The development of Bexhill-on-Sea as a fashionable resort from rural inland village of Bexhill was started by the 7th Earl De La Warr in 1883. When the Earl’s son and heir Viscount Cantelupe married in 1891 the control of the Bexhill estate was passed to him and the Viscount assumed the title 8th Earl De La Warr when his father died in 1896.
It was the 8th Earl De La Warr who secured the town’s place in history by hosting the first ever automobile races in Britain on the Whitsun bank holiday of 1902. The event was organised by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland and attracted international attention.
The races did not occur in isolation but were part of a campaign to promote Bexhill-on-Sea as a fashionable new resort and used the Bicycle Boulevard he had previously built the seafront. The Earl’s interest in During 1902 other important events occurred, Incorporation of the Borough, the opening of the Crowhurst Branch Line, Bexhill West and Bexhill Central Stations. On a personal level the Earl’s divorce caused considerable scandal in the town.
The dates below outline key events in the life of the 8th Earl and events in Bexhill that he was associated with:
- 1869 Gilbert George Reginald Sackville born 22nd March – the future 8th Earl.
- 1890 Gilbert’s elder brother dies at sea, Gilbert inherits the title Viscount Cantelupe.
- 1891 Viscount Cantelupe marries Muriel Brassey, daughter of Annie Lady Brassey .
- 1892 Viscount and Lady Cantelupe move into the newly renovated Bexhill Manor House. The 7th Earl passes control of his Bexhill estate to Viscount Cantelupe. Viscount Cantelupe elected to the Bexhill Board of Health.
- 1893 Myra Idina Sackville, Viscount and Lady Cantelupe’s first child.
- 1894 Viscount Cantelupe elected to Bexhill’s first Urban Council.
- 1895 De La Warr Gates built at the entrance to De La Warr Parade. Col. Henry Lane dies and Cantelupe replaces him as chairman of the Urban Council. Cantelupe and Robert Kersey apply for a license to supply Bexhill with electricity, both men were also directors of the Bexhill Water & Gas Company. The Town Hall is opened by the Lord Mayor of London. Stanislaus Wurm and his White Viennese Band hired by Cantelupe.
- 1896 The 7th Earl De La Warr died and the Viscount becomes 8th Earl De La Warr. The Kursaal opened and became the main entertainment venue in the Town. Bicycling Boulevard and Cycle Chalet open on De La Warr Parade. International Bicycling Tournament held at the Manor House.
- 1897 Earl De La Warr became chairman of Dunlop. Avice Ela Sackville, the Earl and Lady De La Warr’s second child is born. Cycle Tournament at Manor House, attended by Grand Duke Michael of Russia and the Countess de Torby.
- 1898 The Earl faces a financial crisis when his business partner Mr Hooley is bankrupted. Adultery on the part of the Earl nearly ends his marriage.
- 1899 As a war correspondent for The Globe, the Earl goes off to the Boer Warr. Mr Walter Smith becomes chairman of the Urban Council in the Earl’s absence.
- 1900 Earl De La Warr wounded rescuing an injured soldier and returns to Bexhill. Mr Walter Smith re-elected, the Earl and Daniel Mayer resign from the Council. Earl and Lady De La Warr’s son, Herbrand Edward Dundonald Brassey Sackville (Lord Buckhurst), is born. James Glover appointed as manager of the Kursaal. The Earl begins an affair with Miss Turner, an actress at the Kursaal.
- 1901 Queen Victoria dies and Edward VI becomes king. The Earl visits Nice in France and sees motor racing on the seafront. Bexhill becomes the first British resort to allow mixed bathing.
- 1902 Bexhill becomes an Incorporated Borough by Royal Charter. The 8th Earl is divorced by Lady De La Warr for adultery and abandonment. The Earl, who had been named as provisional mayor in the draft charter, does not stand as mayor due to the scandal of his divorce. Mr Ebenezer Howard became Bexhill’s first mayor. Bexhill hosts Britain’s first motor races on De La Warr Parade. Bexhill Central Station, Bexhill West Station and the Crowhurst Branch Line open.
- 1903 The 8th Earl De La Warr elected as mayor of Bexhill. August Neven Du Mont leases the Manor House from the Earl. The 8th Earl marries Hilda Clavering, locally they live at Marina Court and Cooden.The first Bexhill Horse Show is held.
- 1904 The 8th Earl is made mayor of Bexhill for the second time. Speed trials held on De La Warr Parade.
- 1905 Speed trials held in June, these were criticised for poor planning.
- 1906 Speed trials held but they were strongly criticised due to bad management. Plans for a motor racing circuit between Cooden Beach and Pevensey proposed but never built.
- 1907 Brooklands race track in Weybridge constructed and opened.
- 1914 The 8th Earl is divorced for the second time for adultery and desertion. The Earl obtained a commission as Major in the Southdown Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was then commissioned to the Royal Naval Volunteer reserves and given command of a motor cruiser.
- 1915 While in the Dardanelles the Earl was taken seriously ill and died of rheumatic fever. Muriel, Lady De La Warr, become Lady of the Manor of Bexhill. Herbrand Edward Dundonald Brassey Sackville become 9th Earl De La Warr.
- 1921 The 9th Earl De La Warr comes of age and becomes lord of the manor of Bexhill.
- 1922 Speed Trials on West Parade.
- 1923 Speed Trials on West Parade.
- 1934 Concours d’Elegance (car show) on De La Warr Parade.
- 1935 Concours d’Elegance (car show) on De La Warr Parade. De La Pavilion built and opened.
- 1936 Concours d’Elegance (car show) on the terrace of the De La Warr Pavilion.
- 1952 Proposal by Hastings Corporation to build a motor race track at the former Pebsham Aerodrome, discussions went on until 1955 when the scheme was dropped.
- 1954 Jubilee Speed Trials, celebration of Bexhill’s motoring history.
- 1955 Elva cars first produced in Bexhill.
- 1990 The first Bexhill 100 Festival of Motoring.
- 2002 The 100th Anniversary Bexhill 100.