Our next meeting is on Wednesday, 25 April. Click here for details.
WE HOPE that members will feel inspired to contribute some local history items that they have discovered. To get them published here, please contact us.
From left to right: Glebe Cottage (where the Dennetts lived), Dennetts Stores, stable for ponies (for delivering Dennett’s goods), Delphine’s cafe and Arthur Raylor butcher’s shop.
The house in the background is ‘Little Hill’ and on the right is Darby’s cottage.
From a photograph taken in the 1950s or 60s. The scene is much the same today, with a delicatessen and a Thai restaurant replacing the shops. A sign of changing times and tastes.
THE LAST TEAM OF OXEN Ploughing in Sussex.
Oxen were once widely used across Sussex for ploughing on the Downs. Because of their great strength, they could pull the heavy wooden Sussex plough on the sloping ground; working better and longer than horses. On the right in this photograph, ‘Curly’ Pope holds the goad and the farmer (probably Mr Gorringe of Exceat Farm) stands in the background on the left. Oxen fell out of favour when the reaper-binder was introduced because they could not pull it quickly enough, and horses were used instead. After a short reprise in 1926, when this team was bought by Major Harding of Birling Manor Farm, oxen were never again to be seen working on the Sussex Downs.
Removing the old steps at Birling Gap - now some distance from the cliff edge. October 2017
Installing the new steps nearer the cliff. December 2017. Photographs by Lee Roberts.

At our March meeting Alan Wenham entertained us with an illustrated talk entitled "All in the best possible taste".  This was the history of Eastbourne as a purpose-built resort for the wealthy, developed by the two major landowners: the Duke of Devonshire and the Gilbert Davies family.  They set up a reliable water supply and sewerage schemes, built sea defences, churches and schools and made provision for entertainment and culture - always provided it was "suitable" of course!  They then had to devise a way of keeping it exclusive; one was to not have a continuous road from west to east along the seafront (which explains the kink in the road near the pier as the roads were only joined later).  In 1902 all this was handed over to the Council with certain caveats including no flying kites or playing games on the seafront and definitely no refreshments.  Alan mentioned the Middle Class Union, a national organisation, very active in Eastbourne, which objected to working class people having the vote.  The upper and lower promenades were for the upper and lower classes, and the upstairs of double decker buses was for servants.  Devonshire Park was an exclusive club, open to members only, and even in the public parks there were strict rules about not playing games on a Sunday.  Eastbourne was also known for its high-class department stores including Dale & Kerley and Bobby's.  When it was suggested that trams be used for the workers, the idea was rejected as "lowering the tone" of the town.  However, in 1903 Eastbourne became the first town in the country to have a public bus service, although there were complaints about noise and speeding, and there were no Sunday services until 1922.  The arrival of "excursionists" (day trippers) horrified some of the locals and a serious suggestion was made that a separate branch railway line be built for their use.  A very amusing and enlightening talk.

Christine Reid

From the Black and White Budget weekly magazine, published Feb 23, 1901. Photo by J Coster.
SENSATIONALISED FRONT COVER from the TRUE DECTECTIVE, March 1984. (The scantily clad woman with a gun has nothing to do with it.) Inside, the magazine tells the story of Dr John Bodkin Adams; a doctor with surgeries in Eastbourne and East Dean. Accused of "easing the passing" of his patients, he stood trial at the Old Bailey for murder. You can read the real, but none the less sensational story in booklet 48, written by Dr John Surtees. Decide for yourself whether he was a murder or man of mercy - it is not a clear-cut decision.
Devonshire Park. Once an exclusive club where only the "right sort" could play racquetts and lawn tennis, or take refreshments while listening to a private orchestra.
Ever wondered about the unlikely story of the tunnel running from the Lamb Inn in Eastbourne to the old Parsonage? Sometimes referred to as a smugglers or monks tunnel, it now seems certain that it was a cesspit. Not as romantic a tale but archeologist Jo Seaman finds the truth more exciting and unusual. Watch his investigation report from the cellars of the Lamb here.
This photograph, from the 1950s, appears to show Donald Swann (of Flanders and Swann fame) seated at a harmonium on the village green. We would really like to know more about it so, if you remember the occasion or can identify anyone in it, please contact us.