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Rustington is proud of its history and famous residents such as the author of Peter Pan, J M Barrie. The village is so proud that it has its own museum. The museum curator, Jessica Petit, tells us more
The history of the Parish of Rustington was first documented in several books by local historian Mary Taylor in the 1980s. The research for these books created such a vast amount of material relating to the history of Rustington that it was suggested that this material should be collected, preserved and made more accessible to the local community.
In 1983 the Rustington Heritage Association was formed and an exhibition room was opened at Rustington Parish Council offices. A few years later it was decided that bigger premises were needed to house the Rustington Heritage Associations growing collection.
In 2005 Church Farm Cottages, a Grade II listed building in the centre of Rustington was purchased by the Parish Council for this purpose. With donations from local businesses and individuals, a local Raise the Roof campaign raised funds for a new thatched roof for the building. A complete renovation of the cottage and construction of the Garden Caf, an oak timber framed building in the grounds of the museum, was completed in April 2008.
Recently, a landscaped garden with a water feature, exotic plants, flowers and seating area has been added. This final stage of the project was funded by Community Spaces, a branch of the Big Lottery Fund. The Rustington Museum project has been a welcome opportunity for Rustington Parish Council to bring back into use an important historic building and conserve the heritage of the village. This achievement was recognised when Rustington Museum and the Garden Caf was declared the winning entry for the Public and Community Category at the Sussex Heritage Trust Awards in 2009.
Rustington Museum and the Garden Caf opened its doors for the first time in March 2009. The museum tells the story of Rustington, a village situated between the rolling hills of the South Downs and the sea.
The village was once a sleepy, secluded agricultural community until machinery took over from horse drawn agriculture in the 19th century. The newly built railways bought visitors to the area. Many chose to settle in Rustington with its close proximity to London as well as the sea.
The first brickfield opened in Rustington in 1867 to meet the growing demand for houses in the village. Nurseries growing glasshouse crops sprung up on the farmland at this time as well, and both businesses provided work for people in the village as the traditional agrarian community declined and the old way of life changed forever.
The village really began to catch up with the changing world during the First World War when American servicemen were deployed to Rustington for the construction of an aerodrome.
Again, during the Second World War, American and Canadian troops were billeted to the village. One exhibition room at the museum examines the impact of war on Rustington, displaying handmade gifts made by German prisoners of war during the First World War, who worked on farms in the village as well as poignant letters home from soldiers in the trenches and wartime ephemera and mementos belonging to villagers.
The exhibitions and displays at Rustington Museum tell the story of how life has changed in the village over the centuries. The exhibits add a visual dimension to the narrative that runs through the museum and serve as a reminder of how life used to be. With a changing programme of exhibitions, the museum shines a spotlight on the many writers, musicians, artists and celebrities that have spent time or lived in Rustington over the years.
The current exhibition at the museum, Peter Pan in Rustington, is a display of Victorian and Edwardian era photographs of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, in Rustington with the Llewelyn Davies family.
The Llewelyn Davies boys were the inspiration for many of the characters in Peter Pan. The story of Barries association with the Llewelyn Davies family is explained in the exhibition. The permanent collection at the museum is enhanced with loans relating to many aspects of Rustingtons history.
The downstairs gallery concentrates on finds from archeological digs in and around Rustington over the years. An excavation at the site where a supermarket now stands revealed objects from Bronze Age, Iron Age, early Roman and Medieval periods, including flint tools, pots, cooking vessels, glass and coins. Evidence of Iron Age dwellings and a Roman water mill were also discovered on this site. In 1990, during the construction of the A259 Rustington Bypass, more discoveries were made including several brooches and bracelets from the Roman period.
The curator at Rustington Museum, Jessica Petit, was previously an assistant curator at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. Before this she worked on a placement at Cardiff Museum and Art Gallery and also volunteered at Manchester Art Gallery. She has a degree in English and History and an MA in Arts and Museum Management. Her interests are 20th century British art and literature, ceramics and studio pottery and the history of tea making.
She said: The opportunity to be involved with such an innovative project, basically starting a new museum from scratch, was too much for me to resist and I am grateful to Rustington Parish Council for giving me the job. It is a chance in a lifetime experience and Im very proud of what weve achieved here. The history of Rustington is a story worth telling, as it is, in many ways, representative of the way of life in many villages across Sussex. The villages, countryside and sea have inspired many writers and artists and this is certainly true for Rustington. For a Curator there is enough history here to keep the museum interesting and exciting for years to come!
Famous Rustington people
Sir Hubert Parry built Knights Croft House in Rustington in 1880 and lived there until his death in 1918. Parry is most well known as the composer of the hymn Jerusalem, the poem by William Blake that he set to music.
Albert de Belleroche, painter and printmaker, moved from Paris to the Old Manor House in Rustington in 1918. In Paris Belleroche had associated with many of the leading artists and intellectuals of the time, including Oscar Wilde, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse Lautrec and John Singer Sergeant. When Albert de Belleroche died in 1944, his son William de Belleroche, who had grown up in Rustington, dedicated his life to promoting his fathers work as well as becoming a talented artist in his own right.
Graham Sutherland, one of Englands greatest artists, lived as a child at Green Bushes, a house built for his family in Rustington around 1917. At one time Art Deco houses by the sea in Rustington were home to several celebrities. A famous operatic soprano of the 1920s and 30s, Conchita Supervia, had a house, Timbers, now demolished, near the sea in Rustington. George Posford, composer of musicals in the 1930s, lived at Sark House, which was designed in the shape of a grand piano. Teddy Brown, The Worlds Greatest Xylophonist lived at Xylophone House in Sea Road, Rustington in the 1940s.
At a neighbouring house, Marama, the film producer J. Arthur Rank reputedly threw parties for his film star friends. Vaslav Nijinsky, one of the worlds greatest ballet dancers, stayed in a bungalow near the sea in Rustington in the last few years before his death in 1950.