Rother District Council came into being on 1 April 1974, consequent upon a general reorganisation of Local Government in England and Wales (excluding London) under the Local Government Act 1972.
It was formed by combining the former authorities of Battle Rural District Council, Bexhill Borough Council and Rye Borough Council. Land and other property belonging to these former authorities (such as houses, open spaces, car parks and municipal offices) was transferred to Rother District Council by the Local Authorities (England) (Property etc) Order 1973 (S.I. 1973 No. 1861); however Bexhill and Rye had been highways authorities and their land and property relating to the highways function was transferred to East Sussex County Council which remains the highways authority for the whole of Rother District. The water and sewerage functions of the former authorities were transferred, together with their assets relating to such functions, to the Southern Water Authority and these functions are now divided between Southern Water Services Ltd and the Environment Agency.
For some purposes, such as the applicability of Byelaws made by the previous authorities, it is necessary to ascertain which was the previous authority for any given location.
Battle Rural District Council was established in 1934 by a reorganisation which merged five small authorities namely: Battle Urban District Council and Battle, Hastings, Rye Rural District Councils (groups of rural parishes around towns) and Ticehurst Rural District Council which included Burwash, Etchingham, Robertsbridge and Bodiam; also Wadhurst and Frant until these were separated in 1934. In 1937 a fringe area from Fairlight Firehills to Beauport Park and Harley Shute was transferred to the then Hastings County Borough. By 1974 it was one of the larger Rural District Councils in the country. It adopted a motto per bellum patria. Its principal office was at the Watch Oak Battle which was retained by Rother District Council for many years for its environmental and housing services. Rother Homes (part of the Horizon Housing Association), to whom all the housing stock of Rother District Council was transferred in 1998, is based at Watch Oak. Battle Rural District Council was divided into civil parishes, each (except East Guldeford) with their own Parish Council, originally set up under the Local Government Act 1894, and these have continued, with some minor boundary adjustments, to the present-day. The former Parish of Battle (before 1934 the area of the Battle UDC) is now a Town, having a Mayor.
Although there were established settlements at Bexhill Old Town, Sidley and Little Common; Bexhill evolved in the late 19th century around the rail station. In 1882 the seventh Earl De La Warr had a seawall and esplanade built by John Webb and added ‘on-Sea’ to the name. It was established as a Municipal Borough with a Royal Charter granted in 1902. The Borough’s motto was sol et salubritas. Its principal office was the Bexhill Town Hall (designed by Henry Ward) opened by the Bexhill District Council in 1895. This building is now the principal office of Rother District Council. There is a display of silver inherited from the former Bexhill Borough Council. The De La Warr Pavilion (designed by Mendelssohn and Chermayeff) was opened in 1935. The Council’s public utilities were lost on nationalisation. The ceremonial aspects of the Borough of Bexhill, including election of its Mayor, are vested in Charter Trustees comprising those members of Rother District Council elected by the Bexhill wards under s. 246 Local Government Act 1972. Bexhill does not have a legally constituted parish council (although there is a Bexhill Forum).
Rye was granted a Royal Charter and established as one of the Cinque Ports in medieval times and was reformed under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. In 1974 the area of the former Borough became the Town of Rye having the powers of a Parish Council but continuing the ceremonial aspects of the former Borough. Rye Borough Council met at Rye Town Hall in Market Street, designed by Andrews Jelfe and erected in 1743. This building, with portico and panelled Council Chamber above, is now occupied by Rye Town Council.
Winchelsea, an ancient Town now forming part of the Parish of Icklesham, was also a Cinque Port, and Jurats with a purely ceremonial role preserve its dignities.