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Episode 1: Sussex

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Where is Sussex?

In our first episode, we referred to loads of interesting Sussex-based things - and promised links and photos, so here they are:

Penda of Mercia

Here is the stained glass window of Penda that we mentioned from Worcester Cathedral:

...and Martin as Penda, facing off against Iken's Marsh Demon Queen with his battle-axe:

Lewes Bonfire Celebrations

The Lewes Bonfire Night, or the #LewesBonfire Night Celebrations, is the biggest celebrated Fifth November Event in the world, and is held in the usually peaceful county town of Lewes (pronounced “lu-is or loo-is”), East Sussex, every year on 5th November.

The carnival or festival is known as either the Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations, Lewes Bonfire Night or just simply "The Fifth."

...and, not to leave them out, here's a taste of the Ottery St Mary Tar Barrels:

Lewes Castle

First built shortly after the Norman Invasion of 1066, Lewes Castle is very unusual for having two mottes - the only other castle that has this structure in England is in Lincoln Castle.

Harvey's Brewery

Harvey's Brewery is the oldest independent brewery in Sussex. A family business, the brewery has been in the guardianship of seven generations of John Harvey's descendants since 1790, with five family members from the seventh and eighth generations currently working there.

Learn more about it from the Harvey's Brewery website.

The White Horse at Litlington

This mysterious chalk figure of a horse has been recreated and restored for more than a century.

According to the National Trust, the first figure was originally crafted by four men in 1836. It was carved again in 1924 by one of the original creator’s grandsons. The technical term for this type of figure is a geoglyph. The predecessor to this amazing creation and many others like it is the prehistoric Uffington White Horse.

The reason behind the creation of the Litlington White Horse remains unclear. Some suggest it was originally constructed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s upcoming coronation. Others speculate it was a publicity stunt to amuse the town. Regardless of the reasons behind its origins, it stands as impressively today as it did when it was first crafted thanks to ongoing maintenance from volunteers of the National Trust.

The Long Man of Wilmington

This mysterious guardian of the South Downs has baffled archaeologists and historians for hundreds of years. Fertility symbol? Ancient Warrior? Early 18th century folly? We may never know.

In 1925, this iconic monument was given to The Sussex Archaeological Society by the Duke of Devonshire. We have cared for the scheduled monument ever since, ensuring it is free for the public to access.

The Long Man is Europe’s largest portrayal of the human form, dating back to at least 1710 when the surveyor John Rowley illustrated the figure. In 1766, the artist William Burrell made a drawing during his visit to Wilmington Priory, which lies under the steep slopes of Windover Hill.

Rowley’s drawing suggests that the original figure was a shadow or indentation in the grass rather than a solid line. The face had a distinctive helmet shape, giving credence to the idea him being a war-god.

Until the 19th century when it was marked out in yellow bricks, the Long Man was only visible in certain light conditions. It is claimed that during this restoration the feet were incorrectly positioned. But, despite local legend, there is no evidence, historical or archaeological, to suggest that prudish Victorians robbed the Giant of his manhood!

During World War II, the figure was painted green to prevent enemy aviators using it as a landmark. Restoration in 1969 replaced the bricks with concrete blocks that are now regularly painted to keep the Long Man visible from many miles away.

Many theories of his origins abound. Some are convinced that he is prehistoric, others believe that he is the work of an artistic monk from the nearby Priory between the 11th and 15th centuries. Roman coins bearing a similar figure suggest that he existed in the 4th century AD and there are parallels with a helmeted figure found on Anglo-Saxon ornaments. Until new evidence is unearthed, we shall have to content ourselves with the words of Reverand A A Evans who said, “The Giant keeps his secret and from his hillside flings out a perpetual challenge.”

Devil's Dyke

Eleanor's story for the episode, "Cuthman of Steyning and The Devil" is all about the building of Devil's Dyke. This is us on top of it, getting buffeted by the wind!

And here's a rather grainy photo of the Funicular Railway that used to run during the Victorian era!

In Eleanor's story, the Devil faces off against Cuthman, whose statue stands in Steyning to this day, overlooking St Andrew's Church which was built on the site of Cuthman's original:

Inside St Andrew's Church there's a lovely stained glass of Cuthman.

There he is, with his wheelbarrow - and behind him in the window you can see...

Chanctonbury Ring

Chanctonbury Ring is a small Iron Age hillfort that was use in various periods of history and is still a notable Sussex landmark today, the subject of many paintings, postcards and photographs.

There are many pieces of lore connected with the Ring, the most famous being of a common type where the object is walked or run around. In the case of the Ring, if you walk (or run) seven times (sometimes running backwards or anti-clockwise) around it on a dark or moonless night (one account says Midsummer Eve at 7pm, another May Day Eve, another at midnight, during the time it takes a clock to strike midnight) without stopping, the Devil will appear and offer you a bowl of milk, soup or porridge (reports vary).

Some say that if you accept, he will take your soul, or grant you your dearest wish.

Some Folklorists claim this is folk memory of dancing around the Ring, though as walking around something seems to be a Celtic tradition, it's seems improbable that at the Ring, it has survived the Saxons, Normans and the Reformation to the present day.

There is also a theory that the Roman temple in the Ring was dedicated to Mithras and the initiation ritual involved fasting, so after the fast, the priests could have brought food out to the followers and as Christianity was spreading, they could have changed the priests bringing food out of the Ring to the Devil bringing food out, since all Pagan religions were seen as Devil worship and the Church would have wanted to discourage people from visiting the site. A nice theory but difficult to prove.

The Devil is also credited with constructing the Ring, it being one of the clumps of earth thrown from his spade when he was constructing Devil's Dyke. Other spadefuls are attributed to Mount Caburn, Cissbury, Rackham Hill and the Isle of Wight.

Lastly, as promised, The Gelding of The Devil:

Also available here on Spotify.

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