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Sussex ( ), from the Old English Sūþsēaxe ('South Saxons'), is a historic county in South East Englandmarker corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded on the north by Surreymarker, east by Kentmarker, south by the English Channelmarker, and west by Hampshire, and is divided for local government into West Sussexmarker and East Sussexmarker and the City of Brighton and Hovemarker. The city of Brighton & Hove was created a unitary authority in 1997; and was granted City status in 2000. Until then Chichestermarker had been Sussex's only city.

The divisions of West Sussex and East Sussex were first established in 1189, and had obtained separate administrations (Quarter Sessions) by the 16th century. This situation was recognised by the County of Sussex Act 1865. Under the Local Government Act 1888 the two divisions became two administrative counties (along with three county boroughs: Brighton, Hastingsmarker and, from 1911, Eastbournemarker).

The appellation Sussex remained in use as a ceremonial county until 1974, when the Lord-Lieutenant of Sussex was replaced with one each for East and West Sussex. The whole of Sussex has had a single police force since 1968.

Sussex still retains a strong local identity and the county's unofficial anthem is Sussex by the Sea. The county's motto, "We wunt be druv", reflects the strong-willed nature of its people in past centuries. Sussex's device shows six martlets. Sussex's county flower is the round-headed rampion, also known as the Pride of Sussex. June 16, the feast day of the county's patron saint St Richard, has been declared Sussex Day by West Sussex County Council.Although it retains a strong identity, most people say West Sussex and East Sussex today and even usethem in lists of traditional counties sometimes.



The physical geography of Sussex relies heavily on its lying on the southern part of the Wealden anticlinemarker. The major features of that are the high lands which cross the county in a west to east direction: the Weald itself, and the South Downsmarker. The former consists of clays and sands; the latter chalk. Between those two ridges, mainly in West Sussex, lies the ‘’Vale of Sussex’’; at the eastern end of the county is the valley of the River Rothermarker, which flows into what was a long sea inlet to reach the sea at Rye Baymarker.

The Weald
The Weald is what remains of the vast forest that existed between the Northmarker and South Downsmarker. It can be split into three parts, the High Weald, the Low Weald and the Greensand Ridgemarker. The High Weald runs in an easterly direction from St Leonards Forestmarker, south-west of Crawleymarker, and continues to Ashdown Forestmarker. Its eastern extremity is in two sections, divided by the River Rothermarker valley. The northern arm reaches the sea at Folkestonemarker (in Kent); the southern at Fairlight Down east of Hastingsmarker,

Within the Wealdmarker lies Sussex's highest point, the pine-clad Black Downmarker, close to the Surrey border at . Another high point is in the part called Forest Ridges: a height of about is reached at Beacon Hill in the neighbourhood of Crowboroughmarker.

The High Weald, as the main area is known, gets its name from ’’wilderness’’ or forest, and it retains the highest proportion of ancient woodlands in the country. Around 1660 the total area under forest was estimated to exceed , and supplied the furnaces of the ironworks which formed an important industry in the county until the 17th century, and which survived even until the early years of the 19th century.

South Downs
The South Downs start from a point near Petersfieldmarker in Hampshire. On entering Sussex, their summit is about from the sea. They run east for some , gradually approaching the coast, and terminating in the bold promontory of Beachy Headmarker near Eastbournemarker. Their average height is about though Ditchling Beaconmarker is (the third highest summit) and many other summits exceed .

Vale of Sussex
The Vale of Sussex is the lower undulating land which came into being when the softer clays between the Weald and the Downs were worn away. Crossing the Vale are most of the rivers in Sussex: those rising on the slopes of the Weald and cutting through the Downs to reach the sea (see Drainage).

Coastal plain
This is a fertile narrow belt from Chichester to Brighton. Once noted for market gardening, it is now heavily built-up into a sprawling coastal conurbation. The beaches along the coast vary from sandy to shingle: that factor, together with the mild climate of the coast, sheltered by the hills from north and east winds, resulted in the growth of numerous resort towns, of which the most popular are (east to west) Hastingsmarker, Bexhill, Eastbournemarker, Seafordmarker, Brightonmarker, Shoreham-by-Seamarker, Worthingmarker, Littlehamptonmarker and Bognor Regismarker.

There are several areas of low-lying marshland along the coast; from west to east these are: All were originally bays; natural coastal deposition and man-made protective walls have given rise to alluvial deposition.


The rivers wholly within the county are relatively short. All rise in the Weald (St Leonard’s Forest area) and, apart from the eastern River Rother, flow south to the English Channel, using gaps in the South Downs as they do so. The mouths of all have been affected by longshore drift, particularly during violent storms during the Middle Ages. From west to east they are:


South East England combines the highest average daytime temperatures found in the British Isles with the highest sunshine averages on the British mainland. There are between of rainfall; and there can be high variation of temperature between day and night.

The climate of the coastal districts is strongly influenced by the sea, which because of its tendency to warm up slower than land, can result in cooler temperatures than inland in the summer. In the autumn months, the coast sometimes has higher temperatures. Rainfall during the summer months is mainly from thunderstorms and thundery showers; from January to March the heavier rainfall is due to south-westerly frontal systems. The coast has consistently more sunshine than the inland areas: sea breezes, blowing off the sea, clear any cloud from the coast.



Sussex has retained much of its rural nature: apart from the coastal strip, it has few large towns. Although in 1841 over 40% of the population were employed in agriculture (including fishing), today less than 2% are so employed. The wide range of soil types in the county leads to great variations in the patterns of farming. The Wealden parts are mostly wet sticky clays or drought prone acid sands and often broken up into to small irregular fields and woods by the topography, making it unsuitable for intensive arable farming. Pastoral or mixed farming has always been the pattern here with field boundaries often little changed since the medieval period. Sussex cattle are the descendants of the draught oxen which continued to be used in the Weald longer than in other parts of England. Agriculturalist Arthur Young commented in the early 18th century that the cattle of the Weald "must be unquestionably ranked among the best of the kingdom." William Cobbett, riding through Ashdown Forest, said he had seen some of the finest cattle in the country on some of the poorest farms. Areas of cereals grown on the Weald have risen and declined with the price of grain. The chalk downlands were traditionally grazed by large numbers of small Southdown sheep, suited to the low fertility of the pasture, until the coming of artificial fertiliser made cereal growing worthwhile. Yields are still limited by the alkalinity of the soil. Apart from a few areas of alluvial loam soil in the river valleys the best and most intensively farmed soils are on the coastal plain, where large scale vegetable growing is commonplace. Glasshouse production is also concentrated along the coast where hours of sunshine are greater than inland.

There are still fishing fleets, notably at Rye and Hastings, but the number of boats is much reduced. Historically, the fisheries were of great importance, including cod, herring, mackerel, sprats, plaice, sole, 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 netfishing. 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 documented in 1579.

There are working harbours at Rye, Hastings, Newhaven and Shoreham; whilst Paghammarker and Chichestermarker harbours cater for leisure craft, as does Brighton Marina.

Iron working

Deposits of ironstone which occur where sandstone strata overlie weald clay have been exploited from early in the Iron Age. The Romans made full use of this resource, and iron slag was widely used as paving material on the Roman roads of the area. In medieval times the Weald was of national importance in the iron industry, with numerous streams dammed to create furnace ponds, where water powered bellows drove blast furnaces, and hammer ponds where wrought iron was hammered out of the raw iron from the furnaces. This made the area strategically important for producing iron canons during the English Civil War, when the Yalding family of ironmasters at Fernhurstmarker had a policy of armed neutrality, firing on soldiers from either side who tried to enter the parish.

Clay working (pottery, tiles, bricks)

As much of the Mid Sussexmarker area has clay not far under the surface, clay has in the past been a focus of industry in central Sussex, in particular in the Burgess Hillmarker area. Although in the first quarter of the 20th century, Burgess Hill, and the Hassocksmarker and Hurstpierpointmarker areas had many kilns, clay pits and similar infrastructure to support the clay industry, nowadays the majority of this form of industry has left the area, but it still can be seen in place names such as "Meeds Road", "The Kiln", or Oakmeeds Community Collegemarker, which is named after the oak trees in the area and Meeds Pottery, a once significant pottery in the centre of Burgess Hill. At the height of the success of this industry, tiles and bricks from Sussex were used to build landmarks such as Manchestermarker's G-Mexmarker, but now there is just one main tileworks in the area, Keymer Tileworks. Plans have been submitted to develop the area into housing, so even this tileworks now has a closing date, albeit one not in the near future.

Service industries

The string of holiday resorts, and the many tourist attractions, form part of the main economic base in Sussex.The University of Sussexmarker and the University of Brightonmarker provide employment for many more; whilst reasonable rail connections allow many people to work in London.

Borough English

The custom of borough-English, by which land descends to the youngest son, prevailed to an extraordinary degree in Sussex, and 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 Bredemarker parish).


The area of the ancient county is 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 7,000 families; allowing ten to a family (a reasonable 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 ironworks probably accounts for the small increase of population during several centuries, although after the massacre of St Bartholomew upwards of 1,500 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.



From early times castles guarded three important entries from the coast through the South Downsmarker into the interior provided by the valleys of the Ousemarker, the Adurmarker and the Arunmarker. These are respectively at Lewesmarker, Brambermarker and Arundelmarker. 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 Castlemarker, within the walls of Roman Anderitummarker. Other ruins are those of the finely situated Hastings Castlemarker; the Norman remains at Knepp Castlemarker near West Grinsteadmarker; the picturesque and remarkably perfect moated fortress of Bodiammarker, of the 14th century; and Herstmonceuxmarker Castle, a beautiful 15th-century building of brick.

The county is also rich in moated sites, and smaller castles, mostly found in the Low Weald.

Towns and cities

Major towns and cities of Sussex include:



Sussex is connected with several saints, including St Lewina; St Wilfrid, sometimes known as the 'Apostle of Sussex'; St Cuthman of Steyning; St Richard of Chichester, Sussex's patron saint; and St Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. In folklore, Mayfieldmarker and Devil's Dykemarker are linked with St Dunstan while West Tarringmarker has links with St Thomas a Becket.The historic county has been a single diocese after St Wilfrid converted the kingdom of Sussex in the seventh century. The seat of the Sussex bishopric was originally located at Selsey Abbeymarker before the Normans moved it to Chichester Cathedralmarker in 1075. Since 1965 Arundel Cathedralmarker has been the seat of the Bishops of Arundel and Brighton, which covers Sussex and Surrey.

Historically, the west of the county has had a tendency towards Catholicism while the east of the county has had a tendency towards non-conformism. The county has been home to several pilgrimage sites, including the shrine at Chichester Cathedral to St Richard of Chichester which was destroyed during the Reformation and the more recent Catholic shrine at West Grinsteadmarker. During the Marian persecutions, several Sussex men were martyred for their Protestant faith, including 17 men at Lewes. The Society of Dependents (nicknamed the Cokelers) were a non-conformist sect formed in Loxwood. The Quaker and founding father of Pennsylvaniamarker, William Penn worshipped near Thakehammarker; his UK home from 1677 to 1702 was at nearby Warminghurst. The UK's only Carthusian monastery is situated at St. Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminstermarker near Cowfold. The headquaters of the Church of Scientology in the UK is situated at Saint Hill Manormarker near East Grinstead.


Sussex has a long tradition of sport, going back centuries. Sussex has played a key role in the early development of both cricket and stoolball. Cricket is recognised as having been formed in the Wealdmarker and Sussex CCC is England's oldest county cricket club. Slindon Cricket Club dominated the sport for a while in the 18th century. The cricket ground at Arundel Castlemarker traditionally plays host to a Duchess of Norfolk's XI which plays the national test sides touring England. The sport of stoolball is also associated with Sussex, which has a claim to be where the sport originated and certainly where its revival took place in the early 20th century. Sussex is represented in the Football League by Brighton & Hove Albion. In horse racing, Sussex is home to Goodwoodmarker, Fontwell Park, Brightonmarker and Plumptonmarker. The All England Jumping Course show jumping facility at Hicksteadmarker is situated north of Brighton and Hove.


The historic county is known for its "seven good things of Sussex". These seven things are Pulborough eel, Selsey cockle, Chichester lobster, Rye herring, Arundel mullet, Amberley trout and Bourne wheatear. Sussex is also known for Ashdown Partridge Pudding, Sussex Pond Pudding and Banoffee Pie. The county has vineyards and the 18th century beer brewers, Harveys of Lewes.

The Arts

The county is home to England's largest arts festival, the Brighton Festival. Chichester is home to the Chichester Festival Theatremarker. Glyndebournemarker is one of the world's best known opera houses. Chichester is home to Pallant House Gallerymarker.


Sussex's flag was the winning entry in a competition held in 2008 under the auspices of the BBC and in collaboration with Graham Bartram of the Flag Institute.

See also


  1. CONNECTIONS 12 .pdf
  2. West Sussex County Council: Home Page
  3. Rev. A. Young, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Sussex, 1813, P. 226.
  4. I D Margary, Roman Ways in the Weald Phoenix House, Revised 1965
  5. Brandon, Peter (2006), Sussex Phillimore ISBN ISBN-13: 9780709069980

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