Eastbourne's Napoleonic Fortress was built to keep the French armies out. Now it welcomes visitors in.
When the fortress was built in 1807 the winning bidder for the work was not the cheapest or best value, but the man who had bought up all the local brick supplies and so was the only man capable of actually completing the work! The Redoubt was garrisoned up until the start of the 20th century but never saw the anticipated French invasion. The fortress came back into military use again during both world wars. In 1926 the Eastbourne Corporation (now the Borough Council) purchased the fort for the sum of £150. With a maintenance bill running to many millions now, this doesn't seem like such great value anymore.
The fortress is now home to the museum collections of the Royal Sussex Regiment and the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars which explores the history of two cavalry regiments, the 4th Queen's Own Hussars and The 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars. There is an interesting exhibit on their role in the infamous failure that was the "Charge of the Light Brigade" during the Crimean War.
There is also an interesting section on the history of Eastbourne during the second world war. Eastbourne became the most heavily bombed town on the south coast because the German command had believed the town was home to armament factories (it wasn't). As a local person it is quite disturbing seeing photographs of local residential streets that I know so well depicting heavy bomb damage and carnage.
When it starts to snow Eastbourne looks magical! It seems that the architecture and elegance that was designed for the summer sun does just as well in the snow. Unfortunately it doesn't happen very often, but in the last few years we have had at least one or two days of snow each year, usually in January, sometimes February or December. When the snow comes (and providing it isn't windy) I like to grab a hot coffee and head for the seafront. It's a wonderful sight, but if the wind picks up it will be absolutely freezing!
My favourite photos of Eastbourne in the snow are in my travelogue.
Eastbourne Seafront really can be divided in to 2 parts at the pier. To the West is the area more traditionally associated with the town's tourist trade with the elegant Edwardian promenade, the Bandstand and the Wish Tower, along with many of the major hotels. To the East is a more family orientated and more modern (but no less attractive) offering.
The highlights of the Western Seafront are (for me) the Wish Tower and the gardens at Holywell at the extreme Western end of the promenade.
The Wish Tower was one of 14 Martello Towers constructed to defend the bay between Beachy Head and Hastings from attack by the French following the survey of South East coastal defences in 1793. In terms of the overall chain of coastal defences it is also known as Tower 73.
Until very recently the Wish Tower was blighted by an adjoining café which I could only describe as an eyesore. It was a thoroughly ugly mid 20th century monstrosity which ruined the site in my opinion, especially as the offering inside made you grateful for the architecture! Fortunately this has gone now. We are now awaiting the arrival of what has been described as an "iconic building" which will house a new catering offering on the site. But since the old café has gone it is now much easier to appreciate the Napoleonic fort for what it is itself.
Eastbourne's grand and elegant Victorian Town Hall was built between 1884 and 1886 to house the Borough Council of the rapidly expanding town. Interestingly this was not the first choice of site for the town hall but was eventually picked because it was cheaper than the other options and the Duke of Devonshire (who was the major local land owner) provided this site at a fair price. The location had been the location of the village stocks in the past, where criminals would have been punished.
The Borough Council has a very detailed account of the history of the building on their website.
The building is usually only accesible to the public if attending a meeting, a wedding or registering a birth or death. You could try contacting one of the Borough councillors or the local democracy team to arrange to see the inside if you so wished.
Eastbourne Borough Council are changing their ways of working and have a view to stop using most or all of the Town Hall as office space in the near future so that it can become more available for community use. This may mean it becoming more accesible to visitors.
The Towner Art Gallery is the home for Eastbourne's collection of contemporary arts as well as a wide variety of temporary exhibitions which include some big names in the world of modern art.
On the first floor is the collection gallery which shows off items from the Towner's own collection, usually with a particular theme. The second floor has temporary exhibitions. This is a vast open space full of light and so allows a wide variety of different exhibitions to take place here.
Many of the staff are local volunteers and often are very enthusiastic about the exhibitions and will be pleased to give you as much background information as they can if you ask.
Entrance is free although donations are appreciated.
Eastbourne's Pier is one of it's most memorable images and has been used as a film set on a number of occasions in recent years - most recently in the film "Made in Dagenham" when it 'played the part' of Brighton Pier becuase Eastbourne Pier looks more like what an English seaside town pier should look like in it's heyday.
It is much better maintained (and cleaner) than many other piers are now around the English coastal resorts and has all the traditional English seaside things on it - fish and chips, Victorian tea rooms, souvenir shops, amusement arcades and of course (and most importantly) the wonderful views both out to sea and back across Eastbourne's elegant Edwardian seafront.
I like to visit the pier on a Sunday afternoon, get a portion of chips covered in salt and vinegar, and then go to the end of the pier and eat them whilst taking in the view and watching the people go by.
The famous cliffs of Beachy Head are the highest point in a string of chalky rock faces that slice across this rugged stretch of coast at the southern end of the south downs. It’s a spot of thrilling beauty, at least until you remember that this is also officially one of the top suicide spots in the world!!
Eastbourne is the pre-Wimbledon ladies tennis tournament. It has a relaxed atmosphere and is a great place to spend a weekend (or a week for the hardcore tennis fans).
Wonderful if the weather's nice.
Crap is the weather's crap!
I've never actually been inside this place but I know it is all about the history and heritage of Eastbourne.....a town apparently created *By gentlemen... for gentlemen*. Hmmmm... no wonder it's never been my favourite place!
Still, it's somewhere to go to pass an hour on a wet afternoon.
A stroll up to Beachy Head from Eastbourne will take a couple of hours. It is very windy on most days but the views are stunning. Hang gliders are often seen here as it is a well positioned spot to leap off of cliffs!
What about the war I hear you say. No? Oh well, it gets a guernsey here anyway. In a country that has been involved in its share of conflicts it can hardly be surprising that there will be relics somewhere and it must be remembered that this area of Britain was sort of at the pointy end of the last major conflict.
The facts are that it is South East England’s largest military museum with thousands of objects covering 300 years of conflict on land, sea and air.
It's actually housed in a Napoleonic era redoubt fortress and the museum itself is in the casemates (barracks) of the old fort. Amazingly, to some, it's situated right beneath the grass you see here.
Many other events taking place during the summer including 1812 (think overtures here) military band concerts and living history events.
If you're after the unusual in museums you could try the Wish Tower Puppet Museum or, and I suspect this would apply especially for the ladies, the Museum of Shops (I'll just wander over to the Military Museum dear, see you in an hour or two).
1st April to 5th November: Open daily 9.30am to 5.30pm (last entry to the museum 4.45pm).
1812 Concerts with Fireworks every Wednesday 11am and Friday evening from mid June to early September.
There's also a reportedly good RNLI lifeboat museum which I didn't have time to visit that you may consider in your itinerary.
Eastbourne Council are always taking good care of the the flower beds on the seafront - they colours do look lovely but it's such a shame the whisk them all out so quickly to be replaced with something else more seasonal.
And what IS it with those ornamental cabbages they seem to love planting everywhere in the winter??? Horrible things! I don't want to see cabbages amongst the pansies and petunias!
Eastbourne has a beautifully well kept prom - not sure how long it is but it's nice to stroll along in the summer sunshine and admire the civic gardens and bandstand and ...oh I don't know... it's a nice place to go for a walk with elderly relatives when the weather is nice.
Our nightclub is the biggest in Eastbourne with a capacity of 850 people.
We regularly run student nights, theme nights, parties, hen nights & stag nights. So whether you are up for a dance or a drink we can cater for your needs!
I don't know if this is a "must see" activity - it is pretty stunning to watch these guys just leap off the cliff and out over the ocean... I think it is more of a "Must Do" activity!!
More info about hang gliding or paragliding in Sussex can be found at the website below.