The picturesque Helen Garden celebrated its 80th birthday this week.
In early September 1933, at the bequest of Mrs Helen Reid Hornby Lewis, the seafront park at the foot of Beachy Head was taken over by Eastbourne Corporation as a public pleasure ground.
The corporation landscaped the gardens and provided a thatched pavilion, a putting green and a bowls green before opening them to the public in 1935.
To celebrate this event, representatives from the Meads Community Association, St John’s Bowls Club (based at Helen Garden), the Meads Neighbourhood Panel and the Mothers of Meads Association held an informal reception by the side of the bowls green last Friday evening.
Despite the heavy rain in the morning, by early evening the sun was shining and around 60 attended including the Mayor, Councillor Mike Thompson and Meads ward councillors Caroline Ansell, David Elkin and Barry Taylor, plus the council staff who look after the gardens.
Dennis Scard, chairman of the MCA, welcomed the mayor and councillors and paid tribute to the continued investment of Eastbourne Borough Council in the gardens. He also told how Mrs Hornby Lewis, who was an extremely wealthy widow at the time of her death, left over £2 million pounds. She had a villa in Eastbourne, a house in Cannes and a London residence in Park Lane.
Both she and her husband, a Liverpool merchant, were very fond of Eastbourne and both played a big part by making a substantial donation to save the Seven Sisters for the nation.
When she died she was buried in the rose garden of her country house, Danesfield in Marlow (now a luxury hotel), with the stipulation that her age should never be disclosed. In responding, the mayor said that Helen Garden was one of his favourite places in Eastbourne and he thanked Mrs Hornby Lewis for her generous gift and he hoped that it would remain one of Eastbourne’s gems for the next 80 years.