Rottingdean reminiscences

Seafront looking west, early 1970

By Sam Flowers

I would like to share a favourite view of Rottingdean Gap and Undercliff (looking West), taken before the major changes of the 1990s.  

There were many secluded beaches.  At high tide the sea reached further ahead than today, producing when rough, impressive plumes of spray over the promenade.

I am sure this photo brings back fond memories to many others. Please share your memories by posting a comment below.

Photo:Rottingdean seafront c1970s

Rottingdean seafront c1970s

From the private collection of Sam Flowers

This page was added on 22/02/2017.
Comments about this page

My family holds fond memories of the open-air swimming pool to the east.

By Geoff Stoner (24/02/2017)

When we were children we used to do a round trip one way or another. Walk along the undercliff from Black Rock to Rottingdean, have an ice cream at the shop there, then catch the open top bus back along the front. Or do the same in the opposite direction. Never got to use the pool there though. Only went to Black Rock swimming pool or King Alfred.

By Tim Sargeant (25/02/2017)

I used to jump off the railings into the sea (we used to call it bombing off). During the winter there was nothing quite like the waves thumping against the sea wall and sending spray and pebbles all the way up to the road. Lots of wonderful memories growing up in Rottingdean.
I moved away from Rottingdean in the early 80s and would love to know what happened along the front. It had changed so much when I visited last year!

By Ross (08/05/2017)

Thanks, Ross, I remember the "bombing" you described. You lads gained a good audience from it sometimes!  I think the beach shown in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo was the one most used for that.  People sometimes jumped from the big groyne, too; at high tide the sea was particularly deep round there.  Myself, I never dived. Seeing the "bombing" I feared there might have been broken masonry hidden below the surface and hoped no-one would be injured.

There weren't only pebbles and the usual bits of wood and seaweed brought up after storms of the 1970s. I remember many fish were also flung as far as the road and the White Horse Hotel! Even after ordinary gales the shop windows of the Gap were very thickly covered in sea salt.

By Sam Flowers (16/06/2017)

Hello Sam, thank you for responding to my comment. I definitely remember people jumping off the groynes. As well, I remember a lot of cuttlefish being chucked up during the storms. Do you by any chance remember when they filled the beaches in?

By Ross (11/07/2017)

Hi, Ross. The reconstruction of the Undercliff and beach restoration was a huge undertaking.  The whole stretch from Roedean to the Borough boundary at Saltdean was worked in different stages from the mid-1990s right up to 2005.  Sections of Walk and beach were closed for years at a time.  I think Rottingdean Gap was rebuilt and the beach recharged there in around 1995-97.

I miss the Undercliff of old, but it should be remembered how rundown it had become by the late 1980s.  There was the hurricane of '87 and other extreme weather within a short period.  I remember thinking the Undercliff Walk was neglected, yet I also recognised the argument that the whole thing was probably and unavoidably nearing the end of its life anyway.  A major rebuild was certainly necessary.  It's been said that Brighton Marina had irreversibly affected the Longshore Drift pattern upon which the effectiveness of the original Undercliff design depended.  By the early '90s, many of the beaches had come to lose their groynes and shingle altogether, and in several places the sea was dangerously undermining the base of the Walk itself.

A few things were revealed with the those beaches newly emptied of their shingle.  You could briefly see long abandoned, buried and forgotten workers' implements used in the original construction works of the 1930s and earlier.  The upper section of a long wooden Victorian groyne was briefly visible at the east side of Rottingdean Gap.  You could even find the remaining stubs of the piles which once supported the Pier.  Now all hidden again, deeper than before!

Additional shingle for the new beaches was pumped from out at sea.  Granite was shipped in to form the new groynes and to create areas of base protection for the new sea wall.  The new Walk is wider and stands higher above sea level.  A Council/consulting engineers' document of March, 2001, entitled "Brighton Marina to Saltdean Coastal Defence Strategy", gave detailed information: it may still be available to view from the Coastal Defence Team at Hove Town Hall.

By Sam Flowers (12/07/2017)

Hi Sam, Thank you so much for all of the wonderful information. I was terribly curious about how and when all the changes along the front were made. I was surprised to see that the old lifeguard and deck chair storage room was still there - albeit firmly shut. I don't know if you remember, but if you turn left at the bottom of the ramp, walk a couple of dozen yards, and turn around to face in the direction of the White Horse, you can see the door on the left side of the covered area below the terraces. I remember helping carry the deck chairs as a young lad and getting a couple of quid for the effort. Good times indeed!

By Ross (14/07/2017)

Hi Sam, Thank you so much for all of the wonderful information. I was terribly curious about how and when all the changes along the front were made. I was surprised to see that the old lifeguard and deck chair storage room was still there - albeit firmly shut. I don't know if you remember, but if you turn left at the bottom of the ramp, walk a couple of dozen yards, and turn around to face in the direction of the White Horse, you can see the door on the left side of the covered area below the terraces. I remember helping carry the deck chairs as a young lad and getting a couple of quid for the effort. Good times indeed!

By Ross (21/07/2017)

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