Napoleon Didn’t Come But the Pub is Still There
Eastbourne on England’s south coast is mid-way between Hastings and Brighton, with various marinas and harbours along the way. It was regarded as a strategic place to defend against Napoleon, so the Pitt Government allocated a huge budget to defend this area of coast.
Eastbourne had the Redoubt fortress.
As well as the large influx of serving military, they also required a place of hostelry and refreshment. That’s where the Marine Hotel came in.
An enterprising local businessman saw the Redoubt building progressing, and realised that visitors would need a place to stay, eat, and drink.
The main road between the hamlets of Eastbourne and the eastern ports of Pevensey and Hastings was nothing more than a dirt track, with the sea on one side and marshland the other. No photos of the track exist because photography was not invented until 1839, but early ones outside the Marine show it also as ‘Speakers Corner’, a local debating place conveniently outside a tavern.
There would have been no other buildings around the 1806 Marine Hotel, and the sea would have crept up to its garden and back door. The typical customer would have been a traveller along the coast, but more likely military, going between the fortifications.
Initially there was one bar for all, a cellar, and the six hotel rooms above. It is strange that the cellar existed, because the hotel was built on shingle, and it’s a tribute to the original builders that they were able to construct on this surface and for it to have survived for well over 200 years.
The frontage was added on 100 years ago, and the back conservatory less than forty. In the meantime, the interior was converted in various ways.
A pub feature when I was first a drinker 50 years ago was a front door, opening to a long passageway. This would have frosted glass doors, one for the select and most expensive area. Ladies would have been welcome here. The next would have been the snug, not too comfortable, then the public bar with the cheapest drink and where the workmen gathered, and then the off sales, which is where you would purchase items to take home and consume.
The hotel would initially have been candle lit, fuel would have been coal and wood, and water supplied from the River Bourne, fresh from its outlet across the road. The hotel would have been converted to electricity in about 1890.
There was nothing to protect the rear of the pub from the sea, and high tides would bring the waves close to the steps. This didn’t change until 1885, when the seafront was developed and the Marine became one road back from the sea.
The Marine pub is now regarded as the best in the area. Hosts Phil and Anne Saunders arrived in 1982, handing over to Andy Wainwright three years ago, but still assisting during holidays. The food is all cooked on the premises, fresh produce, the wine selection is excellent, and the beer on tap is Harveys, from their brewery in Lewes, about 12 miles away.
Any time is ideal to visit, but over the Christmas period is even better, when the interior is transformed into Fairyland. Over 6,000 lights are used to decorate, taking three weekends to finally complete the grotto. They remain until the end of January, with people coming from miles around just to look.
It is how a pub should be. Welcoming atmosphere, well kept ale, with an excellent menu at sensible prices.
You can find The Marine at www.themarinepub.co.uk Address: 61 Seaside, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN22 7NE Phone:01323 720464