Saltdean deck chairs : Folding back the years

02 reo chairs 600 brighter and trimmed and logo sz

This is Saltdean in its urban infancy before the now familiar Saltdean Lido, Whitecliffs Cafe and the Undercliff Walk. The famous (but long gone) ‘Saltdean Pillars’ face majestically out to sea, the original wooden Smugglers Haunt Cafe (pictured on the cliff edge) is open for business, the Coast Guard Cottages line the now developing main road and the REO Deck Chairs company hut sits proudly above it all.

 A penny an hour! That was the price if your great-great-granny wished to hire an REO deck chair on the Saltdean cliff top in the 1920s.04 Reo chairs cut 1200 cut4

From the late 1920s up until the mid 1930s REO probably held the seat of power over this end of Saltdean, supplying the bottoms of Saltdeanians with a place to park and enjoy the charms of the English Channel. Mr Reo the proprietor must have indeed been sitting pretty until the Whitecliffs Cafe (originally named The Smugglers Haunt Cafe 2) came along in the late 1930s and started up a rival and ultimately more popular deck chair service.

Due to the Whitecliffs Cafe’s location near the beach; their astute if not downright cheeky use of the new Saltdean Tunnel (directly underneath the Whitecliffs Cafe) for storage of chairs, and their addition of an exotic soda pop machine the REO deck chairs business must have been pushed to the edge. Inevitably with this new competition REO’s interest in the Saltdean deck chair hire market soon folded.

Property of W & G Kerr: An original 1930s deck chair from the Whitecliffs Cafe (Smugglers Haunt 2 Cafe)

.deck chair Kerr c copy

Currently there are no deck chair vendors in operation along the Saltdean promenade. There is however good seating outside the Whitecliffs Cafe. There are donated benches on the seafront walkway. Often though beach goers bring their own blankets and fold-up chairs to enjoy the delights of  ‘Saltdean on Sea…’ .

John the deck chair attendant.

John sz tunnel deckchairs copy

John worked for The Whitecliffs Cafe in the 1930s and 1940s. We believe the large boxes pictured here in the Undercliff tunnel contain some chairs (note the rather dowdy inflatable dinghy!)

Thank you to Geoffrey & William Kerr (grandson and son of the original owner of the Whitecliffs Cafe) for their memories and pictures.

‘Brighton Double Deckers’  by Helen Robinson

Helen Robinson sz deckchairs c




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2 thoughts on “Saltdean deck chairs : Folding back the years

  • July 13, 2015 at 6:30 am

    I’d like to know exactly where these Romanesque pillars were & if there are any remains of them left at all? Were they to the west of Whitecliffs Cafe?

    • July 14, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      Hello Jax

      The Pillars stood near enough bang on where The Whitecliffs Cafe is today. Nothing left that I know of, but you never know what might turn up! 🙂


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