Report on the talk by Kevin Last on a diary recording the travels of a farmers son from ‘Cotchford’ Farm to Canada in the mid 1800’s. 25th Sept 2019.
Whilst Cotchford Farm was the particular interest for Hartfield History, Kevin Last was quick to point out that the name of the farm in the diary was Scotsford Farm but his research had pointed conclusively to it being the old name of Cotchford Farm. (I found that there was a Scotsford Bridge in a list of cross roads published for the convenience of travellers as a pocket book in 1804 but its exact location was not clear to me although definitely in this area. CS)
Kevin had an Aunt who lived in Brighton to the age of 98 and in her later years, whilst helping her to clear out a lifetimes collection, he came across a couple of exercise books dating from the 1850’s. One was simply full of maths but the other was written as a diary setting out in precise detail the story of a man who at the age of 23 left Scotsford Farm for a year, to work on the Great Lakes in Canada in the mid 1800’s. Kevin assumes that his aunt had got the books from an antique shop in Brighton where doubtless it had been given by a descendant who decided they did not want it but that it might interest someone else.
It seems that the farm was owned by Henry Young who lived there in the 1850’s with his family of two sons and a daughter and it was one of these sons, William, who wrote the diary during an adventurous trip.
The diary consisted of 48 pages, very precisely written and Kevin had spent two years going through and in effect translating and transcribing the story.
After a short summary of the two most famous/infamous previous owners of Cotchford Farm, Kevin described from the diary how William Young left on a rainy June day to go to London to catch a train to Liverpool for a ship across the Atlantic. We were shown a picture of the first page with the date 1854 written at the top.
The 190ft, 3-masted ship called the William Tapscott was the flagship of the fleet named after its owner who, along with his brother would go to any lengths to fleece the public. The family had gained a strong criminal history although this was unknown to our traveller who would be promised 1st class travel in the hands of a safe and good captain. In fact, the ships were much smaller than was claimed and people were treated like dirt. Little better than prison rations and sometimes not enough water but of course the Tapscotts had their money by then.
Kevin had found a ditty written about the Tapscotts which read:
“As I walked out one morning just by the Clarence Dock
Heave away my johnnies, heave away
Was there I met an Irish girl conversing with Tapscott,
Good morning Mr Tapscott, good morning my dear says he,
Do you have a Packet ship to bear me over the seas?
Oh yes I have a special ship, she’s a packet of merchant fame
She’s lying at the Waterloo Dock and the Henry Clay is her name
Bad luck unto the Henry Clay and the day she set sail
for then sailors got drunk & broke into the bunk and they stole my clothes away
‘Twas at the Castle Garden they landed me on the shore
and if I marry a Yankee boy I’d sail the seas no more.”
Kevin had researched the later history of the William Tapscott. It seems that in 1873, 19 years after Wm Young’s trip, the crew had mutinied because they said the ship was not sea-worthy as not enough money had been spent on maintenance and they were not going to take it round Cape Horn. After a trial the Captains people said the boat was perfectly OK and the mutineers were sent home under guard. Eventually in 1888 the ship carrying a cargo of granite foundered on rocks off the Cornish coast and, although the crew were rescued by rocket line sent from the shore, that was the end of the ship. The granite only reappeared in the 1930’s and was used as a basis for footpaths in and around Bude.
Wm Young’s description of the trip across the Atlantic and the storms that were encountered is described in his entry of 18th July:
“Very strong wind and rough sea. A heavy gale came on about noon. Took the sails in and the ship tossed and turned very much. The women were frightened very much some are crying and some are praying. Gale continued until 4 o’clock on the 19th.”
The sails are taken in to avoid the mast being broken but without them the ship is effectively without any control but Young, our diarist, is remarkably relaxed.
“I wanted to see once in my life a storm at sea” he records. “The captain was concerned about the mast falling so it was a restless night - but it cured me of seasickness.”
You booked your passage and took your chances, fending for yourself for the most part. Young paid £12 for a bed roll.
They eventually drew close to land and he tells us that on the 12th August “there was a great deal of singing on board and the passengers stayed up in expectation of seeing land at the break of day.” Clearly relief!
The tugboat Heracles took them up the river to the quarantine grounds where their cases and their health were checked and he then spent a night in New York before taking a train to Buffalo and then on to Lake Erie which is some 200 miles long and 70 miles wide.
His final destination was the eastern end on the Canadian side of the lake where there were towns that had been named after ones from which the population had emigrated. Port Dover to the north and Dunkirk to the south for instance and even a river Thames!
Our diarist seems to have been a very hard worker and records that he:
“Arose at 5 am and walked to Simcoe a distance of 8 miles before breakfast and engaged to work for Mr Wilton at Wyndham Mill for the first month at 18 dollars with board and lodging. Walked from there to Mr Adis and was received with the greatest kindness and had dinner with him and the workers.”
“On the 23rd also walked to Port Arcy? Came through a large field of sand no weeds to be seen but hills of sand. Walk to Port Dover and paid 12 cents for a glass of ale. Only afford one at that enormous price.”
The depth map of Lake Erie shows that it is very shallow and it seems that, apart from suffering badly from pollution, the weather could be extreme for sailing craft and it was estimated that there were some 2000 shipwrecks in that lake alone due often to tremendous storms with nowhere to shelter. So, you take your life in your own hands.
In addition, the winter could be very harsh and we were shown a picture of the lake covered in massive blocks of ice.
The diary tells a lot about his working. Sometimes got up at 3 o’clock in the morning and worked through to the evening – tremendous worker. Sunday he might go out shooting and observes “saw some Indians (Native Americans) but not in their native dress” and considers going out with them. Kevin comments that only 200 miles further north some native Americans had a reputation for taking scalps - so perhaps he should reconsider!
The diary is fundamentally a history of a year spent on Lake Erie working and making friends. He went to a temperance meeting and tells us that the doctor who lectured was drunk! All the time he has an enquiring mind. He found that some of the mills quite regularly caught fire sometimes arson, sometimes just carelessness.
Diary in September. “Rained all day, rather cool, packing flour & chipping. On the Sunday 10th rather poorly, got up at 7 o’clock, went to work on the river Lynn mill in the afternoon. Mr Adis and myself went to tea and came home at 9 pm and went to bed. On the 11th packing flour, left off doing customer work. On 12th sent off about 100 lbs of wheat, shopping at the distillery and went to tea and enjoyed myself very well at Mr Hills.”
In season they had apple or cherry parties where they gorged on the crop. Young reported that cherries promptly made him sick!
With the deep winter coming on he paid $4 for clothes and cap and paid Mrs White 15 shillings for 3 pairs of socks. He also paid $6.50 for a pair of long boots. Winter is particularly hard – still had some parties
Had some problems with his teeth. Eventually goes to see a doctor who takes out 3 teeth having given him a dose of chloroform with no effect. “Tried a double dose but still with little effect apart from a rapid beating of my heart and loss of sight” Recovered before they operated! Charged $0.5 per tooth. “Pain over my eyes all evening and went to bed early.” Despite the somewhat brutal treatment he does say that he was no longer troubled by his teeth!
In 1855 he made a trip to Niagara. “Took the great western railway to the suspension bridge got there 1pm and got rid of our yakety companions! Walked to the Falls on the Canada side and slept there all the afternoon. Went to the museum and the Indian sanctuary and saw the buffalo. Also saw the skeleton of a whale. Splendid flowers in the hot houses. Cut a cedar stick at the falls and entered my name in the register. Slept at the Elgin hotel close to the suspension bridge. Walked over the suspension bridge. The falls were the most stupendous works of nature I ever saw. The span of the suspension bridge 820 ft with 4860 wires in each great cable, 4 in number. A French philosopher estimates the cataract at 4,533,143 horse power or 19 times all the motive power of Great Britain – or more than sufficient to drive all the factories in the world! “A very detailed man. Kevin felt he would have made a good engineer!
In the middle of 1855 our friend has some bad luck. He got some steel in his eye and suffered badly from this. “Next day my eye very bad. Poultice of slippery elm to try and draw it out. Got better towards morning. Alum curd good to help the inflation from the eye.” His eye is quite bad for the next few days and then he gets some more steel in his eye. About this time, he is thinking about leaving Canada!
“Commenced to work last day in Canada, the worst time for dusting in the whole year. Rather poorly but better than I was yesterday, much worse in the afternoon, left off work at 4 o’clock and went to bed with a chill – no sleep. Sunday went out to the pond in a boat, fever and chill came up worse in the afternoon” He doesn’t give himself much time to recover. On 27th tells about saying goodbye and collecting the balance of his wages.
At this point we are told by Kevin that the diary becomes illegible for what is the last two pages.
Back home in 1858 his father Henry Young sells the farm by auction and dies later the same year. His wife dies in 1866. There is no mention of William Young. No record of the farm being passed to either son so we just don’t know what happened to William. No census info. Why is there no connection with his father or family? The fact that the diary was found in Brighton is the only clue that William Young did return or does it?
Kevin likes to think that there is a grave somewhere in East Sussex but apart from discovering one descendant in the Manchester area who is actually a descendant of his brother Spencer and has yet to make contact, this is the end of the story of William Young and his diary - so far!
Chiddingstone Outing with Bob Golds
4th September 2019
An enthusiastic group met outside the Village Hall in Chiddingstone on a bright evening. Bob Golds first took us to see the Chiding Stone which is the large sandstone boulder behind the houses, formed some 135 million years ago reputedly giving the name to the village. Folklore has it that it was an altar for the Druids but popular suggestions are that it was a place where witches or nagging wives were ‘chided’ in front of the assembled village.
The Chiding Stone with the very new Vicar who was advised to be careful as they had only just got him after 2 years of interregnum!
The village is owned by the National Trust who bought it in 1939 to ensure its preservation.
Returning to the Village Hall, Bob outlined the growth of the village. Most villages grow from the centre but unusually in this case the village grew from a series of pig ‘dens’ before the Roman occupation. Surrounded by the Wealden forest with inexhaustible supply of acorns, the dates were uncertain until recently when what is known as the Chiddingstone Hoard of 10 gold coins was found dating from 60 – 50 BC that had been buried for security or as an offering to the gods.
When the Romans left we were invaded by the Jutes from Scandinavia who settled in Kent and gave a lot of power and responsibility to the land owners. They also introduced the concept of Gavelkind in which property was shared equally rather than going to the eldest son as with primogeniture. This may have contributed to the spread-out nature of our landscape as large families took their small inheritances away.
The interest in pigs for pork and bacon every year slowly turned the temporary ‘dens’ into permanent dwelling places resulting in the house-names, hamlets and villages today such as Oakenden, Somerden, Moorden, Cowden, etc. but they could not have formed communities without the church. St Augustine arrived in 597 but it was the great battle between the Jutes and Offa of Mercia in 775 that led to the successor of Offa gifting all the dens to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 814. It is likely that the Archbishop funded the building of the first Saxon church on this site as he wanted a church for the ‘densmen’ and their families but also wanted to keep the pork and bacon rolling in! The Archbishop of Canterbury remains the patron to this day.
We then moved over to St Mary’s Church and settled into the front pews for the next part of the story. The village of Chiddingstone thus developed from a group of dens around the church and lay within the ‘Hundred’ of Somerden. This old Roman term for an area included Penshurst, Hever, Mark Beech and Leigh. At this time there would have been a blacksmith, a butcher, of course a priest and an ale house although a lot of farms or dens would have produced their own ale very weak but a lot safer then water.
Cransted Mill still exists but in name only. The villagers were required to use the miller but many couldn’t afford it so they made their own using small hand grinding stones, the bottom stationary one is called a ‘quern’ whilst the top one that is turned by hand is the ‘handstone’, small enough to be hidden away fast to avoid being seen by the bailiff (at that time you could lose a hand for stealing an egg so you can imagine what the punishment could be)
Moving onto the medieval period of the Manors, there were 6 in all but the two main ones were the Manors of Burghersh and Cobham, created when the two daughters of Peter de Chiddingstone married these two Lords. Eleanor married William Burghersh who built a grand manor house nearby at Wellers Town by the stream. In 1309 Bartholomew Burghersh, an immensely strong man took over the manor. His uncle was the custodian of Leeds Castle but whilst he was away plotting against the King, Edward II, he got Bartholomew to look after Leeds Castle along with his aunt Margaret. She was a very feisty lady who had a deep hatred for Queen Isabella. It happened that the Queen was returning from Canterbury and as she owned the castle wanted to stay the night there. On approach she was given a mouthful by Margaret which she ignored and so Margaret gave an order for archers to fire and 6 of Queen Isabella’s entourage were killed – they decided to go elsewhere!
Normally peaceful, the King raised an army of 30,000 and attacked Leeds Castle for 5 days in 1321 which he conquered eventually and strung up 12 of the garrison and threw Bartholomew and his aunt into the Tower of London where they languished for 5 years. He was eventually released when Queen Isabella overthrew the King and put the young 14-year-old prince who became Edward III on the throne. Bartholomew was invited into Parliament, became Admiral of the Fleet, Warden of the Cinque Ports, Ambassador to France, forever fighting by the King’s side in many battles. All of this made him very wealthy indeed. 20 years on finds him back in Chiddingstone – a very pious man, he decided to build the church by rebuilding the central section and adding the 2 aisles for the common people to look in on the happenings. By the mid 1330’s he had gone into a monastery.
However, he was summoned by the King to go to France for the great battle of Crecy in 1346. Two of the men who were leaders in this battle were the two Lords, Burghersh and Cobham and they would have taken a lot of soldiers and archers from the village. They would train in Targate Field the other side of the old rectory. Interesting that a little later on in 1363 Edward III made it compulsory for every man and boy over the age of 10 to practice archery on Sunday after church.
The Burghersh family line came to an end in 1450 and the Manor itself changed hands when it was bought by a wealthy London Lawyer John Alphegh. This is also the time of the Kentish Rebellion when the Kentish people were fed up with the abuses of power of the King but particularly the Kent officials themselves. The sheriff, under-sheriff and the bailiffs had been extorting money for a long time. John Alphegh was under-sheriff and named as one who would turn up first thing in the morning and demand money and if you could not pay would take your cattle. When the rebels eventually reached London, they pulled out one or two of these officials who had sought refuge in the Tower and executed them. Somehow John Alphegh escaped but maybe with the money he had extorted he bought this manor and lived at Bore Place, a mile or 2 away, rebuilding it as a very grand house.
His daughter married the Lord Chief Justice who was much better for Chiddingstone, building the north chapel. The manor passed by the daughters again to the Willoughbys who managed 3 generations as `Lords of the Manor’ leading us into the Tudor period and of course Henry VIII. Thomas Boleyn owned the Manor House in Chiddingstone. This building had replaced the old Manor House when it had fallen down and what is now the village shop and the house next door was built as the Burghersh Manor House.
Doubtless Henry would have come riding through the village on his way to Hever when he was courting Anne Boleyn who was one of his wife, Catherine’s, ladies-in-waiting. His infatuation with Anne eventually led not only to the end of Catherine and Henry’s marriage but also to England becoming a Protestant country! Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves managed to get a tactical divorce and lived out the remainder of her life at Hever where she was guarded by a man called Thomas Birsty. He and his son have a plaque in the floor of St Marys as at that time they were probably the second wealthiest family in Chiddingstone!
Next upturn in Chiddingstone fortunes is in Elizabeth’s reign due the growth of the iron industry. The blast furnace system imported from France around that time – early 1500’s. Great call for iron and cannon and cannonballs and one of the great ironmasters around here was a Richard Streatfield beginning a special relationship between Chiddingstone and the Streatfield family which continues 500 years on. They became rich from not only iron but also textiles so that they eventually owned much of Chiddingstone. It was said that “They managed their estate by care and prudent marriage over the next 300 years never seeking high office, but content to look after their property and tenants - popular and beloved in the villages around Chiddingstone”. When you look round the church you will see the name very frequently indeed!
The party then had the opportunity of climbing the tower steps to see the view of the village.
The group were then given a hand drawn map of the village c.1750 and led down the High Street with pointers on the various buildings in particular the neighbouring Burghersh and Cobham Manor Houses, both of which were probably used as manorial courts as the main Cobham Manor House for instance was Starborough Castle which was exactly like Bodiam Castle but was torn down in the Civil War by the Parliamentarians because they said it was a nest of Royalist vipers!
We then had a visit to Annie Gilbert’s house (Cobham manor house) in particular to view the bread oven and the interesting narrow passage upstairs!
The last building on what remains of the High Street was known as Rock House for many years and had a butcher at the back. It was then purchased by the Weller brothers who made a lot of money out of ale houses and blacksmiths and they called it the 5 Bells which gives a clue as to the number of bells in the tower at that time. Having made their money out of beer and blacksmiths they built Wellers Town - slightly tongue in cheek to call it a town!
The High Street used to go straight on where the gate and path is now as shown on Bob’s map circa 1750 and there was a cage on the corner by the church for miscreants to await the court as well as the village stocks.
What we now know as The Castle was then ‘High Street House’ from mid 1400. By 1500 it was occupied by Robert Streatfield whose son Richard was the first great ironmaster and he was followed by a series of nine Henrys. One of the later ones, inspired by a visit to Italy, came back and built a restoration style house and called it High Street House with great gardens and avenue of trees stretching right down to the river. There was a Village Green which was used for all village celebrations and the Pound Oak where villagers would go if they needed labour or were looking for a job. Beyond was a house called Tyehaw which was bought by the Weller brothers and became the Three Horseshoes.
Before it became a pub it was owned by a bailiff, Thomas Heywood who, like other men fell for the charms of a lady, in this case one called Petronella Brightwell. Unfortunately, both were already married but together they conspired to poison their spouses and then to marry. The law caught up with them and Thomas was hung. Bob did not know what happened to Petronella but there was a saying; “To the father the bough, to the son the plough” which meant that despite the disgrace, the land would still be passed on to the son. Gavelkind was still in place and Thomas Heywood had 5 sons so this house was divided into 5 but they got together and sold it to the Weller brothers and it became an ale house.
Back to High Street House. Another Henry Streatfield turned it into a Gothic structure and his son, Henry, castellated it and decided about 1835 that as he owned most of the houses in the High Street he would demolish all those nearer than Rock House and divert the road so that he could build a lake and turn all the grounds into the castle grounds you see today.
Last chapter. The Castle was owned by the Streatfield’s until about 1900 then during the war it was occupied by Canadian forces, later becoming a school and then was bought by Dennis Bower to house his magnificent Egyptian and Japanese antiques. Unfortunately, he was given life imprisonment for attempting to murder his girlfriend and attempted suicide. He had a good lady solicitor who after a few years managed to get the sentence called a miscarriage of justice and he came out and together with his solicitor opened up the castle to the public displaying the antiques to this day.
Into the 1900’s the area was still a very busy farming community, especially at harvest and hop picking time and the houses were overflowing with farm workers, tradesmen and labourers but it would all change with the sale of the Hever estate. All the tenanted cottages were sold off, the barns were adapted, the oast houses too, prices rose and people who had been in the tenanted properties had nowhere to go and the village changed quite significantly. It does however remain a very happy community now with 2 churches, 2 village halls, 3 cricket clubs and the Streatfield family are still wholly involved. Mark Streatfield is Chairman of the Dennis Bower Trust that owns and runs the Castle. Rachel Streatfield is the headmistress of the school; husband Richard is Chairman of the Parish Council and his youngest brother is getting married in St Marys this Saturday! There are 5 dairy herds and the farming families are still very well respected - they more than anybody hold the link with our past and we all feel lucky to live in this neck of the woods and privileged to share a bit of the history with you.
Ernest van Maurik by John van Maurik
27th March 2019
John introduced the story of his father by illustrating with a map the connections that Van had with South Wales, Scotland and Prague as well as many other countries later in his career as a diplomat. The slide showing his picture, the Westminster Green Plaque commemorating the SOE HQ in Baker Street and also the Insignia of the SOE. (Special Operations Executive) prepared us for the wartime story and we were also shown a much later picture particularly for those who might remember Van in Hartfield in his late years with his great grandson Oliver.
Ernest van Maurik was born in the south east of England to a Dutch father and an English mother who had refused to speak Dutch which had decided the country where they were to live and bring up children! His father brought his family cigar business to the UK.
At 13 Van was sent to Lancing College where as a popular pupil and later head of house he gained his shortened name that stuck with him for a lifetime. Unfortunately, his father’s cigar business was suffering badly from conditions at the time and there was no money to send Van to university.
Instead Van was sent to a contact in Germany in 1935 where he saw the growth of the Nazis and did not like what he saw. However, he did learn excellent German and French that were to stand him in good stead later. Returning to London he got a job selling tea but also joined the Artists Rifles that became the founding regiment of the SAS.
On the outbreak of war, he moved to the Wiltshire Regiment and after a small arms course became involved in the SOE where he learnt sabotage and assassination techniques. Doubtless because he showed promise he was sent up to Arisaig in Scotland where he learnt more sophisticated techniques such as blowing up trains and also trained other operatives including some Czech soldiers who were to feature later in his war. At this time no-one knew what they were being trained for but they all had a good time!
Van worked for the head of SOE and knew a number of people who were to become famous but he also met a lady called Winifred Hay who, as a member of FANY, acted as a driver and later as his secretary.
Clearly Van was a man of action and we were told of various exploits which he survived. such as getting agents into Malta. Finally, he got his real wish and was parachuted into France in 1944 to support the Resistance meeting several prominent members including the Englishman, Richard Heslop who went under the code name Xavier. Working with the Maquis from Switzerland he organised an airdrop of arms and equipment for them and worked closely with British agents staying in France until the end of the war when he was ordered into Berlin to help repatriate British citizens.
At the end of the war he received the military OBE, married Win and joined the Diplomatic Service as a rather special diplomat on the basis of his background. The couple were first sent to Egypt and when they returned to the UK John was born. Moscow came next where attempts were made to compromise him. Even when Win was pushing John in his pram she was grabbed by a man saying that he was a rich Russian and she should come away with him! She walked away! Back at their flat soon after, they looked out of their window and saw a hot air balloon in the sky with Stalin’s face painted on it and all lit up. As a joke they called their maid and said, ‘look out of the window, God is in his heaven.’ The maid screamed with laughter at the joke and then realising that the flat was probably bugged, stopped and ran out of the room!
They left, returning to London where sister Gillian was born. When she was only 4.1/2 months and John was 4.1/2 years they were sent to Berlin. John recalls the complete devastation everywhere and going into the garden next door where he was able to pick up a machine gun bandolier complete with bullets – which he was not allowed to keep!
Back to the UK, then to Buenos Aires. Back to the UK and then to Copenhagen. Whilst there he was asked where he would like to go for his last posting. He said that whilst in Buenos Aires he learnt Spanish so would like to go somewhere to speak Spanish again - so they sent him to Brazil – where they speak Portuguese! (Laughter) Van said “the Foreign Office don’t understand ‘overseas’ do they?”
Not very long after they returned to the UK Win fell ill and died very prematurely. Whilst Van was still coming to terms with his terrible loss he received a phone call from Vera Atkins the secretary to Maurice Buckmaster, a flamboyant character who may have been the model for Miss Moneypenny of James Bond fame! She said that there was a remembrance service arranged for Xavier in France and he should go. Despite his protestations that he was not ready having so recently lost Win, Vera said that it was exactly what he needed so he went as part of the healing process.
At the service he saw a man in army boots who told him on being questioned about the boots that they were dropped from a plane in 1944 along with an agent. When Van told him that he was that agent he was embraced and taken to see a woman in a silk dress that had been made from his parachute!
He also met Xavier’s two sons who were amazed to hear people shouting tributes to their father whose subsequent career had not been very successful. “Was he really a hero” they asked Van to which Van said in no uncertain terms that he was which made their day. Van met Marius Roche, the man who had guided him with his torch and also the son of the head of the local Resistance who had been killed by the Gestapo.
When John and his family went back to the Jura area with Van they met Marius Roche and were taken to the Ferme de la Montagne - Farm in the Mountain – where, with tears in his eyes, he recounted the story of his escape across a field in which his twin had been killed. We were shown a picture of the family with Marius Roche and his children. The relationship with Marius Roche blossomed and helped the family for a long time. They also met Pierre Mercier who had founded the Museum of the Resistance and he took them to see the exhibits which included some of the weapons and amazingly, the jumpsuit that had been worn by Van when he parachuted in!
On a visit 2 years ago, John & Sheila were taken up the mountain to a ceremony held at the Monument to the Resistance in the hills and here they met one of the original Resistance fighters and were shown the field into which Van had parachuted.
A number of things developed from the relationship with Marius Roche who had realised that Van had not been recognised for his work with the Maquis. De Gaulle had restricted the number of available medals which were handed out in alphabetical order and ran out at the letter N! Marius was instrumental in persuading the French to present Van with the Legion d’Honneur at his club in London.
John returned to the wartime story in which the Czech men that Van had trained in Scotland were given the task of assassinating the Nazi Heydrich who had been responsible for crushing any resistance in Czechoslovakia and became known as the “Butcher of Prague”.
It was thought that Heydrich had been responsible for the killing of at least 3000 people and was a key architect of the Holocaust and was most likely to be the successor to Hitler.
When the operation finally took place there was a problem with a sten gun that jammed but Heidrich was wounded and died later of blood poisoning. The two Czech soldiers escaped but were trapped in a church crypt which the Germans flooded and after 6 hours, knowing they were doomed they committed suicide. Worse, much worse was to come with a terrifying reprisal in which the whole village of Lidice where the soldiers had been waiting for their chance, was obliterated from the face of the earth. All the men were lined up and shot and all the women and children were sent to a concentration camp.
A 1943 British propaganda film based on this operation called The Silent Village was made in a small village in west Wales called Cwmgiedd, with a similarity to the mining village of Lidice, re-enacted the story. The film, calling for solidarity among miners faced with the German threat to freedom, was instrumental in forging enduringly strong relationships between Czech and Welsh miners, in particular. Van, who saw the film carried with him a terrible conscience because he had trained those soldiers who precipitated the reprisal resulting in the deaths of 173 men and boys over 16 and 300 women and children.
Time moves on and John and Sheila spent increasing amounts of time in a family property in Wales which turned out to be the same village and they got to know people who had taken part in the film. Although Lidice had been wiped from the face of the earth one tree survived and recently some seeds from this tree have been planted in Cwmgiedd as a symbol of continuity and hope for the future.
Van died in 2012, father, grandfather and great grandfather, much loved.
Van’s memoirs were published a few years ago under the nom de guerre Agent Paterson.
One of the audience who was born in Prague said that she would never have dreamt that a story from 60 years ago of which she was reminded constantly would be heard here in the Hartfield Village Hall. She added that she was a great admirer of the Czech soldiers Van had trained. We were told that there is an area within the site of Lidice where nothing grew and eventually it was excavated and turned out to be the mass burial of the men and boys of the village. A harrowing reminder.
Wakehurst at War with John Withall
February 27th 2019
John Withall started his talk by telling us that he had been employed as a Ranger at Wakehurst Place in 1994. He had always been interested in history but when he asked what had happened at Wakehurst during the war he was told – nothing! Being like a red rag to a bull he started to delve into the history assisted by another Ranger, his current wife Veronica, who was with him.
Researching back to the 1914-18 War John came across the memoires of a boy gardener who at the age of 13/14 had told his father that he could hear the sound of thunder in the Wakehurst garden and, when his father eventually went to the valley with his son, he could also hear the big guns from the Somme. John Loder, son of the owner of Wakehurst was heavily involved in fighting in the war and was mentioned in despatches
The mansion had been bought by Sir Henry Price from Gerald Loder (later Lord Wakehurst) who had largely been responsible for creating the gardens over 33 years from 1903. Sir Henry had made his money from his creation of the ‘ready-made suit’ with the business known as The 50/- Tailor. (Fifty Shilling Tailor) Previous to this all suits were tailor made restricting their sale to the wealthy! It was Sir Henry Price who left Wakehurst to the National Trust in 1965 but it was Sir Henry and his wife Lady Eve Price who had set about refurbishing the Mansion which was suffering badly from neglect with Sir Henry even falling through the floor on occasions. They had just completed most of the work including re-roofing with Horsham tiles collected from all over the district, when they received a letter marked OHMS advising them that the Mansion was to be taken over for the War Effort and that they should move out!
It was Bernard Law Montgomery who was in charge when Wakehurst became the General HQ of the Canadian Army in the UK. He believed in discipline and on arriving found that many of the soldiers had their wives with them, sent them all home and toughened everyone up by making all ranks take part in cross country runs..
The fateful Dieppe raid of 1942 was planned at Wakehurst. For obvious reasons very little was shown to the public but the figures tell it all. There were 6100 men in all ranks with 4900 from Canada . 907 were killed and 2460 wounded. 1800 were taken prisoner and only 336 returned unharmed which may be accounted for by the fact that 2-300 hadn’t even landed on the beach. It was a disaster.
Knowing of the Dieppe disaster John and a group visited the war graves and found several names from Wakehurst as well as a stone for a Salvation Army lady driver of a tea wagon who had been killed by enemy fire from an aircraft. The list of Wakehurst killed used to hang in the hallway at Wakehurst but is now stored at Kew.
One picture was shown of King George VI taking the salute as the Canadian troops marched by outside the Mansion and another showed the ‘lockup’ used for what John called ‘naughty troops’ as it is today – still with bars on the windows.
It seems that small planes used to land at Wakehurst and that there was a Field Survey Company of the Royal Engineers whose task it was to produce the equivalent of Ordnance Survey maps of France and Germany from hundreds of photographs taken by planes flying over the enemy ground. These would then be supplied to the front line in the battle to help with manoeuvres.
In 1944 it was all change when the Canadians moved out and Wakehurst became the tactical HQ for some of the planning for ‘D’-day. It seems that by then there was a unit of ambulances that took over the car park and the rest of the ground was full of Nissan Huts and marquees. The fireplaces in the Mansion had been boarded up to stop the Canadian ‘woodsmen’ from cutting down the prize specimen trees in the park and burn the benches just to keep warm and the gardens were now out of bounds.
Lady Price reported that a V1 (Doodlebug) had landed in a tree at the end of North Drive and the brave Home Guard and ARP wardens had somehow removed it without incident.
Under the heading of ‘secrets’ John Withall told us about the Zero Radio Stations that had been hidden underground all over the country for communication in case of invasion. By 1944 Winston Churchill had ordered that all these Zero stations should be disbanded and the equipment destroyed. This had happened very widely but because all the people involved had signed the Official Secrets Act very little was known about them. They had been manned by women ATS officers who had been selected by Beatrice Temple, the niece of the Archbishop of Canterbury who later became the Mayor of Lewes. The chosen ones were posted to a Zero Station. The one at Wakehurst only survived the initial order to disband because it was used to contact the French Resistance. It was not until some time after the war that a gardener strimming a section of the garden fell through a trapdoor that the entrance was found again. This was not of interest to Kew at the time and so it was covered over and left until 2009 when the one man sent to investigate had to abandon the task due to a long period of wet weather.
Eventually a local man who had a camera on a pole was able to take photos that showed the interior of the tunnel-like structure flooded but otherwise empty of any equipment. Nearby embedded in a tree was found a switch that had been used to open the door and 5 nearby trees were found to have antennae embedded in their bark at the top.
The connection of the Women’s Land Army with Wakehurst was established when John was presented with a shoebox full of memorabilia collected by a lady called Constance Williams. This included her Land Army Certificate signed by Diana De La Warr and a letter from Dorothy Macmillan, shortly after taking up residence with her husband at 10 Downing Street, responding to a greeting and congratulations from Constance Williams whom she clearly remembered well.
John told us of the large POW camp close by with separate sections for Italians and Germans who were pressed into work ’digging for Britain’ at Wakehurst, of which no trace remains today except he surmised for descendants of those prisoners who remained in Britain after the war and became part of our multi-cultural country!
At the end of the war the Prices’ were able to come back to Wakehurst very soon. The property had been the first to be requisitioned and was the first to be returned.
In a final connection with wartime and Wakehurst, veterans of the Korean War of 1950 – 53 asked for a memorial Korean Fir to be planted. It carries purple coloured cones and can be seen in the area known as the Pinetum which lies to the north-east of the Himalayan Glade.
So, the next time you visit Wakehurst where seemingly nothing happened in wartime, remember - it did!
Tales, Tit Bits and Trivia with Chris McCooey.
Chris McCooey is an accomplished ‘raconteur’ who has over the years collected dozens of stories, many of which have been published in a series of books. However he started his reminisce by telling a nice little story about the cycling Vicar of Chiddingstone whose bicycle was thought to have been stolen until he remembered where he had left it the night before - after having been told to preach on the Ten Commandments by the Bishop. I am not going to explain as he may well want to add it to a new book!
That is of course the difficulty of providing a write-up on Chris’s stories – although to be fair, a copy of the relevant book will doubtless provide the full story!
On the table Chris had laid out all of his books and he explained to us that he started his books by thinking up a title and then set out to fill it in accordance with the title such as Tales, Tit Bits and Trivia or War, Women and Weather. His latest offering, yet to be completed, has the title The Quest – Quaint & Quirky of Kent and Sussex. Any ideas welcome!
This of course gives the perfect excuse to nose around for stories to record for posterity and Chris described how one or two of these came about, along with several entertaining side-tracks! A family of three brothers who all died in WWII and are remembered in wild flower windows in a church in Hadlow Down that he nearly missed because the church did not appeal to him! But he did with such a positive if sad resulting story.
Sitting beside a man in his 90’s at lunch in Crowborough he teased a story out of him about his escape from the beach at Dunkirk over three days whilst all around him died, only to find himself back on the beach prodding for mines at the invasion – and he had survived. The side story was that of an American visiting France shortly after the war when he was asked for his visa. He replied that the last time he came on D-Day he wasn’t asked for a visa!
The story of the inventor of Table football – or Subbuteo, Peter Adolph who lived in Langton Green is another of the stories from Tales, Tit Bits and Trivia with the interesting explanation of the unusual name. This one I am going to spoil! It seems that Peter Adolph had called the game ‘Hobby” and, after a simple advert in Boy’s Own Magazine produced £10,000 worth of 7/6d postal orders and cheques he thought he should check officially if he could use the name only to find that he couldn’t. Being a knowledgeable bird watcher he picked the Latin name of the Hobby Falcon which is Falco Subbuteo!
The story of Oliver Cromwell’s head owned by a family from Kemsing was quite extraordinary especially that it was not until the 1960’s that this came to light.
Chris McCooey himself spent 10 years teaching in Japan and this reminded him of the story of a man who has a memorial in Uckfield after a lifetime of missionary work in Japan. It’s these sorts of stories with local connections that he finds very attractive. A story about a Tamworth pig that he bought as a Christmas present for his children and the escapologist piglets provided an amusing illustration of his own domestic life – maybe a while ago!
A couple of final stories rounded off an entertaining evening.
The Battle of Lewes with James Dickinson
We were first introduced to King John 1199-1216 who was described as one of the most evil men to have occupied the throne of England and James described several horrific episodes even personal murders including that of a rival to the throne. The wives of the Barons were also at his mercy as he was ‘The King’. He married a French princess Isabella in about 1200 when she was only 12. In 1207 she gave birth to a son who was named Henry after the King’s father, Henry II.
Henry II had won some 2/3 of modern day France but the French King Philippe wanted it back and had subsequently recovered most of this.
King John spent some 10 years trying to get enough money together to mount a counter-attack. Punitive levels of taxation and extortion were applied to the Barons which disturbed the Barons more than John’s personal excesses! The eventual counter-attack was wholly unsuccessful.
England was left in desperate financial state and the Barons rebelled against the King’s rule starting the First Baron’s War in 1215. The rebels took London and John was forced to come to terms at Runnymede Green when he granted the great charter, Magna Carta, the most famous provision being that no free man should be deprived of his liberty without judgement of his peers and also that any new taxation must have the approval of the Barons.
John very quickly reneged on Magna Carta resulting in the Civil War and the Barons invited the French King to assist as they had decided that they would prefer French rule to that of King John and a large French army was sent to England led by the French King’s son Louis. But in October 1216 John did something worthwhile – he died! Henry III succeeded to the throne at the age of only 9 in a very precarious position. William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke was appointed Regent to look after the young King and knew that it was vital for him to be crowned as soon as possible to validate his position which he arranged within 10 days of John’s death.
London was under French control so the coronation took place at what was then Gloucester Abbey, the Magna Carta was re-issued in 1216 and 1217 to try to regain the power of Royalty.
Following battles, one at least led by William Marshall and a sea battle, the French were eventually driven back to France. William Marshall died in 1219 and, known as the Earl Marshall his name remains today as one of England’s Hereditary Peers currently held by the Dukes of Norfolk. The main duty of the Earl Marshall today is to organise the Monarch’s Coronation just as William did in 1216.
Henry achieved his majority at the age of 19 and his reign was to last 56 years, the 4th longest in English history. Not evil but weak, indecisive and a poor ruler, being inclined to take notice of the most recent advice he was given rather than the best. Despite many problems it took 30 years for his reign to crumble and face him with the Barons - like his father.
Like his father, Henry was obsessed with recovering the French lands but alas all attempts had proved a failure except to regain the lands of Gascogny earlier in the reign, following it’s seizure by the Count who had married King John’s widow, Isabelle of Angouleme. This expedition had been funded by the re-issue of Magna Carta in 1225 in which it further required that if the King wanted something he had to grant the Baron’s something in return. It is just small parts of this charter that remain in force to this day. When further expeditions to France failed the Barons increasingly resented the money that they had agreed to pay. From 1230 the term ‘parliament’ begins to emerge representing the body to advise the King on financial and other matters. Lay & ecclesiastical nobility with just a few knights of the shires made up this group. There were no representatives from the towns.
Henry too married a French princess, Eleanor of Provence who was only about 12 at the time. A clever and beautiful girl and women she remained a loyal wife for 36 years. She was all the things Henry was not and played a leading role in ruling the kingdom, acting as her husband’s regent when he was away. She emerges as a hardheaded firm politician.
On Eleanor mother’s side were the Savoyards, a family skilled in diplomacy in both Italy and France. Some Savoyards came to England, one becoming Archbishop of Canterbury and was given the ‘Honour of Richmond’ and granted considerable land in the Strand. The location of the Savoy Palace which was burnt down in the Peasants Revolt of 1381 is marked by the Savoy Hotel on the same site with an effigy of St Peter of Savoy over the entrance.
Further nepotism was rife with the half-siblings of Henry through Isabelle and her marriage to Hugh de Lusignan whose estate was far too small to support their nine surviving children. The eldest inherited his father’s titles remaining in France but his remaining siblings moved to England in search of fortune from their half brother, which he provided extravagantly with property and titles.
The English nobles rebelled against this lavish nepotism, led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester who had been born in France about 1208 so about the same age as Henry and came to England about 1229 and, unlike Henry, a formidable man at arms. For a period he was one of Henry’s most trusted friends and advisors, becoming Henry’s brother-in-law when he married the King’s sister Eleanor Plantagenet. However, he was an egotistical and arrogant man and the two men fell out so that by 1258 he was one of the main leaders of the rebellion by the Barons against Henry’s rule.
The barons demanded of the King and his heir, Edward, that executive government should be handed over to a council of 24 Barons. Henry & Edward had to swear oaths on the Gospels to be bound by the decisions of this Council. The King was not to impose any new taxes and had to hand over the Royal Seal, the ultimate symbol of government to a responsible person whose identity would be decided by the Council.
Parliament was to meet three times a year to appoint Royal Ministers and a Privy Council to advise the King and oversee the power of administration. These demands were considered extraordinary at this time when a King was deemed to rule by Divine Right and be answerable only to God. Eight weeks later another Parliament met at Oxford when Henry was presented with a full list of his failings and accused outright of breaching Magna Carta.
Once again, like his father, Henry was to wriggle out of the Provisions of Oxford in the same way by getting the Pope to absolve him from his agreement and he was able to resume his personal role and de Montfort retreated to France in disgust. When he returned to England in 1263 it was with the clear intention of re-imposing the Provisions of Oxford.
The Barons and the King decided that the whole matter of the Kings rule and the legitimacy of the Provisions of Oxford should be referred to arbitration of King Louis IX of France who ruled, not surprisingly, in favour of King Henry. This was the final catalyst for civil war in England. As London was the centre of support for the Barons Henry moved his Court to Oxford and the Royal Standard was unfurled on the 3rd April 1264 marking the outbreak of all-out civil war. The Second Baron’s War had begun.
The various movements of the two armies were described in detail finally resulting in de Montfort’s army charging down the hill in Lewes close to the location of the prison today, against the Royalist army who had based themselves in the Priory. The right flank under son, Edward’s command was lost to the main battle because he had chased for 2 or 3 miles the opposite flank of mostly Londoners who he loathed because of their pelting of his mother when travelling down the Thames the previous year! This exposed the centre commanded by the other son, Richard who was eventually captured hiding in a windmill. Henry was forced to capitulate and Edward received a severe rebuke on his eventual return to the town!
The surrender terms were agreed on 15th May 1263 where Henry had to accept what is known as ‘The Knees of Lewes’. He had to agree that the realm would be ruled in accordance with the Provisions of Oxford and he and his family were to be under the control of de Montfort.
Simon de Montfort’s rule of England from 1264 to 1265 is regarded as having a fundamental impact on the development of parliament as we know it today. De Montfort has a world-wide reputation as one of the founders of representative democracy. He has an engraving in the US House of Representatives in Washington and a memorial at his grave in Evesham was unveiled by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Archbishop of Canterbury for the 700th anniversary of the battle.
However de Montfort’s Rule was short lived. In 1265 de Montfort and his government relaxed the terms of Edward’s incarceration and he was moved to what we would know now as an open prison, in or near Hereford. This turned out to be a very very bad move as Edward was allowed out on a hunting expedition and escaped. Edward raised an army, which met De Montfort’s forces at Evesham on 4th August, and there was to be no repeat of the mistakes made at Lewes. At Evesham de Montfort’s forces were routed and Simon himself was killed and he was buried in what was known as Evesham Valley at the time.
We may not always like Parliament and Politicians but perhaps they are still better than dictators like King John and absolute tyrants of his type and maybe even weak people like his son Henry.
Parliament emerged due to the fundamental need to control the penal imposition of taxation, which remains its overriding purpose today.
The 'Natural’ History of Ashdown Forest? When is a “Forest” not a forest?
Ashdown Forest from the last Ice Age to the Present Day with Rich Allum (South Chase Ranger) for The Conservators of Ashdown Forest. (This talk was originally advertised as being given by Steve Alton, Conservation Officer)
A large audience settled in to hear a most interesting illustrated talk by Rich on the history of Ashdown Forest and how it ties in with the ‘natural’ history of the Forest. Also to challenge a number of misconceptions about The Forest and ‘forests’ in general. Of course, when asked what the word ‘forest’ meant to everyone the popular response was ‘trees’ whereas in the past the dictionary definitions make it clear that it was an area typically owned by the sovereign and set aside for hunting and it just happens that many of these areas are now covered with trees today. The example of The New Forest being the largest area of open space in England made the point succinctly! Nowadays, however, the word ‘forest’ has become synonymous with ‘woodland’.
Ashdown Forest is at the top of the Ashdown Forest Beds sandstone ridge being well drained and resistant to erosion providing the rolling countryside we appreciate. The heathland depends on the acidic sandstone for its very existence and is why the tree growth has to be controlled as otherwise the heathland would very quickly turn into woodland with the loss of all the rare endemic species. The existence of impermeable clay in conjunction with the sandstone and the iron carrying layers that we heard about back in November has led to very acidic boggy areas which have their own extremely rare plants. A large proportion of our native bio diversity of invertebrates are housed by the heathland including about half of all British spiders and more than half of British dragonflies and the same applies to British bugs, beetles, wasps and ants. The sandstone, heated by the sun without tree cover, provides a warm space which encourages the adder and smooth snakes.
Specialist heathland birds several of which are not only rare but also endangered such as the Dartford Warbler, hate the cold and feed on spiders, so this provides a perfect environment. The Nightjar can be heard in May/June calling for a mate. The most endangered of the birds we were shown was the Hen Harrier that breeds on grouse moors but is illegally persecuted by gamekeepers forcing them towards extinction. In the winter they migrate down from the north to roost in the dense heather and at one time the Forest had 5 individuals of only 14 breeding pairs in Britain. These are large birds of prey with wingspans of 4 to 5 feet.
Many other birds that depend upon the habitat were illustrated and Rich impressed on us the importance of protecting the heathland of the Forest. The UK has more than 20% of the world’s heathland habitat and only about 1/6 of the forest that existed in 1800 remains..
It seems that there is another common misconception that Rich wanted to dispel - that heathlands are man made. We were shown a series of slides from the Mesolithic period forward illustrating how it has always been the herbivores that have controlled the growth of the plants.
In the 12th Century Ashdown Forest was enclosed by an estimated 37 km ‘pale’ with gates and hatches - which gave their name to many local places today such as Colemans Hatch, Chuck Hatch, Chelwood Gate etc. In fact some 40 to 45 gates and hatches have been discovered. These entrances funnelled people together in order to pass across the ‘forest’, which explains the existence and location of many inns and pubs with names such as ‘The Hatch’.
The pale consisted of a 4 ft raised bank with a 4 ft fence on top with 4ft deep ditch below to prevent deer escaping but would allow them to jump in should they be inclined! The term ‘Beyond the Pale’ refers to the difference in laws between the Kings land inside the Pale and outside.
The first record of a Ranger on the Forest was 1273 at which time they were called ‘Foresters’ and they were in the King’s employ so it was a prestigious job and there are many Foresters Cottages on the Forest which would have been their homes.
Following the Norman Conquest, Ashdown Forest was set up as a Norman hunting forest and Rich showed a tapestry illustrating forest hunting with the use of a ‘standing’ from which the King could see the deer that were then driven past for hunters. It is believed that Kingstanding is the standing used by the King Henry VIII.
The existence of sunken tracks, largely north-south, from the Downs to the High Weald sandstone is explained by the movement of pigs in the autumn to fatten them on acorns and the beech mast. A lot of these tracks have turned into Bridle paths and rights of way often converging on the gates and hatches.
The story of the Commoners and their importance to the condition of the Forest cannot be exaggerated. Some 1500 homes had Commoners rights until 1693 with the Enclosure legislation. They did not own the land but it could be used as a bargaining chip or a dowry. The Enclosure Legislation meant that people could own parts of the Forest and therefore could also sell them and large pieces of the Forest were sold off. The remaining part which is known as the ‘Waste of the Manor of Duddleswell’ is the part we know as Ashdown Forest today and is the part that the Conservators look after.
At this time rabbit had become very popular and for the commercial production of meat and fur large mounds known as pillow mounds were built as rabbit warrens and once again have given their name to many places such as Hindleap Warren and Broadstone Warren.
In 1882, the story goes that the Lady of the Manor was sick of the commoners or common folk grazing their animals, cutting the trees, taking the peat and cutting the bracken and she decided it was time to get rid of them even though generations of these people had been using this land for thousands of years. Of course the peasants reacted very strongly as the Forest provided them with their living, grazing their animals, using the wood and peat and all the medicines and dyes they could make and they would have no way to survive without the forest. They got together and marched to London but the justice system was not what it is today and with the Nobility against Peasantry the court found in favour of the Lord and Lady of the Manor.
However, a local solicitor from Hastings, William Augustus Raper, considered that a great injustice had been done and spent 3 years gathering sworn testimony of all the people who had lived on the forest and had rights over generations. He was told that he must prove they had had these rights for 30 years or more which was then taken to the Appeal Court and then to the House of Lords which in 1885 found for the Common Man against the Nobility, leading to the first Act of Parliament to set up Ashdown Forest with the Conservators to manage the Forest and protect the rights of the Commoners.
Whereas most ‘locals’ would be living off the land prior to the war, WWII changed it all with people moving into towns and no longer producing their own food and thus many ‘forests’ in England were to suffer from the lack of people and their animals and several forests were heavily planted with pine.
95% of trees on Ashdown Forest have grown since the war with the majority being only 40 years old so the Conservators are trying to put the Forest back to how it was before the war.
They have their own Galloway Cattle, Hebridean Sheep and Exmoor Ponies which are the rare breeds most closely related to the earliest of animals that lived off the forest and are able to do well under the toughest conditions.
An inspiring place as related to the work of AA Milne, EH Shepherd, Conan Doyle and many private painters, photographers and writers. A landscape that is both very valuable and almost unique too.
Rich Allum finished up by quoting a poem written by his one-time neighbour Randle Manwaring.
Across his many hectares
he drives with eagle eye,
custodian of a land
Saxons and Normans knew
where hunting lodges once
graced the royal park
now damselflies and dragonflies
beautify the air.
In heather and the heathlands
coppiced woodland ways
roads and running brooks
desolate in winter,
the fallow deer still roam
roe-buck proud with antlers,
the doe just so with fawns,
coneys creeping by.
The Rangers watchful eye
sees unpleasant litter
but gratefully surveys
a lonely airman’s grave.
There were several relevant comments and questions from the audience and discussions continued for some time.
January 2017 SOCIAL EVENING and
"Mad Jack" Fuller, the Georgian Squire of Brightling, East Sussex with Geoff Hutchinson.
What an entertaining evening! We had an excellent response to our invitation to join us for our annual social with 60 tickets sold for a delicious and varied ‘finger food’ supper with a good glass of wine and plenty of catching-up chat! A great way to cheer up a cold January evening and congratulations to the Village Hall committee for the effective heating system that provided cosy conditions!
Once everyone was settled with a coffee or tea I introduced John Fuller, the noticeably corpulent Georgian Squire of Brightling, resplendent in top hat and tails with brolly – admittedly somewhat tatty - that he frequently waved to make his point! Standing on the Village Hall stage and with a booming voice he made a strong impression right to the back of the Hall. With a collection of illustrations which he would wave around to make his point, we were entertained to the story of a real entrepreneur who never married and lived a long and busy life.
There is a surprising amount on-line describing the life of John (Mad Jack) Fuller but it has to be said that Geoff Hutchinson really brought it to life and was able to answer at length the many questions that followed his presentation having spent a good 20 years living and learning the life of a fascinating man. What struck me as surprising was that here was a man with a big history that I had to admit I had never heard of prior to my involvement with the History Group and, one of our visitors said to me afterwards, that she had not realised he was a real man. This is particularly interesting as the one aim of John Fuller in his later life was to leave things for people to remember him by! Probably the most eccentric of these being his ‘follies’, especially the pyramid he had built in the churchyard at Brightling as his final resting place.
Just to list a number of his achievements will give those of you who missed this piece of 'history brought to life' some idea of what an extraordinary man John Fuller was. Indeed the “Mad Jack” name can only have been given to him by those who watched his huge energy applied to anything and everything he put his mind to!
Having lost his father at the tender age of 4 he was sent to Eton at the age of 10 and 10 years later he came into possession of his Sussex estate and Jamaican plantation left to him by his Uncle Rose Fuller. This somewhat unusual name for a man gave the name Rose Hill Estate to his property which is today Brightling Park.
He entered politics at the age of 22 as the Tory MP for Southampton and later for Sussex. His only foray to the fair sex was rebuffed and as far as we know he never tried again and never left any heirs.
He became High Sheriff of Sussex and a captain in the Volunteer Sussex Yeomanry Cavalry. His career in politics was cut short following an ‘incident’ with the Speaker and he was removed by the serjeant-at-arms to public disgrace so that he did not stand again for re-election. However, by now at the age of 55 and a very wealthy man Jack Fuller began to spend his fortune in earnest. He was a supporter and sponsor of the Royal Institution and mentored the young Michael Faraday, lending the Institution a large amount which he later wrote off as a gift. He established the Fuller medal of the Royal Institution and several other Foundations.
He built the Observatory at Brightling, endowed Eastbourne with their first lifeboat and financed the building of the lighthouse on the cliff at Beachy Head. In 1828 he bought Bodiam Castle at auction for 3000 guineas to save it from destruction.
When he eventually died at his home in Devonshire Place in London in 1834 he was buried under the floor of his pyramid which can still be seen dominating the Brightling churchyard, a fitting resting place and memorial to a remarkable man.
One of the many questions asked of Geoff by our audience was what happened to Jack Fuller’s collection of 13 Turner water colours and 2 oil paintings that he amassed partly as a result of his friendship with the painter and he was able to tell us – which is I am afraid more than I can tell you having had no notebook at hand!
An excellent and entertaining evening. Why not go on the Hartfield History Group Facebook page and add a comment about our Social evening to encourage others to join the Group! https://www.facebook.com/groups/hartfieldhistory/
The Wealden Iron Industry with Brian Braby.
Whilst Brian Braby admonished me for having called him ‘an acknowledged expert’, claiming to be neither, I think all of us who listened to his talk last Wednesday were thoroughly engaged and entertained by and with the knowledge and detail that he espoused – and if that isn’t ‘expert’, I don’t know what is!
At the end of his talk whilst I was considering just how I might produce a report to circulate to 'our readers’ Brian said that when he was giving lectures to U3A etc he would provide notes and offered to send me a copy - which I gladly accepted! I now have a circulation list exceeding 160 and, although we had a really good audience last week it is only about one quarter of the circulation number so I propose to give you a précis of the talk and should you wish to have a copy of the 4 pages of notes with diagrams, please drop me a line and I will send them directly to you.
Brian started his talk by describing the geology of iron ore and its deposits in the clay known as Siderite Mudstone or Clay Ironstone formed from eroded igneous rock thrown up when the world was formed. These layers of clay along with the many other layers were then forced by plate tectonic pressure into the folds and domes that we accept as the mountains, hills and valleys of the world we live in. However, over the millennia rain and rivers and all of the weather that has visited the world - and still does - have also hugely eroded these movements.
Here in the Weald the tectonic pressure pushed the dome upwards with chalk as the top layer and several other layers above the iron carrying deposit. The erosion then slowly took away the layers exposing each of these in turn with the Weald providing important access to the Ironstone layer.
Early man learned to smelt metals in prehistoric times, more than 8000 years ago making an enormous impact on human society and providing the names often used for the development of man from Stone Age and Bronze Age to Iron Age which dates from 750BC to 45AD with iron being made in the Weald from pre-Roman until the beginning of the 19th Century. Its legacy is seen all over our area with a host of place names and house names, local woods and ponds. Many old houses even carry firebacks made locally.
Brian’s notes provide much detail on the production of iron, a significant feature of which is the need for much higher temperatures than bronze, explaining why this is a later technology.
The Romans found a well-established local iron tradition when they invaded Britain, which seems to be the main object of the invasion, that they then took over with the Weald becoming a Roman Imperial Estate. 113 Roman bloomeries – the early name for the basic foundry – have been identified, mainly in East Sussex, one of which we visited at Pippingford Park not long ago.
Several of the local Roman Roads were built for transporting ore linking the Weald to London and were often metaled with slag from iron smelting.
Very little is known of iron production in the early and late Middle Ages although at the end of this period water-power began to be used for forging iron, an extremely tiring process of hammering if done by hand!
The blast furnace was eventually developed during the Tudor & Stuart periods and it is considered that the grassed-over remains of the 15th C Newbridge Furnace ironworks mark the beginnings of this technology with a second one being built at Pippingford in 1500.
Large numbers of people were employed in digging ore, cutting wood, transporting raw materials, making charcoal, operating blast furnaces, operating forges, transporting products etc. etc. Products included cannon, cannon balls, fire-backs, grave slabs, iron rivets, nails, wire, chains, water pipes, nuts, bolts, farm implements, horseshoes, handrails, wagon tires, straps for timber roof trusses, ornamental ironwork etc. etc.
However, in so far as the Wealden iron industry is concerned, the development of coke made from coal as opposed to that made from wood via charcoal, first developed in 1589 at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, saw the beginning of the end of the local industry. This coke was much more readily available than charcoal and offered a massive increase in production levels resulting in the availability of inexpensive iron and was one of the factors leading to the Industrial Revolution and the end of the Wealden Iron Industry.
"Folk Songs from Sussex" with Mak Norman. (Kindly reported by Linda Graham.)
“Folk Songs from Sussex” was the title of the talk at our October meeting. It was an audio and musical venture by Mak Norman into the folk songs of Sussex from 19th century to the 1960s, and the characters who sang and collected them. He told us how folk songs had brought middle class and poor people together as far back as the early 19th century, when song collectors from the middle classes were on a mission to save traditional English folk music from extinction and ventured among the rural working population of the English shires, discovering, noting down, and publishing a vast and wonderful pool of folk songs and tunes. The songs survived the Industrial Revolution but over the period of the two world wars, were superseded by radio, TV, big bands, jazz, blues and pop.
The folk music being performed in the clubs and gatherings during the fifties was most often a revivalist interpretation of indigenous traditional English folk music that was still to be found surviving within the villages of rural England, as well as the industrial working class areas of the country, including fishing and mining communities.
In 1903, Cecil Sharp began to collect folk songs. He played a major role in the history of song collecting and the offices of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in London were named after him i.e. Cecil Sharp House. Thanks to him folk singing was introduced into schools.
Another important contributor to the early 20th century folk revival was the English classical composer Ralph Vaughn Williams, much of whose music is a classical interpretation of traditional folk songs.
In 1898, Folk Song Society member Kate Lee had discovered the harmony singing of the Copper Family in Rottingdean, Sussex. Over fifty years later, the BBC took interest in the Coppers, resulting in James Copper, his brother John and their sons Bob and Ron performing their unaccompanied harmony singing at the Royal Albert Hall in 1952. Bob Copper was eventually employed to collect and record songs throughout Sussex and Hampshire.
In the mid twentieth century a new wave of young English folk music enthusiasts promoted traditional music driven by a socialist and communist ideology. These were the songs of the common man and it was the perfect marriage for socio- political expression. The figurehead of the movement in England was Ewan MacColl.
Today another new wave of folk musician in England is finally taking the attention away from the stereo typical “bearded folkie”. With the likes of Devon’s Seth Lakeman (whose album ”Poor Man’s Heaven” reached no. 8 in 2008), traditional music is in safe hands. New folk singers, musicians and dancers are keeping timeless stories and tunes alive.
AGM and "200 Years of Gas and the early Gas Lighting of William Sugg & Co" with Chris Sugg
The September meeting is the start of our year and to finish off the 2015/2016 year we have our AGM before the talk. As I pointed out we have not found a copy of the Constitution which will be one of our tasks for this year - not finding, writing! Therefore I will just mention that I introduced the Committee members and asked our Treasurer, Linda Graham to provide a quick report which indicated that the finances had improved since last year. I reported that our two co-opted members had agreed to become full members for which we had agreement through a proposer, Jenny ap Simon and a seconder, David Halliwell. The remaining Committee members were introduced and as they had all offered themselves for re-election this was accepted by a proposer Philip Norman and seconded by Gilly Halcrow.
The desperate need for a secretary was outlined pointing out that this is not the typing pool, tea making, secretary of the past but a man or woman who would be a full member of the committee with as much say as anyone else. OK they would need to take notes and look after a diary of events and keep the Chairman in order but mostly it would be an interesting and worthwhile experience for someone with an interest in local history. As an indication of the interest from our previous secretaries I only know of two in the last 20 years or so! If we really cannot find someone prepared to give up a few evenings a year we would even consider taking on someone who wanted a small part time job after hours for an agreed rate to fit in with their lifestyle.
We would also be happy to build the committee with the addition of one or two further members. There are always lots of interesting tasks and, once we have established our Constitution we will have more clarity about our aims. However, don’t let that put you off. You can be a co-opted member and simply come to a few meetings to see if you would like to join in.
This completed the AGM part of the evening and I then changed hats in order to give an illustrated talk on 200 years of the Gas Industry and the early gas lighting of William Sugg & Co.
I explained that the first part of the Power Point presentation was largely prepared as an in-house celebration of the bi-centenary of the industry in 2012 taking the formation of the Gas Light & Coke Company in 1812 as the start date. We actually began with the 1812 overture and what else went on that year! Before this date there were several pioneers going back into the late years of the 18th century with William Murdoch lighting his house in Redruth in Cornwall in 1792. In the early years of the 19th century, 1803-1804 F.A.Winsor could be found demonstrating the properties and uses of coal gas to the suspicious Londoners in the Lyceum Theatre as he tried to persuade them to invest in a company to light the streets of London. In 1807 he demonstrated this by installing a series of lamps and devices in Pall Mall and along the wall of Carlton House, fed with gas produced in a retort back at his house in Pall Mall with, according to contemporary accounts, the assistance of Thomas Sugg who was an ironmonger living not far away who made and installed the pipework. This means that the Sugg connection with gas actually predates the Industry start!
A subsequent application in 1810 ultimately led to the formation of The Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company in 1812 with the first works set up in Great Peter Street, Westminster. Doubtless this explains why Thomas Sugg’s son, William, started his business in Marsham Street just round the corner in 1837.
A piece of early film demonstrated how smelly you could become working in a gasworks with the hydrogen sulphide rotten eggs smell that pervaded the atmosphere!
By 1870 the demand was so great that the Gas Light & Coke Co (GLCC) opened the largest gas works in the world, no trace of which remains as it was finally redeveloped for the 2012 Olympic Games!
Several illustrations followed the Sugg connection until we got to WWII with film of women playing their part throughout the Industry. A photo of the devastation of the Sugg works that received a direct hit in December 1940 reminded us of the terror of that time. Fortunately this was at night and there was no loss of life.
Nationalisation in 1949 and the Gas Act of 1972 eventually led to the end of the decentralised gas industry
An entertaining piece of film showing the repair of a gas pipe which had led to the pavement being on fire was followed by a film on conversion to natural gas as the whole industry changed to a new era.
A film on home service reminded us of the huge strides that have been taken since the 70’s in the place of women and men in society!
Finally privatisation was recorded on film with the advertising slogan “Tell Sid” that many will remember.
Following this I showed photos of gas street lighting with the reasons why the lanterns were so enormous in the 1880’s and how some of these lamps could still be seen today – a particularly local one being mounted on the Crown Court Offices in High Street, Lewes, albeit converted (badly) to electricity! Several other famous locations that still showed their original lamps (converted to electricity) such as Tower Bridge and Trafalgar Square were followed by two very famous locations that are still using gas in their original lamps on Buckingham Palace and around the Houses of Parliament.
A film borrowed from you-tube of the current day maintenance work carried out by the dedicated and unique British Gas team provided a reminder of probably the major reason for the decline of gas lighting in that it requires regular maintenance to keep it in good working order.
Lastly to finish off the evening I showed a piece of film produced to go with a somewhat wistful “Ode to the meter” by Carol Anne Duffy, our poet laureate.
(If there is anyone who would like to view these internet pieces I can provide a link)
Conducted Walk of East Grinstead High Street with Simon Kerr 24th August 2016
We were fortunate to hit one of those balmy evenings during the best spell of weather this summer when we met Simon Kerr outside Broadleys on the follow-up walk to his entertaining talk in April this year.
Starting at the Clarendon House end of the High Street where it turns into Judges Terrace Simon pointed out that virtually every house in the High Street had started life as ‘Hall’ houses and the current frontages had all been altered or added. This can be seen most clearly at the left hand end of Judges Terrace where there is a narrow passage before the High Street proper. Here you can see the timber frame of the building with a complete brickwork frontage added.
Moving on, Simon carefully stood on the plaque for the drinking fountain before asking us what we thought it was and describing the extraordinary difficulty of obtaining water in a village that was so high above the water table.
The bookshop with the unusual panels at first floor level that turned out to be made of cork was the second story about the use of this material as the story of the hidden ‘cold store’ discovered below Herbert Sports had already been described.
The gruesome story of The East Grinstead Martyrs, commemorated by a green plaque on the wall nearby was described whilst we stood on the space on which it is supposed they were burnt at the stake on a Sunday morning for maximum impact
Walking round the back of Middle Row, built where the road originally split, The Dorset Arms is one of the last local Coaching Inns in which you can still see and walk through the coach entrance and see the remains of the stables
Pointing out many other – often odd - features as we continued along the High Street such as window stays on the outside for windows that opened inwards to prevent passers-by hitting their heads and the iron access gratings in the pavement for logs to be loaded into the cellar on the building owned and rented out by the Landmark Trust which still used open fires for heating.
Finally we reached Sackville College which was founded as and is still Alms Houses for the poor of the district and reminded us that it was open to the public on many special occasions and that we should not miss the winter carol concert especially as the carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ had actually been composed there!
Across the road opposite, as the light was fading we were reminded that the building virtually at the end of East Grinstead High Street called Ye Olde Lock Up was indeed the local jail.
Chris Sugg thanked Simon for his entertaining walk which had also helped to bring to life the many stories that he had told during his April talk.
July Visit to Bassetts Manor
Reported and photographed by Gerry Wood 27 July 2016
Bassetts Manor is a Grade II-listed farmhouse built to the north of the village on Butcherfield Lane and our visit was kindly hosted by Francis Whetstone, owner since 1969. There is no sign of the house on the 1589 Terrier Map and it is thought that the original structure was a hall house built around 1600 with no chimney. The house is situated on a high point from which there are views of Crowborough and Ashdown Forest in the distance. A chimney was added about 50 years later and the house was extended to rear in both Georgian and Victorian times. In 1790 it was part of the Sackville Estate and a fire at Sackville College resulted in many of the original Horsham tiles being removed to repair the college. The roof and eaves of Bassetts Manor were subsequently modified to incorporate “dogs tooth” eaves on the two main elevations which give the building an unusual and distinctive appearance (see photo below). The owner immediately prior to the Whetstone’s was a Mrs Delagarde who added a new front porch with room above and many other alterations.
The front of Bassetts Manor; note the relatively recent front porch and “dogs tooth” eaves
We were shown around the ground floor, starting in the front room which occupies much of the area of the original hall house. The very large fireplace in the centre of the rear wall had been added in about 1650. The current dining room was formerly the kitchen and the current kitchen was previously a “mess room” for the four labourers who, in Victorian times, worked all day on the farm and slept in the attic.
The east elevation, showing the additional rooms that were added behind the original hall house
The origins of the patterned beams in the room linking the hall to the kitchen are not known but were not part of the original structure and were used to extend the house along the western side. The stairs off the hall leading up to the landing replaced a ladder that was previously the only means of access to the sleeping area before the original hall house was extended.
The west elevation, showing the extension to the side of the original house
Across the large lawn (which was formerly the farm yard) is a combined oast house and barn of which the barn is older than the farmhouse. We were shown the notches in the corner posts of the barn which were used to hold them in place while the walls were built. There is second barn and outbuildings that have been converted to provide accommodation. A third barn on the opposite side of the lawn/farmyard had long since been demolished.
Part of the Roman road from London to Lewes runs through the southern edge of the property and crossed a stream close to a pond that was subsequently created to control the flow of the stream as part of an iron works of which the earthworks can be found in a wood to the east of the bridge on the lane joining the farm to Butcherfield Lane.
At the end of our visit Jim Lusted thanked Francis Whetstone for his hospitality on behalf of the 30 members of the History Group who had thoroughly enjoyed the tour of his historic home and beautiful grounds.
June and early July repeated Outing 2016
Visit to Hammerwood escorted by David Pinnegar
What a fascinating visit! Sally & I joined the second party, this time of 16, to visit this extraordinary house and its even more remarkable owner, David Pinnegar - whose enthusiasm for his house is equaled only by his enthusiasm for his huge collection of musical instruments, in particular harpsichords, pianos and pianolas, organs, obscure horns, one of which must have been 10ft long, even an alpine horn which helped to demonstrate harmonics - and more than one harp. But I digress!
We arrived on a beautiful sunny evening to stand on the rear terrace with a wonderful view down over the parkland to the fields beyond and David started by explaining that having given a tour of the house twice a week for 34 years he had to vary his talk! He then launched into a wide-ranging discourse whilst enthusiastically leaping about and making his points waving his hands in the air perhaps like one of the characters on the frieze above the entrance between the pillars, which he described in detail. Indeed I found myself rather naughtily comparing David with the description of the satyr maybe even down to the little tails that he pointed out can just be seen appearing from the small of the satyr’s back?!
It is clear from the booklet that was published for the bi-centenary of Hammerwood Park in 1992 that the architect Latrobe designed this house for his first commission and before emigrating to the United States. There he famously designed the White House and many other significant buildings – but he used Hammerwood as a means of developing many of his ideas and theories. Clearly David has taken on the whole gamut of these ideas and was at pains to explain each in detail.
The house is an enigma posing a lot of questions we were told, for example:-
The columns taper and are plain without decoration which removes the scale to fool the eye from a distance and makes the house look taller. In many ways these end sections are like a folly that would normally be seen at a distance from the house whereas in this case the two ‘temples’ reverse the usual vision to make the house look larger than it is from the distance.
At the time of building in 1792 the French revolution was raging with people getting their heads cut off and it was felt too dangerous to build on the scale of the past and with money much tighter, architecture had to find a way to achieve an impressive result which explains the reason for a design that looked larger and grander than it physically was.
During the building of what was then called Hammerwood Lodge a neighbour came to dinner and seeing one of his alternative designs which had a central block. he asked Latrobe to build it for him and it is this building that became Ashdown House, the only other extant Latrobe design in Britain.
David explained the connection with the Freemasons and the temple dedicated to Apollo as he was a Moravian Christian - and the Greek revival movement. – The ideas came thick and fast!
Eventually we were invited in via the entrance in the east ‘temple’ directly into the enormous dining room that remains largely in the state it was when David bought the house. Years of neglect and the theft of tons of lead from the roof had left the house effectively open to the elements and wet rot and dry rot and collapsed ceilings were everywhere. However, when we moved on to the rooms directly off the dining room they had been handsomely refurbished with wonderful plaster-work ceilings repaired/remade and fireplaces and decorative work completed to an exceptionally high standard.
In every room, including the (untouched) dining room, it was immediately obvious that David had another passion - for musical instruments, mostly in the form of harpsichords, pianos and several organs which literally littered the rooms. Many of these instruments were of a considerable age and showed the development of music as David frequently demonstrated by sitting and playing at the keyboard(s) in masterly fashion. By the time we had reached the library at the west end of the house which was set up as a music room we had been educated about harmonics using several long tapering horns that provided differing wavelength possibilities. This room was also where they hold concerts and we were encouraged to sign up for concert information. If this would be of interest to any reader you can email David Pinnegar at email@example.com
The large central hallway with substantial stairway had been decorated for the bicentenary by two artists in trompe l’oeil fashion – like the exterior of the house, to fool the eye. Being two or 3 storeys high in house terms this huge space has some delightful ‘fake’ features such as niches and pillars and most unusually a cherub sitting on a balustrade apparently based on the infant Pinnegar son at the time - and at the top of the stairs, a parrot in a cage!
A final musical demonstration from a ‘Symphonium’ on the landing near the staircase which I have seen called an original juke box as you have to put a coin in the slot to set the mechanism off. Sometimes known as a Polyphon these instruments play a large pierced disc mounted vertically in a handsome piece of furniture – a disc version of a musical box. A fitting musical conclusion to a fascinating visit!
The Dining Room demonstrates the level of damage found when David Pinnegar purchased Hammerwood.
There was so much more to this visit than described here that I can only suggest that if you have not been before, have a couple of hours to spare, have an interest in architecture and refurbishment and quite a strong constitution and, significantly, have an interest in music, keep an eye on the sign telling you when Hammerwood is open and go and see for yourself! There is much entertainment and more information at http://hammerwoodpark.co.uk/
Ian Everest "Shepherds of the South Downs - their lives and times". (Kindly written by Linda during my absence)
At our May meeting we welcomed back Ian Everest for another of his well-researched and well illustrated talks.
He began by pointing out that Hartfield was the birthplace of probably the most famous Sussex agricultural pioneer, John Ellman of Glynde, the major publicist and improver of Southdown sheep, who moved with his family from Hartfield to Place Farm in Glynde at the age of 8. He took over the running of the farm in 1780 on the death of his father. He was a founder member of the Sussex Agricultural Society and Smithfield Society. (Later we discovered that John Ellman was actually born at Chartners Farm in Butcherfield Lane)
Ian's own interest in sheep dates back to his childhood, when he worked on family farms and assisted with lambing before a career working for the Ministry of Agriculture and a commercial feed company
One of the earliest recorded Sussex shepherds was St Cuthman, who was born about 681, probably at Chidham, near Bosham, about 25 miles from Steyning,. Originally a shepherd, he had to care for his paralysed mother after his father's death, and built a one-wheeled cart (with a rope from the handles over his shoulders taking part of the weight) in which he moved her around with him. He decided that when that rope broke he would accept it as a sign from God to stop at that place and build a church. The rope broke at the place now called Steyning. After building a hut to accommodate his mother and himself, he began work on the church (now St Andrew & St Cuthman, Steyning, which in the 20th century instituted a Cuthman chapel in his honour), with help from the locals. The church was eventually completed in 857. Cuthman was venerated as a saint in the Steyning area before the Norman Conquest.
Ian's talk was illustrated by many wonderful old postcards, some dating back to the late 1800s, many showing shepherds of the South Downs wearing the "chumney " and smock. The former was a soft felt hat with a moderately broad brim. The smock was a garment of which the shepherd was particularly proud. It was made of unbleached linen and was almost weatherproof. That worn during the time of farm work was of blue or grey material, but a white smock was worn on Sundays and holidays, and was ornamented with honeycomb work at the shoulders.
Ian told us that a shepherd used to be buried with a piece of wool on his chest so that his Maker would know he had been a shepherd and would understand why he hadn't always been at church on Sunday.
At the Lewes sheep market as many as 40,000 sheep were traded from as far away as Essex, and at one time more money could be made from wool than from anything else.
The obituary columns have often commemorated “The last of the old-time shepherds”, but the one who probably deserved that title was Stephen Blackmore, " Blackamoor," as his brother-shepherds called him. He had only one arm, having lost the other when a boy through an accident with a chaff-cutter. Starting as a messenger boy for the Earl of Chichester, he eventually became a shepherd on Beachy Head, where the ruined remains of his cottage can still be seen.
A shepherd from Ditchling was once taken to London to watch the Lord Mayor's show; a few days later the local vicar saw him and commented that it must have been the most wonderful spectacle he'd ever seen. "No " he replied, "the most wonderful thing is to watch the sun rising over the Downs"
Simon Kerr - Local History - East Grinstead
Simon’s passion for the history of East Grinstead came pouring through having spent some 20 years in promoting the town, 17 of which were spent as Tourist Officer and the last three organising the new East Grinstead Museum which is 10 years old this year.
He described the £5 Town Tours of East Grinstead with stories related to the buildings as being much more fun than dry dates! At Halloween ‘somebody’ becomes Professor Mordaunt Skull and this has proved to be such a draw that the last time they had 300 people blocking the street, which was not popular with the police! Spookiness seems to have a lot of appeal!
East Grinstead owes its existence largely to it’s location half way between London and the South Coast with coaching inns of which there are just 2 left and also a lot of breweries of which there are none left but were responsible for fuelling ‘affrays’ in the night. Visiting The Dorset Arms (yes another one) you can still see where the stables were to take you back to the period and of course all the houses in the High Street are the same type of timber framed buildings (much like those in Hartfield)
The burning of the 3 martyrs in 1556 due to the return of religious intolerance when Catholicism was trying to regain a foothold is probably one of the more disturbing happenings that occurred in East Grinstead and Simon told us of the existence of a room in the basement of one of the shops on the High Street carved out of sandstone that reputedly held the 3 martyrs on their last night on this earth. Another High Street shop was found to have a cork lined secret room, which had been used as a cool room for a butchers shop, but these real items can be used to great effect in the ghostly tour!
We were treated to a few snippets of information and comments about the town that are part of Simon’s researches for a new book. Articles that had been written from far away places like Singapore reporting on many and various happenings in East Grinstead a long time ago such as receiving television broadcasts from Alexandra Palace back in 1937.
A brand new venture they are working on at the museum is the inclusion of the Archibald Mcindoe archive an important aspect of the wartime activity of the town and the Queen Victoria Hospital developing in particular plastic surgery for the terrible burns received by the many young RAF fliers who became known as the “Guinea Pigs.”
Simon’s enthusiasm bubbled over with stories of his grandfather’s exploits after returning from the First World War, with one arm, to become a car salesman – and demonstrator! His grandparents lived opposite where the museum now stands so it is a special location for him.
Several entertaining anecdotes of life related to museum visitors wound up an enjoyable and ‘live’ talk. Those of you who were there will surely remember the American Methodist University visitors who brought their own sticks all the way from Minneapolis to play “pooh sticks” and their amazement at pine cones having never seen a pine tree! They couldn’t believe their eyes when they were taken to the Gallipot for lunch where there was a fire burning on the hearth in a wooden building so old!
As a final reminder you are encouraged to visit the museum which is located on the old market site in Cantelupe Road, East Grinstead just off the High Street opposite the row of timber framed houses and close to the section known as Middle Row. Telephone 01342 302233. The website is http://www.eastgrinsteadmuseum.org.uk/
We are hoping to arrange an East Grinstead walk with Simon for our members in the summer so keep reading the emails! Chris
Gilly Halcrow on "Knole and the Sackvilles."
Gilly’s enthusiasm for this remarkable house came across from the beginning when she described how she grew up with her brother close to the somewhat unassuming entrance to Knole near the Church of St Nicholas in the High Street of Sevenoaks, within easy reach of Hartfield.
Approaching the house up a drive of about a mile, the Kentish Ragstone walled building reeks of enormous wealth from the first view. It is of course absolutely enormous, possibly the largest ‘house’ in the country, known often as a “calendar house” having (probably) 365 rooms – nobody has counted – 52 staircases, 12 outside entrances, 7 courtyards and with a total roof area of 4 acres – one of the reasons for the current repairs.
Surrounded by a deer park, which is the only remaining one in Kent, Gilly explained how the deer were chased into a valley that was fitted with a net and slaughtered. This of course was a long time ago as illustrated by the pictures but the deer park is still very well populated by these picturesque animals and, because of the untouched age of the park there is an area with anthills that are amazingly 800 – 1000 years old in which yellow meadow ants live. The rare blue butterfly that only lives in the southeast is also seen here.
Gilly described how the house developed from a manor house owned by the Fiennes family into an Archbishop’s Palace in the 1400’s when it was bought for £266, 13 shillings and 4 pence as a stop-off between London and Canterbury. The fame of the Deer Park eventually attracted King Henry VIII who fancied the house and it’s standing on one of the highest points in Kent. The Church was forced ‘voluntarily’ to hand over the house to the Crown and it then passed down to Mary, Edward and Elizabeth 1. The latter decided that she didn’t need all these houses that her father had obtained so gave it to her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and there is still a Leicester gallery in the house. He, however, only kept it for around 5 years.
The Sackville’s main residence was at Buckhurst just along the lane from Hartfield and close to the Withyham church that both then and to this day houses the Sackville Chapel and the family vault into which all the family have been laid to rest over the generations. Thomas Sackville, in the middle of the 1500’s had been appointed Lord Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth who gave him the title of the First Earl of Dorset – why ‘Dorset’ when the house stands in ‘Kent’ - for no better reason than it was an available title at the time! After various dealings – unspecified - Thomas Sackville decided to buy Knole most likely because it was closer to London being a days horse ride away, much more suitable for a wealthy courtier.
With access to all the best craftsmen he spent a fortune on Knole putting in fabulous ceilings, fireplaces, a huge screen in the great hall and developed an improved crest moving from ram’s heads to leopards just a step from the lions of the sovereign - and had them placed all over the house, inside and out! He also had a new staircase built in wood – the height of modern fashion - to replace the traditional stone spiral staircase. At the beginning it didn’t have all the fabulous furniture as this was collected by the family as time went on but Thomas Sackville did have the oak frieze in the Great Chamber installed and a magnificent fireplace with a blank space over the top into which the banner of the visiting dignitaries could be placed. Unfortunately Thomas lived only 5 years to enjoy all his alterations.
After the Civil War in which the house suffered substantially it was Richard, Lord Buckhurst, later the 5th Earl of Dorset who began repairs in the middle 1600’s. He married Frances Cranfield the daughter of the 1st Earl of Middlesex, Lord Treasurer to James 1st and Gilly showed us a painting of Frances in her glorious dress by no less an artist than van Dyck in 1637. She had lived at Copt Hall with a fabulous collection of furniture and paintings, which steadily found their way to Knole. Indeed the chairs at Knole are reputed to be the source of the word ‘Chairman’ as only the most important man was expected to sit to hold court whilst others stood. Fabulous silver furniture now at Knole is the only other remaining of its type, the only other set belonging to our Queen. The settee, now known as the Knole Settee, was originally designed for a Queen to sit with her dress spread out to welcome guests in an informal manner.
Richard and Frances had 13 children, those that did not survive being interred in the Sackville chapel at Withyham. One child, apparently their favourite, died possibly of appendicitis whilst away from home and his devastated parents are seen kneeling beside the tomb with the child’s hand on a skull indicating that he had predeceased his parents. This beautifully executed sculpture was not finished until after Richard had died.
One child, Charles, who did survive and became the 6th Earl, gained a somewhat sordid reputation early on but because of his close relationship with the King managed to escape punishment although the date of 16th June 1663 on which he was pardoned for almost unpardonable happenings at a brothel was exactly the same date that the Withyham church was hit by lightning and caught fire. A higher power, perhaps!
John Frederick Sackville, the 3rd Duke, was the last British Ambassador to France before the French Revolution and was a close friend of Queen Marie Antoinette - possibly the inspiration for the Scarlet Pimpernel! His love of cricket and how it is said that there was never such a revolution in Britain because the Lords of the Manor played cricket with their staff so making it difficult to chop the heads off a member of the team!
The Duke’s mistress, the Italian ballet dancer Giovanna Baccelli, lived at Knole but eventually the Duke married Arabella Cope to produce a legitimate heir. The superb statue of Giovanna lying face down on her bed was, understandably, despatched to the attic by his new wife from where it has only recently been recovered and replaced at the bottom of the staircase. Sadly their only son, George, the 4th Duke died falling off a horse whilst hunting in Ireland, so bringing to an end the Dukedom. The family had to reinvent itself. Elizabeth, one of the daughters married George West the 5th Earl De La Warr living at Buckhurst but to save the family they joined the two names together, hence Sackville-West. Their third son inherited Knole and his descendants still live there today.
We learnt about the King’s Bed and how it was renovated in 1974 with a team of 200 lady volunteers from Sevenoaks, 10 to 15 working daily, and taking 13 years to complete the conservation and repairs!
The illegitimate daughter of Lionel and his mistress Pepita, Victoria, managed to become legitimate by marrying her first cousin. This marriage had one daughter, Vita Sackville-West who could never inherit Knole, which she adored, due to the fact that she was a woman, the rules of progenitor meaning that the inheritance goes down the male line, so the house went to her cousin Eddy Sackville-West who really wasn’t interested and spent his final years in Ireland. In due course Vita married Harold Nicolson and they went on to buy Sissinghurst which completes a circle because the first Earl of Dorset married Cecily Baker from Sissinghurst!
Finally we learnt that the National Trust took over Knole in 1946 and it was agreed that the family could retain and live in part of the building for 200 years and that with lottery funding and National Trust contributions a programme of refurbishment and renewal costing £20 million was in process. Witch marks, graffiti and hidden broken pottery were amongst items found so far.
(On a subsequent visit in the sunshine of the following weekend, Sally and I enjoyed a conducted tour around the park and a short visit within the house and would urge any of you who have never been to Knole to put it high on your visiting list! Next year there will be even more to see but don’t wait.)
"You've Never Had it so Good" by Don Dray.
Don Dray has provided us with entertaining talks before and this new one was no exception! 'You’ve Never Had it so Good’ covers the after war period when those of us who lived through it were able to see real changes from the almost Victorian attitudes of the pre-war period although nowhere near as far as today. Indeed nowadays I suspect youngsters would hardly believe the apparent privations we went through with food shortages and rationing for a surprising number of years after the cessation of hostilities.
The remarkable thing about Don’s presentations is that he has worked up a chronological story complete with pictures, music and sound effects from the time. Just how long it must have taken him to produce such a seamless story is not related but he clearly enjoys his self-imposed tasks – and we did too!
Starting in 1945 Don explained that money was tight and the destruction caused by air raids was well in evidence. Nearly 4 million men were demobbed in a period of a year and a half and came back to a very different Britain and a changed family with the womenfolk having learned to live independently with many children who had grown up without a father, some having never set eyes on him!
In July 1945 Clement Attlee became PM indicating that the population was looking for a change and several sweeping changes were introduced including establishing of the Bank of England and the formation of the National Health Service. Rationing continued for many items with both meat and sweets the last to be freed in 1953 and 54. New and stylish items were what was called for and if they were not available – like nylons, leg make up and fake seams did the trick! Perhaps the most scandalous design of the 1950’s was the introduction of the bikini named after Bikini Atoll on which the atomic bomb tests had taken place.
Money and its value has changed out of all recognition since the 1940’s and 50’s. 10 shillings – 50p today - would buy you meat for Sunday and vegetables and bread for the week but most people were hard up compared to today. The Beveridge report concluded that the government should find ways of fighting the 5 evils of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. From this report came the establishment of the NHS, which began on July 5th 1948. This meant that the post war children grew up in a more healthy society.
The production of ‘prefabs’ that could be erected in 4 hours provided an answer to housing those who had been made homeless by the Luftwaffe. Despite their design life of 10-years, this was very often exceeded with houses still in use in the 1960’s. Traditional trades began to disappear many under threat from mass production. Most women lost their jobs as men returned to reclaim them. However the younger women found opportunities in factories, offices and shops although their pay was half that of the men.
Growing up in the 1940’s was closer to the experience of children in the 1900’s than it is of children today. Whilst a certain amount of corporal punishment was considered perfectly normal, out of school children had much more freedom than they do today, roaming the fields and woods for hours. With very few cars around, children could play in the streets quite safely, even in cities. Many foods were unknown such as bananas and once sweets came off rationing in 1953 and new weekly comics appeared, the demand for pocket money grew! Swing style American music from the war years was adopted by the English bands and the waltz and foxtrot gave way to jive sparking a revolution in British culture.
As the 40s gave way to the 50’s the population transformed themselves from dour worried people to enthusiasts for all sorts of new things such as irreverent radio shows, cinemas and bingo halls, danced the night away, saved for cars, motorbikes and holidays and began to think that life might not be so bad after all!
Whilst at the beginning of the 50’s television was still the poor relation to radio, by the end of the decade TV personalities were very familiar although there was little daytime TV and most programmes ended by 11 o’clock. Commercial TV was first introduced in 1955 and by the end of the decade most families owned a set and TV was undoubtedly the biggest and most influential phenomenon of the decade - and changed our lives.
Don showed examples of all these changes with everything from Frank Sinatra to the Goon Show, Hancock’s Half Hour to traditional jazz, the Festival of Britain the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the introduction of consumer gadgets such as the washing machine and vacuum cleaner. Cycling clubs, the huge growth in football, the beginnings of the holiday industry with expansion of Holiday Camps such as Butlins and the growth of Heathrow to provide longer runways for larger planes that could fly those who could afford it to other parts of the world, still a long way from the cheap air flights of today. And much more!
Towards the end of the decade, Harold Macmillan claimed most people had "never had it so good."
Jam tomorrow became jam today as life moved into the 1960’s.
Social - Pie and Mash supper with Power Point Presentation "Hartfield then & Now" by Chris Sugg.
The January Social was undoubtedly the largest event the History Group has hosted and, although I say it myself, it was well received. We had a full house of 80 visitors for the pie and mash supper that was followed by a power point presentation of ‘Hartfield Then & Now’ to which several others squeezed into the Hall!
Whilst looking for suitable pictures for the website it had become clear to me that there were so many pictures that they needed to be put together in a logical manner. I could also see that many pictures were entirely recognisable with the present day location, even 100 or more years apart. This led me to the decision that before considering the website I wanted to share it as a real live event to the History Group and by inference, the village.
Starting at Perryhill I showed pictures of our own 1927 house that remained unchanged as the farm manager’s cottage until 1972 when it was separated from the farm and extended. Much more dramatic were the changes to the neighbouring Perryhill Farmhouse that is very different in appearance with none of the timber frame showing and extended by perhaps a third. The growth of a substantial oak tree that is not in sight in the earlier picture seems almost too big to believe!
The Buckhurst ‘Terrier’ map showing the land and possessions of the Lord of the Manor circa 1597 provided a general view of the area we are talking about and a rural painting of Hartfield dated 1800, which looked as if it might have been painted from Perryhill, set the scene for our ‘walk through’.
Close by is Bolebrook with a reminder of the mill in the Domesday Book and using a piece of the Terrier Map of 1597 compared to the Tithe Map of 1842 to show the hand dug water course that provided a supply to the mill pond by collecting water from the Medway further back using a weir to raise the water level. Several early drawings and a photo of the Gatehouse in the days when it was a farm were compared with Bolebrook Castle, which is currently being refurbished.
The rare photo of a collision between an FLB brick lorry and a Model Y Ford negotiating the railway bridge, resulting in the lorry demolishing the parapet and coming to a stop with one wheel hanging in mid air, caused a group indrawn breath! This took us to the railway where there were several comparison pictures to enjoy. Leaving the railway, on the next bend we looked at the long time location of the Shelley family haulage business and then talked a little about Stone House the police house of Sargent Shelley before reaching Chesson’s Corner. The development of this junction with the 1842 tithe map showing the location of the tollgate with the lovely picture of Tollgate Cottage which was demolished and the subsequent growth of Chesson’s garage.
The recent Crown Farm development and the moving of the building that has become the shop for Nick the Butcher – who supplied us with our pies – started our trip up the High Street with several comparisons 100 years apart. A quick look at the 1597 Buckhurst Terrier showed us that both Hartfielde Greene and Towne Crofte were called that even then! The various development stages of Vine House then led us to look up Church Street and the changes leading on from the original Elm tree and up into the churchyard where we looked at the Lychgate and in the other direction the school at several ages and stages.
Returning down Church Street with some wartime stories about the Armstrong Siddeley ambulance we looked at several of the shops in the High Street that are no longer extant but are still easily recognisble in their existing sales windows. Some of the buildings were seen in several guises a few years apart and several views of The Dorset Arms prior to it becoming the Haywaggon in 1976 including an amazing 1864 photograph in which hardly any greenery is visible.
The Old Post Office and the story about the very tall Salisbury House were followed by several great pictures of Stairs Farm opposite by courtesy of the Lewis family. The bakery, later Benge and most recently Pooh Corner was followed by Oaklea Court and the Wesleyan Chapel bringing us to the end of the High Street.
Up Newtons Hill with comparison pictures took us to Gallipot Street and on to Central Garage with various stories of both wartime and various developments of the garage. Tollbar Cottage, another garage and the Upper Hartfield post office that was burned down and replaced by a building that, although enlarged is still just visible!
Holy Trinity and the growth of greenery hiding it from certain directions was followed by The Hatch Inn and then down the hill to the water splash at Newbridge. Lastly came a couple of splendid pictures taken from the early days of motoring when Kidds Hill was used as a hillclimb test complete with ladies in long dresses and hats.
Finally an appeal for more historic family pictures to add to the story for the future interest of the world of Hartfield.
Thank you to all of you who came and helped us to support the Village Hall roof fund to the sum of £185. If you have any pictures to add, do please contact me through the website.November 2015
Marilyn Greatorex “More than just a House”. The story of Standen through the Beale family who lived there.
Marilyn Greatorex has been volunteering at Standen for 16 years and her talk was quite simply brilliant! Looking at the house from the point of view of the family and the architect opened up an entirely new perspective on our local National Trust property and the family who had it built and lived in it for so many years.
Mr Beale was a highly respected solicitor and Parliamentary lobbyist on behalf of the railway companies and he was instrumental in getting members of Parliament to agree to the building of St Pancras Station. So what with that and all the subsequent conveyancing work he made a lot of money so when he had his 50th birthday in 1890 he decided it was time to have a house built in the country for weekends and holidays and to which eventually he and Mrs. (Margaret) Beale would retire. He had various criteria including having to be within a 1 hour journey from London so that he could get to the office should an emergency arrive. Looking for an architect, the name of Philip Webb came up time and time again. A very private man and a perfectionist but everyone said that if they could persuade him to take on the commission he would be delighted with the result.
In March 1891 Mr Beale met with Philip Webb and in July of that year they went down to East Grinstead where they found on the site just two buildings, Holly Bush Farmhouse in a terrible state and the barn. It did however take 9 sets of plans to provide what Mr & Mrs Beale wanted which was not a grand country house but a house in the country and in a stroke of genius he retained the farmhouse and allowed the new building to flow from the old.
Building worked finally started in October 1892. By February 1894 Mrs Beale wrote to Philip Webb saying she was going to move in come what may & he wrote back asking her to wait just a little longer and she would be delighted. Eventually in Aug 1894 they were finally able to come for their first weekend with Esme, 23, Maggie, 22, John, 20, Sidney, 19, Dorothy 15, Daniel 13, Helen, 9 and in due course they made friends and went to parties all over the area. They also became very popular by hosting week long drama and country-dance festivals.
The house is very large having 21 bedrooms but also very modern with both electricity and central heating. The front of the house faces north out of the prevailing winds so that the main living rooms all face south with wonderful views.
Mr Beale finally retired in 1905 by which time just two of the children, Maggie & Helen were still at home and the 4 of them moved permanently to Standen and lived there for the rest of their lives which is why the house is something of a time capsule as they saw no need to make any changes.
Marilyn described the details that the architect had so carefully worked into the house and the way in which both he and the family considered the life of the servants with considerable care. One brilliant example was when they finally decided to replace horses with the motor car they sent the coachman and the groom to the Rolls Royce school of motoring to be trained as chauffeur and mechanic - thus keeping their jobs!
After Mr Beale died in 1912 Mrs Beale became head of the household. Not only was she a great embroiderer and co-founder of the London School of Embroidery, a great knitter and a great plantswoman, she also kept meticulous records which are in particular use today to assist with putting the house and gardens back to the state they were in at the time the family lived there.
Apart from the retinue of servants Mrs Beale also had 28 outdoor workers who lived in the cottages with their families. When WW1 came along she told the workers that she would give their families half pay if they would sign up and guarantee their jobs back. As the war went on she reluctantly had to cut their pay to 14 but she still guaranteed their jobs back.
Marilyn described each of the children and many of the grandchildren who visited the house in later years often in relation to the various rooms. We even learnt that although the house is often known as a William Morris house he never actually visited. His connection was entirely through Philip Webb and whilst the wallpapers were William Morris the first time he attempted to include a bird in the design he could not get it right and so Philip Webb actually drew the birds that appear on the ‘trellis’ wallpaper in the corridor leading to the conservatory! William Morris did, however, continue to practice drawing birds, so all the other papers that include birds are by him – just the one paper was a joint design!
There were so many anecdotes that it is impossible to cover the whole family story but we were encouraged to visit Standen – which she told us the family always knew as StanDen with the emphasis on the second half like Cowden and see for ourselves this magnificent Arts and Crafts house and I thoroughly recommend this to you especially at this time of year when the house has been decorated for Christmas. Zandra Rhodes the flamboyant fashion designer has just completed the decoration of a Christmas tree in the front drive that will doubtless divide opinion! See for yourself!
"A History of Death and Burial Traditions" with Jeremy Field
Jeremy started by describing the contemporary function of the funeral director and how there were some 4500 individual firms, some of whom are part of a large organisation although around 60% are family/independently owned and managed. The tasks carried out by funeral directors today are a far cry from those of the ‘undertaker’ when the business first came into being in the 17th C.
The story of the funeral director starts with the funerals of the nobility – titled people with money and influence that were managed by Heralds from the College of Arms to a specified format and rituals that were both costly and time consuming. Lesser mortals were buried by guilds that looked after the funerals of tradesmen, or the parish who provided the place of burial for the poor and use of the reusable ‘parish coffin’, the body being removed and wrapped in a shroud before burial.
The first commercial enterprises appeared to supply the demands of the ceremonies so that the carpenter and the coach master offered their services without reference to the guild. The monopoly position of the Heralds with the enormous cost was also steadily eroded. Funerals had become nocturnal to represent the darkness of death and dramatised the sorrow of the bereaved with the procession led by mutes employed to provide a suitable level of solemnity.
Disquiet with the staging and the manner in which women were treated by the heraldic funerals emphasis on male peerage, coupled with a growing desire to express grief in a more private fashion, led to their decline.
Towards the end of the 17thC evidence exists of the first undertaker circa 1675 and finally an undertaking business of William Russell received approval from the College of Arms to undertake certain funerals, eventually sounding the ‘death-knell’ of the College and usurping the Herald’s function. Those in craft based occupations such as upholstery and carpentry were in an ideal position to furnish funerals and supply the paraphernalia.
Undertakers began to emerge in London where the population was concentrating and became responsible for organising the provision of a coffin, en-coffining the body (yes it is a real word!) and supervising the ritual on the day, together with transportation. By the 18th C the coffin had become a permanent receptacle and also a status symbol through the degree of expenditure lavished on it with 4 basic types of coffin, single, double and triple walled and lead interiors, adding substantially to the income of the undertaker! A whole supporting industry of coffin furnishing manufacturers flourished.
The 18thC undertaker increasingly operated in the capacity of an agent between the bereaved and third parties such as the clergyman and churchyard. At this time there was no statutory or guild regulation.
The growth of anatomical teaching with the need for fresh bodies led to the problem of grave robbing with the only legal source being those unfortunates who had been to the gallows. Extra strong coffins and even night watchmen at the graveside did not always confound the thieves who have been known to dig tunnels and break through the end of the coffin to drag out the body. This situation was not remedied until The Anatomy Act of 1832 legitamised the source of bodies – from the workhouse!
The ‘Victorian Celebration of Death’ increased the expenditure considerably once again. The lower classes in particular desired to show ‘respectability in death’ to match their social status in life and ostentation was seen as a means of proving respectability. In attempting to capitalise upon the prevailing attitude the undertaker of the time was able to exploit what was “customary and proper”. Many tradespeople saw this as a lucrative sideline due to the relatively low capital requirements and that transport and manpower could be hired from carriage masters. A hierarchy developed dictated by the extent to which the undertaker possessed the resources to equip the funeral.
The wholesale funeral furnishings manufacturing industry emerged able to supply everything from coffins and shrouds, hearses and horses to black crepe!
Although the Victorian celebration of death performed a number of functions for the bereaved there is much evidence of corruption. The ‘burial club’ into which the poor contributed money in an effort to avoid a pauper’s funeral suffered financial impropriety and fraudulent management of the funds. Often the only major beneficiaries were the trustees who were frequently the undertaker and the publican. Charles Dickens referred to the “fat atmosphere of funerals” and criticised the great expense and unnecessary pomp of the processions with scathing descriptions in several of his famous books.
Historically the Church of England had been the provider of burial space but with the migration from the countryside to towns and cities urban churchyards and burial grounds had become crowded and unhygienic. Finally the religious link was severed in 1832 with the opening of London’s first garden cemetery at Kensal Green by the General Cemetery Company in a 40 acre landscaped space to provide a secure and permanent resting place.
Further cemeteries were established by private companies including the vast Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey, which was served by a funeral train from a private station at Westminster Bridge Road.
The burial acts of 1852 and 1853 permitted the local authorities – then ‘local vestries’ – to operate cemeteries and the number of burial grounds around the country escalated.
The second major development of the 19thC was cremation, the first of which took place in 1885 at Woking Crematorium, established by the Cremation Society of England.
The third area of change was legislation that covered a whole raft of legal powers to regulate aspects of disposal. During this time the undertaking industry expanded significantly.
The 20thC produced 3 of the biggest challenges with two world wars and Spanish flu where vast numbers of bodies had to be dealt with. The majority were buried with many burials in deep graves and even the army and local authorities were called on to help.
The following has been provided by Jeremy to bring the story up to date:
The 20th century opened with the death of Victorian England as Queen Victoria herself passed away. William D Field was instructed by Bantings of St James to provide the funeral services for her state funeral. With the increase in urban crowding and population density death began to move from the family home to the funeral director’s premises and funeral service began to look a lot like it does today. Throughout the period the Field family continued to innovate providing private cemeteries and in the 1930s crematorium. At that time less than 30% of funerals in the London area ended with a cremation. The majority ended in burial. By the close of the 20th Century this statistic was reversed and the Field’s Great Southern Group was operating nearly 40 crematoria across the UK.
In recent years the family has returned to funeral directing as the core aspect of the business but who knows what the next 100 years will hold!
September 2015 (AGM)
"The Lost Industries of Lewes" with John Davey.
"Following our AGM at the September meeting, we welcomed John Davey, who gave us a fascinating insight into the old industries of Lewes, many of which were still operating when the speaker was a boy in the town. His father, Leslie, wrote several books on Lewes history and amassed a collection of old photographs, many of which John used to illustrate his talk.
Lewes was once a hive of industry and its river banks were lined with cargo docks and warehouses. Key to the development of the town was its position on the River Ouse which, because it is tidal, became an artery that brought industrial activity to the town. Barges would bring goods up from the coast and deliver goods manufactured in Lewes to Newhaven until the coming of the railway in the mid 19th century. Hence the first industry John described was that of ship-building – the last to be built was The Lewes Castle which was launched in the 1820s. Sussex Sloops were unique to the River Ouse and were used to carry bricks up the river to build the viaduct.
Other industries that flourished were the manufacture of cement, iron and steel – in fact at one time everything that the town needed was made in the town itself. It was a centre of iron making from Tudor times and one or two foundries such as the Phoenix Ironworks survived until the 1960s. The first Lewes gasworks was established in 1822, and Lewes was one of the first towns in Sussex to have its own pumping station, there having been no running water in the town until 1833.
Ironically the coming of the railways in the mid 19th century heralded the end of industry in the town, as the river became less important. He described how the London Brighton and South Coast Railway line was constructed by navvies excavating the chalk with no mechanical aid. One spin-off of this was the huge amount of small beer that was consumed – an average of 7quarts(=14 pints) per day per navvy.
Another use of the tidal river was paper making, which required the construction of a water mill. The great paper mill was demolished in 1870, but part of the iron work that supported the water wheel can still be seen. George Baxter set up a printing works in 1802, and invented a way of printing in colour using a three-colour process. This also continued until the mid 1960s.
At one time the 7,000 inhabitants of Lewes could boast 70 inns and 7 breweries, and for 3/-(15p) could purchase a dozen quart bottles (24 pints) of Pale Ale. Inns were not just used for drinking and social purposes, they were places of refuge and warmth at a time when private homes were less comfortable than they are today. Other businesses John mentioned were: farming, ironmongers, wheelwrights, fishmongers, poulterers, purveyors of cheeses, pharmacists, coal merchants and milkmen, all of which could be seen in the town.
Finally there was Lewes race course, which closed in September 1964 after 200 years and a colourful past including the gangland fight in 1936 that was immortalised in the novel and film 'Brighton Rock' .
John provided a fascinating glimpse of the now vanished days when Lewes was both home and workplace to all its townsfolk, and when sons followed fathers and grandfathers in family trades and businesses."
At theAGM the present committee of Chris Sugg (Chair), Kirsten Horner (Vice Chair), Linda Graham (Treasurer) and Committee members Jim Lusted, Nancy Holmes and Lynn James was re-elected and presentations were made to Mary Lewis and Brenda Brunsdon, who have now retired from the committee after many years' service. The post of Secretary is currently vacant, and we would love to hear from anybody who would be interested in taking this on.
Tommy Mitchell's Collection
The 3 summer outings/visits concluded with the visit to Tommy Mitchell’s home to view his collection. He tells me that he started collecting as a child which explains the amazing variety of items that fill his house, garden and sheds!
It is clear that everybody – and especially Tommy himself - enjoyed the visit enormously and he told me at the fete last week, whilst sitting in his Wolesley saloon, that he really wanted to share his collection and his wartime stories with as many people as possible - for as long as possible! He had already agreed to show someone else around following a conversation he had at the fete, so if you missed the opportunity we gave you, he has given me permission to invite anyone who would like to visit to call him on 01892 770227 – preferably between 12 o’clock and 1 o’clock - when he is sure to be there - to arrange a time and day for a private visit.
Eden Valley Museum
A Guided Walk around Hartfield Village with Gilly Halcrow
Gilly Halcrow very kindly stood in for Jim Lusted at short notice and says that it was a very happy occasion with lots of laughter especially as to the amount of butcher's shops in the village (no vegetarians in those days)! Peter & Helen Smith provided some local shop colour and some additions to the notes from Mike Parcell. The whole exercise along with the many photographs I have collected has persuaded me to produce a 'Hartfield Then & Now' Power Point Presentation in time for the January 'Social' evening which we aim to hold in the Village Hall next time. More information in due course.
"An English History of Freedom" by Andy Thomas.
We were presented with a carefully thought-out illustrated story through the generations back to Roman times of how this Island Nation has evolved into the Nation it is by very often kicking back against the powers that have tried to take away our own freedoms.
Clearly it is not possible to report in all the detail but to get a flavour of the evening this is how it started:
Andy proposed that the Roman invasion from about 54 BC was perhaps the first time that the people realised that they might have their freedom curtailed by somebody coming in from outside. A century later when they returned and stayed until the fall of the empire in the late 400’s we have the story of Boudicca or Boadicea extracting ‘terrible revenge’. Although her rebellion was put down she became something of a heroine for freedom when the Romans decided to leave.
We were introduced to the many steps that make our country what it is today – indeed at times it was quite uncomfortable – but important - to recognise our current day in the past!
After the Romans left, in a time now known as the Dark Ages because of the lack of written historic detail, pagan invaders such as the Angles and Saxons and then the Vikings arrive determined to take over the country and the accumulated wealth of Roman Britain. The legend of King Alfred defending the land is somewhat obscured in typical tongue in cheek English fashion by those burnt cakes! There are however signs of the beginning to the rule of law as the Saxon culture became established.
We were taken through the Normans, King John and Magna Carta (800 years this year) his squabble with the barons over tax and the importance of the ‘Great Document’. This is the nearest thing we have to a written constitution, enshrining to some degree a level of freedom and reducing the monarchs ‘total rule’ over all. When this was largely ignored the barons fought a civil war and, at the Battle of Lewes, the King lost and was forced to agree further arrangements that largely led to the Parliamentary System we know today.
Other pressures for reform = freedom came from top and bottom of society. The Black Death so reduced the population that the peasants or labouring class pressed for more rights in the Peasants Revolt which, although put down, made it clear that there was a point beyond which the people were not be pushed! At the other end of society a much more significant rebellion was about to change the face of England forever. The Pope refused Henry VIII the divorce he wanted from Catherine to allow him to marry Ann Boleyn to obtain a male heir resulting in the break from Rome and the formation of the Church of England.
The first seeds of Empire and the notion of being a ‘free’ country were growing. Across Europe many countries were unhappy with this break from the ‘old order’ and the Armada was just one result. The people who had lost their freedoms were of course the Catholics and the Gunpowder Plot was one such result and as we all know religious disagreement has continued to this day.
Oliver Cromwell, the English Civil War, the execution of Charles I, 15 years of Protestant rule with the Puritans and finally the English decided it was more fun with a King – so long as his powers were further restricted. By 1700 power had effectively moved to Parliament with Robert Walpole in all but name the first PM.
The King, however, was still keen to raise money through the imposition of taxes and looked to the New World of America peopled by many who had fled religious persecution but when they rebelled he found himself beaten in the War of Independence that followed. A big shake up for England.
The story of Thomas Paine’s involvement and how France established itself as a Republic and the many ‘libertarians’ who went to Paris and exchanged ideas including Mary Wollstonecraft with her Vindication of the Rights of Women led us into a more modern time where Andy Thomas covered many of the features and factors of modern life.
I can only suggest that, if you missed this fascinating talk, you should go to Andy Thomas’ website and find out where else you can hear it.
"Archie Andrews" with Colin Burnett-Dick
Our meeting in April featured a talk by local resident Colin Burnett-Dick, who brought along with him not just one but two Archie Andrews dummies – the original, made in the 1940s, lovingly restored, and a more recently made identical clone.
Colin told us about Peter Brough, the son of an amateur ventriloquist, who began his working life in a department store at 16, teaching himself to throw his voice in his spare time. By the age of 22 he was being booked for the occasional variety slot. During the war he joined the Army as a driver but after being invalided out due to a lung condition joined ENSA, the wartime organisation set up to entertain the troops.
After the war he asked Wally Ridley to become his manager, but was initially refused because his patter was weak and his dummy atrocious. Having eventually convinced Ridley that he had 'found a voice', together they hit upon the personality of a cheeky schoolboy for a new dummy. Brough went to Davenports, a magic shop in New Oxford Street and asked them to make a figure to his specification. The final version cost £250 – all Peter's savings.
He and Archie became well known after numerous radio guest slots on programmes like ITMA but it was the advent of Educating Archie in 1950 which made him a household name. It ran for 10 years. attracting audiences of 16 million, ratings today's biggest TV names can only dream of. It made stars of its cast: Julie Andrews, Tony Hancock, Hattie Jacques, Benny Hill, Max Bygraves, Dick Emery and Harry Secombe. Scripted by newcomer Eric Sykes and recorded before a live audience the show revolved around the antics of the schoolboy and his tutors, chums, girlfriends and housekeepers.
Archie even seduced royalty, hosting the staff Christmas party at Windsor Castle for 25 years. At the first of these shows in 1948 George VI removed Archie's head to examine how it worked. As it was put back on Archie quipped: "Sir, I'm the only fellow you've ever beheaded in your reign."
In the post-war era Archie advertised food and clothing coupons and promoted road safety. The Inland Revenue sent a tax demand addressed to Archie Andrews Esquire and when Brough wanted to increase the insurance on the doll, Archie was invited for a medical. On two occasions when Archie briefly went missing it made headline news. The 1950s was the golden age of radio and an attempt to transfer Educating Archie to the television screen in the early 60s was unsuccessful.
Even at the height of his fame Peter Brough worked part-time in the family's textile business. He retired without explanation from show business in 1961 after the death of his father and ran the family business, commissioning cloth from mills for fashion houses. He died aged 83 in 1999.
In 2005 the family decided to put Archie up for auction in Taunton, Devon. Colin, who at one time had suffered from Automaton phobia (an irrational fear of dolls, wax figures, puppets and dummies), happened to be on holiday in Devon at the time. He decided that he must have Archie, and he and Pauline duly purchased the dummy for £34,000.
He decided to bring Archie out of retirement and found Steve Hewlett, an excellent ventriloquist who had appeared on Britain's Got Talent. Their first appearance was on Cromer Pier on the birthday of Romey Brough, Peter's daughter. Peter and Archie's story was the subject of a radio play “His Master's Voice” starring Rob Brydon, in 2014 and Colin is in the process of writing Archie's (auto) biography.
Colin's talk, including pictures and recordings, followed by opportunities for “selfies” alongside Archie himself, made for a very entertaining evening, thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended. In lieu of a fee, the History Group made a donation to Archie's chosen charity, the Hospice in the Weald.
For the meeting on 27th May Andy Thomas will be giving us a talk on the ‘English History of Freedom’ – such an important part of life in this country for all of us. This will be the last indoor meeting in the current season. For walks and outings during the summer months, see the website www.hartfieldhistorygroup.org.uk or ring the secretary, Mary Lewis on 01892 770409.
The following notes were excluded from the report of the evening by Linda Graham in order to fit it into the available space in the Parish Magazine but they provide a further insight into a life of ups and downs that helps to round off the story.
"It made him sad because he loved to entertain. He came to life when he was watching Sunday Night At The London Palladium," says Romey.
A Radio 4 play, 'His Master's Voice', starring Rob Brydon as both Brough and the more squeaky voiced Archie, tells their story.
Colin Burnett-Dick, a company director who paid £40,000 at auction in 2005 for Archie, says: "People always say, 'A ventriloquist on radio. How daft.' Peter wasn't the best ventriloquist. His talent was creating and developing the character of Archie. That's what millions tuned in to, imagining the adventures of this real boy." Educating Archie launched the careers of many top names. "He encouraged them to experiment and try new things," says Burnett- Dick. "The genesis of Dick Emery's cross-dressing humour was in the show and that was also where Benny Hill began using his West Country accent. A lot of catchphrases came out of the show such as Max Bygraves' 'I wanna tell you a story.' Peter was friendly with Julie Andrews' parents and when she was 12 he heard her singing when he went over for dinner. At 15 she played Archie's girlfriend, staying for a couple of years."
While audiences roared with laughter at Archie's home life, Brough's was in tatters. He had married Peggy in 1940. Romey and Chris, 18 months her senior and unrelated to her, were privately adopted soon after birth.
"Mother never showed affection. We were brought up by a series of nannies, each one called Nanny Brough," says Romey.
"Mother was a terrible snob. She survived on purple hearts [amphetamines] and Valium. When she was on a high she would drag me round all the best department stores buying clothes."
The couple parted in 1954 but Brough kept it quiet, fearing the scandal would damage his career. Yet he did later achieve happiness.
"I'm so glad he found Liz, his second 'wife', who created a happy family for him with two super children," says Romey. "Of course they were never officially married. I met them once after I'd left home and wondered why my childhood couldn't have been like that."
Brough ended his days at a nursing home, Romey recalls: "Joan Collins used to visit and he gave his last ever performance with Archie there, less than a year before he died.
"He was an awful ventriloquist. You could see his lips moving when he recorded his radio shows but the live audience joined in the game. It was part of the fantasy. On TV the magic disappeared."
Archie lives in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, with Burnett-Dick and his wife Pauline. "There's something very special about him," he says. "He has been handled by everyone from the Queen to The Beatles and he's absorbed the aura of all these stars. If you meet him you never forget him."
"Sir John Gage and his House at Firle" with Helen Poole.
To those of you who listened to Helen Poole and her enthusiastic telling of the history of the Gage family with such extraordinary detail and pictures of dozens of famous and infamous characters over many generations, might wonder just how I could possibly provide a concise report! Two pages later I started again – so here goes with a short history lesson!
Helen started by asking how many of the audience had visited Firle Place and as she said a ‘solid core’ had indeed. She was fascinated by Tudor history and told us that she had worked in 14 Heritage or Museum sites in the county. We were then introduced to Sir John Gage who lived to be 77 – (1479-1556) which in Tudor times was a huge age. Even Queen Elizabeth only lived to 69. The most significant feature of the Gage family was that they were very clever at marrying the right people – particularly with land and position. Even today the estate has some 5000 acres. "Courage without fear" was their motto.
Following the death of his father, who died when his son was still a minor, John Gage was made a ward of court to a London Alderman who proceeded to extract money from the estate. Fortunately John did not have to put up with this for long as in 1502 he married Phillipa, daughter of Sir Richard Guildford, who was Comptroller of the Royal Household. This provided John Gage with his first post in the Royal Household in the reign of Henry Tudor. Moving on to Henry VIII John Gage became steadily more involved and relied upon. After a period of time in Calais, the last continental possession of England, he returned where his wife’s half brother had taken over as Head of the Royal Household and he was able to get another post in the Household.
Henry VIII had 55 palaces and John Gage became responsible for making sure that they were presentable prior to Henry's visits. He gained many influential friends such as Sir Thomas More who even recommended John Gage as a subject to be drawn by the young Hans Holbein providing a famous portrait. John Gage’s daughter, Alice, then married Sir Anthony Browne who was possibly the best friend of Henry VIII bringing John even closer to royalty. Not only was John Gage in the Royal Household and was building up his Sussex estate but also had become an MP. Cardinal Wolsey was the right hand man of the King and his right hand man was Thomas Cromwell. When Wolsey fell, Cromwell asked John Gage - who in the meantime had been knighted - to find him a seat in parliament.
When Henry VIII was running out of money Cromwell organised the review of all the monasteries in England leading to the dissolution of the monasteries. The now Sir John Gage reviewed several of the Sussex monasteries, decided that they were too expensive for the crown and gave Battle Abbey to Sir Anthony Browne who was of course married to his daughter! Bayham went to another of his family. By now Sir John Gage was the man that the King would turn to for any problem so he soon became a Knight of the Garter and was appointed Constable of the Tower of London where he had to perform some unpleasant duties including overseeing the execution of Catherine Howard. The night before she was executed she asked Sir John Gage if she could borrow the execution block to make sure that she could place her head so that it would be cut off with one blow.
When Henry died his young son Edward came to the throne and the Court became very Protestant whilst Sir John Gage remained firmly Catholic, thus falling out of favour for the first time. When Edward died he left the throne to Lady Jane Grey who ruled for only nine days. The throne then passed to Mary who brought back Catholicism so Sir John Gage was back in favour! Mary’s decision to marry Philip of Spain was very unpopular resulting in some 300 protestant heretics being burnt to death, locally known as the Lewes martyrs.
By now Sir John Gage was very elderly and retired to Sussex and died in 1556. His son Sir Edward Gage, however, was High Sheriff when the burnings began. Over the subsequent generations the Gage family retained important positions although there was the odd black sheep but clearly it was Sir John Gage who was the most important member of the Gage dynasty and there is a magnificent memorial to him and his wife in Firle Church.
Firle Place opens 70 days per year. Everybody is welcome to the Garden Festival in the last weekend of April, Friday to Sunday 12:30 – 4:00 and Helen is on duty on the Sunday for anyone who wishes to continue their conversations!
"Sussex during The First World War" with Ian Everest.
Ian Everest started his talk by outlining his family connection with WW1. His maternal grandfather had been a member of the British Expeditionary Force and had taken part in the very first battle of the war at Mons and had been captured, spending the rest of the war as a POW. Ian’s real family history interest, however, started around 1982 with the war memorial in Newhaven which carries the names of two of his Great Uncles. Knowing that he and his father were both Sussex born and bred Ian was fascinated by how the war developed and its relation to his county of Sussex which he discovered was largely responsible for servicing the Western Front.
With the current TV series of Conan Doyle it was interesting to learn that the author of Sherlock Holmes had moved to Crowborough in 1907 and had become very worried about the possibility of invasion. He wrote to The Times and called a meeting to form a Home Protection Brigade made up of the older population and they even started to dig trenches on the Downs. When the War Office heard about it they put a stop to it as they did not want uncontrolled proliferation of this sort of thing!
Ian showed many fascinating pictures and told stories of personalities including long term, well respected German families who suddenly found themselves faced with such strong anti German feeling that they were forced to flee back to Germany and their property was seized and transferred to the military.
Lord Kitchener was tasked with the recruitment of 100,000 volunteers and such was the initial enthusiasm – as well as arm-twisting and emotional blackmail - that he got 1 million!
The population was advised that if the Germans arrived they should leave by the back door, retreating 10 miles and slaughtering all animals as they went leaving the carcasses to rot.
Sussex being predominantly farming country with grassland and little mechanisation still being worked with oxen in places, as the men were persuaded to fight for their country huge changes were to occur. Two thirds of the food used in the UK had always been imported which is where the shops such as Home & Colonial and International Stores got their names, As the Germans sent their U-Boats to attack the incoming supply ships and a million of the best horses were to be sent to war of which only a handful were to return, the need to plough up the grassland for wheat forced the government to order 5000 tractors from the USA and the Land Girls became the work force of the farms.
With a bad harvest in 1916 and 10 ships a day being sunk, the situation was becoming desperate. Ian showed a wonderful clip from Pathe News of elephants being used to plough the fields and even tossing wheat into the threshing machine. In order to feed all the horses on the Western Front huge new baling machines operated by the Women’s Forage Department were made to produce compressed bales that were taken down to Newhaven or Littlehampton from all over Sussex.
In order to get into these essential ports a pass was required and you can see why with 3 million tons of armaments being shipped across the channel. In Newhaven 2500 people were employed in loading and a 5.1/2 hours daily limit was put on pub drinking hours and the men were only allowed to buy drinks for themselves! The daily ‘licensing’ hours were to continue up until very recently. The docks operated 24 hours a day and 20 ships were despatched daily.
Photos of boats painted in ‘dazzle’ camouflage to confuse the U-Boats, the growth of naval air stations with Seaplanes to drop hand held bombs, the building of airships and, towards the end of the war the plan to put anti submarine nets right across the Channel slung between huge towers, showed just how serious the U-Boat threat was to the survival of the UK. The building of what became known as the ‘Mystery Towers’ was an enormous project that only got as far as the first 3 towers utilizing 5000 men and costing £1 million each before the war came to an end. One, however, still exists standing on the sea bed off the Isle of Wight nearly a century later.
All these projects took place in Sussex as well as huge training camps. In Seaford for instance the normal population of 4000 grew to no less than 20,000 men. Camps all over the UK eventually accommodated 850,000 men in tents and later huts.
Sussex was also used for receiving the wounded back. Ian showed a picture of one of up to 3 trains a week arriving in Brighton to be welcomed by people who were still coming on holiday. The county also built the first hospital for shell shock and even the Royal Pavilion was used for a hospital with 724 beds.
On the 13th Oct the terms for the end of the war were agreed in Sussex. The architect Lutyens was given just 14 days to design and have constructed a memorial in Whitehall for the celebrations of the end of the First World War. Such was the popularity of the memorial it was converted to stone and is still used today.
Memorials were built all over the country with money contributed by the public.
Just 52 villages were able to celebrate the return of all their combatants and became known as the ‘Thankful Villages’. The only one in Sussex was East Wittering.
(A very few villages were able to celebrate the return of all their soldiers from both the first and the second world war. In an extraordinary twist one of these carries the name Upper Slaughter!)
Social - Listening to Voices of Old Hartfield.
The back room at The Anchor was filled with a jolly crowd taking advantage of a free drink and, where not a member, being upgraded to full membership for the rest of the year for their entrance fee! They had come to listen to ‘Voices of Old Hartfield’ recorded over many years to provide a unique verbal history of life in the parish.
During the autumn we had a talk from Gilly Halcrow entitled ‘Whatever happened to Christopher Robin’ and we learnt how he was badly teased at school because of the record of his singing that his father had produced. One of the recordings collected together included some of Christopher Robin songs and we were able to start our evening with a quick ‘listen’ to one song so that we could all hear why poor Christopher Robin was so teased - resulting in his estrangement from his father for many years!
We then moved on to our first main recording in which we listened to Ruth Taylor who worked for Lord & Lady Castle Stewart at Old Lodge whilst her husband was butler for 35 years. It was a pleasure to have Ruth’s daughter in our audience who said later that it was lovely to hear her mother’s voice again. Ruth had memories going right back to the age of 3.1/2. She talked about hop picking and seeing a Zeppelin shot down in flames and how she used her sowing skills to ‘remodel’ soldiers and airman’s uniform in WW2 when they didn’t fit! Altogether a remarkable woman who worked hard throughout her life and used skills she learnt from her mother as well as from school to support her family into old age.
A short piece from the recording of Lord and Lady Castle Stewart themselves provided a count of the numbers employed on the estate at the one occasion that they all met together for the annual Christmas Celebration. The result was 50!
After a break we listened to Joan Giradot who had been chair of the Parish Council for 12 years and been responsible for several important innovations in the village . She actually retired on the same day as the Memorial Garden was officially opened and also told us how she had run into the traffic calming bollards on the first day and because it was not lit sent a bill to the Council claiming it was their fault – and they paid up! A formidable woman.
To finish we played a song from the First World War as a tribute to the many Hartfield residents who had died and are commemorated on the Hartfield War Memorial and were the subject of our November talk by James Castle.
Our next meeting on the 25th February at the Village Hall follows this theme with a talk by Ian Everest entitled ‘Sussex during World War 1'
"Hartfield War Heroes – Unravelling the War Memorial" with James Castle.
What an extraordinary piece of research James Castle has done on the names on the Hartfield War Memorial.
In his brilliantly illustrated talk we learned about nearly every name on the memorial from both the First and the Second World Wars. Many were illustrated with the houses they lived in as Hartfield residents, the regiment they belonged to, the war grave where they were buried and even the headstone. Numbers had unknown graves and at least three were complete mysteries although their names were read out at each ceremony. A mass burial and one at sea had also been discovered
We learnt that some had their names inscribed on more than one memorial and one or two whose names were inscribed on as many as six memorials.
During his researches James has uncovered 15 more combatants and, by the efforts of Dan Maher the Parish Council agreed to pay for the addition of these names to the memorial – which were added to a rear plaque by a stonemason from Burselem’s with the apt name of Hartfield!
We hope to be able to add a section to the Hartfield History Website in due course with this important detail for future family researchers.
The talk was followed by several interesting comments from the audience and one or two ‘leads’ for James to follow up in his continuing researches!
If anybody has anything to add regarding the War Memorial please use the website ‘Leave a Reply’ which you can find in several places but easily by clicking on ‘History of the Parish’
"Chiddingstone, a family memoir" with Penny Harris.
Penny began by admitting that this talk was all about her family and based on her mother’s memoir which had been converted into a book following popular demand!
Starting with the long hot summer of 1940, Edwina Hallett, Penny’s mother, was just 18. In 1942 she decided to enlist in the Womens’ Auxiliary Air Force as a Driver, Mechanical Transport and following a somewhat embarrassing medical was sent to RAF Innsworth.
As a WAAF she learnt to drive and eventually passed out as a ‘Leading Aircraftwoman’ but was sent to a Maintenance Unit RAF Chessington. On ambulance duty in May 1943 she lost the toss and was sent off to collect an ex POW returned from Italy. With a group of walking wounded he had been exchanged having been shot down whilst flying a Hurricane over Italy and parachuted into enemy territory. One leg had been amputated and his family had even been told he was dead although nobody believed it. They were proved right when they received a postcard from him saying he was OK although a little short in the left leg!
This of course turned out to be John Hall and Edwina fell in love!! Despite her father warning her against marrying an amputee she did just that. Despite his ‘peg-leg’ John managed to get back to flying Spitfires and Hurricanes until the end of the war but was unable to obtain a commercial licence after the war. With no jobs, little money and nowhere to live they thought they were ideally suited to run a pub and eventually John became the landlord of the Blacksmiths Arms in Chiddingstone in November 1946. They had a baptism of fire on the first day they opened for business when, after a very quiet start a coach drew up with a darts team and they were told that that night was a darts match!
Edwina’s book, recounted by Penny told stories of the visit of the hop pickers from London that had to be watched carefully and how Penny herself was born in the room above the bar in 1949.
Before the following spring they had decided that working 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year was not ideal for a growing child and had made a decision to farm.
After months of searching they were let down over one tenancy but then one of their regulars told them that the tenant of Oakenden Farm was getting ready to leave and after a few heart stopping moments the tenancy was theirs.
Several members of the audience were familiar with The Blacksmith’s Arms and the people involved, so discussion ensued for a good time.
Chris thanked Penny for her entertaining telling of the story – so far - and several copies of Edwina’s book, Potholes, Pigs and Paradise went to new homes.
"Whatever Happened to Christopher Robin?" With Gilly Halcrow.
The story started with AA Milne and his meeting with Daphne (Daff) de Selincourt and their eventual marriage in St Margaret’s, Westminster.
The American connection and names that were to surface later came through the story of a bear cub named after President “Teddy” Roosevelt. Also, a different black bear cub rescued at the outbreak of WW2 by Lt. Colebourn in Canada, eventually bringing it back to England where it became the regimental mascot, before being given to London Zoo when it grew too large, hence the name ‘Winnie’ after Winnipeg. An extraordinary picture of Christopher Robin at a young age actually hugging the black bear bigger than himself at the zoo, was particularly startling!
It is worth adding at this point that Gilly’s huge collection of slides was outstanding.
It seems that ’Daff’ would have preferred a girl and as many well heeled families of the time, she handed her sons upbringing from the age of 18 months to ‘Nanny Nou’ as she was known. Ruling the roost Nanny Nou restricted parental contact to 3 periods of ½ an hour per day! Whilst this probably satisfied his mother, his father as the assistant Editor for Punch Magazine started to pour his thoughts of his son onto paper. The famous poem “Vespers” illustrated by EH Shepard – a Punch illustrator - with Christopher Robin kneeling saying his prayers as seen by his father through a crack in the door, was his first piece. He handed it to Daff and said that if she could do anything with it she could have the royalties. Daff managed to get it published in Vanity Fair magazine in 1925 and it became an instant hit.
Cotchford Farm in Hartfield was bought by AAM in 1925 when Christopher Robin was 5 years old and they would visit from their London home at weekends and holidays, eventually moving to Hartfield permanently. It was here that Christopher Robin met Hannah from Cotchford Lane and they would spend endless hours roving Ashdown Forest, with Nanny Nou supervising. This was a gentler time in England with fields full of wild flowers, coming home with arms full from their picking expeditions. The games and adventures they had would be relayed to AAM and Daff on their return home for tea, this was when AAM’s fertile imagination got to work. Christopher Robin didn’t realize that the stories that were being read to him, were also being enjoyed by children all over the world.
“When We Were Young” was published in 1924 and the collection of soft toys with which Daff had played with her son in their ½ hour interludes became the characters around which AA Milne crafted the stories, Pooh, Piglet & Tigger being inspired by characters from The Wind in the Willows.
Christopher Robin was sent to boarding school in Guildford at the age of 9 and then on to Stowe by which time his fame as the character in the books led to terrible teasing – especially the rather dire singing that had been recorded on to an HMV record. When he managed to get hold of the record being played by his teasers he smashed it to smithereens. And he never forgave his father.
AAM died in 1956 at the age of 74 whilst Daff lived another 15 years but in all that time only seeing her son once. AAM died a disappointed man because he had written many plays and articles, however, his public ONLY wanted his Winnie-the-Pooh stories.
Christopher Robin married his first cousin, Lesley, the problem being that both sides of the family hadn’t spoken for 30 years which certainly distanced him from his parents. They had one daughter, Claire, who was disabled.
The huge popularity of the AA Milne stories meant that Christopher Robin Milne was forever associated with them and despite thinking he might find it easy to get a job after WW2 he eventually opened a bookshop in Dartmouth where he doubtless sold ‘his’ books amongst others for many years. He finally died in 1996 having come to terms with who he was and leading a happy and fulfilled life, doing what he wanted to do in a part of the country of his choosing with the family he loved.
So, the end of this rather strange and in many ways, sad, story of relationships was of course that Christopher Robin, and all his friends, that were created for AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books will live on forever. Translated into 30 languages whilst Hartfield on the Ashdown Forest, with its Enchanted Places and Pooh Bridge, will remain embedded forever in the minds of children and adults alike, despite there having only been 4 books in all.
See some of the pictures in the section called 'Winnie the Pooh'
(Edited with additions by Gilly Halcrow 13th April 2016)