Today is 16 June – Sussex Day! If you live in Sussex you can count yourself amongst its many illustrious residents, past and present, including… Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Eric Ravilious, Gideon Mantell, Charles Dawson, Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), Suggs, and many more.
The official flag of Sussex is registered as St Richard’s Flag, and is associated with the patron saint of Sussex. It features six gold martlets on a blue background; a martlet being a mythical bird that can be equated with a swift. The design derived from the coat of arms of Sir John de Radyden, a fourteenth century knight.
Sussex as a county has a long and proud history. It is the land of the ‘South Saxons’, which morphed into Sussaxon, and, later, Sussex. Sussex is divided into six historic Rapes – think of them as representing six distinct areas of the county, each Rape with its own unique character. The six Rapes of Sussex are as follows:
- Rape of Chichester
- Rape of Arundel
- Rape of Bramber
- Rape of Lewes
- Rape of Pevensey
- Rape of Hastings
Each Rape has its own castle, in its main town. All of the castles survive to this day in various states of ruin: Arundel and Lewes Castles are well preserved, whereas all that remains of Chichester Castle is a small mound of rubble. The other castles are all somewhere in between and have fantastic stories associated with their more recent use over the last 200 or so years – for example, Lewes Castle was ‘touched up’ in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and used as a Pleasure Garden!
As this is my final post about Sussex Day (this year!) it seemed appropriate to finish with Kipling. Here’s his poem, ‘Puck’s Song’.
See you the ferny ride that steals
Into the oak-woods far?
0 that was whence they hewed the keels
That rolled to Trafalgar.
And mark you where the ivy clings
To Bayharn’s mouldering walls?
O there we cast the stout railings
That stand around St. Paul’s.
See you the dimpled track that runs
All hollow through the wheat?
O that was where they hauled the guns
That smote King Philip’s fleet.
(Out of the Weald, the secret Weald,
Men sent in ancient years,
The horse-shoes red at Flodden Field,
The arrows at Poitiers!)
See you our little mill that clacks,
So busy by the brook?
She has ground her corn and paid her tax
Ever since Domesday Book.
See you our stilly woods of oak,
And the dread ditch beside?
O that was where the Saxons broke
On the day that Harold died.
See you the windy levels spread
About the gates of Rye?
O that was where the Northmen fled,
When Alfred’s ships came by.
See you our pastures wide and lone,
Where the red oxen browse?
O there was a City thronged and known,
Ere London boasted a house.
And see you, after rain, the trace
Of mound and ditch and wall?
O that was a Legion’s camping-place,
When Caesar sailed from Gaul.
And see you marks that show and fade,
Like shadows on the Downs?
O they are the lines the Flint Men made,
To guard their wondrous towns.
Trackway and Camp and City lost,
Salt Marsh where now is corn-
Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,
And so was England born.
She is not any common Earth,
Water or wood or air,
But Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye,
Where you and I will fare.