‘There is only one thing more addictive than drugs: the word “potential”…’
Sam Taylor relates to the builders of the funicular railway
I take heart in the fact that I am not alone in believing the hype that Hastings is the ‘new Brighton’. Many have come before me. In 1889 for instance, a group of entrepreneurs decided to put the place on the map by building a funicular railway; they were all the rage at the time and the one in Scarborough had been a huge success, so why not one on the East Sussex coast? Their choice of location, from the top to the bottom of the West Hill, was inspired.
At it’s peak, the views stretch out across the channel and over to the aptly named East Hill. Squeezed between them is the medieval Old Town with its ancient passages and history hot spots; St Clements church, where Dante Gabriel Rossetti got married, the narrow streets where Inspector Foyle pursued war-time baddies. For reasons that remain unclear however, they decided to put their railway inside the hill, which meant excavating, by sheer manpower, a 500ft-long, brick-lined tunnel inside the cliffs at an incline of 1 in 3. It was a monumental undertaking.
The budget was £10,000 but quickly escalated to £16,000 (enough to buy half the town). By the time the first round of dignitaries made the minute-anda- half descent in the beautifully crafted carriages, the balance sheet had taken a nose dive and the entrepreneurs were bankrupt.
The West Hill funicular still works to this day but a lesson was learnt: step away from the digger. When the council of the time decided to build a matching one on the East Hill, they stuck it on the surface. It was finished, on time, in 1902 for a mere £6,000.
I realise that digging a 10ft trench from the back of my house to the bottom of the street in order to fit in a kitchen sink hardly compares as a feat of worldbreaking engineering. But I am, as they say in California, beginning to feel their pain. The costs seem comparable. In fact the sums aren’t dissimilar.
History does not relate what impact the West Hill excavation had on the domestic lives of those involved, but I suspect there might have been more than a little discord over the marmalade. Holes are not glamorous – no matter how essential.
But as viewers of makeover programmes know, there is only one thing more addictive than drugs: the word ‘potential’. Mark has no interest in potential. The only interest he cares about is the stuff that used to come with the savings return. We are stalemate. I can keep the house but meals are off the menu.
Next week: Can you roast a chicken on a Bunsen burner?
Daily tip from the lady archive
“PEOPLE cannot help being influenced by their surroundings and their environment; therefore how all important it is that both of these should be healthy and cheery, for health and happiness both go hand-in-hand.”The Lady. The Blessing of Old Health, 18th November 1920