Weald and Downland Living Museum


I am the eldest of three siblings and have two younger sisters. Years ago, due to job seeking, I moved away from the family home, in Sussex, eventually settling in Hampshire. Only 90 miles or so away, but far enough that our get togethers are irregular at best. We all have busy lives and trying to coordinate a gathering around our diaries is like herding cats. What we tend to do is pick a place of interest, somewhere between our respective homes, then meet up for the day. The main criteria being that there are nice walks in the grounds, interesting stately homes to explore and so forth. Also key is that there is a decent cafe / tea room or pub. Past venues for these family gatherings have been:

  1. Chartwell –  Family home and garden of Sir Winston Churchill. Chartwell was the much-loved Churchill family home from 1922 and the place from which Sir Winston drew inspiration until the end of his life
  2. Nymans – A garden lovers’ home for all seasons, with an extensive yet intimate garden set around a romantic house and ruins. Nymans was a country retreat for the creative Messel family, and has views stretching out across the Sussex Weald
  3. Wakehurst Place. Part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, this wild botanic garden on the High Weald of West Sussex has over 500 acres of beautiful ornamental gardens, woodlands and a nature reserve. Wakehurst is also home to the Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild seed conservation project in the world.
  4. Bodiam Castle – Archetypal 14th century moated castle with ruined interior – a glimpse of medieval splendour. Set in the heart of an historic landscape, with spiral staircases, battlements and a portcullis, 14th century Bodiam Castle is one of Britain’s most picturesque and romantic ancient monuments.

And so we come to our latest gathering.

The venue of choice on this occasion was The Weald and Downland Living Museum. In their own words

Come and discover rescued rural homes and buildings set in a beautiful landscape, which tell the stories of the people who lived and worked in them over 1,000 years.

Enjoy our family friendly 40-acre site and visit our collection of historic buildings – we have more than 50 to explore from a replica Anglo-Saxon hall house to an Edwardian tin tabernacle church. There is a regular programme of demonstrations, including milling in our 17th century watermill; cooking in our Tudor kitchen; blacksmithing in our Victorian smithy; plus seasonal demonstrations. Take a walk in the woods, bring the dog (we are dog-friendly), visit our waterside café (also dog-friendly) or enjoy your own picnic.

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North Cray Medieval House & Lavant Building

As is our normal practice, we met in the cafe, and set about orienting ourselves while downing a cuppa.

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Lakeside Cafe

The nice thing about this location, is the fact that it is constantly growing. Gerry and I have visited on several previous occasions and it is always different, there is always something new.

A prime example of the new is the dairy building below. Still under construction / restoration, this building dates from c1807 and originates from Eastwick Park, Surrey.

As stated above, there are over 40 acres of grounds with buildings spread all over. From my memory, one of the earliest buildings that we have visited is the mill.

The Weald and Downland Museum regularly appears on TV and there is a current series being broadcast. As they were filming something for that series part of the site was off-limits. Didn’t stop me taking a couple of pictures though.

My grandfather worked the land, using horses, in the county of Sussex around Lancing, Worthing and Sompting. It is entirely possible that he may have visited this Victorian Smithy, from Southwater, during his working years.

We should consider ourselves very lucky, with all the technology and heavy machinery at our disposal. Back in the day things were very different, the work hard and often back-breaking. For example, does anyone fancy working a saw-pit ?

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Saw-Pit from Sheffield Park

At least the workers would have had shelter from the rain or sun. The building here is 19th century and provided cover over a permanent saw-pit on the Sheffield Park estate.

Some of the hard labour was delegated to animals. Here is an example of a 19th century  “horse-gin” from Patching, Sussex.

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19th Century “horse-gin” from Patching, Sussex

“gin” appears to be a contraction of the word “engine”. Such devices were used to drive threshers or churns, but could also be used to pump water or raise coal or miners from  mines. The example below was used to mix the “pug” for making bricks.

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Redford Pug Mill

Not all the buildings here are industrial or agricultural. After all that physical labour the spiritual needs of the workers would have to be catered for.

Many trades are reflected in the various buildings here, plumbing ….

shop-keeping ….

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To the left is Horsham Medieval Shop, Front and centre is Titchfield Market Hall

Also on display are a number of residential buildings. The following pictures are of  Whittakers Cottages, built in Ashtead during the mid 1860s.

Also on display are various wagons, animal boxes and so forth….

This house was removed and resurrected from Walderton, Sussex. The flint and brick exterior date from early to mid 17th century. However, the insides are what remains of a medieval timber-framed building.

 

Below is a 19th century Stable from West Wittering, currently be used as a Potting Shed …

The following building was originally a cart shed but it was converted into a schoolhouse.

For some years up to 1851 it was used as a school for “six poor children from the parish of West Wittering”.

The museum is also home for a number of animals including horses, oxen, chickens and ducks.

This is the proud Percheron mother of a foal, just two and a half weeks old.

By the time we arrived at the foals enclosure a storm was moving in. Thunder rumbling and lightening flashing. The foal didn’t seem to be fazed by the noise but mum was obviously aware. When the rain started, the foal was frolicking around, galloping and leaping in the air. Considering that the foal had never experienced rain this was a joyful moment.

With the rain looking like it was in for the remainder of the day we headed along the high path back to the cafe. We were presented with the following views through the rain …

Back at the cafe we had a nice cuppa and a slice of flapjack before saying our good-byes and heading home.

It was a good day and I for one am looking forward to the next visit.

 

 

 

 

 

The Bluebell Line


Continuing a theme of stepping back in time, today’s post is about the Bluebell Railway which runs between East Grinstead & Sheffield Park in East Sussex.

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Bluebell Railway – Sheffield Park Station

This was another “wrinklies” trip, organised by the IBM Retired Employees Club. And what a fine day out it was.

A coach trip through some of the finest countryside that Hampshire and Sussex have to offer. You see so much more from the high vantage point that a coach provides. Seeing much that is missed, hidden behind hedgerows when sitting in a car.

On arrival at Sheffield Park, we had time to wander the station, the gift shop and cafe.

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Bluebell Line – Sheffield Park – Platform view with some rolling stock in the distance.

Over to the right you can just make out a brown locomotive. This is the Fenchurch, the oldest engine on the Bluebell Line.

Fenchurch was built in 1872 for the London Brighton and South Coast Railway.

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It was sold in 1898 to the Newhaven Harbour Company where it worked for many years. It finished its working life on the Hayling Island branch where the light weight, at 28 tons, was valuable due to the limits on the bridge over the estuary.

Whilst wandering the platforms, browsing the souvenir shop and raiding the restaurant for some chilled water, our train arrived.

The walls of the station buildings are adorned with the advertising posters of yesteryear, many stirring quite strong memories.

Before we could board, the existing passengers had to disembark, and then the engine had to be moved from the one end of the train to the other.

While the engine swapped ends the carriage for our group was also being prepared for our luncheon. We were to enjoy a ploughman’s lunch and fresh brewed tea.

Once our engine was re-attached to our train there was just time for a few more shots before boarding.

And then we were off. Not the smooth running of todays diesel/electric trains. Rather a gentle pulsing which comes from the steam-driven pistons driving our locomotives wheels. Then there was the aroma, coal fire mixed with steam. Once experienced, never forgotten.

The line passes through some beautiful countryside. We saw cows, sheep, quite a few pheasants. I even saw, what I assumed was an owl box, shaped like the gable end of barn, mounted in a tree close by the railway.

We were sat across our table from a nice couple of gents with whom we nattered about all manner of subjects. We all enjoyed our ploughman’s lunch although perhaps it would have been more appropriate to have had an engine drivers breakfast. Bacon, sausage, eggs and toast cooked on a shovel in the firebox. But I guess that would have been too much to ask for. Even the tea could have made using steam from the boiler.

Ah well, perhaps another time. All too soon our journey was over and we all left the train and headed back to our coach for the drive home.

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Journeys End – an almost deserted platform

And finally, when we had a nationalised railway system, we all moaned and wished we could go back to the days of the independent and local railway companies. Now we have a national rail network with franchised companies running the trains. With the current, recurring railway network chaos headlining our newspapers and television news, it seems we are all wishing we had our old nationalised system under British Railways ……

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Westfield Police House | East Sussex | People | Places | West Sussex | Transport | Brighton | Police history | History | The Old Police Cells Museum


After a recent conversation with a friend, during which she said how she and her mum had been looking at her childhood home using the Google street view application, I thought I would have a nose around myself.

I thought I would share some of the memories stirred up by my nosing.

My dad was a policeman and back in the day it was the norm for officers to be moved around every couple of years.

My earliest memories are of us living in Lewes, Sussex. But then we upped sticks and moved to Westfield, where dad became the village bobby.

Obviously our history is relatively recent but during my street view rambling I came across this post http://oldpolicecellsmuseum.org.uk/page_id__377_path__0p303p304p183p209p182p208p207p181p.aspx

This was a police house dating from at least 1922 and was also known as Westfield Police Station, the house where I lived during my pre-teens.

It’s a private house now and, externally at least, seems to have reverted back to its original form.

When I knew it, there was a flat roofed extension to the side, with it’s own entrance but was also linked inside. Dads slippers used to sit, on watch,by that adjoining door, waiting for him to come off duty when they would be replaced by a pair of black boots. That is unless Honey, our Corgi, hadn’t stolen away with one of the slippers to her bed in the kitchen. There she used to lick the insides until nice and slimy. Whoe betide anyone foolish enough to put their hand in to try and retrieve the hapless slipper. Corgi’s have sharp teeth.

This was the police station from which my dad worked. There was just room enough inside for a large desk and chair. I remember there being several shelves of files and log books and a cupboard in which dad used to put his police bike and also kept the hand-cranked siren.

Also on the shelves was a mysterious grey electrical box, like a loudspeaker. It had a single control which turned it on and controlled the volume. Every so often dad would turn it on and it would emit a slow steady tick. On occasions the ticking would be replaced by a warbling tone. I subsequently found out that this was part of the national air raid siren system which would be implemented during a nuclear attack. This was my dad’s role if the “four minute warning” was sounded. He would receive a signal through the mysterious box, drag the siren out of the cupboard and crank it up to warn the village of its imminent demise.

What the villagers would have done we can only surmise.

I am pretty sure there would have been a few saying “What the fuck’s that? ”

My years here were quite enlightening. The garden behind the house was over 100 feet long, long enough for me to practice beach casting. I had been given a fishing rod for my ninth birthday.

Slowly over time dad turned our back garden into a smallholding.

Starting with the fruit he planted blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes. We had brambles growing down the side of the plot so always had a plentiful supply of blackberries. We also had a couple of apple trees. Mum turned all that lovely fruit into jams, pies and crumbles, my favourite.

On the veggie front, Dad planted runner and broad beans, potatoes, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, curly kale, sweetcorn and artichokes.

Then there were the chickens. First we had a half dozen or so running around in a large pen. This was soon supplemented by a hen house to protect them from the foxes.

As the supply of eggs grew so did the number of chooks.  Dad even experimented for a while with  battery hens.

Needless to say we kids had plenty to eat and we were encouraged to join in with looking after the chooks, collecting eggs, harvesting fruit and veg and helping in the kitchen.

Our collection of birds increased when dad acquired six geese. Initially they were allowed to roam on the lawn, free effortless grass cutting.
With such close proximity to the house the birds were treated like pets and were given names. Charlie was the gander and the members of his harem were Ethel, Gerty, Snowy and two others whose names escape me.

However,  anyone who knows geese also knows that what goes in is matched by lots of goose poo. Well the geese were soon relegated to their own personal pound at the bottom of the garden. We would occasionally collect goose eggs and everyone took it in turns to have one of those treasures.

It was inevitable, but one Christmas it was decided that we would have goose. Well Ethel was volunteered, executed, plucked drawn and duly cooked. All was fine until Mum sat down to her plated meal, whereupon she wailed “I can’t eat Ethel”.

From that point on we had five pet geese. Sadly that number dropped to four when Snowy became broody and was sitting on her egg(s), wouldn’t eat and died.

Another goosy memory was having to put them to bed at night. This became my job whenever Dad was on nights. Have you ever tried herding geese? Also can you imagine a skinny 10 or 11 year old having to face down an angry gander. A gander that has reared up to his full height, wings spread to their full six foot span and with his neck fully extended, hissing like a nest of vipers. Then in the morning letting them out again. Charlie, the gander, used launch himself out as soon as the door opened wings spread, honking for all he was worth, quickly joined by the girls all joining in the chorus.

Fond memories now but not considered a high point by me at the time. But I learnt about gardening, keeping chickens and that getting food on the table isn’t always pleasant or easy. I don’t recall ever being bored, there was always something to do.

Now I am in my sixties I do hanker after those quieter more genteel times. But now I have arrived in the new century I sure would miss the technology. If only the pace of life would slow down. I guess that is what retirement is for.

If only the rest of the world would slow down too.

Arundel Castle Revisited


Yesterday we took a trip up to Arundel Castle. A popular destination to while away the hours and to pick up a bit of history. Here are a few photo’s from what was yet another dull and bitingly cold day.

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Arundel Castle from the River Arun

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Battlements

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Busy Roofline – Aundel Castle

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Arundel Castle

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Corridor – Arundel Castle

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Inner Sanctum – Arundel Castle

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Arundel Castle

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Rhea – Arundel Castle

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Photo Bomb or Sticky Stamp Licker

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Steep Slope – Arundel Castle

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The Keep – Arundel Castle

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Anti Tourist Squad – Arundel Castle

Weald and Downland Open Air Museum


Thursday and another day spent blowing away the cobwebs. The question was where to go,  where could we get some fresh air but without risking getting soaked. The answer was The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton.

Just a short twenty-mile drive from home, the museum is set in the heart of the South Downs and is encompassed by the South Downs National Park. It is home to around 50 historic buildings that were previously facing destruction. Those buildings were carefully dismantled and have been rebuilt here. All of the buildings, spanning the period c.1300 to c.1910, originate from the Weald and Downland of the counties of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. The museum is set against an ever-changing backdrop of the Sussex downs.

A small portion of the Sussex countryside

Brilliant scenery, interesting historical buildings with animals mixed in. What better way to get fresh air and exercise.

On entering the site and paying a quite modest entry fee you pass through the Hambrook Barn. The barn has an interesting audio / visual display, with many photos of past and present artisans, some of whom may have worked in some of the buildings in the museum

Barn from Hambrook, Sussex

Passing through the barn you are presented with a high level view over The Market place and down to the pond which has a wind powered water pump. The pump was relocated from Pevensey in Sussex.

The Market Place

Wind Pump

As you stroll down to the pond area you pass the old Tollhouse which was originally from Beeding in Sussex.

Tollhouse

Sat below the pond is the mill that the water drives. The mill is in operation and you can go inside and view the workings as well as purchase fresh ground flour and other goodies. We came away with a number of packets of local biscuits. Yuuumy !!!

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Pond

Further round the site there is a working Smithy. The building originates from Southwater which by the way is where some of my family have lived in past times. My grandfather used to work the horses on farmlands around Sussex and who knows he may have visited this building or may have had his horses fitted with shoes from this forge and anvil.

Outside the smithy there is a vertical sculpture. The photo below is a close  up of just a part.

Detail From Sculpture near the “Smithy”

Although the buildings are the main reason for the museum one cannot avoid nature. The museum setting means that you are surrounded by beautiful trees, open fields and water.

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Lower Mill Pond

Around the grounds there are various animals most of which are traditional breeds including  Shire horses, Sussex cattle, South Down sheep, Tamworth pigs, geese and Light Sussex chickens. The shire horse can be seen  working around the site.

A plump / pregnant sheep

One of the shire horses pulling a cart

It is estimated that you need around three hours to take in all the museum has to offer. That is presumably if you don’t just sit on one of the many benches to absorb the sunshine, the beautiful scenery and the peace and tranquility.

Well for the most part anyway. Our little piece of tranquility was punctuated by a very yappy French Poodle and a large family group who could only communicate by shouting and screaming at each other.

Despite the minor negative moments we had a brilliant time and sadly we had to make our way home.

The road home.

For more information take a look at The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum website. Better still go and visit. You will not be disappointed.

Mill is set to get new lease of life – What A Bargain


The mill is believed to date back to 1728, and there were originally two tidal mills battling to grind wheat and oats on the peninsula.

It was previously used as a tidal mill until 1935, making it the last working tidal mill in Sussex before it was pressed into service to build and repair naval boats during the Second World War.

There is something really strange that such a property, in such an attractive location, should be sold for such an amazingly small sum !!!

In an unusual move, no reserve price was put on the Grade II-listed brick-and-timber property at Birdham Pool Marina, Chichester Harbour when it went for auction.

With a zero reserve, bidding was fast and furious, and the gavel came down on a final bid of £62,000.

The potential for this property is out of this world even with the peculiarities of the British planning laws.

I am mystified.

Mill is set to get new lease of life – Local Business – Portsmouth News.