Earlier this year I took a bit of a trip down memory lane and somehow ended up in the Sussex village of Brede. Now Brede is just a couple of miles up the road from my home in Westfield, another Sussex village. My mates and I used to take off on our bikes, with our fishing rods, and spend the day along the banks of the Brede River. What we never knew was, that less than half a mile away, as the crow flies, there were giants !!!
Of course, these aren’t the mythological giants of legend. These giants are of the steam variety. As pre-teenage kids we were totally unaware of the wonders that were working so hard just a short distance away.
The “giants” were two Tangye engines with their associated pumps which were installed in 1904, and a third manufactured by Worthington Simpson , added in 1940. All three units operated until the end of steam in 1964.
The water, pumped by these giants, was drawn from large wells penetrating the rock (Ashdown Sandstone aquifer) beneath the River Brede. It was purified and then pumped into service reservoirs on The Ridge above Hastings for distribution by gravity via the pipe networks serving Hastings.
Of course, there is more here than just the “giant” steam engines. There are many other steam pumps and engines. Some were originally from this site. Others have been donated from further afield. The folks that work here are all volunteers and they work very hard to maintain a working display of this old technology.
Also on this site there are artifacts from more recent years, from the time of the cold war. There is nuclear bunker, one of three built by Southern Water as an emergency control centre to become operational in the event of nuclear war. It was never completed and work on the bunker appears to have stopped in 1992.
Following our visit to Brede Water Works we headed up to Brede village for a bite to eat and not before long we were sat in the beer garden at the rear of the Red Lion pub.
The Red Lion is a family run 15th Century pub serving an interesting range of freshly cooked dishes. The menu features locally caught fish from Hastings & Rye, meat from Hastings, locally sourced & homegrown fruit & vegetables and wild mushrooms foraged in Brede High Woods.
Here I had one of the best seafood platters, ever. With some of the home made “Brede Bread” on the side.
Just round the corner from the Red Lion is St. Georges church.
St. Georges has quite a history. Here is just a short piece that I have quoted from their own website.
In about 1017, soon after his marriage to Emma of Normandy, King Canute granted a land called ‘Rammesleah’ to the Abbey at Fecamp in Normandy. Construction of the present church in around 1180 was probably funded by the Abbott of Fecamp. Until 1413 Brede remained under the domination of the Abbey and the parish was served by its Benedictine monks until ‘alien’ (foreign) priories were dissolved buring the reign of King Henry VIII.
The name of the village is first found in a charter of c1030 and comes from Olde English ‘bredu’ meaning breadth’ referring to the wide river to the south.
The River Brede later took it’s name from the village.
The Church is dedicated to St. George, probably a soldier martyred in Palestine in the early 4th century. Besides also being Patron Saint of England he is remembered above all for the legend of ‘St. George and the Dragon’. There is a window dedicated to him at the west end of the north aisle and a statue near the altar in the church. Very little of the earlier Norman building remains and the structure of the Church developed over a period of some 400 years from the 12th century onwards.
From the exterior, much of what one sees is 15th century Perpendicular architecture. The walls were built of local sandstone and ironstone. High on a buttress near the porch is a brass sundial dated 1826.