The county of Sussex has a long and chequered history. Its foundation by Ælle in 477 was followed by a couple of centuries of empire building until, by the end of the 7th century, the region around Selsey and Chichester had become the political centre of the kingdom of Sussex. Chichester was the only city in Sussex until Brighton and Hove was granted City status in 2000.
Bounded by Hampshire, Surrey, Kent and to the south by the English Channel, the county is divided into West and East Sussex for governance.
The coast of the county 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.
Resorts developed all along the coast, including at Brighton, Hastings, Worthing, and Bognor.
At the beginning of the 19th century agricultural labourers’ conditions took a turn for the worse, many becoming unemployed while those in work faced their wages being forced down.
Conditions became so bad that it was even reported to the House of Lords in 1830 that four harvest labourers had been found dead of starvation.
The deteriorating conditions of the agricultural labourers eventually triggered riots across Kent before reaching Sussex. The unrest was to continue for the next two years.
During the 19th century the railway arrived in Sussex and county councils were formed for the counties eastern and western divisions in 1889.
During World War I, on the eve of the Battle of the Somme on 30th June 1916, the Royal Sussex Regiment took part in the Battle of the Boar’s Head at Richebourg-l’Avoué.
The day subsequently became known as The Day Sussex Died. In a period of less than five hours 17 officers and 349 men were killed. This horrendous number included 12 sets of brothers, including three from one family. Another 1,000 men were wounded or taken prisoner on the same day.
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 while its towns became some of the most frequently bombed.
As the Sussex regiments served overseas, the defence of the county was undertaken by units of the Home Guard.
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.
The flag of Sussex 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. Originally from the lyrics of Rudyard Kipling‘s poem Sussex it was adopted by the Royal Sussex Regiment and popularised in World War I.
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, (below) also known as the ‘Pride of Sussex‘, was adopted as Sussex’s county flower in 2002.
The three Su’s :