Caught by the River

Brighter Later

Brian David Stevens | 26th July 2013


12. Sussex

Brighter Later is a journey around Britain looking out to sea from each coastal county.

Today’s Brighter Later comes from Seaford in East Sussex. Seaford did not have the best of starts in life, it was constantly invaded by dastardly French pirates, after a while the French bored of piracy but returned several times between 1350 and 1550 to burn the town down.

In the sixteenth century Seaford became home to a famous band of wreckers known as the Seaford Shags, who would lure ships to run aground by placing lights around the bay. A history of Lewes records, “The wily locals exploited their rights to flotsam and jetsam to the full, even to the extent of luring ships onto the beach by lighting fires. Scores of vessels fell prey to the wreckers of Seaford Shags. Grounded in the bay they were stripped of their cargos”.

One of Seaford’s most famous residents was a Henry Tracey Coxwell (1819-1900). As a boy he had been greatly interested in ballooning, and in 1848 he became a professional aeronaut. By 1861 he had made over 400 ascents, then in 1862 in company with Dr James Glaisher, he attained the greatest height on record, about 11,887 m (over 7 miles high) in a coal-gas balloon. Glaisher lost consciousness during the ascent due to the low air pressure and cold temperature of −11 °C, and Coxwell himself, unable to use his frostbitten hands, opened the gas-valve with his teeth, and made an extremely rapid but safe descent. The balloon for this record attempt was constructed in Seaford, in Coxwell’s balloon factory on a site opposite the present day Safeways.

Seaford was also home to Britain’s shortest male MP William Hay who reprisented the consituancy in the 1700s. He was born a hunchback in Glynde and as an adult was just 5 feet tall. Hay was parliamentary representative for over 22 years and became the Commander for Victualling the Navy and later the Keeper of Records at the Tower of London.
Robyn Hitchcock breifly lived in Seaford, writing ‘The Museum of Sex’ there

“You don’t have to look very far
You don’t have to look very far at all
You don’t have to look very far
It’s the end of your nose

Seaford – The Museum of Sex
Seaford – The Museum of Sex”

Sadly there doesn’t actually appear to be a museum of sex in Seaford, but there is a more general museum, housed in Martello Tower number 74, now that’s pretty sexy.

Previously Brighter Later.

Brian David Stevens