Eastbourne, United Kingdom
We don’t have amy plans for the rest of our trip. There are a few things on the ‘nice to see list’ and we might get to them, but really we want to spend time with our aunt and cousin and find out a bit more about our father.
Today we decided to go to the the Eastbourne Heritage Centre, to see what we could find. Before we went there, we went for a stroll down the road to find St John’s Church in Meads, which is where our father was baptised. He said he was unsure why he would have been baptised there, as Meads was the wealthier area of Eastbourne and his family hadn’t lived there.
We found the church easily enough, and discovered it had been a victim of bombing in May 1942, with only the tower surviving. It was restored in 1960, so the church we saw wasn’t the actual building our father had been baptised in. However I contacted the Eastbourne Library and the staff in the history centre were able to find some old pictures of the church for me, so at least we know what it looked like.
After visiting St John’s we went to the Heritage Centre, only to find it didn’t open until 2pm. So we wandered round the town and found Lil Sis a frock to wear out to dinner for our aunt’s birthday party tonight. There are heaps of charity shops here, and they have a lot of really good clothes, and she found a couple of nice dresses. I found a scarf.
Unfortunately I spent most of the charity shop tour engaged in a huge coughing fit – you know the type where you get a tickle in your throat, and you cough, and that irritates the tickle and you cough more and you can’t stop and you go really red in the face and tears are streaming down your face and you’re expecting the health authorities to pick you up and put you in quarantine for a month. Yeah, that. Unpleasant.
We made our way back to the Heritage Centre and we were a bit early, so we had lunch at the ice cream parlour across the road. Lunch. Of the sweet, frozen kind. As you do.
The opening of the Heritage Centre was beset by drama and mishap, and 40 minutes after the advertised opening time, we were able to go in. The ground floor has some interesting pictures of the development of the town and the upper floor has an exhibition about Eastbourne in World War II. This was the part that interested us most, as this is when our father was here – well actually he wasn’t; he was evacuated in July 1940 with a lot of other children. Originally Eastbourne was one of the places children from London were evacuated to – our Dad’s family even hosted one – but this changed later in 1940 when the bombs started falling on Eastbourne.
Eastbourne was the most bombed southern coastal town in England during World War II and, while many people evacuated, many stayed on to keep the town running.
You wouldn’t know it to see the town now, but the photos of the devastation at the time were pretty harrowing. Because I don’t know the place well, it was hard for me to imagine what it would have been like.
We asked at the Heritage Centre if they knew of a particular address that Dad said was the house he was born in. They didn’t know, but referred us to the library to have a look in the old street directories. That’s a job for tomorrow. We spent the rest of the afternoon with our aunt and cousin, before going back to the hotel to get changed.
One of us looked swanky and gorgeous, the other one looked barely passable. I’ll let you decide which was which.
It was a fun night and we met some more relatives. The less said about my heroic attempt at rescuing a bottle of wine that ended up in the birthday girl wearing the contents of my glass the better.