Ireland’s Legend was inspired by another Sussex location, Harrow Hill. Like Chanctonbury, it carries many layers of history, with Neolithic flint mines as well as a settlement and enclosure dating back to the Bronze Age.
There was a medieval leper colony to the west of Harrow Hill, hence the story that lies behind Ireland’s tone poem. There are also a number of leper windows in the vicinity, including Clapham and Burpham parish churches. In the picture of Burpham church below, the lower window on the left is a medieval leper’s window that dates from around 1330, which allowed lepers to view a service from the outside without coming into contact with others.
A local lepers’ track connected colony, church and hospital further away in Arundel. For more information see below:
Ireland’s legend and personal experience in the Downs therefore have their roots in a real history.