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The Rother Valley
West Sussex, England

Edric Holmes, South Downs
page 1

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This section of the book has been re-edited and only includes the journey through the area covered by this website.
A full version of the book is available in Eformat - from Lewes to Bosham - here at Gravelroots.[e-mail]
THE SOUTH DOWNS FROM END TO END - 1920
By
Edric Holmes
Illustrations by
Mary M. Vigers
[1920]
 
page 1

The traveller through Sussex, as through every other English Shire, will find many reminders of the Great War in church, churchyard or village green. Some are imposing or beautiful, some, alas, are neither, or are out of keeping with the quiet peace of their surroundings. To mention any, however striking in themselves or interesting in their connexion, would be invidious as, at the time of writing, lack of labour or material has prevented the completion of a great number of them.
STOPHAM BRIDGE
 
The local historian of the future will bring a woeful number of his family records to a final close with the brief but glorious inscription on the common tablet where plough-boy and earl's son are commemorated side by side.
 
It is now proposed to visit Pulborough and the valley of the Rother. Though rather far afield from seaward Sussex and the chalk lands, this district comes naturally within the Down country, but must have a chapter to itself. From Parham we may either go direct to Pulborough by the highroad or, more profitably, by Greatham to Coldwaltham on the Roman Stane Street, the great highway from Chichester to London; here we turn north east and in a mile [just past the railway] note the scanty ruins of Hardham Priory on the right; another mile and, crossing the old Arun bridge, we are in Pulborough.


 
 
CHAPTER VII
THE VALLEY OF THE ROTHER

Pulborough on Stane Street was once a Roman station. Relics of the occupation are constantly turning up in the neighbourhood. Near the church is a mound, on which stood the "castellum." A glance at the map will show the commanding position the station held over the meeting of the Arun and Rother. There are traces of a Roman villa at Borough Hill north-east of the village.
 
The fine church is mostly Perpendicular, though there are Early English portions. Note the archaic Norman font and several interesting brasses, especially that of Thomas Harlyng, Canon of Chichester and rector here in 1420; also the restored sedilia and beautiful modern reredos.
 
Not far from the church are the remains of the ancient "Old Place" once belonging to the Apsleys; the neighbouring barn is even older than the house; "New Place," a little farther north, is another picturesque house with a fine hall.
 
Pulborough is, with Amberley, a Mecca for weekend anglers; it has a famous inn, the "Swan," and is a good halting place before proceeding westwards, in which direction our road now runs. A mile out of the town we take final leave of the Arun at Stopham Bridge, a fine medieval structure of many arches. The Rother joins the larger river just below the bridge and between the two streams may be seen Stopham House, the home of the Bartelotts, seneschals of the Earls of Arundel; their monuments and brasses for several centuries are in the church, an ancient building among trees some distance from the bridge.
 
We now approach Fittleworth, another favourite place for anglers, whose rendezvous must be looked for nearly a mile away near the bridge and station. The Early English church, unrestored and interesting, has in the vestry a curious stone coffin lid with a Greek cross upon it. The famous "Swan" Inn is a well-known feature of the little town and a great resort for artists, who find endless subjects in the beautiful district we are now traversing.
 
Egdean has a church dating from the early seventeenth century. About fifty or more years ago it was "restored" in a way which even among restorers must be unique, "Early English" details being imposed upon the original work. Byworth is picturesque, as Miss Vigers sketch will show; but, apart from its situation, it calls for no other comment.
 
The scenery around Petworth is characteristic of the Lower Greensand country and the picturesque wooded outcrop north-east of Byworth is perhaps as beautiful as any other part of this distinctive belt. In no part of this miniature range, about three miles long, is the altitude over 450 feet, but the charm of the woodland dells and meandering tracks which cross and traverse the heights between the "Fox" on the north-west and the Arun at Hardswood Green, is quite as great as in localities of more strongly marked features and greater renown.
 
The road trends north-west by Egdean and Byworth to Petworth. Petworth town consists of a number of old-world streets extremely crooked, narrow, and picturesque. Seen from any near point the grouping of roofs is as artistically good as any in Sussex. Petworth Church has been practically rebuilt. The north chantry contains the tombs of some of the Percy family, including that of the ninth Earl, who was imprisoned in the Tower on suspicion of being concerned in the Gunpowder Plot. Here is also the monument to Lord Egremont [1840], a fine seated figure. Notice several interesting brasses and a sixteenth century tomb of the Dawtreys.
Near the church is an old house belonging to this family. One of the rectors of Petworth was Francis Cheynell, the antagonist of Chillingworth. Just below the church is the Somerset Hospital, eighteenth century almshouses founded by a Duke of Somerset. In North Street is Thompson's Hospital, another picturesque group.
In the centre of the town stands the Market House built by the Earl of Egremont. In its front is a bust of "William the Deliverer."
Petworth church old house, Petworth
 
Petworth is another instance of feudal foundation. The manor, at present owned by Lord Leconfield, was for centuries in the possession of the Percy family. The house is said to have the finest private collection of pictures in the kingdom, most of which are due to the collecting zeal of the third Earl of Egremont; they are usually shown on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and visitors are handed a list of the paintings by the guides. The hurried round of the pictures takes about an hour. A wide range of schools are represented, but the most interesting is perhaps the splendid show of Turners.
 
The present mansion is one of the ugliest in the county and replaced in 1730 a beautiful medieval pile; the latter had been the scene of some historic visits, notably that of Edward VI, and in 1703 Charles III of Spain, who was met by Prince Consort George of Denmark. The Prince Regent with the Allied Rulers visited the Earl of Egremont in 1814. Three interesting relics shown are a piece of needlework made by Lady Jane Grey, the sword of Hotspur used at the battle of Shrewsbury, and an illuminated Chaucer MS. The chapel is the only portion of the old building remaining.
Petworth house
 
Petworth Park is quite free and open to the pedestrian. The entrance is in the Tillington road. Although of an entirely different character from the scenery we have already passed through, partaking more of the nature of an East Midland demesne, especially in the lower, or south end, the magnificent stretches of sward interspersed with noble groups of native trees will amply repay the visit. For those who have time to extend the ramble to the Prospect Tower in the northern portion of the park there is a magnificent view in store, especially south and west. Herds of deer roam the glades and there are two fine sheets of water. Saddlers Row, Petworth
 
The author of Rural Rides thus describes Petworth: "The park is very fine and consists of a parcel of those hills and dells which nature formed here when she was in one of her most sportive moods. I have never seen the earth flung about in such a wild way as round about Hindhead and Blackdown, and this park forms a part of this ground. From an elevated part of it, and, indeed, from each of many parts of it, you see all around the country to the distance of many miles. From the south-east to the north-west the hills are so lofty and so near that they cut the view rather short; but for the rest of the circle you can see to a very great distance. It is, upon the whole, a most magnificent seat, and the Jews will not be able to get it from the present owner, though if he live many years they will give even him a twist."
 
next page 2 - The road to Midhurst
 


 
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Chithurst
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Rother Valley
Chithurst - - Cocking - - Didling - - Duncton - - Easebourne - - East Lavington - - Fernhurst - - Fittleworth - - Graffham
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Petworth - - Rogate - - Selham - - South Ambersham - - Stedham - - Sutton - - Tillington - - Trotton - - Upperton
 
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