An article in four parts by Paul Draper published in Fairlight News in 2017
The story of the Fairlight Residents’ Association
What were its origins and how did it develop
Part 1 – The origins:
This year, 2017, we will celebrate the first seventy years of the FRA, the Fairlight Residents’ Association, but how did it all start?
Shortly after WW2 ended, in 1947, the residents of Fairlight realised that they needed an association to look after the pressing local matters of the time. The most important matter seems to have been the need for compensation from the Military Authorities for the damage inflicted on all the local roads by the army and the other services. We will look at this story in greater detail, but first we need to look further back.
We, the FRA, are lucky enough to have not only the Minute book covering the years 1947 to 1951 but also for the years 1929 to 1938. How are there records from before the war? Well the book covering the years 1929 to 1938 is actually for an earlier association called the Fairlight Ratepayers and Residents’ Association, the FRRA!
We do not have the records for the FRRA from the beginning, but newspaper articles from the time tell us that this association was formed in 1924. The Minute book contains the minutes of each ordinary meeting during that period but does not contain the AGM minutes. Luckily for us the FRRA Secretary took it upon himself to send an outline report of each AGM to the local paper, the Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, and these records are still available. The first record we can find is in the year 1927 and it seems that the FRRA started with yet another name, but it was undoubtedly too long to remember, namely ‘The Fairlight Cove (Waites Estate) Ratepayers and Residents’ Association’. This latter name was only changed in 1928 to the then FRRA “in order that all ratepayers in Fairlight should be eligible to join”. In fact, yet another name was reported in the HSLO in 1926, namely the ‘Fairlight Property Owners and Ratepayers Protection Association’, but this name was unsubstantiated.
As can be surmised from the early names, the primary concern of this early association was to obtain a fair level of rates for residents of the new properties in Fairlight Cove and the rest of Fairlight parish. It seems that the proposed rate for our region were nearly double that for Hastings. Obviously similar differences were encountered across the county because the FRRA was obliged to join the Federation of East Sussex Ratepayers’ Associations. When this Federation aligned itself politically with the National Union of Ratepayers Associations, the FRRA faced strong objections and resignations and so voted to leave the Federation.
The first Chairman of the FRRA was Captain Francis Vernon Wilson (sometimes referred to as Commander). From what we can ascertain, Captain Wilson was an influential character in the early days of Fairlight Cove. It seems that following the Fairlight Hall Estate sales in 1917 and the subsequent rapid change of ownership of the lands of Waites, Wakehams and Warren Farms over the first few years, it was Captain Wilson who purchased Waites Farm and set about the development of this part of Fairlight Cove. He lived at Waites Farm until he moved away in 1931 and died later that year. He passed the ownership of his properties to his family, notably his younger siblings and it was they who continued the development of the estate. Many of you will probably find their names in your deeds or in the early covenants covering your land.
Anyway, when we look at the subjects covered by those early minutes it seems that nothing changes. The problems seem very familiar, namely cliff erosion, the state of the roads, unmade in those early days, drainage and the telephone kiosk at the Post Office.
We do not have records after 1938, but we must conclude that the FRRA stopped functioning during WW2 and when it was revived after the war, it was relaunched as the Fairlight Residents’ Association in 1947.
In the next part we will look at the formation of the FRA and the early issues of the village.
By Paul Draper.