Historic Eastbourne building saved from demolition

Kempston House
Kempston House

Plans to demolish a historic house which was once a First World War Hospital were refused last night.

Councillors unanimously voted against knocking down Kempston in Granville Road at a meeting yesterday (April 24) after campaigners revealed its historic significance.

Planners had hoped to demolish the building to make way for a block of 16 flats, which would make a positive contribution to the housing target Eastbourne needs to meet.

But historians, the Eastbourne society, Meads Community Association, MP Stephen Lloyd and a 200-signature petition argued it should be refurbished instead.

Campaigners said they appreciate the building isn’t listed but the property is a fine period house with intricate stonework in an area of high townscape value.

They have also found out from old newspaper articles that Kempston was opened as a Red Cross Hospital in March 1915 by Mrs Davies-Gilbert and Miss Helena Catherine Sulman, the commandant of the Red Cross Detachment Sussex/118.

A spokesperson from Friends of Kempston said, “Soldiers from the UK, Europe and Commonwealth countries were brought to Eastbourne from Dover on hospital trains, and nearly 3,000 were treated at the hospital, many receiving successful operations in the operating theatre.

“Six soldiers who died at the hospital are commemorated on the First World War memorial at St Saviour’s and St Peter’s Church.”

The Eastbourne Society’s Nicholas Howell has also voiced the organisation’s opposition to the plans.

He said, “Although Eastbourne is fortunate to have many fine Victorian villas, some stand out as being particularly attractive and Kempston, with its fine proportions and lavish detailing, is one of these.

“Too many fine Victorian villas have already been lost in this highly important architectural Meads district.

“The demolition of Kempston would be a great loss to the area and deserves to be included in the list of buildings of local interest.”