Photo: Tom Gilling


So far as we have been able to establish, the Admiralty built Helena Court in 1884 for retired naval captains. The building was constructed as a row of large terrace houses and was quite grand. What is now the back of the building was then the front, and there would have been good views of the sea. Helena Court is still the highest building in St Leonards visible from the seafront. During the First World War the building was used as a barracks. Much damage was caused, and major restoration was carried out afterwards. Part of this was the conversion in the 1920s of the East wing 'houses' into flats -- 15 today.

The building then became the property of the Housing Association for Officers' Families, sponsored by Princess Alexandra. Wounded officers, widows and their immediate families were offered flats at low rents. This was the first real community, and the children even produced a Helena Court newsletter in the 1930s. During the Second World War, Hastings and St Leonards were regularly visited by the Luftwaffe and bombing damage was severe. Hence an air raid shelter was built in the garden. Bombs and a V-1 went off in close proximity to Helena Court, which may account for a number of cracks and loose windows.

After the war, officers' families continued to rent until 1978 when Stability Structures Ltd. (Ewell) bought the property and introduced today's leases. The 1987 hurricane caused considerable damage, which resulted in insurance disputes and then in a dispute between residents and the landlord. After sale to another commercial landlord which was followed by swingeing demands for maintenance payments, the leaseholders in 1990 finally acquired the freehold of the property through the Residents Association as part of a settlement.