Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Reverend Francis Hill Sewell

February 2, 2018

During the 18th century Lindfield parish church had been in decline and in a poor state of repair, this continued into the 19th century. By the 1830s not only was the building unsound but in the absence of a resident minster services were occasionally not held and burials delayed. Without going into detail, the problems stemmed from the church receiving very little money, due to the tithes being in lay ownership. Further decline was inevitable unless a saviour could be found.

This arrived in the form of Rev Francis Sewell, who having graduated from Cambridge was ordained in 1839.  Without doubt he possessed ‘the ardent zeal of a sincere Christian and Churchman’ with a desire to do good, so typical of Victorian times.  He was born in India in 1815, the second son of Major General Robert and Eliza Sewell.  Over the previous 100 years the Sewell dynasty had become influential and wealthy, initially from the law and subsequently through military service, politics and landownership.  This notable and high achieving family further prospered through many ‘good marriages’ and for some from plantations in the West Indies.

Shortly after arriving in Lindfield, his elder brother died, which gave Francis Sewell ‘possession of a moderate fortune’.  In Sewell terms this meant benefiting from many tens of thousands of pounds and an estate bordering Ashdown Forest comprising several farms totalling some 600 acres and a large house at Twyford.

In 1841 Francis Sewell married Julia Dent, of an old and wealthy Westmorland family, and set up home at Pear Tree Cottage [junction of High Street and Lewes Road].  Sewell immediately set about re-establishing the church and repairing the building, firstly by repairing the windows.

He instigated a restoration in 1848, which south a return to the 14th century style favoured at that time.  This project saw the introduction of Sewell’s approach to funding; in essence he would make a donation to get a project started then expect residents to contribute the remainder.  He donated £650 towards the estimated restoration cost of £2000, the work was completed in 1850 but it took nearly 10 years for the church to clear the debt.

Having set the restoration in hand, in August 1849, Sewell left Lindfield to accept the position of  Vicar of Cockerham, Lancashire, a living in the gift of his brother-in-law worth £700 per annum.  This compared with £30 the Lindfield church received, although Sewell had not drawn his stipend.

However Sewell retained his position as the incumbent of Lindfield parish and paid for the employment of an assistant minister.  Despite living away he remained closely involved with the parish and pursued his good works, returning on many occasions.

His first good work for the village was to instigate the building of a National School, promoting the Anglican faith.  this opened on the Common in 1851.  At that time the village had a thriving non-conformist school, but Sewell wished to have a school through which to extend the influence of the Church of England on children of the labouring classes.

During the early 1850s, Sewell appears to have devised a master plan to facilitate his return to reside in Lindfield.  A core element of his plan was to purchase the Tithes out of lay ownership.  The aim was to use the money provided by the Tithes to fund his good works for the village.  In August 1854, the Brighton Gazette carried an announcement that Sewell had entered into an agreement to purchase the Tithes, worth £600 per year, using his own money.  A Tithes Restoration Fund was established to receive contributions, and when the purchase price had been raised he ‘would hand over the amount of Tithes so purchased to the use for ever hereafter of the resident and officiating Rector of the Parish.’  Two years later, the paper announced the redemption of the Tithes by Sewell.  However despite his belief he had acquired the Tithes, the transfer to his ownership never took place and they remain in lay ownership.

Notwithstanding the confused position with regard to the Tithes, Sewell pressed on with the other parts of his plan.  These were to close the recently built National School on the Common and transfer the pupils to a anew school under his control, close to the church.  In addition to building the school with a master’s house, the plan also included building a fine rectory as his residence.  By 1854, Sewell had purchased Townlands farmhouse, in the High Street, and it’s accompanying lands to provide the land for his planned buildings.

Construction work commenced in May 1856 on his new St John’s Parish School and Master’s House, being built on land previously Townland’s farmyard [to the north of the house].  Sewell funded the construction and sought contributions to repay his outlay, to enable him ‘to convey them to the parish.’  Work also started on his Rectory House [later named The Welkin], to which similar funding arrangements applied.

Sewell of his own volition, and seemingly without consultation, enthusiastically initiated these projects ‘for the benefit of the parish’ despite not having secured the Tithes required for the funding.  Throughout this time, while exerting his influence on Lindfield, Sewell remained resident in Lancashire as Vicar of Cockerham.

The newly built St John’s Parish School and Master’s House opened in October 1856; his Rectory House was completed a short time later. They were the first buildings in the village to be equipped with gas lighting. The gas was manufactured in a private gas making plan and stored in a tank in his grounds.

Subsequently Sewell arranged for Phinehas Jupp, the village blacksmith, to run a pipe under the High Street to take gas to the church, and to install the pipework for gas lighting.

In May 1857, ‘a good sprinkle of the principal inhabitants’ assembled at St John’s School to see the trial of Mr Hansor’s recently discovered olefiant gas [ethylene] installed by Sewell. The school buildings were the first in Lindfield to be lit by gas.  It was reported ‘The exhibition afforded a brilliant display, reflecting the highest credit on the scientific abilities of the patentee, Mr Hansor, who was present.’  Impressed by what they had seen the gathering adjourned to the Red Lion to discuss lighting the village with Hansor’s gas.  It was subsequently agreed to proceed, resulting in the Lindfield Gas Company being formed in June 1857 to manufacture and distribute the gas, thus bringing gas to the village.

Francis Sewell returned to live in Lindfield in October 1857 taking up residence at his partially finished Rectory House.

Sadly following a short illness Sewell died on 9 October 1862, aged 47 years.  The family swiftly removed his body from Lindfield for burial, on 29 October 1862, at All Saints, Kensal Green, London.  This action appears to have been met with some disquiet in the village.

At the time of his death, all the properties built by Sewell remained in his ownership, as he had not received sufficient contributions to enable their transfers to the parish.  On the instructions of the High Court in Chancery, in the case of Trotter v Harrison, all the properties and his land in Lindfield, were put up for sale by auction on 21 September 1863.  Trotter was an in-law relative of Francis Sewell and an executor of his Will.

Francis Sewell’s vision of lasting benevolence to the parish came to nothing, although he can take the credit for introducing gas to Lindfield.


Published in Lindfield Life

George Forrester Scott: Writer and Pioneering Conservationist

February 1, 2018

Even in Lindfield the village he regarded as home for many years, John Halsham is a forgotten author and pioneer of a literary genre.  His best known book has also been largely forgotten.  However, perhaps as a writer he has an even greater claim to fame.

John Halsham was the pseudonym of George Forrester Scott.  Born in Yorkshire in 1863, George attended St Mary Hall, Oxford, during the 1880s and then studied art in London.  His father had died several years earlier and in 1886, George’s mother moved the family home from London to the Manor House in the High Street.  It was here in the 1890s, he wrote, Idlehurst: A Journal Kept In The Country.

The book is written as a journal that focuses on life in and around a village called Arnington; however Arnington is a pseudonym for Lindfield.  Lindfield can be recognised by topographical features, such as the long village street widening at the old market place, the pond, the lime trees, and Jolland’s corner at the top of the hill which descends into the village.

The book describes in great detail life in the village and low Weald at the end of the 19th century and paints vivid portraits of the inhabitants.

‘I come on a very old labourer standing up to shelter, a ragged sack on his shoulders, the rain trickling from hat-brim and nose. …… the old man is David Walder, eight-four next birthday, doing a full labourer’s work on Sacketts farm.  He is crippled by rheumatism, and has to walk two miles to his work every day; is looking forward with dread to the haying which begins next week ……’

Such is the details that individuals were no doubt identifiable and probably still can be; to illustrate this, Mr Eliab Blaber was the name given to the village builder, carpenter, and undertaker who employed many men in his yard.

On publication the book received favourable reviews, for example, The Sphere wrote ‘Simply the most beautiful book about the country that has been produced for years and years’ while the editor of the Sunday Review commented ‘I do not think any living man’s writing more entirely delights me’.

Although well received by the critics, the book did less well commercially and went out of print in 1919.  However a facsimile version was republished in 2008 by Amazon.

After Idlehurst, he wrote Lonewood Corner which was based on his then home village of Ardingly.  Despite having left Lindfield around 1900, he retained a strong connection with the village.  He was a prolific writer of novels, books and articles until his death in 1937.

Peter Brandon writing in the Sussex archaeological Collections commented that ‘as a countryman through and through, he should be accounted a pioneer of the rich genre in English literary tradition that followed, fed on the nostalgic notion that earlier, the countryside was somehow better, more beautiful and less spoilt, which produced, for example, Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows [1908], Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise to Candleford [19450, and Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie [1959]’.

However, perhaps a greater contribution through his writing was his advocacy for the safeguarding of the countryside from development for future generations.  He was a pioneering conservationist at the vanguard of rural protection, calling for the national care of ancient monuments to be extended to the protection of the landscape.  His ideas, as early as 1898 when residing in Lindfield, included the creation of ‘natural museums’ for rural areas.  this thinking, years ahead of others, was the concept for the creation of National Parks and Ares of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The High Weald AONB and South Downs National Park perhaps could been seen as his most significant legacy.


Acknowledgements: ‘John Halsham’ The Perfect Countryman, Peter Brandon, Sussex Archaeological Collections Volume 148 – 2010





Frederick William Lanchester: Grave at Walstead Burial Ground

February 1, 2018

What is the connection between a car company, the theory of flight, an English university, the laws of combat, the concept of quality management and Walstead Burial Ground.  The answer is Frederick William Lanchester.

Frederick is commemorated along with his sister, Mary Lanchester [1864-1942] and brother, Henry Vaughan Lanchester [1863-1953] on a stone tablet at the base of Henry Jones and Octavia Lanchester, their parents’ gravestone.  It is understood the ashes of Frederick, together with those of his brother and sister are interred in this grave.

Henry and Octavia Lanchester, died in 1914 and 1916 respectively, having lived at ‘Southlea’, Sunte Avenue, Lindfield for a number of years.  he was an architect, as was his son, Henry Vaughan Lanchester who was eminent in the profession and worthy of further mention another time.

Frederick William Lanchester was born in Lewisham on the 23rd October 1868.  He studied engineering and attended the Royal College of Science but did not graduate.  However in recognition of his contribution to aerodynamics and engineering in 1920 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Birmingham.  In the years that followed he was accorded numerous other prestigious honours.

His early years as an employed engineer were spent developing gasoline engines and after setting up his own workshop in 1893, Frederick built his first engine.  The following year, this was fitted to a boat creating the first all British powerboat.  In 1895, he produced the first four-wheeled gasoline car in England.  This led to the Lanchester Car Company being established.  the cars were highly regarded for the quality of their engineering and the business was later acquired by Daimler.

Frederick, a visionary genius, was responsible for many significant inventions in automobile engineering, including disc type brakes, an ‘automatic’ transmission system, power steering, four-wheel drive, fuel injection, the dynamic balancing of engines and low voltage ignition.  He filed over 400 patents ranging from components for reproducing music to a colour photographic process.

However his overwhelming interest was aerodynamics and powered flights.  He was the foremost proponent on the theory of flight based on the vortex theory.  This remains the foundation for flight to this day, although he was initially persuaded to delay the publication of this theory, which was so advanced for its time that it might have damaged his reputation as an engineer.

Many other papers followed culminating in his two-volume treatise in 1907 on aerodynamics, entitled ‘Aerial Flight’.  This was followed by further valuable contributions to the literature on aeronautics such as, ‘Flying Machine from an Engineering Standpoint’.

consequent upon the outbreak of the Great War, Frederick became convinced of the need for a mathematical analysis of the relative strengths of opposing battlefield forces to describe the effectiveness of aircraft.  Resulting from quantitative studies of casualties in land, sea and air battles, he developed the two Lanchester Laws – the Linear Law of Combat and the N-Squared Law of Combat. These were published 1914 as his seminal work, ‘Aircraft in Warfare – the Dawn of the Fourth Arm’.

His work in aeronautics continued into the 1920s and 1930s with papers on the counter-rotating propellers, rocket-assisted flight and other technical topics.  In 1931, Frederick received the Daniel Guggenheim Medial for his ‘Contribution to the Fundamental Theory of Aerodynamics’.  Five years earlier the Royal Aeronautical Society had bestowed its Gold medal upon him.

However at this time Frederick was becoming increasingly absorbed in musical reproduction leading to many significant developments in the design and manufacture of advanced speakers, microphones and amplifiers.

Following the start of World War Two, the U.S. military started to study the Lanchester Laws of Combat.  These were successfully applied in U.S. military strategy in the later stages of the war, including operations in the central Pacific.  To this day the Lanchester principles are taught in military colleges.  Frederick’s extensive writings on military subjects including logistics became a founding element in the science of Operational Research.

Frederick died on 8 March 1946 little with little wealth, his life of invention and visionary theories had not translated into a personal fortune.  he had spent most of his adult life in the Midlands.

After the end of WW2, Dr W Edward Deming, an American helping with the reconstruction of Japan introduced Frederick’s work on Operational Research to that country in 1952.  This resulted in Lanchester being regarded as one of the four founds of the concept of Quality Management, which became the cornerstone of Japanese industrial success.

Subsequent research by the Japanese produced a reworking of the Lanchester Laws of Combat into a strategies for corporate competition.  In 1962 the theories were further refined by Dr Taoko as the Lanchester Strategy of Sales and Marketing.  Briefly this provides rules for selecting a strategy depending upon whether a company was attacking a new market or defending an existing market position.  These have since been widely applied by Japanese corporations with over 2 million books on the subject sole in Japan.

Many regard the application of Lanchester’s theories as being, in part, responsible for the Japanese focus on competitive advantage and market share resulting in their country’s economic success.  Arguably,his name is better known and more highly regarded in Japan than in Britain, particularly since the university named in his honour, has been renamed the University of Coventry.

Lindfield should be proud to have an engineer and polymath of the eminence of Frederick William Lanchester resting and commemorated in the Walstead Burial Ground.

The Commercial Life of Lindfield

February 1, 2018

The Group’s current project for 2018  is researching the Commercial Life of the Village in years past.  The aim is to create a comprehensive picture of the use of buildings for trade purposes and how this has changed.  Work is ongoing and this page will be updated in due course.

Should you have any material or pictures relating to the Commercial Life of Lindfield please do contact the group.

See contact page.

Tavistock and Summerhill School – A Brief History

February 1, 2018

Tavistock and Summerhill School was established through the merger of Tavistock Hall and Summerhill Court schools in 1973.  The antecedence of Summerhill can be traced back to the 1880’s and the Belvedere School.

Belvedere School

In the 1880’s, it is believed in 1888, the Belvedere School was established in a large house of that name at Bolnore Road, Haywards Heath.  The principal was Mr Stephen Yeates who, ‘with assistance from resident and visiting masters, offered a sound English education, with classics and modern languages, shorthand, book-keeping, music and drawing.’ [W. Ford, The Metropolis of Mid Sussex]

In the early 1900’s it was a thriving establishment that provided a day and boarding school for boys and a day only department for girls. The girls’ classrooms were in the main house on the corner of Bolnore road and Wealden Way with the boys’ classrooms in huts on the other side of the road.  In 1912, Mr C.J.D. Gregory was the owner and headmaster.  His sister Miss Ada Gregory was head of the girl’s school, while Charles Gregory looked after the day boys and boarders.  However Mr Gregory as owner was much in charge and set the standard for the whole school.  As a teacher he was very much a ‘jack of all trades’ and a strict disciplinarian, noted as being handy with the cane.  Neither Ada nor her brother were married.

The day fees in 1920/3 were £4-10s excluding lunch, with the school day being 9.00am to 1.00pm, and 2.00pm until 4.30pm.  Cricket and football was played in Victoria Park.

A pupil at this time was Queenie Viner and she recalls the girls walking ‘through the town in a crocodile from Bolnore Road to a corrugated hut behind the Sussex Hall to be coached in gymnastics, in full regalia, gym slip, long sleeved blouses and bloomers!  Our coach was Mr Cobbold and his assistant Vera Cook.  The Sussex Hall was the venue for our Prize Giving day, when we all wore white dresses.’

The curriculum included French and Latin, but no science subjects were taught.  The school was said to be popular for the children of successful tradesmen and the lower professionals.  It is said to have taken pupils up to the age of 18 years, although this seems rather late having regard to the general school leaving age.

A noted pupil of Belvedere was Group Cpt. Frank Carey, a Battle of Britain fighter ace, who left the school in 1927. [Details available]

During the 1930’s the girls department closed and perhaps at a similar time boarding for boys ceased.  Also in the 1930’s, Dick Gregory and David Gregory, relatives of Charles Gregory, were teachers at the school.  The next sequence of events is a little unclear but is thought to be as follows.

In the late 1930’s, Charles Gregory died from a tragic accident; he choked to death after swallowing his whistle while referring in school football match in Victoria Park.  Dick and David Gregory then took charge.  However David Gregory soon left, it is believed this was shortly before the art of World War11, following the death of his wife to start a new life in Tanganyika.

Then Dick Gregory took over the running of Belvedere but it was not long before he was called up for war duty, thereafter Captain Gregory was seen only very occasionally at the school.  His wife Marcelle Gregory was left to try and run the school.

Mrs Gregory gave the task her best endeavour teaching English, History and Geography plus sports.  She made every effort to maintain normal school life during the war years, e.g. organising performances of Shakespearian plays for parents.  However these were difficult times and with a shortage of good teaching staff, academic standards suffered and fell below that needed for the achievement of the School Certificate.  However Mrs Gregory was very successful at instilling good manners, self-discipline, respect for others and the importance of appearance into her pupils. The school uniform at this time was a navy blue blazer edged in light blue, grey trousers and a navy blue cap with light blue cross overs.

Mrs Gregory is well remembers for enthusiastically leading and playing both football and cricket, she particularly excelled at the latter.  Cricket was played in Claire Meadow, often to an audience of Canadian soldiers who were more interested in the Headmistress than the game! In competition with other schools Belvedere teams were much feared and were usually victorious, especially at football.

Sadly the school was struggling to keep going and the Gregory’s decided to sell the school in 1944, and it would appear that the new owner, Mr Cross, started to become involved during the Autumn term of that year.  The timing is recalled as after the passing of the VI flying bomb threat.  Mr Cross and a few boys, in red uniform, from his previous school appeared but were not involved in lessons with Belvedere pupils.  Belvedere School closed with the departure of Mrs Gregory and vacated their Bolnore Road premises at the end of 1944.

Summerhill Court School

At the start of the spring term 1945, Mr Cross opened his new school Summerhill Court at Summerhill, which he rented.  This school comprised boys transferred from Belvedere School and some boys, who were boarders, from his previous establishment.  It is thought his previous school was called Parkstone; it was not a local school and perhaps came from Parkstone, Poole

The uniform for the new school was purple blazers and caps.  However despite being paid for in advance by the parents, few uniforms were delivered and likewise swimming lessons at the Birch Hotel.  Parents began to realise that the school accounts were perhaps questionable and there were comments regarding other areas of concern.  Many ‘Belvedere boys’ were quietly withdrawn from the school.  This was the beginning of a very difficult but thankfully short period in the history of the Summerhill Court.  To quote a subsequent owner and headmaster, the school ‘scarcely merited the term Prep School.’  After a couple of traumatic years the Crosses sold the school. [Anecdotes available]

On the 24th June 1949, the school was incorporated as Summerhill Court School [Haywards Heath] Ltd.  The major shareholder and headmaster was Mr. S.D. Majoribanks, known as Capt. Majoribanks.  Unfortunately due to lack of capital and a small number of both day boys and boarders, no doubt due to the Crosses poor stewardship. the school got into financial difficulties.  this resulted in four parents taking over financial management of the school for two years.

In September 1951, Mr H.J. Ewins effectively rescued the school.  After a term as a junior partner, Mr Harold Ewins and his wife acquires all of Majoribanks shares in January 1952 and with his wife became the sole shareholders.  They started to re-establish the school.

The school remained a day and boarding preparatory school for boys.  The school role in the 1950’s was generally about 90 pupils with about half being boarders.  Most boys went onto public schools such as Lancing college, Ardingly School, Hurstpierpoint School or Brighton College.  It continued to flourish under Mr Ewins control and he is held in high regarded as a good headmaster with the nickname of ‘Bodge’, by old boys of the period.  The deputy head was Mr Charles Finch who together with his wife, Moira, made a significant contribution to the day to day life of the school.

[Interestingly Harold Ewins’ father Dr Ewins introduced M&B 693 made by May and Baker, the drug that saved Winston Churchill from pneumonia].

Tavistock Hall School

Tavistock Hall was established in the mid 1930’s at Tavistock, Devon by Mr Harold ‘Buckie’ Bucknall, regarded as an eccentric with a talent for running schools. In 1939, he moved the school to Heathfield, East Sussex.  A boarding school for boys, it occupied a substantial house in spacious grounds and accompanying woodlands.  Described in it prospectus as ‘standing amidst bracing firs 600 feet above sea level’ and boosting ‘an abundance of good food’ with its suitability for the healthy care and education of young gentlemen was, of course, unequalled.

Reality during the war years was perhaps a little different.  A young boy, whose mother had died tragically and with his father overseas, recalls ‘I was sent in 1943 to a boarding school, Tavistock Hall, in Heathfield.  Most of the staff were kind and the headmaster, extremely so.  This was a pretty part of the country and the school’s old mansion. However, we were often miserable and always hungry.  the food poor, we were always cold and lonely.  I cannot eat swedes, turnips, cabbage, etc. to this day as it was fed to us so often. We all had boils and chilblains in winter because of the poor diet and damp.’

Mr Bucknall acquired a second boarding school, Skippers Hill at nearly Five Ashes, in 1945.  Nothing further is known of the Tavistock schools until 1973.

By the early 1970’s, it is understood that a fall in demand for full time boarding created financial pressure while its location was considered as unsuitable for the day school.  The proprietor at this time was Mr Jack Bucknall, the son of the founder.  Mr Bucknall explored several options eventually selecting to acquire Summerhill Court on the retirement of Mr Harold Ewins.  Mr and Mrs Bucknall purchased all the shares, in the School, on 31st July 1973, in time to open the School as Tavistock and Summerhill for the Autumn term.  The buildings and grounds continuing to be leased.

Tavistock and Summerhill School

The new school continued as a day and boarding preparatory school for boys until 1980 when girls were admitted as day pupils.

However, perhaps the most significant changes occurred in the period immediately prior to Mr Bucknall’s retirement in 1988.

The available details are not entirely clear but a notice from Friends of Tavistock and Summerhill School to staff dated 11th March 1987 says, ‘Negotiations are currently taking place between the Friends, the Landlords of the school property and Mr Bucknall for the Friends to set up an Educational Trust to purchase the entire assets of the school, including the new 125 year lease, from Mr and Mrs Bucknall.  This has been made possible by an offer of a donation [conditional upon planning consent being granted for the redevelopment of the playing field site] to enable Mr and Mrs Bucknall’s interest to be purchased thereby securing the future of the school for the next 25 years’.

A letter from the Friends to Parents on the same date advised, ‘Following the meeting on 26th January, discussions were held with the landlords to attempt to retain a part of the playing fields for use by the school in the future.  These discussions regrettably were unsuccessful, the landlord stating all interests in the playing fields were loss lost during negotiations for the current lease and that retention of any part of the fields were not further negotiable in any circumstances.’  It further commented that the landlords ‘have offered to donate a sum of money to the Friends to set up a new educational trust…..’

This seems to suggest that at some stage Mr and Mrs Bucknall had acquired ownership of the property and grounds that houses the school from the previous owner, Elizabeth Eggar-Byatt.

Charitable trust status was achieved and with the appointment of a Board of Governors the school entered a new phase in its development.

The next change was in 1989, when due to falling demand the boarding facility was withdrawn.  The dormitories were converted into classrooms.  To replace the loss of the school playing fields alternative facilities were established at sparks Farm, Cuckfield.

This was followed in 1993 with the opening of the Nursery School.  It allowed four stages in school life to be offered, Nursery, Reception, Pre-preparatory and Senior School with pupils being prepared for Common Entrance.

Mr Terry Locke, the headmaster, left the school in July 1993 and the post being filled by the Deputy Head, Flora Snowling, until the appointment of Michael Barber in September 1994.

The school continues to develop with pupil numbers approaching 200.  A new classroom block was opened in September 1998 to facilitate a new class in year group three and to replace an old and decaying building.

The school closed in 2015/2016 academic year after suffering a decline in pupil numbers primarily resulting from the economic conditions in previous years and a period of uncertainty.




St Nicholas Nursery – ‘A Lovely Place’

February 1, 2018

The nursery stood on the site of Beckworth House that had been demolished.  Originally a private residence, the house had accommodated the ESCC Youth Employment Service and Area Education Office.  Previously it had been a boarding house for children who attended what is now Oathall Community College and during WW11 it had been home to the Hostel of God, a hospice evacuated from Clapham.  The site behind Lindfield Primary School is now St Nicholas Court.

St. Nicholas Nursery was opened, in purpose built accommodation that is understood to have cost £36,000, in January 1966.  East Sussex County Council ran it for children taken into their care from birth to normally age five.  Eighteen children were transferred on its opening from Horsgate at Cuckfield.  The matron was Miss Whitmarsh.

In a departure from previous arrangements, the children lived in small ‘family’ like groups of four to five children.  There were four groups and each had its own day room on the ground floor with their bedroom and bathroom upstairs.  Likewise they were looked after by a senior nurse and two trainee nursery nurses dedicated to each group.  Many of these staff slept on the premises.  The children and nurses took their meals together in their day room, which had doors opening onto a patio and play area.  There were sandpits, play equipment and a large  brick built paddling pool.

Continuing the aim of treating each child as an individual, the children had their own clothes.  They were taken on shopping trips to buy their clothes in the village or Haywards Heath.  Ladybird items from Woolworths were a popular choice with shoes often coming from Pranklins.

Each summer a fund raising fete was held, usually opened by a well-known local person.  One much remembered celebrity being Derek Nimmo, the popular actor, perhaps best known for ‘Oh Brother!’ and ‘All Gas & Gaiters’.

St Nicholas is remembered by those who attend as ‘a lovely place’ with a happy and caring atmosphere.

In 1974 the county boundaries were changed and Lindfield came under the control of West Sussex County Council, however St Nicholas remained with East Sussex County Council.  The bursary continued in operation until it closed in about 1979.


The Trafalgar Connection

February 1, 2018

Born to a respected Warnham family, John Pilfold was baptised at Horsham in 1769.  He joined the Royal Navy in 1781, later serving as a lieutenant in a number of ships.

At the time of Trafalgar he was a lieutenant on the Ajax.  Following an ill-fated action off Cape Finisterre, his commanding officers were recalled to London.  Pilford was made acting captain of Ajax and joined the British fleet at Trafalgar.  In the battle his ship was sixth in Nelson’s weather column and took an active part in securing victory.

Pilfold’s role at Trafalgar was recognised with promotion to Captain, the thanks of Parliament, a gold medal, a sword of honour from the Patriotic Fund, augmentation to his coat of arms and made a Companion of the Bath.

To match his newly found position, Pilford leased Marshalls at Cuckfield but he wanted a property of his own.

Pilford achieved his desire to own a property by purchasing Townlands, Lindfield in 1813.  At that time Townlands was a 79-acre farm.  He also acquired Lunces Farm, Wivelsfield.

He renamed Townlands as Nelson Hall and set about major alterations.  It is thought Pilford was responsible for the black mathematical tiled front that extended the frontage to the roofline, as the rainwater hopper bears the date 1815.  The roof can be seen through the top row of windows in the false front.

Unfortunately his farming ventures were not very successful and the Pilford family left Lindfield for Plymouth in 1824.  The new owner reverted the property to the name Townlands.

Captain John Pilford died in 1834.  His nephew was the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Charles Dickens and the Lindfield Connection

January 31, 2018

Helena Hall in her 1959 book Lindfield, Past and Present says “Dr Richard Tuppen was a great friend of Charles Dickens, a frequent visitor to “Froyles”, where he sometimes stayed as well as at The Chalet with the brothers Arthur and Albert Smith, of Egyptian Hall fame’.

This implies Dickens’ visits to Tuppen and the Smiths in Lindfield were at more or less the same time; however the visits were many years apart.  This and other aspects of Charles Dickens’ connections with Lindfield merit a closer look.

Helena Hall appears to have based her statements on the recollections of Mrs Elizabeth Anscombe, nee Woodgate, that were published in several newspapers, following interviews when she was in her nineties.

Looking first at Dickens’ visits to Dr Richard Stapley Tuppen at Froyles in the High Street.  Richard Tuppen was baptised in Lindfield in May 1780, the son of Henry and Sarah Tuppen, who had purchased Froyles in that year.  His mother was a member of the well established Stapley family whose seat was Hickstead Place.  In 1806, Froyles was inherited by Richard Tuppen; together with his sister he lived in the property until his death on 21st March 1840, aged 59.

Mrs Elizabeth Anscombe, born 1826, was aged 13 years when she entered service at Froyles as a waiting maid in 1839.  Praised by reporters for her ‘wonderful memory’, Elizabeth Anscombe vividly recalled meeting Charles Dickens when he frequently visited Richard Tuppen.  similarly she recalled that Tuppen and Dickens went to church on Sundays, but Dickens found it difficult to keep awake during the long sermons of those days.  When he was awake Dickens made sketches of the congregation, chiefly caricatures, on the walls or on a pillar.

Dickens must have been in Lindfield during 1839 and possibly early 1840, as Richard Tuppen died in the March of that year.  Among Mrs Anscombe’s most treasured possessions was a signed copy of a Dickens’ book, reported as, ‘A Christmas Carol’, given as ‘a token of regard’.  However, it would appear this book was first published in December 1843, so perhaps the gift was a pre-publication edition or Dickens gave the book on a later visit to Miss Tuppen; Elizabeth Anscombe remained in her employ until June 1848.

More challenging to explain is the friendship between Charles Dickens and Richard Tuppen, they were aged about 28 and 59 respectively in 1839.  How they met and became great friends is a mystery, as throughout most of the 1830s, Dickens had been pursuing a career in journalism predominantly in London.  It was only after 1836, that he had become known through the publication in instalments, of Pickwick Papers.  At this time Richard Tuppen was the village doctor in Lindfield, which had been his home since birth and he had been ‘apprenticed’ to a local surgeon.  Similarly the background and social standing of their respective families makes a family connection implausible. the Dickens family background is well documented and Lindfield does not feature.

In contrast, Charles Dickens’ friendship with Arthur Smith and consequently Lindfield is strongly evidenced.  However, the Smiths could not be the link between Tuppen and Dickens, as Richard Tuppen had died almost a decade prior to Smith’s connection with Lindfield.

Arthur Smith, born 1825, and with his older brother Albert, were famous as the first Englishmen to climb Mon Blanc in 1851.  Albert followed a career as a journalist, humorist, writer and playwright in parallel with Dickens.   They had both worked for Bentley’s Miscellany and Albert Smith had adapted some of Dickens’ writings for the stage.  During the 1850s, Arthur Smith managed the Egyptian Hall in London and with his brother gave performances recounting their exploits on Mont Blanc.  Both of the brothers knew Dickens.

Various studies of Dickens describe Arthur Smith as his friend and manager.  He handled the booking for readings by Dickens, which is reported to have said: ‘I got hold of Arthur Smith as the best man of business I know’.  Without doubt they had a friendly and trusting relationship.

How were the Smiths linked with Lindfield?  Arthur Smith, when in his twenties, married Jane May Crawfurd, the daughter of William Board Edward Gibbs Crawfurd of Paxhill, Lindfield.  On land adjacent to the Ardingly Road, within the Paxhill estate, Arthur with is brother built The Chalet in the first years of the 1850s.  It is said, by Henlena Hall in Lindfield Past and Present, that dickens helped by ‘carrying windows and door frames’.  However, the basis for this statement is unknown, but it is reasonable to assume Dickens visited Arthur Smith and his wife at The Chalet during the 1850s.

Helena Hall also makes the assertion, again drawn from the recollections of Elizabeth Anscombe, that dickens ‘did many kindly things for Lindfield.  He helped to raise funds to build the school on the Common.  He took part in entertainments at the Assembly Rooms [Bent Hotel, Lindfield], and, as the result of public readings of his works at the Corn Exchange, Haywards Heath, he gave £100 to our Vicar, Mr Sewell, to help restore the Church’.  However, on reading the various articles on Elizabeth Anscombe’s memories, some of Helena Hall’s assertions may be questionable.  One of the more detailed articles on Elizabeth Anscombe’s memories, published in the Mid Sussex Times in 1913, said: ‘That as the result of a public reading at the Haywards Heath ~Corn Exchange, Dickens was able to hand £100 to the then Vicar of Lindfield – the Rev. E. Johnson’ and ‘That the money was used by him to help meet the cost of erecting the present Lindfield Reading Room, the builder of which was Mrs Anscombe’s husband’.

As explained in a recent Lindfield Life article, the Reading Room started life as the National School, built on the Common in 1851.  This date aligns with Arthur Smith’s marriage, the building of The Chalet and Rev. Johnson being the vicar.  Therefore the reading was most likely arranged courtesy of Mr and Mrs Smith.  Dickens may have done other entertainments and readings in Lindfield or Haywards Heath but supporting evidence is lacking.

It is pleasing that Lindfield has one enduring legacy of Charles Dickens’ connection with the village.


Published in Lindfield Life June 2017


Establishing the Miniature Rifle Range and Lindfield Rifle Club

January 31, 2018

Arising from the invasion threat in the Great War, the proposal that Lindfield should have a miniature rifle range was first made in autumn 1914, but did not proceed due to the absence of a suitable site.  Suggested sites for the range included the School Yard and on the Common.

Consequent upon the formation of the Lindfield Volunteer Training Corps for home defence and the Lindfield Boy Scouts, Mr Parker Anscombe raised the subject again at the January 1915 Parish Council meeting.  He felt the Common was the right location and that the Council should take the matter forward.  However the meeting decided the initiative should not come from the Council and there were legal issues with the Common.

Support from residents gathered momentum and the search for a suitable site was renewed.  Mr W Sturdy agreed to provide a site in Tentermead rented by Mr Box, adjoining Alma Lane, and Miss Maud Savill offered to fund the building of a 25 yard four-target indoor range.  Mr Parker Anscombe was ordered to put the work in hand.

This was announced at a well attended meeting on 13 February 19125 and it was agreed a miniature rifle club affiliated to the Association of Miniature Rifle Clubs should be formed.  Miss Savill was elected President along with six Vice Presidents and a large committee, all were prominent residents.  Mr Rotherham and Mr Jesse Newnham volunteered to give shooting instruct and Miss Savill agreed to fund the purchase of four rifles.  Mr Box was to receive a peppercorn rent for the land on which the range stood.

The rifle range opening ceremony, performed by Colonel Dudley Sampson, took place at 3.00pm on Wednesday 31 March 1915.  A Guard of Honour was provided by Lindfield Boy Scouts and the drum and fife band of the 2/2nd London Field Ambulance, RAMC played.  It is reported that Colonel Sampson achieved a bull’s eye with his first shot!

The Club’s annual subscription was 2s 6d and is for boys under 16 years.  The range was open each weekday evening and Wednesday afternoons.  The Lindfield Boy Scouts and the Volunteer Training Corps were allocated use of the range on Wednesday and Thursday evenings respectively.

At the Club’s first AGM in March 1916, subscriptions totalling £9 7s 0d and a £25 expenses deficit was reported.  Membership numbers are not known, but the Presidents, Vice Presidents and Committee totalled 25; largely the same individuals as the Lindfield Volunteer Training Corps.  Indicating the ‘great and the good’ recognised the need for rifle practice in support of home defence.  At the meeting it was decided ladies should be allowed to join the Club and were allotted Wednesday afternoons for their shooting.

Between March 1915 and March 1916, some 50,000 rounds were fired at the range.  Members had to buy the ammunition at cost from the Club.  The range continued to be widely used throughout the remainder of the Great War.

With the coming of the peace the Club closed as it was felt the last thing men would want to do was handle a rifle again.  Following a short break, the Club was re-established and continues to this day.  A modern indoor range on the same site has recently replaced the original corrugated iron clad range building.

The Story of Finches

January 31, 2018

The name Finches as in Finches Park Road, Finches Gardens and Finches Lane does not derive from a Victorian country mansion, like The Welkin as featured in last month’s article.  It is much older in origin dating back to a farm that existed in medieval times, with perhaps the land being farmed a thousand years ago.

Finches Farm has appeared in the historic record since the 16th century when it was occupied by the Fairhall family, and its land ran southwards from Finches Lane.  In 1583 Richard Fairhall was described as one of the ‘chiefest men’ of Lindfield.  The farm must have been of sufficient importance as in 1723 it was one of the four properties in Lindfield parish shown by name on Budgen’s Sussex map.  Described in 1829 as a ‘Messuage, barns and lands called Finches, Tilts and Cocks containing 32 acres’ it was held by Jane Knight.  A Mr Riddle subsequently farmed the land, as a tenant of Edward Duke, and is recorded as operating a brickyard in the area of Kiln Wood and Town Wood; both woods still remain.

Around 1870 the farm was bought by James Proctor, a retired silk manufacturer from Manchester.  He demolished the farmhouse and buildings that stood on the west side of Finches Lane, approximately where Arthur Bliss House is today.  In their place he built a country mansion of brick and stone.  An impression of the grandness and architectural style can be seen in the imposing range of estate office, coach house and stables he built further up Finches Lane; now attractive residences.  To complete the estate, lodges were placed at the southern and northern end of Finches Lane, again both survive [see then/now photos here].  The lower section of Finches Gardens follows the line of the drive.

Following his death in 1884 the estate was sold for £17,000 to Walter Savill.  Finches became the main family home for Walter, his wife Matilda and their ten children.  By the time of his death in 1911, most of their children had grown up and moved away, leaving the house to be lived in by his widow and their unmarried daughter Maud.  They maintained it as their main residence until the beginning of WW11 when it was requisitioned by the Army for officer accommodation.

Mrs Matilda Savill died in 1941.  At the end of the war the house was returned to Maud Savill and in 1946 the entire estate was put up for sale.  Sale particulars described the house as containing 12 principal bedrooms, seven staff bedrooms, five bathrooms, four reception rooms and domestic offices, plus garages and stabling set in 45 acres of gardens and parkland.  Also in the sale were the two lodges and four modern semi detached cottages, built for estate workers in Sunte Avenue.

The house with its grounds were acquired and converted in the County Hotel, opening in November 1947.  It provided accommodation for 80 guests with a ‘Tudor Lounge and Buttery’ and ‘Georgian Restaurant’.  Dinner dances were held on Saturday nights, which proved popular with guests and local residents alike.

As Lindfield started a major period of expansion in the decades following WW11 there was considerable demand for building land.  Between 1955 and 1961 parcels of Finches land were sold for building.  This resulted in the first sections of Savill Road, Finches Park Road and the adjoining section of Hickmans Lane being built.

The hotel closed and was demolished in the early 1960s, with all remaining land being sold and built upon as we see today.

Today it is the Savills who are most closely associated with Finches.  Who were they and what was their impact on Lindfield?

Walter Savill aged 15 joined Wallis Gann & Co. a firm of London shipbrokers, as a junior clerk in 1851.  Seven years later together with a  fellow employee, Robert Shaw, he left Wallis Gann and as partners set up their own shipping business, Shaw Savill & Co.  Initially using chartered ships they specialised in carrying cargo, emigrants and Government mail to New Zealand.

Through great courage, persistence, hard work and shrewdness the business prospered, owning 15 ships in 1865.  It merged in 1882 with Albion, a competitor on the New Zealand route, to form Shaw Savill & Albion Co Ltd.  In that year one of their ships carried the first refrigerated cargo to New Zealand lamb to Britain.  Following this merger, Walter Savill established a fleet of sailing vessels under the Shaw Savill Flag; one of these ships, a four mast steel barque, he named ‘Lindfield’.

Despite having lived in Lindfield for 27 years, Walter Savill took no active part in local affairs.  He died aged 76 at Finches in May 1911, leaving over £1.5m, a vast fortune in those days.  Early on the morning of the funeral, his oak coffin was conveyed to the parish church in an ivy-clad farm wagon drawn by three horses. After the service ‘the body rested in the church until the afternoon’ to allow ‘persons in all positions of life’ to pay their respects before being taken to Walstead for burial.

In contrast, his daughter Maud Savill, who live din Lindfield until her death in 1962 aged 96, was an active participant and major benefactor in the village.  She was at the forefront of supporting and giving to very many charitable good causes.  For example, during the Great War Maud gave generously to the Red Cross Hospital in the King Edward Hall and funded the building of the miniature rifle range in Alma Lane.  Throughout her life Maud Savill was a prominent member of the All Saints’ congregation.

Particularly noteworthy was her preservation of buildings that to this day enhance the High Street.  Firstly, in 1917 she purchased the dilapidated Barnlands with its two shops and restored it as two dwellings.  similarly in 1930, she purchased the ‘department store’ latterly run by Mr & Mrs Funnell converting it to housing and restored the adjoining cottage, today Truffle House, Caldicote and Limes Cottage.  Priory Cottage followed in 1935, Maud Savill removed the shop extension that reached the pavement and restored it to solely residential purposes.  Three years later she bought and renovated the Sewell Memorial Hall and St John’s Lodge, living in the latter during the war years before moving to St Lawrence on Blackhill.

After WW11, land in Hickmans Lane was given to the District council for the building of the 12 semi-detached ‘St John’s Cottages’ for men who served in WW11 and their families.  It is Maud Savill that residents have to thank for also providing land to the District council that subsequently became the Hickmans Lane Recreation Ground.

Whilst finches has long disappeared, Maud Savill’s work to preserve and improve High Street properties, together with her kindness in facilitating a much enjoyed sports field and playground, are a commendable legacy.


Published in Lindfield Life November 2017