Tuesday, 7 June 2011

EASTBOURNE

Eastbourne, with its promenade and pier and rows of seafront hotels, has, like Bognor Regis, long suffered a bit of an image problem. The town has rather cruelly been referred to as “God’s waiting room” for the number of elderly visitors frequenting the resort. However recent developments suggest that Eastbourne is reinventing itself and is rapidly turning into a hip venue to rival its near neighbour, Brighton. Recent additions to the town’s attractions include a great new art gallery called the Towner with a cafe on the top floor offering fantastic views and a branch of the trendy hotel chain The Big Sleep. Add to this a host of new restaurants, several theatres and museums, and a quarter named Little Chelsea stuffed with antiques shops, boutiques and galleries, and one can safely say that while there is still plenty to keep the older generation happy, there is no longer any reason for the young ones to stay away. One of Eastbourne’s big events of the year is the tennis tournament that takes place there each year shortly before Wimbledon. The tournament, which was originally women only, but opened to men in 2009, takes place on grass courts and gives fans a chance to see how their favourite players are doing in the run up to Wimbledon.

Eastbourne was traditionally a favoured retreat for rich widows, and in the mid-1950s there was an investigation into the deaths of 300 of these wealthy widows sparked by an anonymous letter suggesting that the women were the victims of a fraudster. During the investigation, bodies were exhumed and more than 400 wills were examined. The Leader-Post reported that the women may have “fallen under the spell of a man with hypnotic powers”, in fact a hypnotist was questioned during the course of the police investigations. In 1957 the trial took place of an Irish-born GP suspected of persuading wealthy widows to leave him money in their wills, and he was found not guilty, but was eventually convicted for forging of prescriptions, false statements and other misdemeanours. Unbelievably, he was later allowed to resume his work as a general practitioner in Eastbourne. There is a school of thought that the deaths were acts of euthanasia rather than any attempt on the part of the doctor to profit from the wills of the ladies in question. However, others regard him as the forerunner of the latter-day mass murderer Harold Shipman.

For a list of events in Eastbourne, see here.

Map of the area.

File:Eastbourne beach - geograph.org.uk - 1396094.jpg
Photo by Raymond Knapman, via Wikimedia Commons

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