Seaford's Blue Plaques
An attractive town with as long a history as Seaford will have played host to many people of note over its many centuries. Some of ours are nationally or internationally famous, others are surprising; still others should perhaps be more famous than they are.
Our commemorative Blue Plaques are listed here in alphabetical order. They are added to from time to time. There are two ‘tabs’ next to each other for each entry: “Introduction” and “The story”. Click one to reveal its text and images.
To help you find their location they are marked on a map – click here.
Lavender Cottage, Steyne Road / Crooked Lane
After her own traumatic experiences of childbirth Prunella Briance (1926-2017) became a passionate campaigner to improve the health of women and their experience of giving birth. She was the founder of the National Childbirth Association which later became the National Childbirth Trust.
The Trust has grown since its foundation in 1957 to become the pre-eminent provider of ante and post-natal support for parents. Her radical ideas at that time (such as having fathers present in labour wards) have been accepted as common practice. Prunella Briance had been inspired by Dr. Grantly Dick-Reid, a GP practising in Suffolk, who in 1942 has written a “Childbirth Without Fear”.
The NCT began with Prunella Briance advertising a meeting in the personal columns of the Times announcing that “A Natural Childbirth Association is to be formed for the promotion and better understanding of the Dick-Read system.” In January 1957 the inaugural meeting of the new organisation was held at a packed Caxton Hall in Westminster. In her later years, during which she continued to be active – she was an enthusiastic artist, discovered a passion for singing in her 40s, and played tennis.
Prunella lived in Lavender Cottage from 1962 to 1970. Lavender Cottage is at the junction of Steyne Road and Crooked Lane and would have fronted onto the quayside of ancient harbour of Seaford when it was a cinque port. The cottage’s garden was resurrected recently, and a video appears here
The BBC News has published an interesting article celebratiing 60 years since the formation of the National Childbirth Trust. Further information about the life and work of Prunella Briance please see obituaries published in the Independent and the Guardian
On 18thJuly 1545, a French fleet led by the High Admiral Claude d’Annabant attacked the south coast of England. He was rather miffed that the English had just captured the port of Boulogne, and was after revenge. At Portsmouth, Henry VIIIs ship “Mary Rose” had promptly sunk as she tried to engage them. (She’s since been raised and is in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard).
Further down the coast the French attacked Hove, Brighton and Meeching (now Newhaven) before coming ashore here in Seaford Bay, where they “set certain soldiers on land to burn and spoil the country”. But we Sussex folk ‘wunt be druv’ (won’t be driven) and were having none of it. A local militia was gathered by Sir Nicholas Pelham (1515 -1559) of Lewes. One chronicler said “the beacons were fired and the inhabitants thereabouts came down so thick that the Frenchmen were driven to fly with loss of diverse of their numbers, so that they did little hurt”. Another account says the French were “met with such manful resistance… they were fain to betake themselves to their ships and galleys and to retire with considerable loss to their own side”
It is estimated that 1,500 Frenchmen landed and they burnt half a dozen cottages at “Blechington Hille” before they were repulsed by Pelham’s rag-tag army which consisted of local townsmen, gentry and yeoman who were presumably getting fed up with the regular incursions by the French, who had been attacking the Sussex coast since the 14thcentury.
It is not recorded how many Sussex men lost their lives in this skirmish, but over a hundred Frenchmen were either killed or drowned. The local people were relieved by this victory and Sir Nicholas became a local hero. The area where the attack had taken place was named after the Pelham symbol and is still to this day known as ‘The Buckle’ and a pub of the same name stood here for many years.
Pelham’s memorial in St Michael’s church in the High Street, Lewes shows him at prayer with his wife Anne Sackville above his children all kneeling on cushions. The memorial is in the form of a Tudor pun “What time the French sought to have sack’t Seafoord, this Pelham did repel them back aboord”
George Canning (1770 to 1827) was Prime Minister for only four months before he died, the shortest period of office held by any UK prime minister. He had been MP for Seaford for a short time in 1827 and doubtless stayed in Seaford House – the original one on this site – in order to qualify for the ‘residency’ requirements attached to candidacy in what was then a Rotten Borough.
George Canning was an enthusiastic follower of Pitt the Younger, resigning from his post as Paymaster General in 1801 when Pitt resigned as Prime Minister. Popular, witty and intelligent, he gained an early political following as an excellent public speaker. He was one of the first politicians to campaign heavily in the country, making many speeches outside Parliament and was known for his opposition to parliamentary reform and his advocacy of Catholic emancipation.
In 1807 he was made Foreign Secretary under the Duke of Portland. His greatest success was outmanoeuvring Napoleon at Copenhagen by seizing the Danish navy, but he also quarrelled badly with the War Minister, Castlereagh, over the deployment of troops. When Castlereagh discovered in September 1809 that Canning had made a deal with the Duke of Portland to have him removed from office, he was furious.
Demanding redress, Castlereagh challenged Canning to a duel, which was fought on 21 September 1809. Canning had never fired a pistol and completely missed, whilst Castlereagh wounded his opponent in the thigh. Both men resigned as a result of the incident.
A few weeks later, Canning was disappointed to be passed over as the choice for Prime Minister in favour of Spencer Perceval. His anger was such that he refused a high profile post in Perceval’s government. However, after a brief stint as ambassador to Portugal, he returned to join the government as President of the Board of Control.
He later replaced his old rival as Foreign Secretary in Lord Liverpool’s government after Castlereagh’s suicide in 1822. Once again, he made a successful Foreign Secretary, especially in preventing South America from falling into French hands.
Canning replaced Lord Liverpool as Prime Minister on 10 April 1827, and set about forming a coalition with the Whigs under Lord Lansdowne. On 8 August 1827, after spending barely 5 months in office, Canning died suddenly from pneumonia at Chiswick House. His last words were ‘Spain and Portugal’.
He has come to be regarded by some as a ‘lost leader’, with much speculation about what would have happened had he lived.
From 1923 to 1928 the building formerly on the site of the modern day Cheney’s Lodge in Sutton Road was owned by Leo Cheney, a well known cartoonist and illustrator. Leo Cheney died in 1928 and is buried locally at Seaford Cemetery.
Leo Cheney was born in Accrington in 1878, where he attended the local Grammar School before becoming a bank clerk. He was the first pupil to enroll on Percy Bradshaw’s cartoon correspondence course, and went on to sell cartoons to publications such as Boy’s Own Paper and Bystander. He later became staff cartoonist on the Manchester Evening News.
He is perhaps best remembered as the creator of the most famous ‘Striding Man’ version of the Johnnie Walker character for John Walker and Sons Whisky. Cheney gradually modified the original rather rakish figure into a ’rounder and more sociable character’, and these drawings appeared in advertisements in the Illustrated London News between 1915 and 1919. Even to this day, this logo is part of the iconic brand of whisky.
His other illustrations also appeared in popular satirical and humour magazines such as The Passing Show.
Cheney spent the final years of this life in Sussex, where he died in 1928.
Sir Winston Churchill should need no introduction, but he does have connections with Seaford, albeit indirectly through his wife to be ” Clemmie” – Clementine Hozier, who lived in Seaford for a while in Pelham Road (See the separate entry below).
The Hoziers stayed at the house of their friends, Mr & Mrs Jack who lived at 33 Sutton Road Seaford. Mary Soames in her biography of Clementine Churchill states that towards the end of June 1911 Clementine took Diane and Randolph to stay with the Jacks in Seaford.
Henry Tracey Coxwell was born on 2nd March 1819 and died in Seaford in 1900. He trained as a dentist before becoming a professional aviator and manufacturer of man-carrying balloons, having his factory in Richmond Road Seaford. On 5th September 1862, having previously made several hundred ascents in various coal gas filled balloons, he established a world altitude record with his friend, Dr James Glaisher, a meteorologist of note. They attained an altitude of 37,000 feet without of oxygen or special clothing. That record has never been broken. Coxwell set up a balloon warfare department for the German government. Over many years he took many passengers aloft to experience flight.
Coxwell and his wife lived in Sandford House, Connaught Road and is buried in Seaford Cemetery. The memorial tablet to him is in St Peter’s Church Blatchington and a road, Coxwell Close, is named after him.
by Peter Fellows – Seaford Museum & Heritage Society.
He was an English character actor with over 100 film and television credits. His acting career started in 1934, his first TV role was in 1938 and he continued appearing on TV until 1997. He also took part in many radio broadcasts.
Initially he made his name in radio comedy programmes such as ITMA and Much Binding in the Marsh, in which he provided over 60 different voices. He later provided all the voices for the 1954 animated version of Orwell’s Animal Farm. Film credits include The Purple Man (1954), 23 Paces to Baker Street (1956), Night of the Demon (1957), Two-way Stretch (1960), Sink the Bismark (1960), HMS Defiant (1962), Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965), The Day of the Jackal (1973), Murder on the Orient Express (1985) and 84 Charing Cross Road (1987).
He has extensive TV credits including his appearance twice in Doctor Who, and as a judge fallen from grace, sharing a cell with Fletcher in Porridge.
12 Sutton Road
The Empire was a 500 seater cinema, completed in 1913. Sutton Road at the time was residential. Houses had been built on both sides of the road, all with small gardens leading to the front door of the building. To build the Empire in keeping with the houses, the steps leading to the entrance of the cinema took up the the depth of the gardens, which allowed the front of the cinema to be built near enough in line with the houses.
On entering the front foyer of the Empire, the kiosk was right in the middle. There were two swing doors leading to the inner foyer, which had a large radiator. On winter evenings many of the staff would gather around this radiator for extra warmth. Further in there were another two swing doors leading you to the auditorium. The auditorium was very well furnished. The balcony was decorated in plaster motifs and the ceiling lights were of a dome shape. By all accounts the Empire was a very popular cinema with Seaford folk, especially the courting couples, as it had an atmosphere about it that many people liked.
On Tuesday evening, February 28th 1939 there were two feature films showing at the Empire– The Port of Seven Seas, starring Wallace Beery and Walking Down Broadway. After the customers left, the main electric switch near the front doors was turned off, the premises locked, and the staff went home.
At 1am. on the Wednesday morning, a nearby resident saw that the cinema was alight. Flames were licking round inside a window. She promptly called her daughter, who at once partly dressed and ran round into Sutton Park Road and rang the fire alarm. The call was received at 1.50am, and the Seaford Fire Brigade were on site within 8 minutes.
Chief Officer John Henry Reeves stated: “Directly we arrived we could see that the outbreak had started in the vicinity of the boiler room behind the stage and the flames had already got a good hold. They had already reached the roof at the rear of the building, and we were hampered by the fact that a very strong wind was blowing straight from the sea and therefore fanning the flames towards the centre of the building. In as short a time as possible we connected up fifteen 50-ft. lengths of hose and started to play water on the building and on the properties on its left and right.
We could see when the flames got such a hold that the interior of the building became a raging furnace, that the only thing to do to save the outer walls from falling was to play water on to the steel girders which ran from one side of the cinema.”
At 2.30am Chief Officer Reeves soon realised that the assistance of the Newhaven brigade was needed and they in turn arrived shortly afterwards.
The fire escape ladder was first erected and placed sideways to the front of the burning building. At that time it was about 40-ft. high and the two side props were put in position. Fireman Stanley Brown of 39, Stafford Road, heard the Chief Officer ask for volunteers to help, and four men, including Mr. Desmond White of the Belmont Café, came forward, and they stood at the foot of the escape to try and prevent the swaying.
Mr. Fred Mace, an experienced volunteer fireman of 20 years was to climb the ladder and hose the flames from the top. Mr. Brown followed Mr. Mace up the ladder, and assisted to secure the hose. The wind was so strong it was hard for Mr. Brown to hold on to the escape ladder, and the pressure of the wind at the top, where Mr. Mace was hosing the flames, would have been enormous, but Mr. Brown’s duty was over. As soon as he was satisfied that the hose was secure and safe, Mr. Brown descended.
A little time afterwards the position of the escape was changed slightly and the four men continued to try and steady the bottom. At around 3.30am the escape ladder seemed to get sideways to the wind. The four men were not as strong as the wind, and with Mr. Mace at the top of the ladder, the escape crashed to the ground. Mr. Fred Mace was taken to Brighton Hospital where he unfortunately died from his injuries.
At the inquest the Coroner stated that he had died a hero’s death. He also said he was “Not happy as to the conduct of the crowd”. Volunteers had been requested from the crowd to help steady the ladder but only four people assisted, a response condemned by the Coroner, stating “there was a lack of enthusiasm to come forward to help in manning the wheels of the escape”. Inquests at this time had a jury to decide on the evidence. The foreman of the Jury commented that the apparatus was inadequate and useless. He considered that the Fire Brigade did excellent work and no blame rested to the Chief Officer at the scene.
Fred Mace was 42 years old when he died, a married man with two children who had been a fireman for 12 years. A brave man indeed worthy of being remembered by Seaford’s townsfolk. Hundreds of Seafordians lined the streets as the cortege left the packed church where the funeral had been held and slowly drove through the town towards the Seaford cemetery. On each side and to the rear of the fire engine carrying the coffin of Mr. Mace marched members of the Seaford, Newhaven and Worthing fire brigades and their respective Auxiliary fire brigades.
The coffin was covered in the Union Flag, and carried on a brand new fire engine that, ironically, was delivered later on the day of the tragic Empire cinema fire. Every other square inch of space on the engine was covered with floral tributes, around 70 in all.
Grateful acknowledgements to Seaford Times for the reports and the photographs.
Clementine Hozier 1885-1977 lived with her mother and elder sister in apartments at 9 and 11 Pelham Road from 1895 to 1899. Part of the original terrace of houses was destroyed following a bombing raid in 1942, and have since been replaced by Welbeck Court and Beach Croft.
Clementine Hozier married Winston Churchill in 1908 and subsequently became a life peer in her own right. Her parents are stated as being Blanche Ogilvy (the eldest daughter of the 10th Earl of Airlie and Colonel Henry Hozier. They had married in 1878. The marriage was not a successful one. Henry Hozier had been married ten years earlier and was divorced from his first wife, Elizabeth Lyon, on the grounds of adultery in the same year he married Blanche.
Clementine was the Hoziers’ second child, and two more were to follow. Mary Soames in her biography “Clementine Churchill” relates that there was some doubt whether Henry Hozier was the father of any of the children and cites the well known (at the time) promiscuity of Blanche. Notwithstanding the mutual lack of fidelity the marriage “staggered on” until 1891 when divorce proceedings were instigated.
The biography later mentions that from 1895 the Hozier family spent many months of the year in furnished apartments in Seaford and gives the address as 9 and 11 Pelham Road Seaford. Their landladies were the Misses Rolls, Caroline and Emily. Blanche Hozier appears to have stayed with Caroline at No 9 (now Beach Croft) while Clementine and her older sister Kitty stayed at No 11 (now Welbeck Court). It would appear the Hozier children enjoyed their time at Seaford.
However in 1899 the family suddenly left Seaford and boarded the ferry at Newhaven bound for Dieppe. Mary Soames alludes that Blanche thought that her former husband might try to gain custody of Kitty and Clementine and had resided in Seaford so as to be able to remove herself and her family to France quickly should the need arise. So in the summer of 1899 the family decamped along with dogs, initially to La Ferme des Colombiers in the village of Puys and later to a town house in Dieppe. Dieppe was a very fashionable resort at this time, full of chic Paris society there for the summer season. Kitty and Clementine, by then 16 and 14 respectively, must have found France a lot more exciting than Seaford. Mary Soames’s book is a very entertaining read about the Hoziers.
The history of any place is affected, often dictated, by its geographical location, and there is no better example of this than the town of Seaford. Had it grown up a few miles further north, it would never have been more than a village and would probably have remained less important than neighbouring Alfriston which is sited next to a once navigable river. But men settled in Seaford because it was on the coast and on a river estuary and it is this which has shaped its history at every period since.
Flint implements have been found in and around the town, indicating Stone Age occupation of the area, and part of a large Iron Age hill fort is still discernible on Seaford Head in spite of considerable cliff erosion. There was a substantial Roman villa at Eastbourne and a Roman burial ground on the present Seaford Head golf course. Roman funerary vessels and Roman coins have been found locally so it would seem that Seaford was inhabited periodically, if not constantly, by Ancient Britons right through to the Romano-British period.
The first written evidence of Seaford comes from the Saxon occupation in the fifth century when Sefordt was mentioned in early chronicles inferring a ford near the sea or perhaps a fiord of the sea. An eighth-century transaction mentions a town as being Super fluvium Saforda or ‘on the river Saforda’, presumably the river Ouse which then flowed into the sea at Seaford.
Although the town’s earliest history must remain vague, the sea and the river Ouse are very real and we do know how nature used these two geographical features to set Seaford literally on the map. In fact, to understand Seaford’s eminence in the Middle Ages and its political significance in the 18th century we simply have to look at the winds and tides in Seaford Bay. Although Seaford is on the south coast, it actually faces south-west so is at the mercy of the gales coming in directly from the Atlantic. Many centuries ago the tides and prevailing winds gradually built up a great shingle bank right across Seaford Bay from the cliffs at Meeching (Newhaven) to the cliffs at Seaford Head. As this barrier grew, the river Ouse was diverted eastwards until it drove its way out into the sea at possibly either the Buckle or at Splash Point under Seaford Head. The very low-lying area behind the bank was flooded and formed a natural harbour.
It is difficult to picture this in the Seaford of today until one remembers that in Saxon times the cliff ended at Meeching. Seaford projected further out into the sea, so that the shingle barrier was further seaward than the present shoreline. A look at the conjectural map of the bay in that period superimposed over Seaford of the 1980s shows how the old river Ouse flowed inland, rounding the spurs and lapping into the ancient Ice Age valleys of Bishopstone, Hawth and Blatchington. Certainly this happened long before the Norman Conquest and we know that by the early 13th century Seaford was a Cinque Port and senior limb of the head port of Hastings, the other head ports at that time being Sandwich, Dover, Romney and Hythe.
During its most prosperous period the port of Seaford gave employment in fishing, ship building, provisioning of ships and a two-way trade with the continent, importing wines and exporting wool from the large flocks of Downland sheep.
A busy port also needed defence so there was a fort to protect its entrance and presumably some form of local militia to man it. The entire maritime defence of the realm was in the hands of the Cinque Ports whose duty it was to provide a tally of ships and ‘marines’ proportionate to their respective status. It is known that in 1342 Seaford sent three ships to the French wars and in 1347 its official tally was five ships and 80 marines, so it is not difficult to picture a bustling port and a thriving populous town in the 14th century.
In 1298, because it was a Cinque Port, Seaford was granted the right to send two members to parliament. This had a great influence on its political and social history over the next 500 years.
Walter Thomas Monnington, born in London, lived at Enborne House, Richmond Road with his parents and older brother between 1909 and 1913. Monnington was a painter, having studied at the Slade School of Art from 1918 to 1923, and as a Rome Scholar (at the British School at Rome) from 1923 – 1926.
He married his first wife, Winifred Knights, also a Rome Scholar, in 1924. He taught at the Royal Academy Schools between 1931 and 1939 and in May 1939 joined the Directorate of Camouflage at Leamington Spa where he worked on camouflage designs for airfields and factories.
After a chance meeting with Barnes Wallis, he also contributed design improvements, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, to a new heavy bomber aircraft then being developed which later became the Avro Lancaster. In 1943 Monnington, who had taken flying lessons before the war, wrote to the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC), complaining of the lack of an aerial perspective among the works that the WAAC had so far commissioned. In November 1943, the WAAC issued Monnington with the first of a series of full-time commissions that saw him flying with a training squadron in Yorkshire and with Mitchell bombers to Germany.
The winter of 1944-1945 was spent in the Netherlands amongst the Second Tactical Air Force drawing mobile radar and radio units. The paintings Monnington produced of aerial warfare, and especially those such as Fighter Affiliation, from a perspective inside the aircraft, were to be among the most important such images in the WAAC collection.
When the war ended, Monnington taught at the Camberwell School of Art for four years and then at the Slade School of Art until 1967. His wife Winifred died in 1947 and he married Evelyn Janet (previous surname unknown) later the same year.
Monnington produced little new work until 1953 when he began a three-year commission to paint a fresco in Bristol. He completed the ceiling of the conference hall in the new Council House, Bristol in 1956, with a design symbolizing modern science. Other notable works followed, including a ‘Stations of the Cross’ for Brede parish church, and decoration in St. Stephen’s Hall Westminster. Throughout the 1960s Monnington’s work became more abstract and often based on geometric designs.
He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1938, appointed its President in 1966 and was knighted in 1967. Monnington was the first President of the Academy to produce abstract art and was highly effective in the role doing much to restore the Academy’s ailing fortunes. He made no distinction between abstract and figurative art: “Surely what matters is not whether a work is abstract or representative, but whether it has merit. If those who visit exhibitions would come without preconceptions, would apply to art the elementary standards they apply in other spheres, they might glimpse new horizons. They might ask themselves: is this work distinguished or is it commonplace? Fresh and original or uninspired, derivative and dull? Is it modest or pretentious?” (Interview in the Christian Science Monitor, 29.5.67).
He served as the Royal Academy’s President until his death in London on 7th January 1976.
His work has been exhibited in a number of public galleries, including the Tate, British Museum and Imperial War Museum. He is regarded as one of the most effective presidents of the RA. There was a memorial exhibition there in 1977 and at the British School at Rome, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and the Fine Art Society in 1997.
Pitt’s House in the High Street at the junction with Broad Street and Saxon Lane is associated with William Pitt the Elder (1708-1778) later to become the first Earl Chatham in 1766. It is of architectural interest as its facade is built of shaped and knapped flint – see Sussex Diamonds for details.
Pitt was a major influence in 18th century British politics but only held the post of Prime Minister for two years, 1766 to 1768. He was elected as MP for Seaford from 1747 to 1754, at which point he became MP for Aldeburgh in Suffolk. He was the father of William Pitt the Younger who was also Prime Minister; from 1783 to 1801 and again in1804 to 1806. Pitt is best known for his political leadership from 1756 to 1761 during the Seven Years’ War. He was regarded as a great orator and a skilled parliamentarian. Pitt was also known as the Great Commoner for his reluctance to accept a title until 1766.
About 7,000 miles away from Seaford in the centre of the Argentinian city of Buenos Aires is a clinic specialising in helping children with dyslexia. Amazingly, the W. Pringle Morgan Institute is named after a Sussex doctor. Morgan is one of the unsung heroes of our county and, apart from a brass plaque in the north aisle of a parish church, he has no memorial.
William Pringle Morgan was born in 1861 at Rostrevor near Newry in County Down, Northern Ireland. His father was a vicar who ensured that his son received a classical education. He studied at Dublin University and qualified as a doctor at a hospital in the same city. Morgan probably spent some time as a surgeon in the Royal Navy before he came to Seaford aged 25. In the latter part of the nineteenth century Seaford was served by just one doctor, Dr Tuck, who lived in Hurdis House in Broad Street. When Dr Tuck died in 1886, Dr Morgan took over the practice and moved into the house.
He was apparently a busy man; he was a medical officer not only for Seaford but also Eastbourne Union Poor House and was the visiting physician for the Surrey Convalescent Hospital in the town. He was also the President of the Seaford Mutual Improvement Society. He obviously loved Seaford and in 1893 published a paper in the London Medical Recorder promulgating the town as a healthy seaside resort.
The doctor worked from Hurdis House and provided a medical service not only to the people of Seaford, but also to its many schools. They paid the surgery a fixed annual fee for treating their pupils. One of these children, a 12 year old boy called Percy, fascinated Morgan. The young lad was highly intelligent and good at mathematics and sport, but his only failing was his inability to read. His headmaster thought him to be the brightest boy in the school but he continually wrote his name “Precy” and did not notice the spelling mistake even when it was pointed out to him. He could speak clearly but when asked to write “carefully winding the string round the peg” wrote “Calfuly winder the strung rond the pag”.
Morgan studied Percy carefully for two years and came to the conclusion that it was a genetic disorder in processing vision rather than a problem with intelligence. He wrote up his findings, which were published by the British Medical Journal on 7th November 1896 under the title “Congenital Word Blindness”. The good Sussex doctor was the first person to diagnose dyslexia.
As the population of Seaford grew, it became necessary to appoint a second doctor to the practice and in 1898 he was joined by Doctor Charles Gervis. Morgan married a Seaford girl, Ethel Eastwood, and in 1899 they moved to a newly built house which Morgan named after his birthplace ‘Rostrevor’. (This is now the site of the the Tesco store.) This was not his only connection with Ireland as he remained a member of the Dublin University Biological Association.
Dr Morgan was also a prominent freemason and one of the founder members of Seaford Golf Club which was formed in 1887 but, although he was keen, his name does not appear on any of the lists of competition winners for the club. Dr Morgan became a Seaford councillor and in 1907 was elected as Chairman of Seaford Urban District Council. He again served as chairman in 1912.
At the outset of the Great War, Dr Morgan travelled to Belgium with the Red Cross. He accompanied Millicent, the Duchess of Sutherland and a party of Red Cross nurses. In August 1914 they were present at the siege of Namur and its subsequent and bombardment. The siege started on the very day that Britain declared war on Germany. He worked for three weeks in the local hospital where he treated many of the wounded.
When the Germans captured the area he was given a pass by them to travel to Brussels and return home via Holland. He was therefore one of the very first Englishmen to witness action in the Great War.
On returning to England he joined up and saw active military service in Malta where he served between 1914 and 1916. He returned to Seaford when Dr Gervis was called up and Morgan had to ‘hold the fort’ until he returned in 1919. Just before Morgan retired in 1927 he sold Rostrevor and moved to Upper Belgrave Road. He died aged 74 in 1934 after serving over forty years as a GP in the town. The British Medical Journal called him “a man of transparent honesty and a perfect gentleman”.
The name Doctor William Pringle Morgan is not recognised by many people in Sussex but his name is synonymous worldwide with the discovery of dyslexia – even as far away as Buenos Aires!
Source: Kevin Gordon: “Quirky Sussex”
Sir Frank Short, Engraver
46 Claremont Road
Francis (Frank) Job Short was born on 19 June 1857, at Stourbridge, Worcestershire. He was first educated to be a civil engineer. Short was engaged on various works in the Midlands until 1881, when he came to London as assistant to Baldwin Latham in connection with the Parliamentary Inquiry into the pollution of the River Thames. In 1883 he was elected an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Having studied at the Stourbridge School of Art in his early years he joined the South Kensington School of Art (the first name of the current Royal College of Art) in 1883. Short also studied at the life class under Professor Fred Brown at the Westminster School of Art, and for a short time at the Schools of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.
His real life-work now became that of an original and translator engraver. He was a keen student of the works of JMW Turner amongst others; and his etchings and mezzotints, examples of painstaking devotion and skill, were among his earliest successes, combining sympathetic study of the originals with a full knowledge of the resources of engraving and unwearied patience. Short received praise, constant advice and encouragement from John Ruskin, and the co-operation of students of Turner such as William George Rawlinson and the Revd. Stopford Augustus Brooke.
After completing the series from the existing plates of Turner’s “Liber” Short turned to the subjects which Turner and his assistants had left incomplete. Several remarkable plates resulted from this study, bearing the simple lettering “F. Short, Sculp., after J. M. W. Turner, R.A.,” which told little of the work expended on their production even before the copper was touched. He was consulted by Whistler for his expertise in printmaking and the two became friends.
Short also reproduced in fine mezzotints several pictures of George Frederick Watts, “Orpheus and Eurydice,” “Diana and Endymion,” “Love and Death,” “Hope,” and the portrait of Lord Tennyson, all remarkable as faithful and imaginative renderings. His own fine quality as a watercolour painter made him also a sympathetic engraver of the landscapes of David Cox and Peter de Wint.
A blue plaque marks Short’s former home from 1898 to 1927 at 56 Brook Green, Brook Green, Hammersmith, London.
As Head of the Engraving School at the Royal College of Art, South Kensington from 1892-1920 and the inaugural Professor of Engraving from 1920 to 1924, Short had enormous influence on younger painter-etchers and engravers, including Percival Gaskell RE, Margaret Kemp-Welch RE, Martin Hardin RE, Job Nixon RE, Robert Austin RA, PPRE, Mary Annie Sloane, ARE, Malcolm Osborne RA, PPRE, Henry Rushbury RA, RE, Dorothy Woollard RE, Frederick Griggs RA, RE, Stanley Anderson RA, RE, and Eli Marsden Wilson ARE amongst many others. It is well recorded that Short was an outstanding and inspirational teacher.
Short was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1885, and took a prominent part in conducting its affairs, becoming assessor (vice-president) in 1902. In 1910 he succeeded Sir Francis Seymour Haden as its second president for 28 years, steering the society through the First World War and the etching boom of the 1920s and its crash from 1929.
Short received, amongst other distinctions, the gold medal for engraving at the Paris International Exhibition, 1889, and another gold medal for mezzotint (Rappel) in 1900. In 1906 Short was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, when membership as Associate Engraver was revived; and in 1911 he was elected a full Royal Academician, and also received a knighthood. His work as a watercolourist was recognised in 1917 when he was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. Short was Treasurer of the Royal Academy from 1919 to 1932.
Short wrote several influential books on original printmaking: “On the Making of Etchings” was first published in 1888 and republished in 1911, 1912, 1951 and is still in print today. “British Mezzotints” from 1924 is a standard reference on original mezzotints.
In October 2018 a new book about Short was published by local author James Trollope. Short’s Sussex explores the works he did in Sussex in his later life, and includes 40 images. Copies of the book can be purchased from Seaford Museum and directly from the author.
Images: The sea road into Seaford (above) and Winchelsea Marshes (below)
Eric Slater, Local artist with an international reputation.
7 East Albany Road
Eric Slater (1896 – 1963) lived at 7 East Albany Road Seaford. He was a Seaford artist with an international reputation but died in obscurity. The work of Eric Slater had not been displayed for more than 70 years until it featured in an Eastbourne exhibition in 2012. He had produced more than 30 colour woodcuts between 1926 and the outbreak of the Second World War. Many depict scenes near his home in Seaford, East Sussex, where he lived for most of his adult life.
A frail, only child, Eric Slater was born in 1896 and spent his early years with his parents, grandmother and two servants in a large house in Hampstead, London. His father, Thomas, a successful silversmith and partner in the firm Aldwinkle and Slater, died when Eric was eight.
Eric moved with his mother and grandmother to Sussex where he studied at The Hastings School of Art. He was probably taught how to make woodcuts by a neighbour called Arthur Rigden Read (1879-1955) who had been to Japan to study oriental woodcut techniques used by European printmakers from the 1890s.
After much success in the 1920s and 1930s, Slater stopped working at the outbreak of the Second World War, when his mother died.
A short walking trail over Seaford Head can be started at the the Martello Tower or from South Barn. More information about Eric Slater, the Trail and his work can be found on the Eric Slater website. A map of the trail can be downloaded from the website and books and prints ordered via it.
S. Francis Smitheman, world renowned marine artist
Les Mouettes, 30 Steyne Road
Stanley Francis Smitheman, ATD BA Hons FRSA (1927-2016) was a world renowned marine artist. He lived and painted at Les Mouettes (formerly “Penshurst”), 30 Steyne Road, Seaford, from 1976. His work had already been shown in London and the provinces, in France, Norway, Sweden and the USA.
He attended the Birmingham Oratory School from the age of 5, leaving at 14 to start work. While at school he was a member of the Choir and became Head Boy. He started work in an aircraft factory, working on the designs of Hurricane and Lancaster aircraft and at 18, in early 1945, he was called up for National Service, training as a flight engineer.
However the cessation of hostilities put an end to the training and he became a miner. Studying in the evening he obtained the entry qualifications for Birmingham College of Art, followed by an Art Teacher’s Diploma Course. His further studies as a painter included a Scholarship to Paris, and later he took a second degree in the History of European Art at the Courtauld Institute, University of London.
Smitheman and his wife Gladys moved to Seaford in 1976 and purchased “Penshurst” in Steyne Road Seaford, renaming it Les Mouettes – (The Seagulls). The house, originally built in 1878 for a Miss Parton, was one of five cottages along the edge of the old river bed, where, before the 15th century, the Ouse entered the sea at Seaford. It is the only one remaining.
The house was in need of refurbishment during the course of which, a basement, now below the artist’s studio, revealed wall drawings probably the result of war time occupation by Canadian forces billeted there. A plaque erected by Smitheman on the side of the house provides a short history.
The current occupier, a daughter of the Smithemans, states that “Gladys wrote that an elderly neighbour recalled that the ‘post lady’ used to deliver post for Winston Churchill and his companion at the time of Miss Parton, and that Miss Clementine Hozier was residing in Dieppe at that time”. During WWII the house was used as Canadian High Command. There is a substantial air raid shelter under the studio, the top of the entrance is still just visible from the driveway. There is a trap door in the Studio floor which is thought to be a later addition when the original entrance was bricked up.
Smitheman’s works are to be found in many private collections, on board ships and in museums. His later career included lecturing at graduate level and a number of years designing for the theatre. His work is notable for the series of paintings he has undertaken on a number of themes ;including: Sea Battles; the Port of London; Arctic Exploration; Working Ports and Epic Voyages.
Much travelled, he consulted curators, ships’ captains, and marine archaeologists, gathering evidence in order to create genuine ‘history paintings’. Working with ships’ trusts and museums he re-created many of the world’s greatest historic ships in their legendary settings. His work has now travelled world wide, not only as finished paintings but also on a series of postage stamps. Eleven countries (Ascension Islands, Nauru, British India Ocean Territory, Tristan da Cunha, Gibraltar, Kiribati, Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, St.Helena and Jamaica) marked 200 years since the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 by issuing commemorative stamps incorporating detail from Smitheman’s painting “Victory leading the line at the Battle of Trafalgar”. The British fleet under Horatio Nelson defeated the combined fleets of France and Spain, blocking their attempt to clear the way for Napoleon’s projected invasion of Britain. A unique feature of the stamps is that the wooden hull and spars in the image actually contain tiny quantities of wood from the original Victory. Ironically the stamps were printed by a specialist French company.
His work as a marine artist has been recognised internationally. On his nomination as L’artiste d’Honneur in France, the ‘Voix du Nord’ stated: “Like his illustrious predecessor Turner, Smitheman knows the sea and sailing perfectly and endeavours to give his work authenticity. One finds all the world of the sea in his works, the ports, the craft, the human activities on board, tempestuous seas and arctic wastes.”
Smitheman was invited by the trustees of HMS Warrior (Portsmouth) to paint the ship escorting the Royal Yacht carrying the future Queen Alexandra to marry the Prince of Wales, subsequently Edward VII. The first print of a Limited Edition was presented to the present Princess Alexandra on board HMS Warrior.
The Chief Executive of the HMS Trincomalee Restoration Project (Hartlepool) advised on a commissioned painting of the ship visiting Jackson Dock in 1862.
MOTT Macdonald (International Civil Engineers) commissioned “Victory Leading the Line at Trafalgar” to mark the merging of two companies. The Artist benefited from the advice of the Keeper and Curator of HMS Victory which enabled him the get the ship very much as she appeared at Trafalgar. The subsequent print has proved to be a ‘Best Seller’ at the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth.
Smitheman was commissioned by the Trustees of the the SS Great Britain (Bristol) to paint the ship arriving at New York on her maiden voyage in 1845. The artist visited New York to research the setting. Later he also painted for the Trust the great ship in Hobson’s Bay, Melbourne on her first visit to Australia in 1852. More local subjects of his work include two paintings of vessels in Newhaven Harbour, under the heading Working Ports.
For the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar, the Royal Mint commissioned a newly researched work “The Decisive Action”. This was successfully auctioned on the Internet (a ‘first’ for the Royal Mint) and followed by a Limited Edition Print. Following this the Royal Mint commissioned “The SS Great Britain arriving at Liverpool from Australia in 1861”. This was also auctioned on the Internet and then sold as a Limited Edition Print.
For eleven years, the artist successfully sold works at Christie’s annual Maritime Sales in London.
Over a period of 15 years, Smitheman painted a remarkable series of works depicting significant moments in the voyages of the great explorers of Antarctica and the Arctic including:
Captain James Cook 1775 (in Resolution and Adventure circumnavigates Antarctica)
Jules Dumont d’Urville 1838 (Astrolabe and Zelee in pack ice near Weddell Island)
Sir James Clark Ross 1841 (Erebus and Terror discover and name Mt Erebus)
A.E.Nordenskold 1878 (Arctic, The North East Passage)
Captain Karl Larsen 1893 (with the Jason in the Lamaire Channel)
Adrien de Gerlache 1898 (The Belgica, near Anvers Island, Graham Land)
Carsten Borchgrevink 1899 (Cape Adare)
Dr. Jean Charcot 1909 (Peterman Island)
Roald Amundsen 1911 (Return from the South Pole)
Captain Robert Scott 1911 (Cape Evans, near Mt Erebus)
Shackleton 1915 (with Endurance trapped in the Weddell Sea)
Fartygsmagasinet (a maritime design specialist company) in Stockholm and Oslo have commissioned, over the years, a number of large works celebrating the great ships of Sweden and Norway including the Vasa, the Gotheborg, the Kronan, the Fram and the Vega. All the works are in print.
For more information about the works of S.Francis Smitheman, his book “The Marine Paintings of Smitheman” is available from the usual sources, and at http://smitheman.com where many examples of his output may been seen.
Group Captain James Martin Stagg, CB, OBE, FRSE, D-Day meteorologist
33 Carlton Road
Group Captain James Martin Stagg, CB, OBE, FRSE (30 June 1900 – 23 June 1975) was a British Royal Air Force meteorologist who persuaded General Dwight D. Eisenhower to change the date of the Allied invasion of Europe in World War II, from the 5th of June to the 6th of June 1944.
He was born in Dalkeith, Scotland and graduated from Edinburgh University, firstly becoming a science master at a school in Edinburgh. He later joined the British Meteorological Office and in 1943 he was commissioned a Group Captain in the RAF, then appointed as the chief meterological officer for Operation Overlord.
“When James Stagg walked into a room, even generals and air marshals went quiet. This was not just because of the Scotsman’s huge 6ft 2in frame or his dour, commanding demeanour — he was, after all, merely a group captain. The top brass gave this 43-year-old physicist their full attention because what he had to say on the morning of Monday, June 5, 1944, would affect the lives of millions across Europe.
The military leaders assembled in the map room in Southwick House — a vast Georgian-style mansion near Portsmouth — really were the top brass. It was there the most senior Allied commanders, including General Dwight Eisenhower, General Sir Bernard Montgomery, Air Marshals Arthur Tedder and Trafford Leigh-Mallory, and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, had gathered to launch D-Day.”
The forecast for northwest France on June 6, 1944 stands as history’s most important weather forecast. Conditions at Omaha Beach and the other landing zones within about 50 miles of Normandy had to be just right so as to allow troops to parachute to their landing zones, as well as manoeuvre their way onshore via amphibious vehicles. With so many military assets being deployed — more than 5,000 ships, 13,000 aircraft and 160,000 Allied troops — the weather forecast, at a time when modern meteorology was still in its infancy, was crucial to the success of the mission. Fog, strong winds or high waves could have proved disastrous.
It wasn’t until after the war that the Allies discovered they had a superior weather operation compared to the Axis. The German military’s weather chart for D-day showed a lack of weather observations from the U.K. and Europe, as well as parts of the Atlantic. German forecasters, operating with fewer observations than the Allied forces, missed the June 6 weather window entirely — instead predicting that conditions would remain too stormy for an Allied assault.
Stagg remained at the Met Office until 1960 and lived in Carlton Road Seaford until his death in 1975 aged 74.
See :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Stagg for more infomation
Stone’s House in Crouch Lane, a grade II Iisted building, was built in 1767 by Robert Stone. It is rumoured that it once had an underground passage to the Church. Robert Stone, seven times Bailiff of Seaford allegedly built the house in anticipation of his marriage to Elizabeth Farncombe whose father opposed Robert Stone’s election to Bailiff in 1762.
In the museum there is a fife which is associated with the Seaford Cinque Port Volunteers who were formed following a meeting on Friday 2nd May 1794. The meeting was chaired by Robert Stone, who had by then been Bailiff on six occasions.
Stone resolved to form a group of volunteers who would provide “such services as shall be deemed necessary on appearance of internal tumult or foreign invasion according to the particular act provided for the Cinque Ports under the command of the Lord Warden”. There was a discussion about whether the sixty men required could be recruited in such a small town, but the Bailiff, Thomas Harben, volunteered not only to lead the group but also (after the Town Clerk, Mr Hood had written it out) take a letter himself to Dover for the attention of the Lord Warden.
Our coast was in turmoil at this time as the threat of a French invasion was a very real fear. The military were busy establishing Blatchington Barracks where 1,500 soldiers were due to be based. But the initial concerns about men coming forward were unfounded as just ten days later Harben was able to report that enough “spirited young men” had come forward to join the Seaford company of the Cinque Ports Volunteers. On Monday 12th May 1794 the sixty recruits marched through the town, with cockades in their hats, to Corsica Hall where they were given refreshments – presumably beer!
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, world renowned poet
Seaford House, Crouch Lane
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) was a favourite of Queen Victoria. The poet lived in Seaford House with his family in 1851 but later moved to the Isle of Wight (where perhaps it was less windy!). A potted history of the life and works of Tennyson can be found in the Poetry Foundations website: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/alfred-tennyson. The article refers to his friendship with one Edward Fitzgerald. Tennyson was reticent to publish his works and Edward Fitzgerald worried away at Tennyson to have his work published. Fitzgerald loved both the poems and their author, although he was too stubborn to hide his feelings when a particular poem failed to win his approval. “Old Fitz” nagged at Tennyson, who in the spring of 1842 agreed to break his ten long years of silence and commenced publication of his works.
FitzGerald (31 March 1809 – 14 June 1883) was also an English poet and writer, best known as the poet of the first and most famous English translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He was the son of John Purcell Fitzgerald, who had left the Fitzgerald Almshouses in Croft Lane for the benefit of the town.
Old Seaford House belonged to Lord Howard de Walden, Baron Seaford. Alfred Lord Tennyson was said to have written the funeral ode to the Duke of Wellington whilst staying there. The house was rebuilt in 1860, only to be demolished to make way for a modern block of flats.This is part of a drawing by HH Evans entitled Old Seaford House and the Crouch. Harry Harison Evans (1849 – 1926) spent the greater part of his life producing detailed drawings of Seaford. The Museum has a large collection currently on display, and has also produced “A Seaford Sketchbook” of Evans’ drawings (SB Publications, 2001).
This public house (originally known as the New Inn) in Steyne Road has been in operation for two centuries.In front of the inn was the King’s Well, which constituted the last source of fresh water available to ships about to set sail. A water fountain denoting this was originally erected here, but it was later moved to a site on The Salts Recreation Ground. At the beginning of the 21st century it was moved again to its current location in nearby Jubilee Gardens.
The Wellington was renamed after the Duke of Wellington stayed here. There has been some controversy over the renaming but evidence has come to light from “Court Circulars” that Wellington definitely visited Seaford:
This is the cutting for The Duke of Wellington proving that he did stay in Seaford. It does not state where he stayed but the New Inn at the time was used by the Military when they visited Seaford for their annual manoeuvres. The family who owned it also said this was true (they recently donated some candlesticks to Seaford Museum which they believe Wellington gave them).
West House, Pelham Road / Steyne Road
West House, on the corner of Steyne Road and Pelham Road, is one of the oldest buildings in the Town, built in 1700 on earlier foundations.
Early paintings show that West House has hardly changed since 1750, having survived floods which, prior to the building of the sea wall, constantly inundated this area. According to the Corporation records, West House was let as a dwelling for the summer season, but in reality it was let to persons who sought residential qualifications enabling voting in the elections of the “rotten borough” of Seaford.
It has been used as a school for “young gentlemen”, and suffered badly on the 1875 “great sea flood” as did much of this area of Seaford. In 1866 West House was purchased by a Newhaven Shipping owner, John Henry Bull who turned it into a school. One of the teachers at ‘Mr Bull’s Gentleman’s Academy’ was a German, Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909) who was living at the school on 14th November 1875. This was the date of the Great Flood of Seaford and the teacher complained that he lost his hat, a coat, a pair of boots, some music and 30 shillings in cash. He also narrowly escaped injury when he fell through an open cellar door hidden by flood water.
Ebbinghaus returned to Germany where he became a pioneer psychologist. His works, particularly a book on memory, are still studied today. Ebbinghaus is particularly remembered for those studies of memory and was the first person to describe the ‘learning curve’.
The plaques are dedicated to the regiment of soldiers from West India who were posted to Seaford during the First World War. Men from the West Indies arrived in Sussex prepared to defend and to die for our freedom and liberty, fighting side by side with British soldiers. The West Indian regiment would go on to play a crucial role in the First World War against the forces of the Ottoman Empire.
More information about the Nubian Jak Community Trust can be found here.
Gilbert’s Estate Office, East Dean (about 5 miles east of Seaford).
Sherlock Holmes FRSC is a fictional detective created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh Medical School. Conan Doyle (1859 -1930) lived for most of his married life nearby in Crowborough.
Holmes, a London-based “consulting detective” whose abilities border on the fantastic, is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to adopt almost any disguise, and his use of forensic science skills to solve difficult cases.He first appeared in publication in 1887, was featured in four novels and 56 short stories. The first novel, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887 and the second, The Sign of the Four, in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890.
The character grew tremendously in popularity with the first series of short stories in The Strand Magazine, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia” in 1891; further series of short stories and two novels published in serial form appeared between then and 1927. The stories cover a period from around 1880 up to 1914. All but four stories are narrated by Holmes’s friend and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson; two are narrated by Holmes himself – The Blanched Soldier and The Lion’s Mane, and two others are written in the third person – The Mazarin Stone and His Last Bow. In The Musgrave Ritual and The Gloria Scott, Holmes tells Watson the main story from his memories, while Watson becomes the narrator of the frame story.
The first and fourth novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Fear, each include a long interval of omniscient narration recounting events unknown to either Holmes or Watson.
If you wish to see the reasons why it can be assumed that Conan Doyle might have invented Sherlock Holmes retirement to East Dean please click here.