Bramber, West Sussex

By Tania Noddings

April 2020

Bramber is a picturesque village in Sussex which punches above its weight in terms of attractions and its wealth of history, making it so attractive to visitors.

During the Norman Conquest in 1066, arriving with William Duke of Normandy was his trusted kinsman, William de Braose, the future 1st Lord of Bramber.  This arrival was the start of the brutal and notorious dynasty of the de Braose family in the medieval period.  The ruins of the Norman castle, established and developed by the Lords of Bramber, still dominate the village today. 

Now under the care of English Heritage, Bramber Castle is open to visitors year-round enabling them to explore the grounds and enjoy the scenic views.  The Magna Carta, sealed in 1215, was the first document to put into writing the principle that the king was not above the law. It was, in part, events surrounding Bramber Castle and the people who lived there that led to the Barons forcing King John to this historic moment. 

One of the main attractions for visitors is an historic half-timbered house called St. Mary’s. Dating from the 15th century, it was used as hostel accommodation for medieval pilgrims. Today it is a privately owned home which, with its garden, is open to the visiting public at selected times during the summer months. 

Bramber was on a medieval pilgrimage route from Southampton to Canterbury known as the Old Way’. The significance of the village on this route has been identified on the Gough Map which is internationally renowned as one of the earliest to show Britain in a geographically recognisable form. The map is dated c.1360, making it broadly contemporary with Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous Canterbury Tales – tales of imaginary medieval pilgrims told as they travelled together from London to Canterbury. An online guide to the Old Way is due to be launched at the end of April 2020 by the British Pilgrimage Trust. More information about the Old Way and the Gough Map can be found at

With the arrival of the railway in 1861, Bramber became a destination attractive to Victorian day-trippers. Tea rooms sprang up around the village and castle grounds. The local pub was a focus for visitors too. To capitalise on this and provide something of interest for visitors, the landlord’s son, Walter Potter, started to display his taxidermy work.  Eventually, these curios were moved to a dedicated museum next door to the pub, attracting visitors for years. Following Walter’s death in 1918, Potter’s Museum was maintained by his family into the 1970s. 

The latest village attraction is the wonderful Bramber Brooks Nature Reserve, recently opened for the public to enjoy. Located behind The Street in Bramber, it stretches from the foot of the Castle across to the River Adur.

Tania is a qualified SE England Blue Badge Guide based in Sussex