© Eastbourne and South Downs Philatelic Society 2013 / 2020
The Eastbourne Society was founded as a section of the Eastbourne Natural History Society. The inaugural meeting was held on 28th September 1936, chaired by Mr. F.G. Bing, secretary of the parent organisation. He may have been the originator of the idea of a stamp society.
The Early Years
Prior to the start of World War II the Society held fortnightly meetings at the Public (Free) Library. Membership increased gradually and in 1938 a Packet was introduced under the control of Charles F. Williams. The packet circulation was abandoned in 1939 but was re-introduced by popular demand in October 1940. By the outbreak of WW2 membership had increased to 49.
The Technical Institute and Free Library, site of the present day Public Library
At this time the Eastbourne Corporation Museum was staging weekly philatelic displays with material provided by club members.
A philatelic library began in 1939 when Mr. C. Stibbs donated 60 books and a bookcase. Many of the original books still exist in our library along with several other reference books and catalogues that have been added over the years.
Meetings continued in the Public Library with some curtailment until 1941 when they had to be suspended until October 1945. Before Eastbourne Philatelic Society reformed the South Downs Society (formerly Eastbourne Stamp Club) was formed by an enthusiastic group of collectors.
In 1946, at the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain, held in Brighton, a discussion took place about whether to form a County Federation. Following a positive response from Sussex Stamp Clubs the first meeting took place the following year.
By 1948 the Club meeting venue had changed to The Friends Meeting House in Wish Road. On 25th September the first convention of the Association of Sussex Philatelic Societies (A.S.P.S.) was held at the Winter Gardens in Eastbourne. It was hosted jointly by Eastbourne Philatelic Society and South Downs Philatelic Society.
The Winter Gardens seen from Devonshire Park
In 1950 it became obvious that it would be beneficial if the two Societies amalgamated. The new club became Eastbourne and South Downs Philatelic Society (E&SDPS). A new venue was acquired in a large basement under the motor showroom at 19 Cornfield Road.
On 7th April 1951 the first ASPS Spring Convention was held at the Winter Gardens. ASPS membership had grown to around 600.
Between 25th to 28th May 1954 a section of the ‘Postal History of Sussex’ was on display in the Prince Wing of the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne during the Philatelic Congress meeting. By the end of 1954 membership had grown to almost 100.
Beyond the Fifties
By 1963 meetings were being held weekly on Tuesdays at the Devonshire Baths building. Three competitions were introduced; The Ladies Cup, The Members Cup and The Classic Cup.
Early view of Devonshire Baths, what remains of the baths is now the Eastbourne Heritage Centre
In the seventies the Society was forced to find a new venue for its meetings. St. John Ambulance Brigade offered a large room with a storage cupboard at their headquarters in Bourne Street. This has been our home ever since. Because this venue had other commitments club meetings had to be changed to Thursday evenings.
At a time when many clubs and societies of all sorts, not just stamp clubs, are struggling to survive because of declining membership E&SDPS continues to maintain a healthy membership at just over 100.
We continue to meet weekly on Thursday evenings, only taking a break for the Christmas festivities. Displays by visiting speakers and on members’ evenings are frequently of a very high quality and thoroughly enjoyed by those members attending. Attendance is usually about 25 – 30 members.
The packet continues to circulate around our members and is a valuable source of material for collections as well as providing funds for the club.
Auctions are held, on average, seven times a year and they have proved to be very popular. Auction evenings are always very well attended.
Our quarterly newsletter, the Lighthouse, is now into its sixteenth year and is a valuable way of keeping in touch with those members who are not able to attend our meetings.