Missing the Battle of Hastings

The weather forecasts yesterday and early this morning promised us a “Sunny Saturday” but the sky is overcast and the scene is lit with grey cloud-light. There is even a hint of rain. The indicator at the bus stop promised a 214 in 8 minutes so we preferred to walk. When we reached St Pancras at around 9:30, the station was already busy and we had to thread our way between the cross currents of arriving and departing travellers, some of whom seemed to be wandering in a daze.

Boarding the HS1
Boarding the HS1

While Tigger queued for tickets I went upstairs and bought porridge and coffee for breakfast at the Camden Food Co. Porridge has come back into fashion and all the fast food outlets – even Starbuck’s – now sell it with a variety of extras such as honey or fruit preserve.

I joined Tigger again and, carrying breakfast gingerly in a plastic bag, we made our way upstairs to the HS1 platforms and settled aboard a train. This one will whisk us to Ashford International where we change for our final destination. We are heading for the famous town of Hastings. It is claimed that the one date everyone knows is the date of the Battle of Hastings (1066) which initiated the Norman era in these islands. The town itself is much older than that and dates from an earlier invasion, that of the Anglo-Saxons.

Hastings ladybird
Hastings ladybird

Town names ending in ‘-ing’ or ‘-ings’ are often old Anglo-Saxon settlements. The suffix derives from Anglo-Saxon ‘inga’, meaning ‘people’ or ‘folk’, so Hastings would have been settled by a man called Hasta and the name means ‘Hasta’s folk’.

Train spotters
Train spotters

As we speed south, the countryside is decked in a grey mist that dims the scene and closes out distant views. The hope is that the sun will after all break through or that the clouds and mist do not extend as far as Hastings.


While we waited on the platform at Ashford, thin spots and breaks appeared in the scudding clouds, allowing brief glimpses of the sun.

A brief glimpse of the sun
A brief glimpse of the sun

We board the Brighton train, which calls at Hastings on the way, and find seats at a table. The usual weekend engineering works are taking place and some trains have been replaced by buses on certain sections of the network but, fortunately, our service is not affected.


By the time we reached Hastings, almost as by enchantment, the sky had cleared and the sun shone brightly, though the air remained hazy as you can perhaps see by looking at the houses in the photo below.

Sunlight, reflections and haze in Hastings
Sunlight, reflections and haze in Hastings

We walked through town taking in familiar sights, and passed through a crowded Priory Meadow, once the property of monks, and now the site of a modern shopping centre.

Priory Meadow
Priory Meadow

After the closure of the priory, Priory Meadow became a cricket ground and continued in that use for over 130 years. Unhappily – or happily, depending on your point of view –  it is now the site of the Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, the old purpose being recalled by a rather overly exuberant monument to cricket.

The Spirit of Cricket, Alan Sly
The Spirit of Cricket, Alan Sly

The handsome building that today houses the Hastings Information Centre carries this unusual two-faced clock.

Two-faced clock, Hastings Information Centre
Two-faced clock, Hastings Information Centre

We went down to the beach. You may have heard of the terrible fire that has devastated Hastings’ Victorian Pier. It had been closed for some time though there was some hope that the Council might take it over from its private owners with a view to reopening it. The fire has left its future in doubt.

Hastings beach looking towards the damaged pier veiled by haze
Hastings beach looking towards the damaged pier veiled by haze

For lunch we went across the road to The Italian Way, a restaurant we have visited before where good food is served by friendly and cheerful waiters.

The Italian Way
The Italian Way

This weekend, there is a re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings and a lot of activity in the town had to do with that. We didn’t go to see it (well, we know how it ends!) and instead went to look at another event being held further along the beach.

Juvenile gull taking off from water
Juvenile gull taking off from water

The boating pool was closed and had been taken over by gulls. I have always been fascinated by their ability to take flight from the water and caught this juvenile doing just that.

East Hill Lift (1902)
East Hill Lift (1902)

What we had come to see was the veteran car rally being held in a section of the car part at the eastern end of the seafront near the the Fishermen’s Museum. Apart from a couple of what we might described as “works in progress”, all the vehicles were in immaculate condition as if they had just rolled off the assembly line.

Veteran car Veteran car
Cars and people
Veteran cars and their people

The owners of the cars, and their families, seemed to be enjoying themselves, chatting to one another, and there was a sense of camaraderie. As time passes, I notice more and more among “veteran” cars, models that I used put petrol and oil in when I worked in a filling station years ago, cars that were then current on the roads. And no, I’m not saying which ones!

Old Court Hall Wooden head
The Old Courthouse and wooden head

We made our way back through the town. At every turn there are beautiful buildings and fascinating things to see, such as the Old Court Hall and its wooden head decoration.

Winding street with steps
Winding street with steps

There are picturesque winding streets, often with steps, and antiques shops. (Or are they junk shops? Go in and decide for yourself…)

Antiques or junk... or both?
Antiques or junk… or both?

We returned to the seafront for a slightly closer look at the pier, with the sun once again playing hide and seek in and out of the clouds.

A closer look at the pier
A closer look at the pier

Most of the metal work seems to be still in place so perhaps it will be possible to rebuild the pier and open it again to the public, renewing a tradition begun in the Victorian era. It will require a lot of money, however.

Waiting for the train
Waiting for the train

We returned to the station and had a little while to wait for the train. Then we we followed the morning’s journey in reverse back to St Pancras.

Crab doorknocker
Crab doorknocker

Copyright © 2010 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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6 Responses to Missing the Battle of Hastings

  1. WOL says:

    I would have opted for the battle reinactment. I marvel at how serious these people are and the lengths they go to with their “period dress.” OK, I admit it. I have a thing for men in chainmail — LOL!

    I like the picture of the ladybird — an interesting contrast between the red of the beetle’s wings and the grey stone, as well as between their different surface textures.

    Is that building in the center of the Priory Meadow photo “for real” or a Victorian copy? Looks like a repurposed church — Romanesque style?

    • SilverTiger says:

      Never one to deny people their fun – as long as they keep out of my hair – I’m happy for the battle re-enactors to do their thing but have no interest in watching what is, after all, a completely artificial exercise.

      The ladybird was walking on the flagstones in the grounds of the parish church and in danger of being trodden on so, after photographing her, I picked her up and put her in the grass. She then flew away!

      Unfortunately, I know nothing about the building in question. Perhaps I will find out more on another visit.

  2. AEJ says:

    You have bus indicators? How helpful that must be!

    Loved all the pictures, as usual. I wish people still used doorknockers. I’d have a crab one, too.

    • SilverTiger says:

      Indicators showing which buses are approaching the stop and how long it will be before they arrive are now common in cities. Some are very sophisticated and London’s, strange to say, compare badly with those in some other cities.

      Doorknockers are still quite common, especially in older properties. In London you see many individual designs but one of the most popular is the face of a lion holding the knocker ring in his mouth.

  3. WOL says:

    If I was going to have a house suitable for a door knocker, I’d want one shaped like a human forearm from the elbow down, with the palm of the hand toward the door and the fingers in a fist. You would grasp the hand and knock on the door with the knuckles. It seems so obvious an idea, and so tongue in cheek, that I’m surprised that I haven’t ever seen one.

    In the Terry Pratchett “discworld” series, Death has a door knocker that is a lion with a ring in its mouth. It talks, but it’s hard to understand because it has a ring in its mouth. . .

    • SilverTiger says:

      I have seen knockers similar to the one you describe though I don’t have a photo to hand.

      Provided you had a good picture to show, a brass or iron foundry could probably cast one for you, though that might cost a bit.

      Would you believe that I have never read a Terry Pratchett novel and that I have no plans to read any? And that, despite having worked in a book shop where all the titles were on conspicuous display.

      I am one of those people who find reality so interesting that reading fiction seems to them a waste of time.

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