East Dean is a small village about five miles from Eastbourne in East Sussex, situated in a steep valley, well hidden in the South Downs. Please note, it is quite often confused with another village of the same name in West Sussex, near Goodwood and Chichester. It is a very attractive village, surrounded by pretty farmland, close to the coast at Birling Gap.
The name means “the East Valley” and is listed as “Esdene” in the Domesday Book in 1086. The Manor of Birling has existed since Saxon times. The coastline is hazardous for sailors and many ships have been driven onto the rocks. “Wreckers” took advantage of this by placing false lights on the cliffs to lure ships onto the rocks. A local smuggler, James Dippery, who lived in East Dean, gained a fortune from smuggling in the early 1800s. He was arrested, but turned “King’s evidence” on his fellow smugglers in return for his freedom. They were deported to Australia, but he retired, it is said, a rich man.
At Birling Gap, where there is parking, the National Trust provide hot and cold refreshment facilities. There is access to the beach, down a metal staircase.
East Dean has an attractive village green, with the very popular Tiger Inn on one side and the Thai Terre Restaurant across the green, with rows of small cottages and views to the surrounding farmland. The village green is used for various village social and fund raising functions. In August 2011, a Music Day was held on the green. The flint church of St. Simon and St. Jude, is a Grade I listed building. The earliest part is the Saxon Tower, dating from the 10th century.