In 2022 ATownExploresABook hosted a programme of events, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to mark the 150th anniversary of Gensing Gardens.
Free family holiday workshops run by ATownExploresABook artists included musical instrument-making, clay, field recording, basket weaving, and storytelling, and a summer fete and community picnic took place in the park in August 2022, organised by ATownExploresABook mentees.
Award-winning musician and composer Ruby launched ‘Shoon Akai’ (romani language for ‘listen here’) – a composition commissioned as part of this ATownExploresABook22, and Erica Smith worked with Hastings Borough Council’s Tree Officer, Chris Wilken, on a ‘tree map’ of Gensing Gardens – there are over 150 trees in the park including some oaks that pre-date it.
A Friends of Gensing Gardens group was also launched in 2022.
The earliest reference found in local history of Gensing Gardens is dated 1702, when the land was owned by Charles Eversfield, a Sussex politician. The land belonged to the Eversfield Estate, which consisted of multiple plots or ‘parcels’ of land throughout Sussex. Particularly within the local Parishes of St Leonards, Hollington, Saint Mary of the Castle, Maudlin, St Mary Magdalen and St Michael.
In the last Will and Testament of Charles Eversfield upon his passing in 1749, it is written that the Estate was divided. A large portion of the land was given his son, Sir Charles Eversfield and the remainder was sold off or traded as debt repayment.
Thomas Deudney was a tenant of the Estate and as such, he became a trustee of Eversfield Estate in 1750. Upon becoming a trustee, he then acquired his own substantial holding of the land. It was during Thomas Deudney’s ownership of the land in St Leonards that it was then referred to as ‘Gensing Farm’. The farm remained within the Deudney family for three generations and served as such. There are documents that make reference to cattle sales in ‘Wallis Farm’, a plot located under what is now Alfred Street.
In 1826 James Burton, an architect from London had negotiated the sale with the Estate trustees for a portion of the land in St Leonards, including Gensing Farm. Burton purchased three quarters of a mile by half a mile of coastal land, which included a woodland valley ‘Gensing Wood’. It was announced in 1828 that building on the land would commence, plans consisted of grand terraces, public entertainment buildings, villas and service areas. Burton passed in 1837 and the land was acquired by his son, Decimus. A second phase of building began in 1850 once Decimus had acquired more land and could extend the development. He continued to develop and live in St Leonards for the remainder of his life.
By 1872 the gardens had been opened officially, by the Mayor on July 3rd and were designed by competition winners Messrs Moring and Vernon. The site was known as ‘Gensing Pleasure Grounds’ prior to 1889 before being renamed ‘Gensing Gardens’ to which it is still known today.
Early-career artist Yasmin Aishah carried out research into the history of Gensing Gardens at The Keep Archives in Lewes, and created this page as a lasting legacy of the project.