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The Fernhurst Society

Newsletter no 20, September 2004


Oral History projects gains LHI funding

As readers will be aware, the Society has been fortunate in being awarded a substantial grant (£21,780) by the Local Heritage Initiative to enable us to complete this project. The aim of the project is to develop a picture of how everyday life in the village has changed over the last 100 or so years, with particular emphasis on the period 1920-1980. The project is based on interviews with long-time residents of Fernhurst. Ultimately it is hoped that we will have some 70-80 completed interviews.

From this mass of memories and information, we will be drawing out material to show different aspects of life in Fernhurst – e.g. schooling, shopping, transport, employment (industry/agriculture), village organisations, sport, religion, housing, health, etc. The material will be presented in three ways. There will be a book, with illustrations, an exhibition and a website. The material will also be archived in both the village archives and at West Sussex Records Office, for use by future local historians. Much of the grant money will be spent on the publication and printing costs for the book, so that we will be able to sell it at a significantly subsidised price.

The project is planned to be completed by Spring 2007. So far nearly half the interviews have been done and most of them transcribed. That part of the work should be completed by next spring. However, we have already started work on the book, deciding its broad structure and how we translate the interview information into readable chapters. The exhibition will be organised at the end of the project. In the meantime we are now starting to think about the website. Information will also be on the LHI website.

Although this is a relatively long-term project, the village will see early benefits. The grant will enable us to purchase a digital projector, associated laptop computer and screen enabling us to improve the quality of presentations. This equipment will be available for use by other village organisations, under certain conditions. It should be purchased and available by the end of October.

Many volunteers are involved in making this project a reality and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their input. Anybody who would like to help, particularly with interviewing, should contact either the project leader Anthony Davies or John Clark via the Society's email.

The Local Heritage Initiative is a joint action by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Countryside Agency.

Junior Fernhurst Society

The Junior Fernhurst Society is progressing with a slowly growing group of children. We have widened the age range so that it now covers 5 – 12 year olds, although we ask parents to accompany the under 7s. It meets monthly for a couple of hours on a Saturday. The emphasis is on involving children in practical activities centred on nature conservation and local history.

Since the last newsletter we have had great fun with a visit by Martin Love from the Sussex Bat Group, who gave a wonderful and informative talk about bats to a packed audience in the Youth Club. The highlight was seeing bats close up. Martin runs a bat hospital for injured bats and brought along some “patients”. They were in transparent tanks (with places for a bit of privacy too!) so the children could see the bats close up. This caused a lot of excitement as they saw the bats and noted the differences between pipistrelle, noctule, serotine and common long-eared bats.

We then stopped for the summer but have already started our autumn events with a session down at “our patch” next to the Recreation Ground. This time Matt Brammich, a warden with the Black Down National Trust, helped us. Matt showed the children how discover which small mammals are likely to be living on our small plot. First the children went hunting for evidence such as nibbled nuts and mushrooms, or holes and tracks and they soon became expert at funding these traces. Matt had set up ten live mammal traps the night before and when he opened these up, one by one, the children had the delight of seeing wood mice, yellow-necked mice and bank voles and learned how to tell them apart. The yellow-necked mouse has an obvious yellow band across its chest whilst the wood mouse, being a nocturnal feeder, has large eyes and ears. Eight of the ten traps were full which surprised Matt, as he normally gets only about 50% occupied. Obviously we have a wildlife friendly plot.

The children also asked Matt about how to make their gardens friendlier for wildlife. It was a very enjoyable session and our thanks go to the Blackdown Trust for their support.

The next meeting, on Saturday 16th October, will be a local history session, whilst on 20th November an expert from Chichester District Council will be talking to the children about recycling – what can be recycled, why and how.

If you would like to help or want to know more, please contact Julia or Sue or Shenda via the Society's email.


Fernhurst Village Archive

Summer used to be the time people relaxed and went on holiday. These days they research their family history!

There have been a good number of enquirers, by visit and email, interested in tracing members of various local families, such as the Ralphs, Allams, Wests and Crawfords.

Ralph Lines met a member of Fernhurst Home Guard who was able to put a few more names to the photograph we have of the platoon.

Other enquiries included:

  • Bridget Howard, who is planning to set up a Midhurst Archive
  • Two students preparing holiday projects on the history of Fernhurst
  • A lady researching the life and career of H Annesley Brownrigg, the architect who designed the Village Hall
  • Information supplied (via Nigel Headland) to the Australian TV company filming the story of the ghost of the Verdley Bear
  • Information was also supplied to an author writing a book about places to visit in Sussex with ghostly connections
  • Nigel Headland has been researching the remains of the ancient Fernhurst Cross, possibly buried in near the crossroads
  • The 2nd History Walk, led by Helen Ouin and Iain Brown was attended by about two dozen people, is in the process of being produced in booklet form.

Acquisitions over the last few months include a collection of newspapers covering events during WW2, old parish magazines, books and a fragment of the Caravelle that crashed into Blackdown in 1967.

The archive team is currently working on the material for the November Fernhurst Society Evening talk on the “Fernhurst in Living Memory”, gathering together maps, photos, written and oral memories and other artefacts promising to make this a fascinating session (see back page).

The Village Archive is open on Tuesday afternoons in the Village Hall (above the clerk’s office). Just turn up. If Tuesdays are not convenient please call Christine Maynard for an appointment.

Nightjar Walk

This was a very enjoyable evening stroll on Iping Common in early July. A small group gathered as the sun went down, and led by Richard Ranft, were privileged to see and hear about half a dozen nightjars. There are very few nightjars in the UK so their distinctive churring call and gliding flight-pattern was a delight to us all. We also heard woodcocks and found several glow-worms on the way. Thanks to Richard for organising this delightful evening.


Lynchmere Common Walk

Hilary Adair, warden for the Lynchmere Society, led a three-hour walk across the Lynchmere and Stanley Commons. In the heat of early August a group of about a dozen strolled (in the shade as much as possible), seeing how much the Lynchmere Society has done to restore the ancient common land, pulling out the invasive birch and bracken whilst encouraging heathers to develop. The newly restored ponds were reasonably full and overall it was a lesson on how much a community can achieve through voluntary action. Do go up and explore – there is much to see. Thanks again to Hilary for her most informative walk.


Fernhurst Boundary Walk

We have completed the fourth leg of the Parish Boundary walk. Jackie Kennet led this section from Bexley Hill, across Henley village, to Scotland Farm. We had a warm early September Sunday afternoon and a good turnout of over 30 walkers (and dogs).

Jackie has done extensive research into the life and times of the people who did the last Boundary Walk in 1837, which brought alive how much our lives have changed. In 1837, the first year of the reign of Queen Victoria, the parish population was some 700 to 800 (compared with today’s 2,400). Most people living in the parish were agricultural workers, woodcutters, craftsmen and tradesmen. Life was a struggle and the 1830’s were turbulent for this and nearby counties. Under the sponsorship of Lord Egremont in Petworth, some 1800 men and women emigrated to Canada to escape the poor conditions.

On a happier note William Cobbett, in his 1823 “Rural Rides” noted that “all the towns in Sussex are very clean, the women are very nice in their dress and in their houses” …”more than in other counties, Sussex men and boys wore clean smock-frocks (often faded, patched and darned), a plain coarse shirt, half-boots or nailed shoes”.

Jackie invited us all to stop for refreshments in her garden in Henley, where the boundary passes through. There we had a fascinating discussion between some of the people on the walk, remembering the old families who lived in this part of the parish. John Trussler and his wife Pat had come especially from Maidenhead for this walk.

The walk ended with a picnic at Scotland Farm, which Judith Turner had researched. This is a Cowdray property (although not painted the distinctive mustard) with a grand old barn. Our thanks to Jackie for all the hard work she put into the walk.

The next section of the boundary walk will be next spring to be led by Judith Turner.



The Society's website continues to attract potential new members as well as a range of enquiries from all over Britain and overseas. Many enquiries are related to family history. The 'archives' page of the website has been expanded, with historical information and illustrations about Verdley House, The Revels, and old parish maps. Jackie Kennett's fascinating account of life in the parish at the time of the Parish Boundary walk of 1837 has been included in a new page on Fernhurst history.


Dates for your Diaries

All these events are free to Fernhurst Society members. Non-members are also very welcome, so please bring guests and friends.

Thursday 21st October – 7:30pm for 8pm. Talk: Identifying historical objects
Liz Wilson, the recently appointed Finds Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme for Sussex, will be talking about historical finds – from flints to gold coins. Bring along your treasures for Liz to identify! Should be a fascinating evening.

Sunday 31st October 2pm. Afternoon walk around the Braithwaite’s estate. Including a visit to their house at Lower House Farm. Meet at the Farm (far end of Ropes Lane). There is plenty of parking space. Can be muddy.

Thursday 18th November – 7.30 for 8pm. Society AGM and Talk “Fernhurst in Living Memory”. A short (we hope!) AGM followed by a talk based on reminiscences and archive material. Led by the Archive team.

Saturday 11th December Fernhurst Society Christmas party. 7pm for 7.30pm Fernhurst Village Hall. Entertainment by the “Tommy Tuckers” a group of local musicians formed for this event, who will be singing for their supper! Tickets £12.50 per head for a two-course supper. Bring your own drinks. Tickets available at evening talks or directly from Elsie Waitt.

Dates for 2005:

Weds 16th Feb (afternoon) Talk with farm animals

Thurs 31st March (evening) Talk