Famous Residents of Hastings & St Leonards
John Logie Baird
Born in 1888 in Dunbartonshire in Scotland, John Logie Baird was the inventor of television.
In 1922 John moved to Hastings in an effort to improve his health with the fresh sea air. He took lodgings at 21 Linton Crescent and rented a workshop in Queens Arcade, above number 8.
During 1923, John Logie Baird succeeded to make the world's first image transmissions, and from this he continued to pioneer in developing mechanical televisions. Baird's own company began transmitting programmes in 1929 and in 1932 the BBC took over the responsibility.
In his younger years before the health problems, Baird had made several other inventions, including a damp proof sock for soldiers, and began a number of businesses including soap manufacture and jam making.
John Logie Baird died in 1946 at Bexhill.
Born in February 1821 in Bristol, Elizabeth and the Blackwell family moved to America in 1832.
She was awarded a medical diploma at New York's Syracuse University and became the first woman in the world to qualify as a doctor.
Unfortunately she was prevented from practicing surgery after contracting opthalmia while gaining practice experience at La Maternite in Paris.
Despite health setbacks Elizabeth Blackwell continued with a largely medical career and in 1859 also became the first woman to be admitted to the British General Medical Register.
Elizabeth also wrote many works of importance including the 1895 publication "Pioneer Work for Women".
In 1880 she retired to Hastings as her health was declining and lived at Rock House in Exmouth Place for 30 years before passing away in 1910.
Robert Nanoon, AKA Robert Tressell was born in Dublin in 1870 and moved to South Africa where he got married in 1891. Unfortunately his wife died and Robert moved to Hastings with his nine-year-old daughter Kathleen. They initially stayed with Roberts sister, but soon found their own lodgings.
Robert Tressell was a commercial artist, signwriter and house painter. Among his most artistic work was a 16 panel mural he painted in the chancel at St Andrews Church in 1905. Just one piece of the mural was saved and restored when the church was demolished. This is now on show to the public at Hastings Museum.
Robert Tressell is probably best remembered for his work for the social movement, and his book "The Ragged Trousererd Philanthrapist" was written in Hastings. There are many simularities between Hastings and the ficticious town of Mugsborough used in the story. The book was never published during Robert Tressell's lifetime and wasn't available until 1914, even then it wasn't released in its complete form. The complete work was finaly published in 1955.
With the intention of emigrating to Canada, Robert Tressell left Hastings in 1911 but never made the journey, passing away in Liverpool the same year.
Three of his former local homes are marked with commemerative plaques (1 Plynlimmon Road and 115 Milward Road in Hastings, 241 London Road in St Leonards), and many other uses of the Tressell name can be seen in the town.
Having grown up in Upper Maze Hill and being educated at St Michael’s School in Charles Road until the age of 14, Alan Turing went on to study maths at King’s College, Cambridge.
He worked on the Enigma code at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, allowing us to break German codes. Without which the outcome of the war could have been very different.
His subsequent work showed that complex mathematical calculations could be reduced to binary code and represented by a simple on/off switch, led to the development of the modern digital computer.
In 1952 Alan Turing was convicted of gross indecency following a relationship with another man and underwent hormonal treatment as an alternative to prison.
As a result of his treatment, Mr Turing committed suicide in 1954 by swallowing cyanide. He received a posthumous apology in 2009 from the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown who labelled the treatment he got as ‘utterly unfair and appalling’.
A Shakespearean scholar and censor of plays, Edward Capel spent his summers peering out at fishermen and netlofts from East Cliff Lodge at the foot of All Saints Street in Hastings Old Town.
This East Cliff Lodge was originally built for Capel in 1761 and became common lodgings after his death. Today the lodge is used as a fish restaurant.
The Duke of Wellington
Major General Sir Arthur Wellesley was Knighted for serving a very successful term in India from 1796 to 1805. Upon his return to England he was posted to Hastings in 1806 in order to take command of the brigade of infantry. His troop was based locally and he stayed at 54 High Street, using this as his headquarters.
The Swan Inn (situated opposite 54 High Street) was used for a public dinner in his honour in April 1806.
Wellesley then travelled back to his place of birth in Dublin and married Catherine Lady Pakenham, bringing her back to Hastings, where they lived at Hastings House, a beautiful Palladian Mansion at the North end of Tackleway. The plot where Hastings House and gardens once stood is now occupied by Old Humphry Avenue.
In 1829, the duke was installed as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
A poet and painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti payed numerous visits to Hastings during his life. Having initially stayed in a local inn, he found lodgings at 5 High Street in Hastings old town, where his model Elizabeth Siddal also had rooms. Many portrait sketches of Elizabeth were made at this house and eight of his letters written from this house are still in existance.
During 1860 Rossetti visited Hastings again and stayed in The Cutter in East Parade prior to marrying Elizabeth in St Clements Church. There are still memorials to him in the church to this day.
Along with Millais, Holman Hunt and Woolner, Rossetti was founder member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, established in 1848. They were ridiculed at first but their style soon became accepted as an approved genre.
Hastings was an attractice location for painting due to the fresh sea air and Rossetti expressed his delight in a letter written to his mother in 1854 - "yesterday I saw the sun rise over the sea - the most wonderful of earthly sights".
Adelheid Amalie Luise Theresa Carolin was born in Germany in 1772 and married the Duke of Clarence in 1818. He subsequently was crowned king William IV in 1830.
The king died in 1837 and later that same year Queen Adelaide moved to St Leonards. Staying at 23 Grand Parade, which was at the time appropriately named Adelaide Place, so quite fitting for her in her early widowhood. The house was later renamed Adelaide House in her honour.
During her 1837-1838 stay, Queen Adelaide took an active interest in local happenings and helped with funding for an organ to equip James Burton's Proprietory Chapel, which later became St Leonards Parish Church.
Sir Henry Rider Haggard
Born in Norfolk in 1856, Henry Rider Haggard was educated at Ipswitch Grammar School.
In 1880 he was married to Marian Louisa Margitson, who was a Norfolk heiress.
After studying law at Lincoln's Inn, he was called to the Bar in 1884.
Turning his attention towards writing, Sir Henry had his first book published in 1882. He was knighted in 1912 and received the KBE award in 1919.
In 1917 he purchased North Lodge at Maze Hill in St Leonards and spent the winter months there each year until 1923. The room above the archway in North Lodge was used for his writing.
Sir Henry was close friends with Rudyard Kipling who lived in nearby Burwash. The two authors frequently exchanged visits and helped each other with their writing.Sir Henry Rider Haggard passed away in 1925.
Born Archibald Stansfeld Belany in 1888, Grey Owl sent his childhood in Hastings. Born at 32 St James's Road and later living at 36 St Mary's Terrace.
At just 17 years old Archibald travelled to Canada and got involved with the Ojibway Indians. He developed an extensive knowledge of animals after working as a trapper for several years.
Grey Owl wrote about the wildlife in his books which included "Pilgrims of the Wild", "Adventures of Sajo and Her Beaver People" and "Men of the Lost Frontier". He also regularly contributed wildlife articles to other nature books and magazine publications.
Having become a pioneer of conservation in Canada, Grey Owl subsequently travelled to America and England to give lectures. Richard Attenborough made a documentary about his life story.
Grey Owl passed away in 1938.
Born on in 1924 at Hubtly in Aberdeenshire, George MacDonald was initially a lecturer in the Congrgational Church. He turned to the writing of poetry, fairy tails, novels and hymns.
George MacDonald came to Hastings in 1857 for health reasons and lived at 27 Tackleway in the Old Town. Whilst there he wrote his first prose book entitled "Phantastes". This work was later to inspire the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
George MacDonald and family left Hastings for London in 1858. They were to return some ten years later with a somewhat larger family, now including 11 children. The family lived at Hollaway House off Old London Road. Whilst at Holloway House MacDonald completed his book "At the Back of the North Wind".
He took an active interest in local activities and was founder of the Hastings & St Leonards Philosophical Society which was started in 1858 and gave lectures at the Public Hall in Hastings and the Assembly Rooms in St Leonards.
George passed away in 1905 at Ashted in Surrey, but many of his 60 books are still in print today.
Prince Augustus Frederick (Duke of Sussex)
The Duke was the sixth son of George III and resided at East Hill House, 13 Tackleway, Hastings Old Town.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Caroll) was born in 1832 at Daresbury in Cheshire.
He became a don of mathematics at Christ Church in Oxford and taken several Holy Orders, but never took charge of a church.
During his student years Lewis Caroll often stayed at 2 Wellington Square in Hastings with his aunts. Later, during his summer holidays from Oxford, he stayed in Eastbourne and took regular walks to Hastings.
Being a big fan of the theatre, Lewis attended the Royal Concert Hall at Warrior Square in St Leonards and also preached in St Mary Magdalen Church in Church Road, St Leonards.
Lewis was friends with local artist and cartoonist Harry Furniss, who illustrated Carroll's book "Sylvie and Bruno". He was also on good terms with local writers including Coventry Patmore and George MacDonald.
Lewis died in 1898 at Guildford in Surrey.
Catherine McMullen took the posision of Laundry Manageress at the Workhouses when she first came to Hastings in 1930. This became the Municipal Hospital. Catherine rented part of West Hill House in Exmouth Place from 1931 to 1933.
In 1932, Catherine bought The Hurst, 114 Hoads Wood Road, Hastings. Here she ran a guest house for people suffering from tuberculosis, epilepsy and other such illnesses.
She was married to Tom Cookson at St Mary Star of the Sea in Hastings High Street in 1940.
The Cooksons stayed at The Hurst until 1954 when they moved to a larger house called Loreto in St Helen's Park Road.
In later years they were to move back to Catherine's home area in the North East of England and there they stayed from 1976 to 1998, when Catherine died just before her 92nd Birthday.
Born in 1927 at Islington, Gwen Watford was the daughter of Sergeant-Major Charles Percy Watford and his wife Lizzie Cooper. In 1931 Mr Watford was installed by the brewery as the manager of the Bohemia Arms in Hastings. He continued there until the mid-1950s. He is remembered as being every inch the ex-Sergeant Major and ruled the Watford household in a very strict manner.
The young Gwen Watford was quite an accomplished performer from an early age and found outlet playing in Alexandra Park. She was educated at a private school in Hollington and was a regular worshipper at the Park Road Methodist Church. Having come to Hastings at a young age, her childhood and young adult memories were of Hastings and to all intents and purposes it was her home town.
Leaving Hastings behind, Gwen Watford's acting career started at the Embassy Theatre and the Old Vic. In 1952 she married a fellow actor, Richard Williams (better known as Richard Bebb).
By the 1960s Gwen was considered to be one of Britain's top two small screen actresses. The other being Billie Whitelaw. This was also the decade in which she accepted the part of Octavia in the famous Taylor/Burton film "Cleopatra".
Gwen found her niche playing quiet yet resourceful English ladies of steely courage. Film work included Lady Usher in The Fall of the House of Usher (1950), Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960), The Very Edge (1962) and Cleopatra (1963). She acquired friends among the top names in the industry and Richard Attenborough looked to her when casting for his memorable film "Cry Freedom". This was to be her last film role. She was plagued by cancer and died in 1994.