Elizabeth I in 1564 gave Sir Thomas Sackville, the Earl of Dorset, the manor of Bexhill. It stayed in the ownership of the Earls of Dorset until 1865. Their main residences were Buckhurst Place in Sussex and Knole House in Kent. In 1813 Elizabeth Sackville married the 5th Earl De La Warr and when the last male heir to the Dukes of Dorset died she and her husband inherited Bexhill. It was the 7th Earl De La Warr that decided to transform the then rural village on the top of a hill into an exclusive seaside resort. By 1901 fresh air and exercise had become very fashionable and Bexhill became one of the first resorts to allow mixed bathing!
The Edwardian grandeur of the buildings and wide roads and well-maintained promenade still linger today. It was the 9th Earl of De La Warr that thought the town needed a centre for cultural activities and proposed an international competition to design a building. The rules said that it should have a concert hall, conference rooms, a restaurant and cost no more than £80,000 and also should be in the modernist style. The winners were Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff , both acclaimed architects the latter being responsible for the interior of the BBC’s broadcasting house in London. The result of their collaboration was a large concrete and glass structure in a welded steel frame, the first of it’s kind in the country. The second world war brought neglect and disrepair but lottery funding of £8 million for a programme of restoration and refurbishment in 2002, brought the building back to its former glory and today as well as it being central hub of the town it has become the main centre, on the south coast, for art, architecture, education and entertainment and for many a glamorous place to eat, drink and relax on the terraces enjoying the sea air.