How Black Rock got its name

The site of Black Rock Lido

In the thirties this lido opened and it was very, very popular. The actual site of the lido, although it was called Black Rock, was where the Volks Electric Railway  Railway Station is and Volks Electric at one time ran from Black Rock right out to Rottingdean.

There’s a story of how Black Rock got its name – if coal was brought through the town they had to pay a tax on it. Black Rock at that time was out of town so the boats delivering the coal used to dump it just at this spot.

Comments about this page

  • My mother told me that it was called Black Rock because the waste tar left over from gas production at the gasworks just inland was simply – in those pre-environmental days – dumped over the cliff edge onto the beach.

    By Adrian Baron (24/01/2007)
  • Volks never actualy went beyond Black Rock. The rocks are the remains of the old daddy long legs train that ran from Banjo groin to a jetty at Rottingdean. Lots of info can be found at: anf here: I do hope this helps.

    By Del (04/09/2009)
  • My nan remembers the Volks railway running much past Black Rock, so I don’t think this is true.

    By James (13/10/2010)
  • I was born in 1947. Mum & dad both worked, they’d drop me 10am with older brother at the swimming pool during the 1950’s school holidays, we had season tickets, and collect us at 5pm. We’d have a packed lunch of sandwiches; great times - boys were boys and girls were girls, all having fun. The weather always seemed good. 

    By Keith Boyson (09/10/2017)
  • James, Del is right. The Volks Electric Railway has never run further than Black Rock, although the terminus used to be a few yards further east. You can see a photo of the old terminus station on the website he has pointed you towards. It was near the bottom of the upward slope of Madeira Drive at its eastern end, where it used to go up to meet the A259.

    The Brighton & Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway was an entirely separate line. Its nickname was the “Daddy Long Legs Railway”. Magnus Volk opened it in 1896, and it closed permanently in 1901.

    By Alan Hobden (11/10/2017)
  • I am sure the answer to ‘why is Black Rock called’ is somewhere else on the My B&H site…as I have answered it before! The name pre-dates coal and tar by centuries as the area above on the Downs was named on early maps and documents as ‘Black Rock Down’ from the mid-17th century. As a geographer I believe the name may have originated in the deposits seen in the cliff behind the present ADSA. This orange coloured area is Coombe Deposits, a chalky matrix mixed with clay, sand and flint debris that poured over the cliff up to 150,000 years ago. Mixed within it are Sarsen boulders that lay as an ancient crust above the chalk. These gave their name to Stanmer, Standean and Old Steine and can be seen today in many spots but probably best known around Falmer Pond. If one of these large dark boulders was poking out of the pale cliff it may have given it the name. Coastal erosion removed the boulder long ago but some can still be seen high on the cliff side. Not looking that big from the cliff foot, but we do not know how big they are embedded in the cliff.

    By Geoffrey Mead (12/10/2017)
  • I currently live at the Marina and after many walks over to the beach where access to the undercliff path restarts on the East side, I concluded that the name black rock must have come from the very obviously black rocks on that beach, which show at low tide and are full of rock pools. I thought this was likely because it’s such a visual contrast to the endless sea of pebbles on the main beach.

    By E Humphreys (23/02/2021)
  • Hi- E.Humpheys, the ‘black rocks’ that are often commented on may be just covered in dark weed, I hold to my view in the 2017 reply above yours. There are patches of dark grey, chalk platform rock further east along the coast, but these would not provide a name for Black Rock Down above the present named site.

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (24/02/2021)

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