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Sep 2018

East Sussex Coat of Arms

Bexhill? Bexhill? It's famous for something but it can't quite be remembered what? It's probably not the clock that, because they're demanding a pair of pounds in the centre of town, has ended up being parked next to, badly.

This one's not, as first thought, for Victoria due to some golden or diamond work jubilee-wise but at least it's keeping time after a recent revamp.

Unlike in 1904 when it was running late and by late it's meant two years late! King Edward VII's coronation, you see, but that was in 1902 so by the time they'd got this thing ticking, so already was his relatively brief  reign.

  Bexhill Museum (Egerton Road)

You can find out just what Bexhill is famous for in the town museum, just up from the clock. Not that it was known at the time, spending it instead wandering while still wondering.

That didn't include Egerton Park, neither, into which the museum leads and is the town's prime piece of greenery. There are facilities for football, tennis, climbing, boating and basketball so the next time the 'lympics are due in the UK, Bexhill could well be in the bidding.

Although the railway came in 1846, it wasn't until the 1890s that Bexhill gained a reputation as a resort. Plenty of the Victorian vibe remains and there's a pleasant mixture of the retail, the residential and the restaurantorial.

That's not to say that, unlike the clock, time has totally stood still with plenty of flat-white, coffee options for those in these fancy, white flats. All of this with no real hint that this is the seaside and it's time to give that promenade a right good heading down.

  The Picture Playhouse (Western Road)

It's doubtful that Bexhill is famous worldwide for its Wetherspoon™s, this one a nod to a former cinema and theatre.

Not that this pair are massively big fans of these places, honestly not, although they do provide exceptional value in this age of austerity.

No, it's just understood that at some point in time there was a meeting of people to decide on the unimaginative name. It sounds like the Director of Contrived Waterhole Naming was on holiday that week.

Down on the prom, there's access to Bexhill's shingle making the beach nowhere near as iconic as Copacabana but there's something else flat and white here.

What's now known to be called a colonnade and all for another coronation only they managed to get this done for George V on time.

The Bexhill Pavilion? Hmmm, this sort of sounds familiar and is deserving enough of its own brown sign on the way into town. This, however, just seems to be home to some 'musements and, well, some homes so surely they're not flocking here for the fairly well-known regional centre of arts and culture?

  Sovereign Light Café (West Parade)

The novelty of using a keyboard as the leading instrument served posh popsters  Keane longer than this one predicted. They were still touring the world with their fourth album Strangeland when the video for the track  Sovereign Light Café was filmed along here.

That's because the Sovereign Light Café can be found on the seafront and this area is where the band spent a large part of their youth. The characteristic crooner Tom Chaplin can be heard lamenting it and from the look of the baby-faced frontman, that could have been last week.

Say what you like about Keane but one  iconic song in a career is still one more than most. As for a review of the café? No idea but it's now known to be just a five-minute walk west of the 'musements.

Of course that wasn't the signposted pavilion, silly, the real Bexhill Pavilion is behind you and the design and construction are much more your modernist[1] with something even more modern outside.

The style was just in keeping with the times when the architects were winners of a 1934 competition organised by the, unlikely but dedicated socialist, 9th Earl De La Warr[2].

He was such a socialist, he demanded the building be for public use although he had no objections to the use of his name and didn't even put the funds up himself.

It was seen on completion as an eyesore, actually, and even  Spike Milligan chipped in with a cheeky quip having been billeted there during the war.

It fell into the inevitable state of disrepair but reopened as recently as 2005 after a job lot of white paint was sourced. It's now a prestigious theatre and concert venue, art gallery and cinema to which it's much more suited than just being used for today's big car boot.

[1] Art Deco, actually, and the slightly rusty, metal window frames are often a clue.
[2] Pronounced 'Delaware', obviously.

That's it! That's it! It's just been remembered what Bexhill is famous for... it's the birthplace of British Motor Racing, of course.

This much is known because Top Gear™ was once flicked over to when it was thought Dragons' Den was still on so something must have sunk in that Sunday night or it might just be the plaque that prompts you to stop and read.

The 8th Earl De La Warr owned the seafront, you see, and between 1902 and 1907 he held head-to-head races between reckless Edwardians. The cars would have caned it along here, it's thought, with noisy, eight-litre engines, top speeds of over 50 MPH and a road that slopes uphill to help out with the inefficient brakes back then.

The earl would then host a Gala Dinner in his nightclub, the Kursaal, where the well-to-do gentlemen of this era enhanced their particular reputation. Motor Racing wasn't the only thing invented here, car keys in a bowl with things then getting a very different kind of racy, eh?

With all this going on, it's no wonder they didn't finish that clock on time.