In 1956, the local people of Hastings were worried that the fishermen’s way of life was changing so rapidly that some aspects might disappear forever. In order to quickly document this world, they decided to convert the fishermen’s church of St Nicholas into a museum. The building had fallen into disuse after The Second World War, so this rejuvenation seemed ideal.
The most startling, and impressive, thing about the museum is the way that the church space has been transformed. At the centre of the building is a huge ‘lugger’ boat, which leaves just enough room for an array of fishing related artefacts to be displayed.
This boat is a dream come true for nautical enthusiasts like my friend’s young nephew. As he rushed up the steps to the old lugger, and kept us up-to-date with ever-changing weather reports, it soon became clear that this was no longer an old church – it was a sea captain’s world of adventure!
For me, this is why The Fishermen’s Museum is so effective, because it brings the fishermen’s story to life perfectly. As a child myself, I remember visiting the space and feeling a sense of what it must be like to be open to the elements. This sense is heightened by the museum’s fantastic location at Rock-a-Nore, where it nestles between striking black fishermen’s huts, and fishing boats that are still in use.
Walking around the space, and focusing on the displayed objects, enriches this initial physical experience. Stuffed sea birds; detailed models; beautiful oil paintings and emotive photographs all tell the fishermen’s story. Local peoples’ reflections, as they take in these objects, also embellish this unique world.
Having grown up near Hastings, places like The Fishermen’s Museum illustrate why this town is such a distinctive and fascinating place. From stories of incredible bravery and hardship, to the ever complicated rules of the Winkle Club, this is a space that is well worth exploring.