Our next meeting is on the 23 October. 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.
This was our stall and exhibition at the Village Fete in July. Although heavy rain and lightning were predicted, there were only a cloudy sky and a fresh breeze to contend with. Some pegs and guy ropes needed adjusting to keep everything steady but one WI tent was lifted skyward on a strong gust. Fortunately no-one was injured.

There were lots of visitors to our stall and booklet sales were good.  Many new members were signed up and, in the end, the sun came out.
This is how the bar of the Birling Gap Hotel looked in the 1960s with its unusual indoor thatch. The woman behind the bar is Sandra Collins, who ran the hotel along with her husband Graham and father-in-law Jack. Additions to hotel were given planning permission in July 1988 and again in September 1989, so it is likely that the bar stayed the same until then. Thanks to Esther and Sid Worsfold for supplying this information.

This Roll of Honour contains the names of old boys of Eastdean and Friston School, who served their King and Country in defence of our homes and lives, in the Great War 1914-1918. When right fought might, keeping our word on a 'scrap of paper'.

Perhaps you have read this on the newly restored Roll of Honour, now hanging in the Village Hall, and wondered what it meant.

The 'scrap of paper' referred to is the Treaty of London, signed on the 19th April 1839 by Great Britain, Austria, France, Prussia and Russia, guaranteeing the sovereignty of the newly recognised country of Belgium. Despite this Treaty, Belgium was invaded by Germany on 4 August 1914 and, as a result, Britain declared war on them. The German Chancellor (von Bethmann-Hollweg) was reported to have been angered by the move and said that "just for a scrap of paper Great Britain was going to make war on a kindred nation who desired nothing better than to be friends with her."
In our archives is an old map showing the land purchased by Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) to form Eastbourne Downlands, which was set up to protect this spectacularly beautiful part of the South Downs. There were very few planning restrictions in the 1920s and large areas of the Downs were being lost to speculative house building. Concerned voices were raised at the prospect of Eastbourne losing its surrounding Downland. In 1924 Councillor J W Woolnough spoke to the local Chamber of Commerce about the rampant loss of the open Downs to ill-conceived housing schemes. Many in the town realised that Eastbourne depended upon tourism for its prosperity and that the Downs were one of the main attractions.

EBC, persuaded by Mr Woolnough’s Downs Preservation Committee, concluded that the only practical way to prevent development was to buy the Downland adjacent to Eastbourne. Although the council’s plan to fund the land purchase by increasing local taxes was approved unanimously at a statuary meeting of rate payers, the council had to get Parliament's approval to buy the land. Below is a list of the
1,659 hectares or 4,100 acres, purchased for a total of £91,291. 1s. 7d.
Here is a photo of how the Birling Gap Hotel looked during the 1950s. Is that well real or just a way of prising loose change from unsuspecting visitors?
No, it turns out it is just a gate!
This lovely old photo shows a marriage party on top of Beachy Head. It appears to be after the wedding because the bride's veil is raised. Perhaps the party are making their way from East Dean Church to a reception at the Beachy Head Hotel.

One of the largest bee farms in the country used to be on the edge of where Sussex Gardens now lies. The farmhouse, called Dene Cottage (later Falmer House), was demolished when Sussex Gardens was built.


The vicar of the parish at the time Rev. A. A. Evans, himself a keen beekeeper, wrote about the apiary in the Sussex County Magazine,  dated April, 1928:


“The East Dean Apiaries, which are run by Mr. Arthur Sturgess, B.Sc., with, as partner in the work, Major Soden, have now a reputation all over the English-speaking and bee-keeping world. This is due, not so much to the extensive apiaries, where queens of high pedigree are bred, and drones of special type, are sold all over the country but to the owner and director, Mr. Sturgess. For some years he has been recognised as one in the forefront of British bee-keeping.”


The grave of Arthur Sturges, ‘beemaster’, is in East Dean churchyard, and the bus stop near where Cophall meets the A259 was called ‘Bee Farm’ for many years.