What it's like to live in Bexhill
PUBLISHED: 14:37 23 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:18 24 April 2018
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From historic beginnings to life as a popular seaside resort, Bexhill has a lot to offer. Rebecca MacNaughton finds out more
Bexhill is little more than 60 miles from London and the major route from the capital is by the A21, just off the M25. The A23, A27 and A259 all approach it from the west and a coastal road – the A259 – connects Bexhill to the Cross Channel Ports.
The town is well served by rail links, and the journey to and from London takes approximately two hours, with frequent services from London Victoria or Charing Cross via St Leonards. Trains depart hourly from Ashford, and a regular coastal service provides links to and from Brighton.
The first reference to Bexhill – or Bexelei, as it was originally called – was in 772AD, in a charter granted by King Offa of Mercia to establish a church and religious community. It wasn’t until 1561 that it came to the Royal family, when Queen Elizabeth I took possession of Bexhill Manor before gifting it to Sir Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset, three years later.
It had an interesting time during the Napoleonic War, as the area became home to soldiers of the King’s German Legion – Hanoverians who had fled their country, overrun by Napoleon’s formidable army, and who were welcomed by King George III as part of the British Army. In 1814, the soldiers left to play an important part in the Battle of Waterloo, defending the town from the French.
Whilst farming was the major occupation at the beginning of the 19th century, the area was also notorious for its smugglers, including the Little Common Gang, led by George Gilham. A known haunt of theirs was The Star Inn, on the main highway closeby between Hastings and Pevensey.
It wasn’t until later in the century, however, that the town began its transformation from small rural village to exclusive seaside resort, under the patronage of the De La Warr family. Elizabeth Sackville married into the De La Warr family and after the last Duke of Dorset passed away in 1865, the land was passed on, kickstarting the construction of the eponymous De La Warr Parade. The luxurious Sackville Hotel was built in 1890 and in the following years, the seafront became more and more developed to include a cycle shack, chalet and eye-catching pavilion. Between 1846 and 1902, the seaside resort was at its most prosperous, with three railway stations being built to serve its growing demand.
In 1902, the town became an incorporated borough – the first Royal Charter to be granted by Edward VII. Whilst Bexhill may have been the last town in Sussex to gain such a status, it celebrated a separate milestone: the first town to receive a Royal Charter delivered by motor car. To celebrate, the town hosted the country’s first ever motor race, which took place along De La Warr Parade in May 1902.
World War II left the town badly damaged by bombs, but much of the Victorian and Edwardian architecture has been rebuilt and can still be seen today.
Annual festival and events
Its seaside location means that Bexhill thrives in summertime. June sees the start of the 1066 Cycling Festival, a two-day celebration which includes activities, demonstrations and races for peddlers old and young alike. The Bexhill Festival of Music was set up in 2007 and continues to bring first class performances to the area. Artists who have previously taken to the stage include the BBC Big Band, Julian Lloyd Webber and The Puppini Sisters.
Carnival week kicks off in July with a lively, themed procession and a week-long line-up of events for the local community.
Every year, the town also celebrates what it’s like to live by the sea with an annual Festival of the Sea. This two-part celebration sees the town come to life with live music, food and children’s activities, along with a series of prize-offering angling competitions.
Bexhill boasts everything you might expect from a British seaside town, combining wide, expansive beaches with high-street brands, independent shops and plenty of places to eat and drink. For entertainment and leisure, it boasts a pioneering arts venue, the De La Warr Pavilion, as well as a swimming pool, recreation ground and leisure centre, with a number of theatres in nearby Eastbourne. To the west of the town sits Egerton Park, which offers swathes of green space and includes a boating lake, tennis courts and indoor bowling centre. It is also home to Bexhill Museum, whose galleries explore the town’s rich motoring heritage and social history.
Meet the neighbours
There must be humour in the water as Bexhill has been home to comedians Eddie Izzard, Spike Milligan and Graham Norton.
Bexhill is represented by Rother District Council. Its nine wards are represented by 18 district councillors who form the ceremonial board of Bexhill Charter Trustees. The Mayor of Bexhill is Conservative Councillor Tom Graham. Part of the Bexhill and Battle constituency, the town is currently represented in the House of Commons by Huw Merriman.
John Sanderson, branch partner of estate agent Rush Witt & Wilson, knows far more about Bexhill than its housing market. Born and bred in the town, he has come back to nest, and believes it’s the jewel in the crown of the East Sussex coast. Nestled between Hastings and Eastbourne, it offers an idyllic lifestyle with lots of places to dine and things to do.
“With its perfectly kept gardens and beaches, the promenade is probably one of the best you will find in the UK,” he says. “The famous architectural curveball, the
De La Warr Pavilion, hosts exhibitions and attracts stars from all over the world to perform.” A handful of celebrities have made it their home, too.
It’s a popular place to live and the housing market is rich and varied, reflecting the town’s various histories, including “impressive Victorian flats displaying full grandeur and style to Grade II listed, white weatherboarded cottages tucked away in Old Bexhill. There is also the exclusive Cooden area, with houses whose gardens open on to the beach. It has become the place for people to come for peace and relaxation,” says John.
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