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The Fernhurst Society

Memories of Fernhurst: Verdley

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Verdley House w as built by Lord Davey and was bought by Sir Felix Schuster, who worked it as an estate, which included five farms, all with very interesting names. All the farm buildings being truly Sussex in type, and in their settings with the hills rising in the background, make a wonderful picture. The house itself with its many rising towers looks very much like a fairy tale castle when seen from Henley or Bexley Hill. We are told that in the time of Sir Felix there was a truly magnificent garden. So beautiful, that the people who were lucky enough to enjoy it do not forget its beauties. At one period a staff of eight gardeners kept Verdley House perfect, what a sight to behold. We are also told that Sir Felix also introduced the first tractor to Fernhurst, which was of great interest to the district.

Since 1946 Verdley House and estate have belonged to and worked by Plant Protection Research Station and the grounds and estate are still beautiful in a different way. Plant Protection is a large organisation, which takes in all forms of agriculture and plant life to a high scientific degree, with highly qualified personnel in charge, who travel to all parts of the world in its cause.

An experiment was carried out to prove that the people of the desert lands could sow and spray by using the camel. A camel was brought to Verdley and specially prepared sacks containing seeds or maybe fertilisers were put in position on the camel’s back. As the camel moved across the ground, the seeds were scattered, which had been especially tested for the camel’s habitat. This actually took place in Fernhurst and caused much interest in the district.

Spraying has also been done by helicopter at the Research Station and has fascinated many people as the helicopter turned over their gardens. The duke of Edinburgh visited Verdley Plant Protection in 1955 travelling by helicopter and was greatly impressed by the work being done in the cause of plant life.

In 1956 an international conference took place with delegates from the four corners of the Earth assembled. One great feature of this conference was the illustration by television cameras of the lectures and experiments. These took place in specially erected marquees.

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The Fernhurst Oral History Project was supported by the Local Heritage Initiative. The Local Heritage Initiative was developed by the Countryside Agency and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Nationwide Building Society.