The Cliffs of Sussex and Erosion
The Cliffs of Sussex and Erosion
450-2009AD
Details
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 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
The Seven Sisters facing East
"Chalk 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
The Downs at the Belle Tout lighthouse
"Beachy Head Lighthouse 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
Sandstone Cliffs at Hastings Old Town
"Cliffs 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 Mentioned
Newhaven
Hastings Old Town (The ancient Cinque Port)
Pevensey (Ancient Roman Fortification)
Fairlight (Firehills and Views)
Pett (End of the Royal Military Canal)
Exceat (Alfred the Great's Naval Base?)
Seaford (The cormorants or shags)
Copyright Villagenet 1998-2017
 
Local Businesses
Battle Brewery
Richard Vobes
Tenderheart
Ella Clarke