The museum is housed in a former church (dedicated to St Nicholas) which was built on the beach in 1854 to serve the local fishing community. It operated as a church until 1939 but was turned into a museum in 1956 by the Old Hastings Preservation Society.
It looks after one of the famous net huts next to the building where you can also find the Edward and Mary which, in 1919, became the first locally-built fishing boat to be installed with an engine, and The Valiant, which was built in Newhaven in 1953 and worked from Hastings until 1999. On the beach in front of the boats is an anchor dating from Napoleonic times.
Exhibits in the museum include model ships and boats, fishing gear, historic paintings and photographs illustrating the Hastings fishing industry.
Fishermen and their Boat
Hastings is one of Britain's oldest fishing ports. Boats have worked from the beach in front of the ancient town for over a thousand years, supplying Hastings with its basic industry and main tourist attraction.
The Hastings Fishermen's Protection Society preserves the fishing community's medieval right to carry on using that beach - known as the Stade - for ever, free of charge. On the Stade there are more than 25 boats, the largest beach-launched fishing fleet in Britain. The Society is based in Hastings Fishmarket, which was built in 1993 by a non-profit company created by the Society. In 1986 the Society set up the Fishermen's Co-op, a retail shop selling all types of fishing gear. The Co-op, also known as the Fishermen's Shop, has its own website. The Society looks after a charity, the Fisherman's Institute, which owns a large building in the heart of Hastings Old Town.
The Institute was founded in 1882 to help distressed fishermen and their families. With another local charity the Society jointly runs the Fishermen's Museum, visited by over 140,000 people every year.