Archive for Hastings Cemetery

Winged beings from another world

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 9, 2018 by cliffdean

Here’s one….

…and here’s another…

…and another – see that tree on the right? See the Carrion Crow on top?

See the record-shot dot, down and left from the Crow?

Well, this is what it should look like, and actually does if a) you’re lucky b) not looking through an inadequate camera c): an observant householder in central France: a Gros-bec casse-noyaux.

If you want to see them in Hastings Cemetery, as several lucky/patient people have over the last few days, you first find this very informative panel just in front of the crematorium, where you can learn a bit about some of the illustrious Hastings dead.

You then proceed to this area, where there are Jays, Magpies, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and, ticking invisibly in the Yews, Hawfinches.

Sometimes, you can hear the flight call or even little fragments of song but they remain well hidden among the evergreen needles or the dark foliage of Holm Oaks (do they eat the acorns?)

What you have to do is stand back and Watch This (or another) Space as the birds break cover, whizz across the path (I saw 12-15 at one point) and, if you’re patient/lucky, they sit in one of those bare trees, where they are easily identified because they look like this:

Employing your full range of fieldcraft, however, you may be able to sidle round to get better light, or shuffle closer. Or, if you’re quiet and still, they might just not notice you, and land quite close, affording vues which can only be described as “cracking”…or “cassants”

If you go though, please be sensitive to the groups of mourners bidding farewell to their loved ones. They do not generally stray into Hawfinch World, so if you skirt left round the crematorium no-one’s grieving will be impinged upon.


Back among the dead

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 10, 2018 by cliffdean

More than a month after Ralph H first found a Hawfinch in Hastings Cemetery, and with many sightings since, David B emailed me to say he’d seen at least a dozen. Figuring that the nice sunny weather would make them easier to see, we called in at midday on our return from a recce to Beckley Woods but, tactfully taking a circuitous path in order to avoid the ceremonies in progress, we reached the north end of the cemetery without a sign of the fat finches in question. Not a click.

Never mind the birds, however, there is so much to see and to reflect upon: names familiar from illustrious Hastings firms both disappeared and surviving; military men who’d served in 19th century Madras; the naval Beaney brothers who’d been killed within a month of one another in the autumn of 1914…


… the work of skillful monumental masons: the chains, the anchors, the broken columns, draped urns, lilies-of-the-valley and clasped hands…then suddenly a stubby bird shot out of the yew-tops and parked itself in a bare tree as four other followed but dived into another yew. Peter C had just emerged from the gloomy conifers and was coming up the path towards us but from his angle the birds had been blocked by bushes.

Luckily though the one in the bare trees stayed there, lit by a shaft of sunlight like an angel – albeit one with a very big nose – in a Victorian devotional print. Once it had dived into cover we crept round there, seeing nothing again until a rattling council truck scared the birds out of cover to shoot off over the crematorium. Peter then told us that another friend, Jane B, had through patiently waiting for two hours earlier in the day had ended up seeing 15!

Time was up, but as we passed the flowers and mourners, the site’s sombre associations (our attendance more frequent with every year that passes) now seemed leavened a little.


This tilting, snake-draped urn commemorates Robert Tubbs Nightingale Tubbs.

Hilltop Necropolis Exhibition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 2, 2013 by cliffdean

hastings cemy 025

During the last year a group of volunteers has been researching the graves in the older (western) part of Hastings Cemetery. apart from photographing monuments and transcribing the epitaphs, they have delved into the backgrounds of those interred through reference to census returns and reports from the local press.

A fascinating selection of the results has now been printed up on display boards and can be seen until June 23rd at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery.

They are grouped together as Medical Men, Civic Councillors, Artists, Musicians,  Writers & Literary Connections, Indian & International Connections, Military & Naval Personnel, Fishermen, Architects, Builders & Engineers, Business & Trade, Political Radicals & Suffragettes, Suicides & Servants.

hastings cemy 046

There are the half-forgotten architects of familiar buildings, civic worthies remembered in street names, the founders of institutions which still operate. There are those who, from inauspicious beginnings struggled to great achievements and illustrious citizens who ended their lives in poverty:

“Sadly Captain Jones’ honourable career came to a less than glorious end on the 3rd of June 1868 when he was found dead in his lodging house in Stonefield Rd, where he had been living for five years in reduced circumstances. At the inquest it was revealed that he had been brought home on the Monday night having been discovered collapsed on wasteland in ‘an (sic) helpless state of intoxication’ and was found dead in his room on Wednesday.  His landlord said that such bouts of intoxication were not uncommon. The cause of death was given as ‘exhaustion, accelerated by excessive drinking.’”

There’s an explorer of Queensland, a survivor from the “Titanic” and a relative of Lewis Carroll who was inspecting a lunatic asylum when one of the inmates drove a 6-inch nail through his skull…. There’s the curious gift, presented by Christina Rossetti to her suitor Charles Cayley, of “a Seamouse preserved in spirits”.

hastings cemy 035

The depth of some research can be appreciated from this quote on the display dealing with graves from WWI:

“AA A23 Sergeant Wallace Butler, DCM. He is remembered on the grave of his parents John and Mary Butler of Quarry Cottage. He was their second son. He was killed in action in France on 3rd September 1916 at the age of 36 whilst serving with 8th Buffs (East Kent Regiment) and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

He was born in Hastings in 1880. In 1881 the family lived at 121 All Saints St and his father was a grocer. By 1891 the family had moved to 2 Croft Villas, Croft Rd and there were now 7 children. His father, John Butler, was described as a ‘complete house furnisher’ and was the owner of the famous Emporium in George St. His business is commemorated on a plaque at Butler’s Gap

In 1911 Wallace lived at 47 Bohemia Rd with his wife Ethel whom he had married in 1903 and their 4-year-old daughter Mabel. He was an ironmonger. Ethel was granted probate of his will in February 1917, where his estate was worth £239 10s.

After his death was reported in the Hastings Observer they published the following letter his widow had received from an officer. An article entitled ‘How Sergeant Butler Died’ reported

In our last issue we referred briefly to the death of Sergeant W. Butler, second son of Mr J. J. Butler of Hastings which took place while in action.

An officer, in a letter to the widow, says he was sniped crossing an open space. ‘’He was’, says the writer of the letter, ‘’largely responsible for the splendid attack we made that day. I cannot speak too highly for the splendid work he has always done, whether in the trenches or behind the line.  In a previous attack some three weeks ago he was very strongly recommended for bravery in the German trench, and was certainly responsible for the capture of a machine gun and several prisoners. We shall never forget him, and my great fear is that we shall never replace him. He died most nobly, and was buried with due honours, and a cross was erected to his memory near the spot where he fell.’’

The attack referred to in the letter was presumably the one for which he was awarded his DCM posthumously. The citation said it was for conspicuous gallantry and ability in leading a bombing squad against an enemy machine gun where he had successfully bombed the team and succeeded in capturing the gun and a number of prisoners.”

In some cases, family photos have been traced, as well as images of the houses – then & now – where these people lived, from grand St Leonards villas to humble terraces.

As a museum exhibition, there’s almost too much to take in – but it’s free so you can go back. Much of this material will in time be transferred to the “People” section of the Friends’ website and, it seems to me, would make a valuable reference book.

The next walk conducted by Friends of Hastings Cemetery will be on Sunday May 12th at 2pm. Meet at the main gate.

hastings cemy 018

Hilltop Necropolis online

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 11, 2012 by cliffdean

Friends of Hastings Cemetery now have a website.

Volunteers have been surveying the graves, entering the inscriptions on a database and making fascinating links between people, places and events.

Stories are being added to the site, including for instance the Ionides family, who lived at Windycroft and were great patrons of the arts.

Hilltop Necropolis Latest

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 28, 2012 by cliffdean

I’ve recently heard from Anne Scott about the plan to set up a Friends of Hastings Cemetery:

“Good news we have the Heritage Lottery Grant to produce a trail leaflet or leaflets, information boards, section markers, a seat, web site visits and training and expenses, and an exhibition at Hastings Museum in 2013.”

Two sons in five weeks… Read about HMS Falcon here and HMS Hogue here.

“I have asked George Ford the current cemetery manager if he would give us an “Introduction” before he retires on 10th May. He will do this at the cemetery on 1st May at 2.30 Please can you let me know if you will be coming to this session as he may need to earmark a larger space than the office.”
“I will be getting dates for the memorial stonemasons walk/ botany/wildlife walk.”
 Read about the loss of HMS Serpent here.
“Once we have made a start we can see what we need to organise in regard to visits to Library, Museum and Record Office.”
Read about some of Hastings’ war graves here and a photograph of the crashed aircraft here. Somewhere there’s an eye-witness account of the crash but I can’t find it at the moment.
“If you know of anyone else who may be interested please let them know and invite them to the meeting. As soon as I have had approval for the press release I have drafted I will send to the Observer. My phone no is 01424 427718 if you need it or the History House 424744 [I am there Thurs and Sats usually].

Hilltop Necropolis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 17, 2011 by cliffdean

Last month, in sweeping rainshowers, among tilted crosses, flattened slabs, tree-levered tombs and lichen-encrusted angels we followed Anne Scott of Old Hastings Preservation Society in a mob of 50 to learn about Hastings Cemetery.

I’m ashamed to say that until recently I’d never visited the cemetery, not even to watch for visible migration from this high point above the town where, following traditions going back to prehistory, a grand new burial park was set up in 1855, on ground donated by the Lucas-Shadwells of Fairlight Hall.

At that point it commanded a marvellous panorama of the Weald but much of this is now blocked by (very nice) tall trees growing on adjacent properties though one can still look down to the coast.

I referred to this problem in a previous post on Highgate Cemetery. Not as bad as Pett, however, where the view from the churchyard across to Fairlight is now obscured, with crass insensitivity, by a row of stables.

Anne explained how she was moved to lead her first tour years ago when some American visitors wanted to see the grave of Whistler’s mother and it was not to be found. It was there, but had been moved. We saw it.

She pointed out the opportunities for themed tours, highlighting social groups (politicians, sailors, colonial administrators, radical reformers), style, symbolism, geology.

From a thick wad of weather-jeopardised index cards, she outlined remarkable biographies of former Hastings citizens, such as Harry Furniss.

You can see him and other worthies on this newsreel.