Not far from Bramber Castle, Upper Beeding is a charming village that has much heritage of its own – from medieval salt making to providing refuge for fleeing nuns – making it an intriguing place to visit.
Upper Beeding itself occupies a gap in the South Downs in the Adur valley. Beeding – as the village is known locally – is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) and formed part of the lands gifted by William the Conqueror to William de Braose, after the Norman Conquest in 1066.
About three miles to the west, on the ridge of the South Downs, can be seen the Iron Age hill fort at Chanctonbury. To the east, lying much closer within Upper Beeding parish, is Windmill Hill. There was a windmill here at one time, of course, though this was destroyed in a storm in 1888. Beyond Windmill Hill can be seen Truleigh Hill with its transmitter masts, and the site of an RAF radar station during World War II.
Historically the village itself was unusual in having three main focal points. A little to the north lay Sele Priory, close to where the parish church of St Peter now stands. The Benedictine priory was founded around 1080, on land gifted by William de Braose to an abbey at Saumur in France. Sele Priory had a troubled history, although at its peak it owned lands across Sussex and in France. It finally closed in 1480, when its remaining lands came into the ownership of Magdalen College, Oxford. During the Middle Ages, the name Sele was frequently used for the village of Beeding as a whole.
The second main village centre was the area along the High Street, immediately to the east of the river bridge. Lying along a causeway built in the late 11th century, it formed part of a turnpiked road that connected London to Steyning and then on to Brighton for the booming coach trade that developed from the 1750s onwards.
Finally, further east is Hyde Street where several of the local farms had their farmhouses, and associated businesses such as blacksmiths and wheelwrights were established.
The many farms showed the economy originated in agriculture, while various goods would have been transported on the river. The village remains well served with shops and two schools.
All photography © Frank Bull
Next – look into the practicalities of walking the trail