The Sailor-girl with a Rocky History

The ship Coonatto started its life in Rotherhithe on the south bank of the Thames in 1863. She was built by Thomas Bilbe & Son to a new design which used both timber and iron – known as “composite hull construction”  Although this made the hull stronger, it was of course heavier. She was a square-rigged clipper and…

The Painter, The Policeman and the Pug

I am in contact with a gentleman whose great-grandfather was an artist William Edwin Pimm (1864-1953) who lived for a few years at the Manor House in Alfriston. He came from a distinguished family, his father James Norris Pimm (1837-1903) was a Deputy and Common Councillor of the City of London and was present at…

A Nutty Shipwreck and her Figurehead

A few years ago I was shown two ivory nuts which had just been found on the beach at Seaford. Although the shingle of Seaford beach is relatively new I think that they may have originated from the hold of the ship the ‘Peruvian’ which grounded in Seaford Bay over 100 years ago.   The…

Buried alive in Alfriston?

On 23rd January 1816 a strange and macabre incident occurred at Alfriston Church in East Sussex. At this time when the ‘gothic novel’ was popular, taphophobia was rife. Taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive. This fear was so great that people could purchase ‘safety coffins’ in which a recently awaked corpse could not…

Alone with the Doodlebugs

My grandmother Bessie Gordon was in her early 40s during the Second World War. Her husband Alex, had been seriously wounded in the Great War and it is likely that he suffered from ‘shell-shock’. Alex and their 9 year old son Roger, had been evacuated to Dursley in Gloucestershire along with his sister Dorothy (Dolly)….

The father of Eastbourne Bellringing

Before lockdown I visited the bell chamber at St Mary’s Church, Eastbourne and was interested to see an unusual marble memorial for Harry Packham Bennett in the form of a large bell.  Harry was clearly one of the bell-ringers and, as a former railway policeman, I was interested to see that he had lost his…

A Good Soldier and Always a Gentleman

John William DANIELS was born in Loughton Essex in 1885, the son of landscape gardener Edwin Daniels from Ruabon, north Wales and Lydia from Shropshire.  The family moved to Eastbourne and John was educated at Holy Trinity School.  The 1911 Census shows that John with living with his parents and younger sister Annie at 2,…

The Constable and the Chicken Leg

Luther Constable (1849-1936) was born and died in Barcombe.  He was a bricklayer and was my great-great-great Uncle.  In June 1893 Luther was a victim of crime when one of his chickens was stolen from the coop at the family home in Hamsey Road, Barcombe. At 2/6d the chicken was quite valuable and Luther suspected the…

The Sussex Stile Council

If, like me, you love to wander across the South Downs and the Sussex countryside you will often use gates and stiles. Gates were traditionally wide enough to allow a farmer to manoeuvre a horse drawn hay-cart through and were made of wood.  Today however farm gates are wider and usually made of cylindrical metal….

The Prime Minister who helped a Sussex Coastguardsman.

Not many small towns like Seaford can claim to have had three of its MPs serve as Prime Minister. George Canning was the only one of the three who was MP for Seaford and Prime Minister at the same time.  George Canning was born in Marylebone in 1770 and had a difficult start to life….