Sussex Day

By Tania Noddings

16 June 2020

Sussex Day is celebrated on 16 June each year, the feast day of Saint Richard (1197 –1253), the patron saint of Sussex.

Richard was Bishop of Chichester and was known for the miracle of the overturned chalice. The story tells that Richard, tired and ill from his labours, was celebrating mass and dropped the chalice containing the consecrated wine, amazingly none was spilt!   Richard was canonised as a saint in 1262, and this miracle is depicted on his coat of arms as a cross, with a cup in each quarter of the shield.  

During the medieval period, Saint Richard’s shrine at Chichester Cathedral was one of the most important for pilgrims to visit. The cathedral remains popular with visitors today.

The county flag is based upon Sussex’s traditional emblem, six gold martlets on a blue field.  A martlet is a heraldic and mythical bird, like a swallow without feet.

The first known recording of this emblem representing the county was in 1611 when it was used in a map showing the Kingdom of the South Saxons (Sussex).  This was likely repeating an earlier association between the emblem and the county as it is thought that the emblem originated from the coat of arms of the 14th century Knight of the Shire, Sir John de Radynden. 

Today the emblem is used by many Sussex organisations. The Sussex flag will be flying across the county on 16 June to mark Sussex Day!

Sussex is one of only a few counties to have an unofficial anthem. ‘Sussex by the Sea’ was written in 1907 by William Ward-Higgs.  The song became popular during the First World War, having already been adopted by the Royal Sussex Regiment.  It remains well known and is regularly sung at celebrations throughout the county.  ’Sussex by the Sea’ is also the adopted song of both Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Sussex CCC.

The county flower is the beautiful deep-blue round-headed rampion or ‘Pride of Sussex’, which grows almost exclusively on the chalk grassland of the South Downs National Park, a magnet for colourful downland insects including the chalkhill blue butterfly. 

Sussex is also the home of Banoffee Pie, one of the best loved puddings in the world.  In 1971, Nigel Mackenzie, owner, and Ian Dowding, chef, of The Hungry Monk Restaurant in Jevington, claimed credit for it’s invention. From this, the word “Banoffee” entered the English language to describe anything tasting of both banana and toffee.

Tania is a SE England Blue Badge Guide based in Sussex