A to Z of Curious Sussex

By Wendy Hughes. Published by The History Press, £12.99

Open this book at any page and you’ll find something of intrigue, and with that in mind it’s probably fair to say the A to Z of Curious Sussex raises more questions than it answers.

Why, for instance, does the village of Yapton never close its doors?

Where exactly WAS it that King Alfred burned the cakes?

Whose is the skull that lies in the priest’s house in Itchingfield?

Are the woodland ghosts at Kingly Vale, near Chichester, the tortured souls of Viking invaders, or those of the mystical Druids who once inhabited the land?

Why is it only children who see the ghost of Philip Howard’s beloved black dog in the library at Arundel Castle? Philip Howard, as I am sure you will remember from your history lessons, was the Catholic martyr and Earl of Arundel who spent ten years in the Tower of London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

The dog is not the only ghost to inhabit that imposing hilltop castle, where one of seven spectres is said to be the spirit of a kitchen boy once beaten to death in the kitchens. When all is quiet and the kitchen closed for the day, the scrubbing of pots and pans can still be heard, it is said.

And who was the true slayer of the Sussex Knucker, the dragon who terrorised the people of Lyminster when he flew out of his den in Knucker Hole: do we believe the hero to be a gallant knight hoping to win the hand of the Princess of Sussex? Or perhaps it was the dragon’s gluttony that finished him off, unable to resist scoffing down a gigantic pie baked by a humble farming boy who filled it with horses, carts and simply too much for the reptile to digest.

Highwaymen, smugglers, cults and inventors are behind every turn of this mysterious wander up and down the pathways of Sussex, which could have been served even better with an index of place names and a map, but is served extremely well with plenty of fascinating photographs.

Curiosities abound – not least, perhaps, why there is no Z – or is that deliberate because it means this book ends on Y?

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