Looking around Bexhill, with its multitude of Victorian and Edwardian buildings, it is hard to believe that the town's history actually starts as far back as several thousand years BC. Indeed, microlithic flint tools have been found here, as have remnants from the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman era.
The areas known history however starts with the Saxons, when King Offa of Mercia gave land to the Bishop of Selsey in 772AD, so that a church could be built here; this was the church of St Peter and examples of the Saxon stonework can still be seen. When the Normans passed through on route from Pevensey to Battle in 1066, most of the town was burned to the ground and a little while later, the land taken away from the Bishops and given to Robert Count of Eu.
In 1148, John Count of Eu gave the land back to the Bishops, whose seat had been moved to Chichester by then. They built their first manor house here, only using it when travelling to the area from Chichester. In 1276, the Bishops turned a large part of Bexhill into a hunting park and permission was granted to fortify the manor house. 1561 saw ownership for the Manor of Bexhill pass to the Crown and in 1570 Queen Elizabeth I gave the area to Sir Thomas Sackville, whose family went on to become the Dukes of Dorset.
For a time, Bexhill continued as a quiet inland hamlet with no more than 500 residents, and
then in the late nineteenth century things started to change. The seventh Earl De La Warr built a seawall on the eastern side of the town in 1882 and from then onwards, the town began to grow quickly. He turned the area into Bexhill-on-Sea, a fashionable resort where the Edwardian aristocracy came to play. The eighth Earl married in 1891, control of the manor passed to him from his father and he continued to press forward with the development of the town.
The early twentieth century saw Bexhill continue to grow. In 1901 the town became the first seaside resort in Britain to permit mixed bathing and in 1902, Bexhill became an incorporated borough, the central railway station opened and the first British motor race took place here. Later in 1935, the famous De La Warr Pavilion opened - initiated by the ninth Earl, it is now a Grade I listed building.
The Town Today
Today, the old town of Bexhill with its picturesque cottages and fifteenth-century Wealden hall-house, contrasts with the Regency architecture found along the 4-mile (6 km) seafront. Lined by colourful flowerbeds, the 2-mile (3 km) long level promenade is the ideal place to stroll and enjoy the summer sun and sea air. A quiet seaside resort with a good selection of places to eat, hotels, entertainment facilities and pavement cafés, Bexhill is a wonderful place to come for a long weekend, the week, or longer.