The Whitecliffs Cafe – Where Saltdean can dance by the sea


In the 1930s Geoffrey was a young boy, living in Saltdean and spending his spare time around the Whitecliffs Cafe. His father, William, ran the original Smugglers Haunt cafe on Saltdean seafront. You can see the Smugglers Haunt cafe behind Geoffrey in this photo as well as the start of the work to develop the Undercliff Walk. During this development the new cafe, now called the Whitecliffs cafe, was built and Geoffrey and his family were the first to run it.


Geoffrey has some wonderful stories about his time there and he was kind enough to let us film him. Here Geoffrey talks about his memories of the dances that they held at the cafe when he was a boy.

Below (right) you can see members of Geoffrey’s family sitting in the Whitecliffs Cafe. In the left hand picture the smartly dressed gentleman in middle is Geoffrey’s father William. We are lucky enough to know Geoffrey through his son William – both still live in the area.



Above, left to right – Steve (currently runs the cafe), Laura (me!), William (Geoffrey’s son) and Geoffrey Kerr.

The Whitecliffs Cafe is close to our hearts; we had our wedding reception there and love the friendly atmosphere, the history of the place and that amazing view. Occasionally we DJ there. The parties and dancing are probably quite different to those that Geoffrey remembers but it’s still a place for the Saltdean community to dance by the sea.

10846202_10203255869059745_2019052027669687838_nD & L Wedding 207

D & L Wedding 156

We’ll be writing more blog posts about the history of the Whitecliffs Cafe in Saltdean soon. Anything you’d like to share about your memories of Saltdean or any old photos of the cafe? We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks to Geoffrey and Bill for the photos and time.

Written by Laura


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5 thoughts on “The Whitecliffs Cafe – Where Saltdean can dance by the sea

  • August 24, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Having lived in Saltdean from 1958 to 1973, I have a few memories that may be useful.
    My sister, 6 years older than me, has a few memories of the Whitecliffs Café she agrees to share. She used to work there for the summer season (holiday job) back in the early 1960s. She remembers the Italian family who ran it then, their name was Marchini, the younger woman was very kind but the grandmother was a bit of a dragon. The Marchinis had a little boy called Laurie when my sister was there.
    The main room in those days was divided into two parts, one a little bit more “select” than the other. Tourists’ favourite fare would be the usual pots of tea and toasted tea-cakes, but there was an outside terrace as well for ice-creams and drinks where they also sold buckets and spades and other beach paraphernalia.
    It would be interesting to see if anyone else remembers this family at Whitecliffs.

    • September 24, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Thank you Vivienne and also many thanks to your sister for sharing her memories with us all at The Saltdean Zone. It is so interesting to find out how things were back in the 1960s at the Whitecliffs.

  • September 23, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Great to find a webpage about Whitecliffs café, I lived in Saltdean from 1961 to 1970. Early in 1964 I announced to my parents that I had just got a waitressing job in the local beach café. Mum was not pleased as I was 12, Dad said just see if it works out. It did! Over the next 6 years I worked there almost every weekend, and all the school holidays. It was hard work when the sun shone as the café was packed from 10am until 7 in the evening and on bad weather days we were kept busy cleaning the huge mirror wall behind the tea and coffee bar, polishing the wooden tables in the smaller room and dipping all the silver cutlery. I remember the Marchini family very well. One day the husband berated a customer who was complaining he had to wait on a particularly busy Sunday – “would you want to work on a day like this?”. Yes we worked hard, but they were a good family to work for. I learnt a lot of valuable work ethics in preparation for my adult working life.

    • September 24, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Thank you Pam for your memories. It is very interesting to read all about your time working at the Whitecliffs for the Marchini family and how it was so helpful and valuable for your future life. Much appreciated.

  • March 26, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    I remember the cafe well. For 2 or 3 years from 1967 I worked there during the season for the Marchinis. I served at table and also spent a lot of time up to my elbows in very hot water washing out teapots. Also working there was Janet Firminger, my contemporary at Lewes Grammar School, and Spencer Swaffer. I must have overlapped with Pam (above) and was about the same age. We worked incredibly hard but we’re not bady paid and got free tea and sandwiches.


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