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1066 Genealogy | Tuesday, 14 April 2015
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All Saints Burials 1813-1828
Transportation A to M
1841 Census
Brett Volume 3: 1841 - 1849
All Saints Burials 1829-1843

From 27th August 2004
856251 Visitors

Brett Manuscripts 1828-64 (Memoirs)


Thomas Brandon Brett 1816 - 1906


Brett was born in George Street, Hastings in 1816, his father being a smith who was found dead in a fishing boat ten years later. As a result from a very tender age he had to act as the support of his widowed mother and help in the house and the care of his brothers and sisters. When his mother married again, in 1828, he was sent to school at Mr. Neve's in Bourne Street. He had only a year and a half at school before leaving to assist his stepfather, a builder.

In 1831 he became an errand boy in a draper's shop near the Fishmarket for 3 years at 4s. a week, the hours of business being from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and often later. In his dinner hour he would run home to help the men in the smithy. He learned to mend and make his own clothes. During the cold winter of 1833 he began to write poetry and started the study of music.

From 1837 to 1839 he was in the post office in George Street, rising at 4.20 a.m. to take in the mail and working there till 10.30 at night. His account of this is a most valuable story in our postal history. The kindly old postmaster, Mr. Woods, taught him to knit shawls and make tables and chairs. His tool chest at that time contained a hammer, a chisel without a handle, a broken carving knife, an old plane and a gimlet.

Then in 1839 he set out for America, but the weather was bad; he had an accident and damaged his spine, and so returned to Hastings. That autumn he started a small school on his own near the St. Leonards Archway in Market Terrace. He was a persuasive teacher and took great pains with the boys, and for a time was requested to take charge of the National School, which he carried on concurrently with his own. In 1844 he married.

Then started a new chapter of his life, a more public one. He established the first brass band to play on the Parade in the evenings and on holidays, as well as a string band much in demand for soirees and entertainments. In 1848, with Philip Hook, he helped to establish the St. Leonards Mechanics' Institution, being elected treasurer in 1853, a position which with that of president from 1888 he held for very many years.

He had a great reverence for the power of the press, and acted as correspondent for the Sussex Advertiser from 1839. Then in 1854 he bought his own printing press and started The Penny Press as a monthly. The following year he commenced the St. Leonards & Hastings Gazette, managed entirely by himself. He might be seen in the mornings running up and town the steps of the leading lodging houses, collecting the names of the visitors; later in the day he would compose his leaders, often setting up the type as he thought out the subject. He also took part in the actual machine work of printing, and finally helped to deliver copies to his subscribers.

As a sidelight on his character it might be mentioned that the man he employed from London to teach him printing for a month said at the end of that time: "I have been thinking over the mistakes of my past life and the money I have squandered. Your energy and perseverance have impressed me so much that I am determined to reform for the future ". He returned to London and kept his word.

Many a time Brett was invited to stand for the town council, but he invariably refused, saying: " I am too independent in politics, and too poor in pocket". On the occasion of his Golden wedding he was presented with an illuminated address and a sum of 200 guineas by his fellow townsmen. He died on April 4th, 1906, in his 90th year.

From Historic Hastings - A Tapestry of Life by John Manwaring Baines

Display # 
 Date Item Title   Hits
10 Apr  Brett Volume 1: 1828 - 1834   1223
10 Apr  Brett Volume 2: 1835 - 1840   871
10 Apr  Brett Volume 3: 1841 - 1849   17577
10 Apr  Brett Volume 4: 1850 - 1852   688
10 Apr  Brett Volume 5: 1853 - 1855   648
10 Apr  Brett Volume 6: 1856 - 1857   482
10 Apr  Brett Volume 7: 1858 - 1859   502
10 Apr  Brett Volume 8: 1860   470
10 Apr  Brett Volume 9: 1861 - part of 1862   519
10 Apr  Brett Volume 10: part of 1862 - 1864   853
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Results 1 - 10 of 10
  Old Photographs (1 items)
  Brett Manuscripts 1828-64 (Memoirs)
  East Sussex Record Office (3 items)
  Ebenezer Chapel (1 items)
  Holy Trinity (Priory) (6 items)
  All Saints Church, Hastings (6 items)
  St Clements Church, Hastings (5 items)
  St Clements Church Halton (4 items)
  Croft Chapel (NonConformist) (3 items)
  St Helens Church, Ore - Old & New (7 items)
  St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings (5 items)
  Other Churches in Hastings (1851) (10 items)
  Local Items of Interest (8 items)
  Genealogical Information (2 items)

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