Woodingdean Community Association

The Woodingdean Community Association and the history of the Village, (with thanks to Wikipedia).

Woodingdean is a lovely place to live. Set in an area of fabulous landscapes of the South Downs National Park to the North and the dramatic coastline of chalk cliffs to the South. It’s close to the sea and also close enough to Brighton to be near it for the amenities, but also separate with its own identity. There is a regular bus service to Brighton.

At the heart of the Village is the Community Association, which is the hub for all the groups and clubs who operate in the Village. The Community Association also runs the Community Centre, where meetings, classes, groups and educational needs for all are catered for. The Association was formed on the 11th June 1947 and created to work alongside the Ratepayers and Residents Association, as Brighton Town Hall thought Woodingdean was a bit of an irrelevance. This year the Association marks its 75th Birthday.

The history, historical documents and pictures of the village have been meticulously kept by a resident called Peter Mercer, who was born in Farm Hill in 1939. He has written several books on the village and surrounding areas, and in 2000 wrote for the Association a book called ‘Reflections and the Millennium’. It documents the history of the village over the last one hundred years. Copies are available at the Community Centre at a cost of £5.00 each. It is a wealth of information and pictures. Residents will smile to see on the front cover, a pre-war number 2 bus running along the Falmer Road from Woodingdean to Brighton, via The Race Hill. It held just eight people.

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In May 1962 the Community Centre was built and has been in constant use ever since.

So, in 2022 will be a busy year. We have the 75th Anniversary of the Association, the 60th Anniversary of the Community Centre and our Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

To mark these celebrations, we are having a garden party at the Community Centre. There will be stalls, a raffle, a tombola and refreshments. There will also be a history table showing the Association’s past.

Below is some historical and geographical content to help readers understand this outstanding Village, its geography and history.

  • Woodingdean is an eastern suburb of the city of Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, separated from the main part of the city by downland and the Brighton Racecourse. The name Woodingdean came from Woodendean Farm (eg. wooded valley) which was situated in the south end of what is now Ovingdean.[2]
    The earliest buildings in Woodingdean, apart from scattered farm buildings, were those of the former workhouse school in Warren Road, now the site of the Nuffield Hospital. The grounds contain the capped site of what is claimed to be the deepest hand-dug well in the world, the Woodingdean Water Well, which was created to provide water for the workhouse. It was excavated between 1858 and 1862 and has a depth of 1,285 feet (392 m).
  • Woodingdean in its present form began to grow up after the First World War in the northern part of the parish of Rottingdean. It consisted of plots of land on the South Downs which had formerly been used for sheep-farming. These were sold by developers (often but not exclusively to returning soldiers) and most were originally smallholdings, e.g. poultry farms.
  • The development of the present residential area mirrors that of neighbouring Ovingdean. From the 1920s building plots were sold off and first-generation shacks and houses began to appear. The area was once locally notorious, like nearby Peacehaven, for the shacks that were put up on these plots, whose architectural styles ranged from Wooden Huts to Railway Carriage Bodies. Life in these plotlands was satirized in a stage play by H. F. Maltby called What Might Happen (1927). In 1928, both Woodingdean and Ovingdean became part of Brighton County Borough, a move which heralded a substantial increase in residential development.
    The area was extensively developed during the 1950s and 1960s when most of the roads in the north-eastern and southern ends of the village were built, including North Woodingdean and South Woodingdean Council estates, which give Woodingdean its distinctive layout - a kidney shaped suburb with private estates in the middle, and a layer of council housing round the edge backing on to the open Downs. There was also a small industrial estate at the north-western end, just off Falmer Road next to the North Woodingdean Estate. The main buildings were the Jaycee Furniture factory and the Sunblest Bakery, closed in the 1990s and demolished in 2002.
  • The most notable thing about Woodingdean is its incredible views to the south over the Downs to the English Channel and the number of pleasant walks there are to do in the area. To the west it is a short walk to Brighton, to the northwest there are downland paths to Bevendean and to north there are walks from Upper Bevendean Farm to Falmer Hill. To the east of the Falmer Road there are walks to Newmarket Hill and into the historic Falmer parish as well as east towards Kingston near Lewes through Newmarket Bottom and the remarkable Castle Hill Local nature reserve.
  • To the south of Warren Road, past Nuffield Hospital is Wick Bottom. The valley is a peaceful valley which takes its name from the medieval farm on the Falmer Road, now long-gone. The name ‘wick’ may denote a far more ancient, perhaps Roman, farmstead. In modern times it has been a place of arable stubbles, but there be a good array of chalk loving plants such as henbit deadnettle, field madder, round-leaved fluellen and common fumitory. In winter short-eared owls often reside in the area.
  • To the east of the valley rises to Mount Pleasant. Running up the is a small triangle of rich chalk grassland. It’s rough and derelict, but special wildlife clings on and there are big swarms of Pride of Sussex rampion, dropwort, horseshoe vetch and hairy violet. Stonechat frequent its thorn and bramble.
    To the west of the Falmer Road is Happy Valley, a bushy, cattle-grazed slope with old Down pasture herbs, bits of gorse and thorn. The area includes a recreation park and is used for local football at weekends.
  • To the east of Woodingdean is the Bostle barrow field, a ‘precious fragment’ of antiquity surrounded by agricultural fields. The field has a cluster of at least twenty-seven small low grassy mounds, which are probably Saxon, and three larger, probably Bronze Age barrows on the top of the hill just south of the bridleway fence line. The Bostle valley slope is an ancient Downland pasture slope with the softest sheep’s fescue turf, just south of the barrow field. To the northeast is Bullock Hill with bostal tracks through Standean Bottom to old Balsdean.

There is so much to do and see in Woodingdean.