Wish Tower site may hold Roman secrets

THE site of the Wish Tower restaurant could unearth Roman remains and answer questions on what life was like here in Eastbourne back in prehistoric times.

Having approved demolition of the cafe just last week, excited councillors heard of plans to transform the plot into an archaeological dig while the local authority waits for an outside investor to come up with the ideas – and cash – to replace the eatery.

Once the exterior is knocked down, the demolition team will begin removing the floor and overhanging balcony, which is moored in place with a cantilever technique.

The site will then be made available to dig teams to start the painstaking process of sifting through the soil to look for anything of note.

According to East Sussex County Council’s archaeological team, the site sits within an area of significant Roman activity as well as prehistoric settlements. There are also expected to be military remains from the 19th and mid 20th centuries.

In a report handed to borough councillors, a county hall expert wrote, “The famous Beachy Head Bronze Age hoard eroded out of the cliff face at the Wish Tower in 1807 and may have ben related to more widespread ritual or occupational activity,” while a planning officer added, “This [site] has significant historical value.”

Roman pottery has already been unearthed near the Wish Tower and the hope is that a lengthy excavation will unearth more treasures and help historians piece together a picture of what Eastbourne was like in years gone by.

Any such dig will have to wait until the demolition is green-lit by English Heritage, which has to approve the decision because of the protected status of the Wish Tower itself.

Potential impact of diggers on the 19th century Martello tower will need to be kept at a minimum because the building is designated a scheduled monument and thus afforded protection.

Another delay could be the location of the mooted temporary replacement cafe. If this ends up on the current building’s footprint, it could be two years before history buffs and museum staff could move in.

There are however already plans to recruit locals to help with the excavation and hold Tony Robinson style roadshow events on the site.