The 'civic centre' dating from 1544

IN South Street we have a building that has stood for some 450 years, most of them as the heart of the town's civic life.

The Old Town Hall was erected in about 1544, when King Henry VIII granted Seaford its first charter at a time of great national peril. By then the original harbour was silting up and virtually useless, but 300-year-old Cinque Ports responsibilities still held and every available ship was needed to prepare for war with France. In times of peace the town hall served as the courthouse with prominent local men sitting in judgment on their fellow citizens who were accused of crimes ranging from 'stealing a neckerchief' to murder. Punishments were meted out without recourse to any higher court.

Elections and public meetings also took place: in 1870 people gathered there to honour gallant coastguard Richard Mallet for several hazardous acts of saving lives from shipwrecks

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in the bay; five years later, there were appeals for funds to be raised to help poor people made homeless by severe flooding when high seas swept into the lower part of the town.

In 1877 the Congregational Church moved from East Street to its present site on the corner of Clinton Place/Upper Broad Street, and the former church was taken over by the Crook family and re-named the Albert Hall, for hire for concerts, plays and dances. Later still it became a laundry, but was destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War and the overgrown site remained empty (except for a big bonfire each November 5) till today's flats were built.

Seaford celebrated Queen Victoria's Jubilee by building a new hall in Upper Broad Street used for meetings and entertainment; we think of it today as 'the Drill Hall' because for so many years it was the headquarters of the local Territorial Army unit. Older readers may remember the scene on the outbreak of the Second World War, when Major (later Colonel) Jack Foster welcomed recruits joining 'the old Two-Ten' Royal Engineers. Many were the dances held there in the five years that followed, many the servicemen and women who went along to enjoy a few carefree hours before returning to the grim task of fighting the war. In the peacetime of the 1960s, some important parades were held, plus various civic and military gatherings with officers in swanky mess uniform and their ladies in full evening dress. Sometimes the neighbouring Clinton Hall would become the buffet or reception area giving access to the larger hall via open doors towards the rear, facing each other across the narrow gap between, beneath the shelter of an awning.

The Drill Hall was the best the town then had wherein to stage touring company plays, local dramatic and musical shows, dancing school displays and the like, while for some years till 2000 Mr Beirne staged bingo evenings at the Clinton Hall, and organised regular markets and popular antiques days. Now the building has been converted into living accommodation.

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Today, various events can be put on in the hall of the Downs Leisure Centre and a number of church halls and function rooms in hotels elsewhere around the town can cater for groups large and small. The hall at Arundel Road school eased the large-scale performance situation for some time; today the operatic society has its own premises at the Barn Theatre while the dramatic society is settled at the Little Theatre.