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…

An International Sussex Woman

To commemorate International Women’s Day I thought I would tell you about an international shark-catching Sussex heroine! Ethelwyn Wilkinson was born in Seaford in 1887, the daughter of William and Ada Wilkinson. Her father was a builder and they lived in the High Street.  Ethelwyn married a New Zealand adventurer at St Leonard’s Church, Seaford on…

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…

A first for Sussex women

One unexpected outcome of the Great War was the improved rights for women which resulted in (some) women being able to vote in the General Election of 14th December 1918. At the beginning of the war, Suffragettes, who had been campaigning for decades, realised that continuing attacks on the establishment would not assist their cause….

An admirable and practical contrivance!

In 1880 a Mr William Stickney Lamson of Boston, Massachusetts owned a long and narrow shop. In order to get money from the counter at the front of the shop to the cashier’s desk at the rear of the shop he instructed his staff to wrap notes, coins and a receipt in a handkerchief and…

The Sad Tale of a Deaf Footballer

The men and women who died in the service of our country are commemorated with Commonwealth War-Graves and every one has a story behind it. I have recently been researching the war-graves at Ocklynge Cemetery in Eastbourne as part of the Commonwealth War Grave Commissions ‘Living Memory’ project.  The war grave of John Tosswill is…

Remember Remember

Last month I had the honour of introducing the visiting Bonfire Societies to Seaford for the annual Guy Fawkes celebrations.  I love bonfire and probably recite the Bonfire Prayers – “Remember Remember the Fifth of November” more than most people. As a tour guide in the Palace of Westminster – the Houses of Parliament I recite…

Seaford’s Saddest Day

TODAY 100 years ago 3rd September 1916 was one of the darkest days in Seaford’s history with five local men being killed within 24 hours. They were all members of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Four of the men were members of the 11th (South Downs) Battalion.  Known as Lowther’s Lambs as they had been recruited…

Was an Eastbourne man bitten by a lion?

My grandmother Bessie Gordon was born in Eastbourne in 1901 and lived in Taddington Road. (one of the many Eastbourne roads named after a Derbyshire village by the Dukes of Devonshire whose family seat was Chatsworth in that county) In 1911 my grandma became friends with a four-year old girl who lived two doors away….

X-IT the Lewes Dwarf

Today we realise that we should not discriminate a person because of their physical appearance but this has not always been the case. It is clear that in the past, dwarves were used for entertainment particularly amongst the royal families of Europe. One of them possibly had a local connection.  His name was XIT and…