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Visiting Ocklynge Manor, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England: replete with historical associations

Updated on March 14, 2016
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Ocklynge Manor, Mill Road, Ocklynge, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England.
Ocklynge Manor, Mill Road, Ocklynge, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England. | Source
Mabel Lucie Attwell
Mabel Lucie Attwell | Source

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The ever-present past

Ocklynge Manor, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, is a somewhat — on the surface — unpretentious-looking building; but has many interesting historical associations.

The Manor is built on the site of a Commandery of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, believed to date from the 11th century, some years prior to the Norman Conquest (1). The Knights were associated with the Crusades and the establishment here was one of 95 such sites in England, evidence of the influence of the Knights in England in Medieval times. Records show that the Crusader Godefroid de Bouillon stayed at Ocklynge (an archaic word meaning 'oak line'), before Godefroid travelled to Jerusalem (2).

At the Reformation, the many religious houses in England were dissolved. The property was maintained in some shape or form under the Crown in the 16th and 17th centuries, until it passed to the Hurst family.

The illustrator Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964) lived for many years at Ocklynge Manor; known for her artwork which appeared in many edition's of J M Barrie's 'Peter Pan', Charles Kingsley's 'The Water Babies', and other well known children's works, her illustrations were still being re-issued for years after her passing. An historical plaque commemorating Mabel Lucie Attwell, sponsored by Eastbourne Civic Society and Eastbourne Borough Council, is affixed to the outer wall of Ocklynge Manor.

The extensive garden of Ocklynge Manor contain some examples of very old oak and ash trees. At one stage there were no less than three chapels situated on the perimeter of the garden.

Interestingly also, at Ocklynge Cemetery almost adjacent to Ocklynge Manor, is the burial site of Susan Agnes Macdonald, 1st Baroness Macdonald of Earnscliffe, née Bernard (1836-1920), who was associated with many philanthropic causes; she is often remembered as the second wife of Prime Minister of Canada Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891).

Today Ocklynge Manor functions as fine Bed and Breakfast accommodation. (Readers wishing for information about the services of this B. & B. business should direct their enquiries to its management.)

March 14, 2016


(1) See also:

Sussex, being the historic county where William of Normandy landed in 1066, is particularly rich in associations with the early years of the Norman Conquest; indeed, Battle (near Hastings), the site of the famous Battle of Hastings, is 29 kilometres to the north-east of Eastbourne.

(2) While I personally struggle to grasp the whole idea of the Crusades, the connection with Godefroid de Bouillon is interesting — I have visited the castle in Bouillon, Belgium, with which he was associated, and a statue of Godefroid stands at the Place Royale / Koningsplein in Brussels. I am not sure whether, given Godefroid's title of King of Jerusalem, Ocklynge Manor would count in some shape or form as a — temporary — royal residence.

Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex | Source

Also worth seeing

In Eastbourne itself, notable sights include: Beachy Head and lighthouse, which lie within the town's limits; the Pier, the Promenade, the Martello Wish Tower, and the Redoubt Fortress attract many summer visitors; the Town Hall is architecturally distinguished; Sovereign Harbour is reputed to be Europe's largest marina; there are many fine examples of ecclesiastical architecture (the links, below, have also been chosen to demonstrate something of this).

At Pevensey (distance: 6.6 kilometres), the castle is partly Roman and partly Norman in origin.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York - Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Eastbourne : 146 kilometres.) For access by road, take M25/M23/A23/A27. There are rail links to Eastbourne from London Victoria railroad station. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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