Hastings is on the south coast of England in the County of East Sussex 53 miles from London. In historical terms, Hastings can claim fame through its connection with the Norman conquest of England; and also because it became one of the medieval Cinque Ports. For centuries, it was an important fishing port; although nowadays much reduced, it still has the largest beach-based fishing fleet in England. The town became a watering place in the 1760s, and then, with the coming of the railway, a fashionable seaside resort.
A well known beauty spot close to Hastings and well worth a visit if you are in the area. Hastings is a well-established town on the South Coast of England, although the famous battle of Hastings, which occurred in 1066, actually took place some six miles away (at a place now appropriately called 'Battle'!). It's sister town of St. Leonards, on the other hand, is a more recent seaside development commenced in 1828 by James Burton and popularised by the then Princess Victoria and subsequently by Gladstone and Palmerston among others.
Significant local residents of Hastings have included George MacDonald himself and Lady Byron (the poet's widow) who became his patroness and had a home at 2 Tackle Way in Hastings. Other literary celebrities who visited or lived in the town at that time included Charles Kingsley, the author of 'The Water Babies' who preached at the Fisherman's church on the Stade (beach), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (who stayed at 5 The High Street in 1854), Coventry Patmore (1876-91), and Harry Furness who was the cartoonist for Punch Magazine and an illustrator of Dicken's work after the latter's death.
The Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll, was born at Daresbury, Cheshire on 27th January 1832. Before achieving fame as a writer, he had become don of mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford. He had also taken Holy Orders, though he never took charge of a church.
He was a frequent visitor to the home of his aunts the Misses Luttwidge, who lived at 2 Wellington Square. He often stayed there during his student days. Subsequently, during the summer vacation from Oxford, staying at Eastbourne, he would walk to Hastings, not only to visit his aunts, but also to consult Dr. Hunt, who treated him for his stammering disorder.
An admirer of the theatre, he attended the Royal Concert Hall, Warrior Square, St. Leonards; and sometimes preached at nearby St. Mary Magdalen Church. He was on friendly terms with local writers including George MacDonald and Coventry Patmore; and with the artist/ catoonist Harry Furniss who illustrated Carroll's & Sylvie and Bruno'. He died in Guildford, Surrey on 14th January 1898.
This steep street is named after the fisherman who once lived in the area and their nets.
Lady Bryon (the widow of the poet) who was George MacDonald's patroness lived at number 2 Tackleway. It was she who financed MacDonald's trip to Algiers to recover from illness and then suggested that they live in Hastings. Although this is the front of the house it is much more impressive at the back with commanding views of the town.
This is the five storey building where George MacDonald wrote Phantastes (a book which later inspired such writers as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien) during his first stay in the town. He renamed it Huntly Cottage. The plaque on the wall is in fact wrong, he actually lived there from 1857 to October 1859.
While he lived there MacDonald had health problems and consulted a Dr. Hale, who was a homeopathic physician in the town. Through this connection he was introduced to Dr. Hunt, an expert in stammering and thus introduced to Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, author of 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass' who was to become a close family friend.
As you can see the rear aspect of the house is even more imposing with fine views over the town. In October 1859, George MacDonald and his family left Hastings for London, although they returned for a few weeks to St. Anne's Cottage in Castle Hill Road untill they could find suitable accomodation in London.
Ten years later, they returned to Hastings with their enlarged family (now eleven children) and from May 1871 they occupied Halloway House, Halloway Place off Old London Road.Halloway House, Hastings
His book: "At the Back of the North Wind" was completed while he was living at this house and this was a very productive period for him.
The current owners of the house tell a story that it is haunted, apparently by a Victorian lady in a long grey dress. I'm pleased to say there is no suggestion there is a MacDonald connection!
The Philosophical Society met at a building at Robertson Street which is now Ned Yates Wine Bar (number 53, there is a Dicken's plaque on the wall). There is a contemporary press account of a lecture given by George MacDonald at the Philosophical Society. It would seem from this that the reporter was not very impressed with what he heard, finding it difficult to follow, and that the audience mainly consisted of a group of blind people who had been taken there for something to do!
Hastings Pier was built in 1872 during MacDonald's second stay in the town.