Robert Tressell

Photograph of Robert Noonan sitting on a gate at Old Roar Hastings c.1908

Photograph of Robert Noonan sitting on a gate at Old Roar Hastings c.1908

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Robert Tressell wrote "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" in Hastings between 1906 & 1910. Much of the book is based on his experiences of working in the town as a signwriter and decorator.

Tressell was the pen name of Robert Noonan who was born in Dublin in 1870. He was brought up in Ireland and England but left to make a new life in South Africa where his daughter, Kathleen was born in 1892.

In 1901 at the outbreak of the Boer War Noonan returned to England and settled with his widowed sister, Adelaide in Hastings. Another sister, Mary Jane was already living in St. Leonards where she ran a school.

Museum Accession No: HASMG 989.34.71

Noonan worked for a number of local building firms between 1901 and 1911, including Bruce & Co of York Buildings, Adams & Jarrett of Alfred St, St. Leonards & Burton & Co of Upper Queens Road.

In August 1910 Noonan left Hastings for Liverpool leaving the manuscript of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in the care of his daughter, Kathleen.  He had intended to set sail for Canada but was admitted to hospital with advanced tuberculosis and died on February 3rd 1911.

The first, edited, version of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was published by Grant Richards in 1914.

The manuscript of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has been in the care of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) since 1958, and can be viewed on the TUC History Online website.

The Tressell Collection can be viewed on the Access to Archives website.  From the search page, select 'Hastings Museum and Art Gallery' from the Location of Archives list, then click Search.

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