So why was Winston Churchill always in Seaford? Why so many visits?
Well, we‘ll get to that, because when you’re a town like Seaford, you don’t have many trump cards – so any you do have, you play carefully.
Churchill became PM of course. But, I mean, we’ve had three Prime Ministers represent the town – Henry Pelham, William Pitt the Elder and George Canning.
But as you haven’t heard of any of them, you’re not interested, are you? And to be honest, they’re not the talk of our charity-shop-heavy high street.
But seriously – and here we pause a moment, while I expand with pride – can any other parliamentary constituency in the country claim responsibility for more Prime Ministers?
It was a notorious rotten borough – yet no fewer than three of its MPs rose to the highest office in the land before the constituency was eventually incorporated into Lewes following the 1832 Reform Act.
And Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson lived here, but moved ‘because he found it too windy.’ But he moved to the even windier Isle of Wight, for goodness sake, so what was that about? We’re still recovering from that particular rejection.
And then there was General Gordon of Khartoum – remember him? (Forgive the slightly desperate hope in my question.) He died in 1885 at the very famous siege of Khartoum in the Sudan where he was Governor-General.
Still not ringing a bell?
Then so long and farewell to my ta-da! moment – that as a lad, he used to visit his aunt every summer… and she lived in Seaford.
But there’s more, there’s more. On one house I often run past, a tablet commemorates the life of William Pringle Morgan. And no, you haven’t heard of him either.
But perhaps you should have.
He was a doctor in Seaford who was struck by the case of 14-year-old Percy, a gifted child who nevertheless couldn’t either read or write. In 1896 he published a description of a reading-specific learning disorder in a report to the British Medical Journal entitled ‘Congenital Word Blindness’, which was subsequently called ‘dyslexia’.
And then moving swiftly on to the town grave yard, you’ll find the headstone of the soldier ‘ES Hornblower’. A former pupil of Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, he died in 1917 and his name is inscribed on that school’s war memorial where it was spotted by another former pupil, C S Forester, who effectively immortalised him in his famous novels.
Seaford is a town by the sea rather than a seaside town – there’s a difference. And no one comes here for a good time – it’s more an act of duty. But here are some more of the dutiful who went on to fame:
So yes, those marvellous actors Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Margaret Rutherford both went to school here, as did Sir Richard Branson for a year. (He doesn’t talk about it much, does he? Disappointing.)
There’s the shame, of course, we can’t skirt round it. Anthony Blunt, art historian and national traitor – yes, he was at school here as well…though I blame Cambridge for his subsequent misdemeanours.
But then Hooray, Hurrah and Tally-Tally-Ho! as well, because Col ‘H’ Jones – Falklands hero and one of the last to receive a Victoria Cross – he too was schooled in Seaford.
And Winston Churchill? There was a time when he couldn’t keep away from the place, it was all he thought about, he dreamt about the town – because Seaford was where Clemmie Hozier lived – and he loved Clemmie.
In the end, they married, of course, so let’s leave while we’re winning…
Seaford, City of Love.