Seven seafront shelters still stand since 1930s

Elegant - one of the seafront shelters
Elegant - one of the seafront shelters
  • Only the thatched ones are used in the original way
  • Bomb damage so great it moved structure by and inch
  • Tunnel from the seafront to hotel now bricked-up

Try to count Eastbourne seafront shelters, not including the thatched ones going towards Holywell, and you will find there are seven, all originally built in the 1880s, demolished, and then re-built in 1934 and 1935 when the bandstand was built, writes Harry Pope.

Starting at Holywell, the three thatched ones are original 1930s, and also at that end there used to be a tunnel from the seafront to the Hydro Hotel.

Such a shame that this tunnel is now bricked up.

Also at the western end, there were two upper shelters, one was demolished some years ago, and the other until recently was the unofficial home to an inoffensive gentleman.

The homeless seem to take a shine to the shelters, which is why three are now used as refreshment establishments, and two are boarded up to be used as store rooms.

Only the original thatched ones are still used in the original way, which was as a shelter to inclement weather.

When re-built as 1930s major promenade improvements, five were designed in the current 1930s style, one in the 1880s style, and the only one to the east of the pier as a double, split into two.

They don’t go back very far inside, with chalk backing behind the rear walls.

This chalk came from the Holywell chalk quarries, in the 1880s.

The wide frontage had brick support piers, only the middle doorway was open, otherwise exterior toughened glass for protection.

Wooden benches provided the seating, which could be for up to forty at a squeeze and the gentlemen standing.

The main promenade shelters all originally had railings on their roofs, but when re-built these were removed so sun bathers could easily sit in their deck chairs.

The shelter that backs onto the lifeguard station securely stores two inflatable ribs.

Only one of the shelters suffered from bomb damage during WW2.

This is the one on the western side of the bandstand.

The Cavendish Hotel had a direct hit in 1942, with shrapnel damage to the bandstand structure.

However, the shelter was also harmed, despite being under the promenade.

The impact was so great it moved the shelter away from the wall by one inch.

The east of the pier double shop shelter now sells fresh produce one side, and beach accessories the other.

Looking at old photos dating pre 1930s, on the bottom promenade close to the two shelters now used for refreshments, there were little crescents in the floral banking, so people could sit with a degree of protection.

The tunnels under the promenade are still there, despite being bricked up.

One end consisted of a grid, way out to sea, so the seawater could enter, and the landward end went into the two public baths.

One was where Devonshire Mansions now stands, the other was more for public washing rather than bathing, under where the Belgian Cafe now exists.

The tunnels possibly ran under the shelters.

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

Public walks June-Sept, private walks by appointment. Visit or Eastbourne 734107.