About VCH Sussex

The Creation of The Sussex Books

All but one of the general articles planned for Sussex were published in the early years of the VCH, in volume 1 (1905) and volume 2 (1907). Work on Sussex was suspended about 1908 when the VCH nationally had financial difficulties.

Sussex was restarted in 1930 when the General Editor of the VCH, William Page, moved to live at Middleton on Sea near Bognor Regis. He began by commissioning outside authors to write the general article on Romano-British Sussex and the first of the topographical sections on the City of Chichester. Those two were published together in volume 3 in 1935.

Page's plan for the rest of the topographical chapters was to have one volume for each of the six historic divisions of the county known as rapes, numbered in order from west to east: Chichester rape in volume 4, Arundel in volume 5, Bramber in volume 6, Lewes in volume 7, Pevensey in volume 8, and Hastings in volume 9.

Three volumes were completed to that plan under Page (d. 1934) and his successor as General Editor, L. F. Salzman, a noted Sussex historian who had been on the VCH staff before the First World War. Hastings rape (volume 9) was published in 1937, Lewes rape (volume 7) in 1940, and Chichester rape (volume 4) in 1953. The places covered were researched and written up along the lines of the original VCH scheme, quite briefly and with most attention being given to the history of manors, churches, and buildings generally. Work on Sussex then lapsed again.

When work resumed on Sussex in 1971 the scope of the topographical histories of towns and rural parishes had been greatly enlarged. Individual places were researched and written up at much greater length and with far more detail about a wider range of historical topics. A revised plan for the rest of Sussex was drawn up in which each rape would covered in a series of volumes, but retaining the original numbering scheme.

Bramber rape was completed in three parts: volume 6 part 1 covers the southern section of the rape (1980), volume 6 part 2 the north-west (1986), and volume 6 part 3 the north-east (1987).

For Arundel rape, volume 5 part 1, covering the south-western section, appeared in 1997. Work has almost been completed on volume 5 part 2, covering the south-east. Research on volume 5 part 3, to cover the Arun Valley and the Downs, has recently been started. The rest of the rape will probably take up a further three parts.

No work is presently being undertaken on Pevensey rape.