History of the house

The Elms, once rented by Kipling
Photo by Julie Phelan
Kiplings Gardens
Photo 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.

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 (05/09/2007)
  • 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 (05/08/2009)
  • 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 (07/02/2011)
  • I went to Prep School at Kenton Court 1959 – 1961.  I was Sue King back then and I wonder what happened to my best friend, Di Reid, Tish Botrell, Jenny Lancaster, Ashraff Virgy (sp?) Shemin Hudda (sp?), and so many others.  I remember so much about it, what a lovely place.  Matron was horrible, but all the other teachers were lovely, as was Miss Kathleen Birney, our headmistress. There was a secret passage leading from the garden out to the coast that had been used by smugglers at one time, sealed off from inquisitive little girls. We used to go to church at St. Margaret’s, every Sunday, decked out in our navy blue school uniforms.I went back to see the house in 1978 or ’79 when I was visiting Brighton  It was much changed by then, of course, but it was fun to go back.

    By Susie Good (29/06/2016)
  • I also went to Kenton court and remember do much. Would love to hear from Jane and Mary Frost Bindy whose family owned a hotel in Brighton and anyone who might remember me. Hated matron and Miss Copack.

    By Celine nee Wood (15/07/2017)
  • Message for Celine nee Wood. Yes, I remember you. Did you have dark hair? I would love to hear from you. I am on Facebook as Binty Nicola Ballantyne, and my email address is bintyballantyne@yahoo.com

    By Binty Ballantyne (04/08/2017)
  • I too attended Kenton Court and knew the girls mentioned above, though I think that I was a few years older than some that have been mentioned. My name is Jenny Taylor and for some of the time I was a day girl but became a boarder for a while. I shared a dorm with Wanna Udumprasett (spelling?) who came from Thailand and a girl called Diana Fothergill Carrington. I remember Miss Copack – could I ever forget her! Do you remember her plimsolls, she used to come up silently behind you and catch you out. I also remember Miss Dawson who dyed her hair a sort of peach colour and always wore a brown stripy wool suit. She taught us art, I still remember how to do a ‘flat wash’. Some of the teachers were definitely a bit odd and matron was a horror!

    By Jenny Piercy (11/02/2018)
  • How other-worldly to read from others who went to Kenton Court school. I went there, aged 7, in 1966 and specially loved Miss Maureen Birney who taught us pottery. My best friends were Lesley and Gillian Pike. I wonder what they are up to these days.

    By Jacqueline Kareh (17/08/2018)
  • I went to Kenton Court in the 1950’s in the days of Miss Birney, Miss Coppack. Canon Daunton-Fear was the school’s chaplain. I eventually left and went on to St Margaret’s Bushey, where Miss Evelyn Birney was Headmistress.

    By Jennifer Parry-Sutton (03/11/2018)
  • I went to Kenton Court until it closed – I used to walk over from Saltdean to school. I remember very little except eating acorns in the garden and being rushed to hospital, dropping netballs at the top of the hill on the way to the courts and chasing them down before they reached the main road – and being on the local radio station with the choir singing! Oh. And being allowed to sit on the radiators during classes the winter when it snowed hard and we all got stuck at school until my uncle came with a tractor and towed me and my cousins home on toboggans behind the tractor. I loved the school, and was heartbroken when it closed!

    By Jo Carr (09/12/2019)
  • OMG I remember Miss Coppack. But it was Mrs. Hogwood who changed my life. Everything I ever learned I learned from her. Wonderful memories of a wonderful teacher. I learned to love food at Kenton Court. Possibly the only person to be a prefect, and then get de-prefected because I went down to the sweet shop without permission!

    By Florence Vincent (28/10/2020)
  • I was at kenton court in Cromwell road hove and then in rottingdean.
    From about 1955 to 1966. I remember ashraf vergee and sharif, and daphne farquharson. Katherine lane Roberts and I are still great friends all these years later. Would love to hear from anyone
    Caroline grimston.

    By Siggins Caroline (12/11/2020)
  • My name is Mary Aryee I also went to kenton court in the 1960’s. I was the only black girl I can remember there. I don’t remember much but I do remember where the dining room and the tuck shop were. I remember I used to cry a lot after I got a visit from my parents. I also remember going down to the pond to catch tadpoles. I later left to Ghana as my parents were going back.

    By Mrs Mary Mensah (26/02/2021)
  • I was also at Kenton Court from 1959 and then went on to St Margaret’s Bushey. I remember some of those names and would love to know about Ashraff Verjee and others from that time.

    By Rachel Crouch (Greaves) (04/04/2021)
  • Hi,
    This is for Susie Good I am Shemin Hudda the same that went to school with you my email is hd370@aol.com I came across your message sometime last month hoping to hear from you I now live in Vancouver Canada it was nice reading about so many of the girls.

    By Shemin hudda (10/07/2021)
  • This is a message for Jacqueline Kareh from Lesley Pike…..I was just thinking about Kenton Court and thought I would look up info online and to my surprise found this page and mention of my name! Have very happy memories of the school and my time there….do message me as I remember you meredithfamily55@gmail.com

    By Lesley Meredith (01/08/2021)
  • So interesting to come across this page. I also went to
    Kenton Court at The Elms in Rottingdean for two years in the early 60s, before going away to school. I think the school had recently relocated from Brighton or Hove.
    I also remember Ashraff Virgee (sp?) The only other person I remember is Elizabeth Cuttress (sp?). Her family owned some bakeries or cafes (Forfars?) in Brighton.

    By Rls (05/08/2021)
  • I went to Kenton Court in Rottingdean for a couple of years, 1960 – 62, I think, then went away to boarding school. I lived in Saltdean.
    Funny, but I remember Ashraf Virgee (sp?) too. I was friends with Elizabeth Cuttress from Brighton or Hove. Her family owned Forfars bakeries/cafes.
    Someone mentioned Jane Frost. I recognize the name, but thought it was from my next school where I’m still friends with several old girls.
    I’ve lived in Canada for many wonderful years. Ruth swyers.button@sympatico.ca

    By Ruth (06/08/2021)
  • To all of you who went to Kenton Court, greetings.
    I would love to connect with you. My email is susiegood@thegoodconnection.com if you would like to get in touch.
    Shemin, I just saw your message and will email you.
    Seeing your posts about your experiences brought tears to my eyes.
    Miss Coppack was such a sad old battleaxe. She stank to high heaven too🤪
    Matron used to steal the money from my NSPCC box. We ended up hiding it under my bed and my friends hid out and caught her with it. She got fired after that.
    She was dreadful. She used to drag me out of bed, accusing me of talking after lights out even when I was asleep. Then she would put me in the staff cloakroom with the lights out until she went to bed, which was horrible. It seems as though she did that to me every night, but my memory could be faulty after all these years and she might have done the same to some of you.
    I also went on to St. Margaret’s.
    Despite initial terrible homesickness, Matron and Miss Coppack, I ended up loving it there.
    Celine, we used to lie behind the bushes and talk about your parents’ sex life! Do you remember that?
    It’s so nice to see all your names.
    Anyone interested in a private Facebook group? I’ll start one and you can join if interested in staying in touch.
    BTW, I live in Puerto Rico now!

    By Susie Good (29/12/2021)
  • What a joy to read all the stories. I also remember Joyce Gabbai and Penny ? Ashraff definitely and Shemin. A long time ago but both good and bad memories, I remember being so hungry that we went to the kitchen and found a marmalade tart that had mould on it. I have hated marmalade ever since! Miss Copack was a nightmare creeping about the place but Miss Birney was lovely.

    I went on to St Swithun’s where they attempted to turn me into a well educated young lady with minimal success!

    I now live in Salisbury having spent 30+ years abroad.

    Would love to hear from anyone who remembers those halcyon days. tishburbidge@hotmail.com

    By Tish Burbidge (Bottrill) (16/01/2023)
  • What a joy to come across this yesterday. Would love to hear from anybody. I remember Ashraff and Shemin. Does any one know what happened to Joyce Gabbai. Creeping Miss Copack was a nightmare but Miss Birney lovely. I went on to St Swithun’s for ‘further education’ Am now back living in Salisbury having spent 30+ years abroad. I do remember eating a mouldy marmalade tart in the middle of the night and have hated marmalade ever since!

    By Tish Burbidge (Bottrill) (16/01/2023)
  • Rottingdean has very special memories for me in the 1960s. I was close friends with the Genillard family who owned the Dene Hotel on the Green. There were many colourful characters living in the village and the Dinner Dances on a Saturday night were something to behold. Rottingdean is a big part of my own history.

    By Diane Wilks (20/11/2023)

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