The fascinating life of Bessie Gordon in Eastbourne in the 20th century

‘Bessie’s Eastbourne’ is a new book based on the diaries of an Eastbourne woman who provides a fascinating insight into Eastbourne life throughout the 20th century
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Bessie Victoria Roberts was born in 1901 and from the age of 14 she recorded her life in a diary. Her grandson, Kevin Gordon, has drawn from those diaries and tells of Bessie’s long life, all of it spent here in Eastbourne. The book covers Bessie’s life through the turmoil of the General Strike and the two World Wars, as well as her day-to-day life, courting her future husband, Alex Gordon, bringing up a family, walking on the parades, watching the filming of ‘Half a Sixpence’ and seeing the Pier Theatre burn down in 1970.

This is Bessie’s story but it’s also the story of anyone who lived through the twentieth century in Eastbourne – the buses, the cinemas, how to find a place to live, how to get on with your family…

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Bessie took an interest in national affairs as well as local ones and her diaries include entries ranging from her daily life to national events. In January 1971, Bessie recorded that she ‘bought two pairs of knickers at the Co-op for 10/- each’ and the following entry was ‘saw the Prime Minister, Edward Heath, outside the Constitutional Club’.

Bessie Gordon, aged 24, on Eastbourne seafrontBessie Gordon, aged 24, on Eastbourne seafront
Bessie Gordon, aged 24, on Eastbourne seafront

Kevin Gordon has written several books about local history and writes regular articles about Eastbourne’s history on his website,, but this is his most personal book and forms an homage to his grandmother, Bessie, whose long life was anything but ordinary.

The 96-page book is illustrated with numerous photos of the places that Bessie knew and contains some of Bessie’s own drawings and photos.

‘Bessie’s Eastbourne’ is published by the Eastbourne Local History Society and costs £12 plus £2.50 postage, from

For more information about Eastbourne Local History Society, go to their website at

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