Eastbourne Radical History Walk #1

Engels and the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – a digital self-guided walk of some of Eastbourne’s radical history.

Eastbourne was designed and developed by its landowners from the 1850s onwards. Built as a new resort for the rich, the population greatly expanded from less than 4,000 in 1851 to nearly 35,000 by 1891. The town was owned by just two families, the Davies-Gilberts who owned about a quarter of the town, and the Cavendish family, notably William Cavendish, the 7th Duke of Devonshire, who owned about 2/3rds of the town.  From 1859, plans were laid out to build an entirely new town to attract the higher echelons of society to either live or to holiday here. Designed as a new resort, Eastbourne was built “for gentlemen by gentlemen”. The working classes of the town were kept hidden from the sight of our elite visitors in the Seaside area to the East, where visitors feared to tread.

Opening in 1880, the Queens Hotel, near the Pier, was the last of the grand hotels to be built in the town. It was thought to have been deliberately positioned to provide a visual marker for the end of the Grand Parade to the west. To the East of the Queens Hotel there were smaller hotels and boarding houses built largely between 1790 and 1840. There was no road along the seafront on this side of the pier. Visitors were advised ‘don’t go east of the pier, dear’. Though there are accounts of curiosity excursions, for the elite, into the Seaside area, so they could literally ‘see how the other half lived’.

And just as the working classes were kept hidden from the sight of our elite visitors, so too nowadays has much of the town’s radical history been hidden.  Some of us wanted to put this right. So; this walk was written to give a snapshot of just some of Eastbourne’s more radical history.  Engels and the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is Eastbourne’s Radical History Walk No 1. It is an around the town walk, starting at Eastbourne railway station and ending in Meads Village.

“Every generation must fight the same battles again and again. There’s no final victory and there’s no final defeat and therefore a little bit of history may help”. Tony Benn.

We will be seen, and we will be heard, and we will build a better world.

Eastbourne Pilgrimage Project Walk

The walk was written as part of the Engels In Eastbourne Campaign. Thank you to the Eastbourne Pilgrimage Project for their support and encouragement in bringing this walk to you. You will find the walk map and the accompanying pamphlet on their website – see below for links.  We hope you enjoy.

Local Pilgrimage Walks including Engels and the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Eastbourne Pilgrimage Walks website

Carol Mills

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  1. Pingback: Engels in Eastbourne – radical history tour - Sussex Bylines

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