The Alfriston & Cuckmere Valley Historical Society

The Historical Society was formed in 2003 to help preserve and promote the rich heritage of this beautiful downland village and the adjoining Cuckmere Valley. We hold regular meetings, have visiting speakers to talk on a wide range of historical subjects and have sponsored archaeological excavations to enhance our understanding of local history. 

Committee Members 

Chair: Ian Chopra


Hon. Secretary: Bill Rendall  - - 01323 870057

Roxchel Angelis

Susan de Angeli

Jackie Hurwood

Dianne Ostler

Become a Member

To join the Historical Society please contact our Secretary Bill Rendall. Annual membership is £10 single and £15 for a couple.

Events suspended for the duration
Thursday 19 March 2020

The Smyth Memorials in St Andrew’s: a Double Crimean War Tragedy

Speaker: Mike Hinton

St Andrew’s Church contains memorials to Lt. Col. Harry Smyth and his son Lt Harry Edmund Smyth, both of whom died in the Crimean War. The father died at the battle of  Inkerman  while his son died of fever contracted in the Crimea. The story of this family tragedy will be retold some 165 years later using surviving 19th century documents and photographs and contemporary material.







Mike obtained doctorates from the University of Bristol and more recently a PhD from the University of London on medical aspects of the Crimean War. He is a member of  the Crimean  War Research Society and the Victorian Military Society. He has visited the Crimea on four occasions and is the author of the book “Victory over Disease. Resolving the Medical Crisis in the Crimean War, 1854-1856”.

Thursday 16 March 2017 at 7.30pm


Hearth & Home - Dr Geoff Mead


Dr Geoffrey Mead MA, PhD, is a regular visitor to our Society.  He specialises in landscape studies and local history, and his previous talks to us have included his PhD subject, a critical survey of interwar housing development around Patcham.  This evening he looks at how the geology of Sussex has influenced the county’s vernacular building styles.

Midsummer Event
Thursday 18 June 2020 at 6.00pm

Ernest Shackleton His Life and Times

Speaker: Isobel Williams


The evening will comprise a two-course dinner at Deans Place Hotel followed by the lecture. Details of the dinner will be released nearer the event.

Shackleton led three expeditions to the Antarctic and was a crew member on a fourth. He is famous for escaping with all his men from the icy grip of the Weddell Sea in his 1914-1916 expedition and for his incredible 800 mile journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. However, he achieved more than this - in 1909 he was within 100 miles of the South Pole, the first to get so close.  Our speaker will describe these momentous achievements.

Previously, Isobel was a Consultant Physician. She qualified at St George’s Hospital, London where she was surrounded by the iconic Antarctic paintings of a former graduate, Dr Edward Wilson, Captain Robert Scott’s friend. Thus was born an interest in the Antarctic which came to fruition after Isobel’s retirement from medical practice. She has always particularly admired Shackleton.

Isobel has written three biographies of Antarctic heroes.

Thursday 19 November 2020

The Global Influenza Pandemic, 1914-1919

Speaker: John Oxford

Spanish Influenza and World War One are connected. The two almost certainly interact and help to explain how 50 million flu deaths arose from a focus at Etaples on the Western Front. Our speaker will consider the evidence and will also discuss the role of exhumations in the understanding of influenza A, which has caused a billion casualties since 1918.

John is Emeritus Professor of Virology at Queen Mary College, London. He is the author of the successful textbook “Human Virology” and a world expert on influenza. He regularly appears on television to discuss influenza and other viral infections.

Thursday 10 December 2020

New Event - Christmas Wine and Cheese Party and a Photographic History of Alfriston

This new event will be held in the Alfriston War Memorial Hall. Further details will be announced nearer the event.

During the party, your chairman, Ian Chopra, will present a new video of the village and its surroundings, “Through the Lens”. This covers the period from 1880 to the present. It has been compiled and edited by Ian from photographs and video belonging to the Society, or kindly lent to the Society. Thanks to digital technology many of the original images have been preserved and enhanced.

Most events start at 7:30pm and take place at

Deans Place Hotel, Seaford Road, Alfriston BN26 5TW


Admission is free to members and £5 for guests

Programmes may be subject to change for unavoidable reasons. Please check nearer the date. Evenings typically finish by 9:30pm.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Annual General Meeting followed by: Alfriston Thanks the World War 1 Generation - The Video
Non-members welcome

After the AGM, your chairman Ian Chopra will show a video of the memorial event held in the War Memorial Hall in August 2019. The video has been produced by Ian and his wife Gill. The video will provide an opportunity to relive this magnificent and moving event. Copies of the video will be available for purchase with proceeds returned to the Society. 

Thursday 14 May 2020


Step Back in Time
Speaker Paul Green

Paul will speak about the history of the Sussex Argus Newspaper including memorable events covered since its launch in 1880. The talk will include presentation of an original first copy of the newspaper and other memorabilia. This will be a fun evening since it will be an interactive event with the audience.

Thursday 17 September 2020
Sextant to Sat Nav Forty-Five Years in Aviation

Speaker: Peter Griffiths


Advances in aircraft navigation have been remarkable over the past century. In the early days aircraft were  navigated  by map, compass, sextant and a certain amount of hope. Today’s aircraft are highly sophisticated and accurate to within a few feet. Attitudes to airline staff have also changed. Senior Captains often treated junior officers with indifference, which would not be accepted today. Peter will describe how technical and social progress has been achieved within the airline industry during the past 50 years.

Peter began flying in 1967 and worked for BOAC and Cathay Pacific Airways. After leaving Cathay he flew executive jets until retirement in 2013. He evacuated people from China after the Tiananmen Square massacre and flew a freighter during the first Gulf War.

Thursday 15 October 2020
Sussex and Guy Fawkes Celebrations

Speaker: Geoff Doel

Sussex is renowned for its Guy Fawkes celebrations and has numerous Bonfire Societies.  The annual celebration at Lewes is one of the most popular cultural events in Europe, leading to the complete closure of the town. However, celebrations with bonfires are controversial for a number of reasons, including religious upset and the generation of stereotyped images that can cause offence. Our speaker will discuss these issues.

Geoff is an honorary fellow at the University of Kent. He obtained his PhD for studies on Thomas Hardy. He lectures at the Universities of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church, but was born in Sussex and is a member of the Sussex Archaeological Society. He is the author, or co-author with his wife, of sixteen books on folklore, including Sussex folklore.