Robert Tressell

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. He returned to England at the outbreak of the Boer War in 1901, and settled in Hastings with his widowed sister Adelaide.

Noonan worked for a number of local building firms, which provided background and characters for his book.  In August 1910 he left Hastings for Liverpool, leaving the manuscript of "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" with his daughter.  He planned to set sail for Canada but was admitted to hospital with advanced tuberculosis and died on 3 February, 1911. The first edited version of the book was published by Grant Richards in 1914.

As well as archives linked to Noonan himself, Hastings Museum has archive collections on politics and early Socialism of that period.  This is one of the stories featured in 'The Story of Hastings in 66 Objects'.

  • Robert Noonan sitting on a gate
    Robert Tressell

    This photograph shows Robert Noonan sitting on a ...

  • Kathleen Noonan
    Kathleen Noonan
    This photograph of Noonan's daughter was taken in ...
  • The chancel of St. Andrews Church decorated by Noonan
    The chancel of St. Andrews Church, Hastings.
    Noonan decorated the chancel of St. Andrews Church, ...
  • An example of Noonan's work as a sign writer on a building on the corner of Perth Road and Battle Road
    Robert Noonan's work as a sign writer
    An example of Noonan's work as a sign writer on a ...
  • Meeting of the Social Democratic Federation outside the Queens Hotel, Hastings
    Meeting of the Social Democratic Federation
    This photograph of June 1907 shows a meeting of the ...
  • Hastings Branch members of the Independent Labour Party standing with a banner designed by Noonan
    Hastings Branch members of the Independent Labour Party

    This 1938 photograph shows Hastings Branch ...

  • Toby King in his coffin debating the vanities of human life
    Toby King in his coffin.
    Toby King was a colourful local character, well known ...
  • The Welsh miner's choir during a lockout
    Welsh miners choir
    This Welsh miners' choir toured the Hastings area ...
  • Socialist Literature Depot at 51 Robertson Street Hastings
    Socialist Literature Depot
    Socialist Literature Depot at 51, Roberston Street, ...
  • Socialist Democratic Party membership card for 1910 belonging to C. Deadman
    Socialist Democratic Party membership card
    Socialist Democratic Party membership card for 1910 ...
  • National Democratic League membership card belonging to A. Sellings
    National Democratic League membership card
    National Democratic League membership card belonging ...
  • Harvey du Cros was M.P for Hastings from 1906-08
    Harvey du Cros
    Harvey du Cros was M.P. for Hastings from 1906 to 1908.
  • Workmen with a handcard in Elphinstone Road
    Workmen with a handcart in Elphinstone Road
    Workmen with a handcart in Elphinstone Road, Hastings ...
  • George Easton was a radical socialist, he is second from the left on the front row
    Building workers in Hastings
    George Easton was a Radical Socialist & ...
  • London Road - the last home of Robert and Kathleen Noonan
    London Road, St Leonards on Sea

    Robert & Kathleen's last home was a few doors ...

  • Decorations by Robert Noonan of the chancel in St. Andrews Church in 1905
    Wall Painting from St. Andrews Church
    Robert Noonan was employed by Burton & Co to carry ...
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