Eastbourne’s Blue Plaques

Michael Caine

There are over thirty blue plaques on the walls of Eastbourne’s buildings in this East Sussex coastal town, denoting where someone famous has been connected with. I didn’t realise that you could still be alive to have a plaque dedicated to you, but one of the recipients, Michael Caine, is still very much with us, and unveiled his in 1999.

Maurice Micklewhite was born in London in 1933, and was evacuated to Eastbourne during WW2. He lived at 68 Grove Road, and during the ceremony said that Eastbourne is where he first realised that he wanted to be an actor. I have met quite a few reasonably famous people, including Michael Caine twice. The stories are sufficiently good for another article, so look out for this.

There was a very famous music hall comedian called Sandy Powell.; He lived at 15 Elms Avenue, Eastbourne, and there is a blue plaque on the wall. It was unveiled by the wonderful Roy Hudd, but I wonder if anyone among the eighty strong crowd realised that Mr. Powell’s ghost was still there, haunting the house, occasionally creating havoc with moving items, making things disappear, and even appearing as himself to the concern of those still living. I know a lady very well who lived there for some years, and she saw him on numerous times. The family cat was petrified.

Nurse Edith Cavell

Go to 4 Hyde Gardens very close to the town’s main shopping area and you will stand outside where Nurse Edith Cavell was born in 1865. She was a senior nurse during WWl, in Belgium, treating injured soldiers from both sides. Completely neutral, the Germans used her as a propaganda tool, saying she was a British spy. Nurse Cavell was executed by firing squad in 1915, inflaming British opinion with the result that thousands more men signed up. In 1920 her remains were returned to the UK, and had the very rare honour of a State funeral at Westminster Abbey.

Virginia Woolf

Talland House on the seafront is where the novelist Virginia  Woolf lived between 1882 and 1894. She developed her writing style during this time, ultimately living at Charleston close to the village of Berwick. She was a leading member of the Bloomsbury set, and Pam and I went there some years ago. It was quite an expensive visit to see walls and furniture daubed childishly by people in the 1920s who wanted to live a different lifestyle. However, if you are a devotee of their work, then it is essential to make the pilgrimage.

Inside the Winter Gardens

I also always thought that blue plaques denoted people, but there are three on buildings, denoting the home in the late 19th century of the Duke of Devonshire, the site of Eastbourne’s first cinema, and the original site of the Winter Gardens. The existing building is well worth a visit, go round the back as well to imagine how it was a hundred years ago, with a roller skating rink that had open doors onto the terrace when the weather was pleasant. Stand inside in front of the main stage, and look up at the ceiling. What a building, the original was smaller, but just as fascinating.

Only room to mention some people who are commemorated with a plaque. The explorer Shackleton, artist Edward Burne-Jones, tennis champion William Renshaw, and actress Ellen Terry are just a few, and there are many more who lived here who have no plaque at all.


  • Harry Pope

    Harry Pope realised he could write when he first went to school, and hasn’t stopped since. He returned the next day after parental prompting, because he realised he could talk as well, just as well because he is now in retirement a cruise ship lecturer with P&O and Saga, talking about the greatest comedians the UK has ever known. He is not a lecturer, nor a stand-up comedian, but an entertainer. His wife Pam goes as well, as there are so many groupies onboard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *