An “Introduction”, at the beginning of the Exhibition, explained why “Sporting Bexhill” had been chosen as the theme and a “Conclusion”, at the end, gave suggested reasons for to-day’s growing interest in sport, generally, and how Bexhill, over the years, had many sporting successes. Copies of the “Introduction” and “Conclusion” are given below.
This year London is hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games so we thought we would take this opportunity to look at the history of sport in Bexhill.
Sport and recreation have always been part of the Town’s ethos—both as a means of encouraging people to the resort and also to cater to the needs of the resident population. Sports were always considered a vital part of the Town’s community life as well as a form of entertainment. Bexhill has a remarkable sporting heritage of national significance and this is the first time that we have dedicated an exhibition to sport. We wanted to show the range of sport played in Bexhill over the years—its character, community and champions. It provides a fascinating social history of Bexhill as well as a sporting history.
As a coastal town the sea has given us opportunities to develop our rowing and sailing prowess and in the past the large number of schools within the Town meant an abundance of playing fields which were well used. This Museum has recently been extended over the abandoned site of the Egerton Park swimming pool in which most residents over a certain age learned to swim and also the venue for many sporting events.
Bexhill continues to develop its offer as a having a healthy outdoor lifestyle in keeping with the Town’s motto of ‘Sun and Health’. On this wall we have set out the different sports that have been played in Bexhill over the years, below which is a timeline of sporting events. The opposite wall celebrates some of Bexhill’s sporting heroes. This is not an exhaustive list so if you know of some more please tell us.
There is more for you to see in the Costume Gallery and downstairs there are displays by the Bexhill Sailing Club and Bexhill Swimming Club.
Some of the reasons why people participate in sport may have changed over the years, in the past sport and athleticism was one way of keeping the population fit and ready for war; today it is more often seen as an enjoyable way to stay healthy. The main reason why people play sports has not changed, people still want to compete against others in a safe and controlled environment and to see what they can achieve.
The social side of sport, being involved in the community, meeting friends and being part of a team are still important. Sport has become increasingly professional and expensive, corporate sponsorship and branding have come to dominate the sporting world.
On the other hand sport is now often used as a way of raising money or awareness for charities. The loss of playing fields and open spaces to urban sprawl have not made it easier to participate in sport. One of Bexhill’s claims to fame is that it hosted Britain’s first motor car race, the rise of the car has not only made people less fit because they walk less it has also ended the use of the town’s streets as social spaces and impromptu playgrounds.
Cycling on the seafront was one of the main attractions of Earl De La Warr’s resort in the 1890s and the precursor to first motor car race in 1902 but this custom feel into disfavour with the Council in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.
Happily this year the promenade will be shared by all in an experiment which we hope proves successful. We now have the Addizone in the Park, on the main lawn just behind this building, this provides gym equipment, basketball court and climbing wall for all to use. The Olympic torch will pass through Bexhill this year giving us yet another historic sporting event.
Our town has had a fascinating sporting history, its future is in the hands of the people of Bexhill. Please support your local sports clubs.