Foyle’s War: A Who-Done-It in Hastings

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For those who have never seen the ITV program “Foyle’s War” I’ll quickly explain it. Foyle is chief of detectives in Hastings and the original setting was the years from 1940 to 1944 when the war in Europe was on. In each episode Foyle has a murder mystery to solve, and there’s a continuing storyline for each main character. It’s a true representation of what World War 2 was like for ordinary Brits: under bombardment and living with very strict rationing of food, gasoline, clothes and more. The program stars Michael Kitchen, a popular British actor, who portrays Foyle. It moves through time over several seasons until reaching the end of the war. It was so popular, however, that’s it was revived with new programs set in post-war Hastings. If you haven’t discovered it yet, look for it on your PBS channel or find the programs on Amazon.

Hastings’ position on the southern coast of England made it a natural target for German bombers, sometimes due to inaccurate information. The first bombing was carried out by a single plane. In total the town was bombed 85 times, resulting in the loss of 154 lives and many more injuries. Today it’s easy to see how many buildings were destroyed because post-war style houses stand in their place. At the beginning of the war more than half the population fled the town: the population dropped from 65,000 to around 20,000. This website has many details of the war years in Hastings:

Having seen Old Town Hastings on many episodes of this program I’ve had Hastings high on my list of places to visit in England for a long time. I’ve been surprised by the town in some ways but not at all disappointed. The bartender at the pub where I had lunch on Wednesday told me where to find “Foyle’s House.” Hastings’ Old Town section largely survived the bombing of the town from 1940 to 1945 intact. It is filled with ancient houses, many of them antique shops today. In researching the history of Hasting during the war I found a blog in which one woman, Victoria Seymour, details the filming of Foyle’s War and the war years in Hastings. On her blog Mrs. Seymour has posted this graphic which shows the places that were bombed in Hastings during WW2. Each black dot represents a bombing.

bombsites[1]

courtesy of Victoria Seymour

Here are a few pictures I’ve taken that may look familiar to fans of Foyle.

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This is Foyle’s house, which is on Croft Street in the heart of the Old Town, near the old church.

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The door to the house which is seen in many episodes when “Sam” (Foyle’s young female driver) calls for him in a circa-1940 automobile.

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This is the parish church that survived bombs falling all around it for five years. It’s at the other end of the block from Foyle’s house.

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Today the church graveyard is filled with English blue bells in bloom.

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Croft Street is lined with medieval houses although “his house” is probably turn-of-the-20th century.

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The streets with the oldest homes in Hastings have elevated sidewalks on one side of the street, presumably because the streets were leveled at some point to accommodate their hillside location.

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This street called Swan Terrace which runs up the side of the church shows how hit-or-miss the bomb damage was.

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This is Swan Terrace again. Notice the empty lot at the bottom of the street. This was the scene of the Swan Inn, built in 1523. On Sunday, May 23, 1943, at lunch time, a bomb was dropped on the inn killing 16 people and injuring many more. The inn was not rebuilt and the location, today a small park, serves as a memorial to all who lost their lives in Hastings during World War Two.

Libbie

About Libbie Griffin

For several months recently I've been traveling around Europe. Write to me at in.my.suitcase.too@gmail.com if you would like to receive a very short email each time I post new words and pictures here. I would love for you to tell your friends who love to travel about this blog. And I would be very happy to read about your experiences, your suggestions and your questions in the comments section. Let's make this blog a conversation! Thanks! Libbie Griffin
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