Everything you need to know about Sussex Day on 16 June
- Credit: LanceB/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Discover the how the annual day of celebrations came about and immerse yourself in the history and heritage of the county by joining in these special events
With its vibrant towns and villages, beautiful landscapes and spirited communities, it’s easy to understand why Sussex is a great place to live. Sussex Day on 16 June is the perfect time to honour all there is to love about the county. Here’s what it’s all about...
What is Sussex Day?
Founded by Worthing-based Ian Steedman in 2006, Sussex Day shines a light on the county’s rich history and heritage. Today, it is celebrated from East to West, but it grew from humble beginnings.
‘Sussex towns traditionally have lots of different diary dates to observe but there was nothing to mark Sussex as a whole so I thought “let's just put the idea on paper and try it”,’ says Ian. ‘I wrote to all the county councils who believed it was a good idea, as did the local MPs here in Worthing. It simply grew from there.’
When is Sussex Day?
The date it takes place on holds a special meaning.
‘Everyone wanted the date to be in the spring or the summer but no one date was presenting itself as the stand-out option,’ says Ian. ‘Fortunately, I received a letter from a retired vicar from Hove who suggested June 16, which is St Richard’s Day. He’s the patron saint of Sussex and was the bishop of Chichester Cathedral in the 13th century so it seemed like the perfect fit.’
When did Sussex Day become officially recognised?
Henry Smith, MP of the Crawley Constituency, shares the story: ‘In 2006, when I was leader of West Sussex County Council, Ian Steedman approached me about commemorating Chichester’s diocese patron saint's day – St Richard on June 16 – as Sussex Day,’ he says. ‘It was an inspired idea that I was delighted to officially endorse in 2007 and which I’m pleased has grown since then.
‘Sussex is older than England and it’s fantastic we can celebrate our remarkable heritage together. All year round I display the Sussex flag in my parliamentary office. I pay tribute to Ian Steedman for his dedication to our history.’
What happens on Sussex Day?
‘For the first couple of years, some of the town criers read out the Sussex Charter and it’s common for people and places to fly the flag,’ says Ian. ‘However, there is no set guidance on what you should or shouldn't do on Sussex Day.’
One place that's flying the flag this Sussex Day is County Hall, Chichester. The flag features six martlets (a Saxon bird) on a blue background which represent the medieval administrative areas of Sussex: Chichester, Arundel, Bramber, Lewes, Pevensey and Hastings.
Ian is still an avid supporter of the day: ‘I’ve taken a bit of a step back recently, due to a stroke, but there are so many people involved in it now that I’m happy to. I’m still very interested in what’s going on in the county and try and keep abreast of new buildings and the like. It’s such an interesting county.’
What to do in Sussex on Sussex Day
Three things to put on your radar...
1. Take a quick history lesson. Those eager to delve into the history of the county can join the free online event by the West Sussex Record Office and Screen Archive South East. Titled ‘West Sussex Unwrapped Live: South Downs National Park’, the virtual event starts at 7pm and is a great chance to take a closer look at treasured documents and film footage that tell the story of the South Downs National Park and to hear from the archivists and curators who care for these collections. The event is being held via Zoom and you can book here.
2. Hear the town crier in Worthing. Bob Smytherman, the official town crier for the borough of Worthing is usually called upon to help mark the day by reading aloud the Sussex Charter. This year, he is reciting it aboard an open-top bus in Hove for the Radio Sussex breakfast show, as well as to the residents at Avon Manor Dementia Care Home and also to the public from the steps between Worthing Pier and The Worthing Lido.
‘The day is designed to recognise the historic county of Sussex and the Sussex Charter reflects that,’ he says.
An important line in the charter is: ‘Finally, let it be known, as guardians of Sussex, we all know Sussex is Sussex… and Sussex won’t be druv!’ - a motto of sorts meaning that the people of Sussex have minds of their own and won’t be told what to do.
‘My family moved here from Kent 300 years ago so Sussex holds a special place in my heart and to be able to mark the day as town crier is a lovely connection,’ adds Bob.
3. Embark on a journey of discovery at Chichester Cathedral. Chichester Cathedral is observing the day, the Feast of Saint Richard, by inviting people on a pilgrimage to The Shrine of St Richard, an important space for prayer and reflection which contains the Saint's relics behind the High Altar (see the updated guidance on visiting). If you can’t make it in person, you can join the Virtual Pilgrimage, which guides you from the Cathedral’s West Door to the historic Shrine, offering an opportunity to discover more about the well-trodden route and the history of the Chapels, objects and art along the way.
The Cathedral’s Canon Chancellor, the Reverend Dr Daniel Inman, explains the significance: 'The feast day of St Richard is also recognised as Sussex Day across our two counties because of his humble service to the people of Sussex. His shrine was, prior to the Reformation, the third greatest pilgrim-destination in England after Canterbury and Walsingham and he continues to draw many here on pilgrimages.'
There will also be a special service at 5.30pm, which will be streamed to the Cathedral’s website, Facebook and YouTube pages.