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Museum Lectures

The Society of Bexhill Museums host a wealth of lectures throughout the year. The 2011/12 lecture programme is available to download here:

Lecture Programme 2011/12

We will aim to bring you reports of the lectures on this page. For past lectures, please visit the Lecture Archive page: Lecture Archive

Uncovering the Treasures of Bruges - 20 February 2013 


Wednesday’s lecture was ‘Uncovering the Treasures of Bruges’ by Melanie Gibson Barton. Living there for part of the week she knows it well and extolled the litter – free streets, the decorated windows and doors especially at Christmas and the lack of crime. 

We were given some of its history, where Viking trade in Romney Marsh wool led to tapestry and woollen work. Canal digging led to the title of ‘Venice of the North’; at one time there were 700 ships a day trading there. Unfortunately the trade moved to Antwerp, leaving half the people of Bruges starving in the 19th Century.

The situation was saved in 1892 when Georg Rodenbach wrote the book ‘Bruges la Morte’ which led to people going to see for themselves, and subsequently to its major tourist industry today.The lecturer gave insights into many of the major happenings and features of Bruges today. These include architecture, music, literature, poetry, sculpture, lace making, beer, carpets and chocolate production.

Did you know there was a chip museum as well as museums devoted to chocolate, diamonds and lace. Famous names associated with Bruges include Jan van Eyck and William Caxton; less well known are Hendrik Pickery, Frank Brangwyn and Joe English and many more.

We were shown popular areas in Bruges and told of annual festivals  of film, theatre, brass bands, dancing and skating,  organ recitals, holy and historical processions, art exhibitions and much more. Bruges certainly knows how to attract visitors and new residents to its historic town. The lecturer gave us an enchanting insight into her adopted town and left many of us wanting to visit or revisit immediately! 

The next talk, at 2.30 on March 6th at St Augustine’s Hall, will be by Kevin Gordon on Martello Towers and Seaford Museum. Visitors are welcome – entrance £4 which includes refreshments.

Thomas Brassey - 23 January 2013

A large and enthusiastic audience welcomed lecturer David Jones to St Augustine’s Hall on 23rd January for the first Museum talk of 2013. His talk on Thomas Brassey, the railway builder, took us to all corners of the world. Thomas Brassey was born two weeks before the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 near Chester to yeoman farmers. After boarding school in Chester he joined land agents, called Lawton. From the 1820’s demand for civil engineers was great and Brassey, under the guidance of George Stephenson, was introduced to Joseph Locke working with him on the Liverpool to Manchester and Grand Junction Railways in the 1830’s. His first project was the Penkridge viaduct near Stafford.Brassey’s expertise as a contractor quickly grew. He went on to work on the London to Birmingham and London to Southampton lines in the 1840’s. As an employer of such a large labour force Brassey was nevertheless a considerate one, his armies of navvies remaining loyal enough to move with the work, even when his much admired skills took his company to Europe. At one time he had over forty five thousand people working for him. Brassey was invited by the French government to be the contractor for the Paris to Rouen line in the 1840’s and later extended the line from Orleans to Bordeaux He was also involved in the Great Northern Railway in Britain being responsible for the cast iron bridge in Peterborough, and on the continent the Mt. Cenis tunnel between France and Italy.    Besides railways he constructed the hydraulic lifts for ships at the London Victoria Docks in 1852.  Together with Sir Samuel Morton Peto he built the Grand trunk railway in Canada, also  constructing railways in the Crimea, India, Russian , Mauritius and the Argentine. He married in 1831 , moved to Catsfield, built the family mansion of Normanhurst Court , and was buried at Catsfield Church following his death in 1870. He made a fortune but eschewed rewards. His sons later became Earls, Knights and M.P’s and were much involved in Bexhill and Hastings.

The next lecture will be on 6th February when Kim Richards and Guy Loder from Sussex Wildlife Trust will be explaining the Coombe Valley Project and its development as a countryside park.