Bexhill-on-Sea (often simply Bexhill) is a town and seaside resort in the county of East Sussex, in the south of England, within the Rother District Council area. It has a population of approximately 40,000. The Anglo-Saxon name for the settlement was Bexelei, from leah—a glade where the box tree grows.


The earliest evidence of occupation of the site came from the discovery of primitive boats at Egerton Park. The town came into official existence with the Charter of 772. In this charter, King Offa II, King of Mercia, granted land to Bishop Oswald to build a church. Three hundred years later, around 1066, William the Conqueror gave the Rape of Hastings, including the captured town of Bexhill (also referred to as the "Badman Town"), to Robert, Count of Eu, as the spoils of victory.

The church owned Bexhill Manor until Queen Elizabeth I acquired it in 1590 and granted it to Thomas Sackville, then Baron Buckhurst. Thomas became the first Earl of Dorset in 1603. In 1813, when the male line of the earldom had died out, Elizabeth Sackville married the fifth Earl De La Warr, and she and her husband inherited Bexhill. This early history can still be seen in street names, with Sackville Road, Buckhurst Road, De La Warr Parade, and King Offa Way being some of the most significant roads in the town.

On 20 May 1729, a waterspout came ashore, became a tornado, and travelled 12 miles inland to Battle and Linkhill; nine farms and properties received serious damage.

Smuggling was rife in the area in the early nineteenth century. In 1828, the local Little Common Gang were involved in what was known as the Battle of Sidley Green, a nearby hamlet.


During local government reform in 1974, Bexhill became part of Rother District Council, thereby losing its Town Council. In its place, Bexhill became a Charter Trustees town, represented by the Bexhill councillors of Rother District Council. A quarterly forum is held to provide a voice to the community at a local level. There have been recent plans to recreate a Bexhill Town Council.

Bexhill is the home of Rother District Council; District Council Elections are held every four years. Thirty-eight Councillors in total are elected, eighteen of these from the nine wards that make up Bexhill. The May 2007 election returned 14 Conservatives, 3 Liberal Democrats, and 1 Independent.

The next level of government is the East Sussex County Council, with responsibility for Education, Libraries, Social Services, Civil Registration, Trading Standards, and Transport. Elections for the County Council are held every four years. For these elections, Bexhill is divided into three wards: West, King Offa, and East.

The 2005 East Sussex County Council election resulted in 29 Conservatives, 15 Liberal Democrats, 5 Labours, and 1 Independent, of which Bexhill provided 1 Liberal Democrat and 2 Conservatives.

The Parliament Constituency for Bexhill includes the nearby town of Battle. The constituency was created in 1983 and was served by Charles Wardle until the 2001 election, when Wardle left the Conservative party. He was replaced by Gregory Barker, who remains the current serving MP.

At the European level, Bexhill is represented by the South-East region, which holds ten seats in the European Parliament. The June 2004 election returned four Conservatives, two Liberal Democrats, two UK Independents, one Labour, and one Green—none of whom live in East Sussex.


A Site of Special Scientific Interest lies within the Bexhill district—High Woods. It is of biological importance because it is the only known sessile oak Quercus petraea woodland in East Sussex.


  • Old Town: The original town on the hill, chartered by King Offa in 772.
  • Cooden: An upperclass area of the town, it is in the southwest/west and plays host to a couple of hotels, a golf course and a beach.
  • Little Common: A village in the west near Cooden.
  • Pebsham: An area to the east of the town, it is near Sidley.
  • Sidley: Another village, it is in the north.
  • Collington: A residential area near Cooden.
  • Bexhill New Town: The main part of Bexhill. There are several roads with a variety of shops, a railway station, a library and the De La Warr Pavilion on the seafront.
  • Ninfield: A rural area to the north.
  • Barnhorn: An area west of Bexhill; its name survives in Barnhorne Manor and Barnhorn Road (a section of the A259). The name was recorded in AD 772 in an Anglo-Saxon charter as Berna horna.


Reginald Sackville, seventh Earl De La Warr, decided to transform what was then a village on a hill around its church into an exclusive seaside resort, which he named Bexhill-on-Sea. He was instrumental in building a sea wall south of the village, and the road above it was then named De La Warr Parade. Large houses were built inland from there, and the new town began. In 1890, the luxurious Sackville Hotel was built.

Bexhill was the location for the first motor race in the United Kingdom, in 1902 . This was celebrated by the Bexhill 100 Festival of Motoring, which successfully ran from 1990 to 2002 along the same seafront "track." The final Festival of Motoring took place in 2002, though the Bexhill 100 Motoring Club now holds an alternative classic car show in The Polegrove on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Bexhill was the site of the "first mixed bathing" in the UK; men and women could finally swim at the same beach.

The De La Warr Pavilion, brainchild of the ninth Earl De La Warr, opened in 1935, the first example of modern architecture in a British public building. It closed for major restoration work in December 2003 and reopened in October 2005.

During the Second World War, Bexhill was named as a point to attack as part of Operation Sealion by Nazi Germany.

The town, like many other English seaside resorts, is now much more a settled community. Although there is a small entertainment area on the seafront, it now has a large retired population, like much of the south coast.


Bexhill is on the A259 road to Emsworth and the A27 road to Southampton, Portsmouth, and Folkestone. Nearby Hastings is linked to London by the A21. The town is served by coastal lines and has three railway stations, including Cooden Beach, Collington, and Bexhill. The railway built by the Brighton, Lewes and Hastings Railway (later part of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway) arrived on 27 June 1846, although the present station was not built until 1891, when the town had become popular as a resort. A second line, this time built by the South Eastern Railway and approaching the town from the north, was a branch line from Crowhurst via an intermediate station at Sidley to a terminus at Bexhill West. The line opened on 1 June 1902 and closed on 15 June 1964.

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