Kipling's House

Photo:The Elms, once rented by Kipling

The Elms, once rented by Kipling

Photo by Julie Phelan

Photo:Kiplings Gardens

Kiplings Gardens

Photo by Julie Phelan

History of the house

By Julie Phelan

The Elms was built by William Ridge in 1745. The house is situated on the green and opposite the church. Rudyard Kipling was acquainted with Rottingdean as his aunt, Georgina Burne-Jones, owned North End House as a holiday home. This house which also faces the green, was formed in 1880 by joining together Prospect House and Aubrey Cottage and was originally inhabited by the famous pre-raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones.

Kipling found inspiration from the area
Rudyard, romantically named after the lake in Staffordshire where his parents became engaged, rented The Elms for three guineas a week from 1897 until 1902. He found great inspiration from the area and wrote many of the "Just So Stories" here. Sadly, when his eldest daughter Josephine died in 1899 he could no longer feel happy in the area. With his daughter's death and the fact that he was a focal point for tourists, he decided to up sticks and left the village in favour of a more secluded existence in Burwash.

The wishing stone in the wall of The Elms
The wall around the house is made of flint and there is one stone amongst the many in the shape of a face. This has become worn slightly over the years but as a child I was told by my Grandfather that if you touched its nose, closed your eyes, made a wish and turned around three times your wish would come true. Whether or not this was official, or was from my Grandfather's imagination, is debatable but the fact remains that if you are twirling around with your eyes closed in the middle of the road you only just have time to make a wish before being spooned into the back of an ambulance.

Kipling's garden saved from the developers
When the house came back on the market during the 1980's, it was proposed that a large part of the garden be sold off for a housing development - fortunately this idea was quashed! The Rottingdean Preservation Society bought the land and transformed it from an overgrown wilderness into the beautiful Kipling Gardens which has various sections within its generous two acres for members of the public to enjoy.

Added to the site on 20-12-04 
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
I visited it in 2002 and I loved it.
By Rob Tanner (29/04/2005)

It is such a fab house, I love it.

By Charlie Jones (06/09/2007)

I love looking up information on The Elms. My prep school was located in The Elms in the late 1950s - Kenton Court. Lucy Ann's Tuck Shop, the library, the church, the Downs - a wonderful place it was to be in Rottingdean!

By Ash Farran (06/08/2009)

I lived in Rottingdean from my birth in 1954 to 1974, when I left to live in France. When we were childen we used to feed the ducks in the pond opposite Kipling's house, danced around the Maypole during the village festivities, rode our ponies on the Downs, and went to Lucy Ann's sweet shop every Saturday. It was a wonderful place to live and I hope it hasn't changed too much since.

By Maxine Miesch (24/09/2009)

Just a minor correction: Kipling's aunt's name was Georgiana, not Georgina. Also, re: Ash Farran's recollection: I wrote a piece on Kenton Court School / Northgate House in the Oct/Nov [2009] issue of the Rottingdean Village News.

By Douglas d'Enno (10/11/2009)

We had our daughter's Christening picnic in Kipling Gardens and it was fabulous. A safe area that is well maintained for children to explore and run around in allowing parents to relax and enjoy the day. With so many lovely spaces within the walls you have an opportunity to take some beautiful and unique photos that are special keepsakes. A wonderful place a real pleasure to visit.

By Tasha (07/06/2010)

Back in the early 1980s I was involved in the work that brought the gardens back from a wilderness into the pleasant site that they are today. When I first visited the gardens in order to assess what work was necessary I found them so overgrown that you could not see more than ten feet in front of you. Eventually a team of some 10 or so gardeners worked on them for perhaps a year. After clearing the ground, one of the biggest jobs was levelling the bowling green. The brick paths were laid by a man who learnt about laying brick paths as he went, and a fine job he made of it. There was a rather nice story attached to the acquisition of the gardens. The money for the purchase was left to Rottingdean by a tramp who, despite appearances, was relatively rich. He left the money to Rottingdean, "as the people here were always very kind to me". Up until the time I left Brighton in the late 80's there was no mention of this made anywhere at the gardens, which seems somewhat of a shame.

By Bill Bellroth (08/02/2011)

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