Five years ago our very own Madelaine Cooper moved to St Leonards in Sussex. Here’s a historic and current take on the region from someone who’s taken the plunge and actually lives here.
If you had to put your finger exactly on where Sussex is on the map of the UK, would you know? And of course, there are now TWO Sussexes – East and West. Perhaps it’s time for a re-examination of the counties.
Interestingly there’s an ancient Sussex motto: “We wunt be druv” which, when translated from the old Sussex dialect means, “we will not be pushed around”. This feels like a suitably bold statement from a region which can get eclipsed by its sometimes pushier and more ostentatious neighbouring counties. Thankfully Harveys Brewers which is based in Lewes in Sussex has now adopted this as a strapline as part of their re-branding in 2016.
Only an hour or so from London, Sussex is a huge area of gently undulating prime country with a great mixture of rural landscape, interesting towns and cities and desirable coastline. For the fact-conscious, Sussex is in total around 3,800 sq kilometers and was formerly an Anglo Saxon kingdom. The kingdom of Sussex came about once the Romans had left Britain and was allegedly formed by Aelie, King of Sussex. What romance there is in this history. So many of us know a little about the Sussex coast because of the Battle of Hastings – a genuine point of pivot for the history and development of the entire island of the UK. Had the Normans not been the victors at the Battle of Hastings, we might all be living very different lives and speaking a very different language.
Had the royal Sussexes Harry and Meghan stayed around the helped to promote some more interest in the counties of Sussex, we might have all pricked up our ears a little more keenly. But Sussex, both East and West elements, punch above their weight with or without help from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Chichester used to be the only city in Sussex until Brighton and Hove were granted City status in 2000. Brighton has long been a magnet for free thinkers, creative people and errant royals. The Prince Regent who became George IV, made it his own in around 1780 and during what became known as the Regency years (1811-1820) the prince’s heady extravagance at The Pavilion was a constant source of gossip. He would think nothing of spending days riding, promenading and sea-dipping, and nights eating, drinking, partying and entertaining. Which is more or less what some modern day Brighton natives like the City for.
Other towns along the Sussex coast have now picked up the mantle for offering homes to the creatives, the “bohemians” and the exiles from other cities. Hastings and St Leonards are now the last word in understated cool. In fact there’s even an area of St Leonards which is called Bohemia although the attitude and creativity of the town isn’t limited to just this area. St Leonards and Hastings – which abut each other on the coast – are both full of musicians, professionals from the fashion industries, designers, artists, writers, films makers, sculptors and entrepreneurs. This all leads to a dynamic and yet very down-played elegance and sense of “good things happening” in and around the town.
This energy is extending along the coast to other lovely towns such as Rye – only a few miles from Hastings and in the other direction to the countryside in and around Lewes.
Unique Property Company has seen this shift and has been responding to the demand from homebuyers for the past few years. We have an Area Partner who lives and works from a base in between St Leonards and Hastings and knows the people and the town well. While we’re not a volume business, we are selective about the people and places that we work with. “It doesn’t have to be a castle or a multi-million pound property to attract us” says Madelaine Cooper, Area Partner in Sussex. “What Unique Property Company always looks for is an interesting story behind the property, or something lovely or unique about the presentation.”
Right now Unique Property Company is marketing a lovely mid century two bedroom flat overlooking the sea in St Leonards, Victoria Court (please click for details). A fascinating semi-industrial home on three levels with the opportunity for a business, studio or workshop on the ground floor in Hastings, Brook Street (please click for details). And a wonderful Georgian home with sea views from most rooms, a 90’ orangerie in very good order and a private south facing garden in Hastings Old Town, West Hill Villa (please click for full details). “New properties are coming to us on a regular basis. We’re just about to go live with a large house on one of the more popular streets in St Leonards which is currently configured as four self-contained flats with a shop or could be converted back into one huge home on several floors – again with sea views. Do come and talk to us if you live in a home which has a story or something unique about it and you’re thinking of buying or selling in this this area”
Sussex has a great history but it’s a county with a very dynamic future.