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Hooe as seen through the Eyes of Others


By R Thurston Hopkins

Published by Simkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. Ltd, in 1921 (Not in Copyright)


THERE are several old houses at Hooe, about four miles north-west of Bexhill, which are worth examination. There is a fine old fireplace at Eaton's Farm, which bears the date 1672, Court Lodge, which was built in 1637, is a handsome old house, and once the residence of the Fullers, a family mentioned in Kipling's "Gloriana." Many generations of this family of forge-masters are buried in Hooe churchyard.

On account of the awful earthquake at Lisbon, which even affected the sea round the Sussex coast, a general fast was appointed for Friday, February 6th, 1756, and Nathanael Torriano, M.D., Minister of Hooe and Ninfield, preached two sermons, which were printed, secured much notice, and obtained a large circulation. Copies of them are in the British Museum. His congregation on the Thursday evening must have been more sleepy than usual, for he said, "Do not prostitute this house of prayer by changing it into a dormitory'

The vestry of Hooe Church is said to have been built about 1100. In the east end is a large arched recess, in which there existed a very old fireplace. It is supposed an altar stood in it.

It has been suggested that the base of the chimney stack once supported a calvary (or stone cross), or formed the steps to an entrance. Another idea is there was a room to the east of the vestry, and a door where the chimney stands. Part of the brickwork is Norman (as in Battle Abbey). It is possible that it was the Prior's residence till about 1370, when it became a lady chapel, and in 1559-60, it was transformed into a vestry, with a fireplace where the altar had stood. The masonry in the gable ends is of a later period probably Perpendicular.

The interior walls of the vestry are very uneven, but colourwash, whitewash and plaster prevent an examination of their composition.

The Lamb Inn on Sewers Bridge on the road to Pevensey, the Wheatsheaf Inn at Little Common on the road to Bexhill, and the Red Lion at Hooe are all ancient and notable old inns with noble open fireplaces and plenty of Sussex oak beams in their ceilings. The most critical wayfarer, if he can find half an excuse should turn in and quaff a pint of ale with the marshmen at the Lamb. Here, if it be a winter's evening, ash-wood logs burn and lend incense to the old rooms. Only green ash wood is used for fuel in Sussex. Sare that is the local word for withered wood is never used:

"Burn ash-wood green, Fit fuel for a Queen: Burn ash-wood sare Twool make a man swear."

What a wonderful thing is the tickle of ashwood smoke! It is a little flitting ghost of an odour subtle with suggestions of the English country-side and home. Surely, it is one of the most poignant of our emotions, this nostalgia born of a whiff of wood smoke. Kipling knows the odour of burning logs as the parent of visions and reveries, for I find him telling the Royal Geographical Society (February 18, 1914), all about this primal and elemental appeal to our emotions:

"I suggest, subject to correction there are only two elementary smells of universal appeal the smell of burning fuel and the smell of melting grease. The smell, that is, of what man cooks his food over, and what he cooks his food in. Fuel ranges from coal to cowdung specially cowdung and cocoanut-husk; grease from butter through ghi to palm and cocoanut oil; and these two, either singly or in combination, make the background and furnish the active poison of nearly all the smells which assault and perturb the mind of the wayfaring man returned to civilisation. I rank wood-smoke first since it calls up more, more intimate and varied memories over a wider geographical range, to a larger number of individuals than any other agent that we know. My powers are limited, but I think I would undertake to transport a quarter of a million Englishmen to any point in South Africa, from Zambezi to Cape Agulhas, with no more elaborate vehicle than a box of matches, a string or two of rifle cordite, a broken-up biscuit box, some chips of a creosoted railway sleeper, and a handful of dried cowdung, and to land each man in the precise spot he had in his mind. And that is only a small part of the world that wood-smoke controls. A whiff of it can take us back to forgotten marches over unnamed mountains with disreputable companions; to day-long halts beside flooded rivers in the rain; wonderful mornings of youth in brilliantly lighted lands where everything was possible and generally done; to uneasy wakings under the low desert moon and on top of cruel, hard pebbles; and, above all, to that God's own hour, all the world over, when the stars have gone out and it is too dark to see clear, and one lies with the fumes of last night's embers in one's nostrils lies and waits for a new horizon to heave itself up against a new dawn.

Woodsmoke magic works on every one according to his experience. I live in a wood-smoke country and I know how men, otherwise silent, become suddenly and surprisingly eloquent under its influence."

About two and a half miles west of Bexhill is Cooden Beach. Bungalows fringe the sea front, but the beach is very secluded. The following verses, written by Geoffrey Howard, express the repose, sweetness of the sea air, and beauty of the chance-made gardens of the surrounding country:

"I know a beach road,
A road where I would go,
It runs up northward
From Cooden Bay to Hooe;
And there, in the High Woods,
Daffodils grow.
And whoever walks along there
Stops short and sees,
By the moist tree-roots
In a clearing of the trees,
Yellow great battalions of them
Blowing in the breeze.
And there shall rise to me
From that consecrated ground
The old dreams, the lost dreams
That years and cares have drowned:
Welling up within me
And above me and around
The song that I could never sing
And the face I never found."

[End of Article on Hooe]

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