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Motto: 'We wunt be druv (We won't be driven away)
Flag of Sussex
Flag of Sussex
Ancient extent of Sussex
Ancient extent of Sussex
StatusCeremonial county (until 1974)
1831 area907,920 acres (3,674 km2)[1]
1901 area932,409 acres (3,773 km2)[1]
1991 area934,900 acres (3,783 km2)[1]
HQChichester or Lewes
Chapman codeSSX
OriginKingdom of Sussex
CreatedIn antiquity
Succeeded byEast Sussex and West Sussex
1831 population
- 1831 density
1901 population
- 1901 density
1991 population
- 1991 density
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Motto: 'We wunt be druv (We won't be driven away)
Flag of Sussex
Flag of Sussex
Ancient extent of Sussex
Ancient extent of Sussex
StatusCeremonial county (until 1974)
1831 area907,920 acres (3,674 km2)[1]
1901 area932,409 acres (3,773 km2)[1]
1991 area934,900 acres (3,783 km2)[1]
HQChichester or Lewes
Chapman codeSSX
OriginKingdom of Sussex
CreatedIn antiquity
Succeeded byEast Sussex and West Sussex
1831 population
- 1831 density
1901 population
- 1901 density
1991 population
- 1991 density

Sussex (play /ˈsʌsɨks/; abbreviated Sx),[2] from the Old English Sūþsēaxe ('South Saxons'), is an historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. Clockwise, it is bounded to the west by Hampshire; north by Surrey, north-east by Kent, south by the English Channel and is divided for local government into West Sussex and East Sussex and the city of Brighton and Hove. Brighton and Hove was created as a unitary authority in 1997, and was granted City status in 2000. Until then, Chichester had been Sussex's only city.

Sussex has three main geographic sub-regions, each orientated approximately east to west. In the south-west of the county lies the fertile and densely-populated coastal plain. North of this lie the rolling chalk hills of the South Downs, beyond which lies the well-wooded Sussex Weald.

The name 'Sussex' derives from the Kingdom of Sussex, founded by Ælle of Sussex in 477 AD, which in 825 was absorbed into the kingdom of Wessex and the later kingdom of England. The region's roots go back further to the location of some of Europe's earliest hominid finds at Boxgrove. Sussex has been a key location for England's major invasions, including the Roman invasion of Britain and the Battle of Hastings.

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.



The Flag of Sussex is based on the heraldic shield of Sussex which has been used to represent the county since at least as far back as 1622: Azure, six martlets or

The flag of Sussex consists of six gold martlets, or heraldic swallows, on a blue background, blazoned as Azure, six martlets or. Officially recognised by the Flag Institute on 20 May 2011, its design is based on the heraldic shield of Sussex that first appeared in an atlas by John Speed in 1622. The significance of the six martlets may be to represent the traditional six sub-divisions of the county known as rapes. It may also be a canting reference to the title of the historic leading Sussex family, the Earls of Arundel, seated at Arundel Castle in the county, as the French for swallow is hirondelle.

Sussex by the Sea is regarded as the unofficial anthem of Sussex; it was composed by William Ward-Higgs in 1907, perhaps originally from the lyrics of Rudyard Kipling's poem entitled Sussex. Adopted by the Royal Sussex Regiment and popularised in World War I, it is sung at celebrations across the county, including those at Lewes Bonfire, and at sports matches, including those of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club and Sussex County Cricket Club.

The county day, called Sussex Day, is celebrated on 16 June, the same day as the feast day of St Richard of Chichester, Sussex's patron saint, whose shrine at Chichester Cathedral was an important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.

Sussex's motto, We wunt be druv, is a Sussex dialect expression meaning 'we will not be pushed around' and reflects the traditionally independent nature of Sussex men and women. The round-headed rampion, also known as the 'Pride of Sussex', was adopted as Sussex's county flower in 2002.



The South Downs meets the sea at the Seven Sisters

The physical geography of Sussex relies heavily on its lying on the southern part of the Wealden anticline. The major features of which are the high lands that cross the county in a west to east direction: the Weald itself and the South Downs. Natural England has identified the following seven natural areas in Sussex:[3]

At 280m, Blackdown is the highest point in Sussex, or county top. Ditchling Beacon (248m) is the highest point in East Sussex. At 113 kilometres (70 mi) long, the River Medway is the longest river flowing through Sussex. The longest river entirely in Sussex is the River Arun, which is 41 kilometres (25 mi) long. Sussex's largest lakes are man-made reservoirs. The largest is Bewl Water on the Kent border, while the largest wholly within Sussex is Ardingly Reservoir.


The coastal resorts of Sussex and neighbouring Hampshire are the sunniest places in the United Kingdom.[4] The coast has consistently more sunshine than the inland areas: sea breezes, blowing off the sea, tend to clear any cloud from the coast.[5] Most of Sussex lies in Hardiness zone 8; the exception is the coastal plain west of Brighton, which lies in the milder zone 9.

Rainfall is below average with the heaviest precipitation on the South Downs with 950mm (37 in) of rainfall per year.[5] The close proximity of Sussex to the Continent of Europe, results in cold spells in winter and hot, humid weather in summer.[5]

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.[5] Rainfall during the summer months is mainly from thunderstorms and thundery showers; from January to March the heavier rainfall is due to prevailing south-westerly frontal systems.[5]

In winter, the east winds can be as cold as further inland.[5] Selsey is known as a tornado hotspot, with small tornadoes hitting the town in 1986, 1998 and 2000,[4] with the 1998 tornado causing an estimated £10 million of damage to 1,000 buildings.[4]


Most of Sussex's population is distributed in an east-west line along the English Channel coast or on the east-west line of the A272. The exception to this pattern is the 20th century north-south development on the A23-Brighton line corridor, Sussex's main link to London. Sussex's population is dominated by the Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton conurbation that, with a population of over 460,000, is home to almost 1 in 3 of Sussex's population. According to the ONS urban area populations for continuous built-up areas, these are the 5 largest conurbations (population figures from the 2001 census):

RankUrban Area[6]Population

(2001 Census)[6][7]

1Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton461,18110Sometimes referred to as two Primary Urban Areas - Brighton Urban Area and Worthing Urban Area[9]
2Crawley180,1776Includes approx. 74,000 people living in Surrey
5Bognor Regis62,1411


The area of the ancient county is 933,887 acres (377,931 ha) 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 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 an average household comprised seven individuals 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.



Reconstruction of Homo heidelbergensis
Reconstruction of Homo heidelbergensis

Finds at Eartham Pit in Boxgrove show that the area has some of the earliest hominid remains in Europe, dating back some 500,000 years and known as Boxgrove Man or Homo heidelbergensis. At a site near Pulborough called The Beedings, tools have been found that date from around 35,000 years ago and that are thought to be from either the last Neanderthals in northern Europe or pioneer populations of modern humans.[10] The thriving population lived by hunting game such as horses, bison, mammoth and woolly rhinos.[11] Around 6000BC the ice sheet over the North Sea melted, sea levels rose and the meltwaters burst south and westwards, creating the English Channel and cutting the people of Sussex off from their Mesolithic kinsmen to the south. Later in the Neolithic period, the area of the South Downs above Worthing was one of Britain's largest and most important flint-mining centres.[12] The flints were used to help fell trees for agriculture. The oldest of these mines, at Church Hill in Findon, has been carbon-dated to 4500BC to 3750BC, making it one of the earliest known mines in Britain. Chalk from Cissbury has been found as far away as the eastern Mediterranean.[13]

Sussex is rich in remains from the Bronze and Iron Ages, in particular the Bronze Age barrows known as the Devil's Jumps and Cissbury Ring, one of Britain's largest hillforts. Towards the end of the Iron Age in 75BC people from the Atrebates, one of the tribes of the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and German stock, started invading and occupying southern Britain.[14] This was followed by an invasion by the Roman army under Julius Caesar that temporarily occupied the south-east in 55BC.[14] Soon after the first Roman invasion had ended, the Celtic Regnenses tribe under their leader Commius occupied the Manhood Peninsula.[14] Tincomarus and then Cogidubnus followed Commius as rulers of the Regnenses.[14]

Roman Canton

Museum model of how Fishbourne Roman Palace may have appeared

At the time of the Roman conquest in AD43, there was an oppidum in the southern part of their territory, probably in the Selsey region.[15] A number of archaeologists now think there is a strong possibility that the Roman invasion of Britain in AD43 started around Fishbourne and Chichester Harbour rather than the traditional landing place of Richborough in Kent. According to this theory, the Romans were called to restore the refugee Verica, king of the Atrebates, who had been driven out by the Catuvellauni, a tribe based around modern Hertfordshire.[16]

Sussex was home to the magnificent Roman Palace at Fishbourne, by far the largest Roman residence known north of the Alps. Much of Sussex was a Roman canton of the Regnenses or Regni, with its capital at Noviomagus Reginorum, modern-day Chichester. The Romans built villas, especially on the coastal plain and around Chichester, one of the best preserved being that at Bignor. Christianity first came to Sussex at this time, but faded away when the Romans left in the 5th century. The nationally-important Patching hoard of Roman coins that was found in 1997 is the latest find of Roman coins found in Britain, probably deposited after 475 AD, well after the Roman departure from Britain around 410 AD.[17]

Saxon Kingdom

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records that in AD477 Aelle landed in Sussex with his three sons. Having fought on the banks of the Mearcredesburna,[18] it seems Aelle secured the area between the Ouse and Cuckmere in a treaty.[19] After Aelle’s forces seized the Saxon Shore fort of Anderida, the South Saxons were able to gradually colonise free of Romano-British control and extend their territory westwards to link with the Saxon settlement at Highdown Hill.[19] Aelle was recognised as the first 'Bretwalda' or overlord of southern Britain. He was probably the most senior of the Anglo-Saxon kings and led the ill-fated campaign against King Arthur at Mount Badon.

An engraving, which is a 17th century copy, of an earlier painted Tudor mural in Chichester cathedral depicting Cædwalla confirming the granting of land to Wilfrid to build his monastery in Selsey
Engraving showing Cædwalla confirming the granting of land to Wilfrid to build his monastery in Selsey.

By the end of the 7th century, the region around Selsey and Chichester had become the political centre of the kingdom. In the 660s-670s, King Aethelwealh of Sussex formed an alliance with the Mercian king Wulfhere and together they took the Isle of Wight from the West Saxons, probably at the battle of Biedanheafele. As Mercia's first Christian king, Wulfhere insisted that Æthelwealh also convert to Christanity. Æthelwealh was baptised in Mercia, with Wulfhere as his sponsor. Wulfhere gave the Isle of Wight and Meon Valley to Aethelwealh, with Wulfhere acting as overlord. The alliance with Mercia was sealed with Æthelwealh taking the hand of Eabe, a Mercian princess in marriage.

Wilfrid, the exiled bishop of York, came to Sussex in 681 and with King Æthelwealh's approval set up a mission to convert the people of Sussex to Christianity. Æthelwealh gave Wilfrid land on the Manhood peninsula, close to his own royal estate and Wilfrid founded Selsey Abbey. The mission was jeopardised when King Æthelwealh was killed by Cædwalla, a prince of Wessex. Cædwalla confirmed Æthelwealh's grant of land and Wilfrid built his Selsey Abbey. Cædwalla was driven out by the South Saxon nobles Berthun and Andhun.

The South Saxons fought off the West Saxons in 722 and again in 725. At the end of the 8th century, Ealdwulf was perhaps the last independent king of Sussex, after which Sussex and other southern kingdoms came increasingly under Mercian rule. Mercia's grip was shattered in 825 at the battle of Ellendun, after which Sussex and the other southern kingdoms came under the control of Wessex, which later grew into the kingdom of England.

Norman Sussex

Picture of plaque at Battle Abbey, the traditional site of the High Altar of Battle Abbey founded to commemorate the victory of Duke William on 14 October 1066. The high altar was placed to mark the spot where King Harold died.
Battle Abbey was founded to commemorate William's victory in the Battle of Hastings. The high altar was placed to mark the spot where King Harold died.

Sussex was the venue for the momentous Battle of Hastings, the decisive victory in the Norman conquest of England. In September 1066, William of Normandy landed with his forces at Pevensey and erected a wooden castle at Hastings, from which they raided the surrounding area.[20][21] The battle was fought between Duke William of Normandy and the English king, Harold Godwinson, who had strong connections with Sussex and whose chief seat was probably in Bosham.[22] After having marched his exhausted army all the way from Yorkshire, Harold fought the Normans at the Battle of Hastings, where England's army was defeated and Harold was killed. It is likely that all the fighting men of Sussex were at the battle, as the county's thegns were decimated and any that survived had their lands confiscated.[23] William built Battle Abbey at the site of the battle, with the exact spot where Harold fell marked by the high altar.[23]

Sussex experienced some of the greatest changes of any English county under the Normans, for it was the heartland of King Harold and was potentially vulnerable to further invasion.[24] The county was of great importance to the Normans; Hastings and Pevensey being on the most direct route for Normandy.[25] The county's existing sub-divisions, known as rapes, were made into castleries and each territory was given to one of William's most trusted barons. Castles were built to defend the territories including at Arundel, Bramber, Lewes, Pevensey and Hastings. Sussex's bishop, Æthelric II, was deposed and imprisoned and replaced with and William the Conqueror's personal chaplain, Stigand.[26] The Normans also built Chichester Cathedral and moved the seat of Sussex's bishopric from Selsey to Chichester. The Normans also founded new towns in Sussex, including New Shoreham (the centre of modern Shoreham-by-Sea), Battle, Arundel, Uckfield and Winchelsea.[24]

In 1264, the Sussex Downs were the location of the Battle of Lewes, in which Simon de Montfort and his fellow barons captured Prince Edward (later Edward I), the son and heir of Henry III. The subsequent treaty, known as the Mise of Lewes, led to de Montfort summoning the first parliament in English history without any prior royal authorisation. A provisional administration was set up, consisting of de Montfort, the Bishop of Chichester and the Earl of Gloucester. These three were to elect a council of nine, to govern until a permanent settlement could be reached.[27]

Sussex under the Plantagenets

During the Hundred Years War, Sussex found itself on the frontline, convenient both for intended invasions and retaliatory expeditions by licensed French pirates.[28] Hastings, Rye and Winchelsea were all burnt during this period[28] and all three towns became part of the Cinque Ports, a loose federation for supplying ships for the country's security. Also at this time, Amberley and Bodiam castles were built to defend the upper reaches of navigable rivers.[28]

Early modern Sussex

Like the rest of the country, the Church of England's split with Rome during the reign of Henry VIII was felt in Sussex.[29] In 1538 there was a royal order for the demolition of the shrine of Saint Richard, in Chichester Cathedral,[30] with Thomas Cromwell saying that there was "a certain kind of idolatry about the shrine".[30] In the reign of Queen Mary, 41 people in Sussex were burnt at the stake for their Protestant beliefs.[29] Elizabeth re-established the break with Rome when she passed the 1559 Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity. Under Elizabeth I, religious intolerance continued albeit on a lesser scale, with several people being executed for their Catholic beliefs.[28]

Sussex escaped the worst ravages of the English Civil War, although in 1642 there were sieges at Arundel and Chichester, and a skirmish at Haywards Heath when Royalists marching towards Lewes were intercepted by local Parliamentarians. The Royalists were routed with around 200 killed or taken prisoner.[31] Despite its being under Parliamentarian control, Charles II was able to journey through the county after the Battle of Worcester in 1651 to make his escape to France from the port of Shoreham.

Late modern and contemporary Sussex

The Sussex coast was greatly modified by the social movement of sea bathing for health which became fashionable among the wealthy in the second half of the 18th century.[24] Resorts developed all along the coast, including at Brighton, Hastings, Worthing, and Bognor.[24] At the beginning of the 19th century agricultural labourers' conditions took a turn for the worse with an increasing amount of them becoming unemployed, those in work faced their wages being forced down.[32] Conditions became so bad that it was even reported to the House of Lords in 1830 that four harvest labourers (seasonal workers) had been found dead of starvation.[32] The deteriorating conditions of work for the agricultural labourer eventually triggered riots, first in neighbouring Kent, and then in Sussex, where they lasted for several weeks, although the unrest continued until 1832 and became known as the Swing Riots.[32][33]

Railways spread across Sussex in the 19th century and county councils were given to Sussex's eastern and western divisions in 1889.

During World War I, on the eve of the Battle of the Somme on 30 June 1916, the Royal Sussex Regiment took part in the Battle of the Boar's Head at Richebourg-l'Avoué.[34] The day subsequently became known as The Day Sussex Died.[34] Over a period of less than five hours the 17 officers and 349 men were killed, including 12 sets of brothers, including three from one family.[34] A further 1,000 men were wounded or taken prisoner.[34]

With the declaration of the World War II, Sussex found itself part of the country's frontline with its airfields playing a key role in the Battle of Britain and with its towns being some of the most frequently bombed.[35] As the Sussex regiments served overseas, the defence of the county was undertaken by units of the Home Guard with help from the First Canadian Army.[35][36] During the lead up to the D-Day landings, the people of Sussex were witness to the build up of military personnel and materials, including the assembly of landing crafts and construction of Mulberry harbours off the county's coast.[36]

In the post-war era, the New Towns Act 1946 designated Crawley as the site of a new town.[37] As part of the Local Government Act 1972, the eastern and western divisions of Sussex were made into the ceremonial counties of East and West Sussex in 1974. Boundaries were changed and a large part of the rape of Lewes was transferred from the eastern division into West Sussex, along with Gatwick Airport, which was historically part of the county of Surrey.



From 1290, Sussex returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of England. Each county returned two MPs and each borough designated by Royal charter also returned two MPs. After the union with Scotland two members represented the county in the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832. After the Reform Act 1832 some of the larger industrial towns of northern England were enfranchised for the first time and smaller English boroughs (known as Rotten Boroughs) were disenfranchised,including Bramber, East Grinstead, Seaford, Steyning and Winchelsea in Sussex.[38] The Reform Act of 1832 divided what had been a single county constituency into eastern and western divisions, with two representatives elected for each division.[39] The reforms of the 19th century made the electoral system more representative, but it was not until 1928 that there was universal suffrage.[38]


Headquartered in Lewes, Home Office policing in Sussex has been provided by Sussex Police since 1968.[40]

Lewes Crown Court is the first-tier Crown Court for Sussex

The first-tier Crown Court for all of Sussex is Lewes Crown Court, which has courts in Lewes, Brighton and Hove. Like other first-tier Crown Courts it has its own resident High Court Judge. There is also a third-tier Crown Court at Chichester. The local prison in Sussex for men is Lewes Prison[41] and there is also an Category D prison at Ford.

Administrative divisions

Historic sub-divisions

Map of Sussex in 1851 showing the six Rapes

A rape was a traditional sub-division of the county of Sussex. Their origin is unknown, but they appear to predate the Norman Conquest.[42] Each rape was split into several hundreds.

At the time of the Norman Conquest, there were four rapes: Arundel, Lewes, Pevensey and Hastings. The rape of Bramber was created later in the 11th century and the rape of Chichester was created in the 13th century.

Modern local authority areas

Sussex is divided into two administrative counties and one unitary authority, Brighton and Hove. The divisions of east Sussex and west Sussex have their roots in the church's division of the county at the river Adur into east and west parts (divided from at least the 11th century into the archdeaconry of Chichester and the archdeaconry of Lewes). With Sussex's cathedral located at Chichester in the far west of the county, 9 miles from the western boundary and 90 miles from the eastern boundary, it became practical to divide the county into two sections. The three eastern rapes of Sussex became east Sussex and the three western rapes became west Sussex.

By the 16th century, the two halves of the county had each obtained separate administrations (Quarter Sessions). 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, Hastings and, from 1911, Eastbourne).[43]

Administrative areaAdministrative seatPopulationArea (sq mi)Districts
County Flag of East Sussex.png
East Sussex
Lewes509,800660Eastbourne, Hastings, Lewes, Rother, Wealden
Sussex banner.jpg
West Sussex
Chichester781,600769Adur, Arun, Chichester, Crawley, Horsham, Mid Sussex, Worthing
Brighton and HoveHove256,60034N/A
Total1,548,0001,46312 districts

Monarchy and peerage

Created in the fifth century, the kingdom of Sussex continued until its absorption into the kingdom of Wessex and later England in 825. In charters, Sussex's monarchs were sometimes referred to as ealdormen, or Dux in Latin, which is sometimes translated as 'duke'. The early Earls of Arundel, up to 1243, were often also called Earls of Sussex. In 1801 the title of Duke of Sussex was created and conferred on The Prince Augustus Frederick, the sixth son of George III.[44] Since he had no legitimate issue, the title became extinct on his death in 1843.[44] Although there was speculation that the dukedom would pass to Prince Andrew or Prince William[45] the title is currently one of six inactive British royal titles.


Much of the Sussex Weald consists of wet sticky clays or drought-prone acid sands and is often broken up into to small irregular fields and woods by the topography, making it unsuitable for intensive arable farming. In these areas pastoral or mixed farming has always been the pattern, 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. 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. There are still fishing fleets, notably at Rye and Hastings, but the number of boats is much reduced. There are working harbours at Rye, Hastings, Newhaven and Shoreham; whilst Pagham and Chichester harbours cater for leisure craft, as does Brighton Marina. Sussex had an iron working industry since the Roman period. The large supply of wood in the county made it a favourable centre for the industry, all smelting being done with charcoal till the middle of the 18th century.[46] The glass making industry started on the Sussex/Surrey border in the early 13th century and flourished till the 17th century.[47] The Mid Sussex area had a thriving clay industry in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Tourism in Sussex is well-established, and includes seaside resorts and the South Downs National Park. Brighton and Hove has a high density of businesses involved in media, particularly digital or "new media"; since the 1990s Brighton has been referred to as "Silicon Beach".[48] The University of Sussex and the University of Brighton provide employment for many more. A large part of the county, centred on Gatwick Airport has been recognised as a key economic growth area for South East England[49] whilst reasonable rail connections allow many people to work in London. Several large companies are based in Sussex including American Express (Brighton),[50] The Body Shop (Littlehampton), Bowers & Wilkins (Worthing), Hastings Direct (Hastings), Ricardo plc (Shoreham-by-Sea), Rolls-Royce Motor Cars (Goodwood), Thales UK (Crawley) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (Crawley).


The main building of the Royal Sussex County Hospital

The Sussex County Hospital (now the Royal Sussex County Hospital) was founded in 1828 at Brighton[51] whilst the Sussex County Mental Asylum (later 'St. Francis Hospital' and now the Princess Royal Hospital) was founded in 1859 in the centre of county at Haywards Heath.[52] Sussex's first medical school, the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, was set up in 2002. In 2011 the four Sussex NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) joined forces to become NHS Sussex.[53] The Major Trauma Centre at the Royal Sussex County Hospital is the Major Trauma Centre for Sussex with the Sussex's other hospitals acting as trauma units. It is one of only five major trauma centres across the NHS's South of England area.[54] The hospital also houses the Sussex Cancer Centre which serves most of Sussex.[55][56]


Sometimes thought by outsiders to be some sort of rural adjunct to London, Sussex has a cultural identity as unique as any other English county.[57] The last Anglo-Saxon kingdom to be christianised,[28] Sussex has a centuries-old reputation for being separate and culturally distinct from the rest of England.[58] This relative isolation until recent times came through the sea to the south, the forest and sticky clays of the Weald to the north and coastal marshes to the east and west. [58] Sussex escaped the wholesale rearrangements of life and customs which the Norse invasions brought to much of England and the Germanic culture of the South Saxons remained much more intact than that of the rest of England.[28]The people of Sussex have a reputation for independence of thought [59]and have an aversion to being pushed around, as expressed through the Sussex motto, We wunt be druv. Other regional characterisations include the sharp shrewd stubborn Sussex Wealdsman and the more the deferential Sussex Downsman.[60][61] Sussex is known for its strong tradition of bonfire celebrations and its proud musical heritage.

The county is home to England's largest arts festival, the Brighton Festival. Chichester is home to the Chichester Festival Theatre and Pallant House Gallery.


Historically, Sussex has had its own dialect with regional differences reflecting its cultural history. It has been divided into variants for the three western rapes of West Sussex, the two eastern rapes of Lewes and Pevensey and an area approximate to the easternmost rape of Hastings. [62][58] The Sussex dialect is also notable in having an unusually large number of words for mud, in a way similar to the popular belief which exists that the Inuit have an unusually large number of words for snow.[63]


Some writers born in Sussex include the Renaissance poet Thomas May (1594/5-1650), born in Mayfield, and playwights Thomas Otway, born Trotton, near Midhurst, and John Fletcher (1579-1625), who was born in Rye. One of the most prolific playwrights of his day, Fletcher is thought to have collaborated with Shakespeare. In the 18th century poet William Collins (1721-59), was born in Chichester and in the Romantic period poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), was born at Field Place, Broadbridge Heath, near Horsham.[64] Victorian poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922), was born at Petworth House, Petworth.[65]

Percy Bysshe Shelley is one of Sussex's best-known poets

The poet, writer and Member of Parliament Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) spent most of his life in Sussex, growing up in Slindon and returning to the county to live at Shipley. Belloc is remembered in an annual celebration in Sussex known as Belloc Night that takes place on the writer's birthday, 27 July, in the manner of Burns Night in Scotland.[66] The celebration includes reading from Belloc's work and partaking of a bread and cheese supper with pickles.[66]

The twentieth-century novelist Sheila Kaye-Smith (1887–1956) was born in St Leonards-on-Sea, near Hastings, and lived most of her life in Sussex. She is known for her many novels in the British regional literature genre, which are set in the borderlands of Sussex and Kent. Poet, playwright and novelist Maureen Duffy (1933- ) comes from Worthing, while the novelist Hammond Innes (1913-98) was born in Horsham.

In addition there are writers, who while they were not born in Sussex had a strong connection. This includes William Blake (1757-1827) who moved to Felpham in 1800 on the advice of Sussex poet William Hayley (1745-1820. Tried and cleared of the crime of sedition at the county court of Quarter Sessions in 1804, Blake returned to London later that year.[67] One of Victorian England's most famous poets Alfred Tennyson (1809-92) spent his summers, away from the holiday crowds of the Isle of Wight, at Aldworth House, Blackdown, which he built in 1869. H.G. Wells was brought up at Uppark, South Harting, near Petersfield, where his mother was housekeeper. He also went to school and taught in Midhurst. Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) also spent much of his life in Sussex, living in Rottingdean and later Burwash. While the novelist John Cowper Powys is particularly associated with Dorset and Wales, he lived in Sussex from the mid-1890s until 1910.[68] Another modernist Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) and her husband Leonard, had a country retreat in Rodmell near in Lewes from 1919, while Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) spent the last thirty years of his life in Crowborough. In 1897 Henry James (1843-1916) leased Lamb House in Rye, and purchasing it two years later, spent most of his last 18 years there, where he wrote several major works.


Sussex's rich musical heritage encompasses folk, classical and popular genres amongst others. Passed on through oral tradition, many of Sussex's traditional songs may not have changed significantly for centuries, with their origins perhaps dating as far back as the time of the South Saxons.[58] William Henry Hudson compared the singing of the Sussexians with that of the Basques and the Tehuelche people of Patagonia, both peoples with ancient cultures.[69] The songs sung by the Copper Family, Henry Burstow, Samuel Willett, Peter and Harriett Verrall, David Penfold and others were collected by John Broadwood and his niece Lucy Broadwood, Kate Lee and composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth.[57][70] Sometimes song lyrics were recorded with some censorship, such as the Sussex Whistling Song and the Horn Fair song.[58] Sussex also played a major part in the folk music revival of the 1960s and 1970s with various singers including George 'Pop' Maynard, Scan Tester, Tony Wales and the sisters Dolly and Shirley Collins.[57]

The Cure performing live in Singapore

Sussex has also been home to many composers of classical music including Thomas Weelkes, John Ireland, Edward Elgar, Frank Bridge, Sir Hubert Parry and Ralph Vaughan Williams, who played a major part in recording Sussex's traditional music.[57] Claude Debussy wrote much of La mer whilst in Eastbourne. Composed by William Ward-Higgs, Sussex by the Sea is the county's unofficial anthem.[57] In popular music, Sussex has produced artists including The Cure, The Levellers, Keane, The Kooks, STOMP and The Feeling. In 1970s, Sussex was home to Phun City,[71] the UK's first large-scale free music festival and hosted the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest which propelled ABBA to worldwide fame. While Glyndebourne is one of the world's best known opera houses, the county is home to professional orchestras the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra[72] and the Worthing Symphony Orchestra.[73]


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, Mayfield and Devil's Dyke are linked with St Dunstan while West Tarring 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 Abbey before the Normans moved it to Chichester Cathedral in 1075. Since 1965 Arundel Cathedral has been the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Arundel and Brighton, which covers Sussex and Surrey.

The Roman Catholic cathedral at Arundel. Arundel has been a stronghold of the Catholic faith since the Reformation


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.[74] 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 Grinstead. 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 Pennsylvania, William Penn worshipped near Thakeham;[75] his UK home from 1677 to 1702 was at nearby Warminghurst.[76] The UK's only Carthusian monastery is situated at St. Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster near Cowfold. The UK headquarters of the Church of Scientology is situated at Saint Hill Manor, near East Grinstead.


Sussex has a centuries-long tradition of sport. Sussex has played a key role in the early development of both cricket and stoolball. Cricket is recognised as having been formed in the Weald 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 Castle traditionally plays host to a Duchess of Norfolk's XI which plays the national test sides touring England.[77][78] 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 and Crawley Town. Brighton has been a League member since 1920, whereas Crawley was promoted to the League in 2011. Sussex has had its own football association, since 1882[79] and its own football league, which has since expanded into Surrey, since 1920.[80] In horse racing, Sussex is home to Goodwood, Fontwell Park, Brighton and Plumpton. The All England Jumping Course show jumping facility at Hickstead is situated 8 miles (13 km) north of Brighton and Hove.


Sliced Sussex Pond Pudding

The historic county is known for its "seven good things of Sussex".[81][82][83] 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, Chiddingly Hot pot, Sussex Bacon Pudding, Sussex Hogs' Pudding, Huffed Chicken, Sussex Churdles, Sussex Shepherds Pie, Sussex Pond Pudding,[84] Sussex Blanket Pudding, Sussex Well Pudding, and Chichester Pudding. Sussex is also known for its cakes and biscuits known as Sussex Plum Heavies [85] and Sussex Lardy Johns, while banoffee pie was first created in 1972 in Jevington.[86][87] The county has vineyards and the 18th century beer brewers, Harveys of Lewes as well as many more recently established breweries[88]. In recent decades Sussex wines have gained international acclaim winning awards including the 2006 Best Sparkling Wine in the World at the Decanter World Wine Awards.[89] Many vineyards make wines using traditional Champagne varieties and methods,[90] and there are similarities between the topography and chalk and clay soils[91] of Sussex downland and that of the Champagne region which lies on a latitude 100 miles (161 km) to the south.[90][92]

Visual arts

In the late 18th century two men commissioned important works of the county which ensured that its landscapes and daily life were captured onto canvas. William Burrell of Knepp Castle commissioned Swiss-born watercolourist Samuel Hieronymus Grimm to tour Sussex, producing 900 watercolours of the county's buildings.[93] George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont of Petworth House was a patron of painters such as JMW Turner and John Constable.[94]

Chichester Canal by JMW Turner

In the 19th century landscape watercolourist Copley Fielding lived in Sussex and illustrator Aubrey Beardsley and painter and scupltor Eric Gill were born in Brighton. Gill went on to found an art colony in Ditchling known as The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, which survived until 1989. The 1920s and 1930s saw the creation of some of the best-known works by Edward Burra who was known for his work of Sussex, Paris and Harlem[95] and Eric Ravilious who is known for his paintings of the South Downs.[96]

Sussex became a major centre for surrealism in the early 20th century.[97] At West Dean, Edward James was patron to artists including Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte[97][98] while at Chiddingly the home of Roland Penrose and Lee Miller was frequented by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Henry Moore, Eileen Agar, Jean Dubuffet, Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst.[97][99] Both collections form one of the most important bodies of Surrealist art in Europe.[100]


The Cass Sculpture Foundation is based at Goodwood. Chichester Cathedral has the early Chichester reliefs which affected the likes of the young Eric Gill growing up nearby and Henry Moore. Chichester Cathedral is also home to several contemporary works by John Skelton who lived and worked at Streat near Ditchling. Skelton was nephew of Eric Gill whose Ditchling community saw a number of important artists pass through. Worthing Museum and Art Gallery has works in the collection by Philip Jackson, Dora Gordine and John Skelton. Henri Gaudier-Brzeska's letters to Sophie Brzeska [101] documents their visit to Littlehampton in 1913 to recuperate, not having seen the sea for a year. Peter Randall-Page grew up in Crowborough[102] spending his childhood exploring Ashdown Forest. Philip Jackson lives and works in West Sussex.

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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.