Book reveals county keeps its customs

All those fearful of Sussex becoming an homogenised sprawl shorn of all the rich customs which give the county its identity can draw heart from a new publication detailing those that are still going strong.

The latest volume - written by Tony Foxworthy - in Country Books’ Folklore Of England series focuses on Customs In Sussex, Chichester Cathedral’s tradition of Blessing The Plough on Plough Sunday, the first Sunday after Twelth Night, is noted.

As Tony says: “At one time, all the farming communities would have had a Blessing of the Plough. The Plough Boys would take the decorated plough around the village to collect money for the Plough Lights. These were candles that were kept alight over the period of Plough Sunday/Monday and after, and as the candles continued to burn, this would ensure the Divine Blessing for the period.”

And so it continues: “At Chichester, the Bishop meets those with the plough, who are all dressed in long white coats. The Bishop welcomes the Plough Company to the Cathedral and they process to the chancel. At a certain time in the service, the members of the farming community gather round the plough and ask the Bishop to bless the plough and all those who work on the farms.”

Another Chichester tradition is the Sloe Fair, one of the oldest fairs in England.

“The earliest record of the holding of a fair in Chichester is the grant by Henry I in about 1107-08 to Bishop Ralph, Bishop of Chichester, of a fair to be held for nine days, at a time to be fixed by the Bishops. The date selected was the Feast of St Faith the Virgin, whose cult seems to have been strong at that time in Chichester.

“At the present time, the Fair is held on October 20 and it is just a normal fair with roundabouts, sideshows etc - quite a comedown from the important fair that it was in days gone by!”

Another custom highlighted by Tony is the floral carpet at Arundel: “This is the most picturesque custom that we have in England, even prettier than the Well Dressing in Derbyshire.

“The carpet at Arundel is made up of flower heads. The famous carpet can be found in Arundel Roman Catholic Cathedral of Corpus Chris and falls on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.

“In the ancient world it was the custom to strew flowers in the path of an important person as a sign of respect and reverence.

“This custom was adopted by the Christian Church to honour the Blessed Sacrament, carried in procession in the Festival of Corpus Christi.”

Paperback. 210 x 148 mm. 84 pages. 85 black and white photographs. Country Books ISBN 978 1 906789 46 6. Price £7.99.