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The Fernhurst Society

The Fernhurst Archives


The Fernhurst Archives operate under the auspices of the Fernhurst Society. The Archives hold documents and other objects of interest relating to Fernhurst (and formerly 'Farnhurst'), Kingsley Green, Henley and Verdley, in West Sussex, southern England.

Items are catalogued, stored and conserved for posterity and study. The holdings include old maps, manuscripts and diaries, contemporary photographs, old photographs press cuttings and audio tapes of oral testimonies about the people, events, local clubs and other organisations in the locality. These are useful for those interested in local and regional British history and heritage, local traditions and customs, and West Sussex family history and genealogy. Other relevant records are held in the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester.

Items from the Archives have been used in village talks and as source materiail for preparing a range of publications. The Society's Oral History group keeps recorded interviews and their transcripts in the Archives.

The Archives in the village hall are open on Tuesday afternoons, 2.30-5.00 p.m. Offers of new material to add to the collection are always welcome. Enquiries to the Archive's Director, Christine Maynard, can be sent via or by post to: The Fernhurst Archives, Fernhurst Village Hall, Glebe Rd, Fernhurst, Haslemere, Surrey GU27 3EH.

Examples of documents from the Archives are described via the links below.

Click on any image on this page to view a larger version (note: the larger images may take a minute to download over slow internet connections).






The Fernhurst Revels

The tradition of the Revels, the village fete held each May or June, goes back about 80 years. The May Queen is elected by the children of the village and she in turn selects four attendants. She goes in procession to the recreation ground by the village green followed by a number of floats and accompanied by a brass band. After she is crowned by the outgoing May Queen and blessed by the vicar, the Revels begin with a re-enactment of St George slaying the dragon, a display of maypole dancing, and a fancy dress competition. There are also many stalls and side shows and events in the arena. The Revels are always very well attended by villagers past and present.


Fernhurst May Queen photo (24KB); click for larger version (84KB)
Dorothy Howes, Fernhurst May Queen in 1923, with maids of honour Olive Mears and Mary Dennett

Fernhurst 1923 May Queen leaflet (23KB); click for larger version (234KB)
a page from the 1923 programme



The May Queen Carol

The winter is past and the earth at last
Is wearing her festal array.
The flowers forth-spring and the little birds sing
For this is the month of May

'Tis God who hath dressed the world in her best
and so on this gladsome day,
To Him we will raise a carol of praise
To welcome the month of May.

That May is the queen of the months is seen,
For she weareth our Lady's name;
As doth the fair flower earth gives for her dower
As Mary and May are the same.

No month in the year is half so dear
And our hearts are happy this day.
Our flowers we'll twine in a garland fine
To welcome the month of May.

And then as is meet at Mary's feet
We will offer our garlands and pray
To the Holy Child of this Mother mild
To hallow our month of May.


For more information on the Fernhurst Revels, visit the community website






Historical maps

The Archives has a collection of copies of around 60 local maps. A good reference work is: D. Kingsley (1982) Printed Maps of Sussex, 1575-1900. Published by the Sussex Record Society.

Both maps shown here clearly indicate the boundary of a parish enclave, isolated from its parent county, the tithings of North Ambersham and South Ambersham: narrow strips of land running north-south into what is now West Sussex next to the eastern border of Fernhurst, these formerly belonged to the parish of Steep in the county of Hampshire. Under the "County Boundaries Act" of 1844, North Ambersham became annexed to Fernhurst Parish, while South Ambersham became part of Easebourne Parish, although the formal unions of the ecclesiastical parishes did not take place until much later, in 1913.

John Speed's map also shows the position of ancient enclosed deer parks.

John Speed's Sussex map 1610 (19KB); click for larger version (135KB)
part of John Speed's Sussex map of 1610

Richard Budgen's Sussex map 1724 (32KB); click for larger version (515KB)
part of Richard Budgen's Sussex map of 1724


OS Map Fernhurst
modern 1:250,000 Ordnance Survey map

OS Map Fernhurst
modern 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey map


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






The Verdley Estate and Verdley Castle

The large Victorian house on the Verdley estate, today known as Verdley Place, was designed by Anthony Salvin (1800-1881), who lived nearby in Fernhurst at Hawksfold House. It was built between 1873-1875 for Charles Saville Roundell MP, who lived there until 1889. Roundell had bought the plot of land in 1873 from Lord Selbourne and it included 67 acres and Osborne Farm, later to be called Home Farm. For the first few years, Roundell's home was known as Oeborne; only later did it become known as Verdley Place.


Verdley Place 1948 drawing (8KB); click for larger version (261KB)
January 1948: the front entrance of
Verdley Place

Just to the south of the estate, in ‘Fordly Coppice’, is the site of Verdley Castle, dating from the 13th century. Some claim that this is the location where the last wild bear in England was killed; its ghost apparently haunts the site.

Verdley Castle 1782 drawing (8KB); click for larger version (320KB)
A watercolour view of the
ruins of Verdley Castle taken from the west,
drawn in 1782 by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm
(image courtesy of the British Library, reproduced with permission)
Verdley Castle 1786, Fernhurst; click for larger version
"Inside of Verdley Castle, Sussex"
copper engraved print
published in Francis Grose's
Antiquities of England and Wales
, 1786.


Verdley castle, transcribed from Francis Grose's "Antiquities of England and Wales", 1786:


THIS ruin stands in the north west corner of the county, in the hundred of Eastburne, and about three miles north of the village of that name.

VULGAR tradition reports it to have been a castle, demolished in one of the danish invasions; but it situation does not seem to give much sanction to that opinion, as it stands in a deeply woody bottom, commanded at a very small distance all round, and so covered as not to be visible till one is close upon it; indeed it is scarcely known in the neighbourhood that such a building exists. Another tradition makes it to have been a mad-house belonging to the nunnery of Eastburne; but unless that house, which consisted of only five or six nuns, had much more than their proportionable share of lunatics, this supposition cannot be likely; indeed it is not here mentioned as probable, but solely to show how little is at present known about it. The building seems to have been rather too big and solid for an hermitage, for which its solitary and gloomy situation is admirably well calculated.

WHAT it really was, appears impossible to ascertain; as, after a most diligent search in every book where an account of it might be expected, not even the slightest information could be obtained.

FROM a careful investigation of the ruin, it may be discovered that it was a quadrangular building, nearly twice as long as broad, measuring on the outside thirty-three feet four inches, by 68 feet. The parts standing, are the westernmost end, with small returns on the north and south sides; the first containing eight feet two inches, and the second eleven feet six; the thickness of the walls about five feet four inches. These and the other particulars are more clearly pointed out by the annexed plan. Near the door are some slight traces of a narrow winding staircase.

THE manor of Verdeley, alias Boxton, in which this ruin stands, was held the 1st of Edward VI. by sir Anthony Brown, by military service, and is at present the property of his descendant, the right honourable Anthony Joseph, viscount Montague, by whose direction a way has been cut to it through the wood.

THIS view was drawn anno 1784.

ICI Plant Protection Ltd bought the estate in 1945 as a technical research centre and for demonstrating commercial horticulture. Fernhurst Research Station rapidly became a national centre of fruit growing expertise, and Fernhurst villagers enjoyed the orchard and glasshouse produce in ‘pick-your-own’ sales. From 1959 to 1975 it was ICI’s headquarters.

ICI Agrochemicals grew into an international business, and in 1986 the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opened a new international conference centre and suite of offices just south-west of Verdley Place. At one time more than 500 employees worked on this site.

ICI Agrochemicals became Zeneca Agrochemicals in 1994. Five years later it merged with a Swiss agrochemical company to form Syngenta. The company officially left the site in December 2001, having sold Verdley Place for residential housing.



The Fernhurst Archives




Fernhurst History