The South Downs have reverberated to the most dramatic events of English history. William of Normandy led his invading army ashore at Sussex in 1066. He ruthlessly divided the county into administrative units known as ‘rapes’ which he distributed amongst his kinsmen. The Black Death visited our downland villages in mediaeval times, as did rebellion among the peasants and yeoman, including Jack Cade’s revolt of 1450.
The English Civil War of the 1640’s divided the county, some people adhering to Parliament and others to the King. Other, perhaps most, did not want to pick a side at all and rose up against all factions during The Clubmen Rising of the later 1640’s. The enclosure of commons in the eighteenth century and the arrival of the railways in the nineteenth brought great changes to life in the South Downs as did the development of seaside resorts along the coast.
The twentieth century brought even greater change, with roads and motor traffic invading all parts of the once peaceful South Downs. Housing estates mushroomed as the population doubled in a generation. In 1923 The Society of Sussex Downsmen (now Friends of the South Downs) was created to campaign for the conservation and preservation of these great chalk hills and their heritage, and for the quiet enjoyment of visitors.