Nostalgia: 3 riveting tales from Sussex history

PUBLISHED: 15:06 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:35 21 September 2020

Hanningtons Department Store, Brighton

Hanningtons Department Store, Brighton

Chris Horlock

Local historian Chris Horlock recounts the sad tale of a Littlehampton soldier, remembers beloved Brighton department store Hanningtons, and shares a recipe for potato wine

Littlehampton War Memorial. Photo: Chris HorlockLittlehampton War Memorial. Photo: Chris Horlock

We will remember them

The impressive memorial to those who died in World War I, at Caffyn’s Field, Littlehampton, has 236 names carved on it – each one a life, each with a story to tell. Private John Barnes from Clun Road in the town had joined up during a recruitment drive in 1915, and served with the 7th Battalion, 12th Division, Royal Sussex Regiment. In 1917, he was entrenched near Arras on the Western Front where his unit suffered a huge bombardment of enemy fire. A roll call at 1.15am, prior to a counter-attack being launched, found Barnes missing. He was subsequently found 50 miles away in the town of Abbeville without his rifle. He was brought back, and though clearly suffering from battle stress, faced a court martial on a charge of desertion. He was found guilty as charged and on 14 July 1917, Barnes was shot at dawn by a firing squad. His age was just 24.

In World War I, 306 British and Commonwealth troops were executed for a range of offences, including desertion, sleeping on post, mutiny and striking a superior officer. Following World War II, there was a growing movement to have all of these men pardoned. A test case, brought by relatives of one such soldier, saw the creation of the 2006 Armed Forces Act, where all were finally exonerated - including John Barnes of Littlehampton.

Just one name, one life, one story of those from Sussex who served in the trenches of World War I.

Potato wine. Illustration: Chris HorlockPotato wine. Illustration: Chris Horlock

Are you being served?

Everyone remembers Hanningtons Department store in Brighton, occupying a huge L-shaped site at the northern end of East Street and continuing round into North Street. It began trading in 1808 from a single shop at 3 North Street, with neighbouring property acquired as the firm expanded. Hanningtons became well-known for its many promotional events to attract customers, such as fashion shows, beauty evenings, competitions and quizzes. At Christmas, one window was always decorated as a seasonal tableau, and many locals will remember visiting Santa’s grotto inside the store. It sold a huge variety of goods, housed a restaurant and hairdressers, offered carpet cleaning, repairs to upholstery and even arranged funerals. It managed to keep going until 2001, but, along with most other similar stores, couldn’t compete with changes to shopping trends, with out of town shopping malls with their free parking, plus national chains monopolising fashion with cheaper products. Hanningtons had traded in Brighton for 193 years, just seven years short of celebrating its bi-centenary.

Bottoms up!

In one of the very early ‘Eye on the Past’ columns, back in July 2007, a recipe for Sussex potato wine featured. In the past, country folk seemed to make wine from just about anything. Here’s a variant, which includes that mysterious ‘gallon’ unit of measure, not for the liquid ingredient, but for the potatoes!

Wash small potatoes; dry, not peel; cut them in halves. To every gallon of potatoes add 5 quarts of water, 1 lemon, 1 oz. of bruised ginger, 4 lbs of loaf sugar.

Put the potatoes, rind of lemon, and ginger in water and boil for 10 minutes. Put the sugar in the pan with the lemon sliced. Strain the liquid over it and allow it to get blood warm; then set with yeast. Next day take off the yeast and put the wine into jars, keeping a little back to work with.

More: 3 more fascinating tales of Sussex history

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