Pevensey skeleton to take centre stage

The Pevensey whale and Victorian onlookers
The Pevensey whale and Victorian onlookers
  • Ill-fated mammal washed-up on beach in 1865
  • 40,000 flocked to see Victorian tourist attraction
  • Weighed the same as eight double decker buses

A 71-foot long finback whale that beached on Pevensey Bay 150 years ago is set to become the main attraction at a new multi-million pound exhibition.

‘Whale Hall’ is set to open at the Cambridge Museum of Zoology in November 2016 and will have the skeleton of the Pevensey Whale as its centrepiece.

This really is an exciting development for us as an association

The whale, which weighed the same as eight double decker buses, washed up on the beach at Pevensey Bay on November 13, 1865, and attracted thousands of visitors. Some reports say as many as 40,000 people travelled to see the sight.

The incident was advertised by the publicity department of the London and Brighton and South Coast railway. Many people alighted from trains at what was called ‘the Pevensey Sluice’, jumping down from the carriages at the impromptu stop.

The skeleton has been in the hands of the Cambridge Museum of Zoology since 1866 and now they plan to have it as centre stage in the two-storey attraction, which has been given £1.8 million in Lottery funds but is expected to cost £5.9 million by the time it opens next year.

Local history project, the Pevensey Timeline Association, lottery funded in 2014 with a grant of £7,367, has been chosen by the Cambridge Museum of Zoology to partner voluntary research about the story of the whale at a local level.

The institution plans a visit to Pevensey in the summer of 2015 with Chris Watson, an internationally renowned seascape artist known for his work on David Attenborough’s ‘Life’ series and ‘Frozen Planet’.

Pevensey Parish Council is also looking at the possibility of a whale sculpture to be commissioned in the Sea Road car park. Councillor Bob Peasgood, on hearing the news about the plans for the new Museum in Cambridge, said, “The idea to commission a whale sculpture locally is a brilliant one. We have been looking at the possibility of some kind of sculpture, and this could be the catalyst.”

Four volunteers from the Pevensey Timeline Association are now trawling records, local history books and newspaper archives looking for details and accounts of the story of the Pevensey Whale.

Dianne Dear, chair of the Pevensey Timeline Association, said, “This really is an exciting development for us as an association. It is validation of all the hard work that has gone into the teaching aspect of the project.

“To have been chosen to partner the launch of ‘Whale Hall’ is a tribute to everyone who is putting so much work into seeing that the Pevensey Timeline becomes a sustainable success.”