Is St Leonards really the ‘yin’ to Hastings’ ‘yang’?
That was how The Guardian summed up the relationship between the two towns – or are they really two parts of the same town? In answer to the question about St Leonards: what’s going for it? The Guardian feature writer answered that the town has, ‘come of age’.
Tom Dyckhoff said in his piece: “For years, all talk has been of its elderly twin, Hastings, newly colonised by rat-race escapees, with their boutiques selling linocut prints or vintage eccles cakes. But slowly, to the west, its neighbour has been undergoing its own metamorphosis. It is very much yin to Hastings’ yang.
“Whereas Hastings’ Old Town is all higgledy half-timber and tattooed sea dogs, hipster or otherwise, St Leonards has from its birth been a refined, Regency place.”
Mr Dyckhoff recalls the town’s beginnings in 1826 under the watchful eye of property developer James Burton and his architect son, Decimus: “Their work survives, its stucco now largely freshly painted and reappreciated after the doldrum decade,” he writes.
He says the town has a problem with traffic and urges people not to use what he describes as ‘the G-word’ (gentrification) or to describe St Leonards as ‘Portobello-on-Sea’. “It is not,” he says.
Norman Road and Kings Road are where, “the hepcats hang” according to Mr Dyckhoff who give particular praise to, ‘the brilliant Kino cinema, Half Man! Half Burger! or St Clement’s.”
And he describes the property available in St Leonards lie this: “Start with the fabulous original waterfront of Regency homes – including James Burton’s – on the Marina.
“Explore the leafy avenues rising up the hill behind. There are excellent mid-Victorians east towards Hastings, around Warrior Square. West, find later Victorians around Pevensey Road and Filsham Road, often with fine views.
“Heading out to Silverhill, there are excellent streets of 19th-century townhouses off London Road. Large detacheds and townhouses, £500,000-£900,000, though higher for humungous bling.
“Detacheds and smaller townhouses, £300,000-£500,000. Semis, £200,000-£600,000. Terraces and cottages, £175,000-£350,000. Flats, £90,000-£400,000. Rentals: a one-bedroom flat, £450-£675pcm; a three-bedroom house, £875-£1,075pcm.”
But what did the readers think?
One commentator on the piece says: “Have lived here for over ten years and love it. Great for community life, lots of festivals and events – a high street full of interesting independent shops and cafes (both boutuquey and the sort of butchers, green grocers bookshops and bakers that are disappearing from most high streets), some decent pubs and some of the best cafes and restaurants in this corner of East Sussex.
“More a live music scene than there used to be with opening of Piper and Kino which means no need to always go into Hastings for entertainment. The beach is quieter than than Hastings too. But wouldn’t call it Yin to Hastings’ Yang – they both share similar pros and cons – grand architecture, history and character, vibrant cultural scene, good green spaces and relatively affordable property on the one hand, low wages, poor transport links and deprivation on the other (they are only 15 minute walk from each other anyway).”
While another says: “Stayed there for a few days last year. The streets were filthy, the town was a mess. Some great new shops have opened but the majority are grotty, many boarded up. In about 20 years it may be ok. Nice park area though. Must have been lovely once.”
And ‘Eggtastic’ said of their visit: “Stayed for a week with my family at the end of August just off London Road and close to Warrior Square station. Weather was superb, but there was still plenty of room on the beach and the water temperature perfect for a dip.
“Ate at Half Man! half burger! located on the ground floor of the magnificent looking Marine Court flats. Burgers were tasty, but it was a just a little too much on the pricey side for what you get. We also ate at Tommy’s Pizzeria opposite the cinema which was buzzing with punters eating on the terrace in the fine weather. We had also been recommended La Bella Vista Italian on the seafront, but unfortunately we never made it there… maybe next time. The smells emanating from there were absolutely divine?!
“It is certainly a little rough around the edges like most seaside towns, but in general it had a good, friendly vibe. The sight of hundreds of people gathered all along the pebble beach on a balmy evening as the sun set to socialise and eat BBQs was really something to behold.”