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 Railway Police of Eastbourne

I joined the British Transport Police as a Cadet in 1973 a few days after my 16th birthday. Although I was from Eastbourne I was posted to Brighton but I would regularly visit the Eastbourne office which was manned by an old officer, PC Jack Carter.   Jack was a friendly chap who seemed to be…

The Sussex fife that remains mute!

It is amazing what you can find when you root around an old attic or garage. Ten years ago in 2009 I worked for a few months at Seaford Town Council. When I was filing some documents, I came across a box of old bits and pieces including battered pewter trophies  and some old certificates. Amongst…

A Sussex Camera Obscura

Paul Dixon’s wife knows that there is another love of his life –  a beautiful if rather elderly lady whose recent makeover has given her a new lease of life.  Paul is the Chief Engineer for Eastbourne Pier and it is clear that he loves the old lady very much indeed. I met Paul a…

Rioting that led to the death of a policeman.

100 years ago the Canadian soldiers stationed across England and Wales were not happy.  The armistice of November 1918 effectively ended the War and thousands of men returned from the battlefields of Flanders to Britain awaiting repatriation to Canada. This was a slow process. Most of the troopships that had been used to bring the…

An Irish Soldier in Seaford

In the Summer of 1915 and with the Great War in its second year, thousands of soldiers from Ireland arrived in Sussex for training before being transferred to the front.  One of these men was Private McClure of the 15th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.  I have not been able to trace any…

A King’s escape through Sussex

Louis-Philippe of France had a troublesome life; his father had initially supported the Revolution but when Louis-Phillipe escaped to exile he called for his execution.  There can’t be many people whose own father wanted them dead! After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 the monarchy was restored to France and on 9th August…

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…

Eastbourne’s Blind Busker

Busking is an ancient occupation and late Victorian Eastbourne with its crush of visitors would have been a draw to musicians trying to eek a living during the summer. James Collins was Irish but on 15th February 1861,when he was 20 years old, he was blinded by a shooting accident in Newry. He travelled around…

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 First Sussex Railway Police

On 25th January 1837 a public meeting was held in Brighton to discuss building a railway between London and the South Coast.  Several schemes were discussed but the consensus was to use the scheme proposed by Mr John Urpeth Rastrick (1780-1856) for a railway line from Elephant and Castle, London to Church Street, Brighton (much…