LOOKING BACK: Fish out tiny homes

Tom Thumb Cottages
Tom Thumb Cottages

The road we know as Seaside was initially little more than a dirt track, a natural path between the hamlet of Eastbourne and the larger civilisation of Pevensey.

It was only developed in the middle of the 19th Century, before there were isolated cottages.

Tom Thumb Fishermans Cottages were built in about 1750, initially being a terrace of four.

There are now three after the missing cottage disappeared in around 1875.

No-one knows why or when it went, but bearing in mind the cottages’ close proximity to the sea, no protection from the tides, it’s fair to assume that the sea had something to do with it.

When the cottages were built, on the shingle beach, their function was to house the fishermen and their families.

Boats were hauled up the beach to right outside the houses, but now Marine Road is their protection.

Go east along the seafront, fork left at Fusciardi’s ice cream restaurant into Marine Road, and the cottages are just past the rear entrance to the Marine pub, built slightly later in 1806.

It must have been a very close-knit fishing community 200 years ago, with about 20 families living in close proximity, military at the Redoubt, smuggling a sideline for some, few strangers, and poor education for the children.

All the cottages had timber frames with boarded exteriors and lath and plaster wall interiors.

Later the boarding was removed and nine inch brick infill walls were added, then rendered.

All the cottages have a French style ‘Mansard’ roof, named after a 17th Century French architect, where the lower slopes are nearly vertical, and the upper much inclined.

Go inside to the upper bedrooms and there is so little room that you have to bend your body forward to pass the double bed.

There are two upper rooms in each cottage, but the ground floors have been altered for the better to make them habitable.

Each has a front and a back room, some have kitchen areas and all have shower and toilets with lovely rear courtyards.

All three cottages are now owned by long term Eastbourne residents Roger and Barbara Clark, who have done all the improvements themselves.

Tom Thumb Cottages are now used for very popular holiday rentals throughout the year.

Harry Pope is Eastbourne’s licensed sight-seeing guide.

See his website www.harrythewalker.com or call 734107 for information about private and public walks.