Harris Woodcock

There is a great sadness and a feeling of enormous loss in the Old Town at the news that John Napier, better known as John the Cobbler, will never again hold court in his shop “Cobblers to the Old Town” in the High Street.

He passed away during the early hours of Monday 9 April after a long and hard battle with cancer. Our condolences are with his long term partner Sandra and the family.

While flower tributes have been piling up outside the shop, locals are sharing memories and anecdotes about John: some funny, some sad, but all ending with the same words –
“I will miss him so much”.  There are very few people here who have not been touched somehow by his generosity and kindness, so many that remember having a laugh or sharing a drink with him at one of his famous Saturday afternoon gatherings.

He transformed our favourite shoes and boots into shining items that could be worn again, even if we ourselves thought they were beyond repair. He was there when we locked ourselves out or lost our keys, even if that meant locking up shop himself. He was there when you needed a seagull rescued from your chimney or anywhere else      he got it safely to the RSPCA, even if that meant smashing up your wall.

His shop became the hub of the town where visitors and newbies would get their initial information, locals their latest bits of gossip. Event organisers could leave their  paperwork, tickets and collection boxes safe in the knowledge that John would take care of them.

All dogs were welcome and treated to a biscuit.

I was fortunate enough to be his friend and neighbour for 20 years. He lent me his tools, sharpened my knives, took in my early morning deliveries, and gave me  – as he did for so many others    a shoulder to cry on.

In the words of a long time Old Town resident who shared John’s Scottish roots, I say farewell to this irreplaceable man: he was a “right guid soul”.

A funeral service for John will be held at the Opus Theatre 24-25 Cambridge Road on Thursday 26 April at 1 pm.


We hope you have enjoyed reading this article from Hastings Independent. The future of this volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.