The Little Churches of Chichester

In the first Tuesday Talk of 2019, Alan Green will be talking about the fascinating histories of what became known as The Little Churches of Chichester.

Chichester was once the most pious of cities. In Pre-Reformation times there were nine parish churches, three chapels, a cathedral and two friaries all within its walls. Of these the cathedral and six of the parish churches survived into the 17C and beyond.

St Peter the Less, St Martin and All Saints – three of the five Little Churches of Chichester

Five of these were known collectively as The Little Churches – St Peter the Less, St Martin, St Olave, St Andrew and All Saints. They all closed in the 20C and two were demolished, but the other three live on in new uses.

This talk looks at the histories of the little churches, their people and parishes, and along the way gives a portrait of Chichester life over four centuries.

Unfortunately Alan’s talk is now sold out but please take a look at our website to see what other topics are coming up.

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Apple Howling, or how to serenade an orchard

Traditionally, the festive period extended several days beyond the New Year, yet for many that practice has declined and most of us have taken down the Christmas tree and weaned ourselves off the leftovers by then. I’ve recently learnt of an ancient custom that took place in the depths of West Sussex between Twelfth Night (5th January) and “Old Twelvey Night” (17th January) called ‘Apple Howling’, and was as important a tradition as making New Year resolutions.


Wassailing is often performed in the evening. Like with Bonfire Night, torches are sometimes carried.

Wassailing custom

Some of you may already be familiar with wassailing; an ancient tradition which involves creating a lot of noise, usually accompanied by dancing, to banish bad spirits and welcome in a productive new year. Villagers would take with them a wassail bowl, usually filled with warmed cider or beer, and offer it to their fellow neighbours who would give them a gift in return. You may think of it like the precursor to carolling. Apple howling is a unique type of wassailing, but rather than going door to door in your neighbourhood, participants go from tree to tree in an orchard. This event is still practised today in Bolney and Singleton, and has also been practised recently in Rye, East Sussex.

So, what exactly do you do when go apple howling?

Participants may bring items they can ‘beat’ such as tin cans or dust bin lids, to scare off any otherworldly beings that bring bad luck. Singing and chanting are also a key part of the festivities. One article from the West Sussex Gazette, 9th Jan 1964, reports that the following words were often repeated:

“Stand fast root, bear well top,

Prat the God send us a good howling crop.

Every twig, apples big;

Every bough, apples enou;

Hats full, caps full,

Full quarters sacks full.”

The Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men, who still practise this event in Bolney, describe how they gently beat the trunks of the trees with a stick to encourage the production of apples and guarantee a good harvest.

What’s behind this odd tradition?

Although Somerset is particularly known for its cider, Sussex also has a reputation for producing the fruity drink. Cider is, of course, primarily made from apples, and the much weaker brews were drunk regularly as an alternative to the unhygienic water supplies that were prevalent up until the 20th Century. Strong cider would have been made and saved for special occasions. This alcoholic beverage was extremely important to Sussex society over the centuries, it not only provided a safe drink but it also bolstered the local economy.

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Dick and Jesse working the cider press. By George Garland, 1933.

George Garland, the famous Petworth based photographer, captured two traditional cider makers Dick Bicknell and Jesse Dalmon in 1933. Dick, in particular, had been making cider for 40 years and was taught how to do so by someone who also had many years of experience and had travelled around West Sussex producing cider for farmers and villagers. It demonstrates how integral cider making was to Sussex people, and why yelling at and dancing around an apple tree for a good harvest doesn’t seem so barmy after all.


Alice Millard

Research Assistant

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What’s on: 2019 at the Record Office

Map table promo photo

As we fast approach the New Year, we’d like to share with you a taster of upcoming talks and workshops in 2019.

Our popular Talks on Tuesdays series will continue, beginning with ‘The Little Churches of Chichester’ an illustrated talk by Alan Green, on the 29th January. Alan will delve into the forgotten histories of Chichester’s lost churches. Find out more about St Peter the Less, St Martin’s, All Saints, St Olave’s & St Andrew’s, which had all closed by 1953.

2019 programmeJanuary will also see the first of our Coffee-time Workshops, which offers participants expert guidance on different aspects of historic research and on resources available at the Record Office. If you have always wanted to build your family history, but don’t know where to begin, ‘How to start your family tree’ may be for you. This workshop will be held on Wednesday 9th January and will offer participants tips and advice on how to kick start your research.

Cheer up a dreary February evening with a trip to hear Dr John Godfrey and Caroline Nicholls (the current High Sheriff of West Sussex) give a fascinating talk on ‘The High Sheriffs of Sussex’ on Tuesday 26th February. They’ll explore the history of this role and how it works in the modern world, accompanied by images and photographs. Talk in searchroom

Another workshop in February will be ‘The Parish Chest: Exploring parish records’ where participants can discover more about how parish records are extensive and extremely useful sources of information. Those who are researching their family tree may find this workshop particularly insightful.

The weather will be warmer on Tuesday 26th March, ready for Dr Richard Huzzey’s eye-opening illustrated talk on ‘The Anti-slavery Movement in West Sussex’.

Once again, the Record Office will also continue to put on exhibitions and displays throughout the year to celebrate the variety of milestones in the history of West Sussex. Stay tuned for more information on these later in the year!

Both our Coffee-time workshops and Tuesday Talks will carry on throughout 2019. Find out more about these events, and details about tickets and booking, on our website.


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Leonard Bernstein by Paul de Hueck Courtesy of the Leonard Bernstein Office

Leonard Bernstein by Paul de Hueck. Courtesy of the Leonard Bernstein Office.

Last month saw the culmination of the Bernstein in Chichester Festival with the sublime and historic performance of the Chichester Psalms on 24 November in Chichester Cathedral by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop, herself a protégé of Leonard Bernstein, and the choirs of Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester Cathedrals.

The Bernstein in Chichester Festival has been an outstanding success, due in no small part to the hard work and dedication of Emma-Jane Wyatt and Edward Milward-Oliver, the festival organisers. It has been a pleasure to work with them both and it has been wonderful to have West Sussex archives playing such an important part in all of this.

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Walter Hussey

West Sussex Record Office was established as the Diocesan Record Office in 1949 and amongst our many holdings are the papers of Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral between 1955 and 1977. Hussey was a dedicated and enthusiastic patron of the arts throughout his time at Chichester. His archives include correspondence and papers about his own collections and about the many artworks that he commissioned from well-known composers, sculptors, artists, poets and writers.

In 1963 Walter Hussey wrote to Leonard Bernstein and asked him if he would write a new choral work for the Southern Cathedral Choirs Festival in 1965, an annual event that still takes place today. West Side Story had opened in the UK in 1958 to great acclaim and Bernstein was at the height of his fame as a composer, conductor, musician and teacher, who has left an enduring legacy that continues to this day.

The Walter Hussey papers tell the story of how the Chichester Psalms came to be writtenHussey 356b reduced and of its first performance in Chichester Cathedral on 31 July 1965. Bernstein’s letter to Hussey on 24 February 1965 describes how he was on the verge of writing ‘a sad letter saying that I could not find in me the work for your Festival when suddenly a conception occurred to me that I find exciting’. He goes on to say that the music will be ‘very forthright, songful, rhythmic, youthful’ and that the psalms themselves will be sung in the original Hebrew. Subsequent letters record his progress with the work which he describes as ‘quite popular in feeling’ with ‘even a hint, as you suggested, of West Side Story’. He later sent Hussey a score with a guide to the pronunciation together with instructions for the performance which he says will need a large percussion group, more strings, three trumpets and a harp. He describes the world premiere of the piece in New York on 15 July 1965 and the arrangements for his travel to Chichester with his wife and children for the UK Premiere.

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Dedication to Hussey from “Lenny”

A strong friendship and a deep mutual respect appears to have developed between the two men and on the eve of his departure to the US, Bernstein told Hussey that ‘in this last hour I somehow wanted to talk to you again, to thank you, not only on a social level, but on the deepest personal one, for all the things you are, do, and stand for. I shall carry sweet memories of Chichester for a long time’.  Bernstein’s wife, Felicia, wrote in a similar vein that ‘we will all remember Chichester for many reasons but the main reason is you’.

Whilst these letters from Bernstein reside in the Hussey Archives at the Record Office, those that Hussey wrote in return are now part of the Bernstein Archives in the Library of Congress. They have all been brought together in The Leonard Bernstein Letters edited by Nigel Simeone who gave a fascinating talk on ‘Bernstein, Hussey and the Chichester Psalms’ to an enthralled capacity audience at the Record Office on 18 September. Accompanying Nigel’s talk was an exhibition curated by Dr Peter Webster, the author of Church and Patronage in 20th Century Britain: Walter Hussey and the Arts. This exhibition was subsequently displayed in the Cathedral during October and featured in a BBC South Today programme on 21 November.

On 23 November at a Chichester Psalms Gala Evening in the Assembly Rooms Peter McEnery performed his one-man play Walter & Lenny based on the Bernstein and Hussey letters. After the interval Nigel Simeone was joined by Alexander Bernstein, who had come to Chichester in July 1965 with his father, mother, and sister Jamie, for the first performance of the Chichester Psalms.

Bill Wyatt Photo

Alexander Bernstein (front row, second from left) with the choristers from the original performance in 1965. Photo credit: Bill Wyatt, 2018.

On the afternoon of 24 November, ahead of the evening performance we were delighted to host a visit to the Record Office by Alexander Bernstein, some of the former choristers, who had taken part on the original performance in 1965, Nigel Simeone and his wife, Peter McEnery and Julia St John, and other supporters of the Festival, to see the original archives that tell the story of the Chichester Psalms, ahead of the spectacular concert the evening. It was very special to be able to show Alexander his father’s letters and then go on to listen to his father’s wonderful music in its original setting. It was a fitting way to end the celebrations of Bernstein in Chichester and a day that I will remember long after the archives of the Festival itself have in turn found their place at the Record Office.


Wendy Walker, County Archivist

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Digital Preservation Diary 1: What’s all the fuss about digital ‘stuff’!?


Abigail, WSRO Digital Preservation Archivist. And some old school floppy discs.

When we think about archives, we picture rooms filled with boxes of precious records. For anyone who’s been behind the scenes at WSRO, they’ll know this is certainly the case for us. But what would an archive look like if it only collected records created after Thursday 29 November 2018? Many of us work on paper so we’d expect to see some boxes. However, we also create a multitude of documents on computers, tablets and smart phones – records that are described as being born digital – meaning a large portion of the archive would be less tangible. Instead of being inside a box, it would be sitting somewhere on a server.

For WSRO, the significance of this change in format is revealed when we consider the opening lines of our Digital Preservation Policy:

Since 1946, WSRO has worked hard to collect and preserve the documentary heritage of West Sussex for the use of current and future generations. Our records cover the area of the modern county of West Sussex, and date from 780 AD to the present day.

The key phrase in this introductory text is present day. We’ve just established that a percentage of records created in this period are born digital, and this is also the case for records created in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. It is this increase in digital material that prompted WSRO to take me on as their digital preservation archivist, to ensure we preserve these records on an ongoing basis. At this stage, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. What does someone working in digital preservation actually do? Isn’t it just a case of safely storing the digital records and cataloguing them? You’re partly right: protecting and describing our digital collections is a major priority, but we also need to understand them, monitor them and repair them. This may all sound a little abstract, so let’s consider a typical story about digital ‘stuff’.

Suppose you’re back in 1986, using a word-processing application on your snazzy new Commodore 64. You’ve finally finished that draft of your first novel and you’re pretty confident it’s going to be a springboard to fame and fortune. You save your hard work on a floppy disk, file it away and sit back and relax while watching the latest episode of Dallas. Alas, much like Dallas, life takes an unexpected turn and you forget all about that floppy disk until you move house in 2018. You’re keen to revisit your work of genius but realise several things: the word-processing application you used on your Commodore 64 doesn’t exist anymore, nor does the computer itself, or its floppy disk drive. In short, you’re not sure how to open your files.

This story illustrates how a specific set of processes and procedures are necessary when caring for digital material; it’s not just a case of taking a collection in, cataloguing it and storing it as we do with our paper based archives. With this in mind, I’m sure I’ll encounter some challenges in my new role, which is why I thought it would be useful to reflect on my work in a series of diary entries on WSRO’s blog – today’s post being the first of many. I look forward to telling you more about my work over the coming months and, in the meantime, wish you all a very happy Digital Preservation Day!

By Abigail Wharne, Digital Preservation Archivist.

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WW1 Centenary: Staff Stories, Private H P Pocock

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, staff at West Sussex Record Office have shared their stories of family members who were caught up in the conflict.

When the Worthing Gazette was published on Wednesday August 16th 1916 right at the bottom of page 7 was a four line notice under the heading Angmering – Missing Soldiers.  Three names are given Privates G L Horton, H P Pocock and F Punch.

Of the three men named two of them had died on 30 June 1916 at what became known as the Battle of the Boar’s Head. They were both serving in the 13th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Their names are listed together on the Loos Memorial in France.


Private H P Pocock was my great uncle, on my maternal side of the family tree.

Henry Peter Pocock was born on the 2 September 1893, one of 8 children born to my great-great grandparents Simeon and Kate Pocock (nee Clevett) who lived in Blaber Cottage, Church Road, Angmering.  Of the 8 children born to Simeon and Kate they had already lost one son in 1906 aged 2.

In the left hand column of the admissions register for Older’s Charity School, Angmering in 1899, it shows that Henry had been apprenticed to become a butcher’s boy

On the 1911 census Henry was lodging with the Smart family in Angmering and his trade is indeed shown as butcher.

Unfortunately no Service papers survive for Henry, but I do know he enlisted at Lewes, East Sussex and was assigned to the 13th Battalion in the Royal Sussex Regiment.

On 30th June 1916 at Richebourg l’Avoué in France the 12th and 13th Battalions, with the 11th Battalion as support, were involved in the final bombardment on Boar’s Head starting at 3.30 am.  The site of the Battle of the Boar’s Head owes its peculiar name to the network of trenches forming a salient in the shape of a boar’s head. The battle would last a mere 5 hours.

The battle aimed to distract the Germans and to make them believe that the Great Offensive would be launched in Richebourg and not in the Somme. The three Southdowns battalions lost 17 officers, with 349 men killed, including 12 sets of brothers, three from one family. Another 1,000 men were wounded or taken prisoner.  In regimental history, the battle is known as “The Day Sussex Died”.

Living in a world today dominated by instant news and images it is hard to grasp the lack of information available to families at the time. By researching local newspapers it is possible to imagine, to some small extent, the desperation and worry families must have felt waiting for news of their sons, husbands and brothers.

An entry in the Observer and West Sussex Recorder of the 16 August 16 1916 reports:

Sussex Regiment Casualties – Many wounded and nearly 300 missing were reported officially last week among the Royal Sussex Regiment…..

It then goes on to list some of the local men missing, including Henry. Seeing articles like this of the time you realise families must have been only too aware that something major had happened in France.  With the word ‘Missing’ giving a false hope that their loved one may be found, while realising as the war went on there was none and they were dead.

On 26 October 1916 the South of England Advertiser, under the heading Angmering, states that no news has been received of Henry Pocock and George Horton of the Sussex Regiment since the commencement of the “great push” whilst on the 1 November the West Sussex Recorder reports: news is anxiously awaited of G Horton and H Pocock.

I do not know when Kate and Simeon received the dreaded confirmation that Henry had been killed or how long they had to wait to hear. But like numerous families across the county and country their lives were forever changed.

This I think is borne out by the obituary notice in the Worthing Herald on 5 May 1939 for Kate Pocock, where it states she was a member of the Women’s branch of the British Legion.

Interestingly it states that Henry died at the Somme, which was always believed to be true by my family.

Whilst helping with our display of images here at the Record Office for the Armistice I remembered a photograph my mother had, taken in the late 1920s possibly 1930s. It is of the May Queen placing here spring bouquet on the war memorial in Angmering. When I scanned it I realised that the side of the memorial in the photograph includes Henry’s name, which touched me deeply.


Sarah Head, Technical Assistant

Uncover more First World War stories on the Great War West Sussex website and hear about the war in soldiers’ own words on the Military Voices website.

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WW1 Centenary: Staff Stories, Charles Wickers

I have recently started looking into my military family history and it has been a fascinating journey. I have discovered amazing stories of people I never knew existed. One of these people is Charles Wickers, my great great uncle. I would like to share just a little bit of his story with you.

Charles was born on 25th July 1884 in Bethnal Green, the eldest of eight children. He worked in the tailoring industry and lived his whole life in the same area; only moving a few streets away from the family home when he married Mary Ann Gibbons in 1908. His son and only child, also called Charles, was born a year later.

He joined the City of London Regiment (also known as the Royal Fusiliers), 7th battalion between 5th June – 22nd July 1915; his service number denotes the period he joined. Through research on I discovered that Charles had two service numbers, 5180 and 352170. Knowing that the first few numbers indicates when a soldier joined, I decided to see if I could find out when Charles did. I found an amazing resource called ‘Army Service Numbers 1881-1918’. This website holds a great deal of information about WW1 but more specifically, lists of battalion’s service numbers and dates that show when the men would have joined. Using the 5180 number, I saw that it would fall into the category of June – July 1915. When the Territorial Force was re-numbered in 1917, the 7th Londons were re-numbered 350001 to 370000, hence his second longer number.

Charles was assigned to the 2/7th Battalion where all volunteers were sent. He was now part of the ‘The Shiny Seventh’, so called as the soldiers had brass buttons on their uniforms instead of the standard black buttons that the rest of the City of London battalions had.

From 1914-1916 the battalion undertook training and were stationed along the Suffolk coast to help with defences. During early 1916 the battalion made their way from Suffolk to Southampton, and left for France on the 26th January 1917.  When the battalion arrived in France the men were trained in trench warfare on a “quiet” section of the front.

During my research, a story that I particularly remember reading is of gas attack training. The men put on their masks and the gas was released. Before it reached the men however, the wind changed and it avoided the men, who found the incident particularly amusing. There was no spare gas so the training could not be repeated!

After many months of fighting within France the 2/7th pushed into Belgium, past Ypres and ended up just north of St Julien. There was fierce fighting here with the German and English lines being only meters away from each other. The battalion made their way up the English line, or what remained of it as heavy bombing had destroyed it. On the 28th August 1917 the men ‘dug in’ and used shell holes as cover. The line was shelled often and the next day, 29th August 1917, Charles was killed. He was 33 years old.

Unfortunately Charles does not have a grave and I have no picture of him. Although I am very proud to say that his name is listed on the Menin Gate, Belgium.

Katie Bishop, Searchroom Assistant

Uncover more First World War stories on the Great War West Sussex website and hear about the war in soldiers’ own words on the Military Voices website.

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