South Downs exhibition reveals centuries of relics saved from cliff edge

A Mesolithic flint sickle, part of the new exhibition SUS-170316-152611001
A Mesolithic flint sickle, part of the new exhibition SUS-170316-152611001

Pre-historic artefacts, a sunken U-boat and a Second World War airfield are being revealed in a new exhibition next week.

Living on the Edge at The Pavilion in Eastbourne will exhibit items unearthed in a South Downs archaeological project, designed to recover 80 centuries of objects before they crumble into the sea.

The free exhibition by Heritage Eastbourne and the National Trust opens on Monday (March 20), running until November.

It shows a changing landscape throughout the last 8,000 years – from a Neolithic Stone Age enclosure at Belle Tout lighthouse, to evidence of the notorious 1690 Battle of Beachy Head.

Eastbourne Borough Council Lead Cabinet Member for Tourism and Enterprise, Cllr Margaret Bannister, said, “The changing landscape of the Seven Sisters cliffs have seen much history from the first glimpse of Roman soldiers to the last memory of home for Second World War aircrews departing English shores.

“With some of this history literally crumbling into the sea, this has been a challenging project with the National Trust, and important in preserving these stories for the future.”

The exhibition, funded by the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign, also delves into the downland’s more recent Second World War history after Friston became an important aerodrome for British, Canadian and Polish crews with Spitfires and Hurricanes.

Victorian coastguards, who once patrolled the coast from Crowlink, also feature along with 3D scans of a sunken U-boat which went down off the Seven Sisters coast in the First World War.

Meanwhile, the notorious Battle of Beachy Head is revealed from the Nine Years War in 1690 with recovered ammunition on show.

The exhibition travels even further back to Stone Age times with the chance to discover how flint tools are made and see a Mesolithic pick and flint sickle on display.

Budding scientists can even get to grips with dating methods themselves by examining molluscs under a microscope, just one of the interactive activities on offer.

The exhibition is the result of excavations, interviews and painstaking research over the last few years at sites along the Seven Sisters coastline such as Beachy Head, Friston, Crowlink, Bailey’s Hill and a mysterious hill top enclosure at Belle Tout.

Living on the Edge continues until November 12 and entry is free. Children can complete the free exhibition trail for £1 off a kids’ entry to the adjoining Redoubt Fortress.

For more information visit www.eastbournemuseums.co.uk