History of The Albert Memorial
The Albert Memorial clocktower was commissioned by the Hastings Corporation at a cost of £860. The site was chosen where the Priory Bridge used to cross the Priory Stream.
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha lived from August 1819 until December 1861 when he died of typhoid. Following his death Queen Victoria requested a memorial and all boroughs in the country where asked for contributions. The Hastings Corporation decided on a local monument consisting of an ornate clock tower would be the best memorial for the town.
The memorial was designed by Edward Heffer of Liverpool following a competition involving 38 competitors and a ten guinea prize.
The winning design was a perpendicular style tower which stood 65ft tall to the top of the vane. The base of the tower was 15ft in diameter and the actual clock chamber was 8ft in diameter.
The entrance door was made of oak and situated on the west side. Above the doorway the following inscription was cut on a ribbon: “Erected to Albert the Good, in the year of our Lord 1862”. Above the ribbon were the arms of Hastings.
A large granite drinking basin was fixed on the east side, panels for inscriptions were on the north and south sides.
The statue of Prince Albert was made of of Portland stone and placed in a niche above the gable on the south side.
Below the clock dials were ornamental stone openwork panels with plain shields to the north, east and west sides. On the south side this panelling was filled by the arms and supports of the statue.
Above the clock chamber was an octagonal turret with pierced quatrefoils of alternate design for the chimes. A plain spire with an ornamental top and a gilded vane with the letter “A” completed the design.
Gas lanterns were placed on a large block of York stone at each angle and four steps between these were also created from the same stone.
The carvings represented a rose for England, a thistle for Scotland, a shamrock for Ireland and a dragon for Wales.
The lanterns were designed with tapered cast iron stands, glass panels and wooden glazing bars. There was decorative wrought iron work below the lanterns.
The actual statue of Prince Albert was creted in Liverpool and arrived July 1863.
The foundation stone for the clock tower was laid on 10 November 1862, which was the 21st birthday of Prince Albert's son (the Prince of Wales). The Mayor of Hastings (Thomas Ross) performed the ceremony using a silver trowel and a large crowd gave three cheers for the Queen, three for the Prince, and one for the Mayor. A 21 gun salute was fired from the beach by the 4th Cinque Ports Volunteer Artillery.
A bottle was placed in a cavity of the foundation stone, this contained a parchment which read as follows:
'Prince Consort Memorial. The foundation stone of this clock tower, erected in commemoration of the esteem and regard entertained by the inhabitants of this Borough towards his late Royal Highness, the Prince Consort, was laid by Thomas Ross esquire, Mayor of Hastings, on Monday the tenth day of November 1862'.
There then followed the names of members of the fundraising committee, the contractors, architect, treasurer and secretary.
Work was completed on the building by December 1863 but the clock and dials weren't installed until June 1864. The clock was made by Thwaites and Reed of Clerkenwell and was installed on 10 June 1864 by John Murray Junior of Castle Street, St Leonards. The clock was illuminated by gas lamps which were set to light automatically at 9pm each evening.
Movement of the memorial was proposed several times post World War 2, usually for reasons of traffic congestion following continual development of the town. Plans for redevelopment proposed in 1952 even suggested the demolition of the memorial.
Arsonists set fire to the clock's woodwork in the early hours of April 28 1973 – the clock was damaged and the surrounding stone cracked. On June 18 1973 another smaller fire broke out. After the fire it was said that serious faults were discovered in mid September 1973, and there was little opposition to the plans to demolish it.
At a Hastings Council meeting in October 1973 the decision was taken to demolish the memorial as soon as possible. The demolition began in November 1973 and took two weeks.
Remains of the memorial
The statue of Prince Albert was bought for £50 by a local resident (Miss Skelton), who originally wanted to ship the statue to Canada, but instead gave it to the "mini floral hall" located in a greenhouse in Alexandra Park until the attraction closed in the 1990s. The greenhouses deteriorated along with the statue until in 2010 Hastings Borough Council agreed the statue should be remounted in a public place by a community group.
Kelly Stirling, the great-great-grand-daughter of the statue's sculptor, found a box of old papers and photographs which prompted her to find out more and came to Hastings to see the statue in Alexandra Park in 2014.
The Albert Statue Group was formed in 2016 and in 2017, the statue was moved to it's new location outside the town hall. The information board was paid for by Kelly Stirling. There are plans to renovate the statue to it's former glory once funds are obtained.
Two of the lanterns and their columns now stand outside Hastings Museum. The drinking fountain bowl, weather vane, some clock pieces and a wooden door are also now in the care of Hastings Museum.
Unfortunately the bottle containing the parchment that was in the foundation stone got broken by the demolition crew and was discarded as rubbish.