Cricket was first played in Selmeston in 1807, thanks largely to the generosity of Lord Gage, who donated the cricket pitch (then called Easter Field ) to residents of the villages of Alciston and Selmeston. The Alciston and Selmeston Cricket Club is still active today.
The Barley Mow located on the A27 at the top of Selmeston is a 200 yr old public house. The building also served as a temporary courthouse, with part of it used as the slaughterhouse for local farm animals. Next door was the blacksmith’s shop.
In 1897, Saxon grave objects were found when Manor Cottages were being built. These objects were kept at Sherrington Manor until 1950, when they were donated to the Sussex Archaeological Society.
Subsequent excavations in the field behind the cottages (known as Troy Field or Troy Town* or Twydown) uncovered one of the largest Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in the South of England, containing at least 200 graves and believed to date from the fifth to the seventh centuries AD. A wooden bucket with bronze fittings – the wood still in a perfect state of preservation- was discovered, together with swords decorated in gilt, eighteen spears, twenty-six daggers, bronze and enamel brooches and pottery of unusual design. A hexagonal-based shield boss, the first of its kind in the country, was also found. The major archaeological work on the site was undertaken by the late Dr Martin Welch of University College London (UCL). Although stored at the UCL Institute of Archaeology and worked on by generations of conservation students since 1980, the archive from this potentially major Sussex Anglo-Saxon cemetery has yet to be brought fully into the public domain.
Until well into the twentieth century the economy of the village was based on agriculture and the Parish retains a number of farms, including a large area of land off Common Lane that is used today to grow commercial turf. The largest sheep fair in East Sussex was traditionally held on September 19 each year on the village common, the area through which Common Lane now runs, a short distance east of The Street. A local farmer, John Thomas Ellman (1753-1832) of Place Farm, Glynde, selectively bred the Southdown breed of sheep from which all modern meat-producing sheep are descended.
By 1933 electricity had been installed throughout the parish. During this time, as well as the odd motor car seen driving through the lanes, a new form of transport could be seen flying overhead. The Eastbourne Flying Club was located in a field off the A27 by Sherman Bridge and the turning to Milton Street, and the two aircraft used by members (an Avro 504 and a De Havilland Re8) would often fly over Selmeston. On special days, they would give displays, with the resident Selmeston ‘bobby’, PC Fred Finlayson, controlling the crowds. Between 1933 and 1934, electrification of the railway line was completed by the Southern Railway, with safety adjustments made to the crossing.
William Douglas Parish (1833-1904) was vicar of Selmeston and Alciston for more than forty years and had a major impact on the village, not least because he was responsible for the demolition of the old church and the building of the present one. He is probably best known for his Dictionary of Sussex Dialect, an interest for which he excused himself because he ‘lived for several years in a village spelt Selmeston and pronounced Simpson; within reach of Brighthelmstone, pronounced Brighton; and next to the village of Chalvington, called Charnton’.
W. D. Parish was educated at Charterhouse and Oxford before being ordained to the curacy of Firle and Beddingham in 1859. In 1863, he became vicar of the adjoining parishes of Selmeston and Alciston, where he remained until his death. From 1877 to 1900 he was also chancellor of Chichester Cathedral. One of Parish’s friends was ‘Lewis Carroll’ (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) and it is said that parts of the Alice books were written in the Summer House of what is now The Old Vicarage.
There is no contemporary record of Carroll’s visits but he is known to have gone to Eastbourne regularly and there is a strong oral tradition regarding his visits to Selmeston. We are all familiar with Lewis Carroll’s awe-inspiring picture of the Jabberwock; but it may be news to some that this creature of his imagination was actually constructed of papier-mâché in the dining-room of Selmeston Vicarage, Sussex, where he frequently stayed with the then vicar.