Before we explored the village of Alfriston I had one of those, “Stop I want to take some pictures!”episodes in an even smaller village along the route. Well worth the stop don’t you think?
Alfriston Village is quite the quant little village in the UK. It boasts three pubs, the Star Inn, the Smugglers’ Inn and the George Inn. The village of 769 people is set on the edge of the River Cuckmere. So let’s stroll through Alfriston today!
There is strong evidence of ancient occupation of the area. In Saxon times the village was recorded as Aelfrictun (the town of Alfric), and the Domesday Book records the town as ‘Elfricesh-tun.’ The village is the perfect place to stop and have a drink or food at one of their famous pubs. Stories of days past abound!
One building of historical importance is the Star Inn. Originally a religious hostel built in 1345 and used to accommodate monks and pilgrims en route from Battle Abbey to the shrine of Sir Richard, patron saint of Sussex, it became an inn in the 16th century. Wooden figures grace the upper part of the building, while in the front is a one-time ship’s figurehead representing a red lion. The inn is connected with the Alfriston’s smuggling gang, who used the inn as a base. Their leader was captured and transported to Australia in 1830.
Market Cross House, (now Ye Olde Smugglers Inn) in the center of Alfriston, was the headquarters of one of the East Sussex gangs. The Inn had at one time 21 rooms, six staircases and 48 doors: the maze of passageways and doors made escape easier in the event of an unwelcome caller, and tunnels reputedly led away from the house to other nearby buildings. The leader of the gang, Stanton Collins, seems to have used the house to great advantage, since the gang was successful at eluding the customs authorities…
One of the stories told was the death of a patrolling customs man at Cuckmere Haven. Fearing that his attentions would interfere with their landing, the gang moved the lumps of white chalk that the officer used as way-marker for his moonlight sorties along the cliff-edge. Instead of leading him safely along the coastal path, the stones lured the poor man over the cliff. Hearing his cries as he tumbled from the precipice, the gang emerged from hiding, only to find the man desperately hanging by his fingertips. Deaf to pleas for mercy, one of the gang tromped on their adversary’s finger-tips, sending him tumbling to the rocks below.
The break-up of the gang came only when Stanton Collins was transported to Australia for seven years, for stealing sheep.
Look at all the puddings to eat at The George Inn! The yellow hanging branches are drying hops.
The brick work on the Cuckmere Emporium is outstanding and there has to be a clock! I’m not sure what the stone monument represents, maybe the center of the village, but the following photo is the lock up!
The post office serves as a post, deli, and the main village store! One stop shopping!
St Andrew Church sits on a knoll that was at one time an old Saxon burial ground. St Lewinna, a Saxon Christian virgin was killed by the Saxons in 690AD and her body was interred at the church. Her relics were later attributed to a number of miracles. They attracted so much attention, that the relics were taken by a Belgian monk and spirited away to the Priory of Bergue St Winox in 1058. The church of St Andrews was originally built in the 1300’s, and has come to be known as ‘The Cathedral of the Downs’. The wattle and daub Priest House next to the church was built in the 14th century and is a rare example of a Wealden Hall House. It was the first building acquired by the National Trust in 1896 and is open to the public. Many of the old buildings in the picturesque East Sussex village are still tiled in Horsham Slate, created from Sussex Wealden sandstone and used in Sussex for roofing on more prestigious buildings since roman times.
St Andrews Church is now surrounded by a graveyard set in a large un-mowed meadow. Below the church’s stone wall is a large grassy area used as a park.
The Clergy/Priest House was the first property bought by the National Trust and today you may visit the tiny house and lovely garden!
In 1931, Eleanor Farjeon wrote the popular hymn “Morning has Broken” in Alfriston; the hymn is supposedly about the beauty she saw around her in this village. The song was later recorded by Cat Stevens in the 1970s, reaching a wider audience.
“Morning Has Broken”
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s re-creation of the new day