Bexhill Museum

Bexhill Museum

Bexhill Museum

Bexhill Museum

The museum was founded by the nurse and explorer Kate Marsden and Reverend J.C. Thompson FGS. Marsden was one of the first women to be made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society after she travelled thousands of miles across Russia to Siberia in 1891. Marsden is credited as the person who inspired the museum's creation as she organised meetings to gather local support. She invited local dignitaries and successfully applied for artefacts from Bryant and May, Frys and Colmans. The museum was given a shell collection by Marsden and she encouraged Dr Walter Amsden to donate a collection of Egyptian artefacts. In 1913 the Mayor of Bexhill contacted the committee and revealed that Marsden had been involved in a controversy concerning her finances and sexuality. Marsden was obliged to resign. The museum still opened in 1914 but without Marsden. Thompson served as voluntary curator until 1924. The local corporation provided a small grant and also gave the museum the use of a building in Egerton Park known as the Egerton Park Shelter Hall. This glass roofed hall had been built in 1903. The controversy surrounding Kate Marsden was not resolved and she lived out her days suffering from dropsy and senile decay. After she died the museum refused a portrait that was offered to the museum that she had helped to create. Her Russian watch, medals, whistle and a brooch given to her by Queen Victoria were sent to the Royal Geographical Society.


The Sargent Gallery is named after Henry Sargent who devoted his life to the Museum as its Curator from 1920 up until his death in 1983. This building was originally the Egerton Park Shelter Hall, which was designed in 1902 and built in 1903. It was taken over as Bexhill Museum 1914 and they have been there ever since. There is a little bit of everything in this gallery, which preserves the experience of visiting an Edwardian museum – there is always something new to discover. You will find sea shells and dinosaurs; birds, mammals and insects. There are artefacts from Ancient Egypt and Peru, stone tools and local archaeological treasures. Explore the world through the objects brought back by the founders – see items from Africa, India and Tibet.


In the Costume Gallery you can delve into the museum’s sumptuous fashion and costume collections dating from the 17th century to the modern day in our Costume Gallery. These fantastic displays lead you through two hundred years of developing fashion and design, from tortuous corsets to stunning evening dresses. Aspects of each era’s social history are also brought to life with a selection of original everyday items alongside the costumes.


The Technology Collection. This gallery is devoted to celebrating Bexhill’s role as the birth place of British Motor racing. You can see three vehicles representing different eras and technology: a reproduction steam driven 1902 Serpollet or ‘Easter Egg’, a 1958 mk III Elva sports racing car and the 1993 world record breaker Volta electric car. There are hands on displays so you can have a go at changing a car’s tyre, installing spark plugs and see how engines work. 7th Earl De La Warr started the development of Bexhill-on-Sea as a fashionable resort from the rural inland village of Bexhill in 1883. After the Earl’s son and heir Viscount Cantelupe married in 1891 the control of the Bexhill estate was passed to him and the Viscount assumed the title 8th Earl De La Warr when his father died in 1896. It was the 8th Earl De La Warr who secured the town’s place in history by hosting Britain’s first automobile races on the 19th May 1902. The event was organised by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland and attracted international attention. The races did not occur in isolation but were part of a campaign to promote Bexhill-on-Sea as a fashionable new resort and used the Bicycle Boulevard, which the 8th Earl had built along De La Warr Parade in 1896. The Earl’s interest in motorcars was also linked to his association with the firm Dunlop, of which he was chairman. The event was run along a one kilometre track with a flying start from the top of Galley Hill; the existing Cycle Chalet was taken over and used for timekeeping. The races were deemed to have been a great success and more events were planned for later in 1902 and in 1903. However, the excitement was cut short when Mr Mayner, a property owner on De La Warr Parade, took out an injunction against the Earl. This banned all future motor car racing. During 1902 other important events occurred. Bexhill became an Incorporated Borough. This allowed the town to elect a mayor and have a borough council. Bexhill was the last Sussex town to be incorporated and it was also the first time a royal charter was delivered by motor car. Mr. Bradney William’s car was, in 1901 he had started Bexhill’s first motorbus service. The Crowhurst Branch Line, including Bexhill West and Sidley stations, and Bexhill Central Station were opened in this year.


The 8th Earl was divorced by his wife, on the grounds of adultery and abandonment, in the summer of 1902. This created a scandal in the town and preventing the Earl from becoming Bexhill’s first mayor. Despite the permanent injunction against motorcar racing, another racing event was held in 1904. Presumably Mr. Mayner had somehow been pacified. Further speed trials took place on De La Warr Parade in 1905 and 1906. In 1922 and 1923 speed trials were held on West Parade. There was a Concours d’Elegance or car show in 1934 on De La Warr Parade, to be repeated in 1935. In 1936 it was held in the newly opened De La Warr Pavilion. Jubilee Speed Trials were put on in 1954 to celebrate Bexhill’s motoring heritage and for the first time the focus was on historic rather than contemporary vehicles. The tradition was revived in 1990 with the first Bexhill 100 Festival of Motoring, an annual event that is still well supported. As well as the early motor races there are other elements to Bexhill’s motoring heritage. Gustavus Green moved to Bexhill, aged 32, in 1896. He established a cycle making business at 5 Western Road and in 1902 opened workshops in Reginald Road. Gustavus Green designed a water-cooled motor car engine which was later converted for use in aircraft. Green’s engines were also used to power torpedo boats. Frank Nichols was born in Bexhill in 1920. He opened a small garage in Pevensey in the late 1940s and later set up a garage in London Road, Bexhill, where he produced the first Elva car. Elva Cars moved to Rye in 1961 and ceased production in 1969.


The Front entrance has three steps and a ramp, both with handrails. Two floor levels are internally connected by easy stairs and a disabled lift. No changes in floor levels within each floor. Galleries and communicating spaces designed to be fully accessible. There is a Disabled toilet on the Lower Level. Hearing Loop. There are objects which may be handlied. Assistance dogs are welcome.


Location : Bexhill Museum, Egerton Road, Bexhill, East Sussex TN39 3HL

Transport : Bexhill (National Rail) then 15 minutes or bus. Bus Routes : 318 and Regency Route 28 stop 0.5 miles away across the reserve.

Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 17:00;  Tuesday to Friday opens 10:00

Tickets : Adults £3.00;  Concessions $2.50;  Children (5 - 16) £1.50.

Tel. : 01424 222058