Sunday 30 May 2010

The Sunday Story: Chanctonbury.

For Sussex/Surrey folk (I count myself amongst those privileged few), Chanctonbury Ring is the centre of the world. Non-Sussex/Surrey folk may not be aware, but it is in fact the very navel of The Garden of Eden. It's the bit on top in the picture.

In his excellent book 'The Four Men', Hilaire Belloc recounts the story of how Chanctonbury's original inhabitants (an honest couple of good Sussex stock, not dissimilar to Lord and Lady Magnon) were disgracefully booted out for having eaten a Cox's Orange Pippin apple. However, the bailiffs decided that it would be 'rather petty' to send them on their way without means of survival, so gave them the following 'minimum' with which they could be expected to survive elsewhere (possibly over the border in Surrey).

They were offered a basic tool box. A cock and six hens (Sussex lights, of course). Paint brushes and a tube of sepia. Six pencils from 4B to 2H. Tobacco in a tin. A latin primer. A selection of verse and prose by good writers (probably including Belloc). A small printing press. The elements of jurisprudence. A compact medicine chest. A collection of seeds. And two pigs (one of each gender).

Had I been in charge of the list-making, I would have included a No 8 Opinel pocket knife, a decent ball of twine, and possibly a one-way ticket for the Dieppe ferry. But bailiffs, being bailiffs, can't think of everything.

With apologies, to all his hiers and descendants, for my liberal translation and occasional alteration of Belloc's original words.


  1. I should possibly explain that I was born in Surrey, but if I threw a stone southwards it would probably have landed in Sussex. I was also at school in Sussex until the age of 14, at which time my people moved down to the Sussex coast. So I think of myself as a Sussex/Surrey mix.

  2. That sounds like a new twist on Adam and Eve :>) Great story! I'd like to read that book, must try to find a copy!

  3. By the list of objects, it seems as if they were meant to start their own publishing business. But who has the time when you're chasing around all that fowl and two pigs?

    I like your idea for the ferry ticket!

  4. I think they were intended to become beligerent lawyers; ready to tackle injustice.

  5. Molly already beat me to the reference to Adam and Eve. Woolly socks would be my addition to the list.

  6. An efficient bailiff-killer would be a good addition, but - although I have plenty of those - I cannot think of a legal one. I have a book called 'The Scouring', I think you would like that, Cro.


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