This is a wonderful small museum set in the heart of the fishing area in Hastings with a wealth of exhibits and loads of information. The museum is in the former church of St Nicholas, who was patron saint of fishermen. Next to the net shops, this was built as a Chapel of Ease to the Parish Church of All Saints in 1854 and served the needs of the large fishing community of the Old Town.
The church closed at the start of the Second World War and was used as a store by the military. It suffered some war damage and stained glass windows were lost. After the war it was used as a warehouse by Butler’s the Ironmongers. The church was restored in 1956 by the Old Hastings Preservation Society as a Fisherman’s Museum .
There is something for everyone from stuffed birds and examples of maritime life, to model boats and boats in bottles. There are examples of shuttles used to mend nets and a sailmaker’s ‘palm’ which helped protect the hand when repairing sails. Don’t miss the Winkle Suit (and information about the “Winkle Club”:https://winkleclub.org/).
Pride of place is the clinker built sailing lugger, Enterprise, which was built in Hastings in 1912 and typical of the fishing boats used at the time.
She was built for sail only and designed to carry large catches of drift fish (herrings and mackerel). She fished from the North Sea to the Isle of Wight, beginning the herring season from Lowestoft in the autumn and then following the fish round into the English Channel, finishing at Hastings at Christmas.
Oars were only used as a last resource when ships became becalmed from lack of wind. There is a story in the museum of one boat that took 4 days to row back to Hastings, by which time the fish had gone bad.
The lugger is registered RX 278, from Rye as Hastings is not a port and hasn’t got a harbour. On the prow is a bronze plate Dunkirk 1940. Most of the Hastings fleet, including Enterprise, sailed to Dover in May 1940 to join the rescue of soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk.
Visitors can climb up steps onto the deck with lobster pots as well as barrels for storing salted fish, skim net for scooping fish from a trawl net and a basket used to carry fish to market. Glass covered hatches lead down into the living quarters or the hold where fish were stored.
Next to the Enterprise is a horse capstan which was the last of to be used to haul boats up onto The Stade before being replaced y motor driven winches. A horse was tied to the capstan’s long bar and walked in circles winding the hawser round the large central post, pulling a boat up the beach.
The Museum is open daily and has a small shop. There is disabled access to all the exhibits, apart from the steps onto the deck of the Enterperise. However, there isn’t much space inside, especially if busy.
The building is still used for baptisms and special services. A red ensign flag is flown when the museum is open. Entry is free, but donations appreciated. Allow plenty of time as there is so much to see.
There are more pictures “here.”:https://www.sloweurope.com/community/threads/hastings-and-its-fishing-heritage.6155/