Hastings Museum and Art Gallery….a night in the Museum. Birthplace of television?

As friends of the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, we get invitations to exhibition openings and private views, so we decided to go to an event along last Friday. I don’t think Battleaxe has ever blogged about the Museum – we do actually find ourselves wandering in there quite often, usually as part of a walk via Summerfields Woods. It is a pity it is so tucked away up Bohemia Road, because it has some lovely paintings and many interesting things. .

Rock-a-Nore by E Leslie Badham

     The exhibition in question was a collection of paintings of Hastings Old Town by a nineteenth century artist, W.H. Brooke, and also by local artist E.Leslie Badham, who painted the Old Town in the 1920s, together with some up-to-date work by local students. The event was surprisingly busy, with many of the Hastings great and the good d’uncertain age, and lots of anxious students standing round videoing stuff on their phones and trying to look arty.  We peered earnestly at the
pictures, drank a glass of wine and listened to the Mayor say a few words.
     Apparently Leslie Badham was commissioned to paint the buildings in the Old Town, and as well as being a faithful record of buildings and ways of life that may have changed or disappeared, his work is also surprisingly vibrant. Poor Badham was killed in an air-raid on his house in Priory Road in 1944.

Man with large horn….

     An oompah oompah music group then started up, the Iron Boot Scrapers I think they were called. I can’t describe their music but there was a bloke in a boater playing one of those huge horns, as shown, very loudly.
     Don’t get me wrong, they were OK, but not quite our taste, so we sneaked off into the dark depths of the Museum to revisit some of our favourite things.
      Now, here is a puzzle about Hastings.  On the signs as you come into the town it says ‘Birthplace of Television’. When we first came here we looked round for something like a John Logie Baird Discovery Centre, or a Television Trail, or whatever, but there is nothing – just a plaque over a shop in a funny little arcade in the town centre, which was his workshop, and a display in the Museum.
      The first ever television image was actually shown at his home at 21 Linton Crescent  in January 1924, where there apparently is another plaque, but we have never seen it. I didn’t even know he lived or worked at Linton Crescent until I looked it up on the internet just now.

Oh, of course, let’s not forget the Wetherspoons in Hastings, ‘The John Logie Baird’. We have not been in there yet either. Perhaps it is heaving with early television memorabilia.  More like just plain heaving, by the look of the place.
      It is hard to know, scientifically and historically, quite how significant Baird’s work in Hastings actually was – the best-known television demonstrations were in London, but it is clearly important, and part of the town’s history that maybe could be made more of.
      Anyway, as well as the new show we also revisited an existing exhibition of paintings by women artists from the Museum permanent collection.  There were several by Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, one of the founders of the women’s rights movement, who stayed up here at Clive Vale Farm in the 1850s, a few years after Holman Hunt. We are told that Barbara and her companion, Anna Mary Howitt, were very excited to discover that the paint-spattered table that Hunt had used was still in the house, and was the very table they were using for their work.

Upper Durbar Hall

     We very much like the Durbar Hall. When we first saw it we thought how great it would be to hire it for our 25th wedding anniversary, but as it turned out we didn’t move down here until well after that.
     Interestingly, I recently read a book called  ‘The Bolter’ by Frances Osborne (the unfortunate and presumably misguided woman is the wife of George, but that does not affect the quality of the book, which is riveting). Idina Sackville, the notorious  multiply divorced debauchee who was a leader of the Kenya ‘Happy Valley’ set in the 1930s and 40s, and the subject of the book, was the daughter of Muriel Brassey and Earl De la Warr. Muriel’s father, Thomas Brassey, acquired the Durbar Hall from a colonial exhibition in London in the 1880’s, and erected it in their London mansion, to house his wife’s collections. Lady Annie Brassey sounds a like a woman after Battleaxe’s heart – she seemed to collect just about everything from all over the world. On Brassey’s death in 1918 the Durbar Hall was bequeathed to the Hastings Museum, where it still is used to display some of the Brassey collection. It is very much the nineteenth century colonial English person’s idea of Mughal romance…..
  What else?  Grey Owl, Robert Tressell, the St Leonard’s Bathing Pool……. That reminds me, that is another project that seems to have run into the sand – the idea for a ‘Lido’ on the Bathing Pool site. I don’t know how they could think of it as a Lido anyway, when the plans did not include a pool, but whatever it was, it clearly is not happening. It is a huge site, and needs to be used.  What a pity the pool was demolished – Lidos are all the rage these days, but I imagine something so huge would be impossible to maintain.
     It was a nice evening – we finished it off with a visit to the Chinese take-away in Mount Road, which had been recommended to us by our neighbours.  Neighbours were right – the food was excellent.

Bathing pool 1933
Bathing pool site now

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