Hastings has been called “the most famous town in the world”. It is famous for the Battle of Hastings in 1066, one of the most significant battles in European history, when the Normans under William the Conqueror defeated the Saxons under King Harold.
Hastings is an urban seaside conurbation in an economic area that is home to approximately 180,000 people (90,000 in Hastings itself). In 2013 Hastings was voted joint “best town in England” by the British Academy of Urbanism. In early 2014 the economic think tank Centre for Cities reported that Hastings topped a list of 100 UK cities for lowest CO2 emissions per capita, and 9th highest for number of patents granted.
Heritage and environment
The town has a wealth of Tudor, Victorian, art deco and modern architecture. It lost its importance as a major port in medieval times, but is still home to one of Europe’s largest beach-launched fishing fleets. Hastings’ built environment is set within a stunning natural landscape, with 10km2 of parks, gardens, and nature reserves, as well as 3km of seafront, good walking trails and cycleways. It is surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in the south east of England.
Culture and character
The town’s quirky, and even Bohemian character, contributes to its appeal as a visitor destination. A popular programme of events and the community’s strong sense of place and unique cultural identity continue to draw cultural visitors.. Annual events, such as the Hastings International Chess Congress, international piano competition, Coastal Currents Art Festival and Seafood and Wine Festival complement community led events such as the annual Jack-in-the-Green Festival on May Day holiday weekend, and Hastings Week in October which culminates in a massive procession and fireworks display on the beach to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.
The town is home to a wealth of traditional family seaside attractions, such as the Smugglers Adventure caves, aquarium, and “crazy golf” course (which hosts the world crazy golf championships annually) are popular with families and day-trippers in the summer. There is a good range of more highbrow cultural attractions, such as the modern Jerwood Gallery with its world-class collection of 20th century British art, Hastings Museum and a number of smaller galleries and performance venues. The formerly derelict Hastings Pier is currently undergoing major restoration prior to opening in spring 2015.
Hastings suffered a downturn in the mid 1900s due primarily to the decline of traditional seaside tourism, and it is still one of England’s more deprived towns, with high unemployment and low average wages.
However, a number of employment sectors are now playing a significant role in the economic revival of the town, Hastings has a small but significant cluster of advanced engineering and high tech manufacturing industries. Components made in Hastings are currently on Mars, while others are in the CERN Large Hadron Collider. Global firms such as General Dynamics have centres here, and Hastings is also home to one of the strongest ultra-high vacuum, photonics and optics clusters in the UK. The growth of the finance and insurance sector is helping to counter shrinking employment opportunities in the public sector.
Creative and cultural industries have also been identified as key drivers for economic growth locally, and the number of creative entrepreneurs and established companies who choose Hastings as a base for their business has grown significantly in the past few years. Hastings is one of only five urban areas in England with net migration out of London of 22-30 year olds…
A growing number of higher and further education students attracted to the new vocational college and University of Brighton’s campus in Hastings is also bringing new life to the town’s night-time economy, and Hastings has long been home to a range of schools providing English language courses for large numbers of international students.
The development of new office and industrial space, improved high speed broadband, and investment in further and higher education to improve workforce skills are stimulating new private investment in jobs and business growth.