Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990. As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.
Rottingdean, ‘the valley of Rota’s people’, is an ancient and attractive village four miles east-south-east of Brighton. In the Domesday Book of 1086 the manor was tenanted by a certain Hugh from William de Warrenne, and the village had a population of around fifty to one hundred, but by the fifteenth century the parish belonged to at least four separate manors. Despite its proximity to the sea the village remained a poor but chiefly agricultural community, suffering considerable loss of land through erosion in medieval times, and having to plead against the payments of certain taxes on the grounds of poverty. In 1377 the village was raided by the French who burnt the church with many villagers in the belfry before moving on to Lewes and holding the prior to ransom. The villagers were able to improve their lot in one way, however; Rottingdean Gap is the lowest point in the cliffs between Brighton and Newhaven, and with a natural path to the beach it was the best landing place for several miles; the smuggling trade therefore thrived at Rottingdean for centuries.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century a horse-ride to Rottingdean was a popular outing from Brighton, and many sporting events, including bear-baiting, cricket and pugilism, were arranged as entertainment for visitors. Throughout the nineteenth century Rottingdean remained a popular but peaceful resort. There were a few lodging houses and a little development in the 1870s at Brighton Road (now Marine Drive) and West Street, while the village was a haunt of writers and artists including Kipling and Burne-Jones. The population grew from 543 in 1801 to 1,992 in 1901. Further limited development followed from the 1890s, and the Rottingdean Heights estate was developed by the Saltdean Estate Company from 1923; other first-class developments followed in the Dean Court Road area.
Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.