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RELIEF OF LADYSMITH

Article from The Hastings & St Leonards Observer.

3rd March 1900

 

On Tuesday, the anniversary of Majuba, the whole borough was delighted with the news that General Cronje had surrendered. Tradesmen in the public streets were not slow to display bunting, and there was general air of jubilation about the people in the public thoroughfares.  The capitulation was the subject of common talk, and speculation was made as to how many hours would pass before the relief of Ladysmith, for which the town and the whole country had for so long been yearning, would be an accomplished fact.

 

The Town Band played patriotic airs, and helped to make the place lively. The Town Council, in Committee, recognising the importance of the event, decided to send a congratulatory telegram to the Front, on the proposition of Councillor Colvile. The telegram despatched from the Mayor to Field-Marshal Lord Roberts was as follows: "Lord Roberts. Cape Colony.  Corporation Hastings, Premier Cinque Port, heartily congratulate, sincerely thank, Lords Roberts, Kitchener, Officers, men, for splendid services. Thank God for great victory. Tuppenney Mayor.”

 

RELIEF OF LADYSMITH

 

On Thursday morning the borough was electrified, when the wires brought the message, so long and patiently waited for, that the noble Garrison of Ladysmith had been relieved by General Buller's force, after a close investment of some 118 days.  If the townspeople had been joyful when the surrender of Cronje was notified, it was as nothing to Thursday's rejoicings, which entirely dwarfed those of a couple of days before.

 

As fast as possible the place put on a festive air, and flags and streamers were to be seen all directions, and although Hastings is not so lavish with her bunting as some of her neighbours, her sentiments and feeling are none the less of the deepest.  Church bells rang, people cheered, and the Town Band played at almost innumerable pitches during the day, always surrounded big crowds, charmed by the patriotic melodies. They cheered loudly, and did not forget to part with their halfpence, so that the gratification was mutual.

 

The day was one that will long live in the history of Hastings, in common with the rest of the British Empire, even to the most out of the way hamlet. Nearly every pedestrian in the streets sported little rosettes of red, white, and blue; people similarly decorated their dogs and horses, while the omnibus drivers hoisted miniature Union Jacks from whip stocks on their exalted seats. Even the flower women sported the colours, and did a rare business, those who made the display having the advantage over their less demonstrative sisters. On all the public buildings Royal Standards were hoisted, and, in fact, at every turn one was reminded of the nation's jubilations.

 

INDOOR PATRIOTISM

 

The patriotic enthusiasm which was so rampant in the town on Thursday, consequent on the joyful news of the relief of Ladysmith, naturally found its way into the various places of amusement in the evening, and particularly the Empire Music Hall. At the commencement of the performance God Save the Queen was played, and the crowded audience cheered lustily.

 

At every hint regarding British victories on the part of the artistes there was an outburst of patriotic applause, especially when one of them ventured to assert that a double event had come off.  

 

When the animated war pictures came on there was renewed cheering, shouting, and singing of the latest war songs, and almost wild enthusiasm reigned supreme until the close of the entertainment.  

 

At the Theatre the National Anthem was played before the curtain went up and, in an interval, a selection of English music, concluding with "God Save the Queen" was played by the orchestra.

 

At the Hastings Pier also, the happy event was celebrated by patriotic music by the band.

 

A certain boarding-house proprietor gave his guests roast beef and plum pudding in celebration of the occasion.

 

STREET DECORATIONS

 

Flags were flying in Robertson Street and Castle Street, while Breeds Place, the well known drapery establishment of Messrs Mastin Brothers was decorated in a more ambitious style.  Above the windows, the balcony was adorned with red, white, and blue bunting, the Star and Stripes being in the centre.  Royal Standards and other patriotic flags were placed at intervals the length of the facade, and a flag waved from each of the large upper windows, while streamers crossed the road, and in front at the top was a string of pennons.

 

The adjacent boarding house (Mr Gildersleeve's) was decorated with striped bunting and patriotic flags.  

 

Away in the direction of St. Leonards, the Eversfield and Alexandra Hotels, and several boarding houses, displayed flags.

 

The East Sussex Club was also decorated.  

 

A large streamer, with the historic white horse, waved over the road at the "Royal Saxon Hotel, and a fine Royal Standard in front of the Yorkshire Grey.

 

Various shops in London Road and Norman Road displayed flags, and also in Kings Road several places of business were gay with bunting, notably Mr A. W. Chesterfield's, where the Stars and Stripes flew in company with the Union Jack.

 

From the Royal Hotel to Warrior Square Station there was a string of streamers.

 

Nor were the older portions of the town behindhand in their loyalty. At the East Sussex Supply Company's premises in All Saints Street Mr Baker, the energetic secretary of the Lower St. Mary's Conservative Association, arranged a display of Union Jacks and other patriotic flags.  

 

In the Old Town of Hastings bunting was specially profuse and, indeed, there was hardly a road in the town where some houses were not decorated.

 

BELL RINGING

 

Peals were rung on the bells of the two old Parish Churches of All Saints' and St. Clement's from mid-day until the evening.  After the mid-day peal the ringers were invited to Councillor Eaton's residence for refreshments, where Mr J. W. E. Chubb presided at the pianoforte, and several patriotic songs were sung, concluding with the National Anthem and cheers for Councillor Eaton.

 

LADY SMITH AT HASTINGS

 

The cup which has been exhibited in the window of Mr Thomas Mann's Art Repository in Claremont, with a card announcing that it was a gift to that gentleman from Lady Smith, was probably the first intimation to a great many people that the lady who gave her name to the Natal town whose relief all England has been celebrating was, for several years after the death of her husband, a resident of this borough.

 

Such, however, is the case. The beautiful and high born Spanish girl, who took refuge in the English Camp at the Siege of Badajoz, and captured the heart of the then youthful Sir Harry, came, when the life of adventure which they had lived together was ended by his death, to 19 Robertson Terrace, where she was the tenant of Mr Mann for some eight years, and played a prominent part in certain local social circles.

 

Among her intimate friends here she numbered:  Canon and Mrs Crosse, Sir Woodbine and Lady Parrish, Lady Cathcart, the Hon Mrs Boyle, and Mr and Mrs St. Quinton; and owing to her charm and affability, and the romantic story of her life, she was extremely popular.

 

She arrived here soon after her husband’s death in 1860, and left to live in Cadogan Square London, about 1868, and it is said that she was contemplating returning at the time of her own death  in 1872.

 

She was accompanied here by her niece, since married and living in London. Lady Smith’s maiden name was Juana Maria de los Dolores de Leon, and as she was fourteen at the time of the Badajoz incident, she must have been much younger than her husband.

 

During her husband's Governorship of the Cape she went everywhere with him and it was in consequence of a visit to the then insignificant outpost that Ladysmith received its name.

 

The cup which was a parting gift to Mr Mann, bears the inscription:—"From Lady Smith to Thomas Mann, in remembrance of his many kindnesses to her. April, 1868."




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