This "No–Man's Land " made it attractive to squatters, who began to settle on it from about 1800 onwards. Some of the earliest of these lived in the rotting hulks of abandoned boats or in the half ships left after the Excise Men had sawn captured smuggling ships in half. Others put up shanties of whatever materials came to hand. However, it did not take long before more substantial cottages were constructed, as well as work buildings for a variety of trades. When the Crown surveyed its new land holding it granted residents seven-year grand leases, expiring in Midsummer 1835, by which time the whole site had to be cleared. The ground by then had buildings on it which were quite substantial and it was estimated that 1000 people were living on what was generally referred to as the America Ground, a name applied after the inhabitants had demonstrated their independence from Hastings Corporation by hoisting the American flag. It had become almost a township in its own rights.
As well as the Rope–walks of Messrs Thwaites and Co and Breeds & Co, and Hamilton's shipyard, the area also housed a stone mason's shop, a baker, a shoemaker, a cow – keeper and representatives of a variety of other trades and occupations. Mark Boykeet Breeds had a sawing house, a lime kiln and a coal store on the site of the present Brassey Institute, and were the Holy Trinity Church now stands was a gin house called the Black Horse. There was even a schoolroom above the stables.
Independent to the end, most of the "Americans " refused to accept the leases offered them and paid the rents demanded only intermittently or not at all. In November 1834 the following Michaelmas served all with notices to be off the land.
Many found a way to have the last laugh. They had to go but when they went they took their dwellings with them. Local historian T.B Brett put it, they " migrated…with their houses on their backs!" How it was managed is uncertain but buildings were transported in their entirety to new sites, mainly in St Leonards, and re – erected. Twenty-eight buildings in central St Leonards have been identified as having been moved bodily from the America Ground and there could be more.