Old Postcards of Rottingdean


The Windmill. Situated on Beacon Hill, high above the village of Rottingdean stands the old smock mill. The mill has been here since 1802 and has been a prominent landmark to sailors and travellers alike since then. A drawing of this mill by Sir William Nicholson has since become famous as the colophon used by Heinemann, the publishers.

The mill continued to grind corn until 1881 and is now preserved by the local Rottingdean Preservation Society.

A village nestling in a downland valley: Dating from 1831 this print shows the cliffs and beach at Rottingdean before much of this was swept away by the sea. Notice the windmill on the hill and the Old King of Prussia Inn that is now known as the White Horse hotel.


Ovingdean Gap -half way between Black Rock and Rottingdean. A pier and landing stage is in the process of being built for Volk's railway. Note the old barge in the process of depositing building materials.

The cliffs Taken in 1913 this postcard shows a bulding soon to fall into the sea. Notice in the far distance the Volk's Railway pier at Ovingdean Gap

The pier at Rottingdean was built as the eastern end of Volk's Electric Railway between 1894 and 1896. Between Black Rock and Rottingdean the sea thunders against the chalk cliffs so Volk's solution was to build a sea going railway. The Railway ran at the foot of the high cliffs and was 2.75 miles long. This photograph was probably taken in early 1896 when the pier was still under construction. The railway opened on 28th November 1896 to a great fanfare. Less than a week later, on the night of the 4th and 5th of December a great storm destroyed Brighton's old Chain Pier, badly damaged the original electric railway and all but destroyed the project. Pioneer had broken from her moorings at Rottingdean and was exposed to the full force of the storm. By morning she lay on her side broken almost beyond repair. The damage was repaired and the railway reopened in July 1897 and continued until January 1901, despite frequent storm damage and shifting shingle often covering portions of the track. The building of sea defences near Black Rock in 1901 forced the closure of the sea going railway. No longer required Pioneer was lashed to the pier at Ovingdean and remained in situ gently rusting away until 1910 when the remnants of the railway were sold for scrap. The only traces that remain of the railway are carved ruts in the chalk, a series of concrete blocks and the stumps of wooden posts that become exposed at low tide.

A poster advertising the services of the railway: A ride on "Pioneer" from Black Rock to Rotingdean was 6d ( two and a half new pennies)

A picture of Pioneer running through the sea. : Notice the wooden poles that carried the power cable.

Another view of the pier taken around 1896. The colourfully dressed ladies in the foreground are standing on land soon to slip into the sea. Notice the bathing tents and wheeled bathing cabins on the shore

Another view of the pier taken around the same time as the previous picture (1896). The tide has gone out further and you can see the rails.

Another view of the pier: Note the coastguard with telescope tucked under his arm. In the distance you can just make out the pier at Ovingdean and "Pioneer" docked there

The sea has now encroached further and this picture taken early 1900 shows just how much has been swept away. Some of the builings in the earlier print are now balanced precariously on the cliff edge.

Now partially fallen into the sea and the rest of the site replaced by Highview- a block of flats on the sea front-what you can see here is the Geisha Tea Rooms and Restaurant

. Taken c 1919.

A similar picture: Probably taken a year later because you can see guard rails behin the people sitting on the wall. The Geisha Tea Rooms are flying a flag marked "Geisha".

A rough seas: Probably taken in the 1920's

The beach at the gap:

Another view of the pier c 1911

A fairly similar view: Taken c 1935. More building has now taken place

Another view of the pier c 1914

Pioneer, otherwise known as Daddy Longlegs, in action: Note the power transmission cables stuck up on poles and the attachment from the vehicle.

A close up look at "Pioneer"- the railway carriage.

Rottingdean Pier head: . "Pioneer" has just docked at the pier head and passengers are getting on. The electrical power unit is slung underneath the pier. The pier head was a favourite place for Rudyard Kipling and children who used to fish at the end of the pier. .

The Seafront- At Rottingdean Gap

The beach by the Gap- Taken about the same time as the picture above.

The beach by the Gap- Taken about the same time as the picture above.

The beach by the Gap- Not a bikini in sight!

The Seafront- Taken c 1908.

The beach and groins by the Gap- Taken sometime in the late 1920's. Note the old houses tumbling into the sea

The Seafront again- Now turned into a concrete jungle. .

The Seafront again- Taken in 1936 . .

The White Horse Hotel

The White Horse Hotel - taken around 1952.

The White Horse Hotel

Now to go on a stroll through the village, starting from the Sea and walking towards the north

The White Horse Hotel as it was c 1900- This was demolished in 1934 to make way for the current building, also named the White Horse Hotel . An interesting invoice from the White Horse Hotel for 1885 can be found here

White Horse Hotel - Photograph taken around 1920 .

White Horse Hotel - Photograph taken around 1920

White Horse Hotel - Photograph taken around 1910

High Street - At the crossing with the coast road

St. Margarets- Photograph taken around 1950 . The flats were built in the late 1930's despite a lot of local opposition to them at the time. The Local Ratepayers Association when voicing their opposition to them said that "it views this monstrous structure with horror and dismay; feelings shared by practically every inhabitant of Rottingdean" . Views probably still shared to this day.

Royal Oak Hotel- The horse drawn carriage is on the coast road and stands by the junction with the High Street. Virtually everything has been demolished now. The Royal Oak, and the former Victoria Inn behind, for example, used to be where the West Street car park is today.

Rottingdean High Street -

The High Street- Looking north.

The High Street- Looking north.

The High Street- Looking north.

The High Street- Another picture looking north- around 1910.

The High Street- Another picture looking north- around 1910.

The High Street- Looking north c 1906.

The High Street- Looking north, a little further up the village.

The High Street- Looking south.

The High Street- Looking south.

The High Street- The wall of Rudyard Kipling's House is to be seen towards the left of the picture..

The same scene around 1925 -

Burne Jones's House- Seen from the village green across from the Church of St Margaret's.. When Burne Jones moved to Rottingdean in 1880 he merged three adjacent houses together: Gothic House, Prospect House and Aubrey Cottage to create 'North End House' - the house that you see in the picture. Prospect House is the White House on the left of the three. Aubrey Cottage the middle building and Gothic House is to the right

Another view of Burne Jones's house- probably taken around the same time

Another view of Burne Jones's house- The scene of sheep and shepherd was soon to disappear.

The Pond- Taken in 1905 the picture shows the pond and the Plough Inn in the background. Very little has changed since then..

The same pond- taken in the 1950's, viewed from the south and looking upon The Elms.

The Elms- 1910 Rudyard Kipling's House

The Elms- 1910 Rudyard Kipling's House

Tudor Cottages at the entrance to Dean Court Road- Originally farm buildings and cottages associated with Court Farm these were converted into mock Tudor style cottages in the early 1930's

Tudor Cottages again- Note the windmil in the far distance without the usual sail arms.

Tudor Cottages- An idyllic picture, with buildings somewhat different from their original function

Tudor Close Hotel- These apparently looking Tudor buildings were originally two old barns and the cowsheds of old Court Farm. They were some 100 feet in length and were substantially rebuilt in 1929 to look like seven adjoining dwellings of the Tudor period. They proved difficult to sell 1929 and the houses were quickly remodeled to form the Tudor Close Hotel that you see here. The hotel proved to be a fashionable halt for visitors to Rottingdean in the 1930's. After the second world war the Hotel lost much of its custom and the building was altered yet again to form the seven adjoining houses that now occupies the site..

Dene Court Road- Taken c 1925 .

Rottingdean School - The School is situated to the north of the village and was built in 1894. When this picture was taken in 1896 the School had only recently opened. It was to remain until 1962 when it was demolished after a major fire. Shortly afterwards the site was cleared to make way for a Trade Union rest centre and some domestic housing(The Rotyngs) . Even the Trade Union centre has been demolished now and all that remains are tightly packed housing at the end of the village.

St Margaret's Church - .

St Margaret's Church -

St Margaret's Church - .

The Lychgate of St Margaret's Church- The Lych Gate was built in 1897 to serve as the grand entrance to St Margaret's Churchyard. This postcard dates from 1905 and on the right you can see Rudyard Kipling's old house, The Elms, whilst to the left is Burne Jones's property, The Elms. On the downs beyond is the old windmill .

St Margaret's Church- Taken from the South c 1906

The Elms- Rudyard Kipling's House is to be seen across the pond from this vantage point. More about this house later.

The Elms- Rudyard Kipling's House.

A composite picture of Rottingdean- Looking Westwards.

Norton House and the Pond-

Rottingdean in 1920: No undercliff walk. No Saltdean!


Rottingdean in 1932

A map showing the old field system for East Rottingdean and Saltdean is displayed below which you can compare with the 1920's photo. Click on the map to expand the image.


A map dating 1879-1880 is shown below. Click on the map to expand image

Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey


1899 Map of Rottingdean- Click on the map to expand image. The Electric Railway has now been built.

1931 Map of Rottingdean- Click on map to expand. Notice that the roads of Saltdean have been laid out and houses are beginning to appear.

Two very good books that can be recommended for postcards of the earlier days are:

Rottingdean in Old Picture Postcards by A.S. Payne, Eddie Scott ; Publisher: Europese Bibliotheek B.V., Uitgeverij Boekhandel A ; ISBN: 9028833102

Francis Frith's Around Brighton and Hove (Photographic Memories.) by Helen Livingston, Francis Frith ; Publisher: The Frith Book Company Ltd ; ISBN: 1859371922