The Development of Victorian Eastbourne


Eastbourne Society Heritage Walk

From the railway station, cross at the traffic lights by Gildredge Road and turn right along Terminus Road to the mini roundabout and walk up Grove Road. This area is known as Little Chelsea and has a range of independent specialist shops and attractive terraced houses.

Facing you is the public library with adjoining council offices. Opened in 1964, and designed by the borough architects department in a modern style faced in Portland Stone with Lakeland green slate dressings, it has a fine sculpture in relief on its Grove Road facade depicting ‘A Scholar Seeking Knowledge’ by Hammond Davis. There is a theatre and arts venue beneath with a high quality interior and original wood panelled walls. The building replaced the former 1904 Institute and Art College that was damaged by bombing in 1943. Grove Road, built up in the 1890s, is one of the few curving roads in the area and thus makes a focal point of the Town Hall and church of Our Lady of Ransom at the top.

The Town Hall is the most flamboyant Victorian building in the town and has been described as ‘free Renaissance’ by Sir Nicholas Pevsner, combining English and French Renaissance with a flexible and sophisticated plan. The foundation stone was laid in 1884 and the building cost £40,000. It was opened by the Mayor Alderman George Boulton two years later in October 1886. In 1892 the superb clock with Westminster chimes was installed and remains in excellent working order, striking chimes every quarter of an hour from 6am to midnight (see cover). Its clock face now turns pink on World Aids Day every year. The foundation stone, by the right hand steps, bears the name of GA Wallis, the town’s first mayor.

Opposite the Town Hall stands the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Ransom , opened in 1901 by the Bishop of Southwark. The tower was added in 1912, the side chapels and chancel in 1920. On the corner of Meads Road and Saffrons Road is Caffyns car showroom. This well known firm was founded by William Morris Caffyn in 1865. Opposite on the corner of Grange Road and South Street stands Bibendum wine bar, originally the New Inn, rebuilt in 1880 with beautiful etched glass windows.

Cross South Street and remain on the left hand side where you will pass the oldest houses in the road at Nos.3 and 5, they are reputed to date from 1719. Take a detour along a path under a brick arch leading to a terrace of houses erected in 1891 by the Artisans’ Dwelling Company. The aim of the company was to provide a good standard of accommodation to families at an affordable rent. By the last of these houses, over a flint wall, can be seen the end wall of a typical half hipped roof Sussex barn.

Return to the road and turn left past Central Court, a large building dated 1879 that was originally St Saviour’s Choir School. Adjacent is a building erected in 1899 as St Saviour’s Church Rooms, now a masonic hall and next to it is Haines, built in 1838 and one of the town’s oldest firms of undertakers, now part of CPJ Field. Further down the same side on the corner of Calverley Passage is the former offices for the Eastbourne Chronicle with some interesting relief work at first floor level.

St Saviour’s is without doubt the finest Victorian church in the town. The Eastbourne Heritage Walk foundation stone was laid in 1865 and the completed church was consecrated by the Bishop of Chichester in 1867. The tower, one of the landmarks of Eastbourne, stands 175 feet tall and is almost detached from the church. A visit inside is highly recommended if open. The mosaics and frescoes are by Clayton and Bell, the altar by pre-Raphaelite wood carver George Jack and the stained glass by Shrigley and Hunt.

Leaving St Saviour’s turn into Spencer Road and on the right is Spencer Court which was the first building used by Eastbourne College in 1867. Retrace your steps to South Street, turn left and note the fine Victorian villas at the beginning of College Road before entering Furness Road. On the right is a fine group of cobbled cottages which are a relic of Southbourne, one of the original hamlets that became part of the town. Just beyond these is a house and the Church of Latter Day Saints built in 1874 as St Saviour’s School.

At the junction turn left and walk along Grange Road, cross Blackwater Road and just after the corner at the base of the flint wall surrounding Eastbourne College is the licence plate of a luggage porter for a hackney carriage stand, marked L/PS. Eastbourne College, one of the premier public schools in the UK, consists of a number of buildings. These date from various times as the school was built over more than a century - the original building of 1870/71, New Buildings of 1877, Big School of 1909, Memorial Buildings of 1925 and the Science Block since 2000. In addition to the main buildings, many of the Victorian houses in the area are owned by the college. Continue down Blackwater Road past New Buildings and the main gates.

Turn right into College Road and continue past the Thompson Gates, erected in 1927 as a memorial to a former headmaster, HR Thompson. Beyond the Science Block is the new college development built to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the college in 2017. At the end of College Road is the Birley Centre, a new arts venue for both the college and the town that was built in 2011 and named after another former headmaster. The magnificent modernist building on the opposite corner is the Towner gallery, designed by Rick Mather Architects and opened in 2009 following the move from its former home in the Manor Gardens.

Towner is attached to the Grade II* Congress Theatre that was opened in 1963, built at a cost of £400,000 and designed by Bryan & Norman Westwood & Partners. Devonshire Park, opened in 1874, lies behind and now forms part of the newly designated Devonshire Quarter.

Turn left into Compton Street past the Welcome Building, built as the new gateway to the Devonshire Quarter, and the Winter garden. Notice the delightful building on the opposite corner built in 1886 originally as the flag tower and manager’s lodgings for the Devonshire Park & Baths Company. It is now Eastbourne Heritage Centre with displays and films about the town’s built history.

Continue along Compton Street passing The Stage Door public house on the left with its oriental style roof which was built in 1897, also by the Devonshire Park & Baths Company. Beyond is the Devonshire Park Theatre designed by Henry Currey, built in 1876, and described as one of the finest Victorian theatres, the interior of which has remained unaltered and kept in good order since being altered by Frank Matcham in 1903. On leaving the front of the theatre look down to Chiswick Place, laid out to Currey’s 1859 plan, and note the remaining elegant Italianate villas on the left hand side built in the 1860s.

Turn left and almost immediately enter the Devonshire Quarter. Originally, as Devonshire Park, it was paid for entirely by the 7th Duke of Devonshire and opened in 1874 as a cricket ground, though it later became the main entertainment complex of the town and today hosts one of the leading ladies’ and gentlemen’s tennis tournaments in the world. A year later in 1875 the first stage of the Winter Garden was opened as an indoor extension to the roller skating rink, opened the previous year. The Winter Garden, also designed by Henry Currey, has often been described as a miniature Crystal Palace. Shortly to be restored, it is a venue for concerts, proms, and festivals.

Take the path behind the Winter Garden, the Welcome Building, and the Towner, and note the cream Edwardian tennis pavilion over to the right. Leave the park by the exit behind Towner, turn right into College Road and continue to the end, crossing over Furness Road, then South Street, to Gildredge Road which leads back to the railway station.

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Map & Directions

The Development of Victorian Eastbourne

Type:Town Trail

Eastbourne Railway Station, Terminus Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 3QJ

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Eastbourne Visitor Centre, Welcome Building, Compton Street, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 4BP

01323 415415

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