Sussex has a set of unique internal territorial divisions named “Rapes”. The origin of the Rapes is unknown however it is strongly believed that four of them predate the Norman Conquest and are possibly Saxon in origin, with the Rape of Bramber being founded by 1086, and the Rape of Chichester being founded by 1275.
Each of these areas are culturally important to the heritage of Sussex, equal to the Ridings of Yorkshire and the Parts of Lincolnshire. In modern times however, the majority of people in Sussex are not consciousness of these unique internal territorial divisions, with only ‘The Sussex Association’ acknowledging their existence! However, they remain culturally significant.
Vexillographer (flag designer) Brady Ells has created the following proposals for flags for each of the Sussex rapes. The designs have a universal look and feel to them to indicate that they represent the Rapes of Sussex, rather than the individual towns or cities from which they take their names. A blue triangle with six gold martlets is placed against the hoist to represent the county and maintains the 3,2,1 pattern of the martlets at all angles
The designs follow, from east to west.
The Rape Of Chichester.
The flag of the Rape of Chichester is charged with 14 red gouttes (tear drops). These drops are from the arms
of the city of Chichester, granted in 1570. Most depictions of the city arms display 14 gouttes in the pattern 5,4,3,2.
The reasoning behind the gouttes on the city arms is unknown, however they have since become firmly established symbols of the locality and also featured on the border of the arms of the former Chichester Rural District Council.
The Rape Of Arundel
The flag for the Rape of Arundel is charged with 3 black martlets, a symbol with which the town has long been associated. This charge is a pun on the town’s name – a martlet is a heraldic representation of a swallow, which in French is hirondelle a word very similar to the name of the town. Three martlets appear on the town’s civic arms
granted in 1939 and another appears as the crest over the shield.
It should be noted that the three martlets on the flag bear more of a resemblance to a swift, to contrast more effectively with the Sussex Martlets against the hoist. This stylisation also reflects their appearance on earlier town seals
as well as the depiction on the current civic crest. Additionally a “swift style” martlet is used as a logo by Arundel town council
and as its badge by Arundel Football Club.
The Rape Of Bramber
The flag of the Rape of Bramber is charged with 5 crosslets. These Crosslets derive from the coat of arms of William VII de Braose
2nd Baron Braose, circa 1298. The de Braose family were ‘Lords of Bramber’ since the rape was established in the late 11th century. Although earlier ancestors and Lords had different coats of arms, it is this coat of arms which stuck and still appears on local insignia, an example being the badge of Beeding & Bramber Cricket Club.
The Crosslets appeared on the 13th Century Borough Seal of New Shoreham
, highlighting the role of the de Braose family as Lords of the Rape of Bramber, in which Shoreham is situated. An adapted version of the de Braose arms
was used by Shoreham Urban District Council from 1933. Another town located in the Rape of Bramber is Horsham upon whose civic arms, granted in 1975, a single crosslet appears with another on the crest over the shield
The arrangement exhibits the town’s links to the Rape of Bramber and the de Braose family.
The Crosslets on the flag of the Rape are blue, reversing the colours of the de Braose coat of arms to facilitate deployment against a gold field.
The Rape Of Lewes
The flag of the Rape of Lewes is charged with a Tower in Gold & Blue checks. A tower has long been used as a symbol of Lewes representing Lewes Castle and features on the badge of Lewes Football Club
and Sussex Police
whose headquarters is located in Lewes.
The gold and blue checks are those of the de Warenne family
, Barons of Lewes since the Norman Conquest. The de Warrene checks feature heavily on the arms of the town.
The arms of Hove
also include the de Warrene checks to denote the town’s location in the Rape of Lewes, as does the badge of Longhill High School
The Rape Of Pevensey
The flag of the Rape of Pevensey is charged with a red spread eagle. The design depicts the ‘Pevensey Eagle’ which originated on the arms
of the de Aquila family. Euguenulf de Aquila came over with William I and was killed at the Battle of Hastings; his descendant, Gilbert de Aquila, was bestowed with the Rape of Pevensey. The area was known between 1106 and 1234 as the ‘Honour of the Eagle’.
This red eagle now appears on the recently installed town sign of Pevensey
and also features on the logos of Pevensey Parish Council
and Pevensey Bay Sailing Club
which also uses the device for a sailing penannt, set against a field of gold.
Eastbourne’s motorcycle speedway team, based in Arlington, has used the nickname “The Eagles” since it was established in 1937 and used eagle emblems
An eagle further features at right in the chief, the upper section, of the shield on the arms of Seaford Town Council
in reference to the Rape of Pevensey and the L’Aquila family. These arms are themselves derived from the mid-19th century, eagle bearing, seal of Seaford
An eagle also appears, as the crest of the coat of arms of Lewes District Council,
granted in 1975, in reference to the council’s remit over part of territory of the Rape of Pevensey.
The Rape Of Hastings
The charge on the flag of the Rape of Hastings is a vessel which first appeared on the common seal of the Barons of Hastings.
Boats also appeared on the 12th and 13th century seals of Rye
The vessel is coloured red and blue in reference to the coat of arms of Hastings
These arms derive from the arms of the Cinque Ports
, which are also used to represent both Rye and Winchelsea.
It should also be noted that a vessel appears on the top of Winchelsea’s village sign