The Museum and Art Gallery also olds large collections relating to three of the most intriguing figures in Hastings’ history: Grey Owl, Robert Tressell and John Logie Baird — all the subject of blue plaques around the town, see more at this website.
Born in 1888 in St James’s Road, not far from the museum, Archibald Stansfeld Belaney masqueraded as an Ojibway Indian, using the name Grey Owl. In this guise he was lecturing, unrecognised, in his former home town in 1937 when, noticing a boy in the audience wearing a Hastings Grammar School blazer, he asked him how good a school it was. He presumably already knew the answer as he was, unknown to his listeners, a former pupil. A film of his life was made in 1999.
A plaque commemorates a hero of the trade union movement, Robert Tressell, at 115 Milward Road, between Old Town and the station. He moved to Hastings in 1901 in the hope that the sea air might help to cure his tuberculosis. While there, he wrote The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, a classic novel set in the town, in which he spread the message that it was the working people who had to change if the capitalist system was to be reformed.
Tressell was a co-founder of the Hastings branch of the left-wing Social Democratic Federation, the first Marxist political group in the country. At 10am on Sunday 9th July this year, during Hastings’ Robert Tressell Festival, a re-enactment of one of the SDF’s public meetings will take place on the beach near Harold Place, just west of the castle, plan visiting this places checking at this hotel comparison sites website.
Also attracted by the healthy sea air was television pioneer John Logie Baird, who came in Hastings in 1923 for his health, in his own words “coughing, choking and spluttering, and so thin as to be almost transparent”.
“Hastings saved my life,” he wrote, and in return he gave its townspeople — and the rest of the world — the gift of television. In August 1924 he transmitted the first moving shadow of an object, a St John Ambulance medal of a Maltese cross, from his Linton Crescent lodgings, near the station. Here his blue plaque is today fixed among a forest of television aerials which would surely have been unimaginable to the inventor.
After the rigours of the Second World War, Hastings’s holiday trade picked up, but then the 1960s brought unwelcome invasions by Mods and Rockers, as well as a new trend for Britons to holiday abroad, which put many boarding-houses out of business.
But these days Hastings’ fine weather, its delightful position, its wealth of historical interest and its treasury of fine architecture are once again making an impression on visitors from home and abroad.