Hastings claim to fame comes from the connection to the Norman conquests in England and because it was the Cinque Ports of medieval times. For centuries Hastings was known for its fishing port. Even after reduction it still has the biggest fishing fleet based on a beach that England has. In the 1760s it was a popular watering place and when the railways made it their way, it became a resort town.
A great deal of the town was washed to sea in the 13th Century. In 1339 and 1377 the town was attacked and burnt down by the French. After all this its days of a port were done. They had a problem with not having a natural harbour and attempts have been made to create sheltered harbors. During the reign of Elizabeth I a stone harbor was attempted but the sea destroyed the foundations during a big storm.
In 1896 the last of the attempts at harbour projects was stopped to structural issues and lack of funds. All that remains of what could have been a great harbour is a fractured seawall. A foundation stone was put in place in 1897 for a large concrete structure but due to lack of funds what would have been the Harbor Arm is still incomplete.
Fishing boats are stored and set out from the beaches. Hastings started as a little fishing settlement but the taxes that were imposed on luxury items made smuggling the perfect revenue source and the town was in the perfect location for it. The St. Clements Caves on the West Hill, near the castle ruins are mostly natural but largely hand dug by smugglers.
After the Napoleonic Wars the smuggling trades came to an end. During this time the town was established as a fashionable British resort because people believed that the sea water had properties. The town then expanded to the west because there was no space left in the valley.
Pelham Crescent and Wellington Square were built during this time. St. Mary in the Castle, a classical style church, resides in the Crescent and is now used at an art center. The town eventually grew along the coast and combined with the new St. Leonards. The railways in the 1800s boosted the population of the town from 3,175 in 1801 to almost 60,000 in 1891. In 2001 the census report the town to have 85,000 people.
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