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The Cliffs of Sussex and Erosion

(450AD - 2009AD )


The Sussex cliffs include the sandstone outcrops near to Hastings and the Chalk Cliffs that go from Eastbourne past Brighton, including Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters .

Background
The reason for this article is that I was interested in the coastline of Roman Britain and when Aelle the Saxon landed in Sussex in 477AD.

Geology of the Region
The cliffs from Brighton to Beachy Head are made up of Sussex White Chalk which is mostly chalk with very few large fossils. From Beachy Head to Eastbourne the cliffs are mostly made up of Lower Chalk formations, these contain more clay and fossils than the purer Sussex White Chalk. The Pevensey Marshes then separate these Chalk Cliffs from the Sandstone and clay cliffs from Hastings through Fairlight to Pett .

The cliffs from Brighton to Newhaven contain the highest human population density and most of the modern sea defenses can be found here against these cliffs.

Chalk Cliffs at Seaford The cliffs at Seaford are being eroded at a slower rate than those at the Birling Gap at about 0.3 metres per year. The Romans had a large settlement on top of this part of the Downs, probably with their main port at the Cuckmere valley near Exceat . However at the time this headland could still have been a further 500 metres out in the English Channel.
Chalk Cliffs at Seaford

From the Ouse past Seaford to the Cuckmere valley the cliffs are not really visible as the coastline curves out into the sea. This area is eroding quite quickly up to 0.6 metres per year . The Cuckmere valley was probably even more sheltered in Roman and Saxon times due to the Seaford headland and the Seven Sisters being further out to sea . The Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters facing East
Chalk Cliffs at Birling Gap The Seven Sisters are actually the valleys along the Chalk Cliffs from the Cuckmere Valley towards Beachy Head . The erosion at this point is quite rapid at about 0.6 metres per year so the headland would have been much further out to sea. At the Birling Gap on the hill toward the Belle Tout lighthouse is the remains of an ancient defensive works, of which more than half has been washed away.
Chalk Cliffs at Birling Gap

Birling Gap to Beachy Head is a foreland so is only really visible from the sea, the land is still eroding at the 0.6 metres per year rate. The Belle Tout lighthouse has been moved back 50 metres from the cliff edge in 1999, and is now in need of movement further inland. The Downs at the Belle Tout lighthouse
The Downs at the Belle Tout lighthouse
Beachy Head Lighthouse and the tallest chalk cliffs in Britain Beachy Head is the headland between the Seven Sisters and Eastbourne , here the cliffs stand nearly vertically 162 metres above Sea Level making them the tallest Chalk Cliffs in Britain. The views across this area on a sunny summers afternoon are absolutely stunning.

The erosion here is probably about 0.5 metres per year so is still quite fast in geological terms.
Beachy Head and the Lighthouse

The Hastings cliffs start in the Old Town, where a number of smugglers caves are open to the public, the Sandstone Cliffs are visible from the beach, but curve around towards Fairlight so again are not really visible until they get to Pett Level .

This area is not eroding as quickly as the Fairlight to Pett Level area which has bands of clay that erode quickly.
Sandstone cliffs at Hastings Old Town
Sandstone Cliffs at Hastings Old Town
Cliffs End at Pett Level The land between Fairlight and Pett Level is made up of bands of clay and sandstone so the erosion can be very quick if the bands of clay are at sea level. The cliffs along this area are not a steep as the Chalk Cliffs to the west, but still stand quite high.

The erosion here is probably about 0.5 metres per year so is still quite fast in geological terms.
Cliffs End at Pett Level

Erosion
It is believed that the cliffs along this stretch of coastline have been eroding fairly constantly over time, with the following observations made for the different areas based on the differences between the Ordnance Survey maps from 1873 to the present day.
Paecehaven appears to have been eroding at about 0.3 metres per year Birling Gap appears to have been eroding at about 0.6 metres per year Ecclesbourne Glen 0.3 metres per year Fairlight Cove 0.6 metres per year

Extrapolating the above would mean that the cliffs at Fairlight could have been a further 550 metres out in 1066 and in Saxon times about 800 metres towards France. The Chalk Cliffs at the Seven Sisters would have been the same at 550 metres further in 1066 and 800 metres in Saxon times.

References
Cliff Erosion in East Sussex (Jordan Cleeve & Rendel Williams)

Links
Photographs of Cuckmere Haven - Kieran Simkin

Villages Referenced

Aldington  -   (The Aldington Gang)
Alfriston  -   (Smuggling and Ghosts)
ansty  -  
Arlington  -   (Peaceful Saxon Village)
Ashurst  -   (Miraculous Carving)
Barcombe  -   (Village in three places)
Beddingham  -   (At the base of Mount Caburn)
Berwick  -   (Sharpen your arrows on the Church)
Bidborough  -  
Bilsington  -   (The Priory and Obelisk)
Bishopstone  -   (Largest Tide-Mill in Sussex)
Blackham  -   (Roughs and Prize Fighters)
bolney  -  
Bonnington  -   (Saint Rumwold the child saint)
Borough Green  -  
Brasted  -   (Doctor to King George III)
Broomhill  -   (Swept away by the Storm)
burgesshill  -  
Buxted  -   (The first Iron Cannon in England)
Camber  -   (Sands and Holidays)
Chailey  -   (The Heritage and Bricks)
Chalvington  -   (The miniature church)
Chelwood Gate  -   The Forest entrance and President Kennedy
Chiddingly  -   (Walking on Cheese ??)
Chiddingstone  -   (A perfect Tudor village)
Chiddingstone Causeway  -   (Penshurst Station ??)
Chiltington  -  
Clayton  -   (Jack and Jill Windmills)
Colemans Hatch  -   (Church on the edge of the forest)
Cooksbridge  -   (Simon de Montforts cook)
Crockham Hill  -  
Cross in Hand  -   (The Crusaders Assembly)
Crowborough  -   (The home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
cuckfield  -  
Danehill  -   (Stopping point between London and Lewes)
Denton  -   (Earl Godwins Manor)
Dungeness  -   (Fishermen and Lighthouses)
Dymchurch  -   (The Romans and the sea wall)
East Blatchington  -   (Mutiny and the Edge of Space)
East Chiltington  -  
East Dean  -   (Fishing and Wrecking)
East Guldeford  -   (Barn-like Church)
East Hoathly  -   (Another Sussex Cannibal?)
Eridge Green  -   (The home of the Neville Family)
Exceat  -   (Alfred the Great's Naval Base?)
Fairfield  -   (The Isolated Church)
Fairlight  -   (Firehills and Views)
Fairwarp  -   (Charcoal and the Army)
Firle  -   (Home of the Greengage)
Fletching  -   (Simon de Montfort and Jack Cade)
Folkington  -   (Teasles and Badgers)
Fordcombe  -   (Paper Mill and the Field Marshal)
Forest Row  -   (The Kings hunting party)
Four Elms  -  
Framfield  -   (380 years without a church tower)
Friston  -   (Home of the Railway Children)
Glynde  -   (Home of English Opera)
Greatstone  -   (Parabolic Sound Detectors and PLUTO)
Groombridge  -   (Home of the Groombridge Gang)
Hadlow Down  -   (Wealden cannons and Charcoal)
Hailsham  -   (Ropes and Napoleon)
Halland  -   (Ancient Slaughter)
Hamsey  -   (Abandoned Saxon Island)
Hamstreet and Orlestone  -   (The Start of the Ordnance Survey)
Hartfield  -   (A.A.Milne and Winnie-the-Pooh)
Hassocks  -  
hastings Bulverhythe  -   (Landing place of the citizens)
Hastings East Cliff  -   (Beautiful Views and peaceful Walks)
Hastings West Hill  -   (Ancient Norman Castle)
haywardsheath  -  
Hever  -   (Anne Boleyn and the Castle)
hickstead  -  
High Hurstwood  -  
Hurstpierpoint  -  
Ide Hill  -  
Iford  -  
Ightham  -  
Isfield  -   (Simon de Montfort and the Lavender Line)
Ivychurch  -   (The burial ground on the Island)
Jevington  -   (Smugglers and Churchill Tanks)
Keymer  -  
Kingston  -  
Langton Green  -   (Modern village and Old Quarry)
Laughton  -   (Knight captures King of France)
Leigh  -  
Litlington  -   (Secret marriage of George IV)
Little Horsted  -  
Littlestone  -   (The Genteel Resort)
Lullington  -   (destroyed by Cromwell ??)
Lydd  -   (The Cathedral of the Marsh)
Lydd on Sea  -   (Bungalows and Fishermen)
Lympne  -   (From Roman Castle to Tigers)
Maresfield  -   (Soldiers and Iron)
Markbeech  -  
Mersham  -   (Founder of Ashford Grammar School)
Newchurch  -   (The Church Tower with a kink)
Newhaven  -  
Newick  -   (Killer Cricket and Dirk Bogarde)
New Romney  -   (Cinque Port and Storm)
Normans Bay  -   (Last Invasion in 1066)
Offham  -   ( Chalk Pit and the Battle of Lewes )
Old Romney  -   (Sheep and Wool Smuggling)
Peacehaven  -  
Penshurst  -  
Pett  -   (End of the Royal Military Canal)
Pevensey Bay  -   (Fishing and Martello Towers)
Piddinghoe  -  
Piltdown  -   (The Piltdown Man hoax)
Platt  -  
Plaxtol  -  
Plumpton  -  
Pyecombe  -  
Reading Street & Ebony  -   (Priory and Shipbuilding)
Ringmer  -   (Poor Roads and riots)
Ripe  -   (Earl Harolds estate)
Rodmell  -  
Rotherfield  -   (Source of the rivers Rother and Uck)
Rottingdean  -  
Ruckinge  -   (Smuggling and Traction Engines)
Rye Harbour  -   (Nature Reserve and unspoilt beaches)
Saltdean  -  
scayneshill  -  
Seaford  -   (The cormorants or shags)
Seal  -  
Sellindge  -   (Oliver Cromwells Horse)
Selmeston  -   (Tomb to store the Contraband)
Sevenoaks Weald  -   (Lower the tower by twenty feet)
Sevington  -   (Saxons and Dual Carriageway)
Sheffield Park  -   (Capability Brown and the Bluebell Line)
Shipbourne  -  
Sissinghurst  -   (The magnificent garden of Vita Sackville-West)
Southease  -  
South Heighton  -  
Speldhurst  -   (Nobleman captured at Agincourt)
Spithurst  -  
St Mary in the Marsh  -   (Ancient Celts)
St Marys Bay  -   (Holidays and Beaches)
streat  -  
Sundridge  -   (Last Peer of England to be hanged)
Tarring Neville  -   (The Chest from the Spanish Armarda)
Telscombe  -  
telscombecliffs  -  
Toys Hill  -  
Uckfield  -   (Traction Engine destroys bridge)
Upper & Lower Dicker  -   (Michelham Priory)
Vines Cross  -   (Cannons and Doodlebugs)
Waldron  -   (Fullers Earth)
West Dean  -   (Alfred the Great's Palace)
Westerham  -   (James Wolfe captures Quebec)
West Farleigh  -  
West Malling  -  
Westmeston  -  
West Peckham  -  
Wilmington  -   (The Long Man)
Winchelsea Beach  -   (Holidaymakers and Henry VIIIs Fort)
Withyham  -   (De La Warrs and Sackvilles)
wivelsfield  -  
Woodingdean  -  
Wrotham Heath  -  

 
       
 
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