Last week I mentioned Seaford Museum where I work as a volunteer. The museum is based in the Napoleonic Martello Tower, Number 74 on the seafront and if you have not yet been you really should.
It has a huge collection of stuff! A couple of years ago the Turner Prize winning potter, Grayson Perry (who actually has a house between Seaford and Eastbourne) was asked on Radio Four to name his favourite museums in the world.
He said that they were the V&A, the British Museum and Seaford Museum – so we are in very good company. It is regularly described as ‘the Tardis’ as it is much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside!
The museum has a vast collection (over 10,000 items) which ranges from domestic items (washing machines, ovens, cookers and hoovers) to militaria, costume, railway memorabilia and a huge collection of local historic documents. One of the most popular displays however concerns things that have been washed ashore in Seaford Bay.
Seaford Beach faces south-west and if you face directly out to sea, while standing on the beach, the first landfall would be somewhere between Cuba and the Dominican Republic - the Caribbean.
Exotic seeds and nuts can travel for thousands of miles and end up being deposited on our beach.
Among the flotsam and jetsam and human detritus washed up on our beach can be found tropical nuts with wonderful names such as sea-hearts, hamburger beans, star-nut palms and forest flames. Don’t believe me?
Well you can always ask Seaford Museum’s Curatorial Adviser, the talented Dr Ed Jarzembowski and his wife Biddy who have found fine examples of all these nuts and more.
During a storm on the night of February 8, 1889, a 600-ton barque called the Peruvian rumbled ashore near the Martello Tower.
She was sailing from Cuba to Hamburg with a cargo of South American palm-nuts, which were usually used to make buttons.
Over the next few days as the ship broke up in heavy seas, the nuts poured out into sea and, being heavy, they sank.
Some were washed up and were retrieved by local children who (after they found that they couldn’t eat them) carved and etched them into crude ‘scrimshaw’.
Our local one-armed artist at the time, Harry Evans captured the scene and even etched some of the nuts himself.
These nuts are now on display at a special exhibition at Seaford Museum which is being supported by the British Ecological Survey, which is celebrating its centenary this year.
It was the very first Ecological Society in the world and has over 4,000 members in 92 different countries. It is great to have such a distinguished organisation supporting the museum.
The ecology and geography of Seaford Bay have changed dramatically over the years and the exhibition documents these changes with photos and maps.
The museum hope to arrange beach-combing events in the summer so check the museum web-site for details.
There is even an on-line forum to discuss any objects that you may have found on the beach. (www.seabeans.freeforums.org)
The special exhibition is called “Sea Breezes and Sea Beans” and tomorrow (Saturday) from 11am to 3pm, the exhibition (and the rest of the museum) will be open free of charge.
So it will be a great opportunity to visit – there is a lot of free parking too! I will be there too so come along and say hello.
Museum member Rodney Castleden’s new book “The Sussex Coast” will also be on sale at the museum shop – its an excellent read but more about that next week.