Hastings Fishermens Museum
 
"The Boat in the Museum"
RX278 Enterprise
Hastings Fishermens Museum
Old pictures of the Museum

 

Hastings Fishermen’s Museum, Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3DW Tel 01424 461446

Open every day, except Christmas Day:
April - October 10am - 5pm
November - March 11am - 4pm
Admission is free but please do leave a donation as the Museum is run by a local charity, the Old Hastings Preservation Society, and relies heavily on donations and gifts.
The Museum is at the east end of Hastings seafront amongst the fishing fleet and close to the historic Old Town
and the beautiful Country Park.
There is a public car park behind the Museum.
Hastings Fishermens museum
David Hobbs' map by kind permission of Hastings Boro' Council
The Hastings Fishermen’s Museum is one of the biggest attractions in Hastings. Over 150,000 people come through the doors every year to see the many photographs, paintings and historic objects - and to climb aboard the last of the local sailing luggers, built in 1912. The Museum is set amongst the unique net shops, the tall black sheds in which fishermen used to keep all their fishing gear. The net shop next to the Museum has a display of such equipment, and several old fishing boats are also on show on the adjoining beach.
 

 
The Museum as a Church
The Museum is the former Fishermen’s Church of St Nicholas. It was built in 1854 on the beach at the heart of the fishing industry because fishermen rarely attended the two nearby parish churches of All Saints and St Clements. They were seen as local ‘aborigines’ in ‘a state of great mental darkness’. The new church was built of Kentish ragstone, with a pulpit and communion table at the east end, and seating for 290 people. Although initially opposed by the local community, by the 1880s this ‘mission church’ to the fishermen had become popular, and remained so until the Second World War. It was then requisitioned by the military and used as a store. After the war, Hastings Council would only offer it on a one-year lease, which made it uneconomic to restore the damaged building as a church. It was therefore used as a store by traders until the early 1950s. The Fishermen’s Church was a ‘chapel of ease’ and was never formally consecrated, but it is still used today for religious events, including baptisms, harvest festivals and carol concerts.

The Story of the Museum
The Museum was set up by the Old Hastings Preservation Society in 1956. The society wanted to save the Fishermen’s Church as a building, and had been offered one of the last of the Hastings luggers, the Enterprise RX 278, by its owner Harold Pepper. Hastings Council leased the church to the society, and the borough engineer in April 1956 demolished part of the southern wall so the Enterprise could be pulled in. Within a month the Enterprise had been set up on display, along with many other interesting objects and pictures. The Fishermen’s Museum was formally opened by the mayor of Hastings, Alderman Fred Hussey, on 17 May 1956. Initially it was only open for limited hours in the summer, but since 1995 it has been open every day of the year, bar Christmas Day. The Museum is very popular, both with local people (many of whom have donated material) and with visitors. A large extension, the Vestry Gallery, was built in 2001 with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other bodies

 

Around the Museum
The Museum has a large range of items on sale, including many local history books and postcards. Copies of some of the pictures on display are also available. Next to the sales counter is the font, donated to the Museum in 1917, and christenings still take place here regularly. Special exhibitions go on display in the Vestry Gallery, alongside many other objects on permanent display. The Museum also has its own archive of historic material, which it may be possible to consult on request in advance.

Running the Museum
The former Fishermen’s Church is owned by Hastings Council and leased to Old Hastings Preservation Society, a charity (registration number 221623). All the Museum’s income comes from donations by people passing through the doors, sales over the counter, gifts and special events.


The Boats
Inside the Museum is the Enterprise RX 278, the last of the old clinker-built sailing luggers that were the standard boat in the Hastings fishing fleet until the First World War. She was built in 1912. Outside are several other boats owned by the Museum, including the 1919-built Edward and Mary RX 74, one of the first Hastings boats to have an engine.


On Board the Enterprise
The helmsman of the Enterprise is being watched over by Rear-Admiral Hubert Dannreuther (1880-1977) a key figure in the founding of the Museum in the early 1950s. The helmsman’s head was a gift of the sculptor Clare Sheridan, who lived in Hastings from 1956-60.

 

The Net Shops and the Net Shop Museum
The tall black wooden sheds close to the Museum are the ‘net shops’, built as stores to keep fishing gear dry. They are unique to Hastings, and are beloved by artists. In early Victorian times they were laid out in these narrow rows with very limited ground space because the sea then used to come up to where the miniature railway line is today. They are up to 30 feet high, and many have cellars. Scores of nets made of natural materials would be hung up inside, along with ropes and chains. The Museum has a display inside the net shop next to the Museum door, and has also made two net shops from a cut-up Hastings boat.

In Memory
The lives of many local fishermen have been lost at sea. Their memory is kept alive in a book of remembrance in a glass case, on display. The Museum’s east window, in which a new stained glass panel by Alan Wright was incorporated in 2000 to mark the Millennium, is also a memorial to lost seafarers.

Author Steve Peak. 2007. Adapted for the web by Ion Castro. Map by David Hobbs and copyright Hastings Borough Council.

The Hosting, Authoring, updating and web space for this site has been donated by Ion Castro of XL(2000)Ltd since 2006.
The right of Ion Castro to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

 

Hastings Old Town Walks

Hastings Old Town Walks


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