World War II devastated Eastbourne. The town was used to house evacuees at the beginning of the war but itself became an evacuated area in 1940 following German airforce attacks. Nearly 5,000 bombs fell on the town, killing or injuring over 1,000 people, destroying 475 houses and damaging 11,000 others. In 1945, Eastbourne’s evacuated population of 40,000 returned to find the town in ruins.
The people of Eastbourne set about the task of rebuilding with great determination. Led by the Council under the direction of Town Clerk Francis Busby both town and tourist trade were rebuilt in a phenomenally short time. The photograph shows the flower beds next to the seafront in the 1950s.
Eastbourne has continued to expand with the development of major housing estates at Old Town, Langney and Hampden Park. In 1963 the Congress complex was opened, providing the town with its fourth theatre and venue for the conference trade which has flourished in the town since the 1920s. New shopping centres were opened at Langney in 1973 and Terminus Road in 1981.
None of these developments would have been possible without the vision of the two great Victorian landowners, William Cavendish and John Davies Gilbert who created Eastbourne as we know it now. They transformed a small agricultural town into a thriving seaside resort.
Today, still inspired by their legacy, Eastbourne continues to develop and expand, with ambitious schemes such as the multi-million-pound marina at Sovereign Harbour and the redevelopment of the Arndale Centre taking Eastbourne forward into the next millennium.