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through the door


Local History 31 Local Sheep and Pig Thieves at


Christmas Time By Valerie Martin Life in Elizabethan times in rural Sussex must have been a pretty grim place for some on the lower rungs of the social scale.


Now all our neighbours' chimnies smoke, And Christmas blocks are burning;


Their ovens they with baked meats choke, And all their spits are turning. Without the door let sorrow lie, And if for cold it hap to die,


We'll bury it in a Christmas Pie, And evermore be Merry.


Poem written in Elizabethan times by by G. Wither (1588-1667)


Publication of the earliest known map of Sussex was by Christopher Saxon. He did not show the town of Worthing as it only consisted of a few hovels near the shoreline at that time. Broadwater and Terringe were in larger printing on his map than Sountinge, Launcynge and Fyndon. Terringe was to become Tarring. Sountinge was to read as Sompting and Launcynge was later Lancing...


I expect you can recognise Fyndon as Findon.


Common misdemeanours inviting punishment in Elizabethan Sussex included:- To be found wandering around the local streets drunk. If caught, the offender would suffer humiliation and be quickly popped in the stocks where he most likely quickly sobered up. To be caught cheating a customer would for certainty land a shopkeeper in the stocks. To be discovered gossiping would place the participant (usually of the female gender) in a cage with a contraption covering the head. A metal strip fitted into her mouth was sharpened to a point or covered with spikes so that any movement of her tongue caused injury to her mouth. A nasty experience. A ducking-stool was also a punishment for any over-talkative female. This was a chair suspended over water where she was “dunked” a number of times... and sometimes even suffered drowning from her punishment.


Petty theft i.e. of coinage or items valued at less than a shilling meant that the offender gained a public whipping..... or time in the stocks. The stocks were a busy place in Elizabethan days.


The most common capital offenses were:- To have committed murder, rape, arson or witchcraft and these carried a mandatory death sentence. Commoners were hanged. The upper classes were beheaded. In some instances the criminal was merely branded with a hot iron or lost a hand or an ear.


The most serious of all crimes in the Elizabethan Age was plotting to overthrow the Queen and known as high treason.


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