Summerdown Camp in Eastbourne
Summerdown Camp in Eastbourne

Summerdown Camp

Ordinary People in Extraordinary Circumstances

Summerdown Camp in Eastbourne

After recieving funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Heritage Eastbourne started a project to uncover the stories of one of the most pioneering convalescent camps in the First World War.

The Camp opened in April 1915 and was the first, and at the time the largest, of three purpose built convalescent camps designed for rehabilitation of the wounded from the many horrific theatres of the First World War. The camp was dismantled in 1920 and most of the land has since been redeveloped as housing. The only existing reminders of the camp are in the street names Summerdown Road and Old Camp Road.

Did you know?

More than 150,000 soldiers were treated at Summerdown camp.

Incredible Stories

Cooks at Summerdown Camp in Eastbourne

Revealing the Realities of War

The project uncovered tragic tales of soldiers suffering from shellshock or the effects of gas attacks and the fleeting romances between convalescing soldiers and local women.

We also discovered inspiring stories of brave soldiers and valiant women, as well as the pioneering medical treatments carried out at the camp.

From the soldier from South Africa injured 5 times before being sent to recover at Summerdown to the heartbreak felt by the W.A.A.C cooks when the soldiers returned to the front line.

More stories included the cook leaving her home for the first time to work with heroic soldiers from all over the world convalescing in Eastbourne, and the tales of revolutionary medical treatments of the Military Massage Corps. 

We followed the story of the soldier at the camp who enlisted at the beginning of the war aged 15, met a girl from Old Town and married in St Mary’s Church in 1919, and the postman awarded the military medal, who received experimental treatment at hospital before arriving to convalesce at Summerdown Camp.

The King's Shillings

Revealed After 100 Years

The King's Shilling at Summerdown Camp, photo by Graham Huntley

We have unearthed some incredible artefacts from the only surviving piece of land from Summerdown Camp. Perhaps the most poignant finds are the two silver shillings dating to 1914 and 1918. Could they be 'King's Shillings' kept as mementos from joining up? Either way, they are tangible reminders of the soldiers who fought in the First World War and evidence of one of the largest convalescent camps in the country.

Did You Know?

The Blue Boys perform at Summerdown Camp

Jacob Epstein a renowned sculptor was one of the wounded soldiers treated at Summerdown Camp...

...and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle watched one of the Blue Boys' Drama Productions.

Have a Story to Tell?

Summerdown Camp in Eastbourne

We’re still looking for any information about Summerdown Camp and the people who convalesced and worked there. So if you have any stories or objects from Summerdown Camp no matter how small or trivial it may seem or would like to get involved in the project, please email us or telephone 01323 415641.

Heritage Lottery Funded Project

Heritage Lottery Fund