Nostalgic Bexhill-on-Sea

Visitors to Bexhill-on-Sea discover many nostalgic delights here. The 7th Earl De La Warr created the resort in the late 1800s. Being very modern, the Earl allowed mixed bathing on Bexhill beach, the first in England to allow it. The 8thEarl built a boulevard along the seafront and on it visitors enjoyed cycling on the new-fangled machines.

Cycling

Today, Bexhill’s Classic Cycle Group, whose motto is ‘Tweed not speed,’ often rides around the town or on the sea front. They ride Penny Farthings or traditional butcher’s or baker’s delivery bikes. They turn out to every event in the town wearing vintage clothes and riding their vintage bikes. Riders of vintage cycles come from all over the south east to join the local riders, to the delight of astonished visitors. Even Santa comes on a Penny Farthing in Bexhill!

International Motor Racing

The 8th Earl used the same boulevard to host the first international motor race on British soil in 1902. Taking part in the race was Monsieur Serpollet who had just won the world land speed title reaching 75 mph in a steam-powered egg-shaped car. There is a replica of the car in Bexhill Museum. The boulevard is now De La Warr Parade where The Coast Grille has an exhibition of the town’s motor racing heritage as the Birthplace of British Motor Racing.

Ixion

Less well known, is the double life lived by Canon Basil Henry Davies BA who was vicar at St Barnabas Church in Bexhill-on-Sea from 1926 to 1940. Unknown to anyone, he wrote under the pen name Ixion for The Motor Cycle magazine from 1903 to 1961. A well known and much respected figure in the motor cycle world, his double life was only revealed after he died. In his memory the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club meets at the church once a year and forms a cavalcade of vintage motor cycles. There is a blue plaque in his honour on the Wall of St. Barnabus Church in Sea Rd.

St Barnabus church is a listed building. Its cafe is open every day except Monday.

Bexhill Town Centre

The town centre is a now conservation area and there are several shop fronts with original Victorian or Edwardian doors, windows and frames. The Little British Tea Shop is a study in nostalgia. The building is listed and the frontage and café door exhibit splendid examples of Victorian workmanship and style.

What was once Bexhill West station booking office is now Eras of Style. Aptly named, it is a stylish antiques showroom with a café in what used to be the station waiting room, a food hall selling local produce and a small garden centre.

Bexhill Sea Front

On a fine day the King George V Colonnade, opened in 1911, is a semi-circle of market stalls and a sheltered spot to take a sedate Tea by the Sea. On Sunday there is often a Punch and Judy show or a jazz band entertaining passers by.

The 1930s saw the building of the iconic De La Warr Pavilion. Right on the seafront, its long, sea-facing, first floor balcony and flat roof nods to the luxurious ocean-liner lifestyle. The 9th Earl called his award winning building a ‘People’s Palace’ and gave it to the people of Bexhill. Now, a Grade I listed building, the ‘modernist’ Pavilion combines the best of the new and the old and is truly a People’s Palace. It is home to art galleries and an auditorium combining film, theatre and dance hall. Locals and visitors experience the pleasures of the pre-war era. You can enjoy dining on the first floor terrace while looking out to sea and soaking up the sun. You really could be on an ocean liner!

For those lucky enough to live in or to visit Bexhill-on-Sea a gentler pace of life is a daily experience. Independent shop-keepers in small shops greet their customers by name and have time to talk. We buy fish from the fishmonger (or we fish for it from the beach or boats). We buy meat from the butcher, and vegetables from the green-grocer or we visit the weekly Farmers’ Market. Life’s pleasures can be savoured here.