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The Fernhurst Society

Newsletter no 32, March 2009


Events for Spring & Summer 2009

Wednesday 25th March, 8pm
TALK entitled
“Rogues, Rascals and Rebels
 of Sussex”
by Chris McCooey

Kings Barn, Kings Arms Pub

7.30pm for 8pm start

Chris is a writer & raconteur specialising in local history of Kent & Sussex. He has researched the life of many people who are associated with these counties. His talk is an amusing account of the foibles of many characters – both well known and obscure – who hail from Sussex.

Please note the change of venue to Kings Barn at the Kings Arms Pub (on the A286 Fernhurst to Midhurst road).

Saturday 25th April

Village Hall Centenary Commemoration
The Society will have a stand as part of the celebration in the Village Hall.

Sunday 26th April

WALK in the North West of Fernhurst

Walk led by Robin Barnes

Meet in the Crossfields Car Park at 1.45pm.

Sunday 17th May

Fernhurst Revels
The Society will have a stand at the Revels with a range of books, pamphlets & maps on display.

Sunday 14th June

WALK and PICNIC on the South Downs, led by Bruce Middleton

Meet in the Bignor National Trust Car Park at the top of Bignor Hill at 10.00am about 1 hours walk & talk followed by picnic on top of the Downs. Afterwards there will be time to visit the Bignor Roman villa if desired.

Sunday 6th September

WALK in North Ambersham
Walk from Bell Lane to Bexley Hill. Details to be posted later



A Look at Recent Society Events


Walk in Verdley Wood to look for the Ruins of Verdley Castle

After the cancellation of the walk on 5th October because of the deluge that day, the walk went ahead on 26th October. The aim of the group of over 20 walkers was to rediscover the site of the former Verdley Castle. This was probably a 13th century fortified hunting lodge, on the edge of the former deer park, and was ruined in the 16th century.

Several possible earth works were investigated and finally the site was discovered – confirmed by stones strewn over the site. Some were cut and dressed, probably forming part of a doorway or window.

The group was untroubled by the legendary ghost of the last bear killed in England, said to haunt Verdley Woods. We returned unharmed to Henley along part of the Serpent Trail.


Cost-effective Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Sandy Polak gave a very topical & illuminating talk on Thursday 23rd October to a group of 40 members, held in the cosy atmosphere of the Fernhurst Club.

He gave a detailed account of how each of us can help in a small way to conserve the future of the planet by cutting  our individual carbon emissions, and more importantly, how we can cut our energy bills. He showed how to reduce the costs of heating and electricity in the home, covering insulation, boilers, fires, lights, appliances and TVs.
Sandy also displayed the CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency of different forms of transport - cars, buses, trains and planes.

Finally he discussed the emission savings and installation costs and of alternative renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic cells, solar water panels, wind turbines and heat exchangers. It was an eye opener to see the long payback times of these alternatives.

Full details of this fascinating talk can be found on the Society Website at “Cost saving ways to reduce your carbon footprint”.


North Ambersham in a Nutshell

David Coward gave an illuminating talk of the history of North Ambersham, following the AGM on 26th November.
David’s talk, supported by photographs shown on the screen, with a display of maps, photographs and copies of old papers, was an extremely potted history of the Tithing from its earliest beginnings in the years before Christ up to the time of its ecclesiastical transfer from Winchester to Chichester. However, the civil transfer had taken place back in 1844 when the 5 mile by half mile isolated part of the parish of Steep, a parish of the Manor of East Meon in Hampshire, was turned over to West Sussex.

Some time was given to explaining that a number of historians, both academic and amateur, have written about the very early years of the Area but only by vague reference to the Tithing and with little historic proof. His theory, which fits well with the writings of others, is based on extensive research into ancient records and recognised works. He is  therefore confident that settlement of the North Ambersham Tithing area started in about 460AD when Anglo Saxon Jutes, with allegiance to the then King of Wessex, travelled North from the Isle of Wight up the Meon Valley to Steep and then East along the Rother valley, settling on a defensive line between Graffham and Haslemere. Even after agreement was reached between the South Saxon and Wessex Kings in the late 600s, the settlers stayed, retaining their links with what subsequently became Hampshire. The 1066 Norman invasion had little effect on the ancient kingdom of Suth Seaxa (Sussex) due to the heavy forestation of the area and the lack of accessibility. (The next major invasion of the area appears to have been when ICI moved to Fernhurst in the 20th century!)

After covering how the Tithing came to be he gave the audience a virtual tour of the narrow land strip that comprised North Ambersham, travelling from Bell Vale, Lowder Mill and Fernden Hill in the North at the Surrey/Sussex border South to Bexley Hill, which is now a part of Lodsworth parish. There never have been more than about 16 to 20 family homes in the less than 1,700 acres of land but each has its own story to tell and he is endeavouring to unravel them.

Talking about the people of the area, especially during the Victorian era, proved to be the source of some interesting stories ranging from strict but generous estate management to the evangelical efforts of a lay preacher and the numerous social problems generated by close but not always legalised family arrangements. Who would have thought that a brothel was in operation for about 45 years at Bexley Hill in the second half of the 19th century, probably serving the visitors to the shooting estates in the area and creating a number of illegitimate children for the parish to support.


Archive Report – March 2009

Over the last couple of months we have had a steady trickle of enquiries, several visitors and a number of enquiries by email. Although so much family history can be researched on line these days, there is still a wealth of information stored in the Archive that is unavailable anywhere else.

We have been asked to help authors in their research on several occasions. The latest, Jerry Murland, was working on a book relating to WW1 and wanted to know more about the Schuster family, which we were happy to help with.

Another caller was researching his family and delighted to find details of when his family were in Fernhurst, dates of birth, a photo of the old family home, etc. Other enquiries have been about houses in Kingsley Green, the Red Lion in the 1890s, and the Morley, Varns and Anker families.

David and Sue Coward continue to unearth gems of information, agreements, wills, etc relating to North Ambersham and Fernhurst. Christine Maynard, Fernhurst Archive


Fernhurst Garden Bird Survey – Call for a Revival

One of the most popular projects run by the Society since its inception was the garden bird survey organised by Arnold Madgwick which, unfortunately, went belly up, when Arnold had to move away from the village. At one stage we had more than 60 people involved and the records were going to the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Iain Brown went down to the care home in Fontwell to see the Madgwicks in May last year and raised the subject of the old bird survey with Arnold. Arnold is no longer able to participate so we shall try to contact his daughter to see if we can get access to his files.

However, bearing in mind how much pleasure this project bought to so many people in the past we are wondering if there is anyone out there who might be prepared to resuscitate in some form a simplified garden watch programme. Please let Iain Brown or a member of the committee know if you have any ideas. Contact via the Society's email.


Junior Fernhurst Society



18th April Bluebell walk – starting at the Pavilion
9th May Witley Common
13th June Verdley, setting off from Scout Hut
19th July London - Thames Path from the O2 Arena to Waterloo>
19th Sept Geocache - Location TBC
17th Oct Marley Common - Chestnuts
21st Nov Cowdray Park Circuit
19 Dec Fernhurst - ending at Fernhurst Centre with mince pies

The Junior section meets once a month in the afternoon of the third Saturday of the month at 2pm, for a 2 hour nature walk. Children 5 + years old are very welcome, along with their parents. Under 7s must be accompanied. For more information or to be added to the mailing list please contact Sue Gibbon via the Society's email

Other dates for your diary of events in the village that might interest children –
5th July – Family Activity at the Fernhurst Centre, in the afternoon.