Eastbourne is a town and seaside resort in the non-metropolitan county of East Sussex on the south coast of England, 19 miles (31 km) east of Brighton and 54 miles (87 km) south of London. Eastbourne is immediately to the east of Beachy Head, the highest chalk sea cliff in Great Britain and part of the larger Eastbourne Downland Estate.
The sea-front consists largely of Victorian hotels, a pier, a state of the art theatre, a contemporary art gallery and a Napoleonic era fort and military museum. Eastbourne was developed at the direction of the Duke of Devonshire from 1859 from four separate hamlets. Eastbourne boasts a newly modernised town centre, consisting of a large shopping centre, 'The Beacon', and an extensive high street. It has a growing population, a broad economic base and is home to companies in a wide range of industries.
The town grew as a fashionable tourist resort largely thanks to prominent landowner, William Cavendish, later to become the Duke of Devonshire. Cavendish appointed architect Henry Currey to design a street plan for the town, but not before sending him to Europe to draw inspiration. The resulting mix of architecture is typically Victorian and remains a key feature of Eastbourne.
As a seaside resort, Eastbourne derives a large and increasing income from tourism, with revenue from traditional seaside attractions augmented by conferences, public events and cultural sightseeing. The other main industries in Eastbourne include trade and retail, healthcare, education, construction, manufacturing, professional scientific and the technical sector.
Eastbourne has been a fast-growing town in the past few years, relative to the rest of the UK. Development around Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour, Britain's largest composite marina, has created more than 3,000 new homes and an innovation centre for small businesses.
Eastbourne is home to companies in a wide range of industries. Eastbourne's Chamber of Commerce has more than 500 members and holds many networking events to facilitate local business links. UK innovation charity NESTA named Eastbourne as a "creative cluster", with 969 creative firms representing 9.1% of total businesses in the town and providing employment for 2,703 people.
The sea-front at Eastbourne consists almost entirely of Victorian hotels. Along with its pier and bandstand, this serves to preserve the front in a somewhat timeless manner. The Duke of Devonshire retains the rights to the sea-front buildings and does not allow them to be developed into shops.
A stretch of 4 miles (6.4 km) of shingle beach stretches from Sovereign Harbour in the east to Beachy Head in the west. In a 1998 survey, 56% of visitors said that the beach and sea-front was one of Eastbourne's best features. Other recreation facilities include two swimming pools, three fitness centres and other smaller sports clubs including scuba diving. A children's adventure park is sited at the eastern end of the sea-front. There are various other establishments scattered around the town such as crazy golf, go-karting and Laser Quest. The pier is an obvious place to visit and is sometimes used to hold events, such as the international bird-man competition held annually, although this was cancelled in 2005 due to a lack of competitors. An annual raft competition used to take place where competitors, usually local businesses, circumnavigate the pier in a raft made by themselves, while being attacked by a water-cannon.
A major event in the tourist programme of Eastbourne Borough Council is Eastbourne Airbourne, a large air show, held annually in August. Reports claim a £365m revenue from visitors in 2010, with an estimated 7,160 jobs supported by tourism.
The town is home to the UK's largest book wholesalers, who have a 350,000 sq ft warehouse facility there. Gardners Books are one of the town's largest employers, with a majority of staff involved in packing and shipping books. A majority of Eastbourne's total employment is offered by small private businesses, though Eastbourne District General Hospital is a significant public sector employer. In 2010, it was assessed that Eastbourne had a public sector employment rate of 25.4% of overall jobs.
Eastbourne has a population of over 104,042 people. Eastbourne also forms part of the wider Brighton-Worthing-Littlehampton metropolitan area which has a population of over 769,000 people.