Crime

Crime

Crime might not seem to be a particularly suitable subject for a website celebrating tradition, but there’s no doubt that crimes of the past have a fascination for us in the present, perhaps because they are safely out of the way.

Two of the most prevalent crimes in Sussex, as elsewhere, were poaching and smuggling. Many people, then and now, would argue that they shouldn’t have been classified as crimes at all. Both ran as traditions, involving families and communities in ways that make them interesting.

We might distinguish between violent poaching gangs who would stop at nothing, and the farm worker who taught his children to set rabbit snares in the fields near their homes, although both were breaking the law.

Crime has a way of working into other traditions. Famous criminals such as Dick Turpin (and Robin Hood, for that matter) have been celebrated in song and story, murders often resulted in songs and local legends – ‘that place is haunted because of a murder that took place there’; ‘that pub was where the smugglers hid their kegs’, and so on.