All Saints' Church, And The Old Town
Photographer: Frith, Francis (1822-1898)
Medium: Photographic print
“Stepping in at the corner of the fish-market, we turn north – up the street of All Saints – up the pleasant pretty valley in which the old town nestles between two great hills: the East Cliff, whose feet we have just measured, and upon whose close-shaven green old head breezes and children play...and the West Cliff, upon which the Castle – stood, in its prime – now, shall we say, sits or totters – of which more hereafter. The features of this – probably once the principal street of the town – All Saints – cannot, I think, be very striking...until you arrive at the fine old church of the same name. Jump out! – send your carriage forward up the hill, and run up the steps into the churchyard. That old tower is 73 feet high, and above four hundred years old; no great height, and no great age, but charmingly weather-worn and picturesque, with its huge corner buttresses and flintwork crosses. The quiet grave-yard, adorned by some fine gaunt trees, creeps up the hill-side upon which we soon emerge, - pursuing our way at the back of the church, amidst fern and rocks, until, with the venerable church for a foreground, the level sea for a distance, Old Hastings looks very lovely indeed, or, at least, would look so, if she didn’t smoke. That inveterate habit of hers converts her gray-haired comeliness, in my photographic view, into a painful spectacle."
Descriptive letterpress by Francis Frith from his book 'The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings'
This view by Francis Frith (1822-1898) of the Church of All Saints and the Old Town across the valley at Hastings in East Sussex is one of sixteen photographs illustrating his book ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’, published in 1864. Frith was a pioneer in the field of travel photography, beginning his career with three trips to Egypt and the Holy Land between 1856 and 1860 to document historic monuments. The resulting photographs were exhibited to great acclaim and issued in albums by the firm which he founded in 1859 at Reigate in Surrey. Frith & Co. also published prints, albums and postcards of views throughout Britain. These sold to an eager tourist market and the firm became the largest of its kind in the 19th century, continuing to be run as a family business until 1971. In his first album, ‘Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Described’, Frith also wrote the descriptive commentaries that accompanied his photographs. ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’ continues this dual authorship and its text is notable for the gently satirical attitude which he adopts towards the 19th-century English seaside resort and its sister towns.