The marshy hamlet of Normans Bay hit the headlines in 1865 when 40,000 people flocked there to view a beached whale.
That was one of the fascinating facts to emerge when Bexhill Museum’s latest walk explored Normans Bay.
Walk organiser Dave Hatherell explained: “The meeting place was a very busy Star Inn. The Star Inn has a long history and was involved in smuggling, acting as a distribution point for smuggled goods landed in the bay.
“Tracks led in several directions, to the Red Lion at Hooe and The Lamb on the marshes also a path to Little Common and a road leading to safe houses at Pevensey. The premises were only named The Star Inn in 1801 - the landlord had married Miss Elizabeth Starr.
There was also a long tradition of smoking herrings at the Star.
Before that it was known as the Sluice House. This was in connection with an artificial waterway that had been constructed in the mid-15th century by Stephen Waller of Hooe for The Commissioners of the Pevensey Levels as the outlet of the Pevensey Haven had been blocked by shingle. The sluice-gates controlled the flow of water.
“The life of this small community was abruptly altered with the coming of the Second World War. Residents were evacuated and the Army took over, laying minefields and setting up a coastal battery – which comprised two guns manufactured by the Japanese during the First World War. Several aeroplanes had crashed in the area during the war and details were given of the shooting down of a German tip and run raider.
“The military presence in this area harks back to the building of Martello Towers during the Napoleonic period, mini-forts that could repel invaders. The site of Tower 53 was visited. Following the threat of Napoleon’s invasion the towers were used by the Coast Blockade Service to combat smuggling, a role that continued under the Coastguard. Tower 53 was washed away in the late 19th century.
“In 1860 land was acquired from the Dukes of Devonshire for a coastguard station which led to an increase in population.
“The next Museum walk is a visit to the wreck of The Amsterdam at Bulverhythe Beach. This is on Sunday 30th August, meeting at the top of Galley Hill at 6pm. £3 per person, £1.50 accompanied children. Sorry no dogs.”
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