THERE was a time when walking sticks weren't walking aids. They were fashion accessories.

Every elegant gentleman had one, and so too did many an elegant lady – a fact which lies behind the fascinating story of Chiddingfold's walking stick industry, an industry which flourished in the 19th century and very nearly survived the 20th.

The Leconfield estate at Petworth and the Cowdray estate at Midhurst were both sources of wood.

Indeed, the stories goes that Lord Cowdray's chestnut plantations doubled as useful cover for the pheasants in the shooting season.

Sticks more than a century ago were big, big business – a story the the Chiddingfold Archive will tell in an exhibition running from October 6 until mid-December at the Banking House on the Green at Chiddingfold.

As archive trustee Nicholas Tyrrell-Evans explained, the business centred on the Cooper and Lintott factories, with the Lintott factory and plantations technically in Sussex as they were on Lord Winterton's Shillinglee estate.

Entirely independent of each other, the two factories were both set up in around the 1850s. Lintott's closed in 1968, Cooper's in 1995.

For full feature see West Sussex Gazette August 29