History of Egerton Park

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History of Egerton Park

The park's creation began in late Victorian times. The 7th Earl de la Warr wished Bexhill to become a model seaside resort and joined forces with building contractor John Webb in the 1870s to implement his vision.

Egerton Park c1910
Egerton Park c1910 Image from Bexhill Museum's Archive
Originally, the park footprint was a low-lying marshland, lying close to the sea shore and liable to flooding. The land was drained and the park laid out by John Webb. Soon after, the terraced housing overlooking the park to the east was built. The park contained the typical features and facilities of a fashionable private garden of the time; water features, shaded areas, lawns, bandstand and tennis courts, but was available for public use.

The park came into the ownership of the Bexhill Corporation in the early 1900s. In 1903, a shelter hall was built serving as a concert hall and public toilets and later becoming the Bexhill Museum. At this time Bexhill was very popular and glamorous events such as motor races attracted crowds. The park was an integral part of the resort hosting garden parties and civil ceremonies. Shortly after, the park was extended westwards to its current boundary on Brockley Road. The Lord Mayor of London accompanied by the Sheriffs of London opened the extension on 21 July 1906. A public bowling green and an indoor bowling rink were added to the park's facilities.

The park's development continued into the Edwardian era. The area to the west of Egerton Park (The Polegrove) was developed in the 1920s. By the 1930s housing totally surrounded the north, east and south of the Park. The model boat pond, rose garden and pergola were added and the swimming pool rebuilt. After Word War II, Bexhill began to change and the town's role as a fashionable holiday destination dwindled. The park became purely an amenity for local people. The garden for the blind, thought to be the first in the country, was also created in 1951. By 1954 a large area in the western part of the park was laid out as tennis courts, with a children's playground to the east, an arrangement which still exists today. In 1960 the swimming pool was extended and a sun terrace and cafe created.

During the last 50 years, the park has undergone piecemeal change resulting in the gradual erosion of its original layout, primarily as a consequence of the town's economic decline since World War II and the loss of tourism on its previous scale. More emphasis was placed on sports and recreation than design and fashionable elegance. The pergola and theatre were demolished to be replaced by the Indoor Bowls Club, the swimming pool was in-filled in 1986 and the bandstand removed. The park has seen significant building works within its boundaries of late with the Family Learning Centre's construction in 2004 and the recent extension of the neighbouring Museum.

See 'Related Media' for more information about the park's history.

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