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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 50°48′54″N 0°03′54″W / 50.815°N 0.065°W / 50.815; -0.065

Rottingdean is located in East Sussex

 Rottingdean shown within East Sussex
Population 2,500 
OS grid reference TQ375025
Unitary authority Brighton and Hove
Ceremonial county East Sussex
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Brighton
Postcode district BN2, BN51
Dialling code 01273
Police Sussex
Fire East Sussex
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Brighton Kemptown
List of places: UK • England • East Sussex

Rottingdean is a coastal village next to the town of Brighton and technically within the city of Brighton and Hove, in East Sussex, on the south coast of England. It borders the villages of Saltdean, Ovingdean and Woodingdean, and has a historic centre, often the subject of picture postcards.



The name is Old English for 'valley of the people associated with Rōta (a male personal name)'. Rottingdean is in a dry valley whose sides in the upper reaches are quite steep, and this valley comes right down to the English Channel coast. The name was contrasted unflatteringly with Goodwood (another place in Sussex) in a national 1970s advertising campaign for wood preserver.


The Old Windmill, Rottingdean

Rottingdean has approximately 2,500 inhabitants. For most of its history it was a farming community, but from the late 18th century it attracted leisured visitors wanting a genteel alternative to raffish Brighton, among them some names famous in English cultural life. Some, in the late 19th century, notably the painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones and his nephew Rudyard Kipling, made it their home. Kipling's old house adjacent to Kipling Gardens is still standing, and the former house of the painter Sir William Nicholson is currently open to the public as a library and museum. When farming collapsed in the 1920s, much of the farmland became available for building, and Rottingdean increased significantly in population, especially in the area known as Saltdean. A large number of smallholdings appeared in the detached part of the parish called Woodingdean.

In the summer of 1377 the French pirate raid on Rottingdean occurred. The raiders probably intended to pillage the nearby Lewes priory. The raiders were detected as they landed, and a portion of the village's inhabitants retreated into the church's Saxon-built tower. The pirates were unable to take the tower and set it on fire; over a hundred people are thought to have died in the blaze. The next day the pirates were met by a force led by the Lewes Prior. During the action, two knights, Sir John Fallisle, Thomas Chinie and the prior were captured. The pirates were, however, driven to depart, with the three men later being ransomed.

Rottingdean is also notable for the black wooden windmill on the hill on its western side. Nicholson made a woodcut that was used as the logo of the publisher William Heinemann; this is often said to have been a depiction of Rottingdean mill, but a glance at both will show that this is untrue. The hill is a local nature reserve. It was also well known for sport, having a cricket club founded in 1758 and having been a centre of fox hunting, especially in the second half of the 19th century.

The shop, The Old Customs House, was the inspiration for the "local" shop in The League of Gentlemen.

The parish church

Rottingdean Church

Its most historic other building is its probably 13th-century church of St Margaret, constructed in flint and having a short spire with a cap. An almost exact replica has been constructed at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California. The Rottingdean church features stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones, whose ashes are buried in the churchyard. Other modestly well-known burials include those of the Victorian novelist William Black, Burne-Jones's granddaughter the author Angela Thirkell, and the 1920s music-hall star G.H. Elliott, known professionally as "The Chocolate-Coloured Coon". Here is also the grave of the last "squire" of Rottingdean, Steyning Beard, who died in 1909; much of his land was ultimately sold off to pay his debts.

Sign on the A259 Marine Drive


Most of these well-known people were not local, and had settled in or retired to Rottingdean. The village also had home-grown talent of significance, notably the Copper Family who maintained a long tradition of English folk song, performing for the collector Kate Lee as early as 1892. Its best-known member was Bob Copper (1915-2004), also known as a writer.

The first garage for motor cars was run by Charles Thomas, a former pupil of York Place School in Brighton, in the early years of the 20th century. In about 1902 Charles met the American financier Charles Glidden, and the two men embarked together on a round trip of the world, visiting many countries and cities - this was the start of the famous Glidden Tour. It is thought that Charles Thomas also worked on a machine to achieve perpetual motion, and kept one running in his basement for many months.

Most histories of Rottingdean mention that its inhabitants were involved in smuggling when that was especially profitable, mainly in the 18th century. It is impossible to verify all the local stories, or believe all the claims about secret passages under the village, but it is persistently rumoured that the 18th-century vicar Dr Thomas Hooker was deeply implicated. The other face of Hooker was his devotion to education. He opened schools in the village both for the well-off (which developed eventually into the present St Aubyn's preparatory school) and for the local children.

World War I veteran Henry Allingham was a resident of St Dunstan's, mentioned below. Allingham was the oldest man in the world and the last founder member of the RAF when he died in July 2009.

Civil status and former extent of the area

The parish became part of county borough of Brighton in 1928.[1] It recently regained an independent parish council[citation needed], the only one in what is now the city of Brighton and Hove. The adjacent village of Woodingdean was formerly (until 1933) part of Rottingdean parish. Also formerly in the parish were most of the district of what is now Saltdean, Roedean School, an independent school for girls, and St Dunstan's, a rehabilitation centre for blinded ex-Service personnel.


  • Carder, Tim (1991) The encyclopaedia of Brighton. Lewes: East Sussex County Council (1991).
  • Coates, Richard (forthcoming) A history of Rottingdean and Ovingdean through their place-names. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society.
  • Copper, Bob (1976) Early to rise. London: Heinemann (1976).
  • Heater, Derek (1993) The remarkable history of Rottingdean. Brighton: Dyke Publications.
  • Rottingdean Preservation Society annual reports and unpublished archives.
  • Green, Howard (1973) Guide to the Battlefields of Britain & Ireland London: Constable and Company, Ltd

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Rottingdean is on the south coast of England. Although on the coast this was a farming village rather than a fishing one. But it was not disconnected from the sea as it used to be known as the smugglers' village. It was the home of the writer, Rudyard Kipling, and of his uncle, the painter Edward Burne-Jones.

Buses along the coast from Brighton run every 5 to 10 minutes. The walk from Brighton Palace pier will take about an hour 1/2 either along the undercliff or along the cliff top. You can start this walk from Brighton Marina. At Ovingdean gap there is a small cafe by the beach that will be open if it is sunny.

Get around

A small village, easy to walk around.

  • The village pond, the windmill, Kipling gardens just up from the pond and the "pig face" stone on the wall of Rudyard Kipling's old house. The local tradition is to place a finger on the nose and twirl around three times making a wish.
  • Prospect Cottage and Aubrey Cottage. These were the homes in Rottingdean of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, one of the Pre-Raphaelites and famous for his paintings and stained glass work.
  • St Margaret's Church. Much visited church, mainly to view the stained glass windows by Burne-Jones, who is buried in the graveyard. The church is constructed in flint. [1] An almost exact replica was built at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
  • Beacon Windmill. A restored black, wooden windmill that dates back to 1802. Open to the public from 14:00 to 16:30 on the third Sunday of each month from May to September.
  • St. Dunstan's. (This is the large hospital-like building you see as you turn inland to Rottingdean). St Dunstan's provides support and accommodation to blinded British servicemen. The most notable recent resident was Henry Allingham, who was briefly considered to be the oldest man in the world until his death in 2009.


There is a pebble beach which is nice in the summer. Boxing Day is a traditional village day with inter pub football, tug of war, races, etc. The whole village closes about 6.30pm that day mostly drunk.

  • Thai,Chinese and Indian restaurants. A chippy (fish and chip shop), once frequented by John Major a former British Prime Minister. Try The Coach House, The Victoria or The Plough public houses for food.
  • Five pubs in addition to those above the Black Horse and White Horse Hotel.

Get out

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