In search of Sussex Ox spirit

There are two theories about the identity of the ghost at the Sussex Ox at Milton Street, a shadowy figure spotted on the landing of this building.

One is that it is the spirit of a butcher (the pub was a butcher’s shop until some 80 years ago); the other that it is a phantom smuggler.

Because, in addition to occupying an idyllic spot at the foot of the Downs, the Sussex Ox is convenient for the river Cuckmere, a popular route in times gone by for bringing contraband by boat.

On the evening of December 11, 1831, a barn was set on fire at Milton Court Farm. So fierce was the blaze that within 15 minutes the three floors of the building had collapsed and the roof had fallen in.

Farmer Charles Ade had his suspicions as to who was responsible for the arson attack - a young employee called Samuel Thorncraft who bore a grudge. He stood trial at Lewes Assizes the following March. Twenty-two-year-old Thorncraft was found guilty and, despite a tearful appeal from his father for mercy, went to the gallows.