Hastings Battleaxe explores Queen’s Arcade – Birthplace of telly?

You will have read in the last post that we had GD to stay? Well, one of our grand-parentoid tasks is to take her to the hairdresser – I chose the one in the Queen’s Arcade, Hastings. While I was waiting, I was reflecting on the history of the place, and in particular, its link with John Logie Baird.

 

      So, first, why choose that hairdresser? Simple. I try and choose one as obscure and hidden as possible, so that if GD has a bad moment, we need never go back again… but in fact they cut her hair very well.
      John Logie Baird? Well, when you arrive in Hastings by road, the signs proclaim ‘Hastings, Birthplace of Television’. Indeed, many of Baird’s early experiments were carried out in his workshop at No. 8, Queen’s Arcade – here is some information about it. 
      Apparently, the first ever television picture – a tiny image of a maltese cross, transmitted over a range of two or three yards, was first seen here. You’d assume that as this was a big thing for Hastings, the town would have some telly-related tourist destination, but not so…  There is a smallish display in the Hastings Museum, which is not widely visited, a plaque on a house in Linton Road, where Baird lived, the Wetherspoons John Logie Baird pub, and a couple of mentions in the Arcade – and that’s it.

      Now, really, Hastings, isn’t a massive money-making enterprise being missed here?  Where is the ‘Birthplace of Television Discovery Centre? I can see it now… the material out of the musuem, nicely set out. Interactive displays… buttons to press for the kids…. development of telly through the years…. £6.50 admission. There are plenty of empty shops in town and still little for visitors to do in bad weather. Come on, Hastings Borough Council, or maybe Mr Gulzar?
       So, back to the Queen’s Arcade (or should it be Queen’s Avenue?), a hidden little piece of the town’s history, with some great shops. I daresay it isn’t hidden to the locals, but don’t forget Battleaxe is merely an incomer.
       It was opened in 1882, an important year in Victorian Hastings – the Prince and Princess of Wales came to rename Alexandra Park, and the road outside the Arcade was renamed Queen’s Road. The Arcade adjoins the Gaiety Theatre (now the Odeon), also opened in 1882.  Here is the theatre, showing the entrance to the Arcade on the left. (Photo from the Hastings Museum collection). While the rest of the block has been substantially altered, the Arcade remains much the same. Originally, there were 16 shops, plus an
upstairs Assembly Room with its entrance in York Gardens.

       The ornate crown light outside the entrance is clearly a later addition.

      There are some great shops hiding in there…The first you come to is a tiny key-cutting shoe repair shop, Little Darby’s, which has been there for over 70 years.  Then, an impressive-looking butchers, an amazing party shop with every sort of party paperware, plastic willies, unicorns etc., a proper deli with a sandwich take-away, an old-fashioned sweet shop, a clothes and accessory shop, of course, the hairdressers, and at the end, the amazing Arcade Fishery.

Butcher….
Deli….
Looks good.
Hairdresser next to the party shop
Fish shop

      Going out the back of the arcade, you come to York Gardens, now rather an unprepossessing alley, except there is this cafe – who knew that was there?  Lots of people, seemingly, because it was packed. We’ll have to try it.

It’s called the Village Cafe. What happened to Rita, I wonder…

      Then the Arcade carries on uninterestingly, and finally opens onto Wellington Place.
Finally, this photo of the entrance shows an
empty shop next door. It seems somehow fitting that this shop was, until
recently, the Atos Assessment Centre, delivering draconian work capability assessments for unfortunates – processes that are now increasingly discredited. Victorian Britain was cruel to the disabled and the ‘have-nots’.  We are rapidly heading back that way…..

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