Pier to Eternity fancy dress bicycle party is back!
First ride of the year is themed Sea Monsters vs Hell Lizards. After terrorising the pier, the group descended upon Hastings Old Town and ending up in Bottle Alley for ice cream courtesy of William the Conequeror. The new crowdfunded sound system is booming. You can bring your own bike radio and tune in for your own handlebar tunes too.
First race of this year’s Bottle Alley Bike Bomb. It is a drag style race along Bottle Alley, St Leonards. The rules are:
- Ride anything with no motor or legs.
- Organisers decision is final.
- If you hear a whistle, STOP.
- If you go out of your lane, you’re disqualified.
- You have to wear a helmet. (We have some to lend but preferably bring your own)
- Start the race with one foot on the ground.
- DON’T BE AN IDIOT.
Continuing my obsession with Hastings Pier.
Wrapped like candy in a blue blue neon glow
The calm after Storm Angus is startling. From dramatic clouds, roaring winds and the loud soundtrack of water smashing the pebbles, all has slowed into a much smoother looking state.
The sky has become cloudless and sharply cold. The sky is an ever shifting wall of colour gradients, especially as the sun begins to sink, the sky intensifies. Everyone is on the West side of the pier staring into the sun.
Fade away, and radiate
The silhouettes of chatting ladies in the café sipping tea. They look up for a moment, tea cup held midway to the mouth, and say. “That was fast”, as the sun slips below the horizon–too engrossed in Christmas shopping lists and gossip to observe the spectacle beside them. It is fast, yes. The tangential speed (in Hastings) is about 500 miles per hour or something, isn’t it?
The beams become my dream
As the sun drops further, all the colours fade into black. The sea and sky begin to merge at the horizon into a vast dark infinity. For a few moments, the orange glow filters into the safety barrier on the pier. Like an electric bar fire. Like a flaming harp. Until they flicker and die. Until tomorrow.
Bleak day in East Sussex. These two sat on a dank bench in deep conversation. I didn’t want to intrude, but I wanted to record the absurdity. For all the cosy cafés nearby, choosing to sit out in the damp sea air staring at the nothing. The older lady was in a flow of words and the younger woman listening intently. Some special knowledge being passed down.
To be fair, this is a picture of St Leonard’s Beach, bereft of people due to the incumbent storm. Marine Court is so dominant, once the tallest residential building in all of Great Britain. I shall come back to the Sid Little designed seafront another time.
Marine Court is a Grade II (1999) listed Art Deco building modelled on the White Star Line’s Queen Mary. Completed in 1938, it is 49 metres tall and 127 metres long. It is built using, at the time pioneering modern steel frame construction – as used in skyscrapers to this day.
The West end suffered bomb damage in WWII and part of the building is now exposed brick. That is a story in itself, it was a flying bomb that was actually hit by Anti Aircraft fire, and dived off course into the nearby St Leonards church, destroying it. It actually whizzed up the road before exploding. Thankfully the church was empty and there were no casualties. At the time, Marine Court was occupied by troops, who were having a dance when the bomb exploded. Despite damage to the building, no one was hurt there either.
The building is looking a little unloved now, but actually the freehold is now owned by residents after massive neglect by the previous owner. There is a plan in place for restoration – especially as the building comes up to its 80th birthday.
I found this postcard which coincidentally has a similar view to my photograph. The architecture in that view is exactly as it was in 1938. Most of which, the new seafront was designed by Sid Little. The only new addition is the safety rail on the sun terrace, and it looks like the beach level is raised.
PDF booklet about the history of Marine Court
There’s a great PDF booklet about Marine Court here:
John Philipps is the proprietor of an extraordinary book store on London Road, St Leonards. He hands me and my friend comp slips with a beautiful picture of the Scarlet Pimpernel on them.
The shop is absolutely rammed and even has a Whizzer & Chips annual in the window. This really impresses me somehow.
Looking to do some collage work (and on an extreme budget!), I asked if he had any books he was going to throw out. “No”, he said matter of factly, “I never throw anything out”.
“Do you have any damaged books, maybe?”, I asked.
“I repair them!”, he said.
After a while I was browsing amazing and expensive photographic books. He pulled out a huge Magnum Photography book. One of the photographers lives, or lived nearby and he knows the family well. I, of course, want to meet this elite ninja of photography, and maybe next time, I will. One day I’ll be on Magnum. One day.
The shop has two floors, the upper reached by a wide sweeping staircase almost buried in books. The upstairs is literally a book mountain.
I had put my bag and coat on a chair whilst browsing. By the time I came back, they were already covered in books, which seemed to be breeding by the minute.
On a moody day in Hastings, David was sitting in a seafront shelter watching the waves. He is bell ringer at the local church. Discussing his past, he said he’s rung bells in Battersea and Putney and used to live in Shepherd’s Bush. Bell ringing is a surprisingly social activity.