Arcadia

Arcadia in the early 1900s

A postcard view of Arcadia from the early 1900s

Arcadia is a nineteenth century cottage on the Poynings Road. Thomas Hills purchased it, along with various other cottages, for £215 at auction in 1922, probably to house workers for his adjacent market garden.

For a long time Victor (Vic) Burse, a well-known village character, lived in Arcadia with his three, successive wives. The first was Mary, the second was Kathleen (Kath) and some years later, in 1983, Vic, who by now was 74, married an 18-year-old, a local girl called Debbie Jarvis. They continued to live together in Arcadia until Vic died in 1998. Debbie later moved away from the village. Vic was known in the village as a storyteller and used to enjoy sitting with the locals at night, in the Shepherd and Dog, keeping the younger villagers entertained with tales of the war and things that he had done in his younger days.

The cottage was extensively refurbished in 2006, which included updating the interior, carrying out extensive repairs to the roof and redecorating inside and out. However, externally it remains unaltered. It remained the property of the Hills family, who let it out, until 2010. The new owners improved the property further with ambitious landscaping that included a drive that made off-road parking possible for the first time.

Tony Brooks

[Copyright © 2018, Anthony R. Brooks. Adapted from Anthony R. Brooks (2008) The Changing Times of Fulking & Edburton. Chichester: RPM Print & Design, pages 145 and 147.]

The Adventure of the Twenty Oxen

King Henry VII in the Star Chamber, July 1504

King Henry VII in the Star Chamber, July 1504

Over the centuries, residents of the parish of Edburton have been involved in all kinds of litigation. But the available records only document a single occasion on which one of these affairs ascended to the legal stratosphere that the Star Chamber used to represent. The case involved twenty oxen that may, or may not, have been stolen from Perching Manor.

KING & QUEEN’s ALMONER v. COOKE.
Dated 15 Feb., 4 and 5 Philip and Mary (1557-8).
No bill or other pleading.

Interrogatories to be ministered to John Cooke of [Edburton], co. Sussex, yeoman of the Queen’s Guard, and Thomas Cooke, his brother, concerning the unlawful taking and detaining of twenty oxen which were late of the goods of Edward Lawes, late of Pearching, “ffealon of hymselff”.

The interrogatories inquire (1) how many, and the names of those who took the cattle out of the pasture at Pearching, after the death of Edward Lawes; whither the oxen were driven, and in whose keeping they are; (2) Whether Edward Lawes did in his life-time sell the said oxen to John Cooke and William Davys, and for what sum of money, and upon what conditions.

John Cooke of Edburton deposes that the oxen were taken by his brother, Thomas Cooke, at his commandment, in the high way at Edburton, and driven to Waltham in Essex, and that eighteen were sold to Mistress Stacye, and two to a servant of Mr. Wrothe.

Thomas Cooke of St. Martin le Grand, in the City of London, haberdasher, deposes the taking of the oxen to Waltham.

The outcome of the case is unknown — the relevant documents disappeared in 1719.
[Excerpt from Percy D. Mundy, ed. 1913 Abstracts of Star Chamber Proceedings relating to the County of Sussex, Henry VII to Philip and Mary, Lewes: Sussex Record Society, page 102.]

The Devil’s Doggerel

The Devil's Doggerel
Following the spontaneous outburst of village enthusiasm that greeted our recent posting of contemporary topographic verse (Shepherd & Doggerel), a weightier piece by William Hamper dating back to the early nineteenth century has been added to the local history section. Nothing that includes words such as adown, cruciform, lightsome, luminary, wyght, and yclept, and a gratuitous line of Latin, employed for the rhyme, can be all bad. But it isn’t Coleridge. Rather, it is the kind of piece that a Victorian gentleman could commit to memory and then reproduce at Sussex wedding parties and other social occasions, with ribaldry and acclaim from a bibulous audience already well familiar with the plot (compare Rocky Horror sing-a-longs for a contemporary analogue). Read in that spirit, one can detect its merits.

The Devil’s Dyke

The Devil's Dyke
The following legend, founded on a popular Sussex error, from which the Devil’s Dyke takes its name, was written many years ago by William Hamper, Esq., of Birmingham, F.R.S., and Justice of Peace for the counties of Warwick and Worcester, a native of Sussex, from the family of Hamper at West Tarring, and was circulated at the time it was written amongst his Sussex friends.

Five hundred years ago, or more,
Or, if you please, in days of yore,
That wicked wyght, yclept old Nick,
Renown’d for many a wanton trick,
With envy from the Downs beheld
The studded churches of the weald;
Here Poynings cruciform — and there
Hurst, Albourne, Bolney, Newtimber, —
Cuckfield, and more, with tow’ring crest,
Quae nunc prescribere longum est; —
Oft heard the undulating chime
Proclaim around ‘t was service time;
While to the sacred House of Prayer
Went many a pious worshipper.

“Can I with common patience see
These churches — and not one for me?
Shall I be cheated of my due
By such a sanctimonoius crew?”
He mutter’d twenty things beside,
And swore that night the foaming tide,
Led through a vast and wondrous trench,
Should give these pious souls a drench.

Adown the west the steeds of day
Were hasting merrily away;
And Night in solemn pomp came on,
Her lamp a star, a cloud her throne;
The lightsome moon, she was not there,
But deck’d the other hemisphere.

Now fit with a capacious spade,
So large it was on purpose made,
Old Nick began with much ado
To cut the lofty Downs in two; —
At every lift his spade threw out
A hundred waggon loads, no doubt! —
O! had he labour’d till the morrow,
His envious work had wrought much sorrow;
The weald, with verdant beauty graced,
Changed to a sad and wat’ry waste!

But so it chanced, a good old dame,
Whose deed has long outlived her name,
Waked by the cramp at midnight hour,
Or just escaped the nightmare’s pow’r,
Rose from her humble bed; — when, lo! —
She heard Nick’s terrible ado! —
And by the starlight faintly spied
The wicked wyght — and Dyke so wide;
She knew him by his mighty size,
His tail, his horns, his saucer eyes;
And while, with wonderment amazed,
At labourer and at work she gazed,
Swift ‘cross her mind a thought there flew,
That she by stratagem might do —
A deed which luckily should save
Her country from a wat’ry grave!
By his own weapons fairly beating
The father of all lies and cheating.

Forth from a casement in a, in a minute,
A sieve with flaming candle in it
She held to view; — and simple Nick,
Who ne’er suspected such a trick,
(Old rogues are fools) when first his sight
A full-orb’d luminary bright
Beheld — he fled — his work undone,
Scared at the sight of a new sun,
And mutt’ring curses that the day
Should drive him from his work away!

Night after night, this knowing dame
Watch’d — but again Nick never came.

Who now dare call the action evil,
“To hold a candle to the devil?”

[This piece, including the title and prefatory paragraph, but not the illustration, is reproduced from pages 189-191 of James Taylor, editor, The Sussex Garland: A Collection of Ballads, Sonnets, Tales, Elegies, Songs, Epitaphs, etc. Illustrative of the County of Sussex with Notices, Historical, Biographical and Descriptive. Published by the editor in Newick, Sussex, in 1851. The line of Latin can be found in full form in one of the 1591-92 pamphlets that go to make up Robert Greene’s The Complete Cony Catching: cum multis aliis quae nunc prescribere longum est — “with many others which would be too long to describe now”. It is listed in an 1824 dictionary of popular quotations and occurs in other work. It probably predates Greene.]

Some (factual) material relevant to the C19 and C20 history of the Dyke: