The literary life of EDWARD JAMES, author,reviewer, occasional poet and former pension adviser to the government of Kyrgyzstan
The Battle of Hastings wasn’t fought at Hastings and William the Conqueror didn’t land here (the events took place at Battle and Pevensey respectively), but Hastings in Sussex does have history of its own which I discovered on a recent visit. Just east of the promenade and the funfairs lies Old Hastings, where they still launch fishing boats from the beach. Among the boatsheds are the Shipwreck Museum and the Lifeboat Museum. Both are worth a visit, but I found the Shipwreck Museum fascinating.
The stars exhibits were salvaged from the Amsterdam, a large Dutch East Indiaman which ran aground on Hastings beach on her maiden voyage in the 17th century. The ribs are still visible in the mud at low tide. What attracted me most, however, was the cargo salvaged from a Danish brigantine which sank offshore in the 1860’s. It was bound from Denmark to the Danish Virgin Islands (since 1917 the US Virgin Islands) with a large consignment of brandy, a marble tombstone for the late wife of a Danish administrator and case after unopened case of factory fresh muskets. Some are still unopened and others are open on display in the Shipwreck Museum.
Why did they need so many munitions in the Virgin Islands? Suspicion is that the ship had a further destination. The American Civil War was in full swing and the ship was running guns (albeit out-of-date guns) to the Confederacy, braving the Union blockade. Well, this cargo didn’t make it across the Atlantic, otherwise the muskets might now be in an American museum.