Eastbourne is a popular holiday resort on the South Coast and reputedly England’s sunniest spot. It was little more than a village until the tourist boom of the C19th. Its promenade lined with splendid hotels and pier still attract holiday makers as well as the conference trade.
In 1752, Dr Richard Russel who lived in nearby Lewis, published a “dissertation on the use of sea water” emphasising the benefits of sea bathing as a cure for many disorders. It became fashionable to stay at the seaside. Four of King George III’s children stayed here in 1780.
During the threat of invasion by Napoleon, in the early C19th, a Martello tower was built as well as a larger fortress, the Redoubt. These are probably the oldest buildings to survive in Eastbourne.
The railway arrived in 1849 and Eastbourne took off as a sea side resort and popular holiday destination. Being sheltered by the bulk of Beachy Head to the west, it is reputed to be the sunniest place in England.
The 7th Duke of Devonshire owned a considerable amount of property in Eastbourne and was responsible for the development of its parks, baths, and squares as well as a school. Hotels and pubs are still named after him and he has ai statue is on the sea front, overlooked by the modern Cavendish Hotel.
Large impressive hotels were built along the sea front with a three level promenade in front of them, planted with gardens.
Not only was this an attractive walk, it also gave protection from the sea and helped prevent flooding, which had been a common occurrence. Bye-laws prevented visitors from changing on the beach and there were over 200 bathing machines, which were towed into the sea by horses. Bathing was only allowed until 1pm and not on a Sunday.
A pier was built, complete with pavilions and a theatre. It was advertised as the ‘Empress of Watering Places’.
A lifeboat station was opened in 1898 at the west end of the beach. This is now the museum and shop as a newer and larger station has been built at Sovereign Harbour.
An art deco bandstand was built on the sea front in 1935 and still provides live entertainment.
The sea front is still unspoilt with no amusements or ‘kiss me quick’ hats and the one area of amusements, Fort Fun, at the far north east end of the town near the leisure centre, closed in 2020.
The beach is shingle and prone to erosion with a series of groynes preventing long shore drift.
Heavy storms have washed the shingle away and in October 2021, a coastal protection scheme was using diggers to dredge shingle from low down the beach to pile back along the sea front.