Westmeston

The census of 1871 shows that there were 40 houses in Westmeston, 136 men and boys, 107 women and girls. The Downland hamlet is not much bigger today, but it has certainly got more than its fair share of ghosts.

Black Dog Hill takes its name from a particularly unnerving phantom, a headless black dog which roams the area howling. It was supposedly chasing game when spotted by a gamekeeper who let fly with his blunderbuss and shot the unfortunate animal’s head off. Then there is the ghostly monk who carves at a panel in Westmeston Place, waking up the occupants of the bedroom, or the nun that serenely walks from the church of St

Martin, through the north wall of Church Cottage and across the road. On a grander scale there is the phantom army on the Downs, where the sound of horses’ hoofs and the moans of men can be heard, accompanied by a particularly nasty smell, on 24, 25 and 26 May. Did the men flee from the Battle of Lewes? No one in the village can be sure, but many have testified to that peculiar odour.

Westmeston was the home of the heavenly twins, Jack Vigar and Harry Piper. They were sent home early from the village school in 1881 because of a tremendous snowstorm. Their way led over the hill but the blizzard blocked out all light and the seven-year-olds, stumbling and exhausted, became completely lost. Then a mysterious shepherd took them by the hands, told them they were on the Dyke and going in the wrong direction. He guided them safely home. Who he was or where he came from they never discovered, but if it was Divine Guidance then Jack and Harry lived up to their early experience growing to be fine men who were never known to tell a lie.’ For the rest of their lives they were called the ‘heavenly twins’.