Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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26
THE ESCAPE OF CHARLES II.
CHAP.
And he scents as the evening falls The rich deep breath of the stalls ; And he says, " Still the seasons bring increase and joy to the world-It is well! "
Standing on one of these hills above the Hartings one may remember an event in English history of more recent date than any of the periods that we have been recalling—the escape of Charles II in 1651. It was over these Downs that he passed; and it has been suggested that a traveller wishing for a picturesque route across the Downs might do well to follow his course.
According to the best accounts Charles was met, on the evening of October 13, near Hambledon, in Hampshire (afterwards to be famous as the cradle of first-class cricket), by Thomas and George Gunter of Racton, with a leash of greyhounds as if for coursing. The King slept at the house of Thomas Symonds, Counter's brother-in-law, in the character of a Roundhead. The next morning at daybreak, the King, Lord Wilmot and the two Gunters crossed Broad Halfpenny Down (celebrated by Nyren), and proceeding by way of Catherington Down, Charlton Down, and Ibsworth Down, reached Compting Down in Sussex. At Stanstead House Thomas Gunter left the King, and hurried on to Brighton to arrange for the crossing to France. The others rode on by way of the hills, with a descent from Duncton Beacon, until they reached what promised to be the security of Houghton Forest. There they were panic-stricken nearly to meet Captain Morley, governor of Arundel Castle, and therefore by no means a King's man. The King, on being told who it was, replied merrily, " I did not much like his starched mouchates." This peril avoided, they descended to Houghton village, where the Arun was crossed, and so to Amberley, where in Sir John Briscoe's castle the King slept.1
That is the story as the Amberley people like to have it, but another version makes him ride from Hambledon to Brighton in one day; in which case he may have avoided Amberley altogether.
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