Historic and picturesque – quite unique – that is the best way to describe the picturesque seaside village of Rottingdean. The village has a rich and fascinating story. Situated between the sea and South Downs, Rottingdean offers a blend of traditional village life, contrasting coastline and rolling countryside – a rich and diverse experience.
Discover the intimate, yet friendly village atmosphere with original tearooms, picturesque cottages, antique shops and boutiques, cafés, inns and restaurants – coastal under cliff walks, the rugged shoreline and pebble beach.
The village developed in Saxon times around the pond opposite the church as a small farming community. The village’s name translates as ‘the valley of Rota’s people’. After the Battle of Hastings, Rottingdean was given as a reward to William de Warenne, the Lord of Lewes in acknowledgement of his support to William the Conqueror.
At the end of the 19th century, writers, artists and public figures began to settle here. Residents have included Sir Edward Burne-Jones, William Black, Lord Carson, Rudyard Kipling, Lady Baldwin, Sir William Nicholson, Sir Roderick Jones, Alfred Noyes, Enid Bagnold, Angela Thirkell, Fred Perry and the contemporary, famed folk singing family, the Coppers.
1. Beach & Sea
The beach is backed by chalk cliffs and a life guard service operates in summer. There are rock pools to explore and the remains of tracks for Magnus Volk’s extraordinary ‘Daddy Longlegs’ Railway can be seen. The only train ever to have a lifeboat attached, it ran from 1896-1901. There is a model of the Daddy Longlegs in the Grange Museum. www.rottingdeanvillage.org.uk/around-about/history-environment
2. The Gap, Cliffs & Undercliff
The long undercliff walk from Black Rock to Saltdean was built between 1930 and 1935 as part of the sea defences to reduce the erosion of the chalk cliffs. The Gap is a natural valley in the cliffs allowing access to the village.
3. Rottingdean Terraces
Rottingdean terraces, situated between the White Horse Hotel and the seafront have recently been converted into a multi-purpose outdoor performance space. For forthcoming performances go to www.rottingdeanarts.org.uk
4. The Old Customs House
During the heyday of smuggling in the 17th and 18th centuries the Rottingdean Gang was active. The customs house in the High Street was established in 1760 to help prevent further smuggling.
5. Our Lady of Lourdes Church
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, consecrated in 1958, is situated in Whiteway Lane. The catholic presence in the village began with the arrival of the dispossessed Sisters of St.Martha from France in 1903 who established the convent of Our Lady of Lourdes, now situated on the west side of the Green. www.ourladyoflourdesandstpatricks.co.uk
6. The Grange, Gallery, Museum & Library
Originally the Vicarage and renamed by Sir William Nicholson, The Grange now contains a Public Library and an Art Gallery. There is a permanent Museum of the history of Rottingdean and its famous residents and a garden café.
7. The Green & village pond
The Green, in front of St Margaret’s Church has been the focus of village activities since the Stone Age. The pond, once fed by a spring, provided the only source of drinking water during Neolithic and Saxon times both for humans and livestock. It is a place for calm reflection and enjoyment.
8. North End House
A blue plaque identifies the former holiday home of Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Later residents included the author of National Velvet, Enid Bagnold and her husband, head of Reuters, Sir Roderick Jones. www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk
9. The Elms & Kipling Gardens
Rudyard Kipling wrote some of his most famous works whilst living at The Elms between 1897 and 1902. Formerly within the grounds of The Elms, Kipling Gardens are open every day to the public and contain a walled rose garden, an area of ornamental grasses, a chalkland wild area and a croquet lawn. The gardens have been awarded the prestigious Green Flag award for eight consecutive years and a Gold for the small parks in the S&SE In-Bloom competition. www.rottingdeanpreservationsociety.org.uk
10. St Margaret’s Church
The Parish Church was originally built during the Saxon era with a tower being added by the Normans. In 1377 villagers sought refuge from French pirates and some died when the church was torched. It contains many stained glass windows from the 19th century including 7 designed by Burne-Jones and made by the firm Morris & Co. www.stmargaret.org.uk
11. Challoners and Little Challoners
The old manor house of Rottingdean dates back to 1450 but only the cellars remain of the original building. Thomas Challoner built the manor but it later passed into the hands of the Beard family. Extensions were built right up to the 19th century and one distinctive feature is the Solarium window, often referred to as the ‘Trafalgar’. Legend has it that this was added so the mistress of the house could see her naval husband at sea or that a light in the window was a guide for the smugglers. The present building, with its hidden smugglers tunnels, dates back to the late 16th century.
12. Beacon Hill Nature Reserve
Adjacent to the Windmill is a Neolithic long barrow dating back to at least 4000 years BC, discovered in 1995 by an aerial survey. The Local Nature Reserve on Beacon Hill is looked after by a Working Group to preserve the flora, fauna and ecology of the Downs. Beacon Hill Nature Reserve offers wonderful views of the South Downs, village and sea. www.rottingdean-pc.gov.uk/beacon_hill
13. The Windmill
The windmill is situated on Beacon Hill. It is open to the public on National Mill days and every 3rd Sunday from May to September between 2.00-4.30pm. The Windmill is maintained by the Rottingdean Preservation Society.