Fittleworth is a village a few miles west of Pulborough, not far from Ireland’s mill in Washington, sandwiched in the heart of the South Downs between Stopham and Byworth.
When Ireland was connected with Sussex, Fittleworth was served by a railway station on the Midhurst Railways route, a tiny branch line connecting the villages of Pulborough, Fittleworth, Petworth, Selham and Midhurst, which finally closed for good a few years after the composer’s death, in 1966.
A famous Fittleworth landmark is the Swan Inn, visited by Ireland and friends, and boasting connections with Constable, Elgar and Kipling and Parry. Dating back to 1382, the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers was founded here in 1924 ‘to foster the noble Art and gentle and healthy Pastime of froth blowing amongst Gentlemen of-leisure and ex-Soldiers’. The inn was used as an auction house in the nineteenth and well into the twentieth centuries.
In 1905 E.V. Lucas (1868–1938) , author of The Open Road (1899), described it thus:
The “Swan” is a venerable and rambling building, stretching itself lazily with outspread arms; one of those inns (long may they be preserved from the rebuilders!) in which one stumbles up or down into every room, and where eggs and bacon have an appropriateness that make them a more desirable food than ambrosia. The little parlour is wainscoted with the votive paintings—a village Diploma Gallery—of artists who have made the “Swan” their home.
Fittleworth has a dual existence. In the south it is riparian and low, much given to anglers and visitors. In the north it is high and sandy, with clumps of firs, living its own life and spreading gorse-covered commons at the feet of the walker. Between its southern border and Bignor Park is a superb common of sand and heather, an inland paradise for children.
E. V. Lucas. Highways and Byways in Sussex. New York: Macmillan, 1904: p.96.
In recent years the inn has had a somewhat turbulent history, closing several times, but still looks much as it did in Ireland’s day and is currently open for business: