Killed during the Opium Wars

The Rason family go back in Eastbourne for generations. They are closely connected with St Mary’s Church as over the centuries many of them have been churchwardens. There is an interesting monument in the north aisle of the church to William Rason.   It reads: Sacred to the memory of William Hector Rason Lieut. R.N., aged…

A Grave with a French Connection

Every morning I pass a gravestone in St Mary’s Churchyard, Eastbourne and have often wondered about it.  The grave is at the apex of the triangle of land as you walk from the northside of the church towards the Lamb Inn. It is in the form of a ‘grave rail’ – a horizontal slab between…

The Hidden Frescoes of Alfriston

John Mason Neale (1818 – 1866) was the Warden of Sackville College, a large group of Almshouses in East Grinstead.  He was an avid writer of hymns and carols, his most famous work being the evergreen Christmas Carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’. John loved visiting churches and certainly visited St Andrews Church in Alfriston.  In 1843…

Good from Evil

Is it possible that good can come from evil? – well yes it is and there is proof in Alfriston! During the War the Nazis used naval mines to attack allied shipping in the channel.  The naval mine was probably a German invention as during the Schleswig Holsten War of 1848, Kiel harbour was protected…

The Duke who loved Skittles

Spencer Cavendish, the 8th Duke of Devonshire (1833-1908) was rather revered in Eastbourne for his financial support to improve the town. Outside of Sussex he was generally known as the ‘Marquess of Hartington’. Although a Liberal politician he opposed his party’s opposition to Home Rule for Ireland and afterwards became quite conservative. During a long…

Burial at a Cross-roads

I have just been reading about some of the Eastbourne Parish Registers and noted that several people who had committed suicide were buried at St Mary’s Parish Church.  An entry in 1624 records the burial in the churchyard of John Crunden ‘who drowned himself’ and another in 1650 relates to 21-year-old John Herriot who ‘hanged…

A War-Memorial Mystery!

The War Memorial in the East Sussex village of Bishopstone gives the names of nine men from the village who were killed in the First World War and four from the Second World War.  The memorial includes the name of Eleanor Standish-Barry, an interesting woman who also used the stage name of Nell St John…

A Colourful Sussex Lawyer

St Helen’s Church in Hangleton, to the north-west of Brighton, has a remarkable grave. It is covered in brightly coloured stones set into the grave-slab in the form of a mosaic cross. The grave is that of an Irishman, Edward Kenealy. He was a lawyer who was as colourful as his grave. Edward Vaughan Hyde…

A relic miles from home.

Eastbourne has a poor, lost and overlooked refugee.  Hidden behind a noticeboard in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Eastbourne is an unusual but brilliantly decorated ‘Cornish Cross’.   The cross was kidnapped from its home and brought to Sussex exactly 200 years ago. The culprit was Davies Giddy who lived at Tredrea, St Erth near…

A Wartime Romance

An unusual wedding occurred in Seaford 100 years ago.  Neither were local, but the bride was very well known; she was Gertrude Vanderbilt, the adopted daughter of an American millionaire. Gertrude was born in Bath, England on 13th April 1892. Her father was Benjamin Harry Langley but when her mother died shortly after her birth…

Sussex Survivors of the Fateful Charge

Last week I was taking a group of WI members on an historic tour of Lewes which includes the graveyard of St John-sub-Castro church near to where I used to live. Although I have walked through the churchyard many times before I spotted a grave that I had not previously seen which mentions the Charge…

The butcher who tried to kill a Lamb

The Mayor of Rye in 1743 was James Lamb.   As the Mayor of the ancient Cinque Port he was also responsible for law and order in the town and acted as the Chief Magistrate.    A particular problem for him was a local butcher, John Breads, who could regularly be found drinking at the Flushing Inn.  On one…