Explore secrets of town’s WW1 convalescent camp

Summerdown Camp SUS-150225-161105001
Summerdown Camp SUS-150225-161105001

The Summerdown Camp exhibition opens at the Pavilion on Eastbourne seafront from March 16 until November.

More than 150,000 soldiers were treated at the camp which closed in 1920.

The new free interactive exhibition uncovers the pioneering medical treatments and occupational therapies used to treat injured soldiers, as well as displaying star finds such as an extraordinary ring made by a Summerdown Camp solider.

And Eastbourne will hold a special commemorative event on Wednesday April 8 to mark the arrival of the first wounded solider to Summerdown Camp, which was the UK’s first and largest World War One convalescent camp which opened in Eastbourne 100 years ago.

Taking place from 11am-3pm at the Pavilion, the event will reflect on the lives of the people who worked and convalesced at the camp during World War One.

The event also celebrates tn April 8 visitors can step back in time and experience the daily life of Summerdown Camp soldiers and nursing women. Visitors can take part in basket making and embroidery, two of the vital therapies undertaken at the camp; talk to a ‘wounded solider’; learn how a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps cook fed over 300 soldiers each meal time; listen to relatives of camp soldiers talk about their ancestors experiences, try on a ‘Blue Boys’ uniform and have a guided tour of the exhibition.

Eastbourne Borough Council’s cabinet member for tourism, leisure and sports services Carolyn Heaps said, “The anniversary commemoration is an opportunity to learn about the brave soldiers and valiant women who once resided at Eastbourne’s Summerdown Camp.

“It allows for fascinating stories to be uncovered, such as the 15 year old recovering soldier, who fell in love with a girl from Old Town and married in St Mary’s Church.”

Bringing a wealth of history to the town, Summerdown Camp opened in April 1915, designed to rehabilitate wounded and distressed soldiers from the front line.

Housing has since been built on the land, and reminders of the camp can be found in Old Town street names, such as Summerdown Road and Old Camp Road.

The Heritage Lottery Funded project was undertaken by the Eastbourne Heritage Service, alongside project volunteers.

Starting with little information, the team researched and recorded the history of the camp, the soldiers and working women to put together this fascinating exhibition, discovering stories and artefacts which have gone unknown for a hundred years. All of this information is now available in a digital archive at Eastbourne Heritage Service research rooms at the Town Hall.

The Summerdown Camp exhibition opens at the Pavilion from March 16 until November 15 2015.

The Pavilion is also home to a fantastic seafront café-bar, selling sandwiches, cakes, cream teas and refreshments throughout the year. For more information visit www.eastbournemuseums.co.uk.

Entry is free and children completing the exhibition trail can receive free entry to the Redoubt Fortress, with a full paying adult.