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Saturday 26th November 2022

We had a very successful Symposium last November, with these speakers and topics

Hidden Clues to the Fury of the Reformation in Sussex

Dr Robert Hutchinson

The Reformation was a huge cultural shock to the Tudor population. After the break with Rome, government decrees radically changed both their religion and the way they could commemorate their dead. The accession of Mary 1 turned the clock back and returned Catholicism to England for just five years, before her half-sister Elizabeth recreated a Protestant state. These were uncertain, confusing and dangerous times and our medieval churches hold hidden clues to the religious trauma of the sixteenth-century.


De La Warr Family Tomb

Broadwater Church, Worthing 


 photo courtesy 'Tom Francetti/Welcome Institute'

Robert Hutchinson OBE, D.Phil., FSA

Robert Hutchinson, historian, church archaeologist and regular television and radio broadcaster, has written eight critically-acclaimed books on Tudor and Stuart history, which have been republished in twelve languages, including Last Days of Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s Spymaster and Thomas Cromwell.

His latest book is Henry VIII: The Decline & Fall of a Tyrant, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in April 2019 and a paperback version the following year.

He appears regularly on British, American, German, Japanese and Australian television and acts as a history consultant to fiction authors and film makers, the latter including Firebrand - about Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr, now in production.

Hutchinson is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He holds a doctorate in church archaeology for his research into the impact of the Reformation on church monuments in Sussex and Hampshire.

Dr Geoffrey Mead


I am a Brighton 'native' as was my father, and I attended Brighton & Hove Grammar School where I had a decidedly undistinguished academic life. As a 'mature unqualified student' I took a BA Geography degree in my 30s, later doing my MA in Local & Regional History, before my PhD in Brighton's interwar suburban growth-'Scattered Squalor...Downland Homes'. I taught adults for the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) at University of Sussex from 1984-2012 mainly working with the Landscape Studies degree team. I am a member of the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society where I am the editor of the annual journal Sussex Industrial History.

Brighton before the Pavilion

Dr Geoffrey Mead

This lecture will look at the physical and economic landscape of Brighton in the period leading up to the late 18th century. Its physical geography enabled it to function as an important coastal trading community, one that was at social variance to its near neighbours. Brighton has always had a liberal, accepting 'open' nature, one which benefitted the community, allowing freedoms not possible in more restrictive 'close' communities, this is reflected in its religious practices and in its later built environment.


St Nicholas Church and Chalk Quarry, Brighton


Dr Janet Pennington


Janet Pennington is an independent historian with a PhD in early-modern Sussex inn and tavern history. While working as the archivist at Lancing College, she also taught local history and palaeography for the much-lamented Centre of Continuing Education at the University of Sussex. She is a member of the Wealden Buildings Study Group, a past chairman of the West Sussex Archives Society and former Council member of the Sussex Record Society. She is Hon. President of the Brighton & Hove Archaeological Society. Janet gives illustrated talks throughout Sussex, particularly on pubs, aspects of Wiston Estate history and a variety of other subjects, such as the ritual protection of the home and travel in the past. She lives in Steyning, West Sussex.

Sussex Inn Signs and their History

Dr Janet Pennington

The research for Janet Pennington’s doctoral thesis The Inns and Taverns of Western Sussex, 1550-1700: A Regional Study of Their Architectural and Social History, (2003) took her to pubs all over Sussex and in many other counties. If you think you know your White Horse from your Red Lion, or your Kings Head from your Royal Oak (or even your Spread Eagle from your Swan), come and learn something new. Inn signs were, and still are, much more than external advertising for food, drink and possibly accommodation nowadays. The signs and their brackets reveal patronage, land ownership, social status, local personalities and events, opening a window to the past. Sussex inn signs are a colourful addition to our urban and rural surroundings and they are still full of meaning in the twenty-first century.


The Compleat Parish Officer;
Overseers of the Sussex Poor


Dr Mary Rudling

My talk will consider the background and changing role of overseers in Sussex during the late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth centuries. Case studies of overseers including Thomas Turner, Richard Lower and John Ellman will be used to illustrate and compare the challenges faced by these parish officers. Initially overseers were elected members of the parish but as a crisis in poverty developed, notably in the rural southeast during the early-nineteenth century, attempts were made to impose a more stringent system which included the appointment of salaried assistant overseers often from outside the parish. A number of these individuals were targeted by the Swing rioters in 1830. The government asked parish officials for their views on the riots and also on the poor laws prior to introducing new legislation in 1834 and it is therefore possible to discover the opinions of the overseers. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act introduced changes to the administration of poor relief  at parish level and the discussion will end by looking at the overseers' role under the New Poor Law.


The Copmpleat Parish Officer - G.J. (1713)

G.J. is likely to have been Giles Jacob, 1636-1744 son a maltster in Romsey, Hampshire


Dr Mary Rudling

I too am a native of Brighton but have lived in the village of Ditchling for much of my life. I studied for a BA in History and English at the University of East Anglia and trained to teach in further education. I have spent most of my working life supporting students with dyslexia, latterly at the University of Sussex. In 2016 I completed an Open University MA in History; my dissertation compared poor relief in the wealden parish of Chiddingly with relief in the downland parish of Rottingdean. In May of this year I completed a PhD focusing on the impact of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment  Act on the poor and on relief officials in eastern Sussex. 


Simon Stevens BA

Simon Stevens is Sussex born-and-bred and currently works as a Senior Archaeologist at Archaeology South-East, one of the local professional archaeological units. He is also the Vice-Chair of the Wealden Iron Research Group. Despite the usual attempt to nullify any interest in history at school with a diet of Corn Laws and Chartists, he somehow retained an interest in the past, especially military history.


From Newick to No-Man's-Land
A Wealden Village Goes to War

Simon Stevens

On moving to the Wealden village of Newick in 2003, it came as a surprise to find that no-one had ever researched the lives (and deaths) of the men listed in the parish church as casualties of the First World War. Following the discovery of a part-forgotten Roll of Honour and a second plaque in the village school, documentary research began to unravel their stories and add those of others not commemorated locally. Visits to the sites where Newick men fought on the Western Front added an extra dimension. Currently, fifty-three men with a connection to the village have been traced. Today we will look at the beginning, the middle and the end of their stories.

SStevens_Talk_Harry Streeter.jpg

Modernism on Sussex by the Sea

Professor Fred Gray

During the 1930s a remarkable transformation began to occur in the architecture and landscape of Sussex by the Sea. It was informed by a growing love of the sun and sunbathing, Modernism as an architectural inspiration, concrete slabs and steel frames and even the majesty of transatlantic liners. With form following function in everything from lidos to bathing costumes, and a focus on stripped-down, clean-lined structures, there was a rejection of the weary and restrictive seaside of the past. Apart from the iconic open-air pools, there were innovative entertainment pavilions, transformed seafronts, and diverse new buildings for living and playing by the sea. This presentation explores the neglected history and geography of 1930s Modernism on Sussex by the Sea.


Professor Fred Gray

Fred Gray came to the University of Sussex in 1974 as a Research Fellow. He later became a lecturer, and then the Director of the Centre for Continuing Education. He became Dean of the Sussex Institute and in 2011 was awarded the title of  Emeritus Professor of Continuing Education. Fred has served on the boards of various Sussex organisations including the Brighton West Pier Trust, the Brighton Fishing Museum, the Gardner Arts Centre, and the Brighton Dome and Festival. He has a long-term interest in all things seaside, and seaside architecture in particular. He is the author of Designing the Seaside: Architecture Society and Nature (Reaktion, 2006), Palm (Reaktion, 2018) and The Architecture of British Seaside Piers (Crowood, 2020).


Dr David Rudling


David is the Academic Director at the Sussex School of Archaeology and History. Previously, he was Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Sussex, and prior to this Director of Archaeology South-East which is part of University College London. He started work in Sussex for UCL in 1980 having completed an MA in Roman Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology. Subsequently he undertook his doctorate in Roman Archaeology at the University of Roehampton. He has directed a wide range of fieldwork on sites of various periods throughout Sussex, notable sites including the Roman villas at Bignor, Beddingham, Barcombe and Plumpton, two Romano-British farmsteads and an associated field system on Beachy Head, a Roman tile kiln at Hartfield, two Romano-Celtic temples inside Chanctonbury Ring, a Middle Bronze Age settlement site at Downsview on the Brighton Bypass, and various medieval urban sites in Hastings, Lewes and Winchelsea. David’s main research interests include Roman rural settlements and land-use, religion and ritual in Roman Britain, and ancient and medieval coins. He is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Roehampton, a Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, a Trustee (and former Chairman) of CBA South-East, a former Trustee of the Sussex Archaeological Society, a member of the Council of the Surrey Archaeological Society, and a Trustee (and former Chairman) of the Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society.

Sussex Local History and the Sussex School of Archaeology & History

Dr David Rudling

This concluding session will seek to investigate by discussion and questions the training, networking and publication/dissemination needs of historians and amateur history societies in Sussex. 


Is there a need/demand for an annual Sussex History Symposium (as is the case for Sussex Archaeology) to show case recent research within the county, and perhaps also specific themed conferences and other events?


If so, such activities could be arranged by the Sussex School of Archaeology and History to share knowledge and new discoveries, and also to provide general skills training at workshops etc.  

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