Famous Pease Pottage
In the third of Anthony Burgess’s Enderby novels, The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby’s End, published in 1974, we find the obscure British poet, F. X. Enderby, at an American university, giving a lecture on minor Elizabethan dramatists. Forgetting what he had intended to say, he invents the character of Gervase Whitelady, along with a full biography, which includes the mention of Pease Pottage as Whitelady’s birthplace.
In the well-known BBC TV series, Doctor Who, one of the doctor’s assistants came from Pease Pottage. The character was called Melanie Bush, she was played by Bonnie Langford, and she (the character, not the actor) lived at 36 Downview Crescent. There has never been a Downview Crescent in Pease Pottage, although without access to a time travel machine we cannot rule out the possibility of one in the future. For a worryingly complete biography of the character, see this Doctor Who fan’s website. The BBC website contains detailed information on the series Trial of a Time Lord, which was first broadcast in November 1986.
An updated version of this episode in audio form was released in January 2013:
http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-wrong-doctors-703. Apparently Pease Pottage is being terrorised by an iguanodon, and the Mel Bush character is involved with the village’s amateur dramatics society. The first iguanodon fossil was discovered about seven miles away in Whitemans Green, near Cuckfield, so it is quite possible that the animal roamed in what was to become, about 125 million years later, Pease Pottage. No evidence has yet been discovered of an amateur dramatics society in Pease Pottage.
Pease Pottage is mentioned fleetingly in the 1953 film Genevieve, which is set during the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. The film does not include any actual footage of Pease Pottage; most of the location filming was done within a few miles of Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire.
For more information about the film, see:
Belloc’s The Four Men: A Farrago (1911) is a rambling account of a fictional journey through Sussex by four characters: Grizzlebeard, a sailor, a poet and Belloc himself. The journey takes them from St. Leonard’s Forest to Pease Pottage:
“You know all this?” said Grizzlebeard to me curiously, “then can you tell me why all these woods are called St. Leonard’s Forest?”
Myself. “Why, certainly; they are called St. Leonard’s Forest after St. Leonard.”
The Poet. “Are you so sure?”
Myself. “Without a doubt! For it is certain that St. Leonard lived here, and had a little hermitage in the days when poor men might go where they willed. And this hermitage was in that place to which I shall presently take you, from which it is possible to worship at once both our County, and God who made it.”
Saying which I took them along the side road which starts from Pease Pottage (and in those days the old inn was there), but before doing so I asked them severally whether they had any curse on them which forbade them to drink ale of a morning.
This all three of them denied, so we went into the Swan (which in those days I say again was the old inn), and we drank ale, as St. Leonard himself was used to do, round about nine or ten o’clock of an autumn morning. For he was born in these parts, and never went out of the County except once to Germany, when he would convert the heathen there; of whom, returning, he said that if it should please God he would rather be off to hell to convert devils, but that anyhow he was tired of wandering, and there-upon set up his hermitage in the place to which I was now leading my companions.
For when we had gone about a mile by the road I knew, we came to that place where the wood upon the left ends sharply upon that height and suddenly beneath one’s feet the whole County lies revealed.
There, a day’s march away to the south, stood the rank of the Downs.
(Hilaire Belloc, The Four Men: A Farrago, pp.78-80)
Some Like it Hot
The film doesn’t refer to Pease Pottage specifically, but it does take its title from the old nursery rhyme:
Pease pottage hot, pease pottage cold,
Pease pottage in the pot, nine days old.
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.
Some Like It Hot is a remake of Fanfaren der Liebe, a German-language film from 1951 which has no connection at all to Pease Pottage.
The name ‘Pease Pottage’ features in the Western Lights series of fantasy and mystery novels by the polymathic Dr Jeffrey E. Barlough: veterinarian, research scientist, painter and writer.
This fictional Pease Pottage is located not in the south of England but on the west coast of north America. It is defined in the author’s website as a
Remote village on the high moorland in Broadshire. It was outside the Pied Horse here that Harry Banister came to meet Professor Tiggs and his party.
Pease Pottage is referred to, though not by name, in Rural Rides by the writer and political reformer, William Cobbett, who visited the area in the early 1820s:
… CRAWLEY … go two miles along the road … to Brighton; then you turn to the right [at Pease Pottage] and go over six of the worst miles in England … The first two of these miserable miles go though the estate of Lord ERSKINE. It was a bare heath here and there, in the better parts of it, some scrubby birch. It has been, in part, planted with fir-trees, which are as ugly as the heath was; and, in short, it is a most villanous track.
Woodhurst, an impressive country house a few hundred yards south of the Grapes public house, was reputedly once owned by Margot Fonteyn, who used it as a dancing school.
It was later used as a care home for elderly patients (see photographs on the Francis Frith website), and at the time of writing is awaiting conversion into a medical centre operated by Sussex Health Care.