||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (March 2010)|
Bexhill-on-Sea shown within East Sussex
|Area||32.31 km2 (12.47 sq mi) |
|– density||1,274/sq mi (492/km2)|
|OS grid reference|
|– London||51 miles (82 km) NNW|
|Shire county||East Sussex|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||South East Coast|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|UK Parliament||Bexhill and Battle|
Bexhill-on-Sea (often simply Bexhill) is a Sea side town along the South East coast of England in the historical county of East Sussex. Bexhill is an ancient town within the Rother District Council and is home to many archaeological sites including the remnants of a prehistoric tropical jungle visible when the tide is out, a Manor House within its Old Town, an abundance Edwardian and Victorian architecture and the famous De La Warr Pavilion - a modern art gallery, which has featured Andy Warhol and others, and performance hall which has featured comedians such as Lee Evans and authors such as Micheal Morpurgo.
The first reference to Bexhill, or Bexelei as it was originally called, was in a charter granted by King Offa of Mercia in 772AD. It is recorded that King Offa had 'defeated the men of Hastings' in 771AD.
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.
During the 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 were 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.
During local government reform in 1974, Bexhill became part of Rother District Council, thereby losing its Town Council. In its place, Bexhill became a Charter Trustees town, represented by the Bexhill councillors of Rother District Council. A quarterly forum is held to provide a voice to the community at a local level. There have been recent plans to recreate a Bexhill Town Council.
Bexhill is the home of Rother District Council; District Council Elections are held every four years. Thirty-eight Councillors in total are elected, eighteen of these from the nine wards that make up Bexhill. The May 2011 election returned 11 Conservatives, 4 Independents, 2 Liberal Democrats, and 1 Labour.
The next level of government is the East Sussex County Council, with responsibility for Education, Libraries, Social Services, Civil Registration, Trading Standards, and Transport. Elections for the County Council are held every four years. For these elections, Bexhill is divided into three wards: West, King Offa, and East.
The 2005 East Sussex County Council election resulted in 29 Conservatives, 15 Liberal Democrats, 5 Labours, and 1 Independent, of which Bexhill provided 1 Liberal Democrat and 2 Conservatives.
The Parliament Constituency for Bexhill includes the nearby town of Battle. The constituency was created in 1983 and was served by Charles Wardle until the 2001 election, when Wardle left the Conservative party. He was replaced by Gregory Barker, who remains the current serving MP.
At the European level, Bexhill is represented by the South-East region, which holds ten seats in the European Parliament. The 2014 election returned three Conservatives, four UKIP, one Liberal Democrats, one Labour and one Green.
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.
- 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.
Reginald Sackville, seventh Earl De La Warr, decided to transform what was then a village on a hill around its church into an exclusive seaside resort, which he named Bexhill-on-Sea. He was instrumental in building a sea wall south of the village, and the road above it was then named De La Warr Parade. Large houses were built inland from there, and the new town began. In 1890, the luxurious Sackville Hotel was built.
Bexhill was the location for the first motor race in the United Kingdom, in May 1902. Signs at the town's outskirts have the text 'Birthplace of British Motor Racing' appended below the town's name. The Bexhill 100 Festival of Motoring, held on Bexhill's seafront, celebrated this important milestone in motoring history from 1990 until 2002. This final festival commemorated the Centenary of the original "Races". During the life of the festival, in 1999, the organisers launched the Bexhill 100 Motoring Club, so although the Festival no longer exists, the club still exists, and their committee organises each year, the Bexhill 100 Motoring Club Classic Car Show held on August bank holiday Monday in the Polegrove, Bexhill.
The De La Warr Pavilion, brainchild of the ninth Earl De La Warr, opened in 1935 as one of the earliest examples of Modern architecture in a major British public building. It closed for major restoration work in December 2003 and reopened in October 2005.
The town, like many other English seaside resorts, is now much more a settled community. Although there is a small entertainment area on the seafront, it now has a large retired population, like much of the south coast.
The last remaining cinema was sold to the Wetherspoon pub chain on 1 December 2014. A small group of residents, and Eddie Izzard had been fighting to save the cinema for the last five years but the group failed to raise the necessary funds.
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 is expected to be completed by 2015 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 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.
Notable people (in alphabetical order)
- John Logie Baird, Scottish inventor of the television, resided in a house by the station towards the end of his life.
- James Beeching (1788–1858), shipbuilder and inventor of the self-righting lifeboat.
- Joyce Lankester Brisley (1896-1978), writer of the Milly-Molly-Mandy stories, inter alia, exact place of birth as yet unidentified.
- Michael Cowpland, founder of high-tech companies Mitel, Corel, and ZIM, lived in Bexhill and went to Bexhill College until he was 18.
- Fanny Cradock and Johnnie Cradock lived in Cooden Drive, Bexhill.
- Max Faulkner OBE, professional golfer and Open champion in 1951
- Norman Franks Aviation historian and author of over 120 books covering military aviation.
- Sir David Hare, British dramatist, comes from Bexhill.
- Eddie Izzard, comedian, spent part of his childhood years in Bexhill-on-Sea.
- Peter Katin, concert pianist, recitalist, chamber musician, and concerto soloist, has made Bexhill his home.
- Desmond Llewelyn, the James Bond actor who played Q, lived in the town until his death in 1999.
- The Maharajas of Cooch Behar, the Indian princely family had a house in Bexhill in the early 1900s.
- Kate Marsden FRGS (1859–1931), a nurse known for her travel through Siberia to help Yakut lepers, lived in Bexhill in the 1910s and became one of the founders of Bexhill Museum.
- Spike Milligan was stationed in Bexhill while in the army during the second world war, and most of the first volume of his war memoirs takes place there.
- Indie-rock band Mumm-Ra came from Bexhill. The topic of their hometown frequently came up in interviews.
- Graham Norton, Irish actor, comedian and television presenter, lives in a contemporary house in the Cooden Beach area.
- Eric Slater (1896-1963), English artist and printmaker, lived in Bexhill and created images of the surrounding countryside.
- Hayley Okines, patient with the rare premature aging disease progeria
- Oli Thompson - strongman and 2006 winner of Britain's Strongest Man.
- Leslie Weatherhead, renowned preacher and theologian, retired to Bexhill.
- Ronald Skirth (1897–1977), conscientious objector and author of the First World War memoir The Reluctant Tommy, grew up in Bexhill and describes it at length in his book.
- Edward Victor Grace Day (1896–1958), Malaya Civil Service, Resident Commissioner of Malacca from (1946–1947), and British Adviser, Kedah (1947–1951).
- Ted Lowe, commentator on BBC's 'Pot Black', which brought snooker to prominence on British TV, was a longtime resident of Bexhill until his death in May 2011.
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- 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.
- "East Sussex in Figures". East Sussex County Council. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
- "Ask the leader 2006, Question 331". Rother District Council. Retrieved 22 November 2007.
- "Bexhill Town Forum". Rother District Council. Retrieved 22 November 2007.
- "Bexhill Town Council". Rother District Council. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
- "Rother District Election Results 2011". Rother District Council. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- "County Council Election 5th May 2005". East Sussex County Council. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
- "Natural England - SSSI". English Nature. Retrieved 27 September 2008.
- "Spider web confirmed as 'oldest'". BBC News.
- New dinosaur found at brickworks in east Sussex, The Independent (London)
- Anglo-Saxons.net ": S 108". Retrieved 15 February 2009.
- "Learn more about The Royal Automobile Club". royalautomobileclub.co.uk.
- "Operation Sealion". Historylearningsite.co.uk. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- "Wetherspoon “delighted” to buy old Bexhill cinema". bexhillobserver.net.
- "Eddie Izzard joins fight to save Bexhill cinema". BBC News.
- "Bexhill-to-Hastings link road's costs rise by £13m". BBC News.
- H P White, Southern England (A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain, Volume 2), David & Charles, 1961-1982, page 36.
- "Railway Magazine", July 1958
- "Bexhill-on-Sea Golf Club", "Golf’s Missing Links".
- "About Bexhill Museum". The Society of Bexhill Museums. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bexhill.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Bexhill.|
- Bexhill-on-Sea at DMOZ
- Discover Bexhill - Non-profit guide to Bexhill's history and tourist information
- De La Warr Pavilion
- Bexhill Today local news
- Bexhill Museum