Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

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

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ch: xv                              STEYNING HARBOUR                                    139
on the same sign. Perhaps when the reader takes the walk I am about to recommend to his attention—a walk which comprises some of the finest scenery in Sussex—that sign will be finished, and the accomplished artist will have begun another; but I doubt it. There is plenty of time for every­thing in Steyning." I am told that Steyning was incensed when this criticism was printed (there was even talk of an action for libel); but it seems to me that whatever may have been intended, the words contain more of compliment than censure. In this hurrying age, it is surely high praise to have one's "wise passiveness" (as Wordsworth called it) so emphasised. The passage calls to mind Diogenes requesting, as the greatest of possible boons, that Alexander the Great would stand aside and not interrupt the sunshine; only at Steyning would one seek for Diogenes to-day. No commendation of Steyning in the direction of its enterprise, briskness, smart­ness, or any of the other qualities which are now most in fashion, would so speedily decide a wise man to pitch his tent there as Mr. Jennings' certificate of inertia.
Steyning, if still disposed to stand on its defence, might plead external influence, beyond the control of man, as an excuse for some of its interesting placidity. For this curiously inland town was once a port. In Saxon times (when Steyning was more important than Birmingham), the Adur was practically an estuary of the sea, and ships came into Steyning Harbour, or St. Cuthman's Port, as, it was otherwise called. There is notoriously no such quiet spot as a dry harbour town. In those days, Steyning also had a mint.
Bramber, a little roadside village less than a mile south-east of Steyning, also a mere relic of its great days, was once practically on the coast, for the arm of the sea which narrowed down at Steyning was here of great breadth, and washed the sides of the castle mound. The last time I came into Steyning was by way of the bostel down Steyning Round Hill. The old place seems more than ever medieval as one descends
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