On the 13th November 1865 a huge finback whale was washed up in Norman’s Bay in front of the Star Inn. It was a magnificent creature, 70 foot long and weighing 50 tons. It was first spotted by the coastguard at Pevensey Sluice who alerted the first officer of the watch.
It immediately attracted a great deal of attention and was claimed by both the town of Hastings under the ancient Cinque Ports Charter and the local Customs Office. An auction was held and it was bought for £38 by 10 local fishermen who had an entrepreneurial streak. They erected a canvas screen around the whale and charged the public 6d for a guided tour. The interest in the whale was phenomenal and people travelled from far and wide to view this curiosity. A temporary station was made at Normans Bay out of old railway sleepers and the Star Inn did such a roaring trade that they ran out of beer.
The skeleton was eventually sold to the Museum of Zoology at Cambridge where it stands in the entrance and is illuminated at night.
This year is the 150th anniversary of the whale’s arrival in Normans Bay and it will form the entrance to Whale Hall, a 1.8 million Lottery project set up in Cambridge to celebrate the sounds of Nature. Researchers will be travelling to Pevensey Bay to record the sounds of the ocean to provide an atmospheric sound installation for the Whale. A fitting memorial for a local legend.