News from across Sussex this March 2014

Jonathan Hirsch

Jonathan Hirsch - Credit: Archant

A round-up of the latest Sussex news

All Souls, Eastbourne. Picture courtesy of National Churches Trust

All Souls, Eastbourne. Picture courtesy of National Churches Trust - Credit: Archant

Rescue package for Sussex churches

The National Churches Trust has announced a £645,000 rescue package for 45 of the UK’s most historic and community-minded churches, including Brighton’s unofficial cathedral, St Peter’s.

Billingshurst Unitarian Chapel and All Souls, Eastbourne have also received National Churches Trust grants.

St Peter’s in Brighton has been awarded £40,000 to fund tower repairs. It was built in 1827 and designed by Charles Barry, a then largely unknown architect who was later knighted. Grade II-listed Billingshurst Unitarian Chapel has been given £10,000 and All Souls in Eastbourne £20,000 to help fund repairs.

The National Churches Trust, founded in 1953, is an independent charity, which receives no financial support from church authorities or government.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust, said: “Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, over the last year we have been able to help 130 places of worship. But due to a continuing increase in applications for help, we have to turn down many deserving applications. The National Churches Trust receives no financial support from church authorities or government. So, if you would like to help us to keep churches, chapels and meeting houses alive, please consider joining us as a Friend or by making a donation to support our work.”

Full information is on the Trust’s website at

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A whale of a time

Television presenter Gok Wan will open the third annual WhaleFest in Brighton. The cetacean celebration returns to the Hilton Brighton Metropole over the weekend of 15 to 16 March 2014. Organisers expect more than 10,000 visitors to the family-friendly event.

Visitors will enjoy presentations by some of the world’s leading marine life experts and well-known television personalities including Pete Bethune, star of Whale Wars and The Operatives and ex-SeaWorld trainer Samantha Berg, who features in the documentary film Blackfish.

There’s also the opportunity to sail the oceans and encounter whales in a 180° submarine movie dome, watch films and performances on the festival main stage, and visit stalls from related businesses.

WhaleFest is a not-for-profit event that will raise funds for the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) – a global partnership of NGOs, scientists and individuals.Day tickets are £9.75 if booked in advance or £12.50 on the door. Advance concessions are £7.75 a day. Weekend tickets are free for children up to the age of 12 if accompanied by a paying adult.

For further information and ticket reservations, please visit

Guitar Hero

Dreams have come true for one Hove man as he has unveiled his own guitar design.

Jonathan Hirsch wanted to combine the convenience of a travel guitar with the quality of a professional-standard instrument. The Hirsch SB-1 Radius ‘small-body’ electric guitar is now in production.

The story started at school, says the 41- year-old from Hove. “I couldn’t afford the Fender Stratocaster that I dearly wanted, so I decided to build one. At first I tried to do it from scratch but came unstuck when I realised my woodworking skills just weren’t up to it. So I built one from off the shelf parts – which taught me a lot about how electric guitars are put together. This led to my passion for playing evolving into a keen interest in guitar design.”

The Hirsch SB-1 Radius design began to take shape shortly after Jonathan’s 18th birthday when he was given a second guitar to build. When he took his precious instrument to America, it was damaged in the aircraft’s hold.

“It got me thinking,” he recalls, “it had to be possible to design a guitar that you could be sure of keeping safely on-board the plane.”

Realising there was a gap in the market for a high-end yet travel-friendly electric guitar, Jonathan set about designing one.

After years of painstaking work, prototyping, refining the design and overcoming numerous obstacles, Jonathan’s dream has been fulfilled.

One of the first to get his hands on an early prototype was Jonathan’s near neighbour, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame. The legendary rock star found the SB-1 Radius to be “very well put together and very nice to play”.

The Hirsch SB-1Radius is available direct from Hirsch Guitar and through retailers World Guitars in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, and Play Away Guitars in the Old Shoreham Road, Hove. The retail price, including travel case, is £3,995.

A royal gift from Rockinghorse

Brighton’s Posh Totty Designs and Rockinghorse have sent a bespoke charity necklace to new mother Zara Phillips, who gave birth to daughter Mia Grace in January. The Brighton-based company created a special Rockinghorse jewellery range of handmade bespoke items – necklaces, bracelets, cufflinks, tie pins and badges – with up to 100 per cent of the profits being donated to the children’s charity.

The focal point of the Rockinghorse range is the beautiful silhouette of a child’s rocking horse, which has been designed in conjunction with Rockinghorse Children’s Charity’s own logo.

Alice River-Cripps and Katie Smith from Posh Totty Designs, attended a cheque presentation at the Alex, having raised £3,679.38 to make life better for sick children in Sussex.

Rockinghorse is the official fundraising arm of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex) and a vital supporter of the Trevor Mann Baby Unit (TMBU). It raises money for life-saving and cutting-edge medical equipment, whilst ensuring that children are treated in an environment better suited to their needs.

Eye on the past - Sussex history, anecdotes and folklore, compiled by Chris Horlock

A smuggler’s end

Gravestones that actually show the fate of the buried person are rare, but this one, in Bosham churchyard, clearly shows an accident at sea. Thomas Burrow, master of the sloop, Two Brothers, fell into the sea on 13th October 1759, as can be seen top left. He was 23.

Anyone who owned a boat back then was into smuggling in one way or another, and so it was with Burrow. However, this seems to have been ignored by whoever came up with the verse inscribed below the carving of his last moments:

Tho’ Boreas’s storms and Neptune’s waves have tos’d me to and fro Yet I at length by God’s decree am harboured here below

Where at Anchor here I lay

with many of our Fleet

Yet once again I shall set sail my Saviour Christ to meet


Ringing the changes

This is the lock of the ancient door leading from the porch to the nave of St Andrew’s Church, Steyning. It’s one of the few churches in Sussex that retains its sanctuary ring. In medieval times, someone accused of a crime could run into a church, grasp the ring on the door – if it had one – and claim the sanctuary of the church. This meant they would be free from persecution for 40 days. They had to stay in the building and would be looked after – and guarded – by the parishioners. There would be a huge fine if the accused escaped. There were then two options for the individual involved; confess to the crime, or flee the country. Confession would obviously bring punishment, even death. Fleeing the country meant a public ceremony at the church gate, where all the criminal’s possessions were surrendered, including any land they owned. They would then be escorted onto a road leading to the nearest port and expected to leave the country at the first opportunity. There are no records of any of this happening at St Andrews, but it’s easy to take the sanctuary ring in your hand when standing at the door and imagine a medieval criminal hanging onto it and shouting out, “Sanctuary!’ bringing everyone around running.

The right of sanctuary was finally abolished as late as 1623.