For two hundred years from the mid – seventeenth century the Rottingdean Gang of smugglers ran contraband cargoes from landing sites nearby. The goods included brandy, gin, tea, coffee, spices, lace and a range of other highly prized goods. They used caves dug into the cliffs, which led to tunnels connecting the cellars of houses and Inns under the High Street and up to the Green. The famous vicar Dr Thomas Hooker, whose bust can be seen in St Margaret’s Parish Church, was a skilled horseman and acted as a lookout for the gang. A Customs House was established in the High Street to attempt to curtail their activity. At night the cliff ‘preventative officers’ patrolled top paths. At one time Rottingdean’s windmill sails were used to signal that the coast was clear.
Rottingdean Smugglers Night is a celebration of Rottingdeans Historical past. An edgy, noisy fantastical evening that links the passing of local ‘bonfire celebrations’ and ‘services of remembrance’ to that of Christmas. December marks the run up to the winter solstice. In Rottingdean we combine all these elements into a night of fire, noise, drumming, costume, fireworks and Christmas fayre, a hybrid night of noise and mayhem.
A difficult time of year when summer is a distant memory, the cold weather has set in with a vengeance. Nights are at their longest and darkest. Our outdoor lives are hampered and curtailed by the elements. Smugglers night is a rebellion. A rebellion against the elements and modern life. Villagers retake control of their streets, their living space where the car has become king. The high street is closed to the great intruder of heavy traffic and is replaced with a music, dance laughter and celebration.
Come along and join in with the Rottingdean Smugglers night on Saturday, 3rd December, from 15:30 to 22:00.