In 1999, in the small village of Ardingly in Sussex England, the residents took the initiative to create a society in which all inhabitants of the village could meet periodically and catch up as well as discuss topics of importance and history. And so, the Ardingly History Society was founded.

              The society meetings happen at Hapstead Hall, where donations are collected by the treasurer at the entrance, and then a presentation is usually given by a guest speaker about varieties of different historical topics that have to do with the Ardingly Village or Sussex in general.

The goals of the society are to arouse and stimulate interest around Ardingly’s History, to seek out material of historic interest and persuade owners of the need to take steps to ensure its preservation and to arrange interesting meeting and other activities for the community to engage in.

At their latest meeting on the 21st of November, a Sussex historian by the name of Chris Horlock was invited to speak about the old Christmas traditions of Sussex villages throughout the 19th century and forward.  The diverse presentation included anything from traditional Christmas food of that time era such as meat pies and pudding which are still popular today, to the German custom of a Yule Tree introduced and spread to the British populace by Queen Victoria. It is now known as the Christmas tree.

              Many Sussex Christmas traditions have come from the old Pagan religion, and what its believers used to do on the day of the Solstice. During this period of time in December many different religions have set holidays, and the Pagans are no different. On December 21st it is the day of the Solstice, otherwise know as Midwinter or Yule, and this event has been a celebration ever since the Stone Age yet leaves behind prominent traces in today’s world.

              The historian himself stated when asked about what fuelled his passion for Sussex’s history, “I’m a Sussex boy! I was born in Brighton and started to harvest an interest for its history… However, I soon realized that this specific scope was too small for me, so I expanded it to explore my areas of interest.” Now Chris Horlock gives lectures on many diverse and unique subjects ranging from Sussex’s history with witchcraft, to its position in the civil war. He has also published a few books on the history of Sussex that have now hit the shelves. “My interests have spread from Brighton to Sussex.”

              The Ardingly History Society meets about four times a year, and at these gatherings the sense of community formed between the members is undeniable. It also gives speakers from all over Sussex the opportunity to come and share their knowledge. The society is well equipped with an archive containing countless historical photos and priceless documents from the past. Together, the people unite and reminisce about how life was like in the past, and what we can do to better it for the future.

The chairman of the society, Mr. R. Tester, is sadly soon going to take his resignation, and although it is not decided on who will now lead the society’s meetings, most hope that the one chosen will be as diligent and care as much for the society as him. Initiatives such as the Ardingly History Society are hard to maintain because they require funding and an immense amount of organization, that in some situations cannot always be granted. “A lot of history societies are closing nowadays, especially since COVID.” Tester commented. “We had to close for about 18 months, however today a good 30 people came!”

The creator of the Ardingly History Society’s website: , Mark Wigmore, who made information about the initiative more accessible to the wider public stated that it is hard to get the youth nowadays interested in the society. He stated: “It’s very rare that a young person comes along. I myself hated history in school and pursued a different field of work that I liked more, however after researching some family history I began to accumulate more interest and soon found the society.” The people of the Ardingly History would like to encourage young people to join in on the different lectures it holds every meeting, and wants to hear about their opinions, thoughts, and endeavours in their historical researching and exploring.

However, in a world that is ever-changing in which everything moves so fast and where so many distractions are available, why bother coming at all? A man that drove from Lingfield just to attend the meeting last week claimed when he was this question, “I like joining in a nice friendly group where we can all discuss our interests and at the same time learn something new from each other.”

“I think that people show to hear the talks, but also to get together with their friends.” Said the society’s treasurer, Mr. G. Luthman. The initiative is entirely funded through donations and the annual subscriptions purchased by the members each year. “We are not a very wealthy society however, we accept and welcome everybody!”

Overall, the Ardingly History Society is a bright burning initiative with much fascinating information to offer along with an undeniable sense of community.