1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sussex
SUSSEX, a southern county of England, bounded N. by Surrey, N.E. by Kent, S. by the English Channel, and W. by Hampshire. The area is 1459-2 sq. m. The extreme length from E. to W. is 78 m., while the breadth never exceeds 28 m., but the county is not wholly on the southward slope, for in the middle northern district it contributes a small drainage area to the Thames basin, and the river Medway rises in it. A line of hills known as the Forest Ridges forms the watershed. Its direction is E.S.E. from the northern part of the county to the coast at Fairlight Down east of Hastings, and it reaches a height of about 800 ft. in the neighbourhood of Crowborough. The salient physical feature of the county, however, is the hill range called the South Downs (see Downs). Entering in the west, where its summit is about 10 m. from the sea, it runs east for some 50 m., gradually approaching the coast, and terminating in the bold promontory of Beachy Head near Eastbourne. The average height is about 500 ft., though some summits exceed 700, and Ditchling Beacon is over 800. The portion of the county north of the South Downs is called the Weald (q.v.). It was formerly covered with forest, and this part of the county is still well wooded. About 1660 the total area under forest was estimated to exceed 200,000 acres, but much wood was cut to supply the furnaces of the ironworks which formed an important industry in the county down to the 17th century, and survived even until the early years of the 19th.
The rivers wholly within the county are small. All rise in the Forest Ridges, and all, except the Rother, which forms part of the boundary with Kent, and falls into the sea below Rye, breach the South Downs. From east to west they are the Cuckmere, rising near Heathfield; the Ouse, Adur and Arun, all rising in the district of St Leonard's Forest, and having at their mouths the ports of Newhaven, Shoreham and Little- hampton respectively. The natural trench known as the Devil's Dike is a point greatly favoured by visitors from Brighton. The coast-line is practically coextensive with the extreme breadth of the county, and its character greatly varies. The sea has done great damage by incursion at some points, and has receded in others, within historic times. Thus what is now marsh- land or "Levels" round Pevensey was formerly an island- studded bay. In the east Winchelsea and Rye, members of the Cinque Ports, and great medieval towns, are deprived of their standing, the one wholly and the other in part, since a low flat tract interposes between their elevated sites where formerly was a navigable inlet. Yet the total submergence of the site of Old Winchelsea was effected in the 13th century. The site of the ancient cathedral of Selsey is a mile out at sea. Between 1292 and 1340 upwards of 5500 acres were submerged. In the early part of the 14th century Pagham Harbour was formed by a sudden irruption of the sea, devastating 2700 acres, since reclaimed. There is reason to believe that the whole coast- line has subsequently been slightly raised. These changes are reflected in the numerous alterations recorded in the course of certain of the rivers near their mouths. Thus the Rother was diverted by a great storm on the 12th of October 1250, before which date it entered the sea 12 m. to the east. The out- let of the Ouse was at Seaford until 1570, and that of the Adur formerly shifted from year to year, ranging east and west over a distance of 2 m. Submerged forests are found off the shore at various points. Long stretches of firm sand, and the mild climate of the coast, sheltered by the hills from north and east winds, have resulted in the growth of numerous watering-places, of which the most popular are Brighton, Hastings, Eastbourne, Bexhill, Seaford, Shoreham, Worthing, Littlehampton and Bognor.
Geology.—The disposition of the rock formations of Sussex is simple. The South Downs consist of chalk, which extends from Beachy Head by Seaford, Brighton, Lewes, Steyning and Goodwood to the western border. The dip of the chalk is southerly, while a strong escarpment faces the north. From the summit of the Downs the hilly country observed on the northern side is occupied mainly by the Hastings Beds and the Weald Clay; at the foot of the escarpment lie the Gault and Upper Greensand, while between these formations and the Wealden rocks there is an elevated ridge of ground formed by the Lower Greensand. On the southern side, narrow at Brighton but broadening westward, is a level tract, 8 m. wide in the peninsula of Selsey, which owes its level character to the action of marine planation. This tract is occupied partly by Chalk and partly by Tertiary rocks, both much obscured by more recent deposits. On this side the chalk hills are deeply notched by dry valleys or coombs, which frequently end in cirques near the northward escarpment. The present aspect of the strata has been determined by the broad east and west fold with its subordinate members, known as the Wealden anticline. Only the southern and central portions of this anticline are included in this country; at one time there is no doubt that the Chalk, Greensand and Gault covered the entire area in the form of an uplifted dome, but denudation has removed the Chalk and most of the other formations as far as the North Downs, exposing thereby the underlying Wealden Beds. The oldest rocks thus brought to light along the crest of the anticline are the Purbeck Beds, small patches of snale and limestone, with some important beds of gypsum, which lie north-west of Battle. A deep boring (1905 ft.) at Netherfield, passed through Portlandian Beds and Kimmeridge Clay into Oxford Clay, but these do not appear anywhere at the surface. Above the Purbeck Beds, and covering all the north-eastern portion of the county from the coast at Bexhill and Rye to Horsham, are sands and clays of the Lower Wealden or Hastings Beds. This includes the following local subdivisions, in ascending order; the Fairlight Clay, Ashdown Sand, Wadhurst Clay, Lower Tunbridge Wells Sana, Grinstead Clay and Upper Tunbridge Wells Sand (with Tilgate stone at the top and Cuckfield Clay at the base). The Weald Clay occupies a belt of lower ground
on the south and west of the Hastings Sands, it consists of blue and mottled clays with thin sand layers and beds of hard limestone, the "Sussex marble" with the shells of Paludina. The Horsham Stone is another local hard bed. Near Tilgate the remains of Iguanodon have been found in this formation. Bordering the outcrop of the Weald Clay is the Lower Greensand; it appears a little north of Eastbourne and passes thence through Ringmer, Storrington, Pulborough, Pctworth, Midhurst and Lmchmere. It contains the following divisions in ascending order — the Atherfield Clay, Hythe Beds (sandy limestone, sandstone and chert), Sandgate Beds and Folkestone Beds. The Eocene strata lying south of the Downs and west of Brighton — with the exception of some outliers of Reading Beds near Seaford — include the Woolwich and Reading Beds, London Clay (with hard " Bognor Rock"), the Bagshot and Brackles- ham Beds; the last-named formation is very fossijiferous in the bay of that name. As already mentioned, superficial deposits cover much of the low ground west of Brighton; these include glacial deposits with large boulders, raised beaches, brick earth and gravels, marine and estuarine, and the interesting Coombe rock or Brighton Elephant Bed, a coarse rubble of chalk waste formed late in the Glacial period, well exposed in the cliff at Black Rock east of Brighton, where it rests on a raised beach. The natural gas of Heathficld comes from the Lower Wealden and Purbeck Beds. The Wadhurst Clay was formerly an important source of iron ore.
Climate and Agriculture.—The climate of the coast district is mild, equable and dry, while that of the Wealden shows greater extremes of temperature, and is rather wetter. The mean daily range of temperature in the Weald is about half as much again as on the coast. The influence of the sea in modifying the temperature of the coast district is specially noticeable in the autumn months, when the temperature is higher than in the Weald and other parts of England northwards. The coast district is specially suitable for market gardens and for growing fruit trees. The fig gardens of West Tarring are celebrated. About seven-tenths of the total area is under cultivation, and of this nearly three-fifths is in permanent pasture. Sussex is still one of the best-wooded counties in England. The acreage under grain crops shows a large decrease; nearly the whole of it is occupied by oats and wheat. The acreage under green crops is mainly devoted to turnips and other food for cattle and to the supply of vegetables for the London market. The growing of hops has not kept pace with that in the neighbouring county of Kent. Cattle are kept in increasing numbers both for breeding and for dairy purposes. The South Downs afford excellent pasture for sheep and Sussex is famed for a special breed of black-faced sheep. The numbers, however, show a steady decrease. Poultry farming is largely carried on in some parts. The custom of borough-English, by which land descends to the youngest son, prevailed to an extra- ordinary degree in Sussex, and no fewer than 140 manors have been catalogued in which it was found. Gavelkind tenure existed in Rye, in the large manor of Brede, and in Coustard manor (in Brede parish).
Other Industries.—The manufacturing industries are meagre. The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Company has large works at Brighton. At Heathfield in 1901 the development of the field of natural gas was begun by a private company. The fisheries are of great importance, including cod, herrings, mackerel, sprats, plaice, soles, turbot, shrimps, crabs, lobsters, oysters, mussels, cockles, whelks and periwinkles. Bede records that St Wilfrid, when he visited the county in 681, taught the people the art of net- fishing. At the time of the Domesday survey the fisheries were extensive, and no fewer than 285 salinae (saltworks) existed. The customs of the Brighton fishermen were reduced to writing in 1579.
Communications.—Communications are provided by the London, Brighton & South Coast railway by lines from the north to St Leonards and Hastings, to Eastbourne, to Lewes and Newhaven, to Brighton, to Shoreham, and to Arundel and Chichester, with numerous branches and a connecting line along the coast. The South-Eastern & Chatham railway serves Bexhill, St Leonards and Hastings, with a coastal branch eastward by Rye. Light railways run from Chichester to Selsey (Selsey railway) and from Roberts- bridge to Bodiam and Tenterden (Rother Valley railway). There are no good harbours, and none of the ports is of first importance. From Newhaven, however, a large trade is carried on with France, and daily services of passenger steamers of the Brighton Railway Company ply to Dieppe.
Population and Administration.—The area of the ancient county is 933,887 acres, with a population in 1891 of 550,446 and in 1901 of 605,202. The earliest statement as to the population is made by Bede, who describes the county as containing in the year 681 land of 7000 families; allowing ten to a family (not an unreasonable estimate at that date), the total population would be 70,000. In 1693 the county is stated to have contained 21,537 houses. If seven were allowed to a house at that date, the total population would be 150,759. It is curious, therefore, to observe that in 1801 the population was only 159,311. The decline of the Sussex iron- works probably accounts for the small increase of population during several centuries, although after the massacre of St Bartholomew upwards of 1500 Huguenots landed at Rye, and in 1685, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, many more refugees were added to the county.
An act of Henry VII. (1504) directed that for convenience the county court should be held at Lewes as well as at Chichester, and this apparently gave rise to the division of Sussex into east and west parts, each of which is an administrative county. East Sussex has an area of 528,807 acres and West Sussex of 403, 602 acres. Sussex includes the county boroughs of Brighton and Hastings. East Sussex contains the municipal boroughs of Bexhill (pop. 12,213), Brighton (123,478), Eastbourne (43,344), Hastings (65,528), Hove (36,535), Lewes (11,249) and Rye (3900). The urban districts in this division are Battle (2996), Burgess Hill (4888), Cuckfield (1813), East Grinstead (6094), Haywards Heath (3717), Newhaven (6772), Portslade-by-Sea (5217), Seaford (3355) and Uckfield (2895). In West Sussex the municipal boroughs are Arundel (2739), Chichester, a city (12,244) an d Worthing (20,015). The urban districts are Bognor (6180), Horsham (9446), Littlehampton (7363), Shoreham (3837) and Southwick (3364). The ancient county, which is almost entirely in the diocese of Chichester, contains 377 ecclesiastical parishes or districts, wholly or in part. The total number of civil parishes is 338. Sussex is divided into the following parliamentary divisions: northern or East Grinstead, eastern or Rye, southern or Eastbourne, mid or Lewes, south-western or Chichester, north- western or Horsham, each returning one member; and contains the parliamentary boroughs of Brighton, returning two members, and Hastings, returning one.
History.—Apart from conclusions to be drawn from pre-historic remains, the history of Sussex begins in 477, when the Saxons landed in the west of the county under Ella and his three sons, and built up the kingdom of the South Saxons (see Sussex, Kingdom of, below). They took the Roman city of Regnum, which became Chichester, and drove the British westward, into the forest of Andred. The Roman fortress of Anderida, the site of the, castle of Pevensey, also fell to the Saxons. Ella became the most influential of the contemporary Saxon chiefs, and was, according to Bede, the first Bretwalda. After his time the kingdom of Sussex gradually declined, and fell entirely under the dominion of Wessex in 823. Interesting Saxon remains are found in numerous cemeteries, and scattered burial places along the south slopes of the Downs. The cemetery on High Down hill, where weapons, ornaments and vessels of various kinds were found, and the Chanctonbury hoard of coins, are among the most noticeable relics. A coin of Offa of Mercia, found at Beddingham, recalls the charter of Archbishop Wilfred in 825, in which Offa's connexion with the monastery in that place is recorded. From 895 Sussex suffered from constant raids by the Danes, till the accession of Canute, after which arose the two great forces of the house of Godwine and of the Normans. Godwine was. probably a native of Sussex, and by the end of the Confessor's reign a third part of the county was in the hands of his family. Norman influence was already strong in Sussex before the Conquest; the harbours of Hastings, Rye, Winchelsea and Steyning being in the power of the Norman abbey of Fecamp, while the Norman chaplain of Edward the Confessor, Osbern, afterwards bishop of Exeter, held the estate of Bosham.
The county was of great importance to the Normans; Hastings and Pevensey being on the most direct route for Normandy. William was accordingly careful to secure the lines of communication with London by placing the lands in the hands of men bound by close ties to himself, such as his half-brother, the count of Mortain,- who held Pevensey, and his son-in-law, William de Warenne, who held Lewes. With the exception of lands held by the Church and the Crown, the five rapes of Sussex were held by these and three other Norman tenants-in-chief: William de Braose, the count of Eu, and Roger, earl of Montgomery, who held respectively Bramber, Hastings and Arundel. The honour of Battle was afterwards made into a rape by the Conqueror, and provides one of the arguments in favour of the theory of the Norman origin of these unique divisions of the county. The county was divided into five (afterwards six) strips, running north and south, and having each a town of military, commercial and maritime importance. These were the rapes, and each had its sheriff, in addition to the sheriff of the whole county. Whether the origin of the rapes, as districts, is to be found in the Icelandic territorial division hreppr (rejected in the New English Dictionary), or in the Saxon rap, a rope, or is of Norman origin, as lordships they undoubtedly owed their existence to the Normans. The holdings — which had been scattered under the Saxons, so that one man's holding might be in more than one rape — were now determined, not by the manors in which they lay, but by the borders of the rape. Another peculiarity of the division of land in Sussex is that, apparently, each hide of land had eight instead of the usual four virgates.
The county boundary was long and somewhat indeterminate on the north, owing to the dense forest of Andredsweald, which was uninhabited till the nth century. Evidence of this is seen in Domesday Book by the survey of Worth and Lodsworth under Surrey, and also by the fact that as late as 1834 the present parishes of north and south Amersham in Sussex were part of Hampshire. At the time of the Domesday Survey Sussex contained sixty hundreds, which have been little altered since. A few have been split up into two or three, making seventy-three in all; and the names of some have changed, owing probably to the meeting-place of the hundred court having been altered. These courts were in private hands in Sussex; either of the Church, or of great barons and local lords. The county court was held at Lewes and Shoreham until the Great Inquest, when it was moved to Chichester. After several changes the act of 1504 arranged for it to be held alternately at Lewes and Chichester. There was no gaol in the county until 1487; that at Guildford being used in common by Surrey and Sussex, which were under one sheriff until 1567.
Private jurisdictions, both ecclesiastical and lay, played a large part in the county. The chief ecclesiastical franchises were those of the archbishop of Canterbury, of the bishop of Chichester, of the Saxon foundation of Bosham, where Bishop Wilfred had found the only gleam of Christianity in the county, and of the votive abbey of Battle, founded by the Conqueror. This abbey possessed, besides land in many other counties, the " Lowy of Battle," a district extending, for 3 m. round the abbey. The see of Chichester was co-extensive with the county, and has altered little. It is one of the oldest bishoprics, having been founded by Wilfred at Selsey; the seat was re- moved to Chichester by William I. Among the lay franchises, the most noticeable are those of the Cinque Ports and of the honor of Pevensey, named the honor of the Eagle from the lords of L'Aigle or Aguila.
Sussex, from its position, was constantly the scene of pre- parations for invasion, and was often concerned in rebellions. Pevensey and Arundel play a great part in rebellions and forfeiture during the troubled times of the early Norman kings. In the barons' wars the county was a good centre for the king's forces; Lewes being in the hands of the king's brother-in-law, John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, Pevensey and Hastings in those of his uncle, Peter of Savoy. The forces of the king and of De Montfort met at Lewes, where the famous battle and " Mise of Lewes " took place. The corrupt and burdensome administration of the county during the 13th and 14th centuries, combined with the constant passage of troops for the French wars and the devastating plagues of the 14th century, were the causes of such rebellions as the Peasants' Rising of 1381 and Jack Cade's Rebellion in 1450. In the former Lewes Castle was taken, and in the latter we find such men engaged as the abbot of Battle and the prior of Lewes. During Elizabeth's reign there was again constant levying of troops for warfare in Flanders and the Low Countries, and preparations for defence against Spain. The sympathies of the county were divided during the Civil War, Arundel and Chichester being held for the king, Lewes and the Cinque Ports for the parliament. Chichester and Arundel were besieged by Waller, and the Roundheads gained a strong hold on the county, in spite of the loyalty of . Sir Edward Ford, sheriff of Sussex. A royalist gathering in the west of the county in 1645 caused preparations for resistance at Chichester, of which Algernon Sidney was governor. In the same year the " Clubmen " rose and endeavoured to compel the armies to come to terms. Little active part in the national history fell to Sussex from that time till the French Revolution, when numbers of volunteers were raised in defence. At the outbreak of war with France in 1793 a camp was formed at Brighton; and at Eastbourne in 1803, when the famous Martello towers were erected.
The parliamentary history of the county began in 1290, for which year we have the first extant return of knights of the shire for this county, Henry Hussey and William de Etchingham, representatives of two well-known Sussex families, being elected. Drastic reformation was effected by the Redistribution Act of 1832, when Bramber, East Grinstead, Seaford, Steyning and Winchelsea were disfranchised after returning two members each, the first being classed among the worst of the " rotten " boroughs. Before 1832 two members each had been returned also by Arundel, Chichester, Hastings, Horsham, Lewes, Mid- hurst, New Shoreham (with the rape of Bramber) and Rye. Arundel, Horsham, Midhurst and Rye were each deprived of a member in 1832, Chichester and Lewes in 1867, and Hastings in 1885. Arundel was disfranchised in 1868, and Chichester, Horsham, Midhurst, New Shoreham and Rye in 1885. In the 18th century the duke of Newcastle was all-powerful in the county, where the Pelham family had been settled from the time of Edward I.; the earl of Chichester being the present repre- sentative of the family. Among the oldest county families of Sussex may be mentioned the Ashburnhams of Ashburnham, the Gages of Firle and the Barttelots of Stopham.
The industries of Sussex, now mainly agricultural, were once varied. Among those noted in the Domesday Survey were the herring fisheries, the salt pans of the coast and the wool trade; the South Down sheep being noted for their wool, at home and abroad, as early as the 13th century. The iron mines of the county, though not mentioned in Domesday, are known to have been worked by the Romans; and the smelting and forging of iron was the great industry 'of the Weald from the 13th to the 18th century, the first mention of the trade in the county being in 1266. In the 15th century ordnance for the government was made here. Some old banded guns with the name of a Sussex maker on them may be seen at the Tower of London. The first cast-iron cannon made in England came from Buxted in Sussex, and were made by one Ralph Hogge, whose device can be seen on a house in Buxted. The large supply of wood in the county made it a favourable centre for the industry, all smelting being done with charcoal till the middle of the 18th century. In the time of Henry VIII. the destruction of the forest for fuel began to arouse attention, and enactments for the preservation of timber increased from this time forward, till the use of pit-coal for smelting was perfected, when the industry moved to districts where coal was to be found. Camden, Thomas Fuller, and Drayton in his Polyolbion refer to the busy and noisy Weald district, and lament the destruction of the trees. The glass-making industry, which had flourished at Chiddingfold in Surrey, and at Wesborough Green, Loxwood and Petworth in Sussex, was destroyed by the prohibition of the use of wood fuel in 161 5. The timber trade had been one of the most considerable in early times; the Sussex oak being considered the finest shipbuilding timber. Among the smaller industries weaving and fulling were also to be found, Chichester having been noted for its cloth, also for malt and needles.
Antiquities.—From early times castles guarded three important entries from the coast through the South Downs into the interior provided by the valleys of the Ouse, the Adur and the Aran. These are respectively at Lewes, Bramber and Arundel. The ruins of the first two, though imposing, do not compare in grandeur with the third, which is still the seat of the dukes of Norfolk. More famous than these are the massive remains, in part Norman but mainly of the 13th century, of the stronghold of Pevensey, within the walls of Roman Anderida. Other ruins are those of the finely situated Hastings Castle; the Norman remains at Knepp near West Grinstead; the picturesque and remarkably perfect moated fortress of Bodiam, of the 14th century; and Hurstmonceaux Castle, a beautiful 15th-century building of brick. Specimens of ancient domestic architecture are fairly numerous; such are the remnants of old palaces of the archbishops of Canterbury at Mayfield and West Tarring; Amberley Castle, a residence until the 16th century of the bishops of Chichester; and the Elizabethan mansions of Parham and of Danny at Hurstpierpoint. There are many fine residences dating from the 18th century or later; Goodwood is perhaps the most famous. Here and elsewhere are fine collections of paintings, though the county suffered a loss in this respect through the partial destruction by fire of the modern castle of Knepp in 1904.
Monastic remains are few and generally slight. The ruins of Bayham Abbey near Tunbridge Wells, and of Battle Abbey, may be noticed. There are numerous churches, however, of great interest and beauty. Of those in the towns may be mentioned the cathedral of Chichester, the churches of Shoreham and Rye, and the mother church of Worthing at Broadwater. Construction of pre-Norman date is seen in the churches of Bosham, Sompting and, most notably, Worth. There is very rich Norman work of various dates in the church of St Nicholas, Steyning. Several perfect specimens of small Early English churches are found, as at West Tarring, and at Climping near Littlehampton. Perhaps the most interesting church in the county is the magnificent Decorated fragment at Winchelsea; another noteworthy church of this period is at Etchingham, near the eastern border. The church of St Denis, Midhurst, is mainly Perpendicular; but this style is not otherwise predominant. The large church at Fletching, of various styles, contains the tomb of Gibbon the historian. At Cowfold, southeast of Horsham, is a great Carthusian monastery, founded in 1877. The iron memorial slabs occurring in several churches recall the period of the iron industry in Sussex.
Dialect.—A large number of Saxon words are retained and pronounced in the old style; thus gate becomes ge-at. The letter a is very broad in all words, as if followed by u, and in fact converts words of one syllable into words of two, as fails (face), taiist (taste), &c. Again, a before double d becomes ar, as order and larder for adder and ladder; oi is like a long i, as spile (spoil), intment (ointment) ; an e is substituted for a in such words as rag, flag, &c. The French refugees in the 16th and 17th centuries introduced many words whichare still in use. Thus a Sussex woman when unprepared to receive visitors says she is in dishabille (d<§shabill6, undress); if her child is unwell, it looks pekid (piqu6), if fretful, is a little peter-grievous (petit-grief); she cooks with a broach (broche, a spit), and talks of coasts (coste, O. Fr.), or ribs of meat, &c.
Authorities.—See T. W. Horsfield, History, Antiquities and Topography of Sussex (Lewes, 1835); J. Dallaway, History of the Western Division of Sussex (London, 1815–1832); M. A. Lower, History of Sussex (Lewes, 1870), Churches of Sussex (Brighton, 1872) and Worthies of Sussex (Lewes, 1865); Sussex Archaeological Society’s Collections; W. E. Baxter, Domesday Book for . . . Sussex (Lewes, 1876) ; Sawyer, Sussex Natural History and Folklore (Brighton, 1883), Sussex Dialect (Brighton, 1884) and Sussex Songs and Music (Brighton, 1885); A. J. C. Hare, Sussex (London, 1894).