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Pelham Fountain

Pelham Roundabout Fountain – heritage or horror?

Help hunt for Hastings’ heritage

In September this year a new Hastings Heritage and Art Trail will be launched. The idea is to take 10 Heritage Sites in, or close to, the town and install specially designed display cabinets alongside them. These will feature historical information, relevant artefacts from the Hastings Museum collection and new pictures taken by trail users. The person behind this is Hastings-born artist, Maxine Beuret, who will photograph each location. Now Ms Beuret wants to gather suggestions from all of us as to which sites should be included. Toby Sargent reports – and ruminates – on the initiative.

You may have heard about this already. There was a stall at Priory Meadow Shopping Centre a couple of weeks ago promoting it. Ms Beuret used it to explain how the trail would work and attract suggestions from passers by for places to feature.

maxine beuret

Maxine Beuret sets out her stall to help find what people see as the heritage icons of this town

Three have already been chosen: Pelham Roundabout Fountain (built in 1960), The Ghost Train, Flamingo Park (built in 1962) and The West Hill Lift (built in 1890).

So that leaves seven more to find. And that’s where you all come in. Send your suggestions to Maxine via info@hastingstrail.co.uk.

The only condition for inclusion is that the place hasn’t largely changed for at least 25 years. Also, it needs to be an actual place – something readily identifiable that can be photographed. You can argue ’til your blue in the face that the Hastings’ music scene or the taste of fish and chips are as much a part of our heritage as the towering black fishing huts on Rock-a Nore, but unless you can tie it down to an object – and one that was there before 1991 – it won’t be considered.

25 year cut-off for nominations

I asked Maxine about her connection with the town and why she was imposing a 25 year cut-off point for nominations. She told me:

“I was born in Hastings. My family left when I was 6 years old, but we have always visited and kept in touch and I remain a big fan of the town.
“I think 25 years is a good time frame for places to have remained unchanged and so connect with the recent past.”
Funicular

Hastings heritage – the funicular that runs up and down West Hill

Inevitably – but also cleverly – there’s going to be an online component to it all. When completed, an interactive mobile website will allow users to plan their own route and display one-minute videos that depict each location combining photography, oral history and environmental sounds. As such we should end up with the potential for an entertaining multi-dimensional living history tour.

The ‘wretched’ Pelham Roundabout Fountain?

At the moment the prototype entries are pretty bald, but hopefully they will become richer and more personalised as time goes by. I would, in passing, commend you to look at the one for the wretched Pelham Roundabout Fountain.

The institutional voice-over offers an explanation of why the design appears so dreary and banal to some coming to it today: ‘it was designed in-house by the Borough Engineer’s Department, led by Mr Baxter,’ the anonymous voice tells us. No design competition to find a bright new creative talent for us then.

Wonderful designers of fountains

As we turn history’s pages, we find many wonderful designers of fountains, of course. Nicola Salvi created the Trevi Fountain in Rome back in 1730 and before that, Charles Le Brun had the vision and tenacity to produce those in the gardens of Versailles. ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ it seems – and for Hastings that man was Mr Baxter and his team of Borough Engineers.

The Pelham Roundabout, by the way, was an issue again three years ago when a local philanthropist pledged more than £100,000 of his own money to replace it with something professionally designed and more exciting. The council turned the idea – and the money – down, for their own mysterious reasons.

But that was then – and this is now. Maxine has got backing from Arts Council England to do this project and needs our help. Think of it as compiling a sort of heritage ‘first team’ – Hastings’ Heritage Greatest Hits, as it were.

Art deco delights of The White Rock Theatre

What do you reckon? One of our historic pubs should be a shoo-in, I’d have thought. And the art-deco delights of The White Rock Theatre would meet most people’s requirements. The pier is another obvious selection but would not, of course, qualify because it fails the ’25 years or older’ test. Unless it somehow slips in under the radar by virtue of some of its fixtures and fittings having been up-cycled from the original timber. Not very likely though.

But then again, what do I know? It’s all very well for me to get all sniffy about the fountain on the Pelham Roundabout, but for all I know it has held a very special place in the collective consciousness of tens of thousands of people over the years. Heritage is a slippery thing and one man’s – or woman’s – historic icon is another’s monstrous carbuncle, so Maxine’s project is a timely way of capturing what means the most to real people.

I’ve only lived in Hastings for 12 months, and there are still thousands of amazing things here I simply haven’t got round to visiting yet. But where to start? I need some sort of Heritage Trail, perhaps . .

I think Ms Beuret may be on to something with this idea.

Posted 09:06 Saturday, Feb 11, 2017 In: Hastings People

6 Comments


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  1. Ms. Doubtfire

    It is good indeed to encourage people to consider the meaning of ‘Heritage’ and it would well behove certain members of our planning committee to take heed.

    At the recent planning committe meeting to discuss matters concerning the Rocklands caravan site – one member of this committee endeavoured to discount concerns about damage to the the Ancient Monument on the site.

    This Ancient Monument is no less than the remains of an Iron Age Fort. ‘Nuff said!

    (This committee meeting is available on YouTube – and makes for very interesting viewing indeed).

    Comment by Ms. Doubtfire — Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017 @ 09:07

  2. Toby Sargent

    Thank you both. I’m sure Ms Doubtfire (forgive me for capitalising your surname, Ma’am, but I’m a bit of a fuss-pot when it comes to that sort of thing) speaks for many with her ringing endorsement of Mr Baxter’s legacy. It’s good that the initiative is encouraging people to think about what heritage means, outside the context of castles and cathedrals. Anton’s point about public opinion affecting planning decisions is also well made. Some perhaps may wonder, however, why public opinion is so ruthlessly ignored when planning matters on East Hill – to name but one area of contention -come before the council.

    Comment by Toby Sargent — Monday, Feb 20, 2017 @ 10:29

  3. Heather Grief

    A reply to Ms Doubtfire: you will find information about Hastings’ Sculptures, including the Lion and Unicorn, on the Public Monuments and Sculptures website – and there is a Hastings Sculpture Trail leaflet available in printed form from the History House, or from me, or it can be downloaded and printed from the PMSA website.
    I’m not sure when the America Ground mural was made, but that would be a good contender too, if old enough.
    Also, the Prince Albert statue from his/The Memorial is soon to be installed next to the Town Hall, after years ‘off display’.

    Comment by Heather Grief — Sunday, Feb 19, 2017 @ 13:31

  4. Ms. doubtfire

    BTW – what is the history of the Lion and the Unicorn standing proud but somewhat worn outside the Debenhams store?

    Comment by Ms. doubtfire — Thursday, Feb 16, 2017 @ 09:09

  5. Anton

    This sounds like a great initiative, I look forward to seeing it all. Toby, to be honest, there really weren’t any ‘mysterious reasons’ behind the council turning down the 100k and the project for the helter-skelter, it was simply because so many local people thought it was a bad idea, and wanted to see the wretched fountain restored.

    Comment by Anton — Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017 @ 21:23

  6. Ms. doubtfire

    Our roundabout may not be to the taste of some purists but it is so dreadfully hideous that it is actually rather wonderful especially now the surrounding foliage has been planted and everything tidied up. Long may this 1960’s horror story remain in situ. And as for the proposed helter skelter some while back – praise the Good Lord it was refused and consigned to the bin. We have enough tat in this town without that eyesore. We love the fountain!

    Comment by Ms. doubtfire — Saturday, Feb 11, 2017 @ 20:54

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