Bexhill’s connection with the Battle of Waterloo was the subject of a lecture given by Bexhill Museum’s Curator Julian Porter at St Augustine’s Hall recently.
Based on his guided walk this summer to commemorate the 200th anniversary of that famous battle, the talk was to show how Bexhill became involved at this period of great change.
Museum archives illustrated how a small rural settlement on a hill by the sea, now Bexhill Old Town, became a garrison town for ten years from 1804.
Late eighteenth century paintings, sketches and maps showed how vulnerable and, in the event of invasion, important this area could be. Watercolour sketches by Francis Grose and others in his style, are probably fairly accurate in what they depict. When a vast Hanoverian army arrived in the area these artists showed the change to the landscape, including the chain of Martello Towers along the coast. Even the great JMW Turner made this a subject of a well—known painting.
Barracks housed the King’s German Legion, mainly from Hannover but with recruits from England and other European countries ranged against Napoleon. These were infantrymen not cavalry; stabling for horses was included as these were needed for officers and for drawing cannon.
Awaiting an invasion that never materialised, the KGL were in Bexhill until 1814 when they left to continue the fight in Europe. Sadly their losses were very great at Waterloo. Whilst in Bexhill they assisted the Revenue Men in their fight with smugglers, notorious in the region for many years. Following the Battle of Sidley Green in 1828, when smugglers clashed with Revenue Men, ten of their number were sentenced to transportation, having escaped hanging.
With his usual humour and sense of history Julian painted a vivid picture of these times and guided the audience through the nineteenth century. Very interesting archive photographs showed the building boom period of the 1880s to early 1900s when the De La Warr family created the seaside resort we know today as Bexhill on Sea.
The winter season of Museum lectures continues with An Illustrated History of Bodiam Castle to be given by David Langworthy on December 2, 2.30 pm at St Augustine’s Church Hall, off Cooden Drive. Admission £4, £3 members, includes refreshments.
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