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The Fernhurst Society

Newsletter no 36, February 2011


Programme for 2011

Thursday 24th February
Talk on Hindhead Tunnel by Jeremy Bayne-Powell, from Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering

Village Hall 7.30pm for 8pm

With the Hindhead Tunnel opening this Summer, this timely talk is about the preparation required by working on a National Trust site, and construction of the tunnel.

Thursday 14th April
Talk on The South Downs and the new National Park by
Phil Belden from the South Downs National Park Authority
Village Hall 7.30pm for 8pm  

Phil will talk predominantly on the geology and natural history of the South Downs and give an update on the status of the new National Park.

Sunday 1st May
Bluebell Walk.

Meet at Crossfield Car Park at 1.45pm
The walk will be led by Robin Barnes around Greenhill, Fernhurst. The bluebells were sensational on a similar walk 2 years ago.

Saturday 14th May

Pedestrian open day at the Hindhead Tunnel
This is an opportunity to walk through the long awaited Hindhead Tunnel before it is opened to traffic.

Saturday 25th June
Walk along the River Wey

Meet at Crossfields Car Park at 1.45pm

Following on from the talk by Adrian Bird on the Upper River Wey in 2010, Adrian will lead a walk along part of the river starting at Standford, near Passfield.

Note this walk is on a Saturday

Sunday 28th August
Walk on Iping Common

Meet at Crossfields Car Park at 1.45pm
Bruce Middleton, with the new South Downs National Park Authority will lead the walk.

Fernhurst Furnace Open Days
Saturday/Sunday 10/11th September, tbc

The annual  open weekend, with demonstrations of musket and longbow use, rural crafts, tours of the furnace site, acheology and natural history etc

Thursday 27th October
Talk on the Restoration of the Wey and Arun Canal.

Village Hall 7.30pm for 8pm
David King from the Wey and Arun Canal Trust will talk about the history of the canal and the restoration by the Trust.

Thursday 24th November
AGM followed by a Talk entitled ‘Hong Kong to West Sussex: an 80’s Train Journey’ by Peter Monger.

Village Hall. 7.30pm for 8pm
Peter Monger is a Fernhurst resident and committee member of the Society. His fascinating talk with slides covers his extended journey returning home from Hong Kong via Asia, Russia and East Europe.


Censuses of Fernhurst households 1815-1911

I have recently finished transcribing the 1871 and 1881 parish censuses and copies will soon be added to the Fernhurst Archives. This means that the Fernhurst Society now has a complete set of transcriptions of the parish censuses in each decade from 1841-1901, thanks to efforts of several members. We also have a parish list of names from 1815. Most of these are on the Society’s website:

Anyone is welcome to examine them on the website or at the Archives. We’d like to get transcriptions of the 1911 censuses too, as these are the last publicly released set of censuses and are far more detailed than earlier ones. Fascinating patterns emerge from all this wealth of data. For example you can see the changing popularity of first names or occupations over almost an entire century. Another idea is to map the occupants of a few of the better known households over the same period.

Britain’s next national census is just weeks away, on 27th March - so censuses will soon be a very newsworthy topic. This year’s will be the first to include the option to submit responses online. The Society will summarise some of the huge amounts of historical census data we have accumulated - volunteers to assist are welcome.

Richard Ranft


The Future of the ICI Syngenta Site

The site has been vacant for nearly 10 years yet Comer Homes, the current owner, has not submitted any proposals for formal consideration by Chichester District Council. Two previous consultation exercises to gauge public reaction have been held, the last in 2008. The proposals were to add 2 floors the original building and convert this into 360 flats, together with a number of detached houses, all sufficient for 1000 people, and a hotel. Negative reaction from Chichester, the South Downs Joint Committee and the pulblic combined with the recession put a hold on these proposals.

In the middle of January 2011, Comer homes, in partnership with Savills, held a third public consultation in the Village Hall. The idea was to give the residents of the village and the surounding area the opportunity to feed their views into a development brief prior to a planning application for development of the site.

However reasonably concrete ideas on how Comer Homes view the site were on display. These involve demolishing the existing building and constructing up to 200 homes on the 56 acre site, with some potential for employment and community use. This is a significant reduction in the number of dwellings from before, which would reduce the anticipated pressure on local services somewhat. However some expressed the view that the proposals were already at a stage beyond a development brief, and that the company may be considering a planning application before 1st April, when the new South Downs National Park Authority assumes responsibility for planning in the Park.

A solution to the future of the site must be found but how can the village benefit? Residential housing is a solution but how could this be integrated with the 250 homes proposed for the King Edward VII site, and would these overstretch the infrastructure and services of the village. On the other hand, local shops should benefit.

If housing is the solution, how can we ensure that the village gets adequate benefits ? Ideas might include some low cost housing affordable to young local residents, some form of job creation for local people, and improvements to community and sports facilities either in the village or on the development site.

Although very little time was allowed for local input during and after the consultation exercise, the local residents will still be able to comment if and when a planning application is submitted.


Archive Report

Our best news this month is that we have acquired a new member to the Archive team, a direct result from last October’s exhibition. She is Belinda Harrison, another ex-Syngenta employee, and is initially working on cataloguing to help her become familiar with the collection.

We have now started work on the somewhat deferred map project for WSRO to provide an at-a-glance view of notable places, people and events in our parish.

Although not actually credited, Brenda provided John Nicholson’s with many background details on Ellen Madgwick for their forthcoming auction sale of her samplers in their sale on 9 February, articles on which appeared in local papers this week. We would like to acquire it for the Archive but fear that it will be priced well out of our budget.

Martin Muncaster came into the Archive to talk about his connections to the Ellington/Hope family. His subsequent tales about his more immediate family were so interesting that he has been asked to record his reminiscences with the Oral History Group.

Other visitors included a local resident who unearthed part of a horse’s harness with his metal detector, Lodsworth Heritage Group for general information and a group of American ladies from Seattle, Washington who are researching their Trussler ancestors. We provided them with what information we had and put them in touch with John Trussler, the family historian.

There is also a mystery about whether there was a contingent of ATS girls at Fernhurst Camp during WW2, which we are trying to get to the bottom of!

Christine Maynard

Review of Recent Activities

Talk on Shulbrede Priory by Laura Ponsonby and Ian Russell

Laura and Ian gave a lively talk about their home which is the remaining part of the original Shulbrede Priory.

The Priory was built about 1200AD for the Augustinian Order by Sir Ralph de Ardene, initially for a Prior and about 5 canons. It later expanded to a thriving community inspite of being in a fairly isolated and extremely wet and boggy site. Religious orders suffered greatly with the Dissolution of the Monastries, when the extensive estate belonging to the Priory became part of the Cowdray Estate. Much of the Priory was destroyed during the dissolution, and the remaining buildings were inhabited by Cowdray’s yeoman farmers.

The Priory was acquired by Laura’s grandfather Authur Ponsonby in 1902. He was looking for an escape from London and took to cycling around the area while staying in Midhurst. Although in a rather dilapidated state, he was attracted by the history of Shulbrede, and eventually bought it.

He began the archaeological work, carried on by successive generations which has been able to establish the layout of the original priory, church, cloisters and associated buildings. The current house is formed by the remaining SW corner of the Priory, and originally comprised the entrance hall, prior’s chambers, buttery and guests hall. Stone from the ruined church has been used for constructing other houses in the area. The talk was illustrated by many slides showing original features in the crypt, medieval tiles, oak beams, and 16thC wall paintings.

Shulbrede is open once or twice during the year and is a very worthwhile visit.

Snippet from the Past

Everybody knows the work of architect Annesley Brownrigg, he designed one of the most used and loved buildings in the village. For over a hundred years it has been the venue for parties, dances, wakes, gatherings of all kinds, education, relaxation as well as housing a canteen, doctor’s and dentist’s surgeries, a library and even used as a temporary morgue. It is, of course, the Village Hall.

Brownrigg was a pupil of Sir Ernest George, an eminent late 19th century architect, who also taught Lutyens. He designed Fernhurst Village Hall when he was just 27 and went on to undertake many large commissions and won work at a national competition during this period. He designed many fine buildings in the Haslemere, Hindhead, Fernhurst and Chiddingfold areas and lived at The Small House (next door to Haslemere Museum) before moving to Milford.

The First World War cut short his blossoming career. He enlisted in 1914 and was wounded at Ypres in 1917, but returned to the front and later volunteered to fight in Russia. On his return to civilian life late in 1919, he had to pick up the threads of his practice in a world whose beliefs had changed, but he remained faithful to his Arts and Crafts principles, building medium-sized country houses and cottage developments. He suffered from ill health during his last years, dying suddenly in 1935 at the early age of 53.


Fernhurst Junior Society

We now have a programme of walks for the Junior Fernhurst Society. They are

  • 12th March - Frensham
  • 9th April - Haslemere (will be aimed at younger members)
  • 21st May - Ebernoe Common
  • 11th June - Wisley
  • 9th July - Singleton
  • 10th Sept - Fernhurst Furnace
  • 15th Oct - Roasting chestnuts on Lynchmere common
  • 12th Nov - Devils Punch Bowl
  • 17th Dec - Around Fernhurst

As usual anyone wishing to participate should contact Sue Gibbon for full details.