Walk charts the Bexhill connection to Waterloo

Waterloo Walk SUS-151106-063237001
Waterloo Walk SUS-151106-063237001
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Bexhill Museum Curator Julian Porter led a guided walk to explore Bexhill’s connection to Waterloo on the bi-centennial anniversary of the famous battle.

Local historian Dave Hatherall explained how thousands of Hanoverian troops transformed what was then a small farming community.

He said: “Within 10 years it had been transformed into a Georgian town and after the closing of the barracks then reverting to a small village.

“The barracks are shown in an 1802 map occupying an area of 25 acres stretching from Old Town across to the Down, north of Belle Hill. In 1804 the character of Bexhill changed with the arrival of infantry and artillery elements of the Kings German Legion [KGL].

“The number of troops was at any one time was estimated to be between 3 to 5 thousand although in the 1980s one historian thought number to be 15 thousand. Whatever the figure, the troops of the Kings German Legion outnumbered the local population.

“The Bell Inn, the Gun and the Black Horse [in latter days the Queens Head] were popular meeting places and as well the KGL set up a bowling alley at the New Inn Sidley. Within the camp one hut was decorated internally as an orange grove for parties and social functions.

“The KGL established a school which was sited at the western end of Barrack Road which took in local children, who adopted German customs, such as German prayers for the rest of their lives. The parish registers of St Peter’s Church show many baptisms, marriages and burials involving KGL soldiers.

“The barracks needed to be provisioned and a business community sprung up in Belle Hill, leading to the development of two communities – those of Old town and Belle Hill.

“During their stay here they were occupied in attempting to excavate the cargo from the wreck of the Amsterdam at Bulverhythe, as well as being a useful deterrent to smuggling.

The KGL once came under fire whilst at Bexhill in 1809 when a French privateer bombarded the barracks hospital.

“Troops from the KGL came and went to various campaigns during the Napoleonic Wars and their Battle Honours include Gibraltar, the Peninsular and Waterloo. Indeed the Legion is best known for holding the line in the desperate fighting at La Hay Sainte Farm which Napoleon stated had cost him the battle.

At the end of a route from Manor Barn through Barrack Road and down London Road and Sackville Road, the walk terminated at the Museum where walkers had the opportunity to view the new exhibition dedicated to the Kings German Legion in Bexhill and to relax with refreshments.

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