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‘Seven good things of Sussex’: The seven delicacies that make up the food culture of our county

Sussex is known for having a strong independent culture with Sussex Day celebrated on June 16 each year. The county’s unofficial motto of “We wunt be druv,” highlights that people of Sussex have a mind of their own and will not be coerced into something against their will.

This motto has since become a branding tagline of Harvey’s Brewery of Lewes, a popular selection of beers brewed within our county. Aside from this, there are seven other foodstuffs which make up our cultural food identity which would be nicely complemented with a pint of Harvey’s.

These seven items are sometimes known as the ‘Seven good things of Sussex’, with their history traced back a long time into the past. Some sound far more appealing than others, but they are all well and truly Sussex.

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The seven items stem from a traditional folk rhyme outlining their delights. The poem is as follows:

The Seven Good Things of Sussex

Of a score of good things found outside heaven

The land of Sussex was granted seven

The choicest of those I often feel

Is the oily, glutinous Pulborough eel

Though the Selsea cockle would be the best

The Chichester lobster’s the lordliest dish

The herring of Rye is the tastiest dish

The mullet of Arundel would have my vote

If I could but forget the Amberley trout

The wheatear of Bourne whenever it’s about.

An oily, glutinous eel is not something many people would get too excited about nowadays, and nor is it something you could find too readily. Historically however, eel was a popular meal among many with those caught in Pulborough making up the first part of our cultural food identity.

The Selsey cockle is the second item listed and is likely to be much more commonly found with cockles often up for sale in seaside areas. Selsey is known for its crab fishing but cockles and other seafood items can still be enjoyed when visiting the town or can be purchased online.



Sussex has a rich history of fishing

Chichester, the county town of West Sussex, is known for the ‘lordliest’ dish on the menu with its famous lobster. Nowadays lobster is a particularly expensive dish when listed on most menus but those caught in the seas off Chichester and its nearby coastal areas can still be sampled in many local restaurants allowing you to enjoy the true Sussex experience.

The UK is not often thought of as one of the main producers of herring but Rye, the ‘best seaside town in Sussex’, has a historical attachment to the often smoked and salted fish. With Rye’s nearby proximity to the beach, the Rye herring can still be found at certain times throughout the year – why not have a wander through the town’s picturesque streets as you do so.

Arundel is also known for its fishing history with some fisheries still found in the local area. Mullets have been an important food source in Europe since the time of the Romans with the fish swimming up the River Arun at high tide before being caught and cooked into a fine, salty Sussex delicacy – people from Arundel are even known as mullets and it is the nickname of their local football team.



Fishing trawlers docked at Shoreham Port in East Sussex
Fishing trawlers docked at Shoreham Port in East Sussex

To the north of Arundel lies the pretty village of Amberley which is traditionally known in Sussex for its Amberley trout. The River Arun, which flows alongside the village, is known for its trout with Chalk Springs Trout Fishery to this day providing the trout which is enjoyed by many in the area.

Last but by no means least is the wheatear of Bourne which many people are unlikely to have ever heard of. The wheatear is robin sized bird which migrates to the UK from Africa for summer and is no longer eaten as, luckily for the bird, it has been classified as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern and is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 , protecting it from the mouths of a hungry Sussex resident.

While these seven foods are the ones listed in the poem, several others are also linked with Sussex including the Chiddingly hot pot, Sussex pond pudding, as well huffed chicken. How many of these have you tried?

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