Bexhill-on-Sea facts for kids
Eastern end of the South Downs from Bexhill
|Area||32.31 km2 (12.47 sq mi)|
|• Density||1,274/sq mi (492/km2)|
|OS grid reference|
|• London||51 miles (82 km) NNW|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||South East Coast|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
Bexhill-on-Sea (often simply Bexhill) is a seaside town situated in the county of East Sussex in South East England. An ancient town and part of the local-government district of Rother, Bexhill is home to a number of archaeological sites, a Manor House in the Old Town, an abundance of Edwardian and Victorian architecture, and the famous De La Warr Pavilion: today a modern-art gallery – which has featured the work of Andy Warhol amongst others – and performance hall, where the likes of comedian Lee Evans and author Michael Morpurgo have appeared.
The first reference to Bexhill, or Bexelei as it was originally called, was in a charter granted by King Offa of Mercia in 772 AD. It is recorded that King Offa had 'defeated the men of Hastings' in 771 AD.
At this time, the term Hastings would have referred to this whole area rather than the town itself as it does today. In the charter, King Offa established a church and religious community in Bexhill.
Norman Conquest of 1066 it appears that Bexhill was largely destroyed. The Domesday survey of 1086 records that the manor was worth £20 before the conquest, was 'waste' in 1066 and was worth £18 10s in 1086. King William I used the lands he had conquered to reward his knights and gave Bexhill manor to Robert, Count of Eu, with most of the Hastings area. Robert's grandson, John, Count of Eu, gave back the manor to the bishops of Chichester in 1148 and it is probable that the first manor house was built by the bishops at this time. The later manor house, the ruins of which can still be seen at the Manor Gardens in Bexhill Old Town, was built about 1250, probably on the instructions of St. Richard, Bishop of Chichester. The Manor House was the easternmost residence owned by the bishops and would have been used as a place to stay while travelling around or through the eastern part of their diocese. There were often disputes between the Bishops of Chichester and the Abbots of Battle Abbey, usually about land ownership in this area. In 1276 a large portion of Bexhill was made into a park for hunting and in 1447 Bishop Adam de Moleyns was given permission to fortify the Manor House.
In 1561 Queen Elizabeth I took possession of Bexhill Manor and three years later she gave it to Sir Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset. The Earls, later Dukes, of Dorset owned Bexhill until the mid 19th century. Their main residences were Buckhurst Place in Sussex and Knole House in Kent.
In 1804 soldiers of the King's German Legion were stationed in barracks at Bexhill. These troops were Hanoverians who had escaped when their country was overrun by Napoleon's French Army. As King George III was also the Elector of Hanover, he welcomed them and they fought as part of the British Army. At about this time, defensive Martello Towers were built along the south east coast, some near Bexhill, in order to repel any French invasion. In 1814 the soldiers of the King's German Legion left Bexhill, eventually playing an important part in the Battle of Waterloo the following year. The German troops had been here to protect Bexhill from the French. However, many of the local people were actively trading with the enemy by way of smuggling. The best known of the local smugglers were in the Little Common Gang and the most famous incident was the infamous Battle of Sidley Green in 1828.
In 1813 Elizabeth Sackville had married the 5th Earl De La Warr, and when the male line of the Dukes of Dorset died out in 1865 she and her husband inherited Bexhill.
It was the 7th Earl De La Warr who decided to transform the small rural village of Bexhill into an exclusive seaside resort. He contracted the builder, John Webb, to construct the first sea wall and to lay out De La Warr Parade. Webb, in part payment for his work, was given all the land extending from Sea Road to the Polegrove, south of the railway line. Opened in 1890, the luxurious Sackville Hotel was built for the 7th Earl De La Warr and originally included a house for the use of his family. In 1891 Viscount Cantelupe, his eldest surviving son, married Muriel Brassey, the daughter of Sir Thomas and the late Annie, Lady Brassey of Normanhurst Court near Bexhill. The Manor House was fully refurbished so that Lord and Lady Cantelupe could live in style as Lord and Lady of the Manor. Finally, the 7th Earl De La Warr transferred control of his Bexhill estate to Viscount Cantelupe. When the 7th Earl De La Warr died in 1896 Viscount Cantelupe became the 8th Earl De La Warr. At this time he organised the building on the sea front of the Kursaal, a pavilion for refined entertainment and relaxation. He also had a bicycle track made, with a cycle chalet, at the eastern end of De La Warr Parade. These amenities were provided to promote the new resort. Meanwhile, many independent schools were being attracted to the expanding town due to its health-giving reputation. The railway came through Bexhill in 1846, the first railway station being a small country halt situated roughly where Sainsbury's car park is today. This was some distance from the village on the hill. A new station, north of Devonshire Square, was opened in 1891 to serve the growing resort. In 1902 the current railway station was opened and a Bexhill West Station was built for the newly built Crowhurst Branch Line.
1902 was the year that Bexhill became an Incorporated Borough. This was the first Royal Charter granted by Edward VII. Bexhill was the last town in Sussex to be incorporated and it was the first time a Royal Charter was delivered by motorcar. To celebrate the town's newfound status and to promote the resort, the 8th Earl De La Warr organised the country's first ever motorcar races along De La Warr Parade in May 1902. The town was scandalised at this time by the divorce of Earl De La Warr. Muriel had brought the action on the grounds of adultery and abandonment. She was granted a divorce and given custody of their three children. Muriel, with her children, Myra, Avice and Herbrand, went back to live with Earl Brassey at Normanhurst Court. The 8th Earl De La Warr remarried but was again divorced for adultery. He also suffered recurrent and well-publicised financial difficulties. At the start of the First World War in 1914 the Earl bought a Royal Naval commission. He died of fever at Messina in 1915.
Herbrand Edward Dundonald Brassey Sackville became the 9th Earl De La Warr. He is best known for championing the construction of the De La Warr Pavilion, which was built and opened in 1935. The 9th Earl also became Bexhill's first socialist mayor. He died in 1976.
The Second World War caused the evacuation of the schools and substantial bomb-damage to the town. Many schools returned to Bexhill after the war but there was a steady decline in the number of independent schools in the town. The break-up of the British Empire and in particular the Independence of India in 1947 hastened the process. Most of the schools were boarding and catered largely for the children of the armed forces overseas and of the colonial administration. Although the number of schools decreased, many of the parents and former pupils had fond memories of the town and later retired to Bexhill.
The most notable landmark in Bexhill-on-Sea is the De La Warr Pavilion. The De La Warr Pavilion is a Grade One listed building, located on the seafront at Bexhill on Sea. The seafront building was the result of an architectural competition initiated by Herbrand Sackville, 9th Earl De La Warr, after whom the building was named.
The 9th Earl, a committed socialist and Mayor of Bexhill, persuaded Bexhill council to develop the site as a public building. The competition was announced in the Architects' Journal in February 1934, with a programme that specified an entertainment hall to seat at least 1500 people; a 200-seat restaurant; a reading room; and a lounge. Initially, the budget for the project was limited to £50,000, although this was later raised to £80,000. Run by the Royal Institute of British Architects, this competition attracted over 230 entrants, many of them practising in the Modernist style. Shapes tend towards streamlined, industrially-influenced designs The architects selected for the project, Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, were leading figures in the Modern Movement.
The aesthetics employed in the International Style proved especially suited to the building, tending towards streamlined, industrially-influenced designs, often with expansive metal-framed windows, and eschewing traditional brick and stonework in favour of concrete and steel construction. Amongst the building's most innovative features was its use of a welded steel frame construction, pioneered by structural engineer Felix Samuely. Construction of the De La Warr Pavilion began in January 1935.
The building was opened on 12 December of the same year by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). During World War II, the De La Warr Pavilion was used by the military. Bexhill and Sussex in general were vulnerable if the Germans decided to mount an invasion (Operation Sea Lion). Amongst those who served at the Pavilion during the War was Spike Milligan, later a noted comedian. The building suffered minor damage to its foundations when the Metropole hotel adjacent to the building's western side was destroyed by German bombers. A dramatic stairwell in the pavilion After the War, management of the Pavilion was taken over by Bexhill Corporation (which later became Rother District Council). Changes were made to the building, many of which were inconsistent with the original design and aesthetic of the building. Lack of funds also resulted in an ongoing degradation of the building’s fabric. In 1986, the De La Warr Pavilion was granted a Grade I listed Building status, essentially protecting the building from further inappropriate alteration. 1989 saw the formation of the Pavilion Trust, a group dedicated to protecting and restoring the building.
Playwright David Hare notioned that the site be used as an art gallery as opposed to an expected privatised redevelopment. In 2002, after a long application process the De La Warr Pavilion was granted £6 Million by the Heritage Lottery Fund & the Arts Council, to restore the building and turn it into a contemporary arts centre. Work began in 2004 on the De La Warr Pavilion’s regeneration and a transfer of the buildings ownership from Rother District Council to the De La Warr Pavilion Charitable Trust. In 2005, after an extensive programme of restoration and regeneration, the De La Warr Pavilion reopened as a contemporary arts centre, encompassing one of the largest galleries on the south coast of England. A small collection of archival materials related to the De La Warr Pavilion is collected in the Serge Chermayeff Papers held by the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University in New York City. The Art Deco and International Style building was designed by the architects Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff and constructed in 1935. Although sometimes claimed to be the first major Modernist public building in Britain, it was in fact preceded by some months by the Dutch-influenced Hornsey Town Hall.
A Site of Special Scientific Interest lies within the Bexhill district—High Woods. It is of biological importance because it is the only known sessile oak Quercus petraea woodland in East Sussex. Fossils are also commonly found in Bexhill. In 2009 the world's oldest spider web was found encased in amber in the town. It was 140 million years old. In June 2011 it was reported that the world's smallest dinosaur had been discovered at Ashdown Brickworks near the town. A single vertebra was found. Beeches Farm is a Grade II listed building.
Old Town: The original town on the hill, chartered by King Offa in 772.
Cooden: In the southwest/west and plays host to a golf club and tennis club.
Little Common: A small village in the west near Cooden.
Pebsham: An area to the east of the town, it is near Sidley.
Sidley: Another area, it is in the north.
Collington: A residential area near Cooden.
Bexhill New Town: The main part of Bexhill. There are several roads with a variety of shops, a railway station, a library and the De La Warr Pavilion on the seafront.
Barnhorn: An area west of Bexhill; its name survives in Barnhorne Manor and Barnhorn Road (a section of the A259). The name was recorded in AD 772 in an Anglo-Saxon charter as Berna horna.
Bexhill is on the A259 road which forms the coast road between Folkestone and Brighton. Plans of an A259 Bexhill and Hastings bypass have repeatedly been postponed over the past 40 years but the plans were cancelled due to environmental concerns. A new road was approved in 2012 and completed in 2016 at a cost of £100m
The town is served by the coastal railway line between Ashford and Brighton and has three railway stations, including Cooden Beach, Collington, and Bexhill. Regular trains run to Brighton, Ashford and London. Bexhill is served by 13 bus routes including school routes which serve the surrounding areas like Hastings, Battle, Conquest Hospital, Eastbourne and Pevensey Bay Asda (Free bus on Wednesday's). The area with the most bus services is between Sidley & Bexhill which has the route 2 (Asda free bus), 95, 97 & 98.
The railway built by the Brighton, Lewes and Hastings Railway (later part of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway) arrived on 27 June 1846, although the present station was not built until 1891, when the town had become popular as a resort. A second line, this time built by the South Eastern Railway and approaching the town from the north, was a branch line from Crowhurst via an intermediate station at Sidley to a terminus at Bexhill West. The line opened on 1 June 1902 and closed on 15 June 1964. The branch was also closed temporarily between 1 January 1917 and 1 March 1919 as an economy measure during the First World War.
Sport and leisure
Bexhill-on-sea has two Non-League football clubs Bexhill United F.C. who play at The Polegrove and Little Common F.C. who play at the Recreation Ground.
Bexhill-on-sea also has a sports and social club - Bexhill Amateur Athletic Community Association. This club is located on Little Common Road, and also has a football club, Judo, Keepfit classes and a fully equipped gym
Bexhill-on-Sea Golf Club (now defunct) was founded in 1890. It closed at the time of WW2.
Bexhill on sea is also the home of Rother Swim Academy, offering swimming lessons to children. Founded in 1990 and family run.
Marina Court Garden officially opened on 6 July 2015 with the Bexhill Rotary Club Wheel Coin collector (Bexhill Observer).The open space on the Marina, next to the De la Warr Pavilion will provide an area to sit and relax. Rother District Council Chairman opened the Garden and President Raouf Oderuth of Bexhill Rotary Club unveiled the Coin Collector. The proceeds will fund local nominated Charities.
- The second murder in Agatha Christie's The A.B.C. Murders takes place in Bexhill-on-Sea.
- The town inspired a The Goon Show episode, The Dreaded Batter-Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea.
- The 2006 dystopian film Children of Men portrays a shattered Bexhill as a government-quarantined refugee camp for immigrants.
- The song "Sovereign Light Café" by the band Keane refers to a café on Bexhill seafront.
- In the book Utz by Bruce Chatwin the protagonist went to Bexhill-on-Sea during his adolescence to learn English.
- In Foyle's War Series 5's 2nd episode Casualties of War the Bexhill-on-Sea POW Camp serves as a location.
- Residence of Madame, a character in the film Never Let Me Go.
- In the famous semi-autobiographical Thai novel "Lakhon Haeng Chiwit" or "The Circus of Life" written by HSH Prince Arkartdamkeung Rapheephat in 1929, the Victoria House on Middlesex Rd., Bexhill-on-Sea was once the residence of Prince Arkartdamkeung.
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