The traditional beach hut is a great seaside attraction, but after a while they can all seem a bit the same, if you know what I mean. If you live in the South East of England a day trip to Hastings is great if you want to see a different and possibly unique style of shed.
The Stade in Hastings (the area where the fishing fleet, and sheds, are housed) is home to Britain's largest shore based fishing fleet. (Don't worry if you have never come across other shore based fishing fleet before, I believe Hastings is the only one.)
There isn't a harbour to speak of, the sea wall that you see in the picture is the remains of a harbour that was started in late 1896 but construction abandoned due to lack of funds(It was also partially demolished during in World War II to discourage use by potential invading forces).
Without a deep harbour to moor their boats life is hard for the Hastings fishermen but they have adapted their method to the surroundings. Fishing boats are launched from the beach using bulldozers to push them out into the sea. Returning boats are then driven into the beach and winched further up the beach using motors housed in the line of single storey flat roofed sheds located above the high tide line.
Back in the 1800s the beach wasn't as wide as it is today (before the abandoned harbour construction c aused the beach to widen). There was a shortage of storage space on the beach, so the fishermen needing storage for their nets started to build the beach hut upward as the plan area was limited. The result was three storey storage sheds used for storing and mending the nets. Known locally as net shops.
Originating in the 15th century there was a maximum of about 200 sheds, this is now down to about 50 which have been preserved with help from the local council and English Heritage.
The sheds are 8'x8' on plan, have access doors at each level and a simple vertical ladder attached to the internal wall.
The great thing about these sheds is that they have so many original details included in the restoration. The close up in the picture below shows pitch which has been applied to the timber to act as a preservative, this was obtained from the towns gasworks from the early 1800s onwards. This method of wood preservation has obviously been successful in preserving the external timber for possibly over 100 years. However using tar as a preservative comes at a cost as it is a fire hazard and many sheds have burnt down over the years as a result!
The local fishermen's Museum in Hastings has free entrance (though donations are very much appreciated) is a real source of interest and well worth a visit.If somehow these sheds seem familiar to you, cast your mind back to childhood and if you were ever read tales from Beatrix Potter then you may remember this picture of Little Pig Robinson making his way to ship at the fictional town of Stymouth!
......and yes they do great locally caught fish and chips in Hastings.
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