The History of Birling Gap

The History of Birling Gap, 1937


100 Million BC Chalk cliffs begin to form at the bottom of the sea after the remains of dead sea creatures build up, layer upon layer to form the dense yet fragile chalk cliffs
10,000 BC The English Channel began to form by meltwater from the North Sea after the ice caps melt after the last ice age carving out a channel between England and France
4000 BC Neolithic people lived in a settlement at Belle Tout
43AD Romans invaded and settled
489 The ‘Beorls’ invaded and settled outside Eastbourne
1807 Birling Gap acquired by Charles Gilbert
1817 Birling Gap passed i
1828 A trial lighthouse was built at Belle Tout which proved very effective
1832 Construction began on a permanent lighthouse at Belle Tout
1834 The Belle Tout Lighthouse becomes operational
1878 Eight cottages are built at Birling Gap for the Coastguard
1895 The National Trust is founded to help preserve and protect our special places
1898 Trinity House work on the plans for a new lighthouse at Beachy Head
1902 The Beachy Head Lighthouse becomes operational and Belle Tout is decommissioned
1914 The start of World War One, many local people go to fight in the trenches
1918 The end of World War One – the war to end all wars due to the horrendous loss of life
1939 The start of World War Two – many homes are evacuated, people moved away and troops move in,
including the coastguard cottages and hotel at Birling Gap
1940 The Battle of Britain was fought overhead Birling Gap
1942 Day and Night ‘hit and run’ raids by the Luftwaffe
1943 The Luftwaffe switched to night bombing tactics
1944 The first V1 flying bomb flew over Birling Gap on its way towards London
1945 The allies victory over the axis forces to bring an end to World War Two
1951 The cottages move into private ownership and are called ‘Crangon Cottages’
1973 The first cottage is demolished due to its proximity to the eroding cliff edge
1982 The National Trust purchase Birling Gap and some downland
1983 Graham Collins, owner of the Birling Gap Hotel, saves a life and receives recognition for his actions
1984 The Birling Gap Safety Boat organisation is founded by Graham Collins to help save further lives at sea
1991 The coastguard tower on the hill is demolished
1994 January, the steps are repositioned, completed and reopened in July
1994 March, the second cottage is demolished
1999 The Belle Tout Lighthouse is moved 15 metres back from the eroding cliff edge
2002 In March another cottage is demolished
2010 The National Trust take over the management of the Birling Gap Hotel and begin the renovation and refurbishment to provide a cafe, shop and visitor centre
2010 The Belle Tout Lighthouse opens as a unique bed and breakfast offering an unforgettable stay with 360 degree views of Beachy Head, Birling Gap, The Seven Sisters and downland
2013 The Beachy Head Lighthouse receives its new stripes after money was raised to help cover the cost of re-painting
2014 Another cottage is demolished
2014 The Birling Gap Safety Boat boathouse is demolished due to erosion
2016 The Birling Gap Safety Boat organisation is wound-up
2017 In October, the National Trust begin the process of relocating the steps
2017 In December, Rob Wassell publishes The Story of Birling Gap, the first book of its kind specifically about Birling Gap
2018 In January, the steps are finally complete and beach access is restored
2023 In January, The National Trust have moved the café to the back of the build due to the original cafe being too close to the edge of the eroding cliff edge.
Additional information The Argus and  Sussex Express
2023 In September, plans are in place to demolish the original café at the front of the building and the west wing of the building.