THE SOUTH DOWNS FROM END TO END
BY EDRIC HOLMES
ONE HUNDRED ILLUSTRATIONS BY MARY M. VIGERS
MAPS AND PLANS BY THE AUTHOR
LONDON: ROBERT SCOTT ROXBURGHE HOUSE PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C.
"How shall I tell you of the freedom of the Downs— You who love the dusty life and durance of great towns, And think the only flowers that please embroider ladies' gowns— How shall I tell you ..."
EDWARD WYNDHAM TEMPEST.
Every writer on Sussex must be indebted more or less to the researches and to the archaeological knowledge of the first serious historian of the county, M.A. Lower. I tender to his memory and also to his successors, who have been at one time or another the good companions of the way, my grateful thanks for what they have taught me of things beautiful and precious in Seaward Sussex.
II TO EASTBOURNE AND PEVENSEY
III SHAFORD TO BRIGHTON
V SHOREHAM AND WORTHING
VI ARUNDEL AND THE ARUN
VII THE VALLEY OF THE ROTHER
VIII GOODWOOD AND BOGNOR
X SELSEY AND BOSHAM
APPENDIX— THE SUSSEX DOWNS FROM END TO END. LONDON TO THE SOUTH DOWNS. THE WEALD. RAILWAY ROUTES.
The traveller through Sussex, as through every other English shire, will find many reminders of the Great War in church, churchyard or village green. Some are imposing or beautiful, some, alas, are neither, or are out of keeping with the quiet peace of their surroundings. To mention any, however striking in themselves or interesting in their connexion, would be invidious as, at the time of writing, lack of labour or material has prevented the completion of a great number of them.
The local historian of the future will bring a woeful number of his family records to a final close with the brief but glorious inscription on the common tablet where plough-boy and earl's son are commemorated side by side.
The sketch maps accompanying this book are simply for convenience in identifying the route followed therein. Wanderers upon the Downs and in the highways and byways at their feet will find Bartholomew's "half-inch" map, sheet 32, the most useful. This scale is much to be preferred to the "one inch" parent which lacks the contour colouring.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Hurstmonceux Frontispiece Near Alciston Market Cross, Alfriston A Sussex Lane, Jevington Willingdon Lamb Inn, Eastbourne Wannock Old House, Petworth The Barbican, Lewes Castle St. Anne's Church, Lewes The Priory Ruins, Lewes Anne of Cleves House, Southover The Grange, Southover Cliffe Firle Beacon Alfriston Church Alfriston Lullington Church Litlington West Dean East Dean Beachy Head Old Parsonage, Eastbourne Jevington Pevensey Westham Wilmington Green Newhaven Church Bishopstone Church Porch Seaford Church Seaford Head Rottingdean Brighton The Pavilion, Brighton St. Nicholas, Brighton St. Peter's, Brighton Poynings Danny Hurstpierpoint Wolstonbury Portslade Harbour Shoreham and the Adur New Shoreham Old Shoreham Sompting Coombes Upper Beeding Bramber St. Mary's, Bramber Steyning Grammar School, Steyning Old Houses, Steyning Chanctonbury Ring Findon Broadwater Salvington Mill Old Houses at Tarring Beckets' Palace, Tarring Arundel from the River Arundel Castle The Keep, Arundel Arundel Gateway Arundel Church Lyminster Clymping Church Street, Littlehampton Littlehampton Harbour Amberley Castle Stopham Bridge Byworth Petworth Church Petworth House Saddler's Row, Petworth Cowdray The Granary, Cowdray Market Square, Midhurst Midhurst Church East Lavant Felpham Boxgrove Priory Church Chichester Cathedral Chichester Palace and Cathedral Bell Tower, Chichester Chichester Cross St. Mary's Hospital, Chichester Fishbourne Manor Fishbourne Church Bosham Bosham Mill Bosham, The Strand Harting Cowdray Cottage Middle House, Mayfield High Street, East Grinstead Sackville College Causeway, Horsham Pond Street, Petworth Steyning Church North Mill, Midhurst Knock Hundred Row, Midhurst
Geology of the Downs Lewes The Eastern Downs The Brighton Downs Old and New Shoreham The Valley of the Arun Arundel Chichester Chichester Cathedral The Lowlands The Western Downs The Roads from London to the Downs
The following brief notes will assist the traveller who is not an expert, in arriving at the approximate date of ecclesiastical buildings.
SAXON 600-1066. Simple and heavy structure. Very small wall openings. Narrow bands of stone in exterior walls.
NORMAN 1066-1150. Round arches. Heavy round or square pillars. Cushion capitals. Elaborate recessed doorways. Zig-zag ornament.
TRANSITION 1150-1200. Round arched windows combined with pointed structural arch. Round pillars sometimes with slender columns attached. Foliage ornament on capitals.
EARLY ENGLISH 1200-1280 (including Geometrical). Pointed arches. Pillars with detached shafts. Moulded or carved capitals. Narrow and high pointed windows. Later period—Geometrical trefoil and circular tracery in windows.
DECORATED 1280-1380. High and graceful arches. Deep moulding to pillars. Convex moulding to capitals with natural foliage. "Ball flower" ornament. Elaborate and flamboyant window tracery.
PERPENDICULAR 1380-1550. Arches lower and flattened. Clustered pillars. Windows and doors square-headed with perpendicular lines. Grotesque ornament. (The last fifty years of the sixteenth century were characterized by a debased Gothic style with Italian details in the churches and a beauty and magnificence in domestic architecture which has never since been surpassed.)
JACOBEAN and GEORGIAN 1600-1800 are adaptations of the classical style. The "Gothic Revival" dates from 1835.
"Then I saw in my Dream, that on the morrow he got up to go forwards, but they desired him to stay till the next day also, and then said they, we will (if the day be clear) show you the delectable Mountains, which they said, would yet further add to his comfort, because they were nearer the desired Haven than the place where at present he was. So he consented and staid. When the Morning was up they had him to the top of the House, and bid him look South, so he did; and behold at a great distance he saw a most pleasant Mountainous Country, beautified with Woods, Vineyards, Fruits of all sorts; Flowers also, with Springs and Fountains, very delectable to behold."
Every one who has followed the fortunes of Christian in the stately diction of the Pilgrim's Progress must wish to know from whence came those wonderful word pictures with which the dreamer of Bedford Jail gems his masterpiece. That phrase "delectable mountains" conjures up in each individual reader's mind those particular hills wherever they may be, which are his own peculiar delight, and for which, exiled, his spirit so ardently longs.
It is not presuming too much to suppose that the scene in Bunyan's mind was that long range of undulating downs sometimes rising into bold and arresting shape, and always with their finest aspect toward the Bedford plains and him who cast longing eyes toward them. From almost any slight eminence on the south of Bedford town on a clear day the Dunstable and Ivinghoe hills are to be seen in distant beauty, and there is the strongest similarity between them and those glorious summits which every man of Sussex knows and loves so well.
The Chiltern Hills and the South Downs are built up of the same material, have had their peculiarities of shape and form carved by the same artificers—rain and frost, sun and wind; their flowers are the same, and to outward seeming their sons and daughters are the same in the way that all hill folk are alike and yet all differ in some subtle way from the dweller in the plains.
Be this so or not our Downs are to us delectable mountains, and let the reader who scoffs at the noun remember that size is no criterion of either beauty or sublimity. That Sussex lover and greatest of literary naturalists, Gilbert White, in perhaps his most frequently quoted passage so characterizes the "majestic chain"; to his contemporaries such a description was not out of place; our great grandfathers were appalled when brought from the calm tranquillity of the southern slopes to the stern dark melancholy of the mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland. The diary descriptions of those timid travellers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are full of such adjectives as "terrible," "frightful," "awful." One unlucky individual's nerves caused him to stigmatize as "ghastly and disgusting" one of the finest scenes in the Lake District, probably unsurpassed in Europe for its perfectly balanced beauty of form and splendour of colouring. To the general reader of those times the descriptive poems of Wordsworth were probably unmeaning rhapsodies. Our ancestors, however, were very fond of "prospects." An old atlas of the counties of England, published about 1800, came into the writer's hands recently. The whole of the gentler hills, including every possible vantage point in the Downs, had been most carefully and neatly marked with the panorama visible from the summit; but even Kinder Scout and the Malverns came in for the same fate as the Welsh and Cumberland mountains, all of which had been left severely alone, though the intrepid traveller had braved the terrors of the Wrekin, while such heights as Barton Hill in Leicestershire and Leith Hill in Surrey were heavily scored with names of places seen, the latter including that oft-told tale—a legend, so far as the present writer is aware—of St. Paul's dome and the sea being visible with a turn of the head. Though our idea of proportion in relation to scenery has suffered a change, Gilbert White's phrase must not be sneered at; and most comparisons are stupidly unfair. The outline of Mount Caburn is a rounded edition of the most perfect of all forms. The rolling undulations of the tamest portions of the range are broken by combes whose sides are steep enough to give a spice of adventure to their descent. The "prospects," as such, are immeasurably superior to those obtainable from most of the mountains of the north and west, where a distant view is rare by reason of the surrounding chain of heights, and where the chance of any view at all to reward the climber is remote unless he chooses that fortnight in early June or late September when the peaks are usually unshrouded. Really bad weather, long continued, is uncommon in the Down country. A dull or wet spell is soon over. The writer has set out from Worthing in a thin drizzle of the soaking variety, descending from a sky of lead stretching from horizon to horizon, which in the north would be accepted as an institution of forty-eight hours at least, and on arriving at the summit of Chanctonbury has been rewarded by a glorious green and gold expanse glittering under a dome of intense blue.
From the wooded heights of the Hampshire border to that grand headland where the hills find their march arrested by the sea, the escarpment of the Downs is sixty miles long and every mile is beautiful. It would be an ideal holiday, a series of holy days, to follow the edge all the way, meeting with only three valley breaks of any importance; but the charm of the hill villages nestling in their tree embowered and secluded combes would be too much for any ordinary human, especially if he were thirsty, so in this book the traveller is taken up and down without any regard for his consequent fatigue, when it is assured that his rest will be sweet, even though it may be only under a hawthorn bush!
"No breeze so fresh and invigorating as that of the Sussex Downs; no turf so springy to the feet as their soft greensward. A flight of larks flies past us, and a cloud of mingled rooks and starlings wheel overhead.... The fairies still haunt this spot, and hold their midnight revels upon it, as yon dark rings testify. The common folk hereabouts term the good people 'Pharisees' and style these emerald circles 'Hagtracks.' Why, we care not to enquire. Enough for us, the fairies are not altogether gone. A smooth soft carpet is here spread out for Oberon and Titania and their attendant elves, to dance upon by moonlight...." (Ainsworth: Ovingdean Grange.)
"He described the Downs fronting the paleness of the earliest dawn and then their arch and curve and dip against the pearly grey of the half-glow; and then among their hollows, lo, the illumination of the east all around, and up and away, and a gallop for miles along the turfy, thymy, rolling billows, land to left, sea to light below you.... Compare you the Alps with them? If you could jump on the back of an eagle, you might. The Alps have height. But the Downs have swiftness. Those long stretching lines of the Downs are greyhounds in full career. To look at them is to set the blood racing! Speed is on the Downs, glorious motion, odorous air of sea and herb, exquisite as the Isles of Greece." (Geo. Meredith: Beauchamp's Career.)
The most delightful close springy turf covers the Downs with a velvet mantle, forming the most exhilarating of all earthly surfaces upon which to walk and the most restful on which to stretch the wearied body. Most delightful also are the miniature flowers which gem and embroider the velvet; gold of potentilla, blue of gentian, pink and white of milkwort, purple of the scabious and clustered bell-flower; the whole robe scented with the fragrance of sweet thyme. Several unfamiliar species of orchis may be found and also the rare and beautiful rampion, "The Pride of Sussex." The hills are a paradise for birds; the practice of snaring the wheatear for market has lately fallen into desuetude and the "Sussex ortolan" is becoming more numerous than it was a dozen years ago. Every epicure should be interested in the numerous "fairy rings," sufficient evidence of the abundance of mushrooms which will spring up in the night after a moist day. One of the most comfortable traits of our chalk hills however is the marvellous quickness with which the turf dries after rain. Those who have experienced the discomfort of walking the fells of Cumberland and Westmoreland, which at most seasons of the year resemble an enormous wet sponge, often combined with the real danger of bog and morass, will appreciate the better conditions met with in Sussex hill rambling. Where the chalk is uncovered it becomes exceedingly slippery after a shower, but there is rarely a necessity to walk thereon.
The pedestrian on the Downs should use caution after dusk; chalk pits are not seen, under certain conditions, until the wayfarer is on the verge. Holes in the turf are of frequent occurrence and may be the cause of a twisted ankle, or worse, when far from help.
The "dene holes" are of human origin. Once thought to be primitive dwelling places, they are now supposed to have been merely excavations for the sake of the chalk or the flints contained therein, and possibly adapted for the storage of grain. Of equal interest are the so-called "dew ponds," of which a number are scattered here and there close to the edge of the northern escarpment. Undoubtedly of prehistoric origin, the art of making the pond has become traditional and some have been built by shepherds still living. These pools of clear cool water high up on the crest of a hill gain a mysterious air by their position, but their existence is capable of a scientific explanation. Built in the first place to be as nearly as possible non-conducting, with an impervious "puddled" bottom, the pond is renewed every night to a certain extent by the dew which trickles down each grass and reed stem into the reservoir beneath, and to a much greater extent by the mists which drift over the edge to descend in rain on the Weald. The pools might well be called "cloud ponds."
The most lovely scenes, the best view points, are described in their proper place. The question as to which is the finest section of the Downs must be left to the individual explorer. To some natures the free bare wind-swept expanse at the back of Brighton will appeal the most. By others the secret woods which climb from hidden combe and dry gully, mostly terminating in a bare top, and which are all west of the Arun, will be considered incomparably the best. To every man of Lewes the isolated mass of hills which rise on the east of the town are the Downs. But all must be seen to be truly appreciated and loved as they will be loved.
Hotels will not be found in the Downs; the tourist who cannot live without them will find his wants supplied within but a few miles at any of the numerous Londons by the Sea; but that will not be Sussex pure and undefiled, and if simplicity and cleanliness, enough to eat and drink, and a genuine welcome are all that is required, he will find these in our Downland inns.
It is in the more remote of these hostelries that the inquisitive stranger will hear the South Saxon dialect in its purity and the slow wit of the Sussex peasant at its best. The old Downland shepherd with embroidered smock and Pyecombe crook is vanishing fast, and with him will disappear a good deal of the character which made the Sussex native essentially different from his cousins of Essex and Wessex.
One of the most delightful records of rustic life ever printed is that study in the "Wealden Formation of Human Nature" by the former rector of Burwash, John Cocker Egerton, entitled Sussex Folk and Sussex Ways. True, the book is mainly about Wealden men and we are more concerned with the hill tribes, but the shrewd wit and quaint conceits of the South Saxon portrayed therein will be readily recognized by the leisurely traveller who has the gift of making himself at home with strangers. It is to be hoped that in the great and epoch-making changes that are upon us in this twentieth century some at least of the individual characteristics of the English peasantry will remain. It is the divergent and opposite traits of the tribes which make up the English folk that have helped to make us great. May we long be preserved from a Wellsian uniformity!
A brief description of the geological history of the range may not be amiss here. It will be noted by the traveller from the north that the opposing line of heights in Surrey have their steepest face (or "escarpment") on the south side, while the Sussex Downs have theirs on the north. A further peculiarity lies in the fact that the river valleys which cut across each range from north to south are opposite each other, thus pointing to the probability that the fracture which caused the clefts was formerly continuous for fifty miles through the great dome of chalk which extended over what is now the Weald. The elevation of this "dome," caused by the shrinking and crumpling of the earth's crust and consequent rise of the lower strata, was never an actual smooth rise and fall from the sea to the Thames valley; through the ages during which this thrust from below was in progress the crown of the dome would be in a state of comparatively rapid disintegration, and it is because of this that we have no isolated masses of chalk remaining between the two lines of hills. The highlands called by geologists the "Forest Ridge" are in the centre and are the lowest strata of the upheaval; they are the so-called Hastings sands which enter the sea at that town half-way between Beachy Head and Dover cliffs. North and south of this ridge is the lower greensand, forming in Sussex the low hills near Heathfield, Cuckfield and Petworth, and which reaches the sea south and north of Hastings. It was at one time supposed that the face of the Downs originally formed a white sea cliff and that an arm of the sea stretched across what we know as the Weald, but the simpler explanation is undoubtedly the correct one.
The Downs themselves are composed of various qualities of chalk; some of such a hard, smooth and workable material that, as will be seen presently, the columns in some of the Downland churches are made from this native "rock." While the upper strata is soft and contains great quantities of flints, the middle layers are brittle and yield plenty of fossils, lower still is the marl, a greyish chalk of great value in the fertilization of the gault. This latter forms an enormous moist ditch or gutter at the foot of the escarpment, and from the farmer's point of view is essentially bad land, requiring many tons of marl to be mixed with it before this most difficult of all clays becomes fertile. Between the chalk and the gault clay is a very narrow band of upper greensand, only occasionally noticeable in the southern range, but strongly marked in the North Downs.
"The chalk is our landscape and our proper habitation. The chalk gave us our first refuge in war by permitting those vast encampments on the summits. The chalk filtered our drink for us and built up our strong bones; it was the height from the slopes of which our villages, standing in a clear air, could watch the sea or the plain; we carved it—when it was hard enough; it holds our first ornaments; our clear streams run over it; the shapes and curves it takes and the kind of close rough grass it bears (an especial grass for sheep) are the cloak of our counties; its lonely breadths delight us when the white clouds and the necks move over them together; where the waves break it into cliffs, they are characteristic of our shores, and through its thin coat of whitish mould go the thirsty roots of our three trees—the beech, the holly, and the yew. For the clay and the sand might be deserted or flooded and the South Country would still remain, but if the Chalk Hills were taken away we might as well be in the Midlands." (Hilaire Belloc: The Old Road.)
A description of these hills, however short, would be incomplete without some reference to the sheep, great companies of which roam the sunlit expanse with their attendant guardians—man and dog (who deserve a chapter to themselves). Southdown mutton has a fame that is extra-territorial; it has been said that the flavour is due to the small land snail of which the sheep must devour millions in the course of their short lives. But the explanation is more probably to be found in the careful breeding of the local farmers of a century or so ago. Gilbert White refers to two distinct breeds—"To the west of the Adur ... all had horns, smooth white faces and white legs, but east of that river all flocks were poll sheep (hornless) ... black faces with a white tuft of wool." Since that day, however, east has been west and west east and the twain have met.
The traveller may be fortunate enough to come across a team of oxen ploughing. The phenomenon is yearly becoming more rare; but within sight and sound of the Eastbourne expresses between Plumpton and Cooksbridge this archaic survival from a remote past is more likely to be seen than elsewhere.
The oxen are usually black and are the remnants of a particular breed, the outcome of a long and slow experiment in getting the right sort of draught animal. The ploughs themselves, as Jefferies says, "must have been put together bit by bit in the slow years—slower than the ox.... How many thousand, thousand clods must have been turned in the furrows before ... the curve to be given to this or that part grew upon the mind, as the branch grows upon the tree!"
But the Downs are not scarred to any great extent by cultivation. The sheep and the birds are mostly in sole possession and are almost the only living moving things on the hills. The fox, though at one time common, is now very rarely seen, for game, with the disappearance of gorse and bramble, has almost vanished, and other beasts of prey, weasel and stoat, shun the open uplands where the only enemy of field mouse and vole is the eagle of the south country, the peregrine falcon.
"Lewes is the most romantic situation I ever saw"; thus Defoe, and the capital of Sussex shares with Rye and Arundel the distinction of having a continental picturesqueness more in keeping with old France than with one of the home counties of England. This, however, is only the impression made by the town when viewed as a whole; its individual houses, its churches and castle, and above all, its encircling hills are England, and England at her best and dearest to those who call Sussex home. The beauty of the surroundings when viewed from almost any of its old world streets and the charm of the streets themselves make the old town an ever fresh and welcome resort for the tired Londoner who appreciates a quiet holiday. As a centre for the exploration of East Sussex Lewes has no equal; days may be spent before the interest of the immediate neighbourhood is exhausted; for those who are vigorous enough for hill rambling the paths over the Downs are dry and passable in all weathers, and the Downs themselves, even apart from the added interest of ancient church or picturesque farm and manor, are ample recompense for the small toil involved in their exploration.
The origin of Lewes goes back to unknown times, the very meaning of the name is lost, its situation in a pass and on the banks of the only navigable river in East Sussex inevitably made it a place of some importance. It is known that Athelstan had two mints here and that the Norman Castle was only a rebuilding by William de Warenne on the site of a far older stronghold. To this de Warenne, the Conqueror, with his usual liberality, presented the town, and it is from the ruins of his castle that we should commence our exploration.
Of de Warenne's building only the inner gateway remains. The outer gate and the keep date from the reign of the first Edward; the site of a second keep is shown in private grounds not far off, a feature very rare in this country if not unique.
The summit of the tower is laid out as an old world garden; and here is also the interesting museum of the Sussex Archaeological Society, but the visitor will be best repaid by the magnificent view of the surrounding country spread out before him. To the north-west rises Mount Harry, and to the right of this stretches the wide expanse of the Weald bounded by the sombre ridges of Ashdown Forest, dominated by Crowborough Beacon slightly east of due north.
The quarries and combe of Cliffe Hill stand up with fine effect immediately east of the town, which sinks from where we stand to the Ouse at the bottom of the valley. More to the south-east is Mount Caburn above the bare and melancholy flats through which the Ouse finds its way to the sea; due south-west the long range of Newmarket Hill stretches away to the outskirts of Brighton, and the Race Course Hill brings us back to our starting point. Beautiful as is the distant prospect the greatest charm of this unique view is in the huddle of picturesque red-tiled roofs and greenery beneath us.
Of the history of the Castle there are but scanty records; its part in the making of East Sussex seems to have been fairly quiescent, and in the great struggle of May 1264 between the forces of the Barons and Henry III, for which Lewes will always be famous, the fortress took no actual part and merely surrendered at discretion.
"The battle was fought on the hill where the races are held. Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, headed the Baronial army. The Royal forces were divided into three bodies; the right entrusted to Prince Edward; the left to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, King of the Romans; and the centre to Henry himself. Prince Edward attacked the Londoners under Nicholas Seagrave with such impetuosity that they immediately fled and were pursued with great slaughter. Montfort taking advantage of this separation, vigorously charged the remaining division of the Royalists, which he put to rout. The King and the Earl of Cornwall hastened to the town, where they took refuge in the Priory. Prince Edward, returning in triumph from the pursuit of the Londoners, learned with amazement the fate of his father and uncle. He resolved to make an effort to set them at liberty, but his followers were too timid to second his ardour, and he was finally compelled to submit to the conditions subscribed by his father, who agreed that the Prince and his cousin Henry, son of the Earl of Cornwall, should remain as hostages in the hands of the Barons till their differences were adjusted by Parliament. In this contest 5,000 men were slain. The King, who had his horse slain under him, performed prodigies of valour. Richard, Earl of Cornwall, was taken prisoner."
By all accounts it was a good fight, and the best men won. A touch of humour is added to one record wherein it is related that Richard, King of the Romans, took refuge in a windmill, wherein he was afterwards captured amid shouts of "Come out, thou bad miller." This mill stood near the old Black Horse Inn, but has long since been burnt down.
Accounts vary exceedingly as to the number of the slain, some authorities giving as many as 20,000, others no more than 2,700.
"Many faire ladie lose hir lord that day, And many gode bodie slayn at Leans lay. The nombre none wrote, for tell them might no man. But He that alle wote, and alle thing ses and can."
There are certain times, especially in the early hours of a fine autumn day, when the mass of old grey stone is seen rising above its vassal town through golden river mists which veil the modernities of the railway and its appurtenancies, and one feels that the battle might have taken place yesterday. Strange that this town is an important and busy railway junction and yet so little has the old-world appearance of the place suffered in consequence; here are no ugly rows of railwaymen's cottages in stark evidence on the hillsides; in actual fact the coming of the railway has added to the antiquarian and historical interest of the town, as will be seen presently.
A short distance along High Street stands St. Michael's Church, which has one of the three curious round towers for which the valley of the Ouse is famous. The style of the tower is Norman, but the body of the church is of later dates. Here are some fine brasses; one is supposed to commemorate a de Warenne who died about 1380; another is to John Bradford, rector, dated 1457. The monument to Sir Nicholas Pelham (1559) has an oft-quoted punning verse—
"What time the French sought to have sacked Sea-Foord This Pelham did repel-em back aboord."
St. Anne's Church is nearly a quarter of a mile farther on. The style is Transitional. There are several interesting items, including a very fine and ancient font of a "basket" pattern. Note the uncommon appearance of the capitals on the south side pillars, an ancient tomb in the chancel wall, and, not least, the doorway with Norman moulding. There is in this church a window in memory of Lower, a fitting tribute to the historian of Sussex, but his best memorial will always be that work that is still the basis of most writings on the past of the county.
The road continues to the Battlefield and Mount Harry, but to explore the lower portion of the town a return must be made to High Street. At the corner of Bull Lane, marked by a memorial tablet and with a queer carved demon upon its front is Tom Paine's house. Note the unusual milestone on a house front opposite Keere Street, down which turning is presently passed (on the left) Southover House (1572), a good example of Elizabethan architecture. Keere Street has another remnant of the past in its centre gutter, the usual method of draining the street in medieval times, but now very seldom seen except in the City of London.
At the foot of the street is the (probably dry) bed of the Winterbourne, so called because, like other streams of the chalk country, it flows at intermittent times. A short distance farther, to the right, and just past St. John's Church, will be found the entrance to the space once occupied by the first Priory of the Cluniacs in England.
Founded in 1078 by William de Warenne and his wife Gundrada and dedicated to St. Pancras, the Priory was always closely allied with the parent house on the continent. At the Dissolution more than the usual vandalism seems to have been observed and Cromwell's creatures must have vented some personal spite against the monks in their wholesale demolition of the buildings. A mound to the north-east is supposed to be the site of a calvary, and until quite recently a "colombarium" or dovecote was allowed to stand which contained homes for over three thousand birds.
"The Priory building was probably irregular, varying in its form as the increase of inmates demanded additional room. But though irregular, it was certainly a noble edifice, faced with Caen stone, and richly adorned by the chisel of the sculptor. Its walls embraced an area of 32 acres, 2 rods, 11 perches, and it was not less remarkable for its magnificence than extent. The length of the church was 150 feet, having an altitude of 60 feet. It was supported by thirty-two pillars, eight of which were very lofty, being 42 feet high, 18 feet thick, and 45 feet in circumference; the remaining twenty-four were 10 feet thick, 25 feet in circumference, and 18 feet in height. The belfry was placed over the centre of the church, at an elevation of 105 feet, and was supported by the eight lofty pillars above mentioned. The roof over the high altar was 93 feet high. Its walls were 10 feet thick. On the right side of the high altar was a vault supported by four pillars, and from this recess branched out five chapels that were bounded by a wall 70 yards long. A higher vault supported by four massive pillars, 14 feet in diameter, and 45 feet in circumference, was probably on the left side of the high altar, and corresponded with the one just mentioned, from which branched out other chapels or cells of the monks. How many chapels there were cannot be ascertained; the names of only three are known, the Virgin Mary, St. Thomas the Martyr, and St. Martin. The chapter-house and church were by far the most splendid apartments of this stately pile; the latter was richly adorned by the painter and the sculptor."
 These measurements are confusing, unless the pillars were of an unusual shape. A round column 18 feet thick would be 54 feet in circumference.
The wooden chapel of St. Pancras which existed here in Saxon times probably stood where later the high altar of the great Norman church was reared, and across this site the Eastbourne trains now run. The station itself is supposed to be on the site of the convent kitchens and consequently the present ruins are very scanty. Though the foundations laid bare at the cutting of the railway in 1845 show the great extent of the buildings, the battered walls which now remain give but little indication of the imposing dimensions quoted above, and the visitor will have to depend on sentiment and the imagination rather than on actual sightseeing. The excavators in 1845 had a gruesome experience, for they discovered a charnel pit containing thirteen cart loads of bones of the fallen warriors at the battle of Lewes. Although nearly six centuries had elapsed the stench was dreadful.
That the archaeological interest of Lewes owes much to the making of the railway will now be seen.
The following account appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1845:—
"On the morning of Tuesday, October 28, a most interesting discovery was made by the workmen employed in forming a cutting for the Lewes and Brighton Railway, through the ground formerly occupied by the great Cluniac Priory of St. Pancras, at Lewes. It is well-known that the original founders, in 1078, were William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, of a great Norman family, and his wife Gundred, the daughter of William the Conqueror and his Queen Matilda; that they pulled down an old wooden church to replace it by a stone one, and that after their deaths in 1085 and 1088, they were buried in the chapter-house of their Priory. So effectual, however, was the destruction of the buildings in 1537 by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of Henry VIII that the very site of the church has been uncertain, and there has long been nothing visible of the ruins but a confused mass of broken walls and arches half buried under the soil. The bold intrusion of a railway into these hallowed precincts has thrown light upon this obscurity, and in the course of their excavations the workmen have found, covered by some slabs of Caen stone, two leaden chests containing the bones of the founders, and inscribed with their names. They are not coffins, but cists or chests, and are both of similar form and dimensions, ornamented externally by a large net-work of interlaced cords moulded in the lead. The cist of William de Warenne measures 2 feet 11 inches long, by 12-1/2 inches broad, and is 8 inches deep, all the angles being squared, and the flat loose cover lapping an inch over. On the upper surface at one end is inscribed in very legible characters 'WillelMus.' The cist of the princess his wife is 2 inches shorter and 1 inch deeper, and the word 'Gvndrada' is very distinctly inscribed on the cover. It is worth remarking that her father, the Conqueror, in his charter, calls for Gundfreda, and her husband, who survived her, calls her Gundreda in his charter.
"It is obvious, from the length of these receptacles, that their bones have been transferred to them from some previous tombs, and it is not difficult to suppose that, the chapter-house not being built at the time of their deaths, the founders were buried elsewhere until its completion, and that the bodies were then found so decayed that their bones only remained for removal to a more distinguished situation, and were, on that occasion, placed in these very leaden chests. A rebuilding of the Priory Church was begun on the anniversary of William the founder's death in 1243, and from the antique form of the letters G and M the inscriptions cannot be fixed at a later period. The characters, indeed, more resemble the form used in the twelfth century. Of the genuine antiquity of these relics there cannot be the slightest doubt. It is locally notorious that the black marble slab which formerly covered the remains of Gundrada, beautifully carved and bordered with nine Latin verses in her honour cut in the rim and down the middle, was discovered in 1775 in Isfield Church, misappropriated as a tombstone over one of the Shirley family, and by the care of Sir William Burrel removed to the church of Southover, immediately adjoining the ruins of the Priory. It is very singular that now, after an interval of eight years, her very bones should be brought to the same church (under the superintendence of the Rev. Mr. Scobell) there to undergo a third burial under Gundrada's marble slab.
"The tombstone of Gundred Countess of Warren was discovered about the year 1775, by Dr. Clarke, rector of Buxted, in the Shirley chancel of Isfield Church, forming the table part of a mural monument of Edward Shirley, Esq., by whose father probably it was preserved at the demolition of the Priory, and conveyed to Isfield, his manorial estate. At the expense of Dr., afterwards Sir William, Burrell, it was removed from its obscure station, and placed upon a suitable shrine, in the vestry-pew of Southover Church, that being the nearest convenient spot to its original station. The stone is of black marble, sculptured in very high relief. The lower end had been broken off before its discovery at Isfield. Around the rim, and along the middle, is the following inscription:
Stirps Gundrada ducum, decus evi, nobile germen, Intulit ecclesiis Anglorum balsama morum, Martir (is hanc aedem struxit Pancrati in honorem) Martha fuit miseris, fuit ex pietate Maria; Pars obiit Marthe, superest pars magna Marie. O pie Pancrati, testis pietatis et equi, Te facit heredem, tu clemens suscipe matrem. Sexta kalendarum junii lux obvia carnis Fregit alabastrum (superest pars optima coelo). (Conjectured words in parenthesis.)
"Another leaden coffin, full of bones, but without any inscription, has also been found, longer than those of the founder's, having a semicircular top, and six large rings of 3-1/4 inches diameter attached to the outsides. At a little distance from the two small chests, there was also found the remains of an ecclesiastic, buried without any coffin, but lying upon a bed of coarse gravel within a hollow space formed by large flat stones. His hands were in a position indicating that they had been joined together in the attitude of prayer over his breast, as usual. Not only his bones, but much of his thick woollen gown, his under-garment of linen, and his leather shoes have been preserved. These, too, have been carefully transferred to Southover Church. It has been conjectured with much probability that these remains were those of Peter, the son of John, Earl de Warren, the patron of the monastery, who was appointed prior contrary to the nomination of the Pope in favour of the suggestion that the reinterment of the remains of the founders took place about the beginning of the thirteenth century."
A chapel specially designed to receive the leaden caskets was erected in excellent taste at St. John's, Southover, in 1847. The names are plainly decipherable. The tombstone on the floor is that of Gundrada, brought here from Isfield. The effigy in the wall of the chapel is conjectured to be that of John de Braose, who died in 1232.
The picturesque old house on the north side of the street is called Anne of Cleve's House, but this title appears to be contradicted by the date 1599 on the front of the building; there is a possibility that this date was added when certain alterations took place; it is certain, however, that when Thomas Cromwell's time was past the property was made over to the King, of whom a very startling legend is told locally to the effect that he murdered one of his wives on a stairway in the Priory!
The rebuilt church of St. John-sub-castre has its ugliness redeemed in the antiquary's eye by the round Saxon arch retained in the outside wall and by the "Magnus Memorial" as certain stones, bearing a Latin inscription in Anglo-Saxon characters, are called. Here is also a fourteenth century tomb and an old font. The churchyard forms the site of a Roman camp, the vallum of which may still be seen.
St. Thomas-at-Cliffe has several interesting details including an uncommon and elaborate "squint" with two pillars; a modern painting of St. Thomas of Canterbury, patron saint of the church, and an old Dutch representation of the Ascension.
Among the many famous men of Lewes must be mentioned Tom Paine who came here in 1768, marrying in 1771 a daughter of the town named Elizabeth Ollive and in due time succeeding to her father's business of tobacconist. The house has already been noticed, it bears a memorial tablet and also a very quaint carved demon. It is just off the High Street and near St. Michael's Church. Lewes cannot claim the honour of seeing the birth of The Rights of Man (a rather dubious honour in those days); the book was written while Paine stayed with his biographer, Thomas Rickman the bookseller, in London.
Another famous resident of Lewes was John Evelyn, who spent a great part of his schooldays in the Grammer School at Southover. Here also was educated John Pell, the famous mathematician.
A house at the end of the town on the Newhaven road belonged to the Shelleys, and Dr. Johnson once stayed here on his way to the Thrales in Brighton.
The old "Star" Inn has been converted into municipal offices, but the fine front still remains and most of the old work in the interior. In the tower close by, in the Market-place, is "Great Gabriel," a bell dating, it is said, from the time of Henry III. Lower has the following lines on the bells of Lewes:—
"Oh, happy Lewes, waking or asleep, With faithful hands your time archangels keep! St. Michael's voice the fleeting hour records, And Gabriel loud repeats his brother's words; While humble Cliffites, ruled by meaner power, By Tom the Archbishop regulate their hour."
It was hereabouts that a great burning of heretics took place in 1557. Among the honoured names recorded upon the Martyr's Memorial is that of Richard Woodman, ironmaster, of Warbleton, whose protests against his pastor's weathercock attitude during the Marian persecutions resulted in the stake. The memorial perpetuates the names of sixteen persons who suffered the fiery death at this time. The consequence is that the zeal of the townsmen on the 5th of November is Orange in its fervour, and the streets are given up to various "fireworks" clubs whose members have been subscribing their spare shillings for months past. Crowds ascend Saxon Down and the surrounding hills to see the display from a distance; still greater crowds throng the streets to watch the destruction in effigy of some unpopular local or national celebrity. Of the Down land walks we have mentioned the most interesting, by reason of its fine views of the town, is to Cliffe Hill. An extension may be made to Saxon Down, a glorious expanse of wind-swept hill; and farther on to the conical Mount Caburn, with magnificent marine views; from this point a descent may be made to Glynde, which will be described presently.
The long street of Cliffe leads northwards to South Malling; here is a conventicle named "Jireh" erected by J. Jenkyns, W.A. These cryptic initials mean "Welsh ambassador." In the cemetery behind is the tomb of William Huntingdon, the evangelist, whose epitaph is as follows:—
"Here lies the coalheaver, beloved of his God, but abhorred of men. The Omniscient Judge at the grand assize shall ratify and confirm this to the confusion of many thousands; for England and her metropolis shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.
"W.H., S.S." (Sinner Saved.)
The evangelist was wont to say "As I cannot get a D.D. for want of cash, neither can I get a M.A. for want of learning, therefore I am compelled to fly for refuge to S.S."
Malling Church is of no interest except perhaps for the fact that John Evelyn laid the foundation stone. At Old Malling once stood a Saxon collegiate church founded by Caedwalla in 688 and therefore one of the first Christian churches erected in Sussex. The Archbishops of Canterbury had a residence near, and in the Memorials of Canterbury Dean Stanley tells how Becket's murderers entered the house and threw their arms on the dining-table, which immediately threw them off; replaced, they were again thrown farther off with a louder crash. One of the knights then suggested that the table refused to bear its sacrilegious burden. This is still a popular local legend.
Ringmer, about two miles to the north-east, is closely connected with Gilbert White; the oft-quoted letter in which he says "I have now travelled the Downs upwards of 30 years, yet I still investigate that chain of majestic mountains with fresh admiration year by year" was written from here. There are several interesting monuments and brasses in the church, especially those to the Springett family.
TO EASTBOURNE AND PEVENSEY
Two miles distant from Lewes on the Eastbourne road is Beddingham, whose church shows a medley of styles from Norman to Decorated. About one hundred years ago a discovery was made near the village of a quantity of human remains together with weapons and accoutrements, pointing to the probability of a forgotten battle having taken place in the pass between the hills. A religious house dedicated to St. Andrew is conjectured to have existed at one time in or near the village. Monkish records relate that a ship hailing from Dunkirk and having on board a monk named Balger was driven into Seaford by a storm. This Balger was of an enterprising turn; making his way inland he helped himself to the relics of St. Lewinna, a British convert, which reposed in St. Andrew's Monastery. The adventures that overtook the relics and their illegal guardian during the journey back to Flanders make up a medieval romance of much interest and throw a curious light on the mental attitude of the religious, as regards the rights of property, during the Dark Ages.
A mile farther along the high road is the turning which leads to Glynde station and village, for which the most pleasant route is over the hills. The name is possibly a Celtic survival and describes the situation between opposing heights. "Glyn" is common throughout the whole of Wales. The church is in a style quite alien to its surroundings and might well belong to Clapham or Bloomsbury. It is a Grecian temple built about 1765 by the then Bishop of Durham, Dr. Trevor, and here the Bishop was buried. There are few more charming groups of cottages in Sussex than this beautiful village. Glynde Place, the seat of a former Speaker of the House of Commons, boasts the largest dairy in Sussex if not in England; between 700 and 800 pounds of butter are made here daily. John Ellman, the famous breeder of Southdown sheep lived here for nearly fifty years (1780-1829.)
A short way farther, on the main road, is a turning to West Firle, on the east of which is the fine Firle Park belonging to the Gage's, a very ancient local family whose tombs and brasses may be seen in the church. The pedestrian is advised to press on to Firle Beacon from which a descent may be made to Alciston (pronounced "Aston") on the high road. The heap of flints on the summit of the Beacon is 718 feet above the sea, and therefore the hill is not so high as it looks, nor is it, as was formerly supposed to be the case, the second highest summit of the Downs. The view is superb both northwards to the Weald and southwards over the Channel. Alciston calls for little comment, the charm of the place consists in its air of remoteness and peace. The small church is partly Norman, and in the walls of Court House Farm are the remains of a religious house. Note the ancient barn and dovecote. A mile to the north is another little hamlet called "Simson," and spelt Selmeston. The curious wooden pillars in the church were fortunately untouched when the building was restored. The old altar slab has five crosses, and there are one or two interesting brasses.
Berwick is a scattered village on the western slopes of the Cuckmere valley; the Early English church is embowered in trees on a spur of the Downs; there is a fine canopied tomb in the chancel, an old screen and an uncommon type of font built in the wall. Note the eloquent epitaph to a former rector.
Half a mile farther is a turning on the right that passes Winton Street, where, a few years ago, there was a rich find of Anglo-Saxon antiquities. In two miles this byway reaches Alfriston. ("All-friston.") The church has a very common legend associated with it; the foundations are said to have been again and again removed by supernatural agency from another site to the spot where the solemn and stately old building now stands. It is a Perpendicular cruciform church and has an Easter sepulchre and three sedilia. The register is said to be the oldest in England, its first entry bearing the date of 1512. "A few years since as many as seventy 'virgins' garlands' hung in Alfriston Church at once" (Hare). Close by is a delightful pre-Reformation clergy house. Antiquaries are perhaps as concerned with the "Star" Inn, one of the most interesting in the south of England and dating from about 1490. The front of the house is covered with quaint carvings including St. George and the Dragon, a bear and ragged staff and what appears to be a lion. On each side of the doorway arc mitred saints conjectured to represent St. Julian and St. Giles. The inn is reputed to have been a place of sanctuary under Battle Abbey; it stands within the abbot's manor of Alciston and was undoubtedly the recognized hostel for pilgrims and mendicant friars. Another old inn, once a noted house of call for smugglers, is Market Cross House, opposite all that remains of the Cross, a mutilated and battered stump, and the only example, except that at Chichester, in the county.
Alfriston once had a race week, the course being on the side of Firle Beacon; in those days the resident population was probably greater than it is now. Not only were more souls crowded into the old houses still standing in the village street but tradition tells that the place was larger and more suited to its spacious old church which is now barely half filled on an ordinary Sunday.
A footpath may be taken over the Cuckmere and up the hill beyond to the little dependency of Lullington. The church calls itself the smallest in Sussex but this depends upon what constitutes a church. The existing building is actually the chancel of a former church, perhaps another proof of a dwindling population.
The winding lane on the eastern bank of the Cuckmere is thick with a glaring white dust on the dry days of summer, but there is no other practicable route to Litlington; where is a quaint and interesting old church with arches formed of the native chalk. This village is growing rather than decaying, and appears to be, in a small way, an asylum for those who have grown weary of the broader highways. It is in a most delightful situation and is even within reach of a morning dip in the sea for those vigorous enough to undertake a three mile walk each way. "Tea" placards nestling among the roses and ivy on the cottage walls also testify its attractions to holiday wayfarers, though the way to Litlington, even for the motor-cyclist, is too strenuous for the village to become overcrowded or vulgar.
The Cuckmere now begins to widen its banks and the theory that the waters once extended from side to side of the valley seems tenable as we view the wide expanse of sedgy swamp through which the present channel has been artificially cut. Cuckmere Haven is the name given to the bay between the last of the "Seven Sisters" and the eastern slopes of Seaford Head which should be ascended for the sake of the lovely view up the valley, seen at its best from this end.
"The only light that suits the tranquillity and tender pathos of the region is that which fills the dimples of the Downs with inexpressibly soft and dreamy expressions, and quickens the plain by revealing the individuality of every blade of grass and plough-turned clod by its own shadow."
Nearly all the villages of the Cuckmere are in sight and make together perhaps the most likely to be remembered of Sussex pictures. It is surprising how little this tranquil vale is known except to the chance visitor from Seaford. When one remembers the much exploited and spoilt beauty spots of Dorset and Devon one feels nervous for the future of these lesser known but equally charming sea-combes of Sussex.
A short distance from the haven a steep gulley leads to the beach with a convenient chain and rope to prevent too sudden a descent. It has been suggested that through this gap the Romans passed from their moored fleets to the fortified settlements above. It was at one time possible to descend by another opening higher up the cliff to a ledge called "Puck Church Parlour." This is now inaccessible except to seabirds. The well-known view of the "Seven Sisters" is taken hereabouts and the disused "Belle Tout" lighthouse stands up well on the western slopes of Beachy Head, looking no distance across the Cuckmere bay.
On the way from Litlington a slight divergence of half a mile or so might have been made to West Dean; this is a most sequestered little hamlet, famous only as the meeting place between the great Alfred and Asser, though some authorities claim the West Dean between Midhurst and Chichester as the authentic spot. There is a Norman arch in the tower of the church and also several canopied tombs and some good stained glass. Here is another priest's house even older than the one we have seen at Alfriston. George Gissing well describes the village and the surrounding country in his novel Thyrza.
A Downland road can be taken from here to Friston, Eastdean and Eastbourne, saving some miles of up and down walking, but the most enjoyable though more strenuous route is by the cliff path from Cuckmere Haven over the "Seven Sisters" cliffs to Beachy Head; a glorious six miles with the sea on one side and the Downs on the other, culminating in the finest headland on the south coast, 575 feet high, the magnificent end of the Downs in the sea. All these cliffs provide nesting-places for wild birds.
"I was much struck by the watchful jealousy with which the peregrines seemed to guard the particular cliff—more than 500 feet from the sea—on a lofty ledge of which their nest was situated, and which, indeed, they evidently considered their especial property; with the exception of a few jackdaws who bustled out of the crevices below, all the other birds which had now assembled on this part of the coast for the breeding season—it being about the middle of May—seemed to respect the territory of their warlike neighbours. The adjoining precipice, farther westward, was occupied by guillemots and razorbills, who had deposited their eggs, the former on the naked ledge, the latter in the crevices in the face of the cliff Here the jackdaws appeared quite at their ease, their loud, merry note being heard above every other sound, as they flew in and out of the fissures in the white rock or sate perched on a pinnacle near the summit, and leisurely surveyed the busy crowd below."
At Birling Gap, just short of the Head, is a coast-guard station and the point of departure for the cable to France where we may descend to the coast by an opening which was once fortified. In history Beachy Head (possibly "Beau Chef") is chiefly remembered for the battle between the combined English and Dutch fleets and the French, in which the English admiral did not show to the best advantage.
Before the erection of the Belle Tout Light wrecks off the Head were of frequent occurrence and many are the tales of gallant fight and hopeless loss told by the coast dwellers here. "Parson Darby's Hole" under the Belle Tout is said to have been made by the vicar of East Dean (1680) as a refuge for castaways. We can but hope that his parishioners were as humane, but the probability is that the parson's efforts were looked on askance by his flock, who gained a prosperous livelihood by the spoils of the shore; and perhaps this feeling gave rise to the unkind fable that the cave was made as a refuge from Mrs. Darby's tongue.
"Sussex men that dwell upon the shore Look out when storms arise and billows roar; Devoutly praying with uplifted hands That some well-laden ship may strike the sands. To whose rich cargo they may make pretence."
The fine carriage-road which leaves Beachy Head leads directly into Eastbourne and is called the Duke's Drive. It was owing to the initiative of the grandfather of the present Duke of Devonshire, whose local seat is at Compton Place on the west of the town that the little hamlet of Sea Houses became the present beautiful and fashionable resort, with a sea-front of nearly three miles of gardens backed by hotels, boarding-houses and schools. As at Folkestone, education is here a strong feature, and a few years ago demure files of young ladies with attendant dragon taking the air between breakfast and study might have been seen. The epoch-ending events of the last few years, however, appear to have killed the "caterpillar."
Eastbourne seems to have carefully pushed its workers, together with the gasworks, market gardens, and other utilitarian features round the screen of Splash Point. The boulevards going west and north are full of fine houses and brilliant shops and are lined with well grown trees. The continuation of Terminus Road will take us in a little over a mile to the old town; here is the parish church, mostly Transitional, and with many interesting features which should on no account be missed. Note the oak screen in the chancel; sedilia and piscina; also an Easter sepulchre. There is some old Flemish glass in the east window of the nave aisle; that of the chancel is modern but good. Near the church is a farmhouse, once a priory of Black Friars. The ancient "Lamb Inn" has an Early English crypt which may be seen on application.
The most popular excursion from Eastbourne after "The Head" is to Willingdon, near which is Hampden Park and Wannock Glen, and, farther afield, Jevington. Willingdon has an interesting old church and is pleasantly situated, but the village is too obviously the "place to spend a happy day" to call for further comment. On the other hand, Jevington with its ancient but over-restored church, is quite unspoilt and, lying in one of the most beautiful of the Down combes, should certainly be visited.
We are now at the end of the Downs and the scenery eastwards takes on an entirely different character:—
"The great and fertile plain stretching along the Sussex coast from the eastward of Beachy Head in the direction of Hastings, and inland towards Wartling, Hurstmonceux and Hailsham, now studded with fat beeves, was at some remote era, covered by the sea, and what are known as 'eyes,' or elevations above the surrounding level—such as Chilleye, Northeye, Horseye, Richeye, &c.—must have been islands, forming a miniature archipelago. As all these are of Saxon meaning, it may be presumed that, at the time of the Saxon colonization, they were frequently or constantly insulated."
Five miles from Eastbourne across the dreary flats of Pevensey Level lies all that remains of the city of Anderida, the headquarters of the Roman "Count of the Saxon Shore" and one of the last strongholds of Rome in Britain. The melancholy tale of the overthrow of ancient civilization in this corner of England by the barbarous Saxon invaders is summed up in the terse words of their own chronicle—"They slew all that dwelt therein, nor was there henceforth one Briton left." The name "Andredes Weald" is derived from the British—An tred—"No houses," and it correctly described the surrounding country at the time of the Roman occupation. The great Weald or forest actually extended from the coast to the Thames valley, broken only by the "Old Road" along the side of the North Downs, traversed by far-off ancestors of ours whose feelings as they gazed fearfully down into the depths of the primeval wood must have been on a plane with those of the earliest African explorers in the land of Pygmies. Here were the very real beginnings of those countless tales of Gnome and Fairy—ferocious tribe and gentle tribe—with which our folk-lore abounds.
As to the existence of a British town here before the coming of the Romans nothing is known, but that Pevensey Bay witnessed the landing of Julius Caesar is tolerably certain, and here the custodians of Britain erected a great stronghold of whose walls we shall see the remnants as we first enter the castle. In 490 Ella besieged the city and, as quoted above, put it to fire and sword in effectual fashion; from this period therefore must be dated the foundations of the South Saxon kingdom. After upwards of five hundred years another conqueror appeared on the old Roman wall. On the twenty-eighth September 1066 William I landed, stumbled and fell, and "clutched England with both hands." Pevensey (Peofn's Island) was given to Robert of Mortain, and he it was who built the massive castle of the "Eagle" which we see rising inside the Roman wall. This name arose from the title "Honour of the Eagle" which was given to de Aquila, holder of the fortress under Henry I. After many changes of owners who included Edward I, Edward III and John of Gaunt, and after being besieged by Stephen against Matilda, by the Barons against Henry III, and by Richard II against Bolingbroke it fell on evil times and was actually sold for forty pounds by the Parliamentary commissioners as building material. The keep is in ruins and the chapel can only be traced in the grassy floor; here may still be seen the old font covered by an iron frame, and the opening of the castle well, in which, as related by Hare, skulls of the wolves which once roamed the great forest have been found.
In connexion with the Norman occupation of Sussex the curious and arbitrary system of "Rapes" by which the county is divided should be noticed. These six blocks of land have no apparent relation to the natural features of the country; each contains a powerful castle to overawe the division to which it belongs. The whole plan is eloquent of the method by which the Norman ruled the conquered race and kept them in subjection.
Pevensey shore is very trying for the pedestrian. The great expanse of shingle is of that drifting variety which makes walking almost an impossibility.
Pevensey church is to the east of the castle; the interior is graceful and it has some interesting details. Note the case of local curiosities, title deeds, etc. Westham, that part of the village nearest the station, was the overflow settlement from the walled town; this has a much finer church with Norman remains dating from the Conqueror's time, and the tower is noble in its massive proportions. Visitors should purchase the interesting little booklet shown on the table within the porch. The church has a fine oak screen in the south chancel and a stone altar with five crosses in the north aisle. Not far away is a large farmhouse known as "Priest-house"; this was once a monastic establishment.
Close to Westham is Pevensey Station, from which the traveller can proceed to Hastings, Rye and Winchelsea; this beautiful and interesting district of Sussex is dealt with in Mr. Bradley's An Old Gate of England, and we must regretfully turn westwards. The return journey to Lewes may be made by the railway, though the Downs, for the unfatigued traveller, should prove the most alluring route. After passing Polegate a good view may be had on the left of the "Long Man of Wilmington" a figure 230 feet in length with a staff in each hand cut in the escarpment of Windover Hill; this is the only prehistoric figure on the Sussex Downs. Its origin has never been satisfactorily explained. Lower has suggested that it was the work of an idle monk of Wilmington. This is most unlikely. The theory has lately been put forward that the "staff" which the figure appears to be holding in each hand is really the outline of a door and that the effigy is that of Balder pushing back the gates of night. Wilmington village has an interesting Norman Church with a very fine yew in the churchyard. Built into the walls of a farmhouse close by are some remains of a Benedictine priory. Beautiful walks into the nearer woodlands of the Weald are easily taken from this pleasant village and the hill rambles toward Jevington are delightful.
Before leaving this district mention must be made of Hurstmonceux. The nearest station is Pevensey, from which there is a rather dull walk of four miles across the Pevensey Levels. The more picturesque route is from Hailsham, though this is longer and belongs more to a tour of the Weald. The only village passed on the way from Pevensey is Wartling, beyond which a footpath can be taken across the meadows with a fine view of the ruins ahead. The present castle was built by Sir Roger de Fiennes in the reign of Henry VI. The name is taken from the first Lord of the Manor, Waleran de Monceux.
The outer shell is all that remains of what was once one of the grandest fortified mansions in England; it is now but a subject for artists and photographers, though at one time, since its dismantling, it made a good secret wine and spirit vaults. The colour of the walls is a surprise until it is realized that the building is of brick. The southern entrance, by which we approach, is the most imposing part of the ruin. We enter by a wooden bridge across the moat; this replaces the drawbridge. In the recessed chamber behind the central arch a ghostly drum was sometimes heard, and the supernatural drummer was supposed to guard hidden treasure. This legend was made good use of by the smuggling fraternity, the thumping of an empty keg being sufficient to scare away inconvenient visitors. Within the walls we are in a wilderness of broken brickwork covered with an enormous growth of ivy. Notice the great oven, and the ruins of the private chapel on the north side. The circuit of the walls should be made as far as is practicable; the magnificent row of Spanish chestnuts is much admired.
The story of the demolition of Hurstmonceux is unhappy reading; the act of vandalism for which the architect Wyatt was officially responsible seems to have been prompted by family spite.
The church is of great interest. The Dacre chantry and the splendid tomb of Thomas Fiennes, Lord Dacre, must be noticed; also a brass of Sir William Fiennes, 1405. The association of the place with the Hares, who are buried under the yew in the churchyard, although of recent date is nevertheless of much interest. The property and the living, which passed in 1855, came to the family through George Naylor of Lincoln's Inn, who bought them in 1708.
Near the church stands a fine fourteenth-century barn. The village is remarkable for a local industry—the making of "trug" baskets for the carriage of fruit.
SEAFORD TO BRIGHTON
The direct route to Brighton for pedestrians is by a footpath which leaves Lewes at the west end of Southover Street; this leads to the summit of Newmarket Hill and thence to the Racecourse and Kemp Town. No villages are passed and but few houses, and the six miles of Down, although so near a great town, are as lonely as any other six in Sussex. The high road leaves the town by the Battlefield road past St. Anne's church and follows the railway closely until the tram lines on the outskirts of Brighton are reached; this route passes Falmer, north-west of which lies the beautiful Stanmer Park, seat of the Earl of Chichester.
It will be best, however, to take the Newhaven road from Southover which hugs the foot of the Downs and in a short two miles reaches Iford. About half-way a turning to the right leads to the snug little village of Kingston with the hills rising closely all round. This place was once the property of Sir Philip Sidney. The remains of an ancient house belonging to the Priory at Lewes are to be seen in the old farmhouse named Swanborough which lies between Kingston and Iford. The architecture is Perpendicular, and Early English; permission should be obtained to examine the interesting details which, include a venerable oak table in the kitchen. Iford Church is a Norman building with a central tower and an Early English font.
A little over a mile farther is Rodmell with very fine Norman details in the church, which has the rare feature of a baptistery. The early Decorated screen is good; note also the squint with a shaft in the centre. Here is a brass dated 1433 in memory of Agatha Broke, on the back of which is another inscription to some one else of the seventeenth century. The church is surrounded by magnificent trees, and of especial note is the huge holm oak which overshadows the rest. The village inn has on its walls a quaint and amusing collection of precepts for its habitues which might well be duplicated elsewhere. Southease, the next village, has another of the three round towers of Sussex, and Piddinghoe, two miles farther, the third. These towers are a matter of puzzled conjecture to archaeologists; all three, Lewes, Southease and Piddinghoe are on the western bank of the Ouse. The suggestion that they were originally beacon towers is not very convincing, though the Ouse at the time they were built was a wider and deeper stream, forming in fact an estuary haven. The more prosaic explanation is that lack of stone for the quoins, which every square flint tower must have, led the builders to adopt this form. In any case, a beacon fire from a square tower is as effectual as from a round one. Piddinghoe has many associations with the smuggling days which have given birth to some quaint sayings, as "Pidd'nhoo they dig for moonshine,"—"At Pidd'nhoo they dig for smoke," etc., but we fail to see the point in "Magpies are shod at Pidd'nhoo."
Seven miles from Lewes stands the rather mean port of Newhaven. After many years of neglect and decay this Elizabethan sea-gate is once more of great importance in continental traffic. Much money and skill were expended during the latter half of the nineteenth century in improving the harbour and building a breakwater and new quays. Louis Philippe landed here in 1848, having left Havre in his flight from France in the steamer "Express"; he was received by William Catt, who at one time owned the tide mills at Bishopstone; this worthy was a well known Sussex character and is immortalized by Lower. Newhaven has little to show the visitor beyond the small Norman church which has a chancel apse at the east of the tower. This portion is interesting but the nave has suffered from ignorant tinkering under the alias of "restoration." In the churchyard is a monument to those who perished in the wreck of the "Brazen" sloop of war in 1800 off the harbour, and another to a local brewer of the one-time famous "Tipper" ale, made from brackish water. The town was once called Meeching; this name is perpetuated in "Meeching Place" where a descendant of William Catt still lives.
On the east of the Ouse is a much more interesting halt for the tourist in the small village of Bishopstone. The small remains of the tide mills just referred to are near the station. The very fine Norman church is about a mile away on the road to the Downs. The four storied tower is almost unique. Each stage diminishes in size, thus dispensing with buttresses; in this respect it is similar to Newhaven. Notice under the short spire a quaint corbel table. The south porch is extremely interesting as Saxon work though the mouldings are probably later enrichments by Norman workmen. Over the door is a stone dial with a cross and the name EADRIC. The interior is a good example of the change from round to pointed, the pure Norman of the east end gradually changing to Early English at the west. The combination of Norman ornament with the later style is almost unique in Sussex. In the vestry an interesting stone slab is shown; this was discovered during the restoration. It bears the carved presentment of a lamb, a cross, and two doves drinking. At this time a stone coffin lid, and a hidden fourteenth-century niche in the porch were also discovered. In the chancel is a memorial to James Hurdis, formerly Vicar of the parish, the author of The Village Curate, which has been likened to Cowper's Task; the verses are full of shrewd wit and local colour.
One mile south-east is the village of East Blatchington, now a suburb of Seaford; the restored church is Norman and Early English. In the south wall is a curious recess in Decorated style, the real use of which has not yet been discovered. Notice the sedilia and projecting piscina, and the tablet to the memory of the famous aeronaut, Coxwell, who died here in 1900.
Seaford was once an ancient port at the mouth of the Ouse before that river forsook its old channel for the outlet where is now the "New Haven." An important satellite of Hastings and ranking as one of the lesser Cinque ports, the old town saw much history-making during the French wars and suffered accordingly. Its actual foundation dates at least from Roman times as is proved by the fragments of sculpture, coins, etc., dug up at different times during the last two hundred years. At the rear of the East Cliff, near a footpath leading to Chyngton, are traces of a Roman cemetery with possible evidence of earlier British burials.
In the town itself are some interesting though scanty remains of mediaeval times. In the garden of a house named "The Folly" is a vaulted room the origin of which has never been satisfactorily explained. It is possibly part of the Ancient Hospital of St. Leonard. The open space at the higher end of the town is called "The Crouch" a name that is a corruption of "The Crux." The fine old Hardwicke House in Broad Street is dated 1603. At one time it was a lodging-house, but its fortunes have lately risen. Seaford House was once the temporary residence of Tennyson.
Seaford church is dedicated to St. Leonard and is Norman as far as the tower is concerned, of which the embattlement is modern; note the crosses in black flints on three of the sides. The base of the walls of the church date from this period, rising through Transitional to Perpendicular. The detail has been largely spoilt through restoration. Note the capitals of the pillars which are most elaborately worked, that near the south door having a representation of the Crucifixion carved upon it.
Millburgh House was once the property of a noted smuggler named Whitfield, whose immunity from punishment was obtained by judicious presents of choice wines in high quarters. Tales of the old smuggling days would fill many pages, and undoubtedly the profession formed the major commercial asset not only of Seaford but of more important Sussex towns both on the coast and on the roads leading to the capital.
Lower has recorded many interesting facts about the long war between the revenue officers and the natives, relieved at all times by the unfailing humour of the law-breakers, who took a keen delight in fooling the exciseman. It was but infrequently that real tragedy took place; considering the times, and the manner of those times, the records of Sussex are fairly clean. Such brutal murders as that of Chater in 1748, which crime was expiated at Chichester, were rare. The professionals were nearly all men of substance and standing in the land. The marine smuggler was of course a separate breed whose adventures and danger were of a different sort and, despite the glamour of the sea, of much less interest and excitement; on the other hand most of the inhabitants of such places as Alfriston had one or more of the male members of the family engaged in the trade, and many are the houses which still have secret vaults and chambers for the reception of the goods, chiefly wine, brandy, silk and tea. Most of the churches between Seaford and Lewes have at one time or another proved convenient temporary storage places, and on more than one occasion Sunday service has had to be suspended, on one excuse or another, until the building could be cleared of its congregation of tubs. Lower records that at Selmeston the smugglers actually used an altar tomb as a store for spirits, always leaving a tub for the parson.
Seaford in its new role as a holiday resort has a serious obstacle to surmount; the only sea "front" possible is a wide shingle beach separated from the old town by a nondescript stretch of sandy desert; when and if this is filled in or converted into a garden the town should prosper exceedingly, for it has great natural attractions in Seaford Head which rises to the east and in the glorious Down walks within easy distance. In actual distance by rail it is, next to Brighton, the nearest South Coast resort to London and without doubt has a successful future before it. It is but little over two miles to the Cuckmere valley past the Roman camp and over the Head. The views of the "Seven Sisters" and on to Beachy Head from this point are very fine, and the great cliff itself, though much lower, is almost as interesting as the Eastbourne height. For one thing the wild life of the precipice is more easily studied, the crowds which on most summer days throng the more popular Head are not met with here. The writer has spent a June morning quite alone but for the myriad birds wheeling around and scolding at his presumption in being there at all.
The route now follows the coast road from Newhaven westwards. From the Portobello coastguard station, four miles from Newhaven Bridge, a road runs across the downs to the beautiful little village of Telscombe, nestling in a secluded combe in the heart of the hills; by-roads and footpaths also lead here by delightful ways from Southease and Piddinghoe. The church is old and interesting, quite unspoilt by any attempt at restoration; note the beautiful font on a marble platform.
Both here and at Rottingdean the artificial height of the churchyard above the surrounding land will be noticed. Cobbett's explanation for this is the obvious but rather gruesome one that dust added to dust has more than doubled the contents of the consecrated ground. From the comparative heights of the enclosure the author of Rural Rides reckoned the age of the building, a method which made a greater appeal to him than the rule of Norman round or English point.
Rottingdean has lately made a name for itself by reason of its modern literary associations. Its connexion with William Black and Rudyard Kipling is well known. Cardinal Manning and Bulwer Lytton both attended a once celebrated school kept here by Dr. Hooker. Edward Burne-Jones has left a lasting memorial of his association with the place in the beautiful east window of the church which was designed and presented by the artist. Certain columns in the walls point to the existence of a Saxon building of which these are the remains. Notice the effect of the tower in its unusual position between chancel and nave.
The village has a deserved place in the national history, as the following account will show:—
"In 1377 Hastings was burnt by the French, who also attempted to burn Winchelsea, but were foiled. They also attacked Rye, where they landed from five vessels. After plundering and setting it on fire they went away, leaving the town desolate. They landed at Rottingdean, advanced over the Downs with the design of laying waste Lewes, but in this were disappointed by the valour of John de Cariloce, Prior of Lewes, Sir Thomas Cheney, Constable of Dover Castle, Sir John Falsley, and others, who upon apprisal of it, hastened their vassals, and were joined by a number of peasantry, who boldly ascended the Downs, resolved to repel the invaders. They were insufficient both in number and skill to cope with the well-trained troops of France. The brave peasantry were totally routed, but not till one hundred of their party had sacrificed their lives, and the Prior and the two knights had been made prisoners. The loss which the French had sustained prevented further encroachments, and they returned to their ships with their prisoners, who were conducted to France."
That Rottingdean was known and appreciated over one hundred years ago will come as a surprise to many. The following account appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1801:—
"The pleasant and delightful village of Rottingdean is situated on the Newhaven Road, at the distance of nearly four miles from Brighthelmstone, a popular watering place. This place is no otherwise remarkable than for its wells, which are nearly empty at high water, but which rise as the tide declines. This little village has of late been the resort of a considerable number of genteel company, for which bathing-machines and every accommodation have been provided. Here are a variety of lodging houses, a good inn, with convenient stables, coach-houses, etc. It is most frequented by such families as prefer a little retirement to the bustle and gaiety of Brighthelmstone, and who occasionally may wish to mix with the company there, for which its situation renders it at any time perfectly convenient. The road from Rottingdean to Brighthelmstone is delightfully pleasant in the summer season. On one side you have an extensive view of the sea, and on the other the Downs, covered with innumerable flocks of sheep, so justly held in estimation for their delicious flavour."
About two and a half miles from Rottingdean in a lonely dene surrounded by the Downs is the little hamlet of Balsdean; there is nothing to see here but a building locally called "The Chapel" (the architecture is Decorated, with an ancient thatched roof) but the walk will give the stranger to the district a good idea of the solitude and unique characteristics of the chalk hills. The curious T-shaped cuttings still to be seen in the sides of the Downs may be remarked; these are where the traps set to catch wheatears were set. A great trade was once done by the Downland peasantry in these "Sussex Ortolans," as they were called, but of late years the demand has dwindled to vanishing point.
The lover of the picturesque will feel grateful to the powers who refuse to destroy the deserted windmills which stud the Downs and of which there is one good example near here. One cannot suppose however that the object of letting them stand is other than utilitarian; after a long life of service in their original capacity these daylight beacons perform the duty of landmarks for seamen in the Channel.
A footpath from Rottingdean just a mile long crosses the Downs to Ovingdean, another lonely hamlet without inn or shop. An ancient church, possibly Saxon in part, and a few houses hidden by trees make a goal of a favourite walk from Brighton. Harrison Ainsworth has made the little place famous in "Ovingdean Grange," in which romance the novelist makes it one of the scenes in the flight of Charles II; this however is incorrect, as it is certain that Brighton was the limit of the royal fugitive's journey eastwards. The large building on the hill above Ovingdean is Roedean College for girls; its fine situation and imposing size make it a landmark, and the seascape from its windows must be unrivalled.
"Kind, cheerful, merry Dr. Brighton." Thackeray's testimonial is as apt to-day as when it was written, but the doctor is not one of the traditional type. Here is no bedside manner and no misplaced sympathy, in fact he is rather a hardhearted old gentleman to those patients who are really ill in mind or body and his remedies are of the "hair of the dog that bit you" type.
Londoners take Brighton as a matter of course and—as Londoners—are rarely enthusiastic. It takes a Frenchman to give the splendid line of buildings which forms the finest front in the world the admiration that is certainly its due. When one has had time to dissect the great town, appreciation is keener; there are several Brightons; there is a town built on a cliff, another with spacious lawns on the sea level, and a third, the old Brighton, bounded by the limits of the original fishing village, and, with all its brilliance, having a distinctly briny smell as of fish markets and tarred rope and sun-baked seaweed when you are near the shingle. This last is nearly an ever-present scent, for the sun is seldom absent summer or winter; in fact it is when the days are shortest that Brighton is at its best; The clear brilliance of the air when the Capital is full of fog and even the Weald between is covered with a cold pall of mist, makes the south side of the Downs another climate. Richard Jeffries, almost as great a town hater as Cobbet, has a good word for Brighton. "Let nothing cloud the descent of those glorious beams of sunlight which fall at Brighton" (referring to its treelessness). "Watch the pebbles on the beach; the foam runs up and wets them, almost before it can slip back the sunshine has dried them again. So they are alternately wetted and dried. Bitter sea and glowing light, dry as dry—that describes the place. Spain is the country of sunlight, burning sunlight, Brighton is a Spanish town in England, a Seville."
The history of Brighton is the history of Piccadilly, but although the Prince Regent is usually credited with the discovery of the town, this title to fame must be given to a doctor of Lewes named Russel, who wrote a book on the virtues of sea water as applied to the person. This was published in 1750, and from that time must be dated the rise of England's first sea resort, for almost immediately patients eager for the new cure came thronging from London by post-chaise and family coach, and the doctor soon removed from his native town to attend them. The "cure" became the mode, and in 1783, when the Prince made his first visit, the fortune of the town was assured.
After a hundred years that ended with the Mid-Victorians the exclusiveness of Brighton gave way to the excursion train, and though still a fashionable place, it is now more than ever London-by-the-sea and caters with true courtliness for coster and duke.
Brighton was never a "steps to the sea" for anywhere but London, and its beginnings as a small but independent fishing settlement are very remote; according to some seventeenth century writers it once boasted walls and upwards of two thousand inhabitants, but through the depredations of the sea, it had dwindled to a mere hamlet, and cut off by the Downs and away from all the usual channels of communication, the self-sufficiency of the place must have received a rude shock when the first visitors arrived, but natives of the coast are notoriously adaptable and know a "sure thing." The following account written in 1766 shows how quickly the town was preparing for its great future.
"Brighthelmstone, in the County of Sussex, is distant from London 57 miles, is a small, ill-built town, situate on the sea coast, at present greatly resorted to in the summer time by persons labouring under various disorders for the benefit of bathing and drinking sea water, and by the gay and polite on account of the company which frequent it at that season. Until within a few years it was no better than a mere fishing town, inhabited by fishermen and sailors, but through the recommendation of Dr. Russel, and by the means of his writing in favour of sea water, it is become one of the principal places in the kingdom for the resort of the idle and dissipated, as well as the diseased and infirm."
"It contains six principal streets, five (East Street, Black Lion Street, Ship Street, Middle Street, West Street) lie parallel with each other, and are terminated by the sea. The sixth, North Street, running along the ends of the other five, from the assembly house almost to the church. The church, which is a very ancient structure, is situate at a small distance from the town, upon an eminence, from which there is an exceedingly fine view of the sea, and in the churchyard is a monument erected to the memory of Captain Nicholas Tattersell, who assisted King Charles II in his escape after the Battle of Worcester.
"The house in which the King was concealed is kept by a publican who has hung the King's head for his sign. The church is a rectory, and the Rev. Mr. Mitchell is the present incumbent; besides the church there are three other places of worship, one for Presbyterians, another for Quakers, and a third for Methodists, which last is lately erected at the expense of the Countess of Huntingdon adjoining her house, through which there is a communication. There are two assembly rooms, which are opened on different nights, one kept by Mr. Shergold, and the other by Mr. Hicks, who also keeps the coffee-house. The place on which the company usually walk in the evening is a large field near the sea, called the Stean, which is kept in proper order for that purpose, and whereon several shops with piazzas and benches therein are erected, as is also a building to perform in when the weather will permit. There is also a small battery towards the sea. At a little distance from the town is a mineral spring which is said to be a very fine one though little used. Upon the hills near the church the Isle of Wight is frequently seen on a clear day. About the town are very pleasant Downs for the company to ride on, the air of which is accounted extremely wholesome, and about eight miles from Brighthelmstone on the Downs is one of the finest prospects in the world called Devil's Dyke."