Though best-known for its charming beach and quaint Victorian pier, the sunny seaside town of Eastbourne in England also has plenty to offer if you’re hoping for a peek into its history. Though several of Eastbourne’s museums have sadly closed down in recent years, the town and its surrounding areas still have a vibrant collection of exhibition options.
The Redoubt Fortress and Military Museum
The 200-year-old Redoubt Fortress was reopened in March 2017 after restoration work. Now visitors can enjoy lively tours from costumed guides bringing the Napoleonic era back to life. Entry is free to the fortress, and the space plays host to a lively programme of events such as stargazing with Eastbourne astronomical society.
Eastbourne Heritage Centre
For a comprehensive introduction to Eastbourne‘s history, head over to the beautiful Grade II listed building which houses the town’s heritage centre, where maps, displays, artefacts and film will lead you through the town’s evolution from fashionable Victorian seaside retreat to a modern resort known for its sunshine. Built in 1880, the building was once known as Park Cottage and was close to being demolished before it was saved and transformed into Eastbourne Heritage Centre.
Pevensey Museum and Gaol
Recently donated a hand-sewn replica of the Pevensey landing scene of the Bayeux Tapestry, this museum provides wonderful insights into the history of Eastbourne and its surrounding towns. With a medieval jail preserved inside, the building itself is evocative of years gone by. Staff are knowledgeable and passionate, ready to guide you through Sussex’s history with an expert eye.
This site, dating back to 1229, is surrounded by the longest water-filled medieval moat in England. Along with an interactive Victorian kitchen and WW2 evacuee’s bedroom, visitors to Michelham Priory should be on the lookout for ghosts; the building is on the site of an Augustine Priory, with stories of unexplained figures haunting the corridors ready to give you goosebumps.
The Observatory Science Centre
Based at what was once a world-famous observatory, the Science Centre offers hands-on experience with interactive exhibits, telescope tours, astronomy courses and year-round events bringing science to life. Following refurbishments in 2004, thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the building is now a Grade II-listed monument with over 100 exhibitions alongside the famous telescopes.
Eastbourne Lifeboat Museum
This little museum, located directly on Eastbourne seafront, is certainly worth popping into for a glimpse of the history of Eastbourne’s RNLI lifeboat and the courageous work of its volunteer team over the years. From helping out with the evacuation at Dunkirk to braving the waves to rescue stranded walkers at the foot of Beachy Head’s cliffs, you can learn plenty from the detailed displays and helpful staff.
This 19th century fort, built to defend the port of Newhaven, is well worth exploring. The building is more than 150 years old and offers a range of activities and displays to draw you into the fascinating secrets hidden at this, the largest defence work, ever built in Sussex.