What would you give a princess on a royal visit to Hastings? A seaweed dress perhaps?

Tim Scullion, who runs the Wow and Flutter record shop in Trinity Street, Hastings, sent us some fantastic photos of relics from his shop's history that he's recently uncovered.

Wow and Flutter's old shopfront
Wow and Flutter's old shopfront

He says: "There’s recently been some storm damage to the Wow & Flutter record shop at 8 Trinity Street.

"Removal of the damaged façade revealed a shop sign for Hayhurst & Wright builders and decorators which is a beautiful old sign.

"But behind that sign is another! M Smout seaweed and flower shop. Beautiful gold leaf signage in very good condition.

M Smout seaweed providers

"My friend Robert Finn who is a master signwriter responsible for much work in George Street and elsewhere described it as an incredible double discover, “the real deal”, he said.

Tim points out the article on the Hastings Pier archive website: https://www.hastingspierarchive.org.uk/content/catalogue_item/seaweed-shop-hastings

In this newspaper's research into this interesting shop we came across the following from the Round the Memorial column of The Hastings and St Leonards Observer Saturday November 23, 1940.

"The Seaweed Shop

"How many of the older readers of "Round the Memorial" remember the Hastings Seaweed Shop?

"It was reputed to be the only one in Sussex and was situated at 8 Trinity Street.

"I was not aware that such a shop existed until this week, when I was shown a copy of the special edition of the Observer which was brought out to commemorate the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales to Hastings in 1882.

"An advertisement on the cover of this special issue drew attention to the shop and stated that M. Smout (of London) would be happy to show ladies fringes, dress trimmings, feathers, flowers, fans and headdresses made from seaweed.

"These elegant novelties, continued M Smout are exceptionally beautiful, when mounted in shells or coral, for table decoration and she added that ladies own collections would be preserved and mounted to order.

"A woodcut among the many illustrations of the Royal visit in the souvenir edition depicts a seaweed bouquet which was presented to the Princess of Wales by the boys of Highbury house School, St Leonards.

"It was a very elegant and dainty affair, no doubt one of M Smout's outstanding achievements in her unusual art of marine florist.

"To judge from this picture and the illustration in her advertisement M Smout must have been as skilful as any mermaid in adapting the more delicate forms of submarine foliage to the purposes of personal adornment.

"As a table decoration, a seaweed bouquet was doubtless more ornamental than the contemporary aspidistra and almost as tough.

"Since the days of M Smout's shop Hastings has found another use the seaweed, less decorative but more practical. I mean, of course, the employment of seaweed in the in the Medical Baths at White Rock."

Perhaps seaweed clothing is the next big thing?