20th June 2016
Blog Post #4: Hastings Museum & Art Gallery
On Saturday 25th June, 66 Objects will be opening at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery. This exhibition is designed to tell the story of Hastings from 1066 until the present day – in 66 objects.
The project is ambitious – it covers the Norman, Medieval, Tudor & Stuart, Georgian and Victorian eras (as well as the 20th century). Perhaps 10,66 objects would have been more fitting – although not in the exhibition room (!).
All at ROOT 1066 are highly excited to welcome our first ‘official’ event, and we are delighted that the first festival event will celebrate Hastings’ history, heritage and local community (the objects on display have been selected by a public vote).
I have therefore chosen a selection of the three objects that I feel particularly enthusiastic about.
The controversial New Poor Laws of 1834 brought the Workhouse into being. Relief for the poor was transferred from outdoor relief (via Parish authorities) into indoor relief (the Workhouse) - in the hope that people would be deterred from applying for welfare, and as a drive to limit population growth.
The workhouse inspired Dickensian scenes of poverty as found in Oliver Twist - and also played a part in the formation of Ebenezer Scrooge ('are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?').
The Hastings Poor Law Union was formed in 1835. Its Board of Guardians built a workhouse for 300 inmates in Cackle Street (now Frederick Road). On entering, children were issued with boots like these and they would be passed on until they fell apart.
Robert Tressell's Mural Panel
Surely one of Hastings' greatest residents, Robert Tressell wrote the canonical socialist novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. The novel was written between 1906 and 1910, and was set in Hastings (under the euphemism 'Mugsborough').
Robert Tressell (real name Robert Noonan) drew on his experiences as a signwriter and decorator to express the monotonous manual labour and competition for work that the working classes experienced.
This panel is a selection of the mural painting that Tressell completed for St Andrew's Church in Queens Road. It was rescued when the church was demolished in 1971 and conserved following a national campaign.
Gibbet Chains and Whipping Post
Punishments for law breakers used to be very harsh. In 1663 Alice Fautlie, a girl of 13, was whipped for stealing a handkerchief.
Most executions in Hastings took place at the junction of Priory Road and Old London Road, and the bodies could be hung near the scene of the crime as a deterrent. This was known as gibbeting.
Thanks for reading. I'll be updating again soon.