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From 27th August 2004
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Boykett Breed & Hastings   PDF  E-mail 

Breeds of Hastings  


Notes taken during a lecture given by Tony Hyde - Husband of the grandaughter of James Breed



The first Breeds came to Hastings about 1760, and it was about this time that Hastings began a very long period of change and development especially in the years after the Napoleonic wars (about 1815).  Boykett Breeds, (strange Christian name, but it was his mothers family name), was born in Rye in 1735 and came from a Seafaring family and for about 50 years from about 1790 through to 1840 his sons were very deeply involved in the development of Hastings, and from then until 1931 they ran one of the main businesses in the Old Town - The Hastings Brewery.

The talk is split into three parts :-

1. From about 1760 to 1800 which could be called Mainly Mariners,

2. The second part from 1800 to 1840 can be labelled Merchant and Law

3. Final part is a very short history of Hastings Brewery


Mainly Mariners

In 1762 Boykett Breeds married Sara Wilkes from Battle at All Saints Church.  The first reference in the secular records of the time appears in 1764 and is ‘Feb. 22nd, received from Boykett Breeds for two windings (of the Capstan) to London 16/-’, but the entries increased in number over the succeeding years; other entries include things as ‘spent with Captain Breeds 1/11½d and 1 pint for the Carpenter’- obviously from future entries the Carpenter is a thirsty fellow.


By the time he reached 50 years of age, Boykett had already established a close trade association with London, he was a mariner and also a merchant, and in 1767 he moved to St Clements parish in Hastings and purchased 1, 2 and 3 Hill Street, and at the same time he purchased on the Stade a warehouse.  When he started in 1784 he owned not only the three houses in Hill Street, and a former brew house which was now a school house at the top of Church Street, but he also owned No 4 and 24. He also owned 95 High Street, 2 other houses in Hastings, 2 houses in Rye and 2 other deeds in Hastings.

The dwelling houses were not all required for his relatively small family and so they were let out as Lodging Houses.  That enterprise continued certainly up to the 1840’s in the family, and at times they had as many as 20 houses around Hastings for letting to Summer visitors.  Boykett also let two trading sloops.        Boykett died in 1784 and left 3 sons and 5 daughters.


The three sons, Thomas, James and Mark where all young (all the daughters were younger, so Sarah had a large family to take care of on her own) when their father died - Thomas and James took over their fathers two Sloops immediately and they bought a third Sloop for Mark when he reached the age of 14.  Thomas and James were traders in association with London and both married girls from London and also had houses there; but in fact lived in Hastings.  Thomas lived at Seagulls just up George Street, and James at 95 High Street which he had purchased from his mother.

In 1804 Thomas bought number 23 High Street, James then moved to Seagulls.

Their Coasting trade flourished (mostly Sloops) and by 1789 despite the fact that Hastings trade was going up hugely, both through imports and exports, the Breeds were the sole shippers from the Stade right up until about 1801.


In 1801 Thomas Thwaite joined them and Thwaites and Bailey? were there only rivals / competition right up until the 1830’s, but they certainly had the lions share of the business.

All was not easy going on the South Coast in the 1790’s because of Embargo’s from our own isles, fear of invasion, and French Privateers preying on our trading vessels, and on 14th March 1795 the Breeds partitioned the King and Council stating that “on account of the embargo and intense weather, only 1 vessel out of the 3 that are regularly employed in the Coasting trade between London and Hastings had arrived since Christmas and consequently the inhabitants were very much distressed”.

The 1800 Pier wardens report lists several boats owned by the Breeds that are mentioned in a letter written by the Breeds on 11th August 1799 to the Lords Commissioners at the Admiralty saying “there would probably be a large crop of Hops in the vicinity of Hastings, and there was insufficient quantity of Welsh coal to process them - very serious consequences if this is not available, we prey therefore that the embargo be removed for the Sloop ‘Johnson’ - Nicholas Taylor master;  the ‘Active’ lying at Neath laden with coal, and the ‘Susannah’ Henry Williams master, lying at Rye might be permitted to sail for Swansea or Neath and load Coal for Hastings”.    By 1800 most of the sailing was being done by helpers, the masters of the vessels were no longer the brothers themselves who were now  concentrating on their merchant business.


Thomas’s daughter Martha married James Lancell? and he was a developer who became very involved with the family, James was his heir who took over in 1839.

James the second brother had no sons but four daughters one of whom, Elizabeth married Charles Burfield and their children became James heirs.

Mark had lots of children but only one named Boykett is of interest.


Merchant and Law

In 1802 Mark decided to leave the family partnership and in a letter of that date, the brothers say that for several years past they had been involved in the following:-

Coasting Trade - (up to 60 vessels found connected to the Breeds up to 1875).

Trading and Merchants - mainly groceries and wholesale goods.

Barrack Agencies - supplying goods and materials for building Martello Towers, Coal to troops etc.

Shipbuilding and Rope making

Coal trade. etc.     

All the very essentials of life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


Most of their trade was the coastal trade although on the 17th Feb. 1816 the Lloyds register lists the vessel ‘The Four Sisters’ on her maiden voyage transporting 900 barrels of Herring from Hastings to Venice and arriving safely - the only entry found to date connected with fish.

Barrack Services was the supply of anything required by the forces including the land - Thomas and Mark were involved in the sale of the land at Halton to the War Department, and then no doubt supplied the building material, food, coal, ale and anything else that they may have required.


No evidence has been found that the Breeds were involved in the Rope Walk in the Old Town, but in a solicitors note dated 12th December 1800, it is stated that  “several persons trading under the firm of Messers Breeds and Company have within about the last 3 months erected a large building of Red Brick and made a very long rope walk on part of the ‘Outlands’ and the Sea Beach claimed as part of the estate called the Dissolved Priory in the parish of Holy Trinity, Hastings” also mentioned by Barry a few years later.

The objection that was raised by the solicitor obviously did not succeed as they were there until 1835 when the Crown Lands were cleared.

A clear indication as to the date of the commencement of the Rope Walk.


Shipbuilding - the only documentary evidence apart from the 1802 indenture is the sale of the ‘John and Mary’ and the description that she was built at Hastings by Hamilton and Breeds, dated 25th September 1803.  John and Mary was an 81 ton Sloop and remained in Breeds service until 1826 - during the war she was reported as coasting with 2 cannonades simply for defence.  Breeds incidentally did have an interest in 1 Privateer which was the ‘Earl Wellington’ from 1813 to 1815.

Hamiltons did have a ship yard from about 1802 or 3 to about 1811 behind the Rope Walk and the John and Mary could have been built there, but he sold it to the Breeds who rented it out to a third party until 1824 when they took over possession of the yard and divided it between themselves (Thomas and James).


All the enterprises required blocks of warehouses and a picture painted by Thomas Hearn of the ‘Noah’s Ark’ which they owned showed an example of one, and in the museum archives is an indenture of when Thomas sold it to James in 1814.  Their partnership broke up in 1829, when they had 5 other warehouses and huge areas of ground in the town of Hastings where they stored their coal and timber plus other goods, and also several warehouses in Pevensey and London.


Coal - In 1831, Nephew Boykett and Thomas were advertising Welsh Coal for the use of the Hop Growers to dry their Hops, and they also exported it for the population of Hastings.  The only Coal Merchant in the town from about 1807 to 1830 although there were others from time to time.       Coal trade was continued until 1875.


The farms that they owned as merchants tended to be used to support their merchant business and their other businesses, and the first task of the farmers was to provide for the teams of horses kept either at the farm or at the yard.       From 1802 to 1820 the partnership owned Hole Farm (manager Benjamin Lingham up to about 1811) which overlooked Alexander Park (at that time Hop Gardens) and this was used specifically to maintain the teams of horses that they required.


In 1810 Thomas purchased the 100 acre farm on the road to Guestling, bought as a private venture, separate from the partnership - at the same time James got possession of  the Parker Charity Lands - at a rent of £210 per annum, he then rented the land for about the next 14 years.

About 1/3rd of a mile short of the White Hart on the road to Guestling is a barn that was burned down during the Swing Riots, and for which act a Mr. Buffard was executed at Lewes Jail in 1831, but Mr. Buffard was innocent as another man on his death bed confessed to the crime - the barn was later rebuilt and shows a stone with the initials and date of the rebuilding. T.B. 1831

One of Thomas’s horses named ‘Sharper’ had the honour of towing a tug from Hastings to London laden with two pleasure boats.


After 1802 they were involved in a whole series of other trades

Lime Burning - Wellington Square in 1800 (120,000 bushels produced in any one year) and in 1830 when son Boykett was bankrupt, Thomas and his son James took on the Lime Burning, but moved it to near Bo-Peep until the mid 1840’s

The management of the London wharf from 1800 to 1839  (between 1 and 4 storeys) was the job of Thomas Breeds and Thomas Farncombe  who after Thomas Breeds died in 1839 became Lord Mayor of London.


The Breeds Bank was founded in 1803/4, the documents say 1803, but it began trading in 1804, in Number 33 High Street, next door to the entrance to Breeds Yard - the partners names that appear on the Bank Notes of the day were Thomas Breeds, Henry and Thomas Farncombe, Mark Breeds and Edward Whenam.


One of their first recorded operations was the purchase of the Swan Inn from Edward Millward junior the year after his father died, a floor plan of which was exhibited.


In 1820 there appears to have been a change in the arrangements at the bank as the Bank Notes from this time onwards bear the name of Thomas Breeds and Company; but the bank closed in 1825 - Thomas was still referred to as ‘a banker’ in documents dated as late as 1827.    Also in 1820 Edward Whenham purchased the Swan from the other partners of the bank for the same price the bank had originally paid for it in 1812, and he kept it till about 1825 when William Eldridge purchased it from him.


Nelson Buildings in the High Street was built by Mark, the youngest of the three brothers  in 1815 (he was a builder and developer) and he tended to take the main interest in the banks building development, particularly in Wellington Square and the Castle Hotel - built about 1818 onwards.  The bank partners retained almost all of the buildings in Wellington Square and for many years let them out for visitors during the summer or to Doctors and other well-to-do residents at £80 to £100 per annum.


The Castle was the first project the developers built and was then leased out to Mr. Everett, and now Thomas and his nephew Boykett purchased the Estate at Bohemia from Mr. Collingwood for £12,000 - they let the main house to a business associate and then set about selling various of the outlying fields for building, at some stage they divided the Estate between themselves. 


In 1831 when Boykett was declared bankrupt, the part of the estate that he owned was sold and bought by Mr. Briscoe at auction - some years later Thomas sold to Mr. Briscoe part of the estate that he owned, but they also re-purchased the Halton Barrack area in 1823 and Thomas and Boykett then started to develop it.


Thomas also purchased from Mr. Millward in about 1824 the area of land on which Breeds place was built a few years later and an area of the High Street that was not developed for a number of years.    In 1828 his son in law James Lancell built Breeds Place and named it after his wife.


Coaching - One document in the family archive refers to Thomas and James complaining that they were being charged to much tax for coach calls and hired hands at their stables on the route to London  -  they all had a mutual hatred of the tax man.     James owned the Paragon and Thomas possibly owned the Regulator - when they commenced this line of business is not certain but it was probably in the 1820’s and Thomas closed his interest in the Regulator about 1835, - James lost interest in the Paragon when he went bankrupt in 1836/7. As well as these two coaches, James and his nephew Boykett had interests in the mail, but in 1830 James took it over and ran it until about 1836.  In the voters roll of 1836/7 both Thomas and James are shown as having mail coachmen, but only James is listed as having mail coachmen in 1837.


Brewing - James at the Phoenix Brewery and Thomas at the Hastings Brewery had Brew Houses from the first decade of the century - the Phoenix lasting until 1908 and the Hastings Brewery until 1971.


The Breeds have been involved as Merchants, Bankers, Brewers,  Coasters, particularly coal and groceries, Lodging Houses owners, Rope and Sail Makers on the America Ground, Ship builders, Lime burners, Developers and builders in a time when Hastings was erecting some lovely buildings, Farmers, Barrackers up to 1815, and lastly Coaching to London.


Hastings Brewery

Thomas’s enterprise started in the first decade of the 19th century, and by 1818 he had seized an opportunity to purchase an area immediately outside the fence of Breeds Yard to extend the Brewery which was rebuilt in 1828.


In 1839 Thomas died and was succeeded by his son James who by now was aged about 39 or 40, and he continued the business, all the merchant business and in particular the Brewery on very much the same lines as his father had done. (Coal advert of 1855)


He lived with his mother at 23 High Street, the family home, until she died in 1850 when he then married Ann Wilson from London and who then produced 11 children at number 23.


One of the 12 Inns that he inherited in the Hastings area was the “Jolly Sailor” licensed to open at 5am.


From 1839 to 1875 James was in charge of the family business which began to move away from general things because of the arrival of the railway in Hastings, the town was getting bigger and specialisation was clearly becoming much more necessary. He had three children amongst the 11 that merit mention - Thomas, the favourite son (always called Tom) who succeeded his father in 1875, Madeline, one of several daughters, but who married Albert Sayer, and who were later to become the parents of Alfred Carlisle Sayer who gave the Fairlight estate to the town, and finally James who is the Grandfather of Tony Hyde’s wife.


When Thomas or Tom took over the Brewery in 1875 he realised that he had to move onwards more than his father had done, and gave up all the associated trades, the last ships were sold, and from 1878 to 1880, he concentrated on rebuilding the whole brewery.     In 1897 he decided the brewery was to be turned into a limited company which gave him more capital which he used to produce a very fine modern bottling plant, he also put in a very fine stable for his horses that remained there, mostly for transport until about 1920.


The brewery trade which until 1900 had flourished, then fell on very hard times, but in 1908 the other brewery The Phoenix was sold. The year before in 1907, the Nethers brewery was taken into receivership and 1903 was taken over by Breeds Brewery.

Fortunately Tom weathered the storm and by 1917 things began to abound.


In the 1920’s Tom, who had taken on an Analysist as early as 1880, won numerous prizes at Brewers exhibitions.  In 1930 when Tom was by now 78 years of age and still working, he wanted a Breeds successor, but was unable to persuade his nephew to take over the business because he had another career.


Tom then looked round for a buyer for the Hastings Brewery which he found in George Rigdon of Faversham who purchased the Brewery in March 1931, taking over on the 19th of that month - Tom died on the 31st of March 1931.


This to all intents and purposes was the end of the Breeds relationship with the Old Town of Hastings. His widow lived until 1965.      





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