Around the Town
The Town has some sporting facilities with pitches for football, cricket and stoolball on the well tended Polegate War Memorial recreation ground in Wannock Road Here also is a play area for younger children with slides, round-a-bouts and swings. On the other side of town, next to the School in Oakleaf Drive is another well equipped children’s play area.
Indoor activities are catered for in the Community Centre in Windsor Way. There is a fine hall with a stage where the local drama society presents many productions and a well received pantomime each year. The hall is also used for dancing and a variety of shows. The Community Centre hosts many other organisations, including a Playgroup, Table Tennis Club, Short Mat Bowls, Luncheon Club for the over 60’s etc. The Community Centre is also the regular meeting place for many well supported societies. Contact the Community Centre on 01323 482434.
Nearby, also in Windsor Way, is an excellent Branch Library with a wide enough selection of books to satisfy every reader. Here also you will find a list of nearly all the local clubs and societies.
Polegate also has a branch of the Royal British Legion Club in Victoria Road which has one of the most successful snooker teams in the locality.
In Park Croft stands a fine Tower Mill, built in 1817. A detailed history is to be found further down this page.
Polegate’s parish church of St. John was built in 1874 and the separate parish was constituted in 1938. The church is externally finished in flint and internally is brick faced with windows reproduced in the style of the 13th and 14th century. Its square tower above the main entrance is topped by a short spire and a covered way leads to a fine, modern, church hall which has been designed to blend in with older church buildings. Go to www.polegate.org.uk for the church’s web site.
One of Polegate’s most modern buildings is the Station, built adjacent to the main shopping centre. This station is now on the site of Polegate’s first station, built some 150 years ago. The spur lines to Eastbourne and Hailsham were added in 1849 and the branch line to Hastings in 1871, and to facilitate the services a new station was built downline. When Dr. Beeching started to axe the local branch lines in the nineteen-sixties the branch line to Hailsham was closed and the station was eventually moved back to its original site. The second station which fell into dereliction has now been restored and houses a fine new restaurant. The old branch line has been redeveloped into a cycle, foot and bridle path, known as the Cuckoo Trail which currently runs the 14 miles to Heathfield in the north and south to Eastbourne with plans to extend further northwards forming part of the National Cycle Network.
Polegate has many places to eat out in style and comfort, and a good selection of take-away outlets, including Chinese and Indian, and one of the finest Fish and Chips shops in the area. All are in, or easily reached, from the Town Centre, except for one Indian restaurant which is on the A22 north of Polegate.
Round and About Polegate
There is such a rich variety of rural and urban landscape to be found around Polegate, that it would be difficult not to find something to satisfy the local residents and visitors.
To the South is Eastbourne, perhaps the most aristocratic of the Sussex resorts, with its air of Victorian opulence, the non commercialised promenade and flower gardens, including the world famous “Carpet Gardens” between the Bandstand and the Pier. Here can be found theatres, cinemas, museums and an Art Gallery, and a fine shopping centre, much of which (in the Arndale Centre) is under cover.
Sandwiched between the two is Willingdon, made famous by George Orwell in his controversial novel “Animal Farm”.
Polegate, however, is often referred to as “The Gateway to Wealden” and the abundance of unspoilt countryside on its doorstep would keep the dedicated walker going for many days.
There are delightful walks through wooded countryside between Hailsham and the Cuckmere Valley, and many varied views from the numerous walks on the Sussex Downland.
To the north of Polegate, and west of Hailsham stand the remains of Michelham Priory, founded in 1229. It now belongs to the Sussex Archaeological Trust with a museum and restored watermill. It is well worth a visit and the Trust put on many craft fairs and similar events throughout the Summer.
To the east is Pevensey where the Norman castle and the Roman fort of Anderita is also worth a visit.
The chalk hills of the South Downs have a good deal of recreational interest to offer. There is a national nature reserve at nearby Lullington Heath and the Seven Sisters Country Park has its interpretative centre located at Exceat at the southern end of the Cuckmere valley. Friston Forest offers many walks and Beachy Head is a well known beauty spot with its extensive grassland footpaths, its sheer white cliffs and the lighthouse below.
All the hillside and valley villages are worth a visit and most popular amongst them is Alfriston where visitors from all over the world gather. The old inns keep their secrets of smuggling days long gone (when the Cuckmere was navigable right up to the village) whilst the Church across the green is neighbour to the first property bought by the National Trust, the Alfriston Clergy House.
Nearby Wilmington has its old priory and museum, and for the more energetic there is a path up the chalk slope to the Long Man of Wilmington cut out of the chalk hillside back in the mists of time. Across the valley Berwick Church has the attraction of its wall paintings created by the Bloomsbury group who were living in the nearby Charleston Farmhouse.
Nearer to Polegate is Filching Manor, a fine timber framed building dating from the fifteenth century which can be reached via the Wannock Road. This is also the home of a fine Motor Museum and Go-Kart track for enthusiasts. Wannock Road then leads on to the medieval Jevington Place and the village.
The Downs are topped by the South Downs Way beside which can be seen many remains of the past, including tumuli, barrows, camps and field systems. The Way divides at Alfriston and ramblers can choose between the cliff-top route along the edge of the English Channel or the Northern path via the Long Man, Jevington Place and the numerous prehistoric earthworks. Both lead finally to Eastbourne having traversed the eighty miles across West and East Sussex from the Hampshire borders.
If you are looking for something a little more exciting there is the Arlington Stadium which provides the thrills and spills of Elite League Speedway and Hot Rod and Banger Racing throughout the season.
Polegate’s Twin Towns
Polegate has been twinned with Appen in Germany since May 1981 and with Saintry-sur-Seine in France from May 1991.
The aims of town twinning are to promote and develop international communications and greater understanding between the people of different countries and their ways of life. The success of twinning at local level depends on personal contact with the people of our twin towns and villages and this, of course, must be reciprocal.
Polegate Twinning Association is a very active group, and a very enthusiastic committee. Exchange visits are arranged between Appen and Saintry-sur-Seine every year. Each year there is a visit to and a visit from either Appen or Saintry. Both Towns provide accommodation with host families and an interesting programme is arranged.
All members are kept up to date by a quarterly newsletter and all the social functions are advertised on the notice board on the wall of “The Dinkum” in the High Street and also in the Library and local shops. To contact the Twinning Association, call the Chairman, Peter Saunders, on 01323 482328.
Polegate Tower Mill was built in 1817 for local farmer and landowner Joseph Seymour. Sixteen years later a watermill was built nearby and the two worked side by side. By 1860 both were owned by Matthias Mockett and they then passed into the Thomas family.
Ephraim Ovenden, father of the last Miller of Polegate, bought them in 1918 and he, and his son Albert, worked them both. Ephraim died in 1958 but Albert continued until he retired in 1964. By this time the windmill had the benefit of electricity and wind was no longer the driving force for the Mill. The mill was then in danger of being lost but the Eastbourne and District Preservation Society had just been formed and came to the rescue. Money was raised by public appeal and the mill was purchased. Much of the mill was complete and in good working order but the cap, stocks, sweeps and fanstaging were all renewed. Unfortunately, there was no saving of the watermill and it was eventually demolished in 1976.
The windmill was officially reopened by the Duke of Devonshire on 1st July 1967 and, with its museum of milling bygones, is visited by thousands of people every year. Over the years the mill has been open to the public, repairs and renewals have become necessary. In July 1974 one of the stocks fell into the road, breaking one sweep and damaging another. These were replaced by millwrights at a cost of £1800. The nearby malthouse has a new roof complete with an authentic cowl and new staging has been erected. The iron curb has been repaired and the wooden seating has been replaced so that the cap is now able to revolve on top of the tower. However the Windmill is still not fully restored and work is continuing as funds become available to complete it.
The Mill is owned by the Eastbourne and District Preservation Trust Ltd but much of the fund raising is carried out by the Friends of Polegate Windmill. The Mill is open to the public every Sunday from Easter to the end of October from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (longer on Special Event Days) and also Wednesday afternoons in August. Your interest and support will make possible the continued existence and enjoyment of the Windmill.
The William Daly Centre (now closed)
The William Daly Centre, named after a local Councillor who worked unfailingly for the welfare of Senior Citizens, offers resources for the elderly and disabled living in Polegate, Wannock, Willingdon and outlying villages.
There is an information service and a wide range of groups for interest such as Bridge, Chess, German and Crafts. Social activities such as lunch clubs, Swimming, Tea dances etc., as well as those offering specialised help. These include the Stroke Victims Groups, Diabetic and Cancer Support and one for Carers of the Elderly.
Hearing Aid Batteries can be collected from the Centre once a month and there is a Chiropody Service five days a week. The Centre has a thriving Friends Group and is aided by over 100 volunteers, particularly in respect of transporting users to and fro. For up-to date information on services and facilities offered, visit the Centre or telephone Polegate (01323) 484316.