PUBLISHED: 07:33 03 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:06 20 February 2013
A Miscellany of Sussex history, anecdotes and folklore, compiled by Chris Horlock
Whisky Galore in centre of Lewes
In March 1788, the inhabitants of Lewes received the news that a huge quantity of contraband liquor was to be disposed of by Revenue officers.
And all 3,000 gallons was going to be poured down the kennel the main gutter of the town. Naturally enough, the locals couldnt bear to see such wastage (well who would?).We learn what happened from the book Hidden Sussex Day by Day by Warden Swinfen and David Arscott:
The hour of action was no sooner arrived than there appeared a great concourse of people, composed of men, women and children, from five to 50 years of age, some of whom planted themselves at the entrance of the passage from whence this fountain of aqua vitae was played off (and frequently, to increase the fun, high in the air), with uplifted pails and open mouths to catch what they could of it, in its pure state before it reached the ground, while others less delicate in their pursuits formed on one knee, a regular line in the gutter (which they had previously bayed up with a slub), and with pots, pans, porringers and pipkins fell eagerly to work at ladling up its contents.
We are left to wonder what state the crowd were in once the contraband had all been poured away! Three thousand gallons remember!
In memory of a hero
On the bandstand at Eastbourne, is this memorial to one of the orchestra players who died in the Titanic disaster of April 1912 John Wesley Woodward.
The following appeared in the Eastbourne Gazette of May 1912
While the horror of the Titanic disaster is still fresh in the public mind, and the nation is contributing with an almost unexampled generosity to funds for the survivors and the families of the crew, would it not be as well to give a little thought to those who did not survive? This question finds some response in the feeling which has been expressed in several quarters that a memorial should be erected in Eastbourne to Mr. J. Wesley Woodward, a member of that heroic orchestra, who went down with the ship. Such would be a fitting tribute to a gallant Eastbourne musician, and at the same time perpetuate the memory of the many other heroic deeds performed by the other brave men who perished on that occasion.
A memorial to Mr. Wesley Woodward, who was so well known and so deservedly popular for so long a time in the town, would, we feel sure, be welcomed by all residents, musical and non-musical alike, to whom heroism and devotion to duty appeal as qualities deserving of honour. The memorial should preferably be placed either on the sea front or in the vicinity of the Devonshire Park; and the sculpture should be of a graceful and artistic character, symbolical of music, and above all with no funeral features about it.
High-level car park
Car parking in Brighton has been an issue for many, many years. Here was a solution reported in the old Sussex County Magazine of May 1954.
In this atomic age, it would seem, nobody is prepared to express surprise at schemes which, 50 years ago, would have startled even avid readers of Jules Verne. For instance, the roof of Brighton Railway Station as a parking place for cars. Yet this is being seriously considered.
For Mr D J Howe, Brightons Planning Officer, revealed it at the annual meeting of the Regency Society of Brighton and Hove recently when members bombarded him with questions on features of the towns Development Plan.
Many schemes for solving the problem of car parking, he said, have been considered, but it is estimated that any one of them would cost at the rate of 1,000 per car. He gave it as his opinion that the suggested car parking on the station roof is practicable, with an entrance from Buckingham Place.
Of all the many fascinating exhibits on show at Michelim Priory, near Upper Dicker, the one shown here, on the main staircase, is probably the most bizarre. This is a witch jar, found buried outside the west porch of the priory building, and dates from the 1660s, when belief in witchcraft had reached an alarming peak in Britain. At this time, a man named John Lulham was the tenant farmer at the old priory building (it was made redundant during the Reformation), so was almost certainly buried by him.
It was intended as a protective, counter-measure to any spells or ill-omens cast by witches and was supposed to throw back the spell onto the witch herself. Inside were items to aid this, including a wax representation of the human heart, pierced by pins.
The jar itself was probably made in Germany, for use in taverns and inns, and is decorated with a mans head, thought to be an unpopular Italian Cardinal named Bellarmine (unpopular for his anti-Protestant views). The jar was dug up in 1973.
Scores on the doors
By an Act of Parliament of 1882, Picts Hill Toll Gate (seen above) the last toll gate in the parish of Horsham was abolished in November 1885. It had been kept for many years by Mrs Jane Hill, who lived in the toll house with her daughter. At the time the gate was closed down, she was described as still a very wideawake and active old lady, upwards of 70 years of age, whose wits had defeated many attempts to evade payment.
As well as looking after her own gate, she supervised another gate at Bines Green, about eight miles away. This was kept by her blind husband, who would give credit to several farmers. He did this by means of square-shaped sticks, about a foot long, one for each farmer, making notches with a knife on each of the four angles lengthways for the amount owed. These were kept in a drawer in the toll cottage, and he knew which was which by sense of touch.
Mrs Hill would periodically visit her husband to audit his account keeping; but there was often another reason for her visits. Most of the attempts to evade payment at Picts Hill were by cattle drovers who thought they could count their cattle better than the old lady (they were charged by the score), but she was always ready to correct their mistakes. When she had proved a farmers inaccuracy, she would sometimes leave her gate in charge of her daughter, catch a train at Horsham for Partridge Green and be ready at Bines gate to count the cattle correctly again, and prevent her husband being the victim of another mistake.
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