1902 : Bexhill’s Glorious Year


1902 is the single most important year in Bexhill’s history. That is not to say that there were not many important years before and since but there is a cluster of events during 1902.

The central occasion locally was the Incorporation of Bexhill as a Borough, giving it the ability to have a mayor and elect a borough council. Nationally the year marked the coronation of Edward V and the end of the Victorian era. Now, it is mostly remembered as the year in which Bexhill hosted Britain’s first motor car race.

It should always be remembered that Bexhill-on-Sea is a very young town, the original village dates back to 772 but work on the resort did not start until 1883. All settlements go through a cycle of growth and decline following the economy nationally and local circumstances. It could be argued that Bexhill-on-Sea has only had time to go through this cycle once. 1902 can be seen as a high point in the resort’s fortunes, everything was moving forward and with a new monarch there was an, as yet, unjaded sense of optimism for the new century. Bexhill had become a boom-town, a fresh new market for developers, traders and hoteliers.

Bexhill had a reputation as a healthy place to live in or visit and many independent boarding schools were set up in the town as well as convalescent homes. The effect of two world wars and a global depression took their toll on the resort. Since the 1930s the open spaces around the resort have been developed, creating a sprawl and removing some of the individuality of the communities of Bexhill, Sidley and Little Common. After the Second World War and, in particular, after the break-up of the British Empire the number of independent schools in Bexhill dwindled and a mainstay of the local economy was lost. In the 1960s cheap package holidays became available and Bexhill struggled to preserve its tourism based economy. Unable or unwilling to fight for its share of visitors Bexhill declined as a resort and became more residential in character Lacking an industrial base and without income from schools and tourists the t struggled to get by on a pension-based economy.

In 2002, one hundred eventful years since the events and expectations of 1902, it is an important time to evaluate the state of the town and plan the next one hundred years

The information card on the right gave the reason for incorporation (click on image)


In 1902 Bexhill’s local government changed from being an Urban District Council (which was established in 1894) to a Borough Council with the right to elect a mayor.

In. June 1900 a petition for incorporation was sent to the Queen in Council; it had 1,200 signatures. In December 1900 it was agreed that if a borough was established it would have five electoral wards, Sackville, St. Mark’s, Old Town, Egerton Park and Central. Sidley ward was created in 1950.

A draft charter and incorporation scheme was prepared by May 1901, it named the 8th Earl De La Warr as provisional mayor and Daniel Mayer as deputy provisional mayor. Mr E. Sholto Douglas was named as acting town clerk, Mr H. Gorringe Smith as deputy acting town clerk.

The hard work involved in obtaining the charter was mostly carried out by George Vale, who afterwards was referred to as the ‘Father of Incorporation’. Mr Gaby was the solicitor to the Incorporation Committee and on 28th March 1902 requested a cheque for £106. 18 shillings to cover the costs of obtaining the charter. The cheque was then sent on to the Secretary of State and the charter was signed by King Edward VII on April 7th 1902. The charter was handed over to Mr Gaby’s London agents and kept safe until they were collected on May 21st – Charter Day.

The Charter of Incorporation.

In 1902 Bexhill achieved another first, or should it be firsts? It became the first town in King Edward VII’s reign to be granted a Charter of Incorporation and, in keeping with the motor car dominated atmosphere in the town at the time the Charter, which had been brought down from London by train, was carried from Bexhill station to the Town Hall by an Argyll car lent for the purpose by H. Bradney Williams. In the car, apart from the driver were, the Earl De La Warr (the Provisional Mayor), Mr Daniel Mayer (the Provisional Deputy Mayor) and Mr R.H. Gaby.
After proceedings at the Town Hall the Charter was returned to the car and at the head of a procession was paraded around the town to general acclamation.

At the first meeting of The Bexhill Town Council on 10th November 1902 Mr. Ebenezer Howard of Birchington House, Little Common was elected the town’s first Mayor. Messrs. Cooper, Dunn, Vale, Noakes, W. J. Smith and Young were elected Aldermen and the mayor appointed Alderman Vale as Deputy Mayor.

The elected members of the first Bexhill Town Council were:— Sackville Ward – Fitch-Jones, Douglas and Luntley Central Ward – Vale, Glover, Dunn, Young, Sherwen and Wellerd Egerton Ward – Longman, Brooke and Greed Old Town Ward – Bunting, Cooper and W. J. Smith St. Mark’s Ward – Noakes, Dixie and Barker.

As a result of the appointment of six councillors as Aldermen Bye-elections had to be held to fill their places and on 22 nd November 1902 the following were elected:—Central Ward – Mr. G. H. Gray, Mr. R. D. Jesty and Mr. R. H. Gaby; Old Town Ward – Mr. J. D. Atchison and Mr. W. Cruttenden; St. Mark’s Ward – Mr. W. Lawrence.

The Borough of Bexhill Sign

Bexhill Sign
The Borough of Bexhill Sign designed in April 1968

Borough of Bexhill Events

1884-1894Bexhill managed by Local Board of Health
1891 Aug 4Viscount (‘antelope (8th Earl) marries Muriel Brassey
1895-1902Bexhill managed by the Urban District Council, 1st election 15th Januaty1895
1895Bexhill Town Hall opened by the Lord Mayor of London, site purchased 1893 and built in 1894.
1898An article appears in Bexhill Observer entitled “Bexhill to be Incorporated?” Later John Greed puts an incorporation proposal to the Urban District Council but is defeated by one vote. The 8th Earl was in financial difficulty and was also having an affair which nearly ended his marriage.
1899 JanGeorge Vale reads a paper on incorporation to the Town Association; he is supported by Mr Gaby who proposes the formation of a working committee.
1899 Apr 19The 8th Earl De La Warr chairs the working committee and it is unanimously agreed to try to get Bexhill incorporated.
1899 Oct8th Earl De La Wan leaves for South Africa as a war correspondent for The Globe
1900 JunPetition for incorporation sent to the Queen in Council.
1900 JunThe future 9th Earl De La Warr is born.
1900 Jul 258thEarl De La Warr returns wounded from South African War.
1900 ChristmasMiss Turner comes to act at the Kursaal and starts an affair with the 8th Earl De La Warr
1901 MayDraft charter and incorporation scheme prepared, naming the 8th Earl De La Warr as provisional mayor and Daniel Mayer as deputy provisional mayor.
1901 JunThe 8th Earl De La Warr ceases to live with his wife and children
1901 Dec 23Lady De La Warr writes to ask the Earl to come home but he refuses.
1902 Jan 28Division of the St John Ambulance Brigade formed, Victoria Hall.
1902 Feb 8Earl De La Warr takes a flat at Marina Court.
1902 Feb 19Smoking Concert to raise money for St John Ambulance, Metropole.
1902 Mar 8Announcement of forthcoming marriage of Dowager Countess De La Warr.
1902 Mar 22Bexhill Observer reports Countess De La Warr’s petition for the restitution of conjugal rights.
1902 Mar 24The Clerk of the Privy Council approves the draft charter.
1902 Mar 28Mr Gaby requests a cheque for £106 18s which is sent to the Secretary of State to cover the cost of drawing up the charter.
1902 Apr 2Madame Antoinette Sterling at the Kursaal.
1902 Apr 5Edna May, Earl De La Warr and Mr Pape attend a show at the Kursaal.
1902 Apr 7The King signs the Bexhill Charter of Incorporation.
1902 Apr 9Opening run of Bexhill Cycling Club.
1902 Apr 22Gas Exhibition at Victoria Hall.
1902 MayMuriel, Lady De La Warr announces her intention to divorce the Earl.
1902 May 3First day of Mr Bradney Williams run from Glasgow to Bexhill in Argyll car/
1902 May 15Abandonment of the Bexhill and Rotherfield Railway Scheme.
1902 May 17Members of the Automobile Club arrive at Bexhill.
1902 May 19Great Whitsuntide Motor Races at Bexhill.
1902 May 21Reception of the Charter of Incorporation at Bexhill, town en fete.
1902 May 23Inspection of the Central Station by railway company directors/
1902 May 31Private opening of Crowhurst Line,
1902 Jun 1Reception of news of Peace in South Africa, town en fete.
1902 Jun 8Peace Thanksgiving services held.
1902 Jun 16Daniel Mayer announced he was retiring from public life.
1902 Jun 18Return of Bexhill men from the Front, taken home by motor car.
1902 Jun 21Lakehouse School sports day.
1902 Jun 23Meeting over opening a subway under railway line until footbridge ready.
1902 Jun 24Mayner v. Earl De La Warr case begins.
1902 Jun 25Decision made to postpone Coronation festivities until the King is well.
1902 Jun 30Central Station opened.
1902 Jul 4Mayner v. Earl De La Warr case adjourned
1902 Jul 3Dr Gordon Stables and his caravan arrive in Bexhill’
1902 Jul 5Holmwood School sports day.
1902 Jul 10Detachment of the 15th Sikhs visit, Cantelupe Gardens
1902 Jul 12Marriage of Dowager Countess De La Warr, London
1902 Jul 14Rowing event at Marine Club
1902 Jul 19The Times reported Muriel’s divorce from Earl De La Warr
1902 Jul 22Lady Constance, rowing galley christened by Countess De La Warr
1902 Jul 24Perpetual injunction granted against Earl De La Warr, stops races
1902Prince Rajendra of Cooch Behar staying at Sackville
1902 Aug 2Illuminated fete in Egerton Park by J.M. Glover
1902 Aug 6Madame Antoinette Sterling’s farewell matinee at Kursaal
1902 Aug 9Coronation Day at Bexhill
1902 Aug 13Mr George Grossmith at the Kursaal (1847-1912, solo career from 1889)
1902 Aug 18Sunday Concerts in Egerton Park sanctioned by Urban District Council
1902 Aug 20Last illuminated fete of the season in Egerton Park
1902 Aug 209th annual fete of Bexhill Amateur Swimming Club, Egerton Park Baths
1902 Aug 27Komic Kricket Match on Bexhill Down
1902 Sep 6Bexhill Regatta took place in fine weather
1902 Sep 6Finish of Motor Reliability Trials at Bexhill, lunch at Sackville
1902 Sept 24Championship Regatta at Bexhill
1902 Sep 28Last concert of the season at Kursaal, the 1,094th of the year
1902 Oct 6Improvements to West Parade approved.
1902 NovLionel Pape goes to Cooch Behar to work for the Maharajah
1902 Nov 12nd annual dinner of the Bexhill Cycling Club
1902 Nov 11st Bexhill Borough election
1902 Nov 7Last meeting of the Bexhill Urban District Council
1902 Nov 101st meeting of the Bexhill Town Council, Ebenezer Howard elected lst Mayor
1902 Nov 13Opening Cigarette Concert of the Bexhill Cycling Club
1902 Nov 177th annual dinner of the Bexhill Amateur Swimming Club
1902 Nov 20Concert in aid of the Sidley Working Men’s Club at Bexhill Institute
1902 Nov 26Opening Cinderella of Bexhill Cycling Club winter season, Devonshire Hotel
1902 Nov 26Concert at Hotel Metropole in aid of Bexhill branch of St John Ambulance
1902 Nov 28De La Warr v. Wills case, the Earl tries to stop the building of a consumptive home on the seafront
1902 Dec1st Tradesmen’s Ball
1902 Dec 1De La Warr v. Wills case, Wills wins the case with costs.
1902 Dec 6Fancy Dress dance at Devonshire Hotel
1902 Dec 17Cinderella Dance at Devonshire Hotel with Bexhill Cycling Club
1903 NovThe 8th Earl De La Wan elected as mayor of Bexhill and marries Hilda Clavering. Statutory notice given of Town Bill.
1904 JanTown Bill defeated, this would have given the Corporation extra powers. Councillor Howard, Councillor Gaby and Alderman Vale resign in protest.
1906Borough mace and gold chain given to the Borough Council.
1906 JulLord Mayor of London opens Egerton Park extension
1907Coat-of-Arms granted to Bexhill Public Health Act allows the Town to spend more money on recreation.
1908 Mar 16Town Hall extension opened by Baron Buckhurst.
1909 OctThe first Beating of the Bounds of Bexhill Borough
1911Opening of the Colonnade and death of the Maharajah of Cooch Behar.
1914The 8th Earl is divorced for the second time for adultery and desertion.
1915While in the Dardanelles the 8th Earl was taken seriously ill and died of rheumatic fever.
1918 Sep 18Opening of the Maharajah of Cooch Behar’s memorial fountain.
1921 JanTown Bill again proposed and defeated.
1924 NovStatutory notice of the Town Bill given.
1925 MarThe Town Bill comes before the House of Lords, vigorously opposed by the Pavilion Company.
1925 JunBeating of the Bounds of Bexhill Borough.
1925 Dec 10The Town Bill passed, bringing the water and gas services under council control and allowing more money to be spent on entertainment.
1927Borough Silver Jubilee of celebrations.
1928 JunThe Last Beating of the Bounds of Bexhill Borough.
1935Construction and opening of the De La Warr Pavilion.
1952Borough Silver Jubilee celebrations, Beating of the Bounds planned but abandoned due to lack of interest.
1972772AD Charter Jubilee celebrations.
1974Bexhill Borough Council replaced by Rother District Council.

The Arrival of the Charter and the Celebrations

The Rostrum outside the Town Hall with the Acting Town Mayor, Mr E. Sholto Douglas reading the Charter of Incorporation.

The Rostrum outside the Town Hall with the Acting Town Mayor, Mr E. Sholto Douglas reading the Charter of Incorporation.

The Charter of Incorporation came to Bexhill on 21st May and the following is how the Bexhill Observer, issued on 24tyh May, reported it.

While the inhabitants were engaged in decorating their houses and displaying inspiring mottoes, and Lord De La Warr and Mr. Vale were flying in all directions putting the finish-ing touches to the arrangements, the appointed deputation were journeying to London to fetch the Charter. The gentlemen entrusted with this historical mission were Mr. R. H. Gaby, the gentleman who has done the legal engineering of the scheme so well, Councillor John Greed, who achieved the distinction of moving the first resolution in favour of Incorporation some three or four years ago. Mr. S. D. Atchison, and Mr. Sydney Cohen. On arrival at London Bridge the ambassadors of Bexhill drove to Mr. Gaby’s agent’s offices in Gray’s Inn, where they received into their safe keeping the precious Charier. There was no time to lose if the machinery for the fete was not to be entirely dislocated. and the party drove off to Victoria Station where, having been joined by the Deputy Provisional Mayor (Mr. Daniel Mayer. J.P.I, they entrained at noon for Bexhill. Alderman John Bray formed one of the unofficial members of the party on its re-turn journey. At ten minutes past two o’clock Earl De La Warr alighted from a motor car amid a great crowd at the Town Hall and walked into the Municipal buildings with the Charter in has hand. Then, while thousands of eyes were being strained, and six terrific reports in the air notified to the outside world that Bexhill had got its Charter, the Provisional Mayor mounted the stand, rapidly followed by as many Sussex Mayors, Deputy Mayors. Town Clerks, and other distinguished guests us could squeeze themselves into the rostrum, and the Acting Town Clerk immediately proceeded to the reading of the Charter. This interesting formality did not take more than ten minutes, long enough, however, for scores of cameras to obtain records of the memorable scene, rendered picturesque by the handsome robes of their visiting Worships, and brightened up in every part of the crowd by the smart uniforms of the Volunteers, the glittering helmets of the firemen, and the waving flags and bunting. Everybody who heard it felt a glow of satisfaction at the King’s greeting to the inhabitants of Bexhill, and when the reading was over God Save the King” came heartily from a thousand throats.

The Transportation of the Charter


Though the Charter of Incorporation was carried from Loudon Victoria Station to Bexhill Central Station  by train it was brought from the train to Bexhill Town Hall by the car shown on the left. This was the first time that a Charter had been so carried.

Charter Celebrations

Some of the events forming part of the 1902 Charter Celebrations.

Many arrangements for celebrations had been arranged for when the Charter arrived in Bexhill and these were reported in The Bexhill Observer on that day, the first two pages of which are displayed below. NOTE! Let your cursor hover at the bottom of each page where a button will appear to let that page be enlarged or reduced.

You can read news paper articles about the celebrations from the Bexhill Observer

Article 1 | Article 2

Bexhill’s First Mayor and Borough Elections

Although the 8th Earl De La Warr was named as the provisional mayor of Bexhill on the draft charter of incorporation qqwqwwhe was not Bexhill’s first mayor.

The 8th Earl had failed to be elected as chairman of the Urban District Council when he returned from the South African War in 1900, his staunchest supporter Daniel Mayer had then resigned from the Council in protest. Daniel Mayer had been nominated as the provisional deputy mayor on the draft charter.

Following the Earl’s divorce he was subject to much public criticism. A letter entitled “The moral side of the election” signed by most of Bexhill’s ministers was circulated. Sensing the mood in the town the Earl did not stand as a candidate for the mayoralty.

There was a rather undignified scramble to find a ‘suitable’ alternative mayor at short notice. Daniel Mayer wrote to Ebenezer Howard to suggest a meeting to discuss the matter. Howard had property in Collington Lane but actually lived in London and had not previously been involved in the public life of Bexhill. Howard agreed and became Bexhill’s first mayor, although there was some early opposition to his nomination. The first mayor and aldermen were elected on 9th November 1902.

1,417 of the 1,933 burgesses who could vote did so, this was out of a total population of about 12,000. Such a large crowd gathered outside the Town Hall to hear the declaration by Earl De La Warr that in the crush part of the outer wall collapsed.

Part of the Charter Celebrations

ORDER OF PROCESSION. (From the Bexhill Observer, dated 17th May 1902)

Mr. C. S. James is the appointed marshal of the procession. He will have the assistance of Mr. R. Povey and others. The carriages will drive from Amherst-road to the gates to take up the passengers, and the procession will move off in the following order:—Mounted Police. Band of the 2nd Cinque Ports Royal Garrison Artillery Volunteers. H.M. Coastguards. 3rd Battery 2nd Cinque Ports Royal Garrison Artillery Volunteers. ” D ” Company 1st Sussex Royal Engineer Volunteers. 1st Cinque Port Rifles with hand. St. John Ambulance Brigade. Dr. O. Osborne (medical officer of health) in his motor car. Other officials of the Urban District Council in carriages.

Members of the Council. Representatives of the Press. Members of the Incorporation Committee.

Carriages containing Alderman Stenning (late chairman East Sussex County Council and Mr Merrifield (clerk).

Carriage containing his Worship the Mayor of Westminster (Lieut.-Colonel Prohyn) and Town Clerk. Carriage containing his Worship the Mayor of Eastbourne (Alderman N. Strange), the ex-Mayor (Alderman Keay), and Town Clerk (Mr H. W. Fovargue).

Carriage containing his Worship the Mayor of Lewes (Alderman Gates) and Town Clerk. Carriage containing his Worship the Mayor of Hastings (Alderman F. A. Lang-ham, J.P.), the Deputy Mayor (Alderman Tuppenney), and Town Clerk (Mr. Ben. Meadows). Carriage containing the Rector of Bex-hill (the Rev. T. T. Churtont. Mr.• F. N. Creswell (Privy Council Commissioner). and Mr. E Sholto Douglas (Acting Town Clerk). “Argyle “motor car containing the Charter Mayor (Lord De La Warr) with the Charter Mayor.

ROUTE OF PROCESSION. The route taken by the procession will be as follows:—Town Hall. Sackville-road Arch. Wickham-avenue. Park-road. Marina, Devonshire-road. St. Leonards-road. Sea-road, De La Warr parade, Middlesex-road. Cantelupe-road. Sea-road, Upper Sea-road. High-street. Belle-hill. Amherst-road. Town Hall. Station-road. The Down.

Cunningham  Co. and Giggins & Co.

1920 Charter Procession passing down Devonshire Road

The report of the procession in the “Bexhill Observer” says, “Messers Cunningham & Company. sent  a red baker’s van, on the top of which were four large loaves and bread in the form of a crown. This was awarded the prize of one guinea for the best trade car. Messers Giggins and Company sent a floral car covered with lilium, hydrangeas  and other choice flowers, palms and ferns.”

The First Bexhill Council

The following report comes from the Bexhill Observer, dated November 29th 1902.

Constitution of the Town Council

With the finish of the bye-elections last Saturday, the first Town Council of Bexhill is now fully constituted. The body’ consists of 25 members—the Mayor, six Aldermen. and eighteen Councillors. The membership is as follows; the number of ,years denoting the length of time for which the various Aldermen and Councillors are elected —


ALDERMEN – Alderman G. Vale. Deputy-Mayor (six years); Alderman G. Cooper (six years); Alderman H. L. M. Dunn. J.P. (six years); Alderman W.. Noakes (three years); Alderman W. J. Smith (three years); Alderman H. Young (three years)


CENTRAL WARD – Councillor J. M. Glover (three years); Councillor G. H. Gray (three years); Councillor R. D. Jesty (two years); Councillor R. H. Gaby (two years); Councillor W. J. P. Sheraton (one year); Councillor C. Wellerd (one year).

SACKTILLE WARD – Councillor E. G. F. Fitch-Jones (three years); Councillor D. S. M. Douglas (two years); Councillor H. Luntley (one year)

EGERTON PARK WARD – Councillor Dr. G. P. Longman (three years); Councillor H. Brooke (two years); Councillor J, Greed (one year).

ST. MARY’S WARD – Councillor Walter Lawrence (three years); Councillor A. E. Dixie (two years); Councillor A. Barker (one year).

OLD TOWN WARD – Councillor E. Bunting (three years); Councillor J. D. Atchison (two years); Councillor W. Cruttenden (one year).


Below: – Alderman W. J. Smith; Alderman W. Noakes; Alderman G. Cooper; Alderman H. L. M. Dunn

Below: – Alderman H. Young; Alderman George Vale; Alderman E.G.F. Fitch-Jones (Deputy Mayor); Alderman R.H. Gaby

Below: -Alderman W. Cruttenden; Alderman J. D. Aitchison; Alderman H. Brooke; Alderman A. E. Dixie

Below: – Alderman J. M. Glover; Alderman H. Gorringe-Smith (Assistant Town Clerk); Alderman G. H. Gray; Alderman J. Greed

Below: – Alderman George Ball (Borough Surveyor); Alderman W. T. LeFeuvre (Borough Electrical Engineer); Alderman E. Sholto-Douglas (Town Clerk); Alderman C. Wellerd

Borough of Bexhill 1902 Events

Taken from the Bexhill Chronicle Directory & Almanack

The following are various extracts taken from the above and are displayed throughout the exhibition. Not only is the content of interest but, also, the language of the day.

Jan 6Fire completely gutted the premises of Prichard’s Blind Works at Wickham Avenue.
Jan 28A public meeting was held at the Victoria Hall, Bexhill, when a Division of St John’s Ambulance Brigade was formed.
Feb 27In aid of the funds of the Bexhill branch of the Children’s League of Pity, a ping-pong tournament was concluded at the Farmerie, Marina, Bexhill.
Feb 28Route march of the Bexhill (“D”) Company, 1st Sussex R.E.V. Interesting tactics in the neighbourhood of Sidley.
Mar 3a rate of 1s 10d in the £ was made at the ordinary meeting of the Bexhill: District Council.
Mar 23The body of a man was found in the Bungalow, Galley Hill, Bexhill. At the inquest, held at the Bexhill Town, the verdict was returned to the effect “deceased died by his own act by taking oxalic acid during temporary insanity.”
Apr 15adjourned public meeting was held at the Victoria Hall, Bexhill, to consider the Corporation celebrations at Bexhill. It was decided there should be 80 for the young, a dinner for the aged, and bonfires at Cooden Mount and Mill Wood.
Apr 22Gas Exhibition, promoted by the Bexhill Water and Gas Company at the Victoria Hall, Bexhill. The value of the Lucas Lamp was demonstrated.
May 15Abandonment of the Bexhill and Rotherfield Railway Scheme.
May 26at the meeting of the Bexhill Urban District Council Mr E. Bunting claimed the vacant seat on the Council which was left untenanted by the disqualification of Councillor R. H. Gaby. He was said to be “ill-advised.”
May 26A stormy meeting was held at the Schoolroom, Crowhurst to protest against the Union Poor Rate of £25.
Jun 9Shocking suicide at Bexhill. A builder’s lather named Spencer Seymour blew his brains out during a fit of temporary insanity.
Jun 30The bonfire erected on the Highlands by the Bexhill correlation Committee was lighted without permission and burnt to the ground.
Jul 12Annual outing of the employees of Messers Cunningham, Barfeet and Co. of Bexhill, to the Isle of Wight.
Jul 23A “welcome-home” dinner was given by Court “De La Warr” A.O.F.,. at the Bell Hotel, to the brothers Cruttenden who had lately returned from the war.
Aug 9Coronation Day at Bexhill. A thanksgiving service was held at the Parish Church,. A Royal salute of 21 guns was fired by the Bexhill Battery 2nd C.P.R.G.A. (V). A tea was given to the children and a dinner to the old people, whilst sports were held on the Down.
Aug 25Annual outing of the employees of the “Bexhill Chronicle” to Bodiam Castle.
Aug 29A deficit of £6. 6s was announced at a meeting of the Bexhill Coronation Committee, held at the Bexhill Town Hall.
Sep 1A new half-yearly rate of 2s 2p in the £was made at the ordinary meeting of the Bexhill Urban district Council.
Sep 28Last concert of the season at the Bexhill Kursaal, Mr J. M. Glover announced that 1,094 concerts had been given during the past year.
Oct 4Sale of the Countess De La Warr’s herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle at the Manor House, Bexhill.
Oct 16A meeting of the P. R. O.s of the Egerton Park Warned was held at the Victoria Hall, but only five turned up. It was adjourned.
Oct 31At the meeting of the Battle Board of Guardians, Dr Haig Brodie, Medical Officer to the Battle Union, explained the cause of the large consumption of spirits at the Union.
Nov 20A concert was held at the Bexhill Institute in aid of the debt on the new premises of the Sidley Working Men’s Club. A total of some £12 was realised.
Dec 6Fancy dress dance under the auspices of the local branch of the League of Pity, at the Devonshire Hotel, Bexhill. The funds of the Society benefited by £12 12s.
Dec 16First of two amateur dramatic entertainments at the Bexhill Institute in aid of the Institute’s funds. The programme included “Sugar and Cream,” “Dream Faces,” and “Popping the Question”.

St. John’s Ambulance Association

The Bexhill Centre for the St John’s Ambulance Association was set up by Annie Lady Brassey, Lady De La Warr’s mother, in 1883 and first aid classes were held in Bexhill by Henry Lane. Lady Brassey was an early patron of the Association and wrote a book on their aims and objectives and through lectures and exhibitions did much to promote the organisation world-wide. When Annie died in 1887 she had just completed a lecture tour on the St John’s Ambulance in Australia.

The Bexhill Division of the St John’s Ambulance Association was formed at a public meeting at Victoria Hall on the 28th January 1902. Fund-raising events to support the Association were held in the town throughout the year.

Their first official appearance was at the 1902 Speed Trials when ten men under their commander were split into two teams of five and were stationed at the start and finish lines.


eerfdewsMr E. W. C. Bowrey, Mayor of Bexhill in 1923/24, fostered the idea of the town subscribing to provide Bayencourt with a water tower and a piped water supply. The 5th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment had been based at Bayencourt, near Arras, during the First World War. Bayencourt had been almost destryed during the fighting and Bowrey encouraged Bexhill to `adopt’ the village. In 1924, as Mayor of the Borough of Bexhill, he led a civic party to Bayencourt for the inauguration ceremony. A further donation and civic visit was made in 1930 when it was found that the work had not been completed within the estimate.

The Bexhill Observer reported in 1984: “When a party of Bexhillians entered a French village at the weekend a welcoming cheer went up from 100 throats. It is 63 years since Bexhillians clubbed together to provide £250 – then a King’s ransom – to provide the war-ravaged village of Bayencourt, near Arras, with a much needed water supply. Another tide of war has washed over Bayencourt since that time. But the villagers never forgot the generosity of the people from an English town they had never seen,”

The photograph on the right was taken in April 1930 outside the Town Hall at Bayencourt.

Later Celebrations

Bexhill Borough – 1902-1974

The Silver Jubilee of the Borough was celebrated in 1927 and the Golden Jubilee in 1952. In 1952 a major exhibition was staged at the De La Warr Pavilion, in which the Museum and its curator Henry Sargent were closely involved. The exhibition showed the work of the Borough and groups within the town and was deemed to be a great success.

In 1972 (the seventieth year of the Borough) there was the celebration for the 1,200th anniversary of the Bexhill Charter of King Offa of Mercia, which provides the first documentary reference to a place called ‘Bexhill’. It was also the time when the Old Town Preservation Society was formed, as a number of people were concerned about the loss of historic buildings in Bexhill following the demolition of the Manor House in 1968.

This exhibition and the celebrations in the town during the year mark one hundred years since the Charter of Incorporation and also 1,230th year of Bexhill as a place.

Beating of the Boundsqwerty

The boundary of the Borough of Bexhill was defined by Mr Gaby’s chief assistant Herbert Junius Allen Hardewicke. It was marked by 63 boundary stones marked `B.B’.

One of the stones at the high water mark at the foot of Galley Hill soon washed away and it is not known how many of the stones have survived to the present. The boundary of the Borough of Bexhill was 12 miles long.

The Beating of the Bounds of Bexhill Borough has occurred only three times, October 1909, June 1925 and June 1928. The 1928 event was a pretext for checking that Hastings Corporation had not taken any liberties with the boundary. It was planned to have a Beating of the Bounds in 1952 but this was cancelled due to lack of interest.

Traditionally a child from the community was beaten at landmarks along the boundary so that they would remember. In Bexhill the custom was to ‘bump’ a councillor on the boundary stones.

The Borough Mace and the Mullens Cup

Henry Laneqwertyuu

Left above: – The Mullens Cup is the distinguished centre-piece of the above Corporation insignia. It is a silver loving cup given in 1926 by Major W. H. Mullens, mayor in 1927-28, and who also gave the silver fanfare trumpets and banners commemorating his year as High Sheriff of Sussex in 1916-17;

Right above: – In October 1906 the Council was presented with the mace, the cost of which had been mt by a public subscription organised by the Bexhill Association `to complete the mayoral insignia’, and surplus funds from the Whit-Monday Horse Show that year, an annual event started in 1903 and which remains a principal one in the town’s calendar to this day. The mace is described as follows: `The bulb is ornamented with the newly granted arms of the borough in proper heraldic enamels surmounted by sprays of oak and laurels connected by ornaments of dolphins, tridents and seaweed, beautifully chased. The whole is surmounted by the Imperial Crown and the full arms of His Majesty the King. The supports holding the bulb of the mace are excellent specimens of the silversmith’s art and represent sea horses.’

Among the civic possessions is an embossed gilt key commemorating the opening of the extension to Egerton Park by the Lord Mayor of London (Sir W. Vaughan Morgan) in 1906; a silver stamp case and gilt key commemorating the opening of the Head Post Office in Devonshire Square in 1931.

Lt. Col. Henry Lane 1827-1896

“Father of Local Government” in Bexhill

qwertyHenry Lane lived at Broadoak Manor and served the community of Bexhill for over 30 years. Lane was the first chairman of the Local Board of Bexhill, first chairman of Bexhill Union and first resident justice of the peace. He was Bexhill’s representative on the East Sussex County Council and later became the town’s first county alderman.

He retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel at the age of 38 years on the death of his father, killed in a road accident at Ninfield in 1865.

The Memorial in Town Hall Square was erected to his honour on the 25 June 1896. It was unveiled by his widow with the 8th Earl De La Warr and Lord Brassey in attendance.

Rother District Council

In 1974 Bexhill Borough was replaced by the Rother District Council

The end of the Borough

Following a review of local government in 1971 it was decided that Bexhill was too small to be a local authority by itself. Various suggestions were made, including amalgamation with Hastings, a proposal that was vigorously resisted as it was felt that Bexhill would lose its identity and simply become a suburb of Hastings. It was decided to merge Bexhill Borough with the rural area surrounding Hastings and in 1974 Rother District Council was formed.

The urban/rural composition of the district sometimes still creates tension. With the new local authority operating out of Bexhill Town Hall the change, from Bexhill’s point of view, was not as dramatic it might of otherwise been.

It has been suggested that there should not be charter celebrations in 2002 because Bexhill Borough ceased to exist in 1974. However the royal charter could not be simply be torn up and Bexhill retained its right to have a mayor.


What will Bexhill be like in 2102? Will there still be such a concept as a town as a unit of settlement, or will it merely be an area of housing along an undifferentiated south coast. Do people think of themselves as Bexhillians, Sidleyites or Little Commoners now, will they in the future? It is more than a matter of idle speculation, a spirit of place and a sense of community affects our quality of life. Do you feel safe in Bexhill; do you feel welcome; or do you feel that you belong in Bexhill, these are all important questions.

It is impossible to say what is going to happen, but whether community life gets better or worse will be up to the town’s residents. The national or global economy only forms a background to the fortunes of Bexhill, it is locally based decisions that are important and the attitude of residents that matter.


Bexhill Museum Association thanks Bexhill 100 for the loan of three paintings by Chris Rooke. Our thanks also go the Exhibitions Group and its helpers:— Gill Streater Jackie Tomlinson Marion Venton Alan Beecher Hans Heetveld John Malley Alan Ma1pass and to Danielle Burt Rachael Palmer Don Phillips Julian Porter

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