Remembering the legacy of Biddy The Tubman

Nottingham woman Sue Church is spearheading a campaign to have a blue plaque erected in Hastings in memory of the legendary Biddy The Tubman.

This Pathe newsreel footage of Biddy in action probably better explains his ‘act’ than words ever could. 

Sue says: “As Hastings Borough Council no longer funds these Blue Plaques, it looks like public help is needed to make this happen. Ideally I’d like to set up a display, probably together with the Fisherman’s Museum and have a ‘Biddy Day,’ where folk can come and watch the unveiling of the plaque and visit the Fisherman’s Museum and additional displays as well.

Sue’s father Terry Baldwin, is a native of Hastings and wants Sue to help him ensure that the the memory of Biddy the Tubman lives on forever as he feels that is what Biddy deserves.

Biddy, or to give him his full name Alfred Mills Stonham, was born in 1879 and lived until he was 85, he was a fisherman and lifeboatman.

He lived a very full life receiving a silver medal for bravery from the RNLI which he was presented with at Buckingham palace by King Edward VII. He was a sailor in the first world war and in world war two he helped in the evacuation of Dunkirk.

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An online search on Biddy brings up a range of material and memories but before the days of the internet people wrote books about great characters and this is one that was written about Biddy.

Biddy was best known for his tubman act. He performed a number of acrobatic stunts and moves just off the beach inside an old-style traditional washtub. His act required great strength and a fine sense of balance. After his performances were over donations were collected from the crowds watching from the beach. Biddy continued fishing and tubbing right up until 1963 just a year before he died.

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Sue’s work so far starting to work through Biddy’s family tree.

Sue is a Genealogist and was in Hastings in April doing some of her own research into the Baldwin/Button family history. She is also doing research on the fishermen and lifeboatmen of Hastings: “I have Button men in my family history who were both,” she says.

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A photograph from Biddy’s great-great-grandson, the newly elected deputy mayor of Hastings James Bacon.

The first step in her campaign has been to set up a Facebook group to create awareness of a project. She describes Biddy as an “iconic entertainer” whose antics entertained both tourists and locals in the town and both she and her father believe that Biddy’s legacy deserves to be remembered by generations to come.

To find out more about how to get involved follow the link below…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1629432393840076/

3 thoughts on “Remembering the legacy of Biddy The Tubman

  1. Andy from London, it’s crucial to keep this man’s legacy alive to keep the towns mystique i think.
    I’m having fish and chips with my girlfriend and keep looking at the picture of him on the wall he looks sturdy and full of life bless he’s soul.
    Andy from South London, crystal Palace, take care Hastings

  2. The Cambridge Road pub, ‘The Tubman’, was presumably named in Biddy’s honour. At present it’s disused.

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