Work has begun on transforming the moat surrounding Eastbourne’s Wish Tower into a Peace Garden, providing the setting for a new memorial to the town’s 180 civilian bombing victims in World War Two.
The project is the initiative of the Eastbourne Civilian War Memorial Trust which recognised the need for a permanent memorial after the demolition of the Wish Tower Cafe and Sun Lounge in 2012.
The cafe had been built with funding from the Foyle family in memory of local people killed in bombing raids.
With the support of Eastbourne Borough Council, the nearby Wish Tower moat was agreed as a suitable site, readily accessible to the public and surrounding an historic defensive icon.
The trust has launched a public appeal to raise the estimated £75,000 needed to complete the project.
A generous grant from the town’s John Jackson Charitable Trust and some significant donations have enabled a start to be made on the Peace Garden, designed by architect Wendy Thomas.
Landscape gardener Andrew Norwood and his team moved on to the site last month to clear the site in preparation for new flint and brick retaining walls, restyled grass areas and gravel pathways.
The previous unkempt planting had already been removed by the borough council.
Memorial seats and the Victorian lampposts will remain.
The footings were being installed on Tuesday in conjunction with Hailsham Roadways, which is one of many local firms offering help.
Hailsham Roadways chief executive James Bailey said, “We agreed to deliver our fresh concrete straight away.
“Hailsham Roadway’s business can only grow and thrive today because of the sacrifices that others before us have made.
“As a friendly, family firm, charity work is just as important as delivering robust, quality results for customers.
“If a charity needs fresh concrete, asphalt re-surfacing, groundworks, aggregates or civil engineering, they should contact us as we offer special rates and complete some projects each year free of charge.”
The memorial to the bombing victims will take the form of a single boulder which will be mounted on an existing concrete plinth to the west of the Tower.
On one side of the stone will be a steel plaque engraved with the names of the 180 people who died.
Close by will be an interpretation board explaining Eastbourne’s years as the most severely bombed non-military town in the south east.
It has not yet been decided exactly how the granite boulder will be lifted into place but talks are underway.
In all, 98 raids took place between 1940 and 1944 with 671 high explosive bombs and 3,600 incendiary bombs falling on the town.
In addition to the fatalities, nearly 1,000 people were injured, 443 of them seriously.
Four hundred and seventy five homes were destroyed and 1,000 seriously damaged.
Many businesses and hotels were destroyed or seriously damaged, and bombs demolished St Anne’s Church, Upperton and St Mary’s, Hampden Park.
A group of pupils from Bedes School visited the site recently to learn more about the project and inform their history studies.
They will be looking at ways of helping the appeal.
War Memorial Trust chairman John Boyle said, “We still have a long way to go with our fundraising, but thanks to generous professional support from Andrew, Wendy, archeologist Chris Butler and others, we felt able to make a start on the Peace Garden.
“We need to raise money for the new planting in the garden and for the purchase and installation of the memorial itself, and we are appealing to the people and businesses of Eastbourne to help us.”
Donations can be sent to Eastbourne Civilian War Memorial Trust, 50 Pashley Road, Eastbourne, BN20 8EA; by bank transfer to Lloyds Bank account 59492360, sort code 30-92- 86; or by visiting www.justgiving.com/eastbournecivilian-warmemorial
* Next week’s Looking Back will feature a list of names of those who died in World War Two in Eastbourne.