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.
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.
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.
- The bridge crossing the river (marked Hatterell Bridge on the map)
- The site of the various buildings (marked Hatterell on the map)
- The wood to the north-east of the river (not named on the map but known as Hatterells Wood)
- 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.