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    East Dean
(Fishing and Wrecking)

Name Derivation

General Details

East Dean lies in a steep valley on the South Downs, it is split by the busy tourist coast road. The modern part of the village lies to the north of the road, and the old part of the village to the south.

The village was settled in early Saxon times initially by Aelle and his sons then through the Kings of Wessex to Alfred the Great who had a manor here.

The manor of Birling has very likely been in existance since Saxon times as a fishing and farming community, with the village protected by the surrounding Downs .

The flint church has a Saxon tower, and was improved by the Normans after the conquest in 1066 .

The 1300's brought the constant threat of French Raids, which destroyed the crops and killed the local people, it is believed that the locals hid in the church when raided.

The village is closely tied to the Bardolf family, who took over Birling Manor in 1257, when William married Juliana Gurney and gained the manor as part of her dowery.

In 1267 William was granted a licence to hold a weekly market and annual fair by King Henry III .

In the early 1400's Hugh Bardolf son of William and Juliana took part in the revolt against King Henry IV and was killed. The King seized the lands back from the family in 1406 due to Hughs treason. Later the King granted the lands back to the Bardolfs, unfortunately a later Lord William fought for the Lancastrians against King Edward IV and lost. The lands were forfeited again, and the family never again held power in the area.

The coastline in this area was treacherous for sailors, and many ships were driven ashore onto the rocks, the village quite often enjoyed the benefits of the sailors bad luck. The area on the edge of the cliffs at Birling Gap were perfect for smugglers and wreckers . Many ships were also deliberately wrecked by fake lights being hung on the cliffs so that unsuspecting seamen thought they were near Eastbourne or Newhaven .

The local smuggler James Dippery who lived in the village gained an enormous fortune from smuggling in the early 1800's. He was arrested by the Customs and Excise and sent for trial, where in return for his freedom, he informed on his collegues who were deported to Australia. He still had most of his fortune, and retired a rich man. In the late 1800's the village had the first cable office in Britain which provided electrical communication to the continent via an undersea cable.

The churchyard contains an unusual Tapsell Gate , produced by a carpenter from Mountfield in the mid 1700's. It rotates on a post, in a similar way to the design of a Post Mill .


East Dean has a few local village services, but the main shopping centre lies about 5 miles to the east in Eastbourne , which is also where the nearest train service starts.


East Dean lies in a valley in the South Downs and is well hidden the views from all around are downland farmland views which are very pretty.

The area just up the hill from the church is a very pretty area, with rows of small cottages and the village public house providing the sights.

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