Exploring local history this summer

Arundel, as it appeared in 1903
Arundel, as it appeared in 1903

Chris HARE has been researching local history for 36 years, since his days as a student at Worthing College.

More recently, he has become well known in the town for managing a series of high profile community heritage projects and writing many books on local history topics.

In the 1990s, he ran a yearly programme of guided walks across the county that were extremely popular.

Now, this summer, Chris is offering a limited programme of walks and ‘history heritage days,’ including his highly regarded talks on smuggling.

Chris is a busy many these days, with his involvement in the Worthing Community Play and the Worthing Heritage Trails projects, but he has found time this summer to run four guided walks and four history heritage days, delivered through History People UK.

“A lot of people have been asking me if I will be running a guided walks programme again,” explains Chris, “and I also get asked to repeat my short course on local smuggling, so hopefully the events I have organised this summer will meet that demand.”

Full details are available at www.historypeopleuk.org.uk or programmes can be picked up at Worthing Library, Worthing Museum, or the VisitWorthing Centre at The Dome.

Guided walks with Chris Hare, £5 per person.

• Chichester Walls Walk. Sunday, July 13, 11am – 12.30pm. £5 per person. Meet at the northern entrance of Chichester railway station.

Chichester is one of very few towns in England that still retains its city walls – even more impressively, while other towns have walls dating back to medieval times, Chichester’s walls date back to Roman times.

This walk will transport you back over nearly 2,000 years of history, recalling the decay of the Roman city and its subsequent rebuilding and refortification in medieval times.

You will hear how the French seized the city during the reign of King John, and how Parliamentary forces laid siege to Chichester during the English Civil War.

• Chichester: historic streets and buildings. Sunday, July 13, 2.30pm – 4pm. £5 per person. Meet by the statue of St Richard by the cathedral entrance off West Street.

Despite the appearance of being a Georgian town, most of the city’s buildings were refronted in the 18th century, hiding their true antiquity.

Much of Chichester remains Tudor and medieval.

This walk begins at the cathedral – a building that has suffered fire, earthquake and being hit be a lightning bolt.

The walk will include the great homes of city merchants, such as Edes House and Pallant House, and the great civic and commercial buildings of the city, such as the Butter Market and the Corn Exchange.

Your ‘second guide’ will be W. H. Hudson, whose visit to the city in 1899, led him to write an account of Chichester that scandalised the city.

• Burpham: Anglo-Saxon Fortress. Sunday, July 20, 11am – 12.30pm. £5 per person. Meet outside the George and Dragon (the only pub in the village).

What secrets this little downland village still retains.

Few people today, walking through Burpham on a country hike or having a meal at the George and Dragon, would guess that Burpham was once a great Anglo-Saxon fortress during the reign of Alfred the Great.

Nor would they know what celebrated writers lie buried in its ancient churchyard.

Truly, there are surprises a plenty in Burpham, including the legends of the Leper’s Path and of Jack Upperton the Highwayman.

You will be surprised how much you learn about the heritage of England in this one walk.

• Arundel: Castle, River, and Town. Sunday 20th July, 2.30 – 4.00pm. £5 per person. Meet at Arundel railway station.

“Since William rose, and Harold fell, there have been Earls at Arundel,” so proclaims a local ditty that celebrates the fact that for nearly 1,000 years, since the days of the Norman Conquest, great earls, and latterly, dukes, have resided in the castle at Arundel.

Not surprisingly, many dramatic moments in English history have been played out in the town and more than one noble lord ended his life facing the executioner’s axe.

We will explore the backstreets of Arundel, unfolding many fascinating tales from the days when Arundel was a port town with a reputation that was not always savoury.

• History Heritage Days, £20 per person.

These History Heritage Days will be held in the convenient surroundings of Worthing’s Sidney Walter Centre.

Each day will include illustrated talks and discussions, with free hand-outs to take home.

There will be breaks for tea and coffee, with reasonably priced lunches available from the local pub, The Swan, between 1pm and 2pm.

For more information about lunches look at www.coxinns.com/theswan.

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be supplied free at the Sidney Walter Centre.

Those not wishing to buy a lunch at the Swan are welcome to bring a packed lunch.

• Smuggling Days in Sussex – a true and deadly history. Saturday July 26, 10am – 4pm. £20 per person. Sidney Walter Centre, Sussex Road, Worthing, BN11 1DS.

Welcome to the Wild West, that is the Wild West Sussex of the 18th century.

Violent skirmishes between dragoons and smugglers in the 1740s at Goring and Arundel led to fatalities on both sides.

The brutal murder of 13- year-old Richard Hawkins by smugglers in 1747 led to the gang finally being brought to justice.

Not all smugglers were murderers, many turned to the ‘wicked trade’ as a result of poverty and were seen as ‘Robin Hoods’ by local people.

This day will include the stories of John Olliver, the ‘Mad Miller’ of Highdown; William Cowerson, of Steyning; and George Ransley, of Romney Marsh, and his notorious gang of smugglers known as ‘The Roaring Ransleys’.

The day will include a look at the causes of smuggling and why it so quickly declined after 1840.

• Edwardian Sussex and the First World War, plus screening of ‘Oh, What a Lovely War’. Saturday, August 2, 9.30am – 6pm. £20 per person. Sidney Walter Centre, Sussex Road, Worthing, BN11 1DS, followed by film screening at Pier Pavilion, Worthing.

This is a very special day. In the morning, Chris will talk about life in Edwardian Sussex in the years leading up to the outbreak of war, and then chart the terrible impact of the conflict on local communities.

In the afternoon. Chris, and Worthing Journal editor, Paul Holden, will be leading tours on Worthing Pier, as part of a day of commemorative events to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of hostilities on August4, 1914.

At 3.15pm there will be a special screening of ‘Oh, What a Lovely War’, which will include the live performance of First World War songs.

Tickets for the screening are included in the cost of this History Heritage Day.

The morning session at the Sidney Walter Centre will take a close look at life in the years leading up to war, including the impact of militant suffragettes, and the campaign to eradicate drunkenness – seen as a scourge of Sussex towns at that time.

The terrible impact of war will then be considered, not just the terrible loss of life, but also the social changes that the war brought in its wake: the decline of the old rural culture, with its ancient customs and traditions.

Starting at 1pm on Worthing Pier, Chris and Paul will use an illustrative timeline, laid out on the pier, to chart the chronology of the First World War and the major events happening locally.

The screening of ‘Oh, What a Lovely War’ will include ‘extras’, such as live performances from the Southwick Players and soldiers songs of the time.

There will be an interval at 4.30pm, with the screening ending at 6pm.

There will also be a ‘surprise’ ending.

All these events need to be booked in advance, either at the History People website – www.historypeopleuk.org.uk – or by picking up a programme and booking form from Worthing Library, Worthing Museum, or the VisitWorthing Centre at The Dome.

Programme leaflets have also been distributed to other locations throughout the county.

Chris can be contacted on 07794 600639.