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Hastings plaque to remind us of Robert Tressell

2023 June 28

Where Ron Noonan lived when writing The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

At the end of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists the radical outsider, Barrington, is being transported in a train away from Owen, and his son Frankie, who were living in Milward Road in Hastings. From the window,“the train emerged into view, gathering speed as it came along the short stretch of straight way… they saw someone looking out of a carriage window waving a handkerchief, and they knew it was Barrington as they waved theirs in return…”

Now displayed on a house in Milward Road is a large plaque. The house is adjacent to the twitter steps (often occurring in Hastings up the steep hills ) and named Noonan’s steps (after Ron Noonan, the man and writer, often published as Robert Tressell).

The plaque, accurately dated as 2 June 1962, has been well recorded by the local writer F.C.Ball in his book, One of the Damned, published in 1973. As Ball clearly explained, in that year, the “TUC Annual Congress of Trades Councils in Hastings” took place.This included the ceremony for the plaque in Milward Road. It was placed there by the Hastings trades council and unveiled by Cller F.Watts, secretary of the Essex Federation of Trades Councils.

In years to come, in 1999, the first weekend event took place of the Robert Tressell festival. Another plaque to Tressell was then unveiled, outside a different place, by Michael Foster MP. He was the first Labour MP in the area from 1997 – 2010. (His presence is still unique as the only Labour MP in this now Conservative parliamentary town). When Foster won the new seat his words were drawn from Tressell, and then recorded in the Hastings Observer with his words , “Mugsborough finally has its first Labour M P.”

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