Sussex (; abbreviated Sx), from the Old English Sūþsēaxe ('South Saxons'), is a historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. Clockwise, it is bounded to the west by Hampshire; north by Surrey, north-east by Kent, south by the English Channel and is divided for local government into West Sussex and East Sussex and the city of Brighton and Hove. Brighton and Hove was created as a unitary authority in 1997, and was granted City status in 2000. Until then, Chichester had been Sussex's only city.
Sussex has three main geographic sub-regions, each oriented approximately east to west. In the south-west of the county lies the fertile and densely populated coastal plain. North of this lie the rolling chalk hills of the South Downs, beyond which lies the well-wooded Sussex Weald.
The name 'Sussex' derives from the Kingdom of Sussex, according to legend it was founded by Ælle of Sussex in 477 AD, then in 825 it was absorbed into the kingdom of Wessex and the later kingdom of England. The region's roots go back further to the location of some of Europe's earliest hominid finds at Boxgrove. Sussex has been a key location for England's major invasions, including the Roman invasion of Britain and the Battle of Hastings.
In 1974, the Lord-Lieutenant of Sussex was replaced with one each for East and West Sussex, which became separate ceremonial counties. Sussex continues to be recognised as a geographical territory and cultural region. It has had a single police force since 1968 and its name is in common use in the media. In 2007, Sussex Day was created to celebrate Sussex's rich culture and history. Based on the traditional emblem of Sussex, a blue shield with six gold martlets, the flag of Sussex was recognised by the Flag Institute in 2011. In 2013, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles formally recognised and acknowledged the continued existence of England's 39 historic counties, including Sussex.
Wikipedia has a summary of the history of Sussex up to the Norman period.
Sussex was the venue for the momentous Battle of Hastings, the decisive victory in the Norman conquest of England. In September 1066, William of Normandy landed with his forces at Pevensey and erected a wooden castle at Hastings, from which they raided the surrounding area. The battle was fought between Duke William of Normandy and the English king, Harold Godwinson, who had strong connections with Sussex and whose chief seat was probably in Bosham. After having marched his exhausted army all the way from Yorkshire, Harold fought the Normans at the Battle of Hastings, where England's army was defeated and Harold was killed. It is likely that all the fighting men of Sussex were at the battle, as the county's thegns were decimated and any that survived had their lands confiscated. William built Battle Abbey at the site of the battle, with the exact spot where Harold fell marked by the high altar.
Sussex experienced some of the greatest changes of any English county under the Normans, for it was the heartland of King Harold and was potentially vulnerable to further invasion. The county was of great importance to the Normans; Hastings and Pevensey being on the most direct route for Normandy. The county's existing sub-divisions, known as rapes, were made into castleries and each territory was given to one of William's most trusted barons. Castles were built to defend the territories including at Arundel, Bramber, Lewes, Pevensey and Hastings. Sussex's bishop, Æthelric II, was deposed and imprisoned and replaced with William the Conqueror's personal chaplain, Stigand. The Normans also built Chichester Cathedral and moved the seat of Sussex's bishopric from Selsey to Chichester. The Normans also founded new towns in Sussex, including New Shoreham (the centre of modern Shoreham by Sea, Battle, Arundel, Uckfield and Winchelsea.
In 1264, the Sussex Downs were the location of the Battle of Lewes, in which Simon de Montfort and his fellow barons captured Prince Edward (later Edward I), the son and heir of Henry III. The subsequent treaty, known as the Mise of Lewes, led to de Montfort summoning the first parliament in English history without any prior royal authorisation. A provisional administration was set up, consisting of de Montfort, the Bishop of Chichester and the Earl of Gloucester. These three were to elect a council of nine, to govern until a permanent settlement could be reached.
Sussex under the Plantagenets
During the Hundred Years War, Sussex found itself on the frontline, convenient both for intended invasions and retaliatory expeditions by licensed French pirates. Hastings, Rye and Winchelsea were all burnt during this period and all three towns became part of the Cinque Ports, a loose federation for supplying ships for the country's security. Also at this time, Amberley and Bodiam castles were built to defend the upper reaches of navigable rivers.
Early modern Sussex
Like the rest of the country, the Church of England's split with Rome during the reign of Henry VIII was felt in Sussex. In 1538 there was a royal order for the demolition of the shrine of Saint Richard, in Chichester Cathedral, with Thomas Cromwell saying that there was "a certain kind of idolatry about the shrine". In the reign of Queen Mary, 41 people in Sussex were burnt at the stake for their Protestant beliefs. Elizabeth re-established the break with Rome when she passed the 1559 Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity. Under Elizabeth I, religious intolerance continued albeit on a lesser scale, with several people being executed for their Catholic beliefs.
Sussex escaped the worst ravages of the English Civil War, although in 1642 there were sieges at Arundel and Chichester, and a skirmish at Haywards Heath when Royalists marching towards Lewes were intercepted by local Parliamentarians. The Royalists were routed with around 200 killed or taken prisoner. Despite its being under Parliamentarian control, Charles II was able to journey through the county after the Battle of Worcester in 1651 to make his escape to France from the port of Shoreham.
Late modern and contemporary Sussex
The Sussex coast was greatly modified by the social movement of sea bathing for health which became fashionable among the wealthy in the second half of the 18th century. Resorts developed all along the coast, including at Brighton, Hastings, Worthing, and Bognor. At the beginning of the 19th century agricultural labourers' conditions took a turn for the worse with an increasing amount of them becoming unemployed, those in work faced their wages being forced down. Conditions became so bad that it was even reported to the House of Lords in 1830 that four harvest labourers (seasonal workers) had been found dead of starvation. The deteriorating conditions of work for the agricultural labourer eventually triggered riots, first in neighbouring Kent, and then in Sussex, where they lasted for several weeks, although the unrest continued until 1832 and became known as the Swing Riots.
During World War I, on the eve of the Battle of the Somme on 30 June 1916, the Royal Sussex Regiment took part in the Battle of the Boar's Head at Richebourg-l'Avoué. The day subsequently became known as The Day Sussex Died. Over a period of less than five hours the 17 officers and 349 men were killed, including 12 sets of brothers, including three from one family. A further 1,000 men were wounded or taken prisoner.
With the declaration of the World War II, Sussex found itself part of the country's frontline with its airfields playing a key role in the Battle of Britain and with its towns being some of the most frequently bombed. As the Sussex regiments served overseas, the defence of the county was undertaken by units of the Home Guard with help from the First Canadian Army. During the lead up to the D-Day landings, the people of Sussex were witness to the buildup of military personnel and materials, including the assembly of landing crafts and construction of Mulberry harbours off the county's coast.
In the post-war era, the New Towns Act 1946 designated Crawley as the site of a new town. As part of the Local Government Act 1972, the eastern and western divisions of Sussex were made into the ceremonial counties of East Sussex and West Sussex in 1974. Under the Planning Zone associated with Gatwick Airport and Crawley, under the Redcliffe-Maud Report, West Sussex gained an area formerly in East Sussex and the airport land itself from Horley and Charlwood in Surrey. This area became the Mid Sussex District from 1974.
The Kingdom of Sussex became the county of Sussex; then after the coming of Christianity; the see originally founded in Selsey, was moved to Chichester in the 11th century. The See of Chichester was coterminous with the county borders. In the 12th century the see was split into two archdeaconries centred at Chichester and Lewes.
Since its creation in the fifth century, Sussex has been subject to periodic reform of its local governance. After the Reform Act of 1832 Sussex was divided into the eastern division and the western division, these divisions were coterminous with the two archdeaconries of Chichester and Lewes. In 1889, following the Local Government Act 1888, using those same boundaries, Sussex was divided into two administrative counties, East Sussex and West Sussex together with three self-governing county boroughs, Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings. In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, the county boundaries were revised with the mid-Sussex area of East Grinstead, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill and Hassocks being transferred from East Sussex into West Sussex along with Crawley and the Gatwick area that was formerly part of Surrey. The county boroughs were returned to the control of the two county councils, but in 1997 the towns of Brighton and Hove were amalgamated as a unitary local authority and in 2000, Brighton and Hove was given City status.
In the early Norman period the county was divided into six new baronies, called rapes, each with at least one town and a castle. These were Arundel Rape, Chichester Rape (which were combined in early times), Bramber Rape, Hastings Rape, Lewes Rape and Pevensey Rape. The rapes were divided into hundreds as in other counties, and the hundreds were made of of parishes. The boroughs (larger communities, officially classified as "boroughs") were independent of the hundreds.
There is a map of the rapes, hundreds and boroughs in Wikipedia with a link to the original map in Wikimedia which is viewable or downloadable in a sufficiently large size to be read. WeRelate has a page for each rape, listing its hundreds and parishes in the form of a table.
At the end of the 19th century the county, like all other counties in England, was divided into urban and rural districts, in addition to the county and municipal boroughs which had existed since 1835.
In 1974 the county was divided into the two ceremonial counties of East Sussex and West Sussex and each of these counties abolished the earlier structure and joined all the local government administrations into "district municipalities". These are listed under East Sussex and West Sussex.