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500BC – 1849AD

Eastbourne has only existed for about 150 years. The origins of the town dates back to about 500BC when the Celts first settled on the Eastbourne side of the South Downs. In 410AD Saxon invaders settled around the stream or ‘burne’ which still rises in Motcombe Gardens and gave the town its original name of ‘Burne’. This was later changed to ‘Bourne’ in 1086 when the parish was entered in the Doomsday Book after the Norman Conquest, and ‘East’ was added in the 13th century to avoid confusion with nearby West Bourne. St. Mary’s Church was built in 1145.

East Bourne prospered during the Middle Ages as a major sheep farming and fishing area. In 1555 it was sold to three wealthy Sussex families: Burton, Gildredge and Selwyn, whose legacy can be seen in street names throughout the town today. Shortly after this, in 1556, Bourne Place was built. It stands today as Compton Place, a Grade I listed building.

In common with much of Britain, East Bourne’s prosperity began to fade in the 17th century and Hailsham took over as the wealthiest town in the area. However, two events in the 18th century were to prove crucial in the development of Eastbourne as we know it today. In 1752 Dr. Richard Russell of Lewes published his ‘Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water’ and encouraged people to visit the seaside to improve their health. Following this, in 1780, King George III sent four of his children to Eastbourne for the summer.

Although neither of these events brought immediate expansion they were crucial steps towards establishing Eastbourne as the tourist resort you can see today.

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