Down at the Stade in Hastings there are sheds that have grown upwards, tall and thin. They stand alone or in rows, 43 of them. They lean on each other and look tarry. These are the fishermen's net shops of years ago. (Shops as in 'workshops', that is.)

When nets were made from cotton and hemp, fishermen had to dry and store them every day. And ropes as well. They had three kinds of net, which they liked to keep separate (herring nets, mackerel nets, trawls). But there used to be 112 net shops, so there wasn't much room. Which is why they're only thin. The Corporation set a limit of an area 8ft square. So the fishermen built their net shops tall, with three floors and a ladder up the inside.

It was raining as I walked among the wooden walls. The net shops were locked. The fishermen were not there. '80 days at sea: 285 days unemployed' it said in white paint across the side of one of the beached hulks.

Across the shingle the fishing boats were coming in. The fishermen dragged them up the shore with winches and caterpillar tractors. The cables wound and stretched to breaking. Nobody told me to get out of the way. But they did not have time to talk about their sheds. Only 80 days at sea] They had to get their boats ashore; they had to get the crabs out of their nets; they had to move their fish.

Women came to meet some of them from the sea. A winchman stood and watched. I wanted to ask him about his shed. 'I ain't got one,' he said.

I trudged back across the shingle towards the sheds. A fisherman came and showed me one that wasn't locked. Inside were a bike and two pink baths on top of each other.

The Hastings fishermen's net shops are at Ordnance Survey Grid Reference TQ 827094.

Comments