Posted by Admin on August 3, 2007

Rustington is a seaside resort and civil parish near Littlehampton in Sussex. For local government purposes, it forms part of the Arun district and the administrative county of West Sussex. Officially a village with its own parish council, Rustington is larger than its status implies. The village is located on the A259 which runs to the north of the village providing transport to other towns such as Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and Chichester, and east to the towns of Worthing and Brighton. It has expanded considerably in the last few years, due to extensive new housing developments, which have altered its original character. With a population of 12,676 in 2001, it has the size and facilities of a small town, including a shopping area containing a number of chain stores. It comes under the Worthing West constituency and its current MP is Peter Bottomley. It is served by Angmering railway station. The parish of Rustington includes the hamlet of West Preston. Rustington may have been founded by a man called Rusta.
Archaeological diggings suggest that Rustington was the site of several ancient settlements of the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages and of the Roman occupation. The Domesday Book in 1086 refers to NONNEMINSTER, which is known to have comprised of the villages of RUSTINGTON, WEST PRESTON and POLING. The origin of the name Rustington is a Saxon family name, RUSTA, which has undergone several changes, appearing as RUSTINCTON in 1185 and later evolved through ROSINTONE, RUSSYTON and RUSTYTONE, eventually becoming RUSTINGTON. old rustington church Its growth as a village was quite slow, the population numbering a mere 103 in 1676 and only 261 a hundred years later. The flat fertile soils of the coastal belt destined Rustington to become a farming area and with its suitable clays for brickmaking and the need to build more houses for farm labourers, the village started to expand. Nurseries specialising in vegetable and flower production became established and the reputation of Rustington as a "delightful area of meadows and cornfields between the downs and the sea" began to attract development of expensive residential properties to add to the number of famous manor houses already in existence. Life in this attractive old fashioned village continued gently as ever until, as everywhere else, it became affected by the first world war. Our local historians, Mary & Bev Taylor, have produced several books on Rustington. Mrs. Taylor's Pictorial History of Rustington is recommended as a beautifully illustrated book for those interested in a detailed background of the village.

Rustington contains a conservation area which extends from the south end of North Lane to the Lamb Public House in The Street. This area contains many Grade 2 Listed buildings, and planning permission must be sought before any work can be done on the trees in this area. The conservation area has the largest number of historic buildings in the area, with The Street and surrounding roads containing some of the finest C17th & C18th Sussex flint cottages in West Sussex, many of which are thatched. Rustington is still a village because people voted it to be a village.
Rustington was home to an American World War I air base, which is no longer in existence. This was situated to the east of the high street.
Air speed records
Two world air speed records were set on the date 7th September over Rustington sea front.
  • Record 1 - set on 7th September 1946, by Group Captain Teddy Donaldson, flying a Gloster Meteor Star. Donaldson also became the first man to break the 1,000 km/h barrier.
  • Record 2 - set on 7th September 1953, by Squadron Leader Neville Duke, flying Hawker Hunter WB188, at a speed of 1170.9 km/h.

To celebrate, on 7th September 1996, Neville Duke returned to Rustington to unveil a plaque, marking the event. He was joined by a Gloster Meteor and a Hawker Hunter, which flew over Rustington sea front.

neville duke

Old Rustington

We are very grateful for the loan of these pictures firstly to Cyril Gallagher, who was actually born in 1919 at the Millfield Convalescent Home (His father was the Engineer and his mother the Gate Porteress at the Home). Cyril grew up at the Home and himself became Caretaker in 1941 after his discharge from the army. He remained in this post until 1950, during this period the Home was taken over by the Army. Secondly, we are also grateful to Miss Joan Last O.B.E who provided 2 photographs: her father, Dr. Last (1880-1974) of Littlehampton was the doctor in charge at the Home.

Rustington's First Tea Shop


Reputedly Rustington's first tea shop (1901 - 1913), this little shack stood almost opposite the entrance to the Millfield Convalescent Home. It was run by the daughters of Mr. & Mrs William Gates (seated). From its signboard it appeared to be called 'The Rustic Tearoom' and apart from a display of post cards it advertised 2 well known brands of Chocolates of that time (Fry's and Gray's) and a Bathing Machine for Hire! It was a popular tuck shop for several years for children and staff from the Home on the other side of the road.

Sea Lane 1940

sea lane

Sea Lane in the 1940's, taken from approximately next to Corbett's Garage. A little further up the road on the left the footbridge over the ditch (see photo below) was the entrance to the Smugglers' Tea Rooms and over the top of the trees can be seen the chimneys of the entrance lodge to the Millfield Home. The Elkington family who had bought the Gate Lodge had the chimneys removed in the mid 1950s.

The Smugglers Tea Room

smuggers inn The Smugglers Tea Room had apparently taken most of the trade enjoyed by the William Gate's 'Rustic Tea Room' over the other side of the road which consequently closed in 1913, (the year the Seafield Mill was pulled down following severe damage by a ferocious storm in the previous autumn). The signboard of the Smugglers Tea Room advertises "Confectionary, Minerals, Cigarettes and T obacco" and allegedly enjoyed a reputation of being an 'up-market' cafe before and during World War II. After the war the tea room was purchased by the breweries and enlarged to become the Smugglers Roost Public House. It flourished for many years but new laws on drink-driving and later, restrictions on smoking, led to a down-turn in pub trade. A fire in 2003 caused a lengthy shut-down and soon after it was reopened it was sold to Chinese Restauranteurs, and re-named the Dragon.

The Gate Lodge to the Millfield Convalescent Home


The Gate Lodge as it was during the earlier days of the Home. It was the entrance to the Home and both gates were kept locked and access and departure was registered by the Gate Porteress, Mrs Gallagher. Cyril Gallagher relates the amusing story that Nurses had to 'clock in' by 10.0pm every evening but it was quite common for them to return to their nocturnal activities by exiting through the back door and climbing back over the gates! All went reasonably well for the nurses until the Directors of the Home ordered the gates to be repainted (black), and as paint in those days took much longer to dry ......!

Dr. Last on his rounds, circa 1920

dr last

Dr. Last (1880 - 1974) was the surgeon and later, radiologist at Littlehampton Hospital as well as doctor to the children at the Millfield Convalescent Home which he visited most days. He had a surgery near Vincent's Store in Rustington at the corner of Church Road and the Street. He also had a great love for music, played the violin and started a local orchestra. His daughter Jane, became an internationally famous concert pianist and senior pianoforte examiner. Dr Last's second marriage was to Miss Hiscock, headmistress of the school at the Convalescent Home. Above is a picture of Dr. Last 'on his rounds' against the background of Nightingale Nursing Home at the corner of Beach and Maltravers Road.

Dr Last's Model T Ford

Model T

Dr Last also had a new Model T Ford car at the outbreak of World War I. Daughter Joan is shown here, no doubt looking forward to her first drive!

Read about Sea Field Windmill