Kipling’s Sussex

A Chronology

(by Michael Smith)


1871 John Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard’s father, treats the family to a seaside holiday, on the recommendation of the Burne-Jones family, in Littlehampton on the Sussex coast. Rudyard, then aged five, delighted in making sandcastles – precociously attempting a replica of the Tower of London which he had seen illustrated in Harrison Ainsworth’s novel. Enjoys donkey rides and watching the acrobats. Trips to Arundel, and Chichester. From there to The ‘House of Desolation’ in Southsea in Hampshire, where he was to be ‘boarded out’ for five unhappy years.

1882 After leaving United Services College, at Westward Ho!, Rudyard, now sixteen, stays with Aunt Georgie (Georgiana Burne-Jones, married to ‘Uncle Ned’ the painter, Edward Burne-Jones) at North End House Rottingdean, before leaving for India and his work as sub-editor on the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore.

1897 After leaving the rather depressing ‘Rock House’ in Torquay and abortive house-hunting in Kent the family move to stay with Aunt Georgie at North End House. As a child is on the way the Burne-Jones family leave the house for the confinement. The gift of a tandem arrives from S.S.McClure, the American editor and publisher of McClure’s Magazine. John is born on August 17th. In the meantime the village celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria (sixty years on the throne) and RK writes the poem “Recessional”. He had earlier been a guest of the Royal Navy on trials of a destroyer and wrote also “The Destroyers”. Worked on “The White Man’s Burden” and put on paper some of the Just So Stories initiated in Brattleboro, Vermont, where he had lived from 1892 to 1896.

Kipling and his father are guests of Capt Bayly on H.M.S.Pelorus and experience manoeuvres of the Channel Squadron which are chronicled in A Fleet in Being. House hunting in Dorset and at Hastings comes to nothing and so the Kiplings rent ‘The Elms’ in Rottingdean on the coast of Sussex, near Brighton, for 3 guineas a week.(a guinea was one pound and one shilling, £1.05 in today’s currency) Working on Stalky & Co.

Cormell Price (his old headmaster at United Services College), J.M.Barrie, (the playwright and author of Peter Pan), and Uncle Ned and Aunt Georgie Burne-Jones, enjoy a long downland walk.

1898 With William Nicholson Kipling provides the verses for An Almanac of Twelve Sports. He publishes The Day’s Work, twelve stories written in Vermont, and A Fleet in Being, reprints from his articles in The Times and the Morning Post. In January to Capetown, and Cecil Rhodes, the South African statesman, and great friend, sends him to Khama’s Country where he saw “the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River”, where the ‘Elephant’s Child’ got his trunk, in Just So Stories. Back to Rottingdean in April. Edward Burne-Jones dies and his ashes are set in the west wall of St. Margaret’s church in Rottingdean. Kipling entertains the children with readings of Just So Stories.

1899 To the U.S.A. where Rudyard is so gravely ill that he can’t be told of the loss of his beloved daughter Josephine. The family return to England in June, with Lockwood Kipling, and Frank N.Doubleday – “effendi” – his trusted American publisher. He sits next to Philip Burne-Jones, Kipling’s cousin, also a painter, in ‘The Elms’ at Rottingdean. He is introduced to the joys of pioneer motoring when Alfred Harmsworth, the founder of the Daily Mail, comes down to ask for a poem for the troops fighting the Boers. “The Absent-Minded Beggar” becomes incredibly successful and raises a third of a million. In December Rudyard is offered a knighthood (KCB) but declines.

1900 In South Africa from Jan to end April. Various driving adventures around Sussex. Rudyard’s love of the Sussex countryside is used in magical introductions to short stories, e.g. “They”. House hunting, the Kiplings see ‘Bateman’s’ for the first time but it has been let for a year. Rudyard occupied with Kim and with Rifle Club/Volunteer matters. Return to Cape Town in December and to ‘The Woolsack’, the house built for the Kipling’s by Cecil Rhodes. [the house is now used by the University of Capetown. Rhodes’s main surviving legacy today is the ‘Rhodes Scholarship’ scheme, for sending students from overseas to Oxford University]

1901 In Africa until May. The first car Rudyard owned arrives on June 18th, beautiful to look at but “as a means of propulsion a nickel-plated fraud”. In October. Rhodes visits ‘The Elms’ as later does “Banjo” Paterson, the Australian poet. Rudyard working on various tasks including the “Motoring” verses.

1902 In South Africa until May, during which time Rudyard is much taken up with the death of Cecil Rhodes. Back home as car “out of order” by train and fly to Burwash. This time the purchase agreed. Price £9,300 with 30 acres. On June 1st news of Peace in the Boer War arrives in Rottingdean and Aunt Georgie, who had been a vociferous opponent of the war, has to be protected from locals who object to her banner. A Lanchester car, “Jane Cakebread”, arrives and so there is much motoring. On 10th July the last Just So Stories proofs are sent off. By 29th the Bateman’s purchase is complete. In August “Steam Tactics” describes car adventures. The Kiplings move to Bateman’s on 2nd and 3rd September. In October to Rye for lunch with Henry James, the celebrated American novelist, who delights in the fact that Kiplin’s car is taken with a “cataleptic trance”. Work starts on the installation of the water turbine to light the house.

1903 Again in South Africa to ‘The Woolsack’. The Kiplings arrive home in May and “Bateman’s looks divine”. The Five Nations, a major collection of verse, is published in October, and the following month Rudyard is again offered a knighthood, this time a more exalted one (KCMG, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George) which is declined. Christmas is spent at sea en-route to ‘The Woolsack’.

1904 Return at end of April. The Governess Miss Blaikie arrives. In June a replacement Lanchester “Amelia” is delivered but proves unsatisfactory. Kipling winds up the Rifle Club. Lionel Dunsterville (the original of ‘Stalky’) and his wife stay, but Mrs Kipling doesn’t like Mrs Dunsterville. Other visitors include the writer, Joseph Conrad, and Howell Gwynne, the distinguished journalist, and later Editor of the Morning Post. The Rottingdean Drill Shed removed to Burwash for a reading room. Traffics and Discoveries is published. Kipling works on the ‘Puck’ tales among others, and consults the Sussex Records Office. In December the Kiplings buy Dudwell farm for £7,000. Again off to S.Africa.

1905 Kipling works with Herbert Baker, Rhodes’s chosen architect, on the Rhodes Memorial in Capetown. Return in April. A pony, “Stella” for the children. In July working on the ‘Parnesius’ stories for Puck of Pook’s Hill. Travelling in summer to stay with various friends, In Sept Starr Jameson (the chief lieutenant of Rhodes in South Africa, leader of the abortive ‘Jameson Raid’ in 1895, and the model for the poem “If–“) comes but looks “ill and wretched”. Dines in Oxford with the Rhodes Trustees and Scholars. Again to S. Africa.

1906 Completes the last ‘Puck’ story at ‘The Woolsack’. Returns in May and does the ‘Puck’ verses. Buying a Daimler car. Kipling supports General Lord Roberts (‘Bobs’, former Commnder-in-Chief in India, and one of Kipling’s heroes) in the National Defence League. In June demolition of Dudwell Mill. Death of Agnes Poynter – a well loved aunt. In August Rudyard consults a garden designer about a new layout. In September Puck of Pook’s Hill published and he starts work on the sequel, Rewards and Fairies. At a General Election the Liberals come to power, massively defeating the Conservatives, which upsets Kipling. Again to S.Africa.

1907 Return in April. In June they frequently visit Bodiam Castle, not far away. Rudyard is given an Honorary Doctorates at Durham and Oxford Universities, and become a Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. John Kipling goes to school – St.Aubyns in Rottingdean, and Elsie goes a-milking. In September Kipling enjoys a great trip to Canada where he is treated with great respect and has a train at disposal. He visits Medicine Hat among many other places. Home in November in time to have the offer of the Nobel prize for literature. The Nobel ceremonies in Stockholm are, however, muted because of the death of the King of Norway. The Kiplings use the prize money for the garden at Bateman’s.

1908 Again S.Africa. Kipling visits the Rhodes Memorial. He is no more to return to South Africa because of the increasing control of that country by the Boers. Returning to England in May he sees John who is homesick. They start a stamp collection. In August they tour the north of England, and Bateman’s is featured in Country Life magazine. To Switzerland for New Year – Engleberg – first of many annual visits.

1909 To Italy – then Paris and home. There is concern over the Kiplings’ investments because of the Liberal Budget, which increases taxes on the wealthy. Touring in southern England. In October the river Dudwell floods up to the south door of Bateman’s. Alice Kipling, Rudyard’s mother, is ill.

1910 In Switzerland and then through France by train to Vernet-les-Bains where Carrie has sulphur treatment. Back in a borrowed motor. In August a flower show at Bateman’s leaves them “devastated”. After more English touring he goes to an “Aeration” meeting in Folkestone. Rewards and Fairies which carries “If–” , is published. In November Alice Kipling dies at Tisbury and Rudyard’s sister Trix has a third major breakdown.

1911 Kipling’s father dies at Clouds near Tisbury. From February to April touring in France. Kipling opens a small rifle range. In June the Kiplings are guests in Westminster Abbey for the Coronation of George V. In August again in France. But work continues unabated, and guests continue to be entertained at home. To Switzerland after Christmas.

1912 To Italy – return in April and works on verses about Ulster, where there is great concern among the ‘unionist’ protestant population about the prospect of ‘Home Rule’ for Ireland, which was being considered by the Liberal government. Much socialising with important people. Kipling speaks at Wellington – John’s school. In August he is taken up with meeting various regiments and watching manoeuvres. He travels to the west country, where U.S.C. becomes I.S.C. and moves to Windsor, near London, from Westward Ho! in Devon. In November he sees flying machines at Aldershot. Back to Engelberg after Christmas but Rudyard very tired.

1913 In February to Egypt via France. Back in April and see The Harbour Watch at The Royalty Theatre in Lodon. Well received. Kipling builds a cottage “Keylands” on his estate for his journalist friend Perceval Landon, who writes for the Daily Telegraph. Again goes off on Army and Royal Flying Corps manoeuvres. Later to Kessingland, where Rider Haggard, the popular author and friend of Kipling, lived.

1914 In Switzerland. Returns to protest against Irish Home Rule Bill. He makes a speech to 10,000 Unionists on the common at Tunbridge Wells. His attack on the Liberal Government is resented by many. On 4th August, Kipling notes in his diary; “incidentally Armageddon begins”. Begins his war effort writing up his impressions of the services. German atrocities schrecklikeit (frightful). 5,000+ civilians shot out of hand in Belgium. “For All We Have and Are” . In Sept John joins the 2nd Battalion, The Irish Guards. Commission secured by Lord Roberts. All work on aid for refugees from Belgium. Visits to the wounded in hospital. All his energy from now on directed to doing what he can for the war effort. Articles on Army and Navy which are collected into booklets – recruiting speeches – visiting troops.

1915 working on “Sea Constables” and “Mary Postgate”. In June ‘Bateman’s’ is offered for use as a hospital – but was declined. August – in France as a war correspondent. John is not far away but after Rudyard’s return, while visiting Dover and Harwich naval patrols, a telegram arrives at ‘Bateman’s’ to say that John is missing. In spite of vain hopes he had been killed at the battle of Loos, on September 27th

1916 Many of John’s friends call. Sea Warfare. In May makes an official visit to the Italian Front, which he reports on in a series of articles, The War in the Mountains. After the Memorial Service for Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, in St. Paul’s Cathedral, “Recessional” is sung in Westminster Abbey. Kipling works from admiralty sources on “Battle of Jutland”.

1917 Kipling is asked to write the Regimental History of the Irish Guards. U.S. enters war. A Diversity of Creatures, another major collection of stories, is published. The Kiplings hear the heavy gunfire from across the channel. Kipling, the soldiers’ poet, is asked to serve on the Imperial War Graves Commission, to which he devotes a great deal of time and effort in a number of ways; the catalogue, inscriptions, cemetery design, the Grave of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey. Starr Jameson invites him to select Rhodes Scholars. Jameson dies.

1918 German prisoners of war working at ‘Bateman’s’. Rudyard writes “The Graves of the Fallen”, and “Epitaphs of War”. The news of the Armistice reaches Burwash on November 12th through the ringing of the bells of St.Bartholemew’s. Kipling dines at the Buckingham Palace by Royal Command to meet the President of the U.S.A., Woodrow Wilson. Carrie is enraged by a caller from the Mininstry of Agriculture who tells her how to farm her land. Rudyard discusses the “text for all Altars” with the Prince of Wales, it is accepted.

1919 Kipling is able to drive again – to Scotney Castle, nearby. He is distressed by the death of his old friend – Theodore Roosevelt. The death of Isted – the model for Hobden, in the ‘Puck’ books. The Years Between, another collection of verse, is published. Motor touring is revived.

1920 Letters of Travel is published. Aunt Georgie dies. Her funeral “A simple beautiful service” in St Margaret’s Rottingdean. Ashes in the west wall with Ned. Rudyard takes Carrie to see Lorne Lodge, in Southsea, where he had spent five miserable years in his childhood. Speaks to 150 MP’s at Winston Churchill’s request to stave off a motion of censure about war graves. Receives the degree of LL.D. (Doctor of Letters) at Edinburgh University. The Kiplings visit Chalkpit Wood on the battlefield in France, and many other cemeteries. On 24th October at the Burwash Memorial, Rudyard is asked to speak but refuses, so Lord Home does so. Christmas Day – “much pleasure but no joy”.

1921 To Brighton to join The Prince of Wales at the dedication of the Chattri. To Algiers, returning in May through France. Purchases a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which is used for the next seven years. First major trip in new car to Scotland. In winter to France again where Rudyard is lionised by French Society. In December he is offered the Order of Merit (O.M.) by the King for services to literature and for the unique position his works occupy in the Empire. Declines.

1922 Visit to Gibraltar and Spain. In May with King George V at cemeteries in Belgium (Vlamertinghe) near Ypres and France (Terlinchten) where the King delivers the speech which RK has written. The interview he had given to Clare Sheridan (daughter of the Frewens) at Bateman’s the year before gave a greatly distorted account of anti-American feeling. Considerable ill-health.

1923 Speech to Royal College of Surgeons. Much socialising – Downing Street (the Prime-Minister’s house) and Buckingham Palace. Illness of the cook drives the Kiplings to a hotel in Brighton. Sea voyage to Toulon. In April The Irish Guards in the Great War is published to acclaim. John Buchan writes “the fullest document of the war life of a British Regiment, compiled by a man of genius who brings to his task not only a quick eye to observe and a sure hand to portray, but a rare spirit of reverence and understanding’. Becomes Rector of the University of St.Andrews.

1924 O.M. re-offered but again declined. In October Kipling;s daughter Elsie marries George Bambridge and Rudyard and Carrie dread the emptiness of ‘Bateman’s’. In November he writes “Alnaschar and the Oxen” in praise of his Sussex cattle.

1925 Returns from a tour in France feeling very depressed. Loss of family (Aunt Louie) and friends (Rider Haggard, Lord Milner) Ill while in France.

1926 Rudyard’s health still causes concern. Touring in France till May. Worried by the General Strike. Frank Doubleday gives him a wireless set. In July he receives the Royal Literary Society’s Gold Medal. The Kiplings are charmed by a pageant from Rewards and Fairies at Rushlake Green near Burwash. Debits and Credits, a further major collection of stories, is published in September and very well received

1927 Visit to Brazil aboard RMSP Andes. Return through Lisbon and France. His articles on the trip are collected in Brazilian Sketches Christmas in France.

1928 On January 16th a Pall Bearer at the funeral of Thomas Hardy, the distinguished novelist. From March to May, in Sicily, Italy and France. On return Kipling buys a new Rolls Royce – a dark green Phantom. (it is now in the garage though repainted dark blue). Kipling’s speeches are collected in A Book of Words.

1929 Kipling receives the copy of Kim which had stopped a bullet from killing a French soldier, Maurice Hammoneau. He insist that it and the Croix de Guerre should go to Hammoneau fils, to whom he is godfather. By boat to Egypt and then to Jerusalem.

1930 Thy Servant a Dog is published. The Kiplings to the West Indies but Carrie is ill, and she is taken to hospital in Bermuda. Return via Halifax, Nova Scotia. On 4th August Rudyard was to have spoken at Dud Corner Cemetery at Loos in France, but was overcome with emotion.

1931 Again in Egypt and Palestine. Then France. Angered by the apparent shift of his cousin Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister (‘Cousin Stan’), to ‘Socialism’. Much illness and discussion of selling the car.

1932 Limits and Renewals, the last collection of stories, is published. Cecily Nicholson joins the Kiplings as Private Secretary – acting in a similar capacity to his daughter Elsie after Rudyard’s death. (Later her reminiscences are published in the Kipling Journal). He writes the King’s Christmas broadcast.

1933 A Paris doctor finally diagnoses Rudyard’s trouble as a duodenal ulcer, and helps to alleviate the pain. He prepares the King’s Speech for South Africa House. He speaks to the Canadian Authors Society. (A recording is available). King’s Christmas broadcast again.

1934 Treatment for Carrie at various spas. Rudyard declines membership of the Legion d’Honneur.


1935 Rudyard assists with various film productions of his stories by British and American studios. A additional Just So story “Ham and the Porcupine” is written for Princess Elizabeth’s Gift Book. In August he begins to write Something of Myself, the title having been suggested by Sir Alfred Webb-Johnson. They visit Wimpole Hall after the Bambridges (Elsie, his daughter, and her husband George) have decided to buy the estate.

1936 The Kiplings plan to go to Cannes but at Brown’s Hotel, on January 13th, Rudyard haemorrages and is rushed to the Middlesex Hospital, where the surgeon Webb Johnson operates. Peritonitis sets in and Kipling dies on January 18th. This is two days before the death of King George V. On Jan 20th Kipling is cremated at Golders Green cemetery in north London, and his ashes are taken to St Faith’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey. The King lies in State in Westminster Hall. Kipling’s ashes are interred in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey on January 23rd. Carrie dies at Bateman’s in 1939 having bequeathed the estate to The National Trust. The Kipling papers are eventually placed by the Trust at the University of Sussex Library.