Brighton to Winchester

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Brighton to Winchester

(COURIER: These notes assume you take A27 west of Brighton — thus some of the towns talked about are off the road to your left — and at Southampton take A33 north to Winchester or the A36 to Salisbury.)

Hove  A fashionable resort (population: 60,000) that's become a part of Brighton. A large naval training establishment grew up in the town during World War II.

Shoreham-by-Sea (population: 13,000) is an old seaport, and many of its houses and churches go back to Norman times. Even an old timber bridge survives in Old Shoreham.

Lancing  Important for its prominent landmark, the public school of Lancing College, founded mid-19th century by Canon Woodward. The huge college chapel, in pure Gothic style (modern) is visible for many miles.

Worthing (population: 70,000) is an example of a residential town that has been "discovered," mainly by Londoners, and is now booming. Part of the popularity is the town's five miles of sea-frontage, and also the climate: it is said that the annual average number of hours of sunshine is among the highest in Britain. The large-scale building of vacation homes, unfortunately, has started to engulf the little villages nearby. A pier for steamer trips, a bandstand, concert halls and museum are typical of the resort structures going up in the town.

South Downs  The hills running parallel to us on the right are called the "South Downs" ("Downs" - old English word for moderate hills.) The Downs are about 7 miles wide, and run for 50-60 miles, just inland from the coast. Lovely sloping hills, mainly grass covered, and popular with local people for walking and picnics. A springy turf often covers the hills. The highest of these hills often have names ending with "Beacon": e.g. Crowborough Beacon (823 feet), Wolstanbury Beacon (675 feet). The "Beacon" comes from the old custom of lighting signal fires on the hilltops during times of national danger (invasion from the sea, etc.). The messages would then be relayed to London.

Arundel  An ancient town, many of whose houses still have their old red brick buildings. The houses were built in tiers of southern slopes of South Downs. Arundel Castle dominates the town. It is the Seat of the Duke of Norfolk (uncle of Queen Elizabeth), who has the title of "Earl of Arundel" and office of Chief Butler. The title goes back to 1290, when King Edward I rewarded Richard of Arundel for his services in the war against Scotland, and gave him the title, Earl of Arundel. The castle is well preserved, furnished, and still used by the Duke of Norfolk, though open to the public.

Racing enthusiasts enjoy visiting Goodwood Park and the racecourse nearby, where fashionable gatherings take place at the end of July (the Royal Family often attending).

Chichester  A very ancient town, already an established community by the time the Romans invaded Britain. The town was completely Romanized: it was laid out in the grid pattern of the Roman castrum. A paved Roman road ran from the town to London. The town is also famous for its Norman cathedral (so perfectly proportioned, it looks several times larger than it actually is). The Bell Tower is detached from the main building: Chichester is now the only cathedral in Britain where this is so. The harbor of Chichester is usually full of small boats and yachts. Local Festival Theatre features outdoor productions, of international renown.

Portsmouth (Population: 250,000)  The chief naval base of Britain and the largest city on England's southern coast. The city is affectionately called "Pompey" by its inhabitants and by seamen the world over. The city's status as a major port is due to its setting on a perfect bay, sheltered from the Channel by a narrow neck. The harbor is five miles long, and centers on the royal Dockyard, laid out in 1540 by Henry VIII. Today, the dockyard covers over 300 acres, 4 large dry docks, and 75 acres of repair basins and all other installations necessary for maintaining the Royal Navy.

H.M.S. Victory, Nelson's flagship (launched here in 1765) at the Battle of Trafalgar, has been repaired and restored and can be viewed at the Old Dock. A plaque marks the place where Nelson fell, mortally wounded, at the moment of victory.

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812, at 393 Commercial Road; the house is now a museum, with his personal effects, first-edition copies of books, etc.

World War II: Being headquarters of the Royal Navy, the city was bombarded, especially in 1940, and many historic buildings were lost. On D-Day 1944, the city became a launching point for ships big and small bound for the French coast. Special jetties were built right on the beach.

Southampton  If Portsmouth is Britain's naval center, Southampton is its commercial port. (Population: 170,000) In medieval times, it was a military port as well. From here sailed the English armies that defeated the French at Crecy and Agincourt (cf. Shakespeare's Henry V). Like Portsmouth, Southampton attracted German bombers in 1940, and suffered considerable damage. But the docks were rebuilt and remain the home of the famous liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary (or were, before the latter was removed to San Diego). The old walls remain in the town, and in the shadow of one of them is England's oldest bowling green, going back to 1299.

Mayflower: From Southampton's West Quay, on August 15, 1620, a band of English Puritans set sail on the Mayflower for religious freedom and a new life in New England. They landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

Other Historical Items: This port is one of England's oldest settlements; it was inhabited during the Stone Age. In A.D. 43, the Romans made it their port for the nearby city of Winchester (which they called Venta Begarum), and built a fort to protect the port. The attraction of the port is the two rivers flowing into it, and the double tides which ensureadequate depth for ships of all sizes. The harbor is well protected, being six miles inland. Hence the city's nickname, "Gateway to England." Ships leave here for Le Havre and Cherbourg in France.

In the 18th century, Southampton became a fashionable spa, and many vacation homes were built in the Georgian style of the day. Thus, historic buildings combine with modern port facilities to make the city an interesting place to visit. (COURIER: Soon after passing Southampton, begin your introduction to Winchester or Salisbury.)

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