An introduction

Perhaps of all the Brighton suburban areas Coldean is the most well defined and self contained. Unlike its neighbours Moulsecoomb or Hollingbury, it sits snugly in a steep sided valley (‘dean’ is AngloSaxon for valley) on the extreme north-east of the city. It is surrounded by the rural splendours of WildPark, the Ditchling Road ridge and the wooded expanse of Stanmer Park, and even on its southern border, where it abuts the busy Lewes Road, has a fine expanse of urban parkland.

In 1066 the manor of Falmer was held by the Priory of St. Pancras at Lewes, but in 1776 it was sold to Thomas Pelham, later the Earl of Chichester.  It was part of the Stanmer estate of 4,958 acres acquired by Brighton Corporation in 1947.  The inappropriately named ‘Falmer Diversion’ A27 road scheme was completed in 1981, splitting the village in two. (Tim Carder: Encyclopaedia of Brighton)

Stanmer lies on the northern fringe of the city and is a rare feature in the urban area: an isolated agricultural village, a mansion set in a landscape park, a church next to a duck pond, and a working farm in the village street complete with calves and plentiful supplies of cow muck!

The Stanmer estate has extensive woodlands and is surrounded by the South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Only the University of Sussex on its eastern border reminds you it is not a Thomas Hardy film set! Beloved by locals as a green lung, it has been the scene of major rock concerts and is an increasing lure to bands of ‘travellers’ who find its unfenced acres an easy settlement area.

Comments about this page

  • I’m interested in the cottages on Coldean Lane that you mention. Do you happen to have any photos of them, or do you know anyone who does?

    By Barbara Allen (10/09/2008)
  • Sorry Barbara, I haven’t any photos of the cottages to help, nor do I know of anyone with any. Mr. and Mrs Hazeldean who lived in one of the cottages were very hard working country folk who always seemed to be smiling. All the local children liked them. The grounds around the dwellings were always kept in neat order with much produce grown.

    By Ron Spicer (05/10/2008)
  • Whilst not being allowed to wander about the Stanmer estate in those times, it was possible to go further along the continuation of the village road into the downs to Mary’s Farm. I don’t know if it’s still in existence as such. On a number of occasions, not too long before WWII we used to go as a family to the farmland to picnic. Nothing special, bread and cheese with onion or similar easily obtained food, accompanied by tea and water.
    On several occasions we found that a small biplane would circle above, fairly low, and the pilot would wave at us.Too, there was often a man on a beautiful white horse cantering the area, and he always stopped to speak.Another aspect of the general area was the Falmer Camp when, I think it was the Territorial Army but not sure, would occupy a fairly large area of the downland on the Stanmer side of Falmer in its summer camp, an annual event. Many of the local families would visit the camp out of interest and I can remember seeing the soldiers shaving with a small mirror tied to a tent post. Best of all, when they were going to leave, they had a parade with, to me at the time, the world’s best military band playing amongst other tunes as they marched, Sussex By The Sea. Wonderful.

    By Ron Spicer (09/10/2008)
  • Thanks Ron. I have found lots of photographs of Falmer, Coldean and the whole area, including the Coldean Cottages, on the Regency Society web site, in the James Gray Collection.

    By Barbara Allen (27/05/2009)
  • Good Barbara. Will we be seeing any of it in photographic form on the site in the future … ?

    By Ron Spicer (30/08/2009)
  • Dear Ron, my Great-Grandfather (Frank Woollard) and Grandfather (Gordon Woollard) always wondered who was pinching the apples from Woollard’s Nursery. I think my Father (John), Auntie (Margaret / Millie / Milly) and perhaps Uncle (Robert) sometimes got the blame. But, at last, the secret is out! I hope you enjoyed them. 🙂 Best wishes. Nick Woollard PS: Barbara, many thanks for the pictures information.

    By Nick Woollard (01/07/2011)
  • Very belatedly Nick, but better late than . . . We never did see much of your family; they always appeared at a distance, working away on the land, bent over most of the time. I find it amazing that places such as Bates and Woollards were so open and trusting – and tempting! Just inside the orchard where I was caught by that local bobby, across from the end of Newick Road, there were the most delicious plums and pears. Unbelievable – right on our doorstep. I s’pose the reason why your own relatives were suspected is because, although we were trespassing in search of fruit, we never did despoil. Nowadays with similar conditions, the trees would probably be wrecked . . .

    By Ron Spicer (27/01/2012)
  • My Mum Margaret Hutchings was Margaret Woollard’s best friend, living almost next to each other in Park Road , Coldean….still best friends! The nursery was their playground, making camps and make believe. It was the best “back garden” to have.

    By Claire Townsend (28/01/2012)
  • Nick, your great grandfather Frank Woollard was my great uncle as he and my grandfather Albert Holman Woollard were brothers. Their father was James Woollard, born in Clayton, who first took charge of the Cooksbridge Nurseries at the age of 29. He married Fanny Elizabeth Holman from Stanmer and they had eight children including Albert and Frank the youngest son. I have memories as a young man of the Falmer nursery when my Uncle Gurn was in charge. This was in the 1950/60s and before Sussex University was built on it.

    By Robert Woollard (25/07/2012)

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