EAST DEAN & FRISTON LOCAL HISTORY GROUP
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.
NOVEMBER MEETING REPORT
In November Jo Seaman, Heritage Manager at Eastbourne Borough Council, gave a talk on Medieval Graffiti. Always a popular speaker, Jo attracted 7 visitors and 3 new members, as well as a large number of our members to his talk.
Medieval Graffiti - is it history or vandalism? No one seems sure but it certainly wasn't a boring topic. In fact it was riveting, learned, amusing and emotionally moving. Sometimes an historical record of events, or perhaps the initials of a dead person, whose family couldn't afford a headstone, or could it be a prayer for a safe voyage. Most commonly they are people wanting to record their presence with "I was here" graffiti.
Friston Church has its own splendid graffiti - some of it preserved in the porch. St. Mary's in Eastbourne, under Jo's guidance, is now part of a massive work to identify, and hopefully interpret, the vast amount graffiti found there. Examples of fishes (or are they dolphins or sharks), daisy wheels , initials and the date of plague victims and a crude scratching of The Lamb Inn when it was burning down were all illustrated. The team of volunteers carefully noting, measuring and drawing each one.
If you are inspired to read more, I can recommend "By Weald and Down" by Rev A A Evans (our vicar form 1908 to 1929) which includes a chapter on Medieval Graffiti. It is just one of his splendid books about our village.
This dramatic post card was published by A E Marchant, a wholesale newsagent based in Seaford. It shows rough seas pounding Seaford beach before it was raised and re-inforced in 1987 to prevent flooding in the town. The salt spray is drifting over some parked cars of early 1960s vintage and a loan crane on the beach (left) struggles, Canute-like, to turn back the tide!
In the photo Martello Tower no. 74 still has the additions put on top to make it into a cafe, and described by Dirk Bogarde as "a very curious and dampish place" where they took tea after swimming. These alterations have now been removed and the tower has taken on the more dignified role as the town's museum.
This is our stall and exhibition at the Village Fete in June. The weather was kinder this year, with no repeat of last year's downpour.
There were lots of visitors. Booklet sales and comments about the exhibition were encouraging, and a good number of new members were signed up.
Thanks to everyone who helped set up those pesky tents, and a special 'thank you' to those who visited our stall. Now it's time to pack it all away until next year.
There was a very successful and interesting visit to the Eastbourne Town Hall on the 13 August.
It was a guided tour of Eastbourne’s magnificent Victorian Town Hall. Designed by the Birmingham architect W Tadman-Faulkes in 1880, the building was opened on October 20th 1886. The mayor and chauffeur were our guides with a behind the scenes look at the workings of local government.
Our apologies to those who could not get a place on this visit but numbers had to be limited for practical reasons.
Photos by Linda Keller
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.
KEEPING OUR WORD ON A "SCRAP OF PAPER"
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.