Some people claim that Saltdean has no heart, but then they may not have seen the carpets of narcissi that greet everyone on arrival, or visited White Cliffs Cafe overlooking the beach. Here the cheerful proprietor seems to know all his customers personally. They serve wonderful tapas as well as more traditional fare.
On Sundays it is often full to bursting with families, some eating substantial breakfasts, while others are content with a coffee and warm croissant. Yes, this place is a real joy, looking out as it does on to the beach and the sea.
This cafe is on the site of the original tea rooms which were opened in 1925 selling food and postcards. They were demolished in the 1930’s as part of the undercliff walk development. They re-opened in 1937 as the New Smugglers Haunt – later to become known as White Cliffs Cafe, the nearest thing that Saltdean had to a community centre, holding dances etc.
If all this is not a sign of a place with a heart pop up to the top of Saltdean (which borders on the South Downs National Park) for views of both sea and spectacular sunsets over Roedean and Rottingdean.
The first real historical reference of Saltdean was in 1587, in a map now in the British Museum, that was prepared regarding defences against the Spanish Armada for Elizabeth I (pics and other interesting facts – www.saltdean.info/smugglers.htm)
The on-line story of its development is detailed and plentiful. One 1959 sales leaflet stated ‘The houses are all ultra modern in their design.. Italian, Spanish, Cubist mixed with beautiful bungalows’. Admittedly some of Rottingdean has the traditional village architecture with an olde worlde feel and famous writers and artists gravitated there. But part of Saltdean is also within Rottingdean’s boundaries.
This watercolour of 1827 entitled ‘Shipwreck at Rottingdean’ is thought to be the earliest example of a picture of Saltdean Cliffs.
Saltdean today has a sense of purpose behind it’s sprawling facade. It attracts academics, artists, musicians, writers and poets as well as ordinary young families who live alongside the retired and elderly. It has a library, churches, a park, family run shops, cafes, pubs and is less insular than other areas.
Admittedly the squabbling about the future of the neglected Lido and the redevelopment of the landmark hotel has robbed the residents of two of its assets, but Saltdean certainly does have a heart. Pop along to the White Cliffs Cafe, check out the menu, use it as a wedding venue, listen to salsa music, dance, party or just sit in the sun on the terrace and you may just hear Saltdean’s heart beating.