the name of Palace Court, it is now an apartment block.

Pelham Crescent and St Mary-in-the-Castle
Pelham Crescent and St Mary-in-the-Castle

We visited the Georgian terrace of houses known as Pelham Crescent after the Pelham family who owned the castle on the cliff above from the 17th century until the council took it over in 1949. The Church of St Mary was included in the design of the terrace though today it has ceased to be a church and has become a music venue and exhibition centre.

Hastings Pier at evening
Hastings Pier at evening

We turned back towards our hotel and saw this view of Hastings Pier in the evening light. I hear that the pier has been sold by the council to a private owner and that its future is therefore once more in question.

Copyright 2018 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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From King’s Cross to Dartmouth Park

Saturday, May 19th 2018

Geotagger map (part)
Geotagger map (part)

Today’s ramble was mainly around the King’s Cross area with a visit to Dartmouth Park at the end. Above is part of my geotagger map which shows our route.

St Pancras Lock
St Pancras Lock

We crossed the Regent’s Canal by the Somers Town Bridge from which you have a good view of the St Pancras Lock and the barges passing through it. At the moment when I took the photo all was quiet but that would change shortly.

St Pancras Locomotive Water Point
St Pancras Locomotive Water Point

From here you can see this rather fine Victorian building. You might guess that it is a water tower and your guess would be right. Its official name is the St Pancras Locomotive Water Point which gives a clue as to its original use. Built in the 1870s (and now Grade II listed), it stood within St Pancras railway station where its purpose was to supply the steam locomotives of the day with water. It is unusual because most such water points were utilitarian in form, consisting of little more than a water tank on legs, whereas this one was designed as a complete building in Victorian Gothic style to match that of the station itself. This is not its original position. When St Pancras station was refurbished, the water point was cut into three pieces, moved here and reassembled.

Bee at work
Bee at work

This area, on the north side of the canal between Granary Square and the old Gas Holders, has been rebuilt to include apartments, entertainments and gardens. The bees were busy collecting pollen from the flowers.

Barges entering the lock
Barges entering the lock

It was now that I noticed that there was movement at the lock. Two barges were entering it. It’s not unusual to see two barges sharing a lock but there was something odd about this pair. I could see only one person working them. Then I realized that he was indeed in sole charge of both barges which were tied together. He had his work cut out, manoeuvring both into position, closing the gates and operating the sluices.

Exiting the lock
Exiting the lock

He managed the work with aplomb, opened the gates and sailed his barges out. Tigger had joined me to take photographs as well and she gave the bargee a wave.

The bargee smiles
The bargee smiles

The bargee responded with a smile as he passed under the bridge.

The Canal at King's Place
The Canal at King’s Place

We walked on down to King’s Place and I took a photo from the bridge where York Way crosses the canal. That’s King’s Place on the right.

We first had tea in the cafe on the ground floor then went to look at the artworks on display. King’s Places has a continuous programme of exhibitions and so there is always something to see there. We started outside and below are photos of some of the sculptures currently on display.

Boar II
Boar II
Terence Coventry, 1999

Voyager
Voyager
Charlotte Mayer, 1994

Ozymandias: King of Kings
Ozymandias: King of Kings
Anthony Abrahams, 2008

Post Inert Phase II Disc
Post Inert Phase II Disc
Geoffrey Clarke, 1986

Thrust
Thrust
Bruce Beasley, 1993

Battersea II
Battersea II
Geoffrey Clarke, 1965

We then went and explored the works of art inside. There were paintings and photographs but nothing particularly grabbed my attention. There were sculptures too but only one set interested me.

Goat I & Goat II
Goat I & Goat II
Terence Coventry, 2004

From the terrace of King’s place we have views of the canal and the buildings beside it. The canal, properly speaking, passes King’s Place along its northern edge and what we see running down the eastern edge of the building is a spur which is called Battlebridge Basin. I assume that goods were once loaded and unloaded here but these days it serves as a parking area for barges. In the south-eastern corner of it is the London Canal Museum which is worth visiting if you are at all interested in canals and their history.

Canal View

Canal view
Canal views

On leaving King’s Place, we took a bus northwards and walked into Dartmouth Park where we spent some time sitting on a bench, watching people and their dogs, and contemplating the view.

London Skyline from Dartmouth Park
London Skyline from Dartmouth Park

In the foreground is a housing estate but, looking over that, we can see to the centre of London and the tall buildings of the City. London’s skyline is continually changing and, in my opinion, not for the better. But ‘twas ever thus: what seems progress to some seems desecration to others. But, through it all, life goes on…

Copyright 2018 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Sunday stroll in St Albans

Sunday, May 6th 2018

St Albans is in Hertfordshire, north-west-ish of London (see this Bing Map). The city is named, obviously enough, after Saint Alban, martyred in AD 209. According to legend, Alban was a citizen living in the Roman town of Verulamium at a time when Rome was persecuting Christians. Despite being a pagan, Alban kindly gave shelter to a Christian priest fleeing arrest. When the pursuers arrived at the house, Alban passed himself off as the priest, an act of charity that led to his execution and, later, to his being claimed by the Church as a saint and martyr.

In the Christian era, the town was renamed Sancte Albanes stow (stow being an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘holy place’), thus ‘St Alban’s Holy Place’, which became shortened to the more convenient ‘St Albans’, the name by which it is known today. Locals often go further and humorously refer to the place as ‘Snorbens’.

Arriving at St Albans
Arriving at St Albans

It is easy for us to get to St Albans. We simply stroll down the road to St Pancras station and catch a Bedford train which stops at St Albans City Station. There follows an uphill walk to reach the town centre but that’s good exercise, I suppose. (We took the bus to the station on the way back.)

We had no special agenda and rambled as fancy took us, stopping for refreshments in the branch of Starbuck’s in the High Street opposite the clock tower. Below are some photos of what we saw along the way. There is lots to see in St Albans and what appears here is just a random sample. We have visited it many times before (e.g. see The saint and the water fowl) and will no doubt do so again in the future.

Trinity United Reformed Church
Trinity United Reformed Church

Trinity opened for business at a ceremony on October 8th 1903, having been funded by the existing Congregational Church of St Albans1. As far as I can tell, the only noteworthy event in its subsequent history was a fire in 1981 which completely gutted the interior and destroyed the roof, ironically just when the church was being renovated and modernized.

The Old Public Library
The Old Public Library

This fine old building was St Albans’ first public library now, sadly, converted into a steak house. When was it built? Finding the dates of old buildings can sometimes be a challenge but in this case we have a good clue. If a building has drainpipes (and what building does not?), then look at the drainpipe hoppers. (See picture at left.) Unless the drainage has been renewed at some time, the hopper often bears the building’s date. In this case, that date is 1911.

Building started in 1910 and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie provided two grants totalling £3,597 out of the final cost of £4,290. There is a stained glass window showing Andrew Carnegie holding a model of the building in his hands. The library was replaced by a new one in the 1980s and this building closed as a library in April 1988. The design is said to be typical of Carnegie libraries which feature a grand entrance reached by a flight of steps. (They obviously gave little thought to wheelchair users in those days.)

Building with turret
Building with turret

The aforementioned library is in Victoria Street, along which we were walking from the station. On the corner, this building, 1 Victoria Street, caught my eye. This is because buildings with turrets always fascinate me. I imagine having a room in a turret and being able to look out in two, or even more, directions. I know nothing about the building except that it is Victorian (appropriate in view of the name iof the street in which it resides), dating, I think, from the 1870s or so. The ground floor is occupied by the Skipton Building Society and I suppose that the upper floors are residential.

The Village Arcade
The Village Arcade

This picturesque venue is called the Village Arcade and in contains a number of boutique shops. That’s all I can say about it for now as we didn’t tarry but more or less walked straight through.

The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower

The Village Arcade is in the High Street and so is this famous landmark, the Clock Tower. Consisting of 4 stages with a roof with battlements, it is still robust despite its age and can be visited. There is some uncertainty about the date when it was built. Historic England, which has given it a Grade I listing, says it was built between 1403 and 1412 and describes it as a “secular belfry”. Hidden in that phrase are two important points: first, that the tower was not built by the church, as most were, but was funded by the townsfolk and tradesmen, and second, that the tower may not have had a clock face until much later, possibly as late as 1450.

If there was no clock face, what was the point of the tower? It has been seen as a symbol of defiance on the part of the townsfolk towards the Abbey: the tower’s clock directly faces the Abbey Church. There is no doubt that there was anger and resentment felt towards the ecclesiastical foundation which boiled over into violence on more than one occasion. The theory is that the tower enabled the town to keep time without relying on the Abbey and was also a symbol of their self-reliance and resistance to its power. For more details see here and, a longer read, here.

The Tudor Tavern
The Tudor Tavern

Currently occupied by a Thai restaurant, this lovely old building is known as the Tudor Tavern and, as one might expect, has received the accolade of a Grade II* listing. One needs to be cautious about accepting buildings with woodwork and plaster façades, even when they have wonky roofs, as genuine Tudor. This one is so and, I think, charmingly obviously so. It’s designation as a tavern comes from the fact that there was indeed a tavern here in times past and, seeing how buildings rapidly change their purposes, there might well be one again in the future’.

The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban
The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban

We continued down the hill and thus came to the august building known officially as the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban or, more commonly, as St Albans Cathedral or the Abbey. The latter designation comes from the fact that the cathedral originated with the foundation of a Benedictine abbey and monastery by King Offa in 793. This institution continued in existence until 1539 when it fell victim to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, by which time it was already in serious decline. The present cathedral building dates from the Norman period and was begun in 1077. The tomb of St Alban became a place of pilgrimage until it was destroyed and lost in the Reformation. It was rediscovered and rebuilt in the 19th century and apparently still attracts visitors today. More details of the history of the Cathedral can be found here and here (click on the headings in the left sidebar).

The Gatehouse, from outside the precinct

The Gatehouse, from inside the precinct

The Gatehouse, archway roof
The Gatehouse
Top: view from outside the precinct
Middle: view from inside the precinct
Bottom: the archway and its roof

The Abbey was provided with defensive walls and a fortified gateway to control access. This was needed not least because of the dissatisfaction of the townsfolk which led to riots against the Abbey on several occasions. The first gateway was built by the 30th Abbot, Thomas de la Mere, in 1349 but was destroyed by a storm in 1362. The Abbot had a new, stronger gateway built in 1365. This is the one we see today and it is the only vestige remaining of the Abbey fortifications.

The rooms in the gateway were used as a jail and during the Peasant Revolt of 1381, rioters attacked and penetrated the gate, released prisoners and went on to attack the Abbey itself. When the Revolt fizzled out after the death of Wat Tyler, in the reprisals that followed, the leaders of the local revolt were themselves imprisoned in the gateway and later hanged before the King, Richard II. Thereafter, the gateway remained a focus a discontent and at times of unrest, the townsfolk would gather before it. Today, the rooms are used by the Grammar School.

Former Abbey National School
Former Abbey National School

The Abbey National School opened in 1848 and was extended in 1874 and 1884 as student numbers increased. The school moved to new premises in 1970 and the building now houses offices. The name of the school has nothing to do with a now defunct building society (the Abbey National Building Society ceased operations in 2010) but is explained by the fact that the Abbey received a grant for the founding of the school from an organization with a rather long name: The National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church Throughout England and Wales. The original building (the part with the tall chimneys) was designed by Thomas Leverton Donaldson, one of the founders in 1834 of the Royal Institute of British Archhitects (RIBA) and the building is Grade II listed.

St Albans developed from the Roman town of Verulamium. Its name is a Romanization of the original Celtic name which is thought to have been Verulamion, the meaning of which was something like ‘Settlement of the Broad Hand’. On the site of the original Roman town there is now a splendid park called, appropriately enough, Verulamium Park. It’s most distinctive feature is its huge lake supplied with water from the River Ver. To round off our visit to St Albans, we took a stroll through the park.

Verulamium Park lake
Verulamium Park lake

The lake is home to a large number of water fowl which include swans, ducks, Canada geese, coots, moorhens and, on an island, nesting colonies of herons and egrets. At this time of year, many of the pairs of birds have young and these family groups make irresistible subjects for photos.

A coot family
A coot family

Both parents were present, keeping a watchful eye on their two chicks as they sailed on the lake in a family group.

Coots on the nest
Coots on the nest

I think coots would easily win the Untidiest Nest Prize. They build on the water and use anything that comes to hand, including rubbish. This nest at least has been made of natural materials.

A family of Canada Geese
A family of Canada Geese

Coots feed mainly on the water, diving for plants and small creatures while Canada geese often graze on land. They can be found sailing with their chicks ion the water or, as here, foraging on the banks.

All the species present on the lake are used to the presence of people and not above begging for food. Notices prohibit the feeding of water fowl but many people ignore these, leading to a risk of polluting the water and the surrounding banks.

St Albans is a pleasant town and one can easily spend the day here enjoying the park, visiting the museum and exploring the historic buildings.

________

1The Congregational Church was absorbed into an organization called the United Reformed Church in 1972.

Copyright 2018 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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