The Sussex Coast - online book

A Literary & Historical travel guide to the Sussex Coast

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218                    THE SUSSEX COAST
old oak bench. On the woodwork of the west door is cut 1628, and this is also about the date of the altar-rail that encloses a square narrower than the chancel.
On the Brighton Road among the Downs is the little hamlet of Saddlescombe, where from the early thirteenth century till 1308 was a Preceptory of the Knights Templars, but so little does the spirit of that militant order survive there that the people are now mostly Quakers, and the very site of the religious house is uncertain.
Not far off over the Downs, but some little way round by the road, is Pyecombe, long famous for its sheep-hooks (figured by the initial letter), which may still be seen sometimes in the hands of the old shepherds. His is an occupation that has changed less perhaps than any other, his daily life is probably not so very different from what it was when the camps on the Downs were new. One South Down shepherd, born at Rottingdean in 1782, John Dudeney by name, contrived to use the long hours on the Downs for study and qualified himself to teach a school. This, however, was a case almost unique, nearly the only other Sussex shepherd who contrived to attend to books as well as sheep was Cuthman, and he only managed it by drawing a line on the grass round the flock and commanding them not to go outside it. But only a saint could do that.
Sheep-washing is still rather an occasion in places, and in old days sheep-shearing was one of the principal events of the farming year. The sheep-shearers went round in companies to the places where their services were required, their captain in a gold-laced hat and his lieutenant silver-laced. One of the old sheep-shearing songs
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