• A local story - the Ghost of Lychpole Manor

      The northernmost of the Sompting Estate's former 'manors', and our largest farm, is called Lychpole (or sometimes Leechpool).  In about 1939 local historian (and co-founder of the South Downs Society) R. Thurston Hopkins wrote in his book "Sussex Rendezvous":

           The manor of Leechpool, which nestles under Cissbury Ring, has a ghost, which is only what might be expected of a solitary spot bearing a name with a shudder in it.  Some people say that the name indicates a pool overstocked with leeches, but I am rather of the opinion that it is the debased rendering of lich-pole, meaning a gallows-tree. 

           The ghost of Leechpool Manor is a highwayman who was hanged by the side of the old Downland coach-road, running between Lancing and Steyning.   When he walked to the gallows he vowed that he would never sleep in his grave, which had been dug in the centre of the road, so that all the coaches would rattle and bump over his bones.  Of all speculative theories, that of Dr John Dee, the sixteenth-century alchemist, sends the most thrills up one's spine.  He said that none of the dead ever come back, but some of them refuse to leave: the highwayman of Leechpool was one of the kind who overstayed his welcome. 

            So what happened?  Well, he was lowered into his grave and the earth piled on top, but on the next morning his body had lifted the soil away and his head had sprung up like a dreadful jack-in-the-box.  Several times was the body replaced, with the same result.  Tradition does not disclose how many times the highwayman popped up before he settled in his grave.  But his ghostly counterpart, mounted on a ghostly horse, ever afterwards haunted this Downland trackway.

           An old Downland farmer named Parkyn, in whose family the tradition of the phantom highwayman has lingered for a hundred years or so, told me that a driver of a coach near the spot was held up by what he imagined to be a real highwayman, and, making up his mind to 'run the fellow down', he whipped up his horses to a full gallop, with the result that horses and coach passed clean through the intruder.

          Sinister tales were told by farm labourers who passed over the haunted road at nightfall; they declared that their wagons bumped over something stretched athwart the road, and when they looked for the obstruction there was nothing to be seen at all.