If you go eastwards along Seaside out of Eastbourne towards the Tesco roundabout and between Christ Church and Payne’s the Funeral Directors is a derelict bank, with a bus stop outside.
Originally built prior to 1885, it was called the Rising Sun Coffee Tavern.
It is a stand-alone building, with a narrow alleyway on one side and Christ Church the other.
When originally constructed, the adjoining western sided buildings would have been cottages, including next door on the other side to Christ Church which in its time has been a private house, then cinema, then Woolworth’s, followed by a car showroom. It is now Payne’s Funeral Directors.
It was built as a coffee house or meeting place for local businessmen.
This was the only coffee house in the area, as opposed to other meeting places such as temperance halls and public houses.
The main business was conducted closer to town centre, this was for the smaller enterprises, because the Seaside area of Eastbourne was known as the artisan quarter, where the poorer people lived.
An extract from the Eastbourne Chronicle dated August 1 1896 reads: The coroner sat with a jury at the Rising Sun Coffee Tavern, Seaside, on Wednesday, to inquire into the circumstances attending the death of William Louis Page, aged 41, who was killed whilst employed at the new sewer outfall at Langney Point early on Tuesday morning.
Mr Page was working in a trench where outfall pipes were being laid when a timber brace was accidentally dislodged from a gantry fell on his head and killed him.
The Rising Sun Coffee Tavern was a logical location, because it was sufficiently close to the scene, and apparently near to Mr Page’s residence.
Another inquest was held there too in October 1911 after a baker named Edward Parris, 43, carrying on business at Firle Rd committed suicide by hanging himself.
The facade has not changed appreciably over the years, but the original painted sign of the sun hung from a wrought iron support is no more.
It was basic inside, with wooden floors, and private rooms above. The main meeting place was on the ground floor, with a communal area.
Around the time of the First World War the coffee house closed, and after a period of dereliction it was purchased by Martins Bank, which was regarded as being a little strange.
Martins had the reputation of attracting the wealthier customers, so it is safe to assume that there was an active business community in this area of Seaside.
Many years later Martins was taken over by Lloyds, and like other banks adopted a policy in recent years of closing smaller branches.
Now derelict, this sad building has much history to share.
Harry Pope is a licensed sight-seeing guide. www.harrythewalker.co.uk for details about private walks or call Eastbourne 734107.