The story of the Fairlight Residents’ Association
What were its origins and how did it develop
Part 2 – 1947 and the early years:
This year, 2017, we are celebrating the first seventy years of the Fairlight Residents’ Association, the FRA. In part 1 of this story we looked at the FRRA, the earlier incarnation that had represented the residents up until the war years, but had then ceased. After WW2 ended, the residents of Fairlight realised that once again they needed an association to look after certain local matters of the time.
There was no FRA in 1946 but in 1947, many notable events hit the headlines, including Thor Heyerdahl crossing the Pacific in Kon-Tiki, the brand Ferrari S.p.A. was created and launched the 125S, the transistor was invented, the C.I.A. was founded, Princess Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh and Tommy Lawton was sold by Chelsea FC to Notts County for £20,000, the highest transfer fee in British football at the time. (see photos attached). Not making the news was the formation of the FRA in 1947.
We cannot find the very first minutes, but we have the first official Minute Book covering the period from 17th November 1947 until 20th April 1951. As we mentioned in part 1, the most pressing 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, the R.A.F. and other services. Indeed, the FRA would appear to have been created to act for the Fairlight Cove frontagers in claiming their share of the compensation in negotiations with the owners of the roads who were the recipients of the compensation. The early minutes are predominantly about the negotiations with the landowners and then deciding how to actually carry out the work to all the damaged roads utilising the net funds when they were paid to the FRA. We will detail some of this below.
However, there are some important facts to note from those early days. Firstly the initial annual membership was one shilling. Nominally, one shilling equates to £0.05. This seems a very low fee compared to the current £5, being exactly one hundred times more expensive, but when modern equivalency formulas are applied, the current equivalent purchasing power of one shilling appears to be anywhere from £1.58 to £8.96, depending on the basis of the calculation. £5 would therefore seem to be about the same in real terms.
In the beginning there was no regular newsletter or magazine. Despite this, annual membership fees had to be collected, but apparently this was proving a problem due to a shortage of volunteers. The solution was to introduce a fee for the ‘collectors’ as an incentive. According to the minute of 21st September 1949, each collector would henceforth be paid one penny for every one shilling collected. (Back then, they were not even carrying heavy bundles of magazines up and down the roads of Fairlight!). It seems that this system still did not do the trick because in 1950 the committee considered increasing the fee to two pence per shilling collected, but we do not know the outcome of that particular idea. We also do not know when fees were dropped altogether. (Does anyone remember?).
Another major difference in 1947 was where to meet and hold events. There was no Fairlight Village Hall in 1947, so the committee had to find suitable venues. It seems that routine committee meetings were held at the homes of individual committee members, such as, Stockdale, Waites Farm, Pinehurst, Thalassa and Stream End, but larger gatherings, such as AGMs or social events were held at The Barn, The Fairlight Cove Hotel and Quarry Hall, Church Lane. (Quarry Hall seems to have been part of the Fairlight Sand Quarry set up, located where the Firehills carpark and toilets are now). However, in December 1949 the first village hall appeared, after a few false starts, and ever since then it has acted as home to the FRA.
So, looking back at the state of the roads, the most important event of those early years, we see those very familiar words – pot holes. However, alongside these words we also see “cart ruts”, a problem we no longer have on our roads! In the late forties the roads were not nearly as good as our present billiard-table smooth roads! Many were unmade and after years of neglect and continued punishment from military vehicles something had to be done. Mr. Godfrey West, the solicitor acting for the road owners, is quoted as saying “The roads in question were never roads as such and were in a very indifferent condition in 1939”. The seven roads named were Waites Lane (from Fairlight Cove Hotel to the Haddocks), Broadway, Cliff Road, Rockmead Road, The Avenue, Smugglers Way and Sea Road. (nb This section of Waites Lane was later renamed Lower Waites Lane and Cliff Road became Cliff Way).
Accordingly, after protracted negotiations the Military Authorities agreed to pay £516 7s 9d to the owners of the Fairlight Cove Estate but the net sum to be made available by the owners to the frontagers was first mentioned to be £450 after their deductions. It seems that after talks between the owners and the frontagers were slow. After a time, it was agreed that the FRA would represent the frontagers and oversee the distribution of the monies in question. The final net figure paid over to the custody of the FRA was £300. Negotiations for the exact application of this money were contested and disputed all the way, but utilising local contractors and free local manpower the work was duly carried out.
Later the condition of the first section of Waites Lane and of Hill Road, following the operations at R.A.F.Grangewood (located on the southern side of Hill Road) also became the focus of FRA assistance. As the funds dedicated to the maintenance and repair of roads throughout all Fairlight were very limited, contributions were sought from frontagers and the FRA maintained separate accounts for the road repairs under three separate headings. The annual accounts of the FRA even as late as 1960 show these as separate items, namely, “Cove Roads” (the seven mentioned above), “Waites Lane” (the first section from the garage to the hotel) and “Hill Road”.
As the problems of the roads unravelled and the functions of the FRA became clearer, the familiar issues of our village began to emerge. Early minutes cover bus shelters, water supplies, seats on the cliffs, steps down to the sea and candidates for the Parish Council and for Battle RDC. The Post Office was often under discussion and many residents were pressing for sub-branches both in the centre of the Cove and near the church. Nothing became of these ideas.
Also found in the first minute book is the attached poster and newspaper cutting giving details of the first FRA social event, an “Informal Social Evening in the lounge of the Fairlight Cove Hotel” held on Friday the 1st December 1950.
We hope that the above snippets from 1947 and the formative years of the FRA give you some insight into those early post-war days and in part 3 we will look at the introduction of the Fairlight News and the increased role of the FRA in the development of Fairlight.
By Paul Draper.