Hastings Battleaxe at Ore Village

Ore Village is our nearest local shopping area. It’s tucked away over the top of the hill and down again from genteel Clive Vale, where we live. Writing on the history of Ore, the Hastings Chronicle says ‘For the better-off people of Hastings, the Ore Valley has often been out of sight and out of mind.’ Well, it’s never far from our minds.

     Last year at the WI we had a very good talk on the history of Ore from local historian Brian Lawes, husband of my friend and Committee colleague Shirley, so I can draw on material from that.
     Why is Ore called Ore? Probably because the area was a source of iron ore, and traces of Roman ‘bloomeries’ or smelting furnaces have been found. The name ‘Red Lake’ survives in the village, referring to a former mill-pond or a pool produced by later iron-workings, coloured red with dissolved iron oxide.
     Ore has always been a poor area. It housed the labourers who built the grand hotels and homes in the town during Hastings’ days of prosperity, and who worked on the roads and the railways. After Hastings declined in the early years of the last century, these workers fell into extreme poverty. Many of their small terraced cottages, now desirable little homes, still survive, tucked away down quiet side-streets and twittens.

Little houses in Ore

     The enormous Hastings Workhouse, now mostly demolished, was in Frederick Road. Novelist Catherine Cookson worked there as head laundress when she first arrived in Hastings in 1929, living in nearby Clifton Road. She described Hastings as ‘another world, in which everything moved at an easy-going pace.’ Battleaxe and Philosopher would agree.

The Workhouse

    Today, three council estates border Ore, two of which, Halton/Farley Bank and Broomgrove/Malvern Way, are in the bottom 1% most economically deprived in England.
     For us, coming from Birmingham, where vast run-down social housing ghettos still blight the lives of their residents, the Hastings estates appear very different. This must be due to their smaller size – they blend into their surrounding localities, and they also appear well-kept – no mattresses, burned out cars, trees chewed by fighter dogs. As ever, there are lots of plastic toys lying about. I’ll swear, in the future, when our civilisation has died out, archaeologists will be speculating about those things. They’ll ask: What were they? Fertility totems? Household Gods? Symbols of wealth? Why are there so many?
     The village centre of Ore always depended on the busy road running through it. Initially, the main turnpike from Hastings and London ran along Frederick Road to join the Ridge, but then was diverted along its present route through the village. The coming of trams in 1905 created further development of the shopping centre. The power-station that generated electricity for all the borough’s trams was built in the Ore Valley, and successive, even bigger power stations provided local employment until the 1980s.
     Until 1897 Ore was outside the Hastings town boundary – its one pub, the Hare and Hounds, was very popular, and the first theatre in Hastings was established there in the 1700’s. Both theatre and pub were destroyed by fire in 1867. The pub was partly rebuilt and then finally closed in 2006.

Hare and Hounds theatre – commemorative plaque

     Ore is now badly off for pubs. The Clive Vale Hotel on the corner of Alfred Road was partly demolished in 2010 and replaced with a truly horrible housing development.

Clive Vale Hotel then…
And now….

     The Oddfellows Arms is now a Tesco, despite substantial local protest. Battleaxe said she’d boycott the new store, and indeed, I have never been in it. I even had to send Philosopher in there to put up a poster about the WI jumble sale. However, we have an Aldi being built just up the Rye Road. That will be popular, and should bring more trade to Ore.
      The King’s Head in Rye Road has closed. As far as I know, there is a pub in Winchelsea Road, and the Old King John in Middle Road, which always looks a bit full of daunting-looking locals. I’ll venture in there one day and report back.
       The main road in Ore is dominated by Christ Church, built in 1858 in Decorated Gothic Revival style. Pevsner described its skinny turret tower as ‘very naughty’. I don’t quite see why. It is a handsome building, usually kept locked, but when I walked down the other day to take photos for this post the door was open. Inside, I met the Vicar, who is just recovering and returning to work after a serious illness, and spoke with him briefly. The interior of the church has painted floral designs and lettering – very Pugin-esque, but clearly needs some maintenance.

Christ Church, Ore

     On one side of the Church is the War Memorial and then Winchester’s Hardware Store. The Winchesters are one of the local families that give Hastings its colour…. they own Blackbrooks Garden Centre and a range of property in Ore and the surrounding area, including the scaffolding yard near our house. That yard has had its moment of fame.   According to the article in the Guardian, Hastings is in Kent. Typical.

    Ore is surprisingly well-off for facilities. As well as Winchester’s, Tesco and the Co-op, it has several convenience stores, two chemists, a Post Office, a baker, a greengrocer, three charity shops, a betting shop, a butcher, hairdressers, and no less than five fast-food outlets. There will be six soon – Pizza Hut is opening.  There is also a library – small, but very sweet, and the Community Centre.
    As well as hosting all sorts of worthwhile activities, including the dreaded Zumba that Battleaxe didn’t stick at, the Community Centre also has a cafe that serves a decent cup of coffee! I have not tried their food yet.

Community Centre and cafe

    Ore also has an open space, Speckled Wood. Now here’s a crazy thing.  Inevitably, Speckled Wood is at risk of housing development. There are two rival community groups campaigning about it. One lot seems to want a Village Green, and I can’t tell what the others want. There have been accusations of hi-jacking websites etc. etc. Why waste valuable time and energy arguing between themselves? How Hastings is that.
    There are plenty of other community activities, like Ore in Bloom, which is backed by Fairlight Hall. I did enter our garden into this year’s competition, but got nowhere. Huh.
    Ore is not at all gentrified – no artisan bakeries or distressed nick-nack shops here.  There are several empty shops, and Philosopher and I were thinking what was needed. No more fast food or convenience stores. How about a Poundland Local? In Brum, we had many Asian-run pound shops featuring piles of psychedelic kitchen plastic stacked outside – we could maybe do with one of those.
    Oh – and a branch of Cafe Nero would be good. Small hope of that. 
    To finish, here are a couple of scenes of Ore, then and now.

Junction of Fairlight Road


The Old Sanatorium, looking up Rye Road towards the new Aldi. What a lot of horrible street furniture we have now.

This post has been up-dated in  August 2015. See new post here.

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