Sheepcote Valley

Did you know? - a famous film

By Martin Nimmo

One of the best-known films made in Brighton was "Oh What a Lovely War", filmed in about 1968, largely on the pier. However, not many people remember that the trenches were built in Sheepcote Valley, then a land-fill site for Brighton Corporation.

A more picturesque view!
At the time, I had been wondering how to illustrate this site for a geography project, and was saved from having to show dustcarts emptying themselves into the general melée and bulldozers shifting the rubbish about (surrounded by screaming sea-gulls), by the film-makers making the area far more picturesque - if only temporarily!

Sent to website by email 27 January 2003
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
My dad, George Fuller, worked at Sheepcote tip for many years, and his dying wish was to have his ashes scattered there. So in September 1988, my mum and I carried out his last wishes. If anyone ever sees his ghostly figure, it's not a lost soul but a happy one!
By Shirley (26/06/2003)
As a lad I can remember playing in the bomb craters of 'O What a Lovely War' and looking at the trenches with my mates. We saw the fake hill made out of scaffolding and the flat houses.
By Peter Bridger (24/02/2005)
I'm not sure when the area was first used for landfill. However, in the early 50s, us kids would have a great time playing war games over at Sheepcote. It was a great setting as there were loads of dumped army lorries, jeeps and the like, obviously war surplus. All that history now buried under tons of household rubbish.
By Geoff Wells (27/02/2005)
My brothers used to take me over there in the 1930s. There were 3 large hills of dirt and I was told that they were giants' graves and that I must not climb on them.
By Colin Webb (07/04/2005)
The three large hills mentioned by Colin Webb were used during the Second War by the army as part of a rifle range. Trenches were dug in front of the chalk hills (called butts) and targets set up in front which were used for rifle practice.The Sheepcote tip area was also used for practice with a bomb that, on exploding, threw out a type of burning jelly. As kids, my mates and I used to go over there after school and when the soldiers had gone we'd dig the used bullets out of the chalk as souvenirs. At the bottom end of the site, just north of where the camp site is, a searchlight battery was stationed and used to illuminate German aircraft for the ack-ack guns that were stationed on the hills either side of Sheepcote Valley.
By Peter Pryer (28/01/2006)
John Shortt, my GGGrandfather, and his family lived in Rifle Butts Cottage in Sheepcote valley in 1871. He was a marker and The Keeper of the Rifle Butts where The Sussex Volunteer rifles practiced. So its use for this purpose goes back much further than the Second World War.
By Jack Short (19/05/2006)

Sheepcote Valley in the late 60s was like a giant theme park to us kids. Our Disneyland. How we ever survived I'll never know. Piles of cars and trucks to be climbed on and over. Tyres to be rolled down the hills. Rats to be shot. Strange gasses escaping from the ground. Chalk cliffs to be climbed up or tumbled down.
Sheepcote Campsite was like a different world with its pin tables and jukebox in the camp recreation area.
As we got a bit older we discovered the Northern European girls on their camping holidays in their tents. Great fun.

By Paul Hubbard (08/10/2008)

This morning I walked my dog over Sheepcote valley, with my wife. It is the first time I have been back there for many, many years. I was telling her how as children we used to play amongst all the rubbish, the scrap cars and trucks, playing cowboys and indians, soldiers, rolling tyres down the hills. I cannot imagine the state of us when we got home, our mothers must have gone mad. Unfortunately I don't remember Paul Hubbard (from above) but like him, for me it was the late sixties. There were so many of us there was always different boys to play with. It is quite strange how an old rubbish tip can evoke so many great childhood memories. Can you even imagine health and safety allowing that to happen today? We were all Whitehawk boys and Sheepcote for us was a theme park- as Paul says our 'Disneyland'. Great times, and a life time ago.

By Phil Lynch (14/09/2012)

Hello Brightonians. Does anyone have any memories of Sheepcote Valley from the 1963-1970s - or photographs? Please send to lrolf9@me.com. Kind regards. 

By Lee Rolf (09/11/2012)

From about 1965 I lived in Whitehawk on the 8th floor of Swanborough Place, number 44.  Every Sunday morning I would go to the tip to get scrap metal from all sorts of stuff that had been dumped there such as washing machines, cars etc and used to concentrate on getting copper and brass which I would sell at the scrap yard.  I was always in possession of my magnet so that I could determine what was copper/brass plated and not real copper/brass.  Another source of copper of course was cable which I used to burn to remove the insulation.  The tip was or appeared to be completely unregulated or managed in any way.  I also used to collect the car badges from car steering wheels and there was always a car roof or two which had been cut off of a car which I used to "sail" in the huge puddles that used to form after heavy rain.  Lots of people used to be over the tip in those days, men mainly and the activity was known as "totting".  I also remember going over to the tip when the film Oh What a Lovely War was being filmed and seeing the trenches and soldiers in uniform walking around.  Another thing I do remember was the rats!  I loved "totting" on a Sunday morning and even used to look forward to it but I do not remember seeing other children doing the same as me though.  My uncle Hughie gave me a pen knife with a picture of a galleon on the side for stripping cables etc, first day I took it to the tip I lost it, I was so upset.  I spent so much time looking for it and was consequently so late home he came looking for me, but I did not want to leave until I found that pen knife which unfortunately I never did.  I am sure the tip is the archaeological dig of the future! 

By Andrew Mack (19/10/2014)

Hi Andrew, do you have an email address I could contact you on? Thanks, Lee.

By Lee Rolf (07/12/2014)

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.