St Leonards on Sea

St Leonards on Sea is part of Hastings, East Sussex, lying immediately to the west of the town centre. The original part of the settlement was laid out in the early 19th century as a new town, designed by James Burton, a successful London architect who had developed large areas of Bloomsbury and the houses around Regent’s Park. His concept and aspiration was to build a seaside resort with elegant houses for the wealthy and his plans included a central public garden, a hotel, archery, assembly rooms and a church. Later architectural gems of St Leonards include rare and special Marine Court, an ocean liner shaped art-deco block of flats on the seafront, designed by architects, Kenneth Dalgleish and Roger K Pullen and opened in 1937. St Leonards had it's own pier from 1891-1940 when it suffered a direct hit from a WW2 bomb.

Today St Leonards has extended well beyond that original design, although the original town still exists within it. St Leonards has a vibrant community; it is arty, quirky, friendly and full of interesting shops and cafes, several of which have sponsored Rarities 2011!

For those who don’t know, the 1066 Battle of Hastings shaped the future of Medieval England. Hastings is one of Britain's oldest fishing ports. Boats have worked from the beach in front of the ancient town for over a thousand years, supplying Hastings with its basic industry and main tourist attractions.
Later this year the new Jerwood Gallery will be opening on the Stade, near to where the fishing fleet operates.

The much loved Hastings Pier marks the seafront boundary between Hastings and St Leonards. With sponsorship from both parts of the town, Rarities 2011 brings attention to the current argument for re-naming the Pier as belonging to Hastings and St Leonards.

Briefly, Hastings Pier, designed by Eugenius Birch was opened on August 5th 1872, on Britains first ever Bank Holiday! More recently, local people remember that in the 1960's and 70's Hastings Pier was a magnet for top rock and pop bands of the time, including Jimi Hendrix. Nick Cave played a gig there about five years ago.

During the 80's and 90's popularity reduced and the pier ownership changed hands several times, struggling to be financially viable. In June 2006 Hastings Council declared the Pier unsafe and it was closed to the public. Local people came together to save Hastings Pier, forming the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust ( HPWRT). In October 2010 it suffered a huge fire which damaged 95% of it's upper structure. However, this did not stop the ‘dogged persistence’ of the local trust, which has formed the Hastings Pier Charity and recently been successful in receiving development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The HPWRT says that, “ By the end of this project, the Pier will be structurally sound and a great investment platform for the future, a catalyst for the economic, social and cultural regeneration of Hastings and the British seaside.”