East Dean and Friston

Seven Sisters from Birling Gap
East Dean and Friston
East Dean and Friston
Location within East Sussex
Area3.3 sq mi (8.5 km2[1]
Population1,675 (2011)[2]
• Density475/sq mi (183/km2)
OS grid referenceTV552983
• London53 miles (85 km) NNW
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBN20
Dialling code01323
FireEast Sussex
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
UK Parliament
List of places
East Sussex
50°46′N 0°12′E / 50.76°N 0.20°E / 50.76; 0.20Coordinates: 50°46′N 0°12′E / 50.76°N 0.20°E / 50.76; 0.20

East Dean and Friston is a civil parish in the Wealden District of East Sussex, England.The two villages in the parish are in a dry valley on the South Downs – between Eastbourne three miles (4.8 km) to the east and Seaford an equal distance to the west. The main A259 road goes through both village centres. The coast and much of the land between it and the A259 from the east edge of Seaford to the west edge of Eastbourne is owned by the National Trust, and this has prevented further development to the area.

Steps to Birling Gap beach (2018)
Steps to Birling Gap beach (2018)


Eastdean and Friston is part of the electoral ward called East Dean. This ward had a population at the 2011 Census of 2,258.[3]

The villages

East Dean lies in the valley bottom: Friston is at the top of the hill to the west. Within both villages are a large number of buildings of historic interest.[4]

The church in East Dean, dedicated to St Simon and St Jude, has a Saxon tower and an unusual Tapsel gate (preventing cattle from entering the churchyard); that at Friston is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin.[5] The churches have formed a united benefice since 1688. The latter contains Tudor monuments to the local family Selwyn and the grave of the composer Frank Bridge (1879–1941)

John Eric Bartholomew OBE, stage name Eric Morecambe, of Morecambe & Wise fame, can trace his descent from John Bartholomew c.1791–1854. John was a resident of Crowlink, Parish of Friston in the Census of 1841 and was living in the Parish of East Dean in the 1851 Census.[6]

John's son Henry Bartholomew 1829–1908 moved to Overton, Lancashire, near Morecambe in the late 1840s and later into Morecambe itself. Henry's third child John Bartholomew 1860–1934 was the father of George Bartholomew 1898–1976, Eric's father.

Birling Gap

Birling Gap (2001)
Birling Gap (2001)

Birling Gap is a coastal hamlet within the parish. It is situated on the Seven Sisters not far from Beachy Head and is owned by the National Trust. Coastal erosion has already removed some of the row of coastguard cottages built in 1878, but those that remain are still inhabited.[7] There is a cafe, shop and visitor centre run by National Trust, and a metal staircase leading down to the enclosed pebble beach and the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs. In time, the houses are likely to be demolished due to the severe coastal erosion; the Government has concluded that the commercial value of the houses does not justify the construction of sea defences. If walkers are cut off at high tide, they can climb the ladder, which is replaced often, to Birling Gap.

The beach, which was awarded the Blue flag rural beach award in 2005, is advertised by Naturist UK.[8] It has a large number of rockpools.

Noted artist Jean Cooke lived in two cottages at Birling Gap. She painted seascapes there and died in 2008 while looking at the sea.[9][10]

In August 2017 hundreds of people suffered ill-effects after a suspected chemical poisoning incident.[11]


The main rock type at Birling Gap is chalk. Other rock types outcropping here include flint, loess and soil. The coastline is part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest Seaford to Beachy Head, which falls within the parish. The site is of biological and geological interest.[12]

There is also extensive evidence and visible earthworks here for an Iron Age hillfort on the site – although nearly half of it has already been lost to the sea. Information boards at the site show how it would have originally looked; however, even more will be lost due to the geological nature of these chalk cliffs.

A panoramic view of East Dean and Friston, viewed from the South Downs Way near Birling Gap

See also


  1. ^ "East Sussex in Figures". East Sussex County Council. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  2. ^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  3. ^ "East Dean ward population 2011". Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Buildings of local importance".[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "The United churches". Archived from the original on 21 September 2007.
  6. ^ Census 1841 Parish of Friston, Census 1851 Parish of East Dean
  7. ^ "BBC News – SCI/TECH – Crumbling cliffs highlight coastal crisis". news.bbc.co.uk.
  8. ^ "Birling Gap – Eastbourne – East Sussex". Nuff. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
  9. ^ "Jean Cooke: Painter of wit and subtlety". The Independent. independent.co.uk. 11 August 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  10. ^ Vann, Philip (28 August 2008). "Jean Cooke, obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  11. ^ Farmer, Ben (28 August 2017). "Beachy Head chemical haze mystery deepens as police say gas not from France". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Natural England – SSSI". English Nature. Retrieved 5 October 2008.