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The village is located in the only gap in the cliffs between Newhaven and Brighton, at one time a notoriously dangerous part of the coastline but still the safest place to land from the sea. It provided the easiest route to inland Lewes, but as a result lead to many incursions from invaders such as the early Vikings and in later times, the French. St Margaret’s church today is mainly Norman although the original one was of the Saxon. Inside remains burn marks from a fire that when the village was invaded by the French in 1377 and local residents who took refuge in the tower were burnt alive.
Rottingdean is a village whose history has as many famous people as local residents. Once just a small, poor agricultural village on the Sussex coast it was discovered that there was far more riches to be gained from smuggling than farming. By the 18th century the village had turned this into a sophisticated business where many villagers were involved, including the vicar Dr Thomas Hooker, who was a lookout for the excise men. Hooker was however also devoted to education and opened schools in the village, one of which developed into the present St Aubyn’s.
From the 19th century there were others who had significant influence on the village. There were the four daughters of a Wesleyan Preacher by the name of Macdonald. Georgina married Sir Edward Burne Jones the pre-raphaelite painter and designer friend of William Morris. Agnes married Sir Edward Poynter who became President of the Royal Academy and director of the Tate Gallery. Louisa married a wealthy industrialist and their child Stanley Balwin, became the Prime Minister, Agnes married a school headmaster and their son Rudyard Kipling became Poet Laureate and one of England’s best known authors (See the Kipling Society website for more information). Such resident’s were closely associated with numerous other famous names in the worlds of art, literature and politics.
Other prominent people living in the village, include Lord Carson, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and the artist Sir William Nicholson. The head of Reuters, Sir Roderick Jones, the famous news agency, came to live in Rottingdean with his wife the writer Enid Bagnold, most famous for The Chalk Garden and National Velvet. MGM studios bought the rights to the National velvet, and choose a little English girl Elizabeth Taylor to play the lead role, effectively launching her career.
More recently, a resident at St Dunstans, Henry Allingham was, until his death in 2009, the oldest man in the world. He was a World War 1 veteran and the last surviving founder member of the RAF.
Sir Edward Burne Jones
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Burne-Jones (good for general info and other links)
http://www.preraphaelites.org/the-collection/artist-biography/sir-edward-burne-jones/ (good for his artwork)
Dr Thomas Hooker
Sir William Nicholson
Sir Edward Poynter