A Tour of Rodmell
Welcome to Rodmell
Our charming and historic small village in the South Downs has been around at least since the time of William the Conqueror.
The name might be derived from “The Mill on the Road”, or from the “Red Mould” that gives a warm colouring to the surrounding farmlands. There certainly was a mill, though now all that remains of its memory is the name of Mill Lane. It appears to have been not far up from where Mill Lane meets the main road.
On this aerial view, the main road runs from top left to bottom right, with Mill Lane and Upper Rodmell going off it towards the top right and the Street and Lower Rodmell towards the bottom left. The Abergavenny Arms is more or less at the junction.
The Main Road
Rodmell’s only through road is locally known as the C7, going from Lewes and Kingston down to the port of Newhaven. From this central point of the village The Street goes downhill to Lower Rodmell to end at the River Ouse, and on the opposite side Mill Lane goes up the hill through the Upper village to where it reaches the South Downs Way.
Rodmell isn’t actually full of old vehicles – this one just happened to be passing! Just about where the old car is, there used to be a pond, and it was probably the arrival of the noisy beasts (and the tarmac roads they brought with them) that saw the pond off.
In front of the imposing Rodmell House is the remains of a small petrol station. The pumps are just scrap metal now, the station having been out of service for many years.
Mr Dean’s Forge
For many years this was a working smithy, a building full of remarkable stories and a link with Rodmell’s history. ‘Young’ Frank Dean, who died recently in his 80s, erected the replacement weather vane on the church that his grandfather had originally raised. The demand for the Forge’s services has fallen off in recent years and the building no longer houses a smithy.
Here’s an older Mr Dean
Mill Lane, otherwise known as Upper Rodmell, is newer and less populated than The Street. Running off it in a crescent is one of our plots of social housing, called The Dicklands. This was the historical name for a large tract of land to the north-west of the village, and it seems that the original mill was situated on the other side of the lane just opposite here. Originally built to provide good accommodation for land workers and local heroes after the second world war, The Dicklands still provide affordable housing for local people.
There’s no formal village green, but the green beside the Dicklands provides a welcome open space that local kids use for a kick-about or frisbee throw.
Back on the main road and opposite the Forge is our local, the Abergavenny Arms. Not only does our pub serve great food and drink to visitors, walkers and passers-by, but it also provides a community focus. For many years the village pantomime took place here – now it’s in the Village Hall.
The Abergavenny Arms was known as ‘The Holly’ and ‘The Bell’ before reverting to its current name, by which it was known before it was ‘The Holly’. One of the inn’s former keepers (James Randall) is referred to in a will dated 1690. Here’s an older view:
The top of The Street
This view towards the main road shows the strange perspective of Rodmell House as it flares out towards the rear. Traditional flint walls like this one line the whole of the bottom half of the village.
Rodmell House is believed to have been built with the expectation of a railway line which never turned up! It’s not the most elegant building: originally it was to be light industrial – flour storage perhaps – but its current role is as flats.
The Village Hall
Rodmell’s Village Hall was opened on 26 March 1960 by Leonard Woolf, replacing the Club Rooms – a military style hut remaining from the 1914-1918 war. The building was funded by public subscription and the charitable deeds state that it is for the use of the inhabitants of Rodmell for meetings, lectures, classes and other leisure time activities.
It might not be the prettiest building, but it is another vital ingredient in keeping Rodmell alive and working for its residents.
The Village Hall has an area for hosting meetings, concerts and pantomimes (even the odd wedding), and a kitchen/servery for serving teas & coffee – all of which can be hired for a very reasonable hourly or daily charge.
The Village School
Its position right in the heart of the village (the entrance to the church is on the left) and the very scale of the architecture make Rodmell’s primary school a very friendly place for children. The main part of the school was built in 1865, with another classroom added in 1910. It was further extended in more recent years, as can just be seen on the right.
Unfortunately the roll has been dropping in recent years and the school is now considered too small to be viable; it is due to close after the summer term in 2018. We don’t yet know what will become of the site, which belongs to the Diocese of Chichester, but at the far end, beyond the Lych Gate of the churchyard, is the playground, which belongs to the Parish Council, so it won’t be closing!
St Peter’s Church
There’s been a church in Rodmell since the Norman conquest, and the present one dates from the 12th century. It’s tiny, but perfectly formed and in the traditional Sussex Downland style, surrounded by a large churchyard in a tranquil situation with splendid views of the Downs behind. The oldest part of the church is supposed to date from before the Norman Conquest.
This was the former home of the famous author Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard. Monk’s House is now owned by The National Trust, and this year the house and gardens are open to visitors on Wednesdays to Sundays, between late March and the end of October, including Bank Holidays.
The house contains many beautiful and interesting artifacts and decorations, including paintings by Vanessa Bell, arising from the couple’s connection with the “Bloomsbury Set” at nearby Charleston Farmhouse.
Part of the Loop
At the bottom end of the village is a looping stretch of road which encompasses what may once have been a village green. On the right are three timber framed buildings which could date as far back as the 16th century. Those in the background are thatched. There are many similarly charming houses down here.