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Rottingdean is a coastal village next to the town of Brightonmarker and technically within the city of Brighton and Hovemarker, in East Sussexmarker, on the south coast of Englandmarker. It borders the villages of Saltdeanmarker, Ovingdeanmarker and Woodingdeanmarker, 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 Channelmarker 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 Brightonmarker, 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 Saltdeanmarker. A large number of smallholdings appeared in the detached part of the parish called Woodingdeanmarker.

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 Parkmarker, Glendalemarker, Californiamarker. 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 1905 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. It recently regained an independent parish council , the only one in what is now the city of Brighton and Hove. The adjacent village of Woodingdeanmarker was formerly (until 1933) part of Rottingdean parish. Also formerly in the parish were most of the district of what is now Saltdeanmarker, Roedean Schoolmarker, 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.
  1. "Vision of Britain" website article

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