Explore the ruins of a Benedictine Priory, unravel the stories of heroes, police officers and politicians buried in Eastbourne, and discover the heritage, history and folklore of the cliffs of Seaford in this year’s Heritage Open Days – there really is something for everyone!

From Friday 8 September – Thursday 17 September, historic sites will throw open their doors for England’s largest festival of history and culture. Heritage Eastbourne is working in partnership with organisations, individuals, and venues around the town for the free 10-day event.


Among the confirmed venues taking part are the Eastbourne Heritage Centre in Carlisle Road, the Dovecote in Motcombe Gardens, Wilmington Priory, and a private house in Compton Place Road where paintings and objects entrained in the history of Sir Charles Lucas will be on public display, to name but a few!

Eastbourne Heritage Centre will be open from 10am-4pm on Friday 8to Sunday 10 September for people to discover and explore Eastbourne’s story.  Visitors can learn about the glorious seafront parades, pier, bandstands, architecture, how the railway brought prosperity, the town’s survival of more than 90 Second World War air raids, the east end fishing and working communities, and much more.


Wilmington Priory is also one of the venues taking part and there will be free admission to the historic site on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 of September

The Priory dates back to 1215, but alterations have taken place in almost every century since and the result is a complex puzzle of structures. It was once the priory of a Benedictine Abbey and is just below the Long Man of Wilmington.

This is a rare chance to stroll the ruins and see inside the Landmark Trust’s restoration of the farmhouse, now normally let for holidays.

From Monday 11 September – Saturday 16 September, there will be a chance to explore the inside of Motcombe Garden’s historic Dovecote and learn about the history of one Eastbourne’s most important medieval farms.

Opening especially for Heritage Open Days between 1pm-4pm daily, visitors will also get the opportunity to learn about the archaeology, history and stories of the site and there will be a small display of finds and photographs.

On Sunday 10 September there will be a guided tour of Ocklynge Cemetery. The tour will include a history of burial in Eastbourne and of the cemetery and explain some of the symbolism shown on gravestones. There will be stories of both local and national heroes from police officers to politicians and several war graves.

The 90-minute walk has been arranged by the Friends of Ocklynge Cemetery and members of the group will be on hand to help with queries on the day. Tickets are free but limited and booking is essential.

There will also be a Motcombe Meander on Monday 11 September with Kevin Gordon, who will talk about the historic Dovecote and medieval tales along with a tour telling the history of Motcombe and Old Town illustrated with copies of old photographs.


On Saturday 9 and Saturday 16 of September, join the Walk the Chalk team in Seaford for a walking tour as you learn about the ground beneath your feet. Daring smugglers and determined Excisemen, stoic Coastguards and the thousands of men who journeyed through on their way to the Frontlines of the First World War- you’ll discover art installations, tales will be told and stories unravelled in this exciting tour put on only for Heritage Open Days! Booking is essential.


Sir Charles Lucas and his heritage will be uncovered at a Heritage Open day at the home of his ancestors in Compton Place Road when visitors can view portraits and objects relating to the history of the family.  Sir Charles Lucas, who was the third son of a wealthy and not particularly well-behaved Essex family, rose to be a senior cavalry commander under King Charles I until he was executed after the siege of Colchester at the end of the Civil War.


The story of his family, and of what happened over the next 370 years, is framed around the portraits that document the family’s history. The tours are hourly from 10am-4pm on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 September.

Councillor Margaret Bannister, Eastbourne Borough Council’s Lead Member for Tourism, Leisure, Accessibility & Community Safety said, “There is something to interest everyone of all ages during the Heritage Open Days and I hope people enjoy discovering our wonderful town’s rich heritage.

“It is an ideal opportunity for people to discover the stories behind the buildings and places in Eastbourne we walk past. This gives people the chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – all of which are free to explore.”


Some of the events taking place are pre-bookable.  For further information visit https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/

Pictured: Wilmington Priory – The Landmark Trust