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History of Sompting

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Sompting is a relatively small village sandwiched as it were in a wedge between Worthing and Lancing and the South Downs in West Sussex, Historically it comprises what were two villages: Sompting [or S(t)ultinges] and Cokeham (or Cocheham )as they appear in the  Domesday Book According to the Dictionary of Place Names the name derives from the Old English word “sumpt” or “sunt” meaning  a marsh or pool. Other spellings of the  village name are recorded Sumpting, Sownting ,Sodempytng, Suntinges, Sumptinges, Sultinges & Souptyng

 

According to the 11th Century Domesday Book there was another village/hamlet within the area covered by the modern village – that of  Dentune which was located high on the Downs and may have disappeared at the time of the Black Death. It is possible that the name Dankton Lane track which runs up into the Downs derives from that

 

 Sompting is probably most famous, if that’s the word, for its Parish Church set on the Downs overlooking the village and  dedicated to St Mary. With its spectacular Saxon Helm tower (the only one of its type outside the Rhine valley in Germany) its earliest parts  date back to 960AD.but its architectural styles also encompass Anglo-Saxon to Jacobean

 

The church was given to the Knights Templar but following their suppression in 1306 it passed to the Knights Hospitallers until 1538 under the Reformation. Ruins of an Hospitallers added chapel can be seen on the north side of the church

 

There were originally 4 Manors - Sompting Peverell, Lychpole, Sompting Abbotts and Cokeham.The only manor house of the 4 surviving is that of Sompting Peverell now known as Church Farm. Whilst Sompting Abbotts (initially called Sompting House) is close to the church it only dates from 1856 and has been a Prep School since 1920’s The former Sompting Rectory (now privately owned) occupies a site below Sompting Abbots school. Cokeham manor house survived until the 1960’s when it was demolished when making way for modern housing developments. A farm house now occupies the site of the original Lychpole  manor house on the Sompting-Steyning road .

 

In the 1930’s Sompting was to be the site of an early form of the South of England show on the farmland east of the Marquis of Granby public house,(known as Philips Field ), indeed the same site was even  used by neighbouring Worthing Borough Council in the 1960’s for its annual Donkey Derby

 

Sompting has seen a massive expansion in the years from 1960 with a number of housing developments seeing the disappearance of all the local nurseries, a large area of allotments and eventually its last working farm in West Street

 

  Bushby’s      ; South of Croshaw Recreation ground – Elizabeth Place & Bushby    

                        Close

  Sparks         ; “Greentrees” estate – between Cokeham lane & Boundstone lane

  Pullenberry’s; now the Rectory Farm estate

  Russells         ; western edge of Seadown estate as it was then known  Western Road

                          /Hamble Road area

  Linfields       ; Highview

  ????              ; St Mary’s Close

 

However   Sparks 2 is  still operational but only as grazing for sheep at Steepdown

 

The  major area of Allotments disappeared under Western Road North and Test Road but all is apparently not lost as there are new allotments at top of Halewick Lane, provided by Adur District Council.

 

The last barnyard in the village itself finally disappeared with the building of Barn Close, West Street. There are three working farms in the Sompting Estate: Lychpole Farm with its buildings at Beggars Bush on the Steyning Road, Upton Farm with its buildings at Stable Cross at the top of Lambleys Lane, and Church Farm with a barn on Lambleys Lane.

 

 

The village has some fairly eminent historical connections .

 

Edward John Trelawny 1792-1881 was a close friend of the poets Shelley & Byron. He is perhaps famed for snatching Shelleys heart from his funeral pyre following the poets untimely drowning in Italy – it was kept by his wife Mary Shelley and eventually buried with their son. Trelawny himself lived it is believed in the farmhouse behind Sompting Church.for the last 12 years of his life There is of course a house known as Trelawneys Cottage to be found in West Street!!

 

Queen Caroline (Queen of King George IV) is known to have stayed in Sompting, possibly during her estrangement from the King

 

Harriet Finlay Johnson (and quite possibly the most famous of them all) as headmistress of Sompting School in the early years of 20th century, she was to introduce a new form of education which was to be the forerunner of comprehensive education involving nature rambles, educational visits, lessons out of doors and art & drama  which would in time become integral to all school curriculum. Her period at the school was to end in 1909 following her marriage to George Weller a 20 year old former pupil 17 years younger than her. Her own book “The Dramatic Method of Teaching “ influenced the educational thinking of teachers worldwide; she was herself to be the subject of a book by Mary Bowmaker early in the C20 entitled “A Little School on the Downs”.  Her old school which now forms part of the Sompting Community Centre has been renamed in her memory