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Sussex history - key dates
West Sussex's history is made up of a mish-mash of its landscape, environment, people and their knowledge. Our list is highly subjective, and we make no apology for that. We keep finding things that we want to add to it too.
AD 43Invasion of Britain by the Romans, who land on the Sussex coast
70Fishbourne Roman Palace built near Chichester.
410Roman Emperor Honorius tells Sussex he will not help them defend themselves from marauding Saxons.
477Saxon Aelle lands in Sussex heralding a new era in Sussex history - Saxon Sussex.
664Great pestilence ravages the island of Britain, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
665St Wilfrid makes his first visit to West Sussex.
681St Wilfrid returns to Sussex and starts to convert the County to Christianity.
858King Aethelwulf, father of Alfred the Great, buried at Steyning.
895Danish invaders defeated near Chichester, possibly at Kingley Vale.
994Vikings cause havoc in Sussex, slaughtering people and burning villages.
1064Harold Godwinson leaves Bosham to visit Normandy on a state visit. This is commemorated on the Bayeux Tapestry.
1066Following the Norman Conquest, William of Normandy grants the 5 administrative rapes of Sussex, based around Chichester, Arundel, Bramber, Hastings and Lewes, to his leading nobles, making Sussex his beachhead for securing rule of England.
1070Bramber Castle built by William de Braose.
1075The HQ of the church in West Sussex moves from Selsey to Chchester.
1086The Domesday Survey finds some parts of Sussex so poor that they are ignored altogether.
1100Work on Marlipins at Shoreham though to have been started
1102Three month blockade of Arundel.
1114Fire causes extensive damage to Chichester Cathedral.
1125The Knights Templar granted the Manor of Shipley.
1184Consecration of Chichester Cathedral.
1187Another massive fire at Chichester Cathedral .
1199King John lands at Shoreham-by-Sea on his way to be crowned King of England.
1208King John confiscates Bramber Castle and Knepp Castle
1216Chichester Castle besieged by rebel barons.
1217Chichester Castle recaptured by royalist forces and destroyed.
1243The Fitzalan family acquire the Honour of Arundel.
1247East Grinstead receives its first charter, allowing it to hold regular markets plus an annual fair.
1264The Battle of Lewes. King Henry III is captured by Simon De Montfort.
1279First record of the annual Crawley fair.
1285Arundel granted its annual fair, boosting its economy considerably.
1309Henry de Percy granted permission to turn his house at Petworth into a castle - now Petworth House.
1312The Knights Templar in Sussex dissolved by a decree of Pope Clement V.
1315Terrible crop failures bring hunger to Sussex and southern England.
1348The Black Death hits Sussex and the rest of England.
1353Chichester's wool exporting business boosted by being granted the status of Staple Port.
1377Amberley Castle crenallated by Bishop Reede, turning it from a manor house to a castle.
1425The Priest House at West Hoathly built.
1444The people of Tarring (now part of Worthing) asked King Henry VI for permission to hold a market so that their property would not be looted by the French while they were attending markets in other towns.
1501Bishop Storey builds the market cross in Chichester.
1529William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton buys Cowdray at Midhurst.
1538Henry VIII makes his first visit to Cowdray.
Vandalism of the shrine of St Richard at Chichester Cathedral during the Reformation.
1545French marauders attack Shoreham and other parts of the Sussex coast.
1556Protestants burned at East Grinstead.
1567Huguenots feeing France establish the Sussex glass making industry around Wisborough Green.
1577Work starts on Parham House near Storrington.
1587A system of beacons set up all over the county to help provide a warning of any attack by the Spanish.
1591Queen Eliabeth I visits Cowdray near Midhurst.
1608Sackville College, East Grinstead founded by Robert Sackville, 2nd Earl of Dorset.
1615Acts of Parliament prohibits the use of wood as fuel for glass making, killing off the West Sussex glass industry. It was thought that it diverted resources from the ironworks, which were more important for military reasons.
1636Collapse of the North West tower of Chichester Cathedral.
1642General Waller's parliamentarian army captures Chichester.
1643Royalist troops capture Stansted and Cowdray.
Parliamentary troops under General Waller destroy Aldingbourne Castle.
1645The Clubmen meet on the Trundle and other Sussex hilltops.
1651Charles II escapes to France along the route now called the Monarch's Way via Shoreham Harbour.
1655Founder of the Quaker movement George Fox visit Sussex for the first time.
1672Foundation of Midhurst Grammar School.
1676A Meeting House for Quakers established at Ifield, the first of many in Sussex.
1688Work begun on a huge new mansion at Petworth House.
1691The Blue Idol at Coolham converted into a Quakers Meeting House.
1703A huge storm causes havoc along the West Sussex coast, killing many and destroying part of Shoreham-by-Sea.
1712Pallant House, Chichester built for Henry Peckham.
172135 people in Goring die of the Black Death.
1723The Cogidubnus Stone unearthed in Chichester.
1731Storrington Church spire destroyed by lightning.
1735Final instance of a prisoner being pressed to death at Horsham gaol.
1748Murder of Chater & Galley marks the beginning of the end for the members of the Hawkhurst smuggling gang.
1749Opening of the first Turnpike Road in West Sussex. It ran from Hindhead to Chichester via Fernhurst and Midhurst and is more or less the route of today's A286.
1750Richard Russell publishes a dissertation concerning the use of sea water in the diseases of the glands. In doing so he unwittingly catalysed the development of the Sussex coast as a seaside spa location.
1752Lancelot 'Capability' Brown begins the remodelling of Petworth Park.
1755Turnpike road from London to Horsham opened.
1760A ring of trees planted at the iron age hill fort of Chanctonbury Ring.
1770The London to Brighton road becomes a turnpike
1781Shoreham's iconic wooden bridge built over the River Adur estuary.
1783The Prince of Wales makes his first visit to Brighton, suddenly making the resport fashionable.
1785Sir Richard Hotham starts to develop Hothampton, later to become modern Bognor Regis.
St Swithin's Church in East Grinstead falls down.
1789First bathing machines used on Worthing beach.
1791Western Rother Waterways Act passed by Parliament.
1792Birth of Percy Byshe Shelley at Warnham near Horsham.
1793Cowdray House destroyed by fire caused by forgetful builders.
Death of John Olliver, the eccentric miller who lived and worked on Highdown Hill above Worthing.
Leconfield Hall in Petworth built.
1798Princess Amelia is sent to Worthing to recuperate from illness, heralding the start of Worthing's development as a fashionable seaside resort.
1799Richard Hotham dies, leaving behind the seeds of the resort of Bognor Regis.
1803An Act of Parliament gives Worthing town status.
1804Birth of Richard Cobden, liberal politician and Midhurst local hero.
William Blake tried for sedition in Chichester.
The 35th Regiment of foot is renamed the Royal Sussex Regiment.
1807Princess Charlotte visits Worthing
1808Chichester Buttermarket opens in North Street.
1810Worthing's first market opens.
1811Discovery of Bignor Roman Villa.
1812Horsham Town Hall opened.
1813Start of construction of the Wey and Arun Canal.
St John's Chapel opens in Chichester.
1820Work starts on the building of Worthing Esplanade.
1821The entrance to modern day Shoreham Harbour completed.
1822Spectacular exterior of Brighton Pavilion completed.
1823Brighton Chain Pier opened. The pier was intended to allow berthing facilities for cross-channel steamers
Building of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal, linking Chichester Harbour to the River Arun.
1828Royal West Sussex Hospital opens in Chichester.
1829Mad Jack Fuller buys the battered remains of Bodiam Castle, thereby saving it from demolition.
1830Captain Swing riots in much of West Sussex.
1832Customs Officers and smugglers fight a running battle at Broadwater in Worthing.
1833The neo-classical cornmarket in Chichester opens. In due course the Cornmarket was to become a cinema, a fast-food restaurant and now shops.
1834Death of Sussex character Mad Jack Fuller.
1838Life in Arundel brightened by the introduction of gas lighting
1840Opening of the Brighton to Shoreham railway line.
1841London to Brighton railway service inaugurated.
1845First train service from Shoreham to Worthing.
1848The railway reaches Crawley
1850Brighton council buys the Royal Pavilion.
11 Worthing fishermen perish while trying to rescue the stricken boat Lallah Rooke.
1851Beeding Cement Works opened on the east bank of the Adur.
1853Closure of the Portsmouth and Arun Canal.
1855East Grinstead becomes connected to the railway network.
1858Ardingly College founded.
1859Horsham to Petworth railway line opened.
St Francis' Hospital opened at Haywards Heath as Sussex's first mental hospital.
1861Clayton railway tunnel disaster.
Dramatic collapse of the tower and spire of Chichester Cathedral.
The famous Selsey lifeboat starts its operations.
1862Worthing Pier is opened.
1864Bognor connected to the railway network with the new line to and from Barnham junction.
1865Death of West Lavington free trader Richard Cobden.
Opening of Bognor Pier.
1866Jack Windmill built above Clayton.
Petworth to Midhurst railway opened along the banks of the River Rother.
1868Work starts on the building of Gothic masterpiece Lancing College Chapel.
1870The first major concrete sea wall at Bognor built.
1871Closure of the Wey and Arun Canal
1873Arundel Cathedral built - as a mere humble church
1875Work begins on reclaiming 2700 acres of Pagham Harbour for use as farmland.
1879Shipley Smock Mill built.
1880Homefield Park in Worthing opened - it was initially called the People's Park.
1881The Brighton to Chichester railway line opens by extension of the line from Shoreham. In the same year the Midhurst to Chichester line was opened.
1884Salvation Army Riots in Worthing.
1890Worthing incorporated as a Borough.
Ludwig Messel buys Nymans Gardens and starts to transform it into one of Sussex's great gardens.
1893A typhoid epidemic strikes Worthing, killing 188 people and turning Worthing temporarily into a ghost town.
1894Oscar Wilde writes The Importance of Being Earnest while on holiday in Worthing.
1896Brighton Chain Pier destroyed in a big storm.
1897Opening of the Selsey Tram, running from Chichester to Selsey.
1902Local education boards were abolished and Sussex County Council became responsible for education in the county.
Christ's Hospital School moves to Horsham from the big smoke.
1906Writer Hilaire Belloc moves to Shipley, where he buys Kings Land, including Shipley’s beautiful smock mill.
1910First plane takes off from Shoreham Airfield.
A large storm breaches the sea defences at Pagham Harbour, turning reclaimed land back into sea.
1913The last Midsummer Fair is held at St John's Common in Burgess Hill.
1923Formation of the Southern Railway Company.
1924The last ever Crawley Fair.
1925The iron age site and hillside at Cissbury Ring donated to the National Trust following public subscription aimed at protecting it from housing development in the Findon Valley.
1926Foundation of the Society of Sussex Downsmen.
1929King George V visits Bognor to convalesce.
Bishop George Bell becomes Bishop of Chichester.
1930Aerodrome built at Gatwick - later to become one of the busiest airports in the world.
1933The world’s largest sea water swimming pool is opened in Brighton.
1935The much-derided Selsey Tram is closed after running its final journey
1936Art Deco terminal at Shoreham Airport built.
19407 people killed by bombing in Horsham.
194228 schoolchildren and 2 adults killed when German bombs are dropped on Petworth.
1943108 people killed in East Grinstead by a German bombing attack on the town centre. Another 253 were injured.
1946New Towns Act designates Crawley as a new town, catalysing massive growth in the size of the town.
1947Petworth House given to the National Trust.
1950Princess Elizabeth opens the Manor Royal Industrial Estate in Crawley.
1958Queen Elizabeth II opens the newly expanded Gatwick Airport as London's second airport.
1960Butlins, now South Coast World, opens in Bognor Regis.
Formation of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society.
1961Discovery of Fishbourne Roman Palace.
1962Chichester Festival Theatre opens to great acclaim.
1964The Edward James Foundation established at West Dean on the death of great patron of the arts Edward James.
1965Arundel's catholic church of St Philip Howard granted the status of Cathedral.
1967Foundation of The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in the Lavant Valley at Singleton.
Chichester's architecturally distinctive new library opens.
1972The Sussex section of the South Downs Way opened as a National Trail.
1984The Grand Hotel in Brighton attacked by a terrorist bomb.
1987Hurricane smashes into Sussex destroying thousands of mature trees.
1988The Hawth Theatre built in Crawley.
1989Fire sweeps through Uppark, leading to one of the most thorough restorations of a historical building ever undertaken.
1990Chichester Cattle Market closes - it's now a car park.
1993Boxgrove Man discovered.
1994Flooding in central Chichester as the River Lavant misbehaves
1998A freak tornado hits Selsey, causing extensive property damage.
- Roman Sussex
- Saxon Sussex
- The sea and its effect on coastal communities over the centuries
- Key dates in the history of West Sussex
- Arundel Castle
- Arundel Cathedral
- Brighton Pavilion
- Chichester Cathedral
- Torberry Hill
- Cissbury Ring
- The Devil's Humps
- Chichester Canal
- St Mary's Bramber
- Knepp Castle
- Sussex Churches
- Wey and Arun Canal
- More places in Sussex with historical connections
- The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton
- Amberley Museum
- Top Sussex Museums
- Bognor Regis
- Burgess Hill
- East Grinstead
- Haywards Heath