Simon's plan was a simple one, he hoped to surprise his foes and he intended in any case to throw his main strength southward upon the Priory of St Pancras, while pretending that his main attack was to be upon the Castle. He did not altogether succeed in surprising his foes, but in everything else he was successful. The royalists were aware of his approach only at the last moment, so that when they poured out of the Castle and Priory and town they were in some confusion. Then Prince Edward, observing the standard of Simon over the litter, flung himself upon the Londoners, who broke and fled while he pursued them, nor did he stay his hand till he was far away from Lewes. He returned at last victorious and triumphant to find Simon's banner floating from Lewes Castle, the King of the Romans and the King of England in Simon's hands and the day lost. Weary though he was, he attempted with all the impetuosity of youth to reverse that verdict. Through the streets of Lewes he fought, till at length he was forced to take refuge in the church of the Franciscans, where indeed Simon found him.
Such was the battle of Lewes, which gave all England to De Montfort for more than a year; till indeed Lewes was reversed, by Prince Edward who, escaping from his hands at Hereford, gathered a new army about him and forced Simon to meet him upon the field of Evesham where, when the great soldier-mystic saw the royal banners upon the dawn, he cried out that last great word of his, "The Lord have mercy on our souls for our bodies are Prince Edward's": to be answered when he demanded mercy, "there is no treating with traitors."
LEWES TO BRAMBER
Perhaps after all the most fundamental truth about Lewes is that she is the capital of the South Downs, and the South Downs are the glory of the South Country; from the noble antiquity of Winchester to the splendour of Beachy Head they run like an indestructible line of Latin verse beneath the blazon of England. They stand up between the land and the sea, the most Roman thing in England, and of all English land it is their white brows that the sun kisses first when it rises over the sea, of all English hills every morning they are the first to be blest.
The most Roman thing in England I call them; and indeed this "noble range of mountains" has not the obvious antiquity of the Welsh mountains or the Mendip Hills, nor the tragic aspect as of something as old as time, as old as the world itself, of the dark and sea-torn cliffs of Cornwall, or the wild and desolate uplands of Somerset and Devon. The South Downs seem indeed not so much a work of Nature as of man; and of what men! In their regular and even line, in their continuity and orderly embankment, in their splendid monotony of contour they recall but one thing—Rome; they might be indeed only another work of that mighty government which conceived and built the great Wall that stretches from the Solway to the Firth of Forth which marked the limit of the Empire and barred out its enemies. And this wall of the South Downs, too, marked but another frontier of the same great government; beyond it lay the horizons unknown, and it barred out the sea.
But how much older than Rome are the South Downs! Doubtless before the foundation of Rome, e'er Troy was besieged, these hills stood up against the south and served us as a habitation and a home. Nor indeed have we failed to leave signs of our life there so many thousand years ago, so that to-day a man wandering over that great uplifted plateau which slopes so gradually towards the sea, though he seem to be utterly alone, as far as possible from the ways and the habitations of men, immersed in an immemorial silence, in truth passes only from forgotten city to forgotten city, amid the strongholds and the burial places of a civilisation so old that it is only the earth itself which retains any record or memory of it. Here were our cities when we feared the beast, before we had knowledge of bronze or iron, when our tool and our weapon was the flint.
The man, our ancestor, who chipped and prepared the flints for our use at Cissbury for instance, doubtless looked out upon a landscape different from that we see to-day and yet essentially the same after all. The South Downs in their whole extent slope, as I have said, very gradually seaward and south, and there of old were our cities chiefly set, but northward their escarpment is extraordinarily steep, rising from time to time into lofty headlands of which the noblest, the most typical and the most famous is Chanctonbury. Standing above that steep escarpment a man to-day looks all across the fruitful Weald till far off he sees the long line of the North Downs running as it were parallel with these southern hills, and ennobled and broken by similar heights as that of Leith Hill. Between, like an uneven river bed with its drifts and islands of soil, running from west to east, lies the Weald, opening at last as it were into the broad estuary of Romney Marsh, half lost in the sea. And what we see to-day our neolithic forefathers saw too—with a difference. Doubtless the Downs then were as smooth and bare as they are now, but the Weald, we may be sure, was different, wilder and certainly fuller of woodland, though never perhaps the vast and impenetrable forest of trees of which we have been told.
I say that the Downs, now deserted save by the shepherd and his flock, were of old populous, and of this fact the evidence is plentiful. There is indeed not one of the five main stretches of the Downs that does not bear witness to the immemorial presence of man. To say nothing of the discoveries about Beachy Head, the earthworks there, and the neolithic implements and bronze weapons discovered about East Dean and Alfriston, we have in the Long Man of Wilmington, that gigantic figure cut out in the chalk of the hill-side, something comparable only with the Giant of Cerne Abbas in Dorset and the White Horses of Wiltshire. That figure is some two hundred and forty feet in height and holds in each hand a stave or club two hundred and thirty feet long. It would seem impossible to be certain either of its age or its purpose, but we may perhaps be sure that it lay there upon the Downs above Polegate before the landing of Caesar, and it may have been the foundation of one of those figures described by him as formed of osiers and filled with living men to be destroyed by fire as a sacrifice for our barbarian gods.
Nor is this all. The whole range of the Downs as I say is scattered thick with the work of our pre-historic forefathers. In Burlough Castle and Mount Caburn we have fortresses so old that it is impossible to name the age in which they were contrived and built, nor can we assert with any confidence who they were that first occupied the camp upon Ditchling Beacon, the highest point of the South Downs, or who first defended Wolstanbury. And it is the same with those most famous places Cissbury Ring and Chanctonbury. But the flint mines upon Cissbury give us some idea of the neolithic men, our forefathers, which should and does astonish us. The Camp itself is less wonderful than the mines upon the western side of it. Here we have not only numerous pits from ten to seventy feet in diameter and from five to seven feet deep, but really vast excavations leading to galleries which tap a belt or band of flints. That these mines were worked by neolithic man it is impossible to doubt, but he may not have discovered or first used them. They may be older than he, though all record even upon that marvellous hill- side, has been lost of those who first exploited them. Nor is Chanctonbury, though it cannot boast of mines such as these, less astonishing or less ancient. The camp set there following the contour of the hill can only have been one of the most important in south- east England. It commands the camps at Cissbury, the Devil's Dyke, High Down and White Hawk, the whole breadth of the Weald lay beneath it and a signal displayed upon Leith Hill upon the North Downs could easily be answered from this noble mountain; Mount Caburn itself was not more essentially important.
It has been thought that the Romans may have used Chanctonbury, but if so they have left but little mark of their occupation, and indeed, though the Downs as a whole far off are stamped with so Roman a character, there is but one spot in their whole length where we may say; here certainly the Legions have been. That spot lies upon the last division of the Downs towards the west, the line of hills which stands between Chichester and the Weald.
It is certain that the Romans were, in Sussex, most at home on that great sea plain towards which the Downs slope so gradually southward. Here indeed they built their town of Regnum, and perhaps towards the end of their occupation of Britain they laid out the only purely military highway which they built here from Regnum to London Bridge. This great Roman road, known as the Stane Street, coming out of the eastern gate of Chichester, takes the Downs as an arrow flies, crossing them between Boxgrove and Bignor, nor is the work of Rome even to-day wholly destroyed, for there under Bignor Hill we may still see the pavement of their Way, while at Bignor itself we have perhaps the best remains of a Roman villa left to us in Sussex.
But though all these marks and signs, the memory and the ruins not only of our forefathers, but of those our saviours who drew us within the government of the Empire so that we are to-day what we are and not as they who knew not the Romans, make the Downs sacred to us, it is not only or chiefly for this that we love them or that in any thought of Southern England, when far away, it is these great hills which first come back into the mind and bring the tears to our eyes. We love them for themselves, for their beauty and their persistence certainly, but really because we have always known them and they more than any other thing here in the south remind us and are a symbol of our home. A man of South England must always have them in his heart
for every day of his childhood they have filled his eyes. And to-day more especially they stand as a sign and a symbol. For not only are they the first great hills which the Londoner sees, but they offer the nearest relief and repose from the modern torture and noise of that enormous place which has ceased to be a city and become a mere asylum of landless men. From the mean and crowded streets he seeks with an ever increasing eagerness the space of the Downs, from the noise and confusion and throng, this silence and this emptiness; from the breathless street, this free and nimble air, which is better than wine. And so to-day more than ever the Downs have come to stand as a symbol of an England half lost, which might seem to be passing away, but that is, as indeed these hills assure us, eternal and indestructible, the very England of our hearts, which cannot die. There are some doubtless who grumble at this invasion and are fearful lest even this last nobility should be destroyed by the multitude or this last sanctuary desecrated by the rapacity of the rich, or this last silence broken by the brutal noise of the motor car. But the Downs are too strong, they have seen too many civilisations pass away, and the men and the ages that built upon their hill-sides have become less than a dream in the morning. They remain. And is it nothing that in our day if a man hears a bird sing in a London street in spring it is of the Downs he thinks, if the wind comes over the gardens in some haggard suburb it is these hills which rise up in his mind, these hills, which stand there against the south, our very own from everlasting to everlasting.
But to possess the Downs at least as a symbol, to dream of them as a refuge, it is not necessary to know them in all their secret places, to have seen all their little forgotten homesteads, or to be able to recognise all their thousand steep tracks one from another.
For me indeed the Downs, long as I have known them, remain most dear as a spectacle, but this you will miss altogether if you are actually upon them, lost amid their rolling waves of green turf with only the sky and the wind and the sun for companions. Therefore when I set out from Lewes to go westward I did not take the way up past the race- course over the battlefield south of Mount Harry towards Ditchling Camp and Beacon. Let me confess it, I followed the road. And what a road! In all South England I know no other that offers the traveller such a spectacle, where above him, in full view, that great rampart stands up like a wall, peak speaks to peak, till presently with a majesty and a splendour, not to be matched I think in our island, Chanctonbury stands forth like a king crowned as with laurel towering upon the horizon.
Now this road I followed passes westward out of Lewes and then turns swiftly north, climbing as it goes, under the Downs beyond Offham, turning west again under Mount Harry and so on past Courthouse Farm and Plumpton church, which stands lonely in a field to the north of the road, till suddenly by Westmaston church under Ditchling Beacon it turns north again towards the Weald and enters the very notable village of Ditchling. All that way is worth a king's ransom, for it gives you all the steepness of the Downs upon their steepest side, their sudden north escarpment, towering up over the Weald some seven hundred feet or more. On a spring morning early I know no way more joyful.
Ditchling Beacon itself stands some eight hundred and fifty feet above the sea and is the highest point in all the range of the South Downs, though it lacks the nobility of Chanctonbury. The earthworks here are irregular and not very well defined, but there is a fine dewpound to the east of the camp though perhaps this has not much antiquity, a seemingly older depression now dry in the north-west corner is rather an old rainwater ditch than a dewpound. Altogether it might seem that Ditchling Camp was rather a refuge for cattle than a military fortress.
Ditchling village is charming, with more than one old half-timber house, and the church of St Margaret's is not only interesting in itself, but, standing as it does upon rising ground and yet clear of the great hills, it offers you one of the finest views of the Downs anywhere to be had from the Weald. It consists of a cruciform building of which the north transept and the north wall of the nave were rebuilt in the thirteenth century. The chancel, however, has some beautiful Early English work to show and the nave is rather plain Transitional. The eastern window and most of the windows in the nave are of the early Decorated period, the window in the south chancel aisle being somewhat later.
Something better than Ditchling church awaits the traveller at Clayton where the little church of St John the Baptist possesses a most interesting chancel arch, round and massive, that may well be Saxon. The chancel itself is of the thirteenth century with triple lancets at the western end with two heads, perhaps of a king and queen on the moulding. Here, too, on the south chancel wall is a fine brass of 1523 in which we see a priest holding chalice and wafer. In the nave are the remains of frescoes of the Last Judgment.
Right above Clayton rises Wolstanbury, a hill-top camp or circular work some two hundred and fifty yards in diameter. It is interesting because it is curiously and cleverly fortified, the rampart being built up below and outside the fosse, owing to the steepness of the hill. To the left are certain pits which may have been the site of dwellings; certainly many neolithic implements have been found here.
Below Wolstanbury which thrusts itself out into the Weald like a great headland nearly seven hundred feet in height, lies Pyecombe to the south-west. This little place which lies between the heights of Wolstanbury and Newtimber Hill is celebrated for two things, its shepherds' crooks and the Norman font of lead in the little church whose chancel arch is Norman too. You may see here even in so small a place, however, all the styles of England, for if the font and chancel arch are Norman, the lancets in the chancel are Early English, the double piscina is Decorated and the windows of the nave are Perpendicular while the pulpit is of the seventeenth century.
Pyecombe is hard to reach from Clayton without a great climb over the Downs, but there is a way, though a muddy one, which turns due west out of the Brighton road where the railway crosses it. This leads one round the northern side of Wolstanbury (and this is the best way from which to visit the camp on the top) and so by a footpath past Newtimber Place, a moated Elizabethan house well hidden away among the trees west of the road to Hurstpierpoint.
From Pyecombe there is a delightful road winding in and out under the Downs about Newtimber Hill to Poynings. Poynings is, or should I say was, one of the loveliest, loneliest and most unspoiled villages to be found here under the Downs, but of late it has been accessible by railway from the Devil's Dyke and Brighton. Nothing, however, can spoil the beauty and interest of its church which is, I suppose, one of the earliest Perpendicular works in the county, built before 1368 by the third Baron de Poynings, some remains of whose old manor-house may still be found east of the churchyard. The church is a Greek cross with central tower, and is dedicated in honour of the Holy Trinity. Everything in it is charming, especially the beautiful eastern window, the triple sedilia and the piscina; but the pulpit and altar rails are of the seventeenth century as is the great south window which once stood in Chichester Cathedral. The Poynings lie in the south transept, but their tombs have been defaced. The north transept is the Montagu Chapel; here in the window is some old glass in which we may see the Annunciation.
The Devil's Dyke, which stands right above Poynings, is a great trench in the Downs, dug according to the legend by the devil, whose genial intention it was to drown holy Sussex by letting in the sea. He was allowed from sunset to sunrise to work his will, but owing to the vigilance of those above who had Sussex particularly in their keeping, the cocks all began to crow long before the dawn, and the devil, thinking his time was spent, went off in a rage before he had completed his work. This would seem to prove what I have often suspected that the devil is as great a fool as he looks.
The camp above the Devil's Dyke is of the usual design of a hill-top fortress, the defence following the natural line of the hill, the look-out having been apparently upon the north-west, whence a remarkably extensive view is to be had both over the Weald and the Downs. But as no water would seem to have been conserved here it is difficult to believe that this camp was ever a permanent fortress which only a very large number of people could have defended. Nevertheless a great number of neolithic implements have been found there.
From Poynings in full view of Chanctonbury the beautiful road runs all the way at the foot of the Downs to that great gap through which the Adur seeks the sea, and which of old was guarded by Bramber Castle. On the way it passes through the loveliest of villages, to wit, Edburton, where in the Early English church of St Andrew is the second of the three Norman fonts of lead within this county. The church is altogether interesting, for if it is for the most part of the thirteenth century, it has a charming Decorated eastern window and it is said that Archbishop Laud himself presented the pulpit and altar rails. What the two low side windows were for I know not, but the chapel on the north was dedicated in honour of St Catherine of Alexandria.
It was already dusk when I came out of Edburton church, the late dusk of a day in early May; and so, liking the place passing well, I determined to sleep there and soon found a hospitable cottage. In the morning I liked the place better still, and remembering the "tarmac" and the sophistication (alas!) of Steyning, I decided to stay where I was two or three days and to visit thence a place in the Weald it had long been my desire to see. And so having made up my mind, before nine o'clock I set out on my way.
There can be no one who has stood upon one of the great heights of the Downs north and south, upon Ditchling Beacon, Chanctonbury or Leith Hill, who, looking across the Weald, has not wondered what this country, lying between the two great chalk ranges, might be, what is its nature and its history and what part it has played in the great story of England. For even to the superficial onlooker it seems to differ essentially not only from the great chalk Downs upon which he stands, but from any other part of England known to him. It lies, thickly sprinkled with scattered and isolated woodlands, a mighty trench between the heights, not a vast plain but an uneven lowland diversified by higher land but without true hills, and roughly divided west and east into two parts by a great ridge known by various names, but in its greater part called the Forest, St Leonard's Forest, Ashdown Forest, Dallington Forest, and so forth. This country which we know as the Weald is obviously bounded north and south by the Downs which enclose it, as they do, too, upon the west, where between Winchester and Petersfield and Selborne the two ranges narrow and meet. Thence, indeed, the Weald spreads eastward in an ever widening delta till it is lost in the marshes and the sea.
Such is the aspect of this great country as we see it to-day from any of the heights north and south of it; but what is its true character and what is its history?
We hear of it first under a Saxon name, Andredeswald, whence we get our name of the Weald, and we find it always spoken of not only by the Saxons, but by the Romans before them as an obstacle, though not, it would seem, an insurmountable one. It was, in fact, a wild forest country of clay containing much woodland, everywhere covered with scrub, and traversed by various sleepy and shallow streams. That it was difficult to cross we have Roman evidence; that it was a secure hiding- place we know from the Saxons; but as we look upon it to-day neither of these historic facts is self-evident, and therefore a curious myth has grown up with regard to the Weald; and the historian, seeking to explain what is not to be understood without time and trouble and experience, tells us that the Weald was once an impenetrable forest, a whole great woodland and undergrowth so thick that no man might cross it without danger. Such an assertion is merely an attempt on the part of men, who do not know the Weald, to explain the facts of which I have spoken, namely, that the Weald appears as an obstacle in our early history, though not insurmountable, and that it continually offered a secure hiding-place and refuge to the fugitive.
The Weald as it appears to us first, is the secure home of those who first smelted the ironstone in which it abounds, and as such it remained during many ages. But the two main facts about it which help to explain everything in its history are first that it consisted for the most part of clay, and secondly that it was everywhere ill watered. Let us consider these things.
The Weald, even as we see it to-day, tilled and cultivated and tended though it be, remains largely a country of scattered woodland, very thickly wooded, indeed, as seen in a glance from any height of the Downs, but revealing itself, as we traverse it, as a country of isolated woods, often of oak, and with here and there the remains of a wild and rough moorland country, of which, as we may think, in the Roman times, it, for the most part, consisted. It later possessed some six forests properly so called, but itself was never a legal forest nor in any sense of the words an impenetrable wood. It always possessed homesteads, farms and steadings, but almost nowhere within it was there a great or populous town; men lived there it is true, but always in a sort of isolation. And this was so not because the Weald was an impassable forest of woodland and undergrowth—it was never that; but because of its scarcity of water or more accurately its uncertainty of water and its soil, the Wealden clay. The state of affairs anciently obtaining in the Weald does not fundamentally differ from what obtains to-day, and in a word it was and is this: in dry weather there is no water, but the going is good; in wet weather there is plenty of water, but the going is impossible. Of course, these conditions have in modern times been modified by the building of roads and the sinking of wells and the better embankment and preservation of the rivers, but in Roman times, as later, the Weald was an obstacle because it was difficult, though never impossible, to cross on account of the badness of the going or the lack of water. It was a secure hiding-place for such a fugitive as a Saxon king because he could not be pursued by an army; he himself with a few followers could move from steading to steading and enjoy a certain amount of state, but a pursuing army would have perished.
Evidence in support of this explanation of the secret and character of the Weald is not far to seek. The Weald lay between the Channel and its ports, that is to say, the entries into England from the continent, and the Thames valley; it was then an obstacle that had to be overcome. Had it been merely a great woodland forest, it would not have troubled the Romans who would merely have driven a great road through it. But the Romans had more to face than an impenetrable woodland or the roughness of the country; they had to overcome the lack of water, and therefore in the Weald their day's march of some twelve miles was pressed to double its normal length. The French armies, according to Mr Belloc, do exactly the same thing in the Plain of Chalons to-day. And indeed a man may see for himself, even yet, what exactly the Weald was if in summer he will cross it by any of the winding byways that often become good roads for a mile or so and then lapse again into lanes or footpaths. Let him follow one of these afoot and drink only by the wayside. And then in winter let him follow the same tracks if he can. He will find plenty of water, but his feet will be heavy with clay. For an army or even a regiment to go as he goes would be almost impossible, and this not because of the woodland or undergrowth, but because of the lack of water, the lack of towns or large villages and the clay underfoot.
Such then was the nature of the barrier which lay between the ports of the Channel and the valley of the Thames. The Weald was indeed inhuman, and this helps to explain why it was not only a barrier but a refuge.
We read in the rude chronicle of the Saxons of two men who sought refuge in the Weald, in the seventh and eighth centuries. The first of the three was Caedwalla, (659?-689) a young man of great energy, according to Bede, and probably a dangerous aspirant to the West-Saxon throne. At any rate he was exiled from Wessex and he took refuge with his followers in the forest of Anderida, that is to say in the Weald. There about 681 he met St Wilfrid who had fled, too, from the West Saxon kingdom. Wilfrid was busy converting the South Saxons, and Caedwalla, going from steading to steading with his followers, saved from any considerable pursuit by the nature of the country, became great friends with him. This, however, did not prevent him in 685 from ravaging Sussex, slaying the South Saxon king and at last succeeding his old enemy Centwine upon the West Saxon throne. Caedwalla, after conquering the Isle of Wight and putting to death the two sons of King Arvaldus, having allowed them first to be baptised, was himself converted, and to such purpose that he laid down his crown, went on pilgrimage to Rome, and was baptised under the name of Peter, by the Pope, on the vigil of Easter 689. He died, however, before Domenica in albis, and was buried in Old St Peter's, nor was he the only English king that lay there.
All this came out of the Weald; but it is most significant for us because it allows us to understand the nature of this refuge and what it offered in the way of safety to an exile.
This is confirmed by the experience of Sigebert, King of the West Saxons. He, too, first took refuge in the Weald when deposed by his witan. He fled away and was pursued, we read, by Cynewulf, so that he took refuge in the forest of Andred where he was safe from pursuit by many men, being killed at last at Privet near Petersfield in Hampshire by a swineherd in revenge for his master's death. Such then was the nature of the Weald and such fundamentally it remains, a stubborn and really untameable country, even to-day not truly humanised, still largely empty of towns and villages but scattered with isolated farms and steadings. And the essential inhumanity of the true heart of the Weald is borne out by the scarcity of religious houses there. Only the little Priory of Rusper, a small Benedictine nunnery perhaps founded by one of the De Braose family before the end of the twelfth century, and the small Benedictine nunnery of Easebourne founded in the thirteenth century may be said to belong to the true Weald; of the others, such as the Abbey of Robertsbridge, the Priories of Michelham and Shulbred, the Abbeys of Otham, Bayham, and Dureford not one is really old or stands really within the true Weald. Nor are they of very much importance. The greatest of these houses was the Cistercian Abbey of Robertsbridge founded in 1176 by Alfred de St Martin, Sheriff of the rape of Hastings, within which the abbey stood, really upon the last of the forest ridge towards the Level of Pevensey. It is true that this abbey played a considerable part in history during the first years of its existence; for it was the Abbot of Robertsbridge who set out with the Abbot of Boxley to search for Coeur de Lion in 1192 and who found him in Bavaria, and we find the Abbot of Robertsbridge employed more than once again as an ambassador; but its fame soon dwindled, and though it escaped the first suppression and indeed survived till 1538 it could boast then of but eight brethren.
The only other houses as old as Robertsbridge are those of Otham and Dureford, houses of Premonstratensian Canons, neither in the heart of the Weald, and both dating from the twelfth century. The other religious houses, Michelham and Shulbred of the Augustinian Canons, Easebourne of Augustinian nuns and Bayham the successor of Otham, all date from the thirteenth century, and indeed no more belong to the true Weald than do the rest. It is, in fact, only to-day that a great monastery stands in the heart of the Weald, and of all wonderful things that is a Carthusian House of the like of which Pre-reformation England boasted but twelve, and Sussex none at all.
It was one day as I came over the Adur by Moat Farm that I became aware of this great establishment, for there suddenly, as I turned a corner, by the Lord, the road was full of Carthusian monks all in their white habits, a sight as marvellous as delightful once more upon an English road. And so I found my way to the great house of St Hugh at Parkminster.
One should learn to be astonished at nothing in England of my heart, for it will beggar one's admiration. But Carthusians! Was it not this Order which Henry II. had brought into England as part of his penance for the murder of St Thomas? Was it not this Order which had first been established in my own Somerset, and alone of all Orders in England by a Saint, and which there at Witham and at Hinton, still so fair and lovely, built its first two houses in England, of which all told there were but twelve? Was it not this Order that had faced and outfaced Henry Tudor to the last so that the monks of the London Charterhouse were burnt at the stake at Tyburn?
Well is this monastery dedicated in honour of St Hugh. And if you do not know why let me write it here. It is well known that after the murder of St Thomas and Henry II.'s public repentance for his part in all that evil, Pope Alexander III. gave him for penance a crusade of three years in the Holy Land, but when that was found not to be convenient he commuted it for the building of three monasteries of which one was to be Carthusian, for the Carthusians at that time had no house in England. This Order had been founded at Grenoble in 1086 by St Bruno, who had been sent by St. Hugh, Bishop of Grenoble, to a desert spot in the Alps 14,000 feet above the sea. There St Bruno founded his monastery known as the Grande Chartreuse. His monks were hermit monks, each had, as each has still, his own little dwelling. The Order, which has never been reformed—Cartusia nunquam reformata Quia nunquam deformata—and has uniformly followed the Rule approved by Pope Innocent XI., recognises three classes of brethren, the fathers, the conversi or lay brethren, and nuns. Each house is governed by a Prior and each monk lives, as I have said, in a separate dwelling of five little rooms and a tiny cloister, or rather ambulatory, facing a little garden. His food is given him through a hatch at the foot of the stairs leading to his rooms. He attends Mass in Choir, Matins and Vespers too, but the other Hours are said in his cell. As the Carthusians were when they first came into England so they are to-day.
But it is not in honour of St Hugh, Bishop of Grenoble, that the monastery at Parkminster is dedicated, but of quite another saint.
When Henry II. set out to found a Carthusian house in England in obedience to the Pope, the place he chose for it was Witham in Selwood, a solitude, for the Rule of the Order demanded it, and that is also why we have this monastery in the Weald to-day. It bears witness as nothing else could do to-day, perhaps, to the true character of the Weald.
Witham, it is true, was not so desolate as the Grande Chartreuse, but it was in the heart of the Forest, far from the abode of men. Even to- day Witham is not easy to reach by road. This house, thus founded did not flourish; whether the place was too hard for the monks, or whether there was some other cause we know not, but the first two priors, though both from the Grande Chartreuse, failed to establish it. Then King Henry was advised to beg of the mother-house her great and shining light, Hugh of Avalon, not of Avalon in England, but of Avalon in Burgundy. He was successful in his request. The Bishop of Bath and Wells, his ambassador, then in the Alps, was able to bring Hugh home with him, though the loss of that "most sweet presence," as the Prior declared, widowed his house; and Hugh came to England and to Witham and was received as "an angel of the Lord." It is in honour of this great and holy man, later Bishop of Lincoln and known as St Hugh of Avalon, that the Carthusian monastery of Parkminster is dedicated. I have here no room to speak of him, the true founder of the Order in England, of his holy, brave and laborious life in Selwood or of his rule there of ten years. He is forgotten even at Witham and his name no longer, alas, means anything to us whom he served. Only the Carthusians have not forgotten, and to the keeping of no other saint in the Calendar could they so honourably have entrusted their new house.
This monastery, founded in the Weald, upon October 17, 1877, is a great, if not a beautiful, pile of buildings, and is, in fact, one of the largest houses of the Order in the world. The visitor rings at the gate, and is admitted by a lay-brother dressed in the beautiful white habit, caught about the waist by a leathern girdle from which a rosary hangs. Upon his feet are rough shoes and his head is shorn but he greets you with a smile of welcome and leads you into a large quadrangle, where before you is the great Romanesque church with a chapel upon one side and the refectory upon the other, and all about are cloisters. Here over the entrance to the church is a statue of St Hugh. Within, the church is divided by a screen into two parts, the choir for the Fathers, the nave for the lay-brothers. Over the screen is a rood, and beneath, two altars, dedicated in honour of St John the Baptist, who went into the desert, and St Bruno, the founder of the Order. From the church one is led to the Chapter House, in which there stands an altar and Crucifix, and there upon the walls are depicted scenes from the martyrdom of the London Carthusians in the time of Henry VIII. From the Chapter House one is led to the Chapel of the Relics, where there is a beautiful silver reliquary that belonged to the English Carthusians before the Reformation, and in it is a relic of St Thomas of Canterbury. Here, too, is the stole of St Hugh and a bone of St Bruno.
The monastery proper lies behind the church, where a vast quadrangle, the Great Cloister, some three acres in extent, opens out, surrounded on three sides by the little houses of the monks, with the graveyard in the midst. Here the monks live, and are buried without coffin or shroud in their white habits, the hood drawn over the face. The cells are delightful to look upon, "a solitude within a solitude"; each consists of five rooms, two below and three above, reached by a staircase, the whole approached from a passage closed by a door giving on to the Great Cloister. Here live and pray some thirty-six monks, with a like number of conversi or lay-brothers.
I do not know in all England a place more peaceful than this one, more solemn and salutary to visit in the confusion of our modern life. Here is one of the lightning conductors that preserves the modern world from the wrath of God. Let others think as they will, for me the monastery of St Hugh in the Weald is holy ground.
And at any rate, even though you may not agree with me so far, in this at least I shall carry you with me, when I say that this monastery, and especially because it is Carthusian, bears out the old character of the Weald and endorses it. I have said the Weald was ever a wild and inhuman place where only few men could go together, without great towns and with only infrequent villages; not a thick or impenetrable woodland but a difficult and a lonely country sparsely scattered with steadings. Well, it is such places that the Carthusians have ever sought out for their houses, such was Witham and such was the Grande Chartreuse also. That a Carthusian monastery should have been founded to-day in the midst of the Weald proves, if anything can, that it has not yet wholly lost its character.
TO ARUNDEL AND CHICHESTER
From my little quiet retreat at Edburton, I set out one May morning to follow the road under the Downs, through Steyning for Arundel and Chichester, because it is one of the fairest ways in all the world, and, rightly understood, one of the most interesting. And to begin with, I found myself crossing one of those gaps in the South Downs, each of which is held by a castle. The one I now crossed was that made by the Adur, and it was held by the Castle of Bramber.
Now Bramber, merely beautiful to-day, must in the old times always have been of importance, for it holds an easy road through the rampart of the Downs, one of the great highways into Normandy, because of the harbour of Shoreham at the mouth of the Adur, one of the principal ports upon this coast. Of immemorial antiquity, the harbour of Shoreham, first of Old Shoreham, perhaps the Roman Portus Adurni, and then when that silted up of New, has played always a great part in the history of South England. That the Romans knew and used it is certain. It was probably here that the Saxon Ella and his three sons Cymne, Cissa, and Wlencing, landed in 477, and it is not likely that it was neglected by the Normans, who, in fact, built here a very noble cruciform church, dark and solemn, indeed, rather a fortress than a church. It was at Shoreham certainly that John landed when he returned to England to make himself king after the death of Coeur de Lion, and we may gather some idea of the real importance of the port from the fact that it furnished Edward III. with twenty-six ships for his fleet in 1346. Thereafter the place declined, but history repeated itself when Charles II., in flight in 1651 and anxious to reach the French coast, set out from Shoreham and landed at Fecamp. Shoreham thus was an important way in and out of England, but the road by which it lived was not in its keeping at all, but in the power of the Castle of Bramber which dominated and held it on the north side of the Downs, where it issued out of the pass or gap made by the Adur.
Bramber Castle stands upon a headland thrust out into the valley and the Weald in the very mouth of the pass; and even in its ruin, only an old gateway tower and a fragment of the lofty barbican in which is a Norman window remain. It is easy to understand how important and how strong it must once have been. Indeed, Norman though these remains are, it was by no means the Normans who first fortified this promontory and held this pass. It is probable that the Castle of Bramber occupies the site of a Roman Castellum and a Saxon fortress, some say a palace of the Saxon kings. After the Conquest the castle came into the hands of the great William de Braose, lord of Braose, near Falaise in Normandy, who received such great estates in England from the Conqueror. He fixed his seat, however, here at Bramber, and built or rebuilt the Castle which became the greatest fortress in his possession. Later, by marriage, it passed to the Mowbrays, and from them descended to the Dukes of Norfolk, the present Duke, indeed, still holding it. It is, however, of William de Braose we think in Bramber; for he not only built the great Castle which gives its character to the place even to-day, but the church of St Nicholas also, under the Castle, of which the nave and tower of his time only remain. He built it indeed as a chapel to his Castle, and to serve it he founded there a small college of secular canons under a dean, and endowed it with the church of Beeding and many tithes, among them those of Shoreham. But about 1080 William de Braose seems to have repented of what he had done, for he then granted to the Abbey of St Florent in Saumur the reversion of the church of St Nicholas here, when the last of the canons then living in his college at Beeding should have died. It was thus that the Abbey of St Florent came to establish a Priory at Beeding, or Sele as the monks called it, and this about 1096; and William's son Philip confirmed them in his father's gifts, and before the end of the twelfth century this alien priory possessed the churches of Sele, Bramber, Washington, Old Shoreham and New, to say nothing of the little chapel of St Peter on the old bridge between Bramber and Beeding.
This old bridge over the Adur is worth notice, for it is said to have been first established by the Romans upon a road of theirs that ran under the north escarpment of the Downs from Dover to Winchester. Certain Roman remains have indeed been found there, and the chapel of St Peter de veteri ponte was doubtless founded in order to guard it and keep it open and in order.
Evil days fell upon the Priory with the rise of nationalism and the wars of the fourteenth century. Like every other alien house it came under suspicion of spying, and being near the coast, indeed, at the very threshold of an important gate, it was seized by the Crown. At last, in 1396, Richard II. permitted it to naturalise itself, and its only connection thereafter with St Florent was the payment of a small annual tribute. But the misfortunes of the Priory were not over. For sixty years or more all went well, but in 1459 the Bishop of Winchester bought the patronage of the place from the Duke of Norfolk, and won leave from the Pope and the Bishop of Chichester to suppress it and appropriate it to his new College of St Mary Magdalen in Oxford. The suppression, however, was not to take effect till the last monk then living should die, and this came to pass in 1480. For thirteen years the Priory was unoccupied, and then in 1493 the Fellows of Magdalen allowed the Carmelite Friars of Shoreham to use the place, their own house in Shoreham having been engulfed by the sea. These White Friars were the poorest in all Sussex; so poor were they that they failed even to maintain themselves at Sele. In July 1538, when the Bishop of Dover came to visit the place, he found "neither friar nor secular, but the doors open ... and none to serve God." Such was the end of the house William de Braose had built in the first years of the Conquest. What remains of it will be found in the church of St Peter in Upper Beeding, an Early English building of no great interest save that it contains many carved stones from the Priory, a window and a door also from the same house, upon the site of which the vicarage now stands.
William de Braose, who made Bramber his chief seat, must have had an enormous influence upon building in this neighbourhood, which abounds in Norman churches such as those of Botolphs and Coombes, to say nothing of those at Shoreham Old and New; but he was by no means the only renewer of life here.
The most beautiful thing in the still beautiful village of Steyning is the great church of St Andrew, but with this the Lord of Bramber has nothing to do; the Benedictine Abbey of Fecamp rebuilt this noble sanctuary, but its foundation is said to be due to an English saint, St Cuthman, who, having been a shepherd boy, upon his father's death came out of the west into Sussex bearing his mother, who was crippled, in a kind of barrow which he dragged by a cord. A thousand queer stories are told of him as he went on his way, happily enough it seems, until he came to Steyning, where the cord of his barrow broke. There he built a hut for his mother, and constructed a little church of timber and wattles in which at last he was buried. In his life he had performed divers miracles so that his grave became a place of pilgrimage, and it is said to have been about this shrine that the village and church of Steyning grew up. It remained a holy place, and Ethelwolf, the father of Alfred, is said to have been buried there, his body later being removed to Winchester.
That the place was of some sort of importance would seem to be evident, for we find Edward the Confessor, granting the manor and churches of Steyning to the Benedictines of Fecamp, Harold taking it from them, and the Conqueror restoring it. Two churches at Steyning are spoken of in the Domesday Survey, and it has been thought that the second of these is really that at Warminghurst. But we find a church in Steyning in the thirteenth century served by secular canons. This was, however, in all probability the church of St Andrew we know, which in 1290 was a royal free chapel answerable neither to the Archbishop nor to the Bishop of Chichester, but to the Abbot of Fecamp only. The College of Canons had by then, if indeed it ever served this church, been dissolved. At the suppression of the alien priories in the fifteenth century Steyning passed to the new Abbey of Sion.
There can be no doubt that the church we have at Steyning is due to the Benedictines of Fecamp, and it is one of the noblest buildings in the county. Of the earlier church they built here much would seem to remain, the rudely carved arches at the eastern end of the aisles, the Norman window on the north, and much of the aisle walls. This church was probably cruciform and may have been larger than that we now see. It was rebuilt again by the monks in the middle of the twelfth century, when the great chancel arch we have, the beautiful nave arcades and clerestory were built, with the fine mouldings and capitals and dog-tooth ornament. The font, too, would seem to be of about this time. The tower only dates from the sixteenth century, and the chancel is modern.
Now Steyning lies under Chanctonbury, but I resisted the temptation to spend the afternoon in the old camp there looking over the "blue goodness of the weald," for I wished especially to visit the church of Wiston, and to see, if I might, Wiston House, which Sir Thomas Shirley built about 1576, and where those three brothers were born who astonished not only Sussex and all England, but Rome itself and the Pope by their marvellous daring and adventures.
The old manor house is delightfully situated in its beautiful park under the dark height of Chanctonbury, and though much altered, retains on the whole its fine Elizabethan character. The manor originally belonged to the De Braose, from whom it passed by marriage to the Shirleys. In the church, a small Decorated building, there is a fine brass of 1426 to Sir John de Braose, on which over and over again we read Jesu Mercy: this in the south chapel. His little son is buried under an arch on the north, where there is a curious effigy of him. The first Shirley, whose monument we find here, though only in part, is that of Sir Richard, who died in 1540; but it was Sir Thomas, who also has his monument, that built Wiston and was the father of those three remarkable sons. He was the great-grandson of Ralph Shirley of Wiston, and the son of William Shirley, who died in 1551. Till his time the family had of course been Catholic; it was he who first abandoned the Faith; perhaps it was this spirit of adventure so unfortunate in him which descended to that famous "leash of brethren" and drove them out upon their adventures. The least remarkable and the most unfortunate of these sons of his was the eldest, Thomas, whose life, however, as a soldier and freebooter, both on shore in the Low Countries and at sea, is sufficiently full of adventure to satisfy anyone. He came, however, to utter grief at last, and had to sell Wiston, retiring to the Isle of Wight, where he died in 1630.
It was his brother Anthony who really made the Shirleys famous. He had graduated at Oxford in 1581, and having, as he said, "acquired those learnings which were fit for a gentleman's ornament," he went to the Low Countries with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and was present at the battle of Zutphen, where Sir Philip Sidney fell. In 1591 he was in Normandy with the Earl of Essex, whom he devotedly followed, in support of Henry of Navarre, who made him a knight of St Michael. For accepting a foreign knighthood without her leave, Elizabeth locked him up in the Fleet, and only let him out when he promised to retire from the Order. This he actually did, but his title stuck to him, and he was always known as Sir Anthony. He then married Elizabeth Devereux, a first cousin of his patron, the Earl of Essex; but the marriage was unfortunate; he could not abide his wife, and in order to "occupy his mind from thinking of her vainest words," in 1595 he fitted out with Essex's aid and his father's a buccaneering expedition to the Gulf of Guinea. But in something less than two years after the most amazing adventures he came home to Wiston under the Downs, "alive but poor," and with his passion for adventure in nowise abated. In 1597 he accompanied Essex on the "Islands voyage," but, seeking more paying adventure, in the winter of 1598 he consented at Essex's suggestion to lead a little company of English adventurers to assist Cesare D'Este to regain his Duchy of Ferrara, then in the hands of the Pope. He set forth, but upon reaching Venice found that Cesare had submitted. Again he was out of employment; but it was upon the quays of Venice that he conceived the most astonishing enterprise that even an Englishman has ever undertaken. He proposed to set out for Persia with the object of persuading the Shah to ally himself with Christendom against the Turk, and hoped also to establish commercial relations between England and Persia. Upon this astonishing Crusade he left Venice with his brother Robert and twenty-five Englishmen disappointed of a row in Ferrara, on May 29, 1599, for Constantinople. Thence he went on to Aleppo, and so down the Euphrates, to Babylon, to Isapahan and Kazveen, where he met the Shah Abbas the Great. There, thanks to the Shah's two Christian wives, he had a good reception; the rank of Prince was conferred upon him, and he won the concession, for all Christians, of the right, not only to trade freely, but to practise their religion in Persia. For five months he remained at the court of the Shah, and then returned to Europe as his ambassador to invite all Christian powers to ally themselves with Persia against the Turk. He went first to Moscow, where he was, however, treated with contempt, as was his mission. He went to Prague and was well received. At last, in 1601, after visiting Nuremberg, Augsburg, Munich, Innsbruck, and Trent, he arrived in Rome, and, professing enthusiasm for the Faith his father had repudiated, was well received. The truth was, he was in grave money difficulties, and indeed in 1603 was arrested by the Venetians and imprisoned "in a certain obscure island near unto Scio." The English Government, however, came to his aid and obtained his release, but refused him permission to return to England. He went to Prague, and thence on the business of the Emperor to Morocco. There he was received in great state and remained five months. Before leaving, however, he released certain Portuguese whom he found in slavery, and sailed with them for Lisbon, where he hoped to reimburse himself for their ransom. In this he was disappointed, so on he went to Madrid, where he was made very much of and promised the Order of Sant'Iago. In the service now of Spain, he went to Naples in 1607, after a visit to the Emperor at Prague where he was created a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. He seems to have travelled considerably in Southern Italy, and after a brief visit, to obtain money, to Madrid, set out for Sicily in command of a fleet to attack the Moors and Turks. He achieved nothing and was dismissed. In 1611 he appeared again in Madrid in utter poverty, but the King took compassion upon him and gave him a pension, and in Madrid he remained writing an account of his adventures till he died in beggary. The English ambassador notes in 1619, "The poor man sometimes comes to my house and is as full of vanity as ever he was, making himself believe that he shall one day be a great prince." It might indeed seem a long road from Wiston under the Downs to the Gulf of Guinea, the Quays of Venice, Constantinople, the Euphrates, Babylon, Moscow, Prague, Rome, and Morocco, to die at last a beggar in purse, but in heart a great Prince in Madrid.
Now, when I had been reminded of all this, I was directed to visit Buncton Chapel to the north of Wiston Park, where I found indeed some Norman work in the nave and chancel arch. And so I went on my way through the failing afternoon by that beautiful road within sight of the high Downs to the Washington Inn, where I slept, for it is a quiet place not to be passed by.
And on the morrow I went on my way, still through as fair a country as is to be found in all South England, through Storrington, and so by way of Parham Park, with its noble Elizabethan house and little church with the last leaden font in Sussex, a work of the fourteenth century, to Amberley in the meads of the Arun, a dear and beautiful place.
Amberley boasts a Castle and stands right in the mouth of one of those gaps in the Downs as Bramber does, the gap of the Arun, and it might well be thought that Amberley held this pass. As a fact she did not. That gap is held by Arundel; the Castle at Amberley was a palace of the Bishop of Chichester, granted to the Bishop of Selsey long before the Conquest; it was only castellated in the fourteenth century. It is none the less an interesting ruin, very picturesque, with remains of a chapel, while the beautiful house built within the castle walls early in the sixteenth century is altogether lovely. And as for the church, I can never hope to tell of all its interest and beauty. Certainly a Norman church once stood here, of which the nave of that we see was part, as was the very noble chancel arch; but the chancel itself, the south aisle, and the tower are of the thirteenth century, while the south door is very early Decorated, most beautifully carved. There is not surely in all Sussex a more delightful spot than this lying so quietly in the meads, with its beautiful church, its ruined castle, and fine old Elizabethan house, where Arun bends slowly and lazily towards the Downs and the sea.
It was with real regret that on that May morning I left Amberley, turning often to look back at it, and last from the great seven-arched bridge over the Arun, whence one may look down stream upon the wooded slopes of Arundel Park. Then I went on up the road that winds through the steep village of Houghton swiftly up on to the Downs, wooded here very nobly, and so at the top of Rewell Hill I turned to the left and made my way through the noble park to the little town of Arundel.
Now I cannot say why, but in spite of its seduction, which is full of splendour, of its noble history and great buildings, I have never been able to love Arundel. One is there always I feel too much in the shadow of that mighty Castle which for the most part is not old at all, too much in the power of that great new church that surely was never built by English hands, which has altogether blotted out the older sanctuary, and which, Catholic though it be, has never won my affection. Arundel itself is all in the shadow of these two things, each of which is too big for it, too heavy for free laughter and light- heartedness. So it seems to me.
All I can find in Arundel that pleases me lies in the little town itself, and in the old church of which one half, the chancel, has been closed to all who do not hold the Duke's written permission to enter it—as though the house of God, even though it be the property of a Catholic duke, were not by nature as it were free to all. And so there is a kind of sorrowfulness about Arundel that spoils my pleasure in it, yes, even in the very noble remains of the old Castle that are hidden away within the sham Gothic affair of 1791. Even in the beautiful old church, of which one half is closed, even in the steep little town which might have been as gay as Rye, I felt, overwhelmed by the new Castle and the new church, neither of which has any antiquity, tradition, or beauty.
The old Castle, with its great circular Norman keep within the huge sham "fortress" of the eighteenth century, beneath which the town lies like one afraid to ask for mercy, should not be left unvisited, for it was probably built by that Roger de Montgomery, who led the Breton centre at Hastings, and has thus nearly a thousand years of history behind it, to say nothing of three sieges, that of 1102, when it was surrendered to Henry I., that of 1139, when Stephen there held Matilda prisoner and allowed her to pass out, and that of 1643, when Waller took it after seventeen days.
Nor indeed should anyone fail to visit the beautiful parish church of St Nicholas, a glorious cruciform building, Perpendicular in style, built in 1380. It, too, has a long history. The church was originally served by secular canons, but in 1177 the then Earl of Arundel introduced in their place four or five monks under a Prior from St Martin of Seez. In the fourteenth century, however, these alien monks withdrew to their mother house, and in 1380 the Priory of St Nicholas in Arundel was reconverted into a collegiate church. This college consisted of a master and sub-master, ten chaplains, two deacons, two sub-deacons, and five choristers. The choir of the church was the chapel of the college, the remainder being parochial. The college survived the general suppression, but was eventually bought by the Earl of Arundel, who had previously offered a thousand pounds for it. And so it was that after a long law-suit in 1880 the chancel of the parish church of Arundel was given up to the Duke of Norfolk.
I did not sleep in Arundel, but, though it was already afternoon, I set out westward once more through the great park, and just before sunset I came to the great church of Boxgrove, which stands between the road I had followed from Arundel and the Roman Stane Street, where they approach to enter the East Gate of Chichester together at last. This great and beautiful sanctuary, gives one, I think, a better idea of what the great monastic churches really were, than any other building left to us in Sussex. It is like a cathedral for solemnity, and for size too, though it is only a fragment, and its beauty cannot be forgotten.
In its foundation the church is very ancient, a small college of secular canons serving it in Saxon times. But all was changed when Robert de Haza, to whom Henry I. had granted the honour of Halnaker, in 1105 bestowed the church upon the Abbey of Lessay, which sent hither its Benedictines and built for them a new sanctuary. Boxgrove was thus an alien priory from 1108 till in 1339. Richard II. affirmed its independence, and this was confirmed by the Pope in 1402. It seems then to have been in a bad way, but later recovered. In the thirteenth century it had boasted nineteen monks, but at the time of the suppression it only mustered eight priests, who seem to have kept a school for the children of the neighbourhood. What remains of the Priory, not much more than a gateway, for most of it was destroyed in 1780, stands to the north of the church.
The original Norman church here was cruciform. Of this building we still see the tower, the transepts and the lower part of what remains of the nave, and the arcade to the south. This Norman church was greatly enlarged in the twelfth century, when the nave now destroyed was built, the tower piers were then cased in the Transitional style and the arches which carry the tower were altered. Later, about 1235, the chancel we see and its aisles, as lovely as anything in southern England, were added in the Early English style, that often reminds one of Chichester Cathedral. To the fourteenth century belong the south porch and more than one window in the aisles, while the font and other windows are Perpendicular.
I had often read of the unique vaulting of the choir of Boxgrove Priory, but the twilight was so deep in the church, for it was already evening, that I could not see it. I saw, however, the empty tomb, very fine and splendid, of the Earl de la Warr, who begged Boxgrove of Thomas Cromwell unsuccessfully; and then I went out and marched on into Chichester, the East Gate of which I entered not long after dark.
The mere plan of Chichester proclaims its Roman origin. It is a little walled city lying out upon the sea plain of Sussex, cruciform by reason of its streets, North Street, South Street, East Street, and West Street, which divide it into four quarters, of which that upon the south became wholly ecclesiastical: the south-west quarter being occupied by the Cathedral and its subject buildings, while the south- east quarter was the Palatinate of the Archbishop. As for the quarter north-east it was appropriated to the Castle and its dependencies, of which however, nothing remains, while the quarter north-west was occupied by the townspeople, and to-day contains their parish church of St Peter Major. These four quarters meet at the Market Cross, whence the streets that divide the city set out for the four quarters of the world.
To come into Chichester to-day even by the quiet red-brick street— South Street—from the railway station, the least interesting entry into the city, is to understand at once what Chichester is; one of those country towns that is to say, cities in the good old sense, because they were the seat of the Bishop, which are not only the pride of England, but perhaps the best things left to her and certainly the most characteristic of all that she truly means and stands for. If such places are without the feverish and confused life of the great industrial centres of modern England, let us thank God for it, they have nevertheless a quiet vitality of their own, which in the long run will prove more persistent and strong than the futile excitement of places noisy with machinery and wretched with the enslaved poor. Such places as Chichester may indeed stand for England in a way that Manchester, for instance, with its cosmopolitan population and egotistical ambition, its greed, its helplessness, and appalling intellectual mongrelism and parvenu and international society, can never hope to do. England truly remains herself, the England of my heart, because of such places as Chichester, Winchester, Salisbury, Wells, and those dear market towns which still remember and maintain her great past and renew the ways of our forefathers. All are very old, co-eval with England, all have sturdy and unforgotten traditions, and in these, if we but knew it, lies our best hope for the future.
Among these dear places Chichester is no exception, rather is she most typical; she has an immemorial past, and out of it she will contrive somehow or other to face and to outface whatever the future may bring. Like everything that is best in England, that is indeed most typical of ourselves, her origins are not barbarian, but Roman. Her ancient name was Regnum, the city, it is said, first of Cogidubnus, King of the Regni and Legate in Britain of Claudius Caesar. That the Romans built and maintained an important town here cannot be doubted; the very form of the city to-day would be enough to establish this, apart from the notable discoveries of buildings, pavements, urns, inscriptions, and I know not what else belonging to the whole of the Roman occupation of Britain. It is obvious that Chichester played a great part in the Roman administration of South Britain; its port was large, safe and accessible, while it was the first town upon the east of that great group of creeks and harbours which run up out of Spithead and Southampton Water. Throughout the Middle Ages, Bosham, the port of Chichester, maintained its position, while even in the eighteenth century Chichester harbour was sufficiently important to warrant the cutting of the canal which unites the Arun with Chichester Channel. There is, however, something else which must always place beyond doubt the importance of Chichester in Roman times. It was from Chichester, out of the East Gate, that the great Roman road set forth for London, the road we know as the Stane Street, chiefly, as we may suppose, a great military way. This was the only Roman road over the South Downs, the only road that connected London with the greater harbours of the South Coast. Its terminus was Chichester.
Of the early connection of the town with Christianity there is to say the least high probability. An inscription found in North Street, and now preserved at Goodwood, recording the dedication of a Temple by the College of Smiths to Neptune and Minerva, would seem to refer to that Claudia and that Pudens mentioned by St Paul, and thus to connect them with Regnum. However that may be, we know that it with the rest of Britain must have been a Christian city long before the failure of the Roman administration.
With that failure and the final departure of the Legions, Regnum fell on evil days. Its position as the key to those harbours which had given it its importance now exposed it to the first raids of the pirates. These barbarians, according to legend, were Ella and his three sons, one of whom, Cissa, is said to have given Chichester her name—Cissa's camp, Cissa's Ceaster. Of Chichester's story during the Dark Ages we know as little as we know of most of the cities of England, but that it was destroyed utterly, as has been asserted, common sense refuses to allow us to believe. It certainly continued to exist, in barbarous fashion perhaps, but still to live, till with the conversion of the English it began to take on a new life, and with the Conquest was finally established as the seat of the Bishop.
The apostle of the South Saxons, St Wilfrid, wrecked upon the flat and inhospitable shore of Selsey, was, as we know, their first bishop. He established his See, however, not at Chichester, but at Selsey where it remained until the Conqueror began to reorganise England upon a Roman plan, when more than one See was removed from the village in which it had long been established to the neighbouring great town. So it was with the Bishopric of Sussex, which in the first years of the Norman administration was removed from Selsey to Chichester.
Thus Chichester was restored in 1075 to the great position it had held in the time of the Romans. Its lord was that Roger de Montgomery who received it from the Conqueror, together with more than eighty manors, and to him was due the castle which stood in the north-east quarter, and the rebuilding of the Roman walls, which continually renewed and rebuilt, still in some sort stand, upon Roman foundations, and mark the limits of the Roman town.
Of the South Saxon cathedral church at Selsey we know almost nothing. It seems to have been established as a Benedictine house under an abbot who was also bishop, but later the monks were replaced by secular canons. Then when in 1075 the See was removed from Selsey to Chichester the old church dedicated in honour of St Peter, which stood upon the site of the present cathedral, was used as the cathedral church, and the Benedictine nuns, to whom it then belonged were dispossessed in favour of the canons. This, however, did not last long; by 1091 a new Norman church, the work of Bishop Ralph, whose great stone coffin stands in the Lady Chapel, had been built upon this site and dedicated in honour of the Blessed Trinity, the old church being commemorated in the nave, which still was used as the parochial church of St Peter Major. This new building, however, was soon so badly damaged by fire that it was necessary to rebuild it—this in 1114; but a like fate befell it in 1187, and again the church was restored, this time by Bishop Seffrid. Then in the thirteenth century came Bishop Richard. He was consecrated in 1245, and ruled the diocese for eight years. This man was a saint, and in 1261 he was canonised. Thus Chichester got a shrine of its own, which became exceedingly famous and attracted vast crowds of pilgrims, and thus indirectly brought so much money to the church that great works, such as the transformed Lady Chapel, and the many chapels which the Cathedral boasts, were able to be undertaken.
St Richard of Chichester was not a Sussex man; he was born about 1197, at Droitwich in Worcestershire, and thus gets his name Richard de Wyche. His father, a man well-to-do, died, however, when Richard was very young, and he being only a younger son fell into poverty. We find him, according to his fifteenth-century biographer, labouring on his brother's land, and to such good purpose, it is said, that he quite re- established his family, and withal such love was there between the brothers that the elder would have resigned all his estates in favour of the younger. But Richard would not consent, preferring to go as a poor scholar to Oxford, where, we learn, that he lived in the utmost poverty sharing indeed a tunic and a hooded gown with two companions, so that the three could only attend lectures in turn. At Oxford he seems chiefly to have devoted himself to the study of Logic, and for this purpose he presently went to Paris, returning, however, to Oxford to take his degree. Thence once more he set out, this time to study Canon Law at Bologna, where he not only won a great reputation, but was appointed a public professor of that faculty. So beloved and respected was he in that great university, where there was always a considerable English contingent, that his tutor offered him his daughter in marriage, and gladly would he have taken her, but that marriage was not for him. So he set out for England and Oxford, where he was joyfully received and indeed such was his fame that he was made chancellor of the university. In truth, he was in such great demand that both Canterbury and Lincoln wished to secure him, and at last Archbishop Edmund Rich succeeded where Robert Grosseteste failed, and Richard became chancellor of Canterbury and the dear friend of the Archbishop. They were indeed two saints together, and even in their lifetime were greeted as "two cherubim in glory." Together they faced the king, when he continued to allow so many English bishoprics to remain vacant, and together they went into exile to Pontigny, and later to Soissy, where St Edmund died. Heart-broken by the loss of so dear a friend Richard retired into a Dominican house in Orleans and immersed himself in the study of Theology. There he was ordained priest, and there he founded a chapel in honour of St Edmund. But Boniface of Savoy, who had succeeded St Edmund in the archbishopric of Canterbury, besought him to return. He obeyed, and was appointed rector of Charing and vicar of Deal in 1243, becoming once more Chancellor of Canterbury. But still there remained the enmity of the King. Two good things Henry III. gave us, Westminster Abbey and Edward I.; but he was almost as difficult as Henry II., with regard to investitures. Fortunately he was not so obstinate, or we might have had a martyr instead of a confessor in Chichester, as we have in Canterbury.
In the year 1244 the See of Chichester fell vacant by the death of Bishop Ralph Neville, and at the King's suggestion the canons elected their archdeacon, a keen supporter of his. Boniface at once held a synod, quashed the election, and recommended his chancellor Richard as Bishop, to which the chapter agreed. The king was, of course, furious. Richard, who was received by him, could do nothing with him, and so immediately appealed to the Pope, Innocent IV., it was, who consecrated him at Lyons upon March 5, 1245. Even this did not move the King. Richard returned to England, found the temporalities of his See disgracefully wasted by the King, sought and obtained an interview with Henry, but achieved nothing. For a time he lived at Tarring with a poor priest named Simon, for in his own diocese he was a beggar and a stranger as it were in a foreign land. In 1246, however, the Pope having threatened excommunication, the King gave way, and Richard at once began to reform his diocese, to discipline his priests, and to restore the ritual of his cathedral, and indeed of all the churches in his diocese. He lived a life of severe asceticism, and gave so much in alms that he was always a beggar. Usurers were punished by excommunication, and Jews were forbidden to build new synagogues. It was he, too, who first established the custom of the Easter offering contribution from the faithful to the Cathedral, known later as St Richard's pence. He loved the Friars, more especially the Dominicans, who had befriended him at Orleans, and to which Order his confessor belonged. He ardently preached the crusade and was eagerly loyal to St Peter. It was, indeed, as he was journeying through southern England, urging men to take the Cross, that at Dover he fell ill and died there during Mass in the Hospitium Dei. His body was buried in a humble grave, we read, near the altar he had built in honour of St Edmund, his friend, in the Cathedral of Chichester. And from the moment of his death he was accounted a saint. Miracles were performed at his tomb, which even Prince Edward visited, and in 1262, in the church of the Fransicans at Viterbo, Pope Urban IV. raised him to the altar. In June 1276 St Richard's body was taken from its grave in the nave of Chichester Cathedral, and in the presence of King Edward I. and a crowd of bishops, was translated to a silver gilt shrine. Later, this was removed to the tomb in the south transept.
St Richard was not only a popular hero and saint both before and after his death, to him and his shrine is due very much that is most lovely in the Cathedral, and it was he who really reformed the chapter there.
Chichester had always been served by a dean and chapter of secular canons. The canons were originally, of course, resident, but the chapter had always been poorly endowed, and as time went on residence was actually discouraged. Perhaps then arose the canon's vicars who represented the canons and chanted in choir. The vicars choral were, however, not incorporated until 1465; they were assisted by ten or twelve boy choristers, whose chief business it was, I suppose, to sing the Lady-Mass in prick-song. Beside this company of canons, vicars and choristers directly serving the cathedral, a number of chaplains served the various altars and chantries within it, which at the Dissolution numbered fifteen. St Richard not only reorganised the cathedral staff, but also established the "use" of Chichester, which he ordered to be followed throughout the diocese. This "use" was followed until 1444, when, by order of the archbishop, that of Sarum, was established.
With the Reformation, of course, everything but the Cathedral itself and the form of its administration and government was swept away. Nor was it long before even what Henry and Elizabeth had spared was demolished. In 1643 Chichester was besieged by Waller and taken after ten days. His soldiers, we read, "pulled down the idolatrous images from the Market Cross; they brake down the organ in the Cathedral and dashed the pipes with their pole-axes, crying in scoff, "Harke! how the organs goe"; and after they ran up and down with their swords drawn, defacing the monuments of the dead and hacking the seats and stalls." Indeed, such was their malice that it is wonderful to see how much loveliness remains.
No cathedral, I think, and certainly no lesser church in England is so completely representative of the whole history of our architecture as is Chichester. In Salisbury we have the most uniform building in our island, in Chichester the most various, for it possesses work in every style, from the time of the Saxons to that of Sir Gilbert Scott.
It was Bishop Ralph who before 1108 built the church we know, and completed it save upon the west front, where only the lower parts of the south-western tower are Norman. But work earlier than his, Saxon work, may be seen in the south aisle of the choir, where there are two carved stones representing Christ with Martha and Mary and the Raising of Lazarus. Bishop Ralph's church was badly damaged by fire in 1114, and it would seem that the four western bays of the nave date from the following rebuilding and restoration. Then in 1187 the Cathedral was burnt again, and Bishop Seffrid vaulted it for the first time—till then only the aisles had been vaulted—building great buttresses to support this and re-erecting the inner arcade of the clerestory. Apparently the apse and ambulatory which till then had closed the great church, on the east had been destroyed in the fire. At any rate Bishop Seffrid replaced them with the exquisite retro-choir we have, and square eastern chapels. He did the same with the old apses of the transepts, and he recased the choir with Caen stone, using Purbeck very freely and with beautiful effect. All this work is very late Transitional, the very last of the Norman or Romanesque.
Then in the thirteenth century, which was to see St Richard Bishop of Chichester, the beautiful south porch was built, a pure Early English work, the north porch almost as lovely and of the same date, and later the sacristy beside the south porch. In St Richard's own day the south- west tower was built as we see it. The Norman tower over the crossing was destroyed and a lighter one built in its place as we see, and the galilee was set up before the western doors. Then, too, the chapels were built out from the nave aisles, upon the north those of St Thomas, St Anna, and St Edmund, upon the south, those of St George and St Clement, things unique in England, and all largely works of the second half of the thirteenth century and the early Decorated style, which indeed give to the Cathedral, with its dark Norman nave, all its charm, its variety and delight.
Not much later than this transformation of the nave, though the nave itself was not touched, was the rebuilding or rather the lengthening and transformation of the Lady Chapel. Fundamentally this beautiful Decorated chapel is a Norman work, transformed into a Transitional one, to be glorified and transfigured in the very end of the thirteenth century, and now spoilt as we see. All this was done either by St Richard himself, or with the money gathered at his shrine.
In the first half of the fourteenth century little would appear to have been built, save that certain beautiful windows, as that in the end of the south aisle of the choir and that in the south transept, with Bishop Langton's tomb beneath it, were inserted, and the fine stalls were built in the choir.
In the Perpendicular period the detached campanile was erected to the north-west and the Cathedral was crowned by the great spire, a noble work lost to us in our own time and replaced by the copy of Sir Gilbert Scott. Later still, in the sixteenth century, a great stone screen, now destroyed, was erected across the church, with chantries, and the cloister was built. There, over a doorway on the south, is a shield, with the arms of Henry VII., and two figures kneeling before the Blessed Virgin, attended by an angel holding a rose.
A few tombs of interest or beauty, which the Puritans failed to destroy, remain to this great Catholic building. These are the tombs of St Richard, of which I have spoken, in the north transept against the choir, the restored Arundel Chantry and tomb of Richard Fitzalan in the north aisle of the nave, and the exquisite Decorated tomb in the chapel of St John Baptist at the eastern end of this aisle; little beside.