The present Hastings United club was formed as Rock-a-Nore during a meeting in the London Trader in 1893; the club was made up mostly of fishermen and boatmen from the Old Town and used one of the pitches on the East Hill as their home pitch. The club entered the Carlisle Cup for the 1893-94 season and finished third in a five team league.
The 'Tanfrocks', as they were nicknamed, went on to win the 1894-95 Carlisle Cup, their second season in existence and went on to win the cup again in 1896 and 1897. In 1896, the club became founder members of the East Sussex Junior League, which soon changed its name to the Hastings, Eastbourne & District League, finishing runners-up to Rye for the 1896-97 season. Following another season in the District League, with a second team playing in the Carlisle Cup, the club were inactive for the 1899-1900, 1900-1901 seasons for reasons unknown, however they returned for the 1901-02 season and would go on to win the Carlisle Cup another three times between 1902 and 1904.
In 1904 they entered the East Sussex League and were given permission to play matches at the newly constructed 'Sports Ground' sharing with St Leonards United. However their stay at the ground was short lived and they were back playing on the East Hill the following season. The club remained in the East Sussex League at least another four seasons, ending the 1907-08 season as champions, before leaving a returning to the Hastings & Eastbourne District League were they remained until the outbreak of World War One.
Rock-a-Nore became founder members of the Sussex County League in 1920, finishing fifth in a twelve team league. In April 1921, it was decided during a meeting that the club would change their name to Hastings & St Leonards Football Club, the reasons being that the club were the most senior side in the town and no one outside of Hastings knew were Rock-a-Nore was. Soon after the name change a merger with All Saints was proposed and discussed, however the move never went through due to the All Saints club not wanting to lose their identity, despite the failed merger several All Saints players joined Hastings & St Leonards. Old Town United changed their name and took on the identity of Rock-a-Nore FC in August 1921.
The club remained in the County League for another six seasons, before leaving to join the Southern Amateur League in 1927. The Southern Amateur League was affiliated to the Amateur Football Association (AFA) and was based in the greater London area. Hastings won division two in their first season and were promoted to division one, containing Ipswich Town, Eastbourne and Carshalton. The club won the league three seasons in a row between 1935 to 1937, finishing as runners-up in the 1937-38 season, before winning the league again in the 1938-39 season. Hastings returned to the league after the second world war, finishing in second. However they left the league in 1946 to join the Corinthian League.
1948 saw the formation of Hastings United, which unfortunately for Hastings & St Leonards, forced them off the Pilot Field, unable to match United's offer to rent the pitch. Unable to find a suitable venue to for Corinthian League football, the club withdrew from the league after fulfilling only one fixture.
After an absence of one or two seasons, the club were playing in the East Sussex League by the 1951-52 season, with a reserve team playing in division one of the Hastings League, using the upper pitch at the Pilot Field as their home pitch. In 1952 the club were founder members of division two of the Sussex County League, alongside Hastings Rangers and Rye United. Hastings initially struggled in the division, finishing bottom in their first two seasons and spent the majority of the 1950s and 1960s finishing no higher than mid-table. In 1976 the club changed their name to Hastings Town and went on to win division two in the 1979-80 season, earning promotion to Division One, where the club remained until 1985.
1985 saw the demise of Hastings United, which meant a move back to the Pilot Field (the old lower pitch) for Town and acceptance into the Southern League. Town played in the Southern Division until the 1901-92 season where the side lead by Peter Sillet, won the league championship and promotion to the Premier Division. The club saw further success in the 1900s winning the Southern League Cup, beating Leek Town on aggregate, and the Sussex Senior Cup, with a 1-0 win over Crawley Town.
Mark Gardiner, a local lottery winner previously involved with St Leonards Stamcroft, became chairman ahead of the 1997-98 season and made a generous playing budget available for manager Garry Wilson. However the club never made it any higher than mid-table and Wilson was sacked after a FA Trophy loss to Bath City, with Dean and Terry White taking over. The duo lead the club to another Sussex Senior Cup win, for the second time in three seasons, beating Burgess Hill 2-1 at Crawley Town. The following season, Town finished in fifth place, despite this off the field the club were in turmoil. With Gardiner no longer on the scene, the club were in administration and were looking at the prospect of playing in the Sussex County League the following season, after the Southern League refused to allow the club to withdraw their resignation from the league after proposals to transfer to the Isthmian League fell through. However, a last minute bid from a consortium led by Mick Maplesden saved the club and the Southern League allowed the club back into the Southern League, entering in to the Eastern Division.
After two seasons failing to win promotion back into the Southern Premier, the club were successful third time round, winning the league in the 2001-02 season and the summer of 2002 saw the club change their name to Hastings United, taking on the identity of the original club. Now back in the Southern Premier for the 2002-03, the club started strongly and would reach the first round of the FA Cup, losing to Stevenage 1-0 at Broadhall Way. Despite this, the team's form dropped and would see the club relegated back down to the Eastern Division, with it the exit of manager George Wakeling and the majority of the playing squad.