On this day in 1906 John Ireland was in Littlehampton, taking part in the annual St Luke’s choir summer outing. Littlehampton was at that time a thriving harbour and popular destination, as seen in surviving historic photographs. The day began early with a 6am train from Victoria. After changes at Arundel and Ford, the party arrived at the seaside at 9am. The morning was spent in the sea. 12.30pm saw the group assembled for lunch and a commemorative photograph (tantalisingly lost). The rector, Henry Bevan, joined them from London at this point. In the afternoon some went rowing, some for a drive, bathed again and met for tea. The return journey commenced at 8pm with 4 boys missing. Charles Hindes, the vestry clerk, had to stay behind to locate and bring home the miscreants.
Ireland’s attachment to Sussex, the county where his fancies took on musical form, started early. He was a regular visitor to the coast (Littlehampton, Brighton, Seaford) with the choirboys of St Luke’s. In the 1920s he took a pied-à-terre in Ashington, close to where he would eventually live in Rock Mill. The place was Ivy Cottage, on the edge of the village, as seen on the map below. Still there, the cottage now stands on the busy London Road (the A24). The road just below, with the Rectory shown, is where Ireland lived in a room on Meiros Farm in the early 1950s, before buying his windmill.
Today, between Rackham and Chanctonbury. Mild and breezy.
John Ireland is one of many English composers drawn to the county of Sussex (both East and West).
Home of Parry
In addition to Ireland living at Rock Mill, Washington, others with Sussex associations include:
- Bax, Arnold: Storrington
- Brian, Havergal: Brighton
- Bridge, Frank: Friston
- Coates, Albert: Selsey
- Elgar, Edward: Fittleworth
- Gipps, Ruth: Bexhill-on-Sea
- Harrison, Julius: Hastings
- Murdoch, William: Bognor Regis
- Parry, Hubert: Rustington
- Reeves, Sims: Worthing
- Sammons, Albert: Bognor Regis
- Scott, Cyril: Eastbourne
- Turnbull, Percy: Pulborough
- Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Rottingdean
This is another in the ‘Sussex in words’ blog series, taking evocative passages to show some of the ways in which the county is captured in words, their meanings often close in sensibility to Ireland’s way of thinking about the downland landscape he loved so well.
Puppeteer Walter Wilkinson’s A Sussex Peep-Show, introduced in a blog post earlier this year, is full of little gems such as this:
A sheltered bay among the bushes invited comfortable camping, and we set the tent, laying our beds over the thick grass and the fragrant thyme. From the tent door, across the edge of the Down, we looked out to the Weald, over all the trees and woods of Sussex, the great plain receding into the misty line of the North Downs. Nothing disturbed the immense serenity; we were in the heavens, looking down on a toy, miniature world that was all beauty, and light, and colour, a world of loveliness in which all men might live had they but the good taste to embrace it.