Rottingdean Through Time – Chapter 1

Rottingdean Through Time Chapter 1

The Gap and Beach

On the previous page, the approximate location of the pier for Magnus Volk’s Brighton & Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway (1896-1901) has, since the early 1990s, been covered by a groyne built up of massive granite rocks.

At bottom right in the older photo on this page, Rudyard Kipling chats to his beloved Aunt Georgie (Georgiana Burne-Jones). In today’s view of the same spot, the Undercliff Walk has supplanted part of the old beach area.

Two Foreshore Attractions

In around 1900, passengers board Volk’s ‘Daddy Long Legs’, sea-going car, which is about to make the three-mile journey on its stilts to the Banjo Groyne in Kemp Town, Brighton. The steel pier was about 100 yards long. Power to the car was supplied by the generator in the box-like structure beneath its walkway.

The rocks are a magnet for both children and their parents today. No one heeds the notice prohibiting them from being clambered on…

The Quarter Deck and a Lost Coast Road

‘These are the little cotton tents from which we bath’ [sic] wrote the sender of this postcard on 23 July 1913. A winch may be seen on the beach and a cliff crane in the distance. The dramatic fate of the building on the left, which fell victim to cliff erosion, is depicted on page 11.

Today, Highcliff Court, built in 1967, occupies much of the area known as the ‘Quarter Deck’.

Two Eastward Views Contrasted

The prolific producer of postcards, A. W. Wardell, who operated from Brighton and Worthing, has left us this fine view, among many, of the cliffs, the 1930s Undercliff Walk and the beach.

The building St Margaret’s on the left would soon give its name to a large block of flats which would replace it in 1938. Part of it may be seen in the lower picture, abutting Highcliff Court. The groynes, access steps and promenade retaining wall have all disappeared.

The Lost Pool

Just east of the cliff headland in the previous picture once stood a flourishing swimming pool built as part of the Undercliff Walk. It was opened in 1934 when the Walk reached its eastern end at neighbouring Saltdean.

In the summer of 1946, young Maureen Smith has the pool to herself.

The pool gave immense enjoyment to many for decades until 1995, when it was concreted over as part of major coastal protection works.

Erosion Arrested

Turning westwards, we can see the devastating effect of erosion in another Wardell card dating from around 1914. The hut on the right had served as tea rooms. Another victim was the large residence in the distance, Cliff (formerly Cliffe) House, which partly fell over the cliff. The remaining structure was demolished, as it became a dosshouse for tramps.

The Masthead Tea Rooms in the middle distance have also long since vanished.

Another Westward Prospect

Wardell again records developments for us. The Masthead (centre) remains and the new Highcliff Restaurant on the right is doing good business. The view dates from before 1934, as there is no sign yet of the White Horse (see lower view) in its rebuilt form.

The new Undercliff Walk is proving very popular indeed. The arrangement of groynes may clearly be seen, with Brighton in the distance. Work is evidently taking place on the coast road where it descends into the village.

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Copyright © Douglas d’Enno, 2009

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