The town of Steyning in West Sussex dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and along with the surrounding area, is rich in both history and legends. About 6 km north of the coast, it’s hard to believe that in Saxon times, Steyning was a thriving port but although the river eventually silted up to effectively prevent trade, nowadays, it’s a bustling community and a beautiful place to visit.
It remains home to some fantastic historic architecture including a Norman church and the nearby ruins of Bramber Castle, timber-framed buildings of the Tudor and Stuart periods and some lovely street names (Sheep Penn Lane and Mouse Lane to name but a few). There are a total of 125 listed buildings in Steyning and the likes of St Cuthman, King Charles II and William Penn have all left their footprint here.
Despite its long and historic roots, Steyning also has an eclectic personality and is home to a thriving arts community with the beating heart of a vibrant and very interesting town.
Things to do in Steyning
For a small town, there’s a surprising number of things to do in Steyning.
Start any visit with a good walk around the town. Legend has it that in the 7th century (or thereabouts) a shepherd boy wheeled his ailing mother around Sussex in a wheelbarrow with a rope around his shoulders attached to the handles. When the rope broke, the shepherd Cuthman took that as a sign from God that it was the place where he had to build his church.
The Norman church of St Andrew and St Cuthman stands on what was probably the site of the original church and a statue of St Cuthman looks on from the opposite side of the road. From the church, make your way up Church Street (you’ll pass Saxon Cottage which dates from about 1550 and is currently owned by the National Trust).
There are dozens of properties to look out for such as the old Grammar School buildings in Church Street (some of the timbers in the oldest part have been dated to 1461), the 15th century Workhouse Cottages in Mouse Lane and the house on the corner of the High Street and Church Street which has a flint lower storey (early 14th century) and a timber-framed upper storey (16th century).
The Museum tells the story of the local area from pre-history to the present day. There are permanent exhibits and temporary displays, and it’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
Steyning Arts Trail
Every year, Steyning Arts host an Arts Trail. This event has over 50 artists involved who exhibit their work and 23 venues to visit. It attracts a lot of attention and in 2023, the Arts Trail is on the 27th to the 29th May and the 3rd and 4th of June.
Steyning Food and Drink and Festival
The Food and Drink Festival is a month-long event usually held in September showcasing local products and producers. You can expect foodie walks, brewery open days, workshops at The Artisan Bakehouse, product tasting at The Sussex Grocer, events at nearby Wiston Vineyard and lots more. Definitely one for the foodie.
The South Downs
The South Downs stand proud on the edge of the town and offer up miles of walking, hiking and cycling trails including the South Downs Way. Not far from Steyning, you’ll find Chanctonbury Ring where legend has it you can raise the devil by running around the clump of trees seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. Excavations here have round relics that date from 300 BC and the remains of several Roman buildings have also been found. Steyning Bowl is another notable nearby landmark and is a hillside that overlooks the town. You may find paragliders there if you fancy giving that a try.
Bramber is just a 3-minute drive away (or a 20-minute walk) and here you’ll find the ruins of a Norman Castle (built by William de Braose –who had been granted lands by William the Conqueror). You’ll also find the beautiful and historic St Mary’s House and Gardens just down the road, which has seen such visitors as the Knights Templar, Medieval monks, Queen Elizabeth I, Charles II, Oscar Wilde, and even Sherlock Holmes! The gardens are as gorgeous as the house and just dripping in evocative atmosphere.
Wiston Estate Winery and Restaurant
6 miles in the other direction from Steyning and you’ll find the Wiston Winery and their newish restaurant, Chalk. Wiston produces some award-winning wines and offers a number of vineyard experiences. These include tours and tastings, an off-road bike tour with lunch, and landscape and nature tours. Chalk promises local produce and gets great reviews and they open for breakfast if you’re planning a hike on the Downs from Chalk to Steyning.
Three miles from Steyning and tucked down a quiet, private lane, you’ll find The Artisan Bakehouse where they offer a whole selection of baking and chocolate-making masterclasses. They also have accommodation so it’s a great place to make base camp while you explore.
On the first Saturday of the month, Steyning holds an award-winning farmers market where you’ll find lots of local produce including vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, bread and cakes, jams, fruit juices and dairy products.
Don’t leave Steyning without doing a spot of shopping. The town has a whole host of little boutiques. Stick your head into Cobblestone Walk which has all sorts of independent shops (as well as a tea room for dogs). Have a good browse in Steyning Bookshop, visit The Dolls House Shop and uncover a world of exotic wares at Sakala.
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