Carpenter’s shop at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, West Sussex.
Whether it is walking them, reading about them or just looking at them, I am still in love with the South Downs.
Over the past few weeks my wife and I have continued our walk along the South Downs Way, we are now about two-thirds of the way along, with only three more sections to go. We have seen the South Downs in all sorts of weather, from the stinging wind-driven rain to the baking hot sun. We have watched as entire Wealden villages have been blocked out by sheets of rain and watched fields shimmering in the heat. We have enjoyed moments of silence and solitude on the tops of hills and shared the path with groups of walkers or cyclists rushing past.
I am now finding myself straining for my fast glance of the South Downs every morning on the way work. There is a part of my journey where I can get a brief view of the Downs, despite the fact that the bus is in general heading away from them. Every morning I am looking to see what they are looking like, whether they are clearly visible or just a grey bulk on the southern skyline. Sometimes the trees and bushes seem so crisp and clear other times they are just a dark grey outline and on one morning recently it was so misty that I could barely see over the hedge let alone to the hills seven or eight miles aways.
I have also been reading about the South Downs and in particular the South Downs Way and its history. I have been looking at old guides to the route, looking at the variations in the route over the relatively short life of the path. One day I would like to write my own guide and perhaps history of the route, but that is not really a top priority for me now.
I keep looking for a personal connection through my ancestors to the South Downs, and I guess the MITCHELL family who ended up at West Dean, Sussex would probably be the best fit, but really the strongest personal connection with the South Downs come through me.
Don’t be put off by the obstacles if you are planning on visiting the London Family History Centre.
It is not really as awkward as it looks to get across the road and into the building, but it is more than a little disconcerting as you emerge from the London Underground pedestrian subway to be confronted with barriers and fences.
Today when I visited there was a crossing point and break in the fence just to the right of the subway entrance in front of the Science Museum, but I suspect this changes on a fairly regular basis, so that piece of information may not be a lot of use unless you plan to visit in the next few weeks.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea seem to be the people responsible for the disruption. It is part of the Exhibiton Road Project which according to the project’s website will convert the street to a place “where culture and learning are accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds with a streetscape that makes that ambition a reality.”
The road and pavement are being merged together and re-surfaced and the volume of traffic is being reduced and slowed down, although not completely removed. It sounds like a good idea and probably worth the disruption although it isn’t scheduled for completion until next year.
It seems particularly apt that the London Family History Centre should be part of an area for “culture and learning”, it certainly deserves greater recognition for the work it does and the resources it provides.
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.
The photo below shows the site of another ancestral home, like Goreland Farm a few weeks ago there is virtually nothing left to see. This is where my grandmother Dorothy Annie GASSON lived in West Grinstead, Sussex with her young family for part of the Second World War.
Between the pond and the nearest oak tree and to the right-hand side of the photo, once stood Hatterells (sometimes known as Hatterells Cottages or Hatterells Farm) which consisted of a pair of cottages and a couple of farm buildings. I remember the last of the buildings, one of the farm buildings, which was still standing until the hurricane in 1987, but the other buildings have long since gone.
The most notable thing about Hatterells is its remoteness, the nearest building was another farm over the horizon in the photo, and the nearest main road was about three-quarters of a mile in the opposite direction, and even then it was probably the same distance again to the nearest village shops. Not the most convenient place for a mother to raise a family, whilst her husband was away on active service during the war. If you don’t believe me just have a look at the location on Google Maps, nothing much has changed in the intervening 60 or 70 years apart from the disappearance of the buildings and a few less hedgerows.
I don’t know for certain the exact dates when my grandmother was at Hatterells but I do have on interesting piece of evidence which I will tell you about tomorrow.
I have been having a bit of a sort out today, nothing major just catching up on some paperwork and a bit of filing, a bit of scanning and a bit of file organisation on my PC. Also I decided today that I really ought to digitize my CD collection so that the originals can be boxed up and put in storage, but that is another story.
Whilst sorting out some stuff I rediscovered the photo below which I purchased last year that I never got around to showing you.
If you were reading my blog at the start of last year of last year you will remember that I spent a long-time working on the GEERINGs of Hailsham, Sussex. Well this photo is of their shop, or rather what became of their shop. The great thing about this photo is the amount of detail. Looking closely you can see what was on offer in the shop and even read the boards to the left of the doorway.
These boards give great dating evidence for the photo, the two on the left both have the date of Saturday May 22nd, and there are plenty of headlines to enable us to find out what year it was. The shop windows are full of patriotic souvenirs and photos of Queen Victoria indicating that it was a jubilee year, checking in The Times newspaper to find out when the Queen visited Sheffield confirms that it was in 1897 the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
I have previous featured a postcard of the shop on this blog, and paid a visit to the shop last year when visiting Hailsham. It is now a newsagents, but still recognisable if you look above the shop windows. It is particularly nice to see that over 110 years later it was still possible to by photo frames from the same shop!
I have often thought that I should put together a report on the history of the building, listing all the different owners over the years. Perhaps this year if time permits I will make a start on it.
Regular readers will know of my love of the South Downs, but I doubt many will be aware of the connections between the South Downs and the famous secret agent James Bond. There are at least two occasions when filming for the popular series of films took place on the South Downs. One I have known about for some time, but I only learnt about the second earlier this year.
Probably the most famous connection was the use of Amberley Museum & Heritage Centre (then called the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum) for three weeks in the summer of 1984 for filming of scenes from the film A View to a Kill starring Roger Moore as James Bond. In the film Bond with the help of May Day (Grace Jones) prevents Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) from destroying Silicon Valley.
Amberley Chalk Pits Museum provided the location for the Main Strike Mine which was going to be blown up, triggering an earthquake which was going to cause a flood or something like that, I can’t remember the exact details of villain’s evil plan. The photo below shows the entrance to the mine which still bears the sign used during the filming.
Whilst Bond and May Day were busy saving the world (or at least San Francisco), Zorin attempted to make his escape in an airship. Bond caught hold of one the mooring ropes as the airship rose skywards, leaving May Day to get blown up just outside of the entrance to the mine.
The airship with Bond dangling from the rope rose up above the chalk pit in Sussex into the skies above San Francisco, finally getting tangled up on the Golden Gate Bridge, where Zorin finally met his end.
Many of the wagons used in the filming can be found around the museum, still bearing the livery of the fictional Zorin Industries. The one below has been stored inside and is part of a small display which celebrates the museum’s role in the film.