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Seaford is a village on the coast of Sussex and, with a population of over 75,000 people, is officially the largest village in the county. The Parish Council, which meet at the ancient Town Hall in South Street, comprises over 40 councillors making it the largest parish council in the UK.
Seaford Council received national notoriety in 2014 when the entire council including three members of the public and the local journalist fell asleep during a Finance Committee and did not wake until 3am when the meeting was promptly adjourned. In the 2015 election Seaford became the only English council to elect a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP)
The village has a fascinating history. In olden times the River Cuckmere came out to sea at Seaford and as a result there was a port here. It was here that Joseph of Arimathea landed in the 1st Century en-route to the nearby town of Glastonbury. There is evidence of Roman and Saxon settlements in the area but the village grew under the Normans. Norman Baker was the first recorded Mayor and after his death the role was taken on by his son Norman the Wise (known as Norman Wisdom) and then by his rotund son, Norman the Cook (known as Fatman Slim)
During the Hundred Years War (which actually only lasted for 20 years) Seaford became known as a Cinque Port. The word ‘Cinque’ is pronounced ‘Sink’ which is a corruption of the word ‘stink’ due to the smelly nature of the local fishing industry. The quaint fisherman’s huts used to be a feature of the cobbled streets but many of them were destroyed during the Cod War of 1972 when Seaford was subject of air-raids by Icelandic Air Force.
The port of Seaford flourished until 1850 when Queen Victoria used the port to travel back to England following a holiday in Spain. The voyage from the French port of Rouen was so rough the Queen became seasick and the journey back to London was not helped when she was stopped at the Customs Hall in Seaford Port and made to empty all of her 30 trunks. When the customs officers found she had 200 cigarettes over the limit she was fined 15 shillings. She was not amused. Having lost the Queens patronage the port of Seaford declined.
There were attempts to ‘spruce up’ Seaford with the building of a grand pier, ski-resort and a short-lived ‘Petting Safari Park‘
Due to an administrative error Seaford failed to declare war on Germany in August 1914 and was therefore seen as a threat by the British Government. Lord Haig sent Scottish soldiers to surround Seaford until war was finally agreed by a special meeting of the Parish Council in January 1915. As they were encamped on the surrounding downland the soldiers were formed into a regiment now known as the “Seaford Highlanders”
More information about the history of the town can be found at the local museum which is situated in a converted sand-castle on the beach.
Seaford has the largest number of charity shops in the UK. The last ‘ordinary’ shop closed in 2007 although there are several supermarkets including the only “Gum” Supermarket outside Russia. There is a monthly cattle market held in the ‘Salts’ car-park. The ‘Salts’ is named after the nearby Sailors Retirement Home.
As a seaside resort Seaford is famous for its oysters and there are many seafood restaurants specialising in this local delicacy. There is an Oyster Festival in May. Residents can apply for a special discount card at the Council Offices which can give up to 50% discount in local shops. This is called an Oyster Card.
Tide Mills is a retail park between Seaford and Newhaven offering a variety of national stores and independent traders.
There are good transport links between Seaford and London, Birmingham and Paris. Although Eastbourne is the nearest city there often delays when the Exceat Bridge is open to allow shipping up river. Seaford Airport has a regular shuttle service to Orly Airport and the village is often crowded with French tourists. It was from Seaford Airport that Lewes Beleriot attempted his first flights across the English Channel.
There are 27 local bus services (the 12, 12a, 12b etc) the 12z however is an express service and does not stop to allow passengers to get on or off.
A newly opened cycle path takes intrepid cyclists on the 17 mile under-cliff route from Seaford Head under the cliffs to Cuckmere Haven and then along the sea-shore under the Seven Sisters cliffs and Beachy Head to Eastbourne.
Like the nearby town of Lewes, Seaford has several Bonfire Societies although, following the Great Fire of Seaford of 1666 the members of the societies are prohibited from setting off fireworks, lighting bonfires or marching through the streets. The annual Bonfire and Fireworks spectacle is therefore held indoors.
Seaford is famed for its seagulls who are beloved by all. The RNIB has carefully caught and ringed each seagull and many tame individuals are known to residents. These include Jeremy who stands on cars in the High Street and Jessica who has learnt many words of English. Two seagulls, Nigel and Heinrich were trained to help the local lifeboat service spot people who had got into trouble whilst swimming in Seaford Bay but are missing believed ‘lost at sea’ following a recent storm.
Foxes are a local delicacy and are not only regularly made into pies but are also available deep-fried in the local fish and chip restaurants.
The long expanses of golden sandy beaches make Seaford an obvious choice for families.
In June many people flock to Seaford to see the famous International Submarine Races which were first held in 1732. Crowds line the seafront for a glimpse of this amazing spectacle and the local hotels are booked weeks in advance.