The postcard below shows Wolstonbury Hill south of Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex. I believe this view is looking south toward the northern slope of the hill. Although it not particularly detailed I love the figures in the foreground, taking their dogs for a walk.
There is no publisher or photographer named on this postcard, although it was posted in May 1904 so it is quite an early card. The typeface of the caption and the style of the reverse of the card are reminiscent of those published by Mezzotint Co. of Brighton, Sussex.
Whilst this is a nice picture (which was the reason I bought it) the card has a more interesting back.
As you can see there is no message just an address, stamp and postmark (or cancellation). If you look closely you will see that the stamp is in fact upside down. You may have heard about something called the language of stamps (it was even mentioned on the Antiques Roadshow a couple of weeks ago).
Basically the orientation of the stamp was like a secret code, although of course it wasn’t actually a secret. There seem to have been several variations depending on where you came from, but one option for the upside-down stamp, and the one that I prefer is that it was shorthand for “I love you”.
In the 1911 census Beatrice Willis (36 years old and unmarried) was living at 119 Kings Road, Kingston on Thames, who must have been the recipient of this card, but I guess we will never know who the sender was?
I decided to take advantage of the dry, bright and unseasonably warm weather and get out for a walk. I have already said that I want to keep my walks more local and more convenient this year, and today’s walk was an excellent example of this because it was essentially a walk from one bus stop to the next.
It would have taken less than ten minutes on the bus, but because of the rather circuitous route I took it was more like four hours, partly because of the frequent stops I made to take photos and the necessity of having to carefully pick my way along some rather muddy paths.
The route was from Pyecombe in West Sussex to Patcham in East Sussex (actually on the outskirts of the City of Brighton and Hove), by way of Wolstonbury Hill, Clayton, the Clayton Windmills (Jack and Jill), a short section of the South Downs Way, part of the Sussex Border Path and the Chattri Indian War Memorial.
This was only the second time that I have been up Wolstonbury Hill, but like so many of the hills along the South Downs it has held my attention since the first time, and I have been meaning to pay it a visit ever since. Last time I was there it was a hot June day, and whilst today was not exactly cold, visiting on a winter’s day certainly shows the hill in a different light, quite literally.
From Wolstonbury Hill dropped down to the village of Clayton, famous for its railway tunnel on the main London to Brighton railway. There are not a lot of buildings in Clayton, but there is a delightful little church, sitting at the foot of the hill.
My next destination was the top of the hill, home to the two Clayton Windmills Jack and Jill. Jack was looking very much worse for wear, it is in private hands and currently up for sale if you fancy living in a historic windmill. Jill is in safer hands and was looking absolutely stunning in the bright sunshine.
From the windmills I headed south by way of the South Downs Way, then skirting round Pyecombe Golf Course before joining the Sussex Border Path which leads on to Patcham past the Chattri Indian War Memorial. This was the main reason for my walk today, it has been on my list of places to visit for years, but I never quite got around to visiting.
The history of the Chattri is well documented and it is a truly fitting memorial in a superb setting and it good to see it is well looked after and it actually looks like it is quite a popular destination for visitors judging by the number of people I passed on the way. There is an element of pilgrimage involved in visiting as there is no vehicle access to the memorial and the nearest car park is about a mile and a quarter away.
So that lead me down to the village of Patcham, a place I have passed through many times on the bus into Brighton, but never stopped to explore. I didn’t really do much exploring this time, but there were some quite nice cottages and a few shops. The approach to Patcham was not particularly nice having left the tranquility of the Downs one has to cross over the busy A27 Brighton-by-pass (fortunately there is a footbridge) and pass behind the back gardens of several houses, with their accompanying overspill of garden and household waste.
Overall though this was a great start to 2012, a nice gentle walk over the Downs (about seven and a half miles), lots of interest along the way, and only a couple of paths were the mud was a problem, which considering it is early January was quite fortunate.
My choice of postcards usually reflects somewhere I have visited recently, a connection with something I have written about or some connection with my family history. In a way this is somewhere I have visited recently, but my main reason for showing you this card is to show just how bland some postcards can be.
I think it would be hard to find a worse picture of the Downs, it just looks so dull. We are standing at the bottom of a slope looking up the hill, with a bit of rough grass and what looks like they could be gorse bushes in the foreground.
This card hasn’t been used, and personally I would be embarrassed to send it. It is not as if there are any interesting features, perhaps a bit of colour would have helped, but that would probably just end up varying shades of green.
I have seen similar cards of Wolstonbury Hill, which just made it look like a grass mound. At least they had a name so I knew where it was, unlike the one above which could be anywhere, and not necessarily even the South Downs.
The problem with this card is that the beauty of the South Downs is in the whole landscape rather just one side of a hill. If the photographer has walked about a quarter of a mile away from the hill, or turned left or right he would probably have had a much better picture.
Some postcards will become more interesting in time, even modern cards with views of factories or shopping centres will one day be important pieces of social history, but it is hard to imagine that this one will ever become sought after.