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    West Dean
(Alfred the Great's Palace)
Limb of the Cinque Ports

Name Derivation

General Details

West Dean is one of those villages only read about in books, it is hidden just off the Seaford to Eastbourne coast road. To get to the village you need to take a side road, which returns upon itself. The village is very olde worlde and is reached via the road which can be flooded when the Cuckmere river breaks its banks, we suggest you park at the nearby Friston Forest car park and walk to the village, as cars and other motorised vehicles can be easily blocked. The Cuckmere Valley and Cuckmere Haven are nearby and easily accessible from the Friston Forest car park.

West Dean was originally known as Eorlscourt, later to be Earlscourt then Dene and finally West Dean.

The village was probably founded in Saxon times as a fishing and salt producing village hidden away from the weather by the valleys. It is known that Alfred the Great had a palace in the village, and it is possible that this was one of his naval main bases , in his war with the Vikings .

After the Norman Conquest in 1066 the village was given to Earl Mortain , King Williams half brother. He gave the land together with nearby Exceat to the Monastery of Grestein, and their nearby priory at Wilmington .

During the 1100's the area was important as West Dean and Exceat paid more in taxes than nearby Lewes , the villages were probably associated with Seaford in their ties with the Cinque Ports .

In 1305 King Edward I who was at nearby Lewes visited the villages implying a still great importance in the history of the Realm, again probably naval power.

The Black Death and subsequent French raids affected the village quite badly and nearby Exceat was abandoned by the 1450's.

The area was used by the smugglers in the 1800's , as the Alfriston gang led by Stanton Collins roamed the local villages, this was to stop in 1831 when he was arrested and deported for 7 years.


The nearest shops are in Seaford about 3 miles west , with the port of Newhaven 2 miles further on.

The old Saxon church is very pretty and smiles on visitors as they travel from the church gate.

Trains are available at Berwick about 5 miles to the north.


The area is beautiful, and the meandering Cuckmere river contrasts with the green Downs which rise up on each side.

The Seven Sisters Visitors Centre at the site of the old abandoned village of Exceat is well worth visiting, and the walk alongside the Cuckmere to Cuckmere Haven and the sea is excellent.

The village of West Dean is wonderful, and is seen best by walking from the car park at the Seven Sisters Visitors Centre .

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