Tag Archives: river adur

Wordless Wednesday: Betley Bridge

30 May

Betley Bridge, near Henfield, West Sussex (28th May 2012)

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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The importance of Betley

29 May

One thing I didn’t mention yesterday when I wrote about my short walk to Betley Bridge was that the area has an important role in my family history.

Just south of the River Adur are two properties, to the west of the old railway line is Great Betley and to the east is Little Betley. The river itself marks the parish boundary between Henfield and West Grinstead in West Sussex so both these properties are just inside the parish of Henfield.

The family connection begins in the 1861 census, when my 3x great-grandfather John Fairs is to be found at Betley (presumably Great Betley) employed as a cowman. Prior to this he had been living “across the river” in West Grinstead, but I can’t pin down when he did start work at Betley.

The railway from Horsham to Shoreham was opened in 1861 and cut through the farmland on which John must have worked. A far more important event however was John’s marriage in 1862 to Mary Ann Weller.

By 1871 the couple had five daughters and were living at Little Betley, probably sharing the small cottage with Henry and Emma Nye and their three young children.

A decade later in 1881 the couple were still at Little Betley, with two of their daughters and sharing the cottage with William and Elizabeth Pierce and their daughter. Just across the fields however at Betley is the 15 year old Ebenezer Trower, my 2x great-grandfather, working as an agricultural labourer.

Although John’s daughter Annie wasn’t living with them in 1881, she obviously wasn’t away that long because in 1889 the she and Ebenezer were married in Henfield Church.

In 1891 the widowed John is still at Little Betley working as an agricultural labourer, and sharing the house with Annie and Ebenezer (also an agricultural labourer) and their two children. One of these was the newly born Henry John Trower my great-grandfather.

By 1901 the families had split up, Ebenezer and Annie with their children to Sayers Common and John had moved closer to the village of Henfield itself.

It is easy for me to forget just how lucky I am to live so close to the house were my great-grandfather (Henry John Trower) and my 2x great-grandmother (Annie Fairs) were probably born and where my 3x great-grandfather (John Fairs) lived for at least 20 years and not forgetting of course my 2x great-grandfather (Ebenezer Trower) and 3x great-grandmother (Mary Ann Weller). And they are just my direct ancestors.

I probably ought to devote some more time to studying this house and the farm on which they lived and worked, it only seems right that I knew more about this particular area, especially considering it is practically on my door step.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Wordless Wednesday: The River Adur near Henfield, West Sussex

2 Nov

The River Adur with the South Downs in the distance

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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If the weather carries on like this I am not going to get much family history done

9 Apr

The weather in April has been an absolutely splendid so far, we have had bright sunny days and temperatures reaching 20°c and just above. Comparing this to my nearly twenty years of temperature records it is about 4°c above the average for April.

This has meant I have taken the opportunity to get out and to some walking, perhaps a little earlier in the year than when I would normally start some serious walking. Today my wife and I did about eight miles of walking on the Downs Link path in West Sussex.

The weather was absolutely superb, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and a slight cooling breeze. We walked from Partridge Green to the former Beeding Cement Works before catching the bus back home. The path is another disused railway line, which is mainly level and rural but with occasional diversions along pavements.

Unlike the other stretches of disused railway line I have recently walked, this one is very familiar to me and has much better views as the railway line heads for a gap in the South Downs. It also crosses the River Adur at regular intervals, the photo above is looking west from Betley Bridge (north of Henfield, West Sussex) towards the South Downs and you can just make out Chanctonbury Ring on the ridge of the hills.

Further on the path diverts from the course of the railway line and crosses the river again south of Bramber, West Sussex. The photo below shows the view from the bridge looking south towards what was once the Beeding Cement Works.

Those Places Thursday: Hatterells, West Grinstead, Sussex, England

3 Feb

Alex over at the Winging It blog (and Queen of one-place studies) issued a challenge to bloggers to write about an ancestral place for the Geneabloggers Those Places Thursday weekly blogging prompt. As usual I procrastinated and couldn’t make up my mind about which place to write about and which place I could do justice to in one blog post. In the end I settled on Hatterells as it has been at the forefront of my mind this week.

My previous posts about Hatterells concerned a specific house (or farm) where my grandmother lived but the name Hatterells also refers to a small area in the parish of West Grinstead, Sussex. To say that the area was sparsely populated would be an understatement, the house I mentioned (or rather pair of houses), seems to have been the only home in the area.

Perhaps because of there doesn’t seem to be a great deal known about the place and this post is possibly more about geography than history, so having said that lets start with a map.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.
Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

The area I am referring doesn’t have any clearly defined boundaries, the key feature here is the River Adur running roughly north-south through the middle of the map, which divides the area in two. There are four other interesting features that make up the area.

  1. The bridge crossing the river (marked Hatterell Bridge on the map)
  2. The site of the various buildings (marked Hatterell on the map)
  3. The wood to the north-east of the river (not named on the map but known as Hatterells Wood)
  4. The causeway from the river to the wood (not marked on this map but visible on older maps at larger scales)

The bridge is at the centre of the area I would call Hatterells and if I had to put a boundary on the area then I would probably draw a circle centred on the bridge with a radius of about a third of a mile.

1. The bridge – the current bridge is not particularly attractive, the water beneath it is divided into three separate channels, and at various times the water level downstream is controlled with boards placed across the channels. Interestingly you can find out the water level at Hatterells on the Environment Agency website. This bridge replaces an earlier bridge, which was a lift bridge (described on Ordnance Survey maps as a draw bridge), presumably built when the river was made into a navigation (the Baybridge Canal) in the 1820s. However I am assuming that there was an earlier bridge here.

2. The buildings – although nothing remains now, except a pond and a few bits of debris, there were several buildings here to the west of the river, although I have no real idea of the age or purpose of the buildings. It seems likely that together they made up a farm settlement, probably as part of Clothalls Farm rather than as an independent concern.

3. The wood – the woodland to the east of the river is actually two distinct woods, the northern part is Hatterells Wood, whilst the southern part is Whitenwick Rough. Both woods are on a slope, leading down to the fields along the river. They are divided by a deeply worn track leading straight down through the woods, which is probably six feet below the level of the surrounding ground in places and suggests a well used path of great age.

4. The causeway – between the wood and the bridge is a raised path, barely noticeable at the river end, but nearer the wood it is more clearly defined. The fields here can become quite wet and flood, this path suggests an attempt to provide a drier surface for people passing between the river and the wood. The path is much more noticeable on older maps at larger scales than it is on modern maps.

The more I look at this area the more interesting it seems and certainly worthy of further study, and combining several areas of study, including family history (owners and residents of the buildings), house history (the buildings themselves), landscape history (the woods and paths), industrial history (the river bridge) and even military history because Canadian soldiers trained here during the Second World War.

Whether I have the time to actually investigate this area further is another matter, but it is quite a nice size project (small enough) to work on and of course it has a personal connection to my own family which makes it more worthwhile.

South Downs Way: Pyecombe to Washington

2 Jun

South Downs Way sign

I was up early today and on the bus at 7:30am heading for Pyecombe, East Sussex and the start of the next section of the South Downs Way. After quick stop at the service station to pick up some drinks, I was striding up the side of West Hill.

From West Hill the South Downs Way leads down to Saddlescombe, which is a small hamlet, more like a large farm, owned by the National Trust. There is a tea-shop which is unfortunately closed on a Wednesday. There is also another unusual feature, a donkey wheel (shown below), which is a treadmill that was used to draw water up from a well.

Saddlescombe Donkey Wheel

It didn’t really explore the farm, I wasn’t sure if it was really open or not, but I wanted to press on. From Saddlescombe the path leads up Summer Down along the southern side of Devil’s Dyke. Devil’s Dyke is a well known beauty spot, with a fascinating history, which has been attracting sightseers for years, mainly due to it’s proximity to nearby Brighton.

Devil's Dyke

Devil’s Dyke is a large dry valley (shown above), but the whole area has really adopted the name, as has the pub at the top of the northern side of the valley. A branch of the railway from Brighton used to bring visitors up the hill, where they could enjoy a variety of amusements, such as a cable car across the valley and a funicular railway that ran down the north slope of the hill.

From Devil’s Dyke the South Downs Way runs west across the top of a succession of hills, Fulking Hill, Perching Hill, Edburton Hill and finally to Truleigh Hill. Truleigh Hill has also had an interesting history, from World War Two Radar Station to Cold War Bunker. Today it is best known as home to four radio masts (shown below) which serve as a landmark for miles around, especially at night when the warning lights at the top of the masts are visible.

Truleigh Hill radio masts

From Truleigh Hill the path descends (mainly gently) down to the River Adur valley, near Upper Beeding. Across the other side of the river is the lovely little Saxon church at Botolphs (shown below), but I didn’t have time to visit the church (and I have visited it in the past).

St Botolphs Church

From near Botolphs the South Downs Way starts to head northwards, on the hills to the west of the town of Steyning, before turning westwards again heading towards the village Washington, with fantastic views across the weald to the north. Before reaching Washington the path passes Chanctonbury Ring (shown below), another famous Sussex landmark.

Chanctonbury Ring

Chanctonbury Ring has a long history, with traces of a Roman temple, an Iron Age hill fort and a ring of trees that were planted in 1760 by Charles Goring of nearby Wiston. I had been straining for my first sight of Chanctonbury Ring as I approached, not only because it would prove some much needed shelter for me to sit and have a break, but also because it is like an old friend to me, whether up close or for miles around.

It also helped that Chanctonbury Ring marked the final high point of the walk and from here it was literally all down hill, from the top of Chanctonbury Hill down into the valley, just south of the village of Washington and a bus home (by way of Horsham).

According to the official guide book, today’s walk was 13¾ miles, there were some quite challenging climbs in some quite hot weather (it wasn’t supposed to have been so warm), although there were a few small diversions, such as the start at Pyecombe which took the total up to nearer 15 miles.

Some of those diversions were for trig points (I couldn’t finish without a trig point), in all there were three trig points today, at Devil’s Dyke, Steyning Bowl and the one shown below on Chanctonbury Hill just west of Chanctonbury Ring.

Chanctonbury Hill trig point

Festival of Postcards: Brighton District

26 Apr

I would like to thank Evelyn at A Canadian Family for hosting the Festival of Postcards and for choosing the theme Geography, which has given me a great excuse to combine so many of my interests in one post.

Brighton District Map

This card was part of The Wrench Series (No. 2715) and the map itself was produced by G. Philip & Son, Ltd. Neither of these facts help me come up with a date for the postcard (I am sure there must be someone out there who has documented all the cards of The Wrench Series).

My interest in both maps and postcards stems from an interest in local history, and now they are both an important feature of my family history research. Without a date it is not going to be a great deal of help in any research, but it contains some wonderful features and names so many places connected to my family history. I would list all the places that have a family connection or a personal connection, but it would take far too long.

Railways are another interest of mine, and this map shows the rail network in Sussex at it’s height. About half of the railway lines on this map were closed about forty years ago. Looking closer you can see that the stations are marked (Sta) and it even shows the line up to Devils Dyke beauty spot.

Another obvious feature of this map/postcard are the brown areas which indicate the hills of the South Downs. The South Downs are the most prominent geographical feature of the Sussex landscape (and a great place for going for walk). We can also see two of the main rivers heading for the coast, the River Adur on the left (west) and the River Ouse on the right (east).

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