OPENING OF HASTINGS PIER.
An important event in the annals of Hastings and St. Leonards took place yesterday at the public opening of a splendid and spacious pier, a work for which those fashionable and popular watering-places have long stood in need. Great preparations had been made for the ceremony, but unfortunately a continuous downpour of rain for several hours tended more or less to mar the success of the affair. The pier has been constructed after the model of the West Pier at Brighton, but has some advantages over it, especially in two respects which are at once conspicuous – namely, the floor or desk of the pier is flush with the parade, from which it is approached, thus rendering steps unnecessary throughout its whole length, and at the sea end there is a magnificent pavilion entirely closed in and capable, it is said, of holding about 2,000 people. The position of the pier is on the Hastings side of the dividing line between the two towns, being opposite the garden of the Sussex Infirmary, but it is not sufficiently distant from St. Leonards to be of inconvenient access to the inhabitants of the latter place. The deck, which is as closely and smoothly laid as that of a vessel, is 45ft wide for half its length. At the shore end it gradually widens out to 190 ft., giving ample room for separate entrances on the east and west sides. At the south end or “head”. there is also an expansion until an extreme of 130 ft. by 300 ft. is reached. As the entire length from the shore seaward is 910ft., it will form a delightful promenade for visitors seeking to enjoy the healthful sea breeze of the south coast. The pavilion, or saloon, out in the sea, is unique in its way. It is in the Alhambra style of architecture, and is handsomely decorated. Its dimensions are 150 ft. long by 100 ft. broad, and 30ft. in height. The possible strain, as well a3 the weight of this superstructure, have made it necessary to impart additional strength to the part of the pier on which it stands, and to that end the floor of the saloon is raised about three feet above the general level of the deck, and the main girders beneath are arranged diagonally, so as to give greater stiffness. The columns supporting the saloon and the girders are also braced together according to the best principles, and so well has this been done that it has been found there is no vibration even amid the most violent storms. A covered way answering the purpose of a veranda is made all round the saloon on the outside, and beyond at the head of the pier is a wide open space where a fine view of Hastings and St. Leonards is obtained, including the whole coast line between Fairlight and Bexhill. No less than 300 cast-iron columns with screw-piles have been used in the structure. Towards the -shore the piles have been forced into the solid rock two feet deep ; the remainder have been driven to a considerable depth into the clay. It may be mentioned that in the soft clay at the head of the pier the workmen came upon a submarine forest, and were greatly impeded in their task by the huge trunks which they found there embedded, having been obliged to use a double screw, 2ft. 6in. in diameter, to secure a hold. One of the submerged oaks was taken up in excellent preservation, although, of course, it had become quite black in colour. It is now to be seen in St. Andrew’s Gardens, to which it was presented by the contractors. The sides of the pier are occupied, as in all the most modern structures of the same kind, with a continuous line of seating to the extent of 2,600 lineal feet. For walking a total area of 75,000 superficial feet have been provided. The engineer and designer is Mr. Eugenius Birch, of Victoria-street, London, and the contractors are .Messrs. R. Laidlaw and Sons, of Glasgow, gentlemen who have held the same relative positions in the construction of the Brighton, Blackpool, and other piers, which have redounded greatly to their reputation. The pier has been built under the powers of an Act of Parliament, obtained in 1867, by a body of local capitalists, who subscribed a sum of £25,000, the amount of the Messrs. Laidlaw’s tender being £23,259, which is thought to be a very moderate sum for such a gigantic project. The whole work, it should be added, seems to have been executed in a most satisfactory manner. The landing stages at the head of the pier are well arranged. Just at the point where the ascents to the saloon commence is placed the opening (with broad flight of steps, 20ft. wide) leading to the water level. A transverse gallery, from east to west, amongst the piles supporting the deck, connects the two stages, which are fixed on timber piles, independent of the pier itself. Wrought-iron bracings support the cast-iron gratings which form the footway. These are fixed at a slight incline, so that passengers can embark or land from pleasure-boats, yachts, or steam-pickets at any state of the tide. Possibly a steam-boat may be associated with the pier, to some extent taking the place of the large sailing boats, and running to and fro between neighbouring towns, and to places of general resort, like Fairlight Glen. The landing stages are 200 ft. long by 8ft. wide.
The proceedings connected with the opening were these: About a quarter to one o’clock Earl Granville, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, accompanied by Lady Granville, arrived at the Hastings Railway Station, and was received by the Mayor (Mr. Thomas Ross) and other members of the corporation, with their various officers. The band of the Royal Marine Artillery from Portsmouth struck up some lively music, which, considering the un- propitious weather, was much needed to raise the flagging spirits of the drenched spectators out of doors. The coastguard, under the orders of Captain Garforth, R.N., acted as a guard of honour ; the other bodies who joined the the procession which was afterwards formed were the local artillery and rifle volunteers, under Lieutenant Colonel Luard, and the Fire Brigade of the town. On alighting from the railway carriage Earl Granville was Presented with the following address:
“To the Right Hon. Earl Granville, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. ‘”The Address of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the Borough of Hastings.
“We, as representing the inhabitants of this ancient Cinque Port, most heartily welcome your lordship among us on the present occasion as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. With feelings of just pride we recur to the noble and patriotic services rendered by our forefathers to this realm in times of peril, for which the port received several marks of royal favour, and we venture to express our belief that if occasion should require it the same loyal and patriotic spirit which animated our ancestors would be found to have descended to their sons. The handsome pier which your lordship has kindly consented to open may be taken as additional proof of the desire of the residents of this place to render their town as attractive and beneficial as possible to the numerous visitors who are in the habit of resorting thither. We cannot allow this opportunity to pass without offering to your lordship our sincere congratulations on your appointment as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports – an office which has been considered one of great honour, and more especially on the high position which you have attained in the foremost rank of the illustrious statesmen of this great nation. We most earnestly hope that your lordship’s valuable life may be long spared, so that you may continue to devote your rare talents in the service of our beloved Sovereign, and for the welfare of her subjects.
“Given under the Corporate Seal the 2nd August, 1872.
“Thomas Ross, Mayor.
“George Meadows, Town Clerk.”
His Lordship briefly thanked the Mayor and cooperation for the address and; the kind reception that had been given to him. Afterwards the Earl and Countess Granville, having entered their carriage, were escorted to the Queen’s Hotel, where they remained a short time before proceeding to the pier. The rain being heavy the streets were not very crowded, and nearly every one carried an umbrella. The pier was gaily decorated with innumerable flags floating from the sides, and volunteers and firemen lined the approach to the pavilion. When the Lord Warden arrived at the entrance he was loudly cheered. Protected by a water- proof, he walked up the pier during a pelting rain, being preceded by the Royal Marine band playing, the coastguardsmen, the Mayor and corporation, and the principal functionaries of the pier company. The Countess Granville found shelter from the storm in a bath chair, and Mrs. Brassey, the wife of the member for the borough, and some other ladies reached the pavilion by joining the procession in the same kind of vehicle. When the procession had passed round the head of the pier Earl Granville came forward and declared the pier open. Then a flag was run up a high mast, canon was fired, and the band struck up the National Anthem. There were no boats out, and the only striking object on the sea was the beautiful steam-yacht of Mr. Thomas Brassey, M.P.,” which lay at anchor a short distance from the pierhead. The ceremony was wound up with a dejeuner the saloon, at which between 600 and 700 ladies and gentle- men were present. Mr. Thomas Brassey presided, having on his right and left Earl and Countess Granville, Mrs. Thomas Brassey, Prince Hassan, General Yusuf and Haijee Ibrahim Khan, Mr. C. Tabapatli Iyah, Mr. P. Verikatakrishnama Naidu, both of Madras, ” Mr. Kay- Shuttleworth, M.P., Mr. Julian Goldsmid, M.P., Sir John Bennett, sheriff of London, and other gentlemen and ladies.
The customary loyal and constitutional toasts were duly responded to. Lieutenant-Colonel Luard replied for the army, Captain Garforth for the navy, and Captain Lewis for the volunteers. The toast of the bishops and clergy of all denominations was responded to by the Rev. Dr. Cross.
The Chairman, in proposing “The health of Earl Granville, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports,” spoke of the kindness of his lordship in consenting, at the end of a laborious session, to take so important a part in the proceedings of the day ; and elicited much cheering by remarking that the presence of Lady Granville had added a grace and charm to the interesting occasion. Having alluded to Earl Granville’s distinguished services as a statesman and a public man, he said he was sure all present, whatever their politics, would cordially congratulate him on the success which had attended our recent, negotiations with the United States – negotiations which had been conducted without any forfeiture of the honour or dignity of this county, and which marked a real advance in the progress of humanity, two great and kindred nations having referred to peaceful arbitration what in former days could only have been settled by the sword.
The toast having been enthusiastically drunk, was followed by a cheer for Countess Granville.
Earl Granville, in responding, expressed the pleasure he felt at the way in which the vast company had received the allusion of the chairman to a circumstance which, he trusted, would tend to cement the good feeling that existed between two of the greatest countries of the world – both of the Anglo-Saxon race. When he thanked the town for the invitation to himself and Lady Granville, he could not help taking note of a matter which was very characteristic of Englishmen, viz.,the combination feeling with regard to the past, the present, and the future which, animated them of all subjects. It was certainly a singular thing with respect to an enterprise of this novel character, which would have been almost impossible 50 years ago, and if steam and electricity had not brought Hastings so near the metropolis, that he who officiated at the opening ceremony should be one who had the honour of holding, it might be unworthily, a mediaeval office, perhaps one of the oldest in the country, which although deprived of its power, duties, and privileges,, was yet intimately connected with the historical and traditional associations of that ancient port, one, of the famous five over which he had been appointed to preside. It was no idle expression on his part to say that ever since that office had been conferred upon him by his Sovereign it had caused him much embarrassment to reflect how little worthy he was to hold a position which had been occupied by some of the most remarkable men of the country. He could not but highly esteem the office, because it gave him a passport to that genial and cordial reception which he had never failed to meet with in any portion of the Cinque Ports, and* which he had certainly obtained that day. As he had only been a short time in that hall, they could not expect him to give an elaborate description of the remarkable-structure. It happened he had not seen many of the most modern piers, but, as far as his experience went, he had never seen a more beautiful work designed for enjoyment, recreation, and the restoration of health. It was originally intended to associate a harbour with the pier, but that part of the scheme had been abandoned. As to an allusion which had been made to the fatigues of public men, he might observe that there never was a time when work was – he would not say better done – but more rapidly done, and with greater consumption of wear and tear of the human body and nerves by all classes of the community than at present. It was therefore a matter of congratulation that some thought should be bestowed on those restorative processes which might be useful to every class during the enjoyment of those holidays which some of them so well deserved. It appeared to him that this was a peerless peerless pier (laughter) – a pier without a peer, excepting, perhaps, the un- fortunate peer who had the honour of addressing them. (Laughter.) They might not perhaps be able to rival those exquisite buildings which the distinguished Oriental visitors who had honoured them with their presence were accustomed to gaze upon in their bright countries, but he ventured to say, as far as he might dare to have an opinion on the subject, that it was impossible to have anything gayer, brighter, and better adapted for its purpose than the splendid saloon in which they were assembled. (Cheers.) He believed some bad christened it “The Palace on the Sea.” (Cheers.) They all remembered that it was from Hastings Castle King John issued his famous proclamation as to the sovereignty of England over the seas. If King John were like him, which was extremely probable in one respect, he being a luxurious slave to land, he doubtless proclaimed that sovereignty on the firm soil, and he confessed it gave him, in accepting the invitation to join in the day’s ceremonial, great pleasure to learn that even in the most violent storms there was not the slightest vibration in that magnificent structure. Therefore, he trusted the chairman would excuse him in saying that he preferred this ” Palace on the Sea” to that charming “Palace on the Waves,” belonging to Mr. Brassey, which was so fine an object to the view, and which he hoped visitors would frequently gaze upon from the pier. (Laughter and cheers.) He would only add further that he trusted the pier would give enjoyment, recreation, and restoration of health not to hundreds, not to thousands, but to millions of their fellow-countrymen, that it would give some reasonable profit at all events to the shareholders, who had been actuated not to much by purely commercial motives as by an honourable public spirit, and that it would confer all the advantages upon that ancient town and delightful watering-place which the promoters of the undertaking had a right to expect.(Cheers.)
Various other toasts followed before the proceedings were brought to a close. In the evening a concert was to be given in the pavilion, and fireworks were to be let off. About four o’clock the rain ceased, and a strong wind began to blow from the south-west.