A country park of unspoilt sandstone cliffs, broken by gorse and tree-covered glens tumbling down to the sea, stretches for five miles from Fairlight to Hastings. A lofty spot where at one time you could see 70 martello towers, 66 churches, 40 windmills, five castles, and three bays.
In 1927 the then Prince of Wales came to open the famed gorse Firehills as an ‘open space’. He arrived at 3 pm on 26 April, left 25 minutes later and, judging by his glum expression, did not enjoy the experience at all!
In the churchyard is buried Thomas Attwood Walmisley (1814-1856), who became Professor of Music at Cambridge at the tender age of 22 and so improved the internal workings of the organ at Trinity that the college boasted its instrument was unique and would be an object of curiosity for years to come. He was a friend of Mendelssohn, editing several of the composer’s compositions and apparently unabashed when the great man roundly condemned one of Walmisley’s own symphonies.
A wreck under the cliffs here in the 19th century left bodies, fragments of pianofortes and casks of spirits lying on the shore. There was only one survivor, a lad who was found clinging to the rocks, raving mad. News of the disaster sent crowds of men rushing to the beach to tap the casks, Coventry Patmore recording with disgust that some of them literally drank themselves to death and lay with other corpses on the beach. Patmore placed the blame for this excessive behaviour in the midst of a tragedy on the fishermen of Hastings. No doubt the good people of Fairlight did as.