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…

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…

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….

Quicksilver and Lemons

The ‘Nympha Americana’ was a Spanish owned American ship of 400 tons however, despite being armed with 23 large guns and 6 swivel guns, she was captured by an English privateer ‘The Royal Family‘ off Cadiz in March 1747.  A privateer was basically a legal pirate ship which was licensed by the British Government to attack enemy…

The Great Storm of 14th November 1875.

On the morning of Sunday 14th November 1875 the good people of Seaford braved stormy weather to attend church. The town was already on alert as high tide was expected at midday and, although seawalls had been built, the area of land between the sea and the town, (the Beamlands), regularly flooded during the winter…

The Battle of The Buckle 1545

On 18thJuly 1545, a French fleet led by the High Admiral Claude d’Annabant attacked the south coast of England. He was rather miffed that the English had just captured the port of Boulogne and was after revenge. At Portsmouth, Henry VIIIs ship “Mary Rose” had promptly sunk as it tried to engage them. Further down…

My St Georges’ Day Hero

My grandfather Alec Gordon, was a Royal Marine and was seriously injured in the fateful Zeebrugge Raid on St Georges Day, 23rdApril 1918.  Alexander Robert Gordon was born in London in 1896, the son of Frederick and Hannah Gordon.  In 1910 the Gordon family moved to 1, Romney Road, Eastbourne and his parents worked at…

Easter in Sussex

Writing in the 8th century, the Venerable Bede tells us that Eostre was the pagan goddess of dawn (hence the word ’east’). Her annual festival of Spring was held in April and known as Easter but by the time of Bede, Christians had replaced this with their own festival, ‘passover’ which celebrates the resurrection of…

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…