The Sussex Coast - online book

A Literary & Historical travel guide to the Sussex Coast

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shore may be seen Dungeness to the east and land near Selsey peninsula to the west. Occasionally the cliffs of the Isle of Wight, and even it is alleged the French shore, may be made out, but, as F. W. Bourdillon has shown in a paper on Beachy Head, the sight of these distant objects must wholly depend on refraction.
It was off Beachy Head in 1690 that the French under the Comte de Tourville defeated the Dutch and English under George Byng (afterwards Viscount Torrington), a reverse that greatly displeased the Dutchman, who had just mounted the English throne, on which he was by no means too firmly seated at the time. A British fleet was defeated near the same spot in 1706 by the corsair Du Guay Tronin.
Amid this wild coast scenery grew up the Sussex painter John Hamilton Mortimer (1741-1779), whose father was Collector of Customs at Eastbourne, but whose chief associates in early years were the smugglers. In his historical picture of St. Paul converting the Britons he helped to perpetuate a venerable legend connected with Sussex, and in his favourite studies of storms and caves and wrecks he showed the influence of his childhood sur­roundings.
Wheatears or white-tails, birds which De Foe thought he might call the English ortolans, the most delicious taste for a creature of a mouthful (for 'tis little more) that can be imagined, were once caught in considerable quantities on these Downs, but the industry is now reduced almost to vanishing. Three cases in the Booth Collection of Birds at Brighton show the creatures at different seasons of the year. During the Commonwealth the staunchly Royalist Wilsons of Bourne (now Comp-
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