Hill Place during the occupancy of the Broad Family
In the words of Gwen Broad
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Hill Placeis situated off Turners Hill Road, on the southwest side of East Grinsteadnear Heselden Crossroads. The land holding formed part of the manor of Imberhorne, which was given to the Priory of St Pancras at Lewes in the early 12th century. Having passed through various families down the centuries it came into the hands of the Broad family fromCornwall in 1919.
The history of the property was researched and produced by Gwen Broad, including a document on the occupancy of the Broad family atHill Placefrom 1919 to 2008. On her death in 2008, Gwen’s research notes were given to the Felbridge and District History Group who published her notes on the property together with further research they had compiled in an extensive Handout, Hill Place Farm, JIC/SJC 01/13.
This document recallsHill Placeduring the occupancy of the Broad family from 1919 until the mid 2000’s, in Gwen’s own words (except the Post Script), beautifully illustrated by the paintings of her mother (also Gwen) during her lifetime at the property.
The Farm about 1920
It was in October 1919 that our parents, Gwen and Nanscawen Broad, first came toHill Place. They were still in their late twenties and had been married at the end of the war in October 1919. They were both Cornish, mother’s family coming from the extreme west near Penzance and father belonging to a farming family from easternCornwall. He had spent a few years in Canada and had returned to join up for the First World War and had seen active service in the trenches in northern France with the Royal Fusiliers; then he and two of his brothers had volunteered to train as pilots in the Royal Flying Corps. Mother had qualified as a teacher of art and always retained her interest in painting. Many of the sketches which she made of the farm have been photographed for illustrations in this record. During the war she had done part-time nursing with the Red Cross and now they were both eager to start their life together. After looking at a number of farms which were unsuitable or beyond their slender capital, they agreed to takeHill Placewhich they rented from Mr EC Blount of Imberhorne Manor.
The previous tenant was Mr AR Thompson who had lived in the house with his housekeeper, Miss Mason. He gave mother his embossing stamp with the address and this we still have. He had struggled on, farming under difficulties during the war years and, as the farm was only a mile from the town ofEast Grinstead, he had also run a milk delivery business, his roundsman being Mr Crawley. There was much to be done to bring the fencing and building repairs up to standard but it was a very pretty farm in those days with attractive old buildings, a number of fruit trees around and well grown ornamental trees. In front of the house to the south towards Hazleden Crossroads were the fields known as the Front Meadow and Batten’s Plain. The hedge which bordered the road was of beech, young and green in spring and a cheerful tan colour where the leaves clung throughout the winter. Inside the hedge was a long row of Monkey Puzzle trees; they have all gone now but then there were still about a dozen and at one time, we have been told, there had been twenty or thirty. Several were also planted in the drive leading to the farmyard, together with Scots Pines, a fine Sequoia tree, variegated hollies and many rhododendrons. When were these planted, one wonders and by whom? They certainly form an unusual approach for a small working farm.
The road beside Batten’s Plain, which leads towards Turners Hill, was narrower then and where it begins to go downhill towards Hazleden Crossroads the banks were high and the roads at the crossing made sharp right angles; visibility was not good but there was a group of fine beech trees on top of the bank and the hedges framed the beautiful view down the valley.
On the furthest side of the Front Meadow from the road was a copse; it was planted in a hollow and, as children, we loved to go and play there, especially when the hazel had been coppiced and was stacked in faggots which we used to make houses. There were always wind flowers and dog’s mercury and primroses in the copse in spring and it was a good place for bird’s nests, skeleton leaves and other treasures which we collected. From the copse to the lane, the hollow continued in what we called the Dell. We like to play there too because it was quite near the house but just out of sight. The copse is now cleared and the Dell filled in and the land where they were is cultivated.
The lane was a continuation of the drive and probably a very old track way. It was a dusty road in summer when the hay waggons were going up and down and a morass of mud in the winter when it was churned up by the feet of the cows going to and from the fields. A number of times ourWellingtonsgot hopelessly fast in the mud and we came home barefoot until an adult went and pulled our boots out. At the bottom of the lane there was a bridge crossing the railway line. When we grew tall enough we could peer over the black coping stones down into the deep cutting and wait for the train. It would come puffing up from Kingscote or hurrying down fromEast Grinsteadacross the viaduct and we would momentarily be enveloped in a cloud of smoke. The farm workers regularly timed their dinner hour by one of the trains. The railway line banks were good places to be too; they were the best areas for primroses and often there were unusual flowers brought in with the soil which made up the embankments or flourishing in the shade and shelter of the cutting. The engine drivers and stokers would usually wave to children perched on the iron railings and sometimes would threw lumps of coal at the rabbits which swarmed along the embankments. We weren’t supposed to trespass on the bank inside the railings and to do so brought its own forbidden excitement.
Over the bridge at the bottom of the lane there were two gates; the one to the left led into a field called Jacob’s, with a footpath across to High Grove Cottages, used daily by the farm men who lived in the tied houses there. Jacobs was a fascinating place, there were three large ponds in it and two more just across the fence in neighbouring fields. Tall oak trees grew around the ponds and there were rushes and reeds and willows growing there and some wild Irises. Sometimes the water level was high and then a grassy bump became an island just big enough for two or three children to sit on. It was an excellent place for fishing with jam jars for tadpoles or trying to catch the slippery newts and efts [immature newts]. There were many different birds here too and sometimes we even saw kingfishers. The field beyond Jacobs, up to Imberhorne Lane, was called Park Field and had clumps of oak trees grouped over it like a park; in the middle was another smaller pond, sheltered by a bank with blackberry bushes and more trees, this was the best pond for tadpoles but it was a bit further and we did not go there so often. How had these ponds been formed? It seems as though they had been quarried out at some time. Was it for iron stone used in the iron industry? Certainly the nearby streams run rusty red, with bluish streaks on the surface of still water, suggesting the presence of iron and there were iron works at nearby Ridgehill in Roman times and atMill Placein the seventeenth century. Maybe the ponds were formed by taking clay for the making of bricks or stone for buildings; no one now seems to know why they were made. A public footpath toImberhorne Lanecontinues the lane across Park field and Jacobs so we often saw people walking past, throwing sticks for their dogs in the ponds. At the time all these fields were permanent pasture or meadow as there was little demand for English grain andHill Placewas a dairy farm with the most need for grass and hay.
If we took the right hand gate at the bottom of the lane we were in the Spring Field. This has a deep gulley running through it and a spring feeding the stream that flows along the valley past Old Mill and Dunnings Mill and eventually joins up with many other streams to become the Medway. The spring was interesting to us too; the water was so clear and the bottom of the pool sandy; there was water cress growing there and bright green moss under the trees. It was surrounded by an iron railing so that the cattle wouldn’t muddy it and we used to engineer dams and pools and plant wild flowers to make a garden.
The woods of the Imberhorne Estate bordered this side of the farm and we used to go in there sometimes but were half afraid that we might be caught trespassing by the game keepers. Some parts of the woods were conifer plantations for pit props and these were dark and mysterious, others were more open and sunny and carpeted with bluebells and wood anemones in spring; if we got very daring and went in a long way we were close to Imberhorne Manor House with its brilliant coloured rhododendrons and its gardens.
From Spring Field we could go through the Cattle Arch, under the railway line, and into Pattendens. Pattendens is the field which stretches from the railway line to the road on the north side of the farm as Batten’s Plain does on the south, and it is a steep field sloping down to the stream. Rather more than half way across there was an area hollowed out of the hill, perhaps once the site of a limekiln and in it now was a large corrugated iron roof. If we listened carefully we could hear a chugging sound and we were told that there was a big reservoir under the roof and water was being pumped up from there by hydraulic ran to Imberhorne Manor House. Once a week a man used to walk in from the road and check that everything was working alright.
Usually we didn’t go across to the reservoir but turned down hill from the Cattle Arch and went under the viaduct. When we had scrambled through the fence there we could shout up towards the huge brick arches and listen for the answering echo. If it were winter there could be icicles hanging from the drainage vents above us and they looked just like beards of Father Christmas. There was a marshy patch just through the viaduct which had kingcups and milkmaids in spring. The field through the arches were called Top Fields and it was quite a steep walk to them through a belt of trees. The stream was quite wide there and, as farm carts and waggons needed to get across for haymaking or to cart dung, there was a wooden bridge over it. It had been a Bailey Bridge used by the army inFrance, perhaps during the War, and it had a strong frame but the boards had to be renewed from time to time. Another small pond surrounded by its clump of trees was in the further of the two Top Fields and at the far end the Railway Station could be seen just across the fence. Sometimes we went there to take tea to the hay fields or, if it was winter, to look at the sheep or cattle. The animals were often bothered by dogs or children coming from the Council housing estate inBrooklands Wayon the other side of the viaduct.
The field lying between Pattendens and the farm yard was called Coneybury and in the early 1920’s it was the only arable field on the farm. In one part potatoes were grown for sale to customers on the milk round and in another, kale and cabbages or swede turnips for winter feed for the cattle. What we enjoyed most was a wide strip of maize or Indian corn, grown not for its cobs but as green feed for cattle or, in later years, to be made into silage. When the maize was really tall we could be completely hidden as we made our way through the rows and it was an excellent place to hide at bedtime unless the dog gave us away by following us in. The field between the farmyard and the railway line was called the Pony Field; it had a huge chestnut tree in it with wild daffodils beneath and in this field the two ponies, used on the milk round, grazed.
What were the yard and farm building like then? There have been so many changes at different times it is hard to be sure. The huge Sussexbarn with its clay tile roof and cladding of tarred boards was at the bottom of a slope. The beams and rafter frame work were held together by wooden pins and were very high. The barn was often used for potato and turnip storage and in winter weather the men would riddle potatoes there, grading them ready for sale as wares or for feeding hens or pigs as chats. The turnips were chopped in a machine where a circular blade was turned by a handle in a hopper. Other machinery was kept in there too and the door was high enough to admit a waggon. Probably in earlier times the centre area was the threshing floor and would have heard the sound of flails. An outshot on one side of the door was at one time an open fronted implement shed but was then usually used for rearing calves and we liked to go in and play with them. The men feeding them afterwards pretended to grumble because we let the calves suck our fingers and so they did not feed so well from the bucket. Behind the Sussexbarn was a small yard and on the far side of that was an open fronted shed called a hovel for the older calves. Beside this was a row of brick built pig styes, each with its own little yard and trough for the occupants. From the roof of the piggeries or anywhere near them, there was a good view back towards the town. The viaduct was on the left of the view, with the green of the Top Fields beyond, then in the middle, the houses of Brooklands Wayand Copyhold Estate. On the sky line, one after the other, were the gas works, the distinctive shape of the Catholic Church, often with pigeons from a nearby loft circling around it, the tall chimney stack of Stennings timber yard and the white skeletal shape of Mr Hastie’s water tower. On the night of November 5th we usually had a huge bonfire of hedge trimmings in the field not far from the piggeries; the farm men and their families would come up from Old Mill Cottage at the bottom of Coombe Hill or over from the Highgrove Cottages on Imberhorne Lane and the fire would be lit with torches made from paraffin soaked sacking wrapped around sticks and the sparks would fly up to engulf the guy which we had spent all afternoon making. Fireworks would be let off by the fathers and sparklers andBengal matches would be lit for us to hold, but perhaps the best display of all were the rockets whizzing up from the gardens and back yards all over town.
Close to the piggeries and attached to the Sussex barn was the cart lodge with a clay tile roof and tarred clapboard clad walls like the Barn. The front was covered with ivy but in the gable was a little door through which ladders were slid to be stored on the rafters of the Lodge. Other machinery was kept here too when not in use; perhaps a waggon, the shandy barrow for sowing seeds and always the stack loading elevator, except when it was in use at haying and harvest. The elevator folded down to a height of perhaps ten feet but when it was in use and raised above a hay stack it could carry hay to the height of thirty feet. It was powered by a small diesel engine and had a very distinctive sound as the prongs carried the fork fulls of hay from the hopper into which they had been spread by the men working up there. The sound of the elevator and the sight of the hay going up in irregular lumps, never the same twice, is always associated for me with revision for school exams as I worked in the bedroom on summer evenings.
The stack yard with its rectangular hay stacks and later on its round corn stacks, thatched safely against winter weather, occupied the space between the yard and the orchard. It was a very busy area at harvest time and again when the threshing machine came in, in the winter. A team of men came with the threshing tackle and there were our own men, and perhaps one or two from a neighbouring farm, and they would be hard at it all day. Jugs of tea would be taken out at intervals and there would be a break for mid-day dinner but otherwise they would be busy from when steam was first raised in the morning until the early winter nightfall. When the bottom of a corn stack was in sight and the underlying faggots were reached there might be rats or mice running out and there was the excitement of the chaos with dogs and boys and men in full cry. One of our old cats, called Darby, had a great reputation with the threshing gangs who once saw him with a mouse under each front paw and one in his mouth, unable to dispatch any of them.
Around the yard were a number of good old fruit trees, a row of apples beside the piggeries, a plum tree in the stack yard, a beautiful tall cherry tree not far from the garage and a pear tree by the back door which leaned over so much that you did not have to climb it, you could just walk up. It had very small pears, juicy but with no flavour; they were too small to peel and bottle so we used to play shops with them, putting them in blue sugar bags. They were probably grown originally for making perry, a kind of pear cider. Most of the fruit trees were of course in the orchard. There were three walnuts, several pears, a medlar and two quinces; there were also a number ofVictoriaor other plums and four rows of very prolific damson trees, whose fruit was picked and sold on the milk round. There were more apples than anything else, Russets, a few Coxes and a Blenheim for eating, and several Bramleys for cooking. Most of the trees though were a variety with a stripy skin, juicy and rather sharp in flavour which I think were called Forges and had probably been planted for cider making.
Between the orchard and the Dutch barn was a covered shed of corrugated iron in which young stock were over-wintered. It was empty in the summer when the animals were out, probably on the marshy land down at Kingscote which father rented for extra grazing. It was great to see their enjoyment when they were let out in spring and leapt round experiencing the space and accustoming their eyes to the brighter light. During the winter, fresh straw was scattered for them regularly in the shed and trampled under their hooves so that as the months passed their floor level grew closer and closer to the roof and the area was warm with their breaths and their bodies and the heat rising from the litter. After they were turned out in spring there were cart loads of good manure to be taken to a dump in the field to rot down for scattering in the autumn. This young stock shed was built against a very tall Dutch barn which had a wooden roof covered with corrugated iron and the walls were clad with the usual tarred clapboards. The tall openings at either end were high enough to admit a loaded waggon and during the summer there might be a couple of waggons and a grass-mower and a hay turner kept there.
The remaining farm buildings formed a block which included the cowsheds, dairy, stables, loose boxes and an area which was used as a two-storeyed cottage for the cowman and his family. It must have been quite warm in the winter to have your bedroom above the cowshed! This large block of buildings was probably put up as a model dairy in the later 19th century and was of solid brick with a tiled roof. The tiles of the upper storey were arranged in a pattern of diamond and straight tiles which could be clearly seen from the road. The downstairs rooms of the former cottage were small and rather dark and part of the area now housed machinery for cutting and grinding cattle foods. The little diesel engine was attached by a great leather belt to a driving rod which in turn turned other wheels which drove a mill for crushing oats and a grinder which would chew up the great slabs of cottonseed cake which the lorries brought in. This area and the two large rooms above were often full of great sacks of poultry mash or sugar beet pulp which was little dark brown curls of fibre left from sugar beet when the sugar had been extracted. There were sacks of maize too, sometimes kibbled or flaked, and concentrates looking like corks of yellowish brown linseed oil cake. The smell was dry and pleasant, rather like nutty biscuits. These foods had to be mixed in appropriate quantities using bushel measurements and the great heaps were turned on the floor with shovels. These balanced rations were then fed to the cattle in quantities varying according to their milk yield.
The main cowshed was in two sections with stalls at either side and ditches and a walkway in between; each section had a wooden turret let into the roof as a ventilator and between each half was an area large enough to store hay and other foods for several days; a cost-iron bin on wheels was used to trundle the balanced rations down the shed in each stall. The cows stood two together in a stall with wooden partitions dividing each pair, each had a hayrack and wooden manger and each had her name, usually that of a flower, written above her place; generations of mothers and calves had names with the same initial to distinguish them. The cows were fastened with a cow chain around their necks attached to the wall but with sufficient length to allow them some freedom of movement. Any manure fell behind into the ditches between the two rows of stalls and had to be barrowed out twice a day through the bottom doors of the cow shed, across the yard and out a sort of runway of planks to be tipped onto the manure pit. One morning my sister running through the doors met the wheelbarrow coming out and plunged in up to her arm pits; the shocked cowman, Charlie Langridge, scraped her down with his penknife and played the hose on her before he would let her go in to mother for further cleansing!
At that time there was no electricity and no running water in the cow shed so each cow was given buckets of water drawn by hand from the stand pipe, night and morning. On winter nights whoever was ‘racking up’ and seeing to their last hay and water, used a paraffin hurricane lamp which was hung from a nail in the centre beam to light progress up and down the lines. Milking was done by hand, the milk being weighed and recorded for each cow. At intervals the milk recorder, Mr Foster from Hurley Farm, would arrive on his motor bike and officially check the weights of the night and morning milkings. Milking was done into buckets and the men would each have their regular cow, they would take their three-legged stools and sit beside the cow pressing their forehead into the cow’s flank and pull regularly on the teats. The sound of the first stream going into the bottom of the metal pail and the change of pitch as the milk level rose up the pail is a strong memory. The buckets were carried through to the dairy and the milk poured into a high-up container from which a control tap allowed it to flow down over metal runners filled with cold water, so bringing down the temperature as it ran into the churn below. The dairy had a large tank for washing the utensils and the churns but as milk then was sold on the round by measure-fulls from the churn into the customer’s jugs, there were at that time no bottle to wash. As we shall see later, both the cow stalls and the dairy were soon to be fully modernised and reorganised.
At the far corner of the main block of buildings was loose box where the bull was usually kept and next to it the stable. Like the cow stalls the stable had a brick floor, wooden partitions and a manger and hay rack in each stall. The door was split so that the top and bottom halves could be opened separately and on the wall behind the horses were huge wooden pegs for holding their harness. It was fascinating to watch them being unharnessed, the great leather straps being unbuckled, the heavy saddle pads and collars with the brass hames hung up, and the bridles and breast straps shining with their brass ornaments. We still have a few of the horse brasses around. Most of all I liked to watch the traces bent back, swung around on themselves and tucked through the loop. We usually had two cart horses in addition to the milk ponies; they were huge patient creatures, quite untroubled by our small weight as we rode them down to the field after work on a summer evening, our legs almost horizontal across their broad backs. The earliest pair that I remember were Rodney and Darkie, one a greyish chestnut and the other a dark brown; later there were Punch and Prince and Bahram who could even be persuaded to gallop sometimes. When tractors superseded horses there were many practical advantages but also some real losses.
The main yard of the farm was surrounded on one side by the cowsheds, on another by the ‘newer’ part of the farmhouse and its garage and on a third by a corrugated iron shed which we called the ‘egg-hut’ and which was later replaced by the workshop. On the fourth side was the stack yard. There was a water tank where the horses and bull were led to drink and all the farm comings and goings seemed to occur in that yard. In one corner was a door to the farmhouse and a small porch which in June and July was covered with the blossoms of an American Pillar rose, the home of very colourful caterpillars. So we come to the house, let us see what it was like then.
The House about 1920
When our parents first came to Hill Placethe house had few modern conveniences, even for those days. At various stages in its history it had been two cottages or one dwelling and one part is very much older than the other. When Mr Thompson lived there it was in one occupation again. The newer end, perhaps built in the 1870’s, had a kitchen, scullery, coal house and breakfast room on the ground floor and two bedrooms above. The older end, parts of which are probably 13th century [more recently dated to the early 16th century], had two fairly large rooms downstairs which we called the dining room and the drawing room, with an area between accommodating the huge chimney and the staircase; above there were two good sized bedrooms. Between these former two dwellings was a space taken by three small rooms, a cupboard, a lobby and a dairy. From the lobby a ladder led up to a room used as an apple loft which had another access. The dairy was entered from the kitchen and one went down three brick steps to a brick floored room with a high window and lined with shelves. We used this as a larder since the farm dairy operations were now mostly carried on outside, but we still called it the dairy.
There was a cream separator in this room bolted to the shelf beneath the high window. When there was milk from the cows, surplus to the demand on the milk round, it was separated and the skim milk was fed to the calves while the cream was sold on the round. The separator had a big container into which the milk was poured and then, as one turned a handle, it flowed down through the various spinning leaves and the cream came out through one spout and the skim milk through another. It didn’t take very long to separate a bucket full of milk but it was quite a job to take all the parts of the separator to bits, wash them carefully in very hot water, dry them and put them ready for reassembling next time. Later, when the poultry side of the farm production developed, we often washed the great baskets of eggs and packed them in their crates in this dairy.
The scullery was also brick floored and had a rather small window and a stone sink. The window was a casement one with small panes one of which was scratched something which we often tried to read; the bottom line was clearly ‘Hill Place Farm’ but above was a single word which we could not decipher, it might have been ‘Brother’ or it might have been ‘Batten’ [more likely to be Batten, possibly associated with whoever donated their name to Batten’s Field]. In the corner of the scullery was a copper in a brick surround. A log fire underneath was kept stoked up with wood whenever hot water was needed; a heavy wooden lid with a handle covered the copper and a dipper on the shelf beside it was used to ladle the hot water into the sink. The copper was also used for boiling the family wash on Mondays. A brass tap on the end of an iron pipe brought cold water to the sink but the old pump remained, painted a dark green and having a creaky handle. In former times this had presumably been connected to a well before the mains water supply had been brought in. Two large wells with beautiful brick corbelling are still under the surface of the yard but have been capped off for a long time.
The scullery and dairy were under a steeply sloping roof which formed a sort of lean-to to the back wall on the ‘new’ end of the house and these areas had no ceiling. Against the wall in the scullery stood a mangle with a big wheel and a handle that we liked to play with; it had large wooden rollers and we often used it as a wringer as well as a mangle. A paraffin-burning cooker stood in the scullery which was used when the coal range was not lit. A door from the scullery led to the coal house where the fuel was stored. It was once open to the garden on one side so that wood could be got in more easily but that side was soon bricked up to make the house warmer. Two steps led down from the back door near the coal house and across an open back porch to the lavatory. This semi-outside accommodation was the only one for the whole household but it was water flushed and had a bench type seat. We used to burn a hurricane lamp out there during winter nights to prevent the water freezing. All the back premises were very cold in winter and it took a certain amount of courage to go out to make the last hot drink and fill the hot water bottles at night.
The kitchen was in some ways the centre of life of the house; it had a cast iron coal range with an oven at the side and a stainless steel fender in front which took a lot of keeping clean but was comfortable to put one’s feet on. A rack above was useful for airing clothes or putting plates to warm. Another, but wooden, rack under the ceiling could be lowered on pulleys and was used for drying clothes on wet days. The brick floor was covered with cocoanut matting which we darned with trussing needles and string when it became worn through. There was a table in the kitchen with a chest of drawers under it for holding the family silver and cutlery. A dresser had groceries in the bottom section and crockery in the glass-fronted top half. The only other piece of furniture in the kitchen stood under the window and was called the boot cupboard; it was used to hold outdoor boots and father’s stiff leather leggings which he sometimes wore with breeches.
The remaining downstairs room on the ‘new’ side we called the breakfast room, but it doubled as a farm office. At first we often had meals there but as the family grew we tended to use the dining room more. The room had father’s big roll top desk at which he sat to work out the records of the milk round, the various farm returns, the men’s wages and the multifarious matters which are part of running a farm. The window, like that of the kitchen, looked out on the yard so that on the rare occasions when the ‘govner’ was not out working with the men they could come to the window for instructions and on Fridays to be paid. A map of the farm that mother had made, hung on the wall of the breakfast room wall and underneath was written the croppings of each field in the first few years of their tenancy.
A straight steep staircase led from the kitchen to a landing with a window; the landing had two doors, one on the right leading to a pleasant bedroom, often used by a farm cadet or assistant who lived in, and the other, at the end of the landing, leading to the ‘spare bedroom’ mostly used by visitors but at times the room of some elderly relative who was making a home with us for a time. If anyone were unwell they might be nursed in the ‘spare bedroom’ because it was the only one with a fire place; all three of the daughters of the house were born in this room.
Soon after our parents came to the house they made changes to the linking section between the two former cottages. The ladder to the apple loft was removed and the space where it had been was partitioned to make a box room and a lobby with pegs for hats and coats. The cupboard-like room off the lobby which had once been a small brick floored kitchen was lined with shelves and became a store for cattle medicines and other goods, though later on part of it became a toy cupboard for the children. The apple loft above was made into a bathroom and this necessitated putting through two doors upstairs, one from the ‘new’ section, halfway up the staircase, and the other through the wall from a bedroom of the ‘old’ section. Now for the first time there was communication between both parts upstairs without having to come down one staircase, through the dining room and up the other. Admittedly this communication was through a bathroom which now had two doors but nothing was perfect! A bathroom with bath and wash basin with piped water and waste pipes were installed but hot water had to be brought up in cans from the scullery copper and bath water carried up in buckets. Later, when gas was brought in for use in the dairy, there was a gas geyser providing hot water in the bathroom and later still, when central heating was installed, there was a plentiful supply of hot water wherever needed in the house.
The room which we called the dining room may have been where much of the cooking was done at some earlier stage when the house was two cottages because it had another coal range. The shelves of this oven were circular so that one did not take out the shelf but turned it to see if cooking were done. The floor of the dining room was also brick and rather damp; the first carpet which our parents put down soon rotted and had to be scraped up with a dinner knife. The ceiling was formed by the joists and the oak floor boards of the floor of the bedroom above. The ceiling paper was pasted onto the boards between the joists but occasionally when people came into the room they found festoons of paper which had come loose and needed to be drawing pinned back up. These faults were soon tackled by carting out many barrow loads of soil on which the brick had rested and putting in a wooden floor. Later plaster board was fixed between the roof beams to form a ceiling. The coal range was soon replaced by an open fireplace where there was always a good log fire in winter. The fireplace had once been an inglenook but this had been covered in with a wooden façade and two cupboards had taken up much of the space. The dining room in 1920 had four doorways into it, one of them being the front door straight onto the outside world. Next to the front door was the one to the cellar and next to that a door leading to the passage to the drawing room. These three were soon enclosed by a partition to make an entrance hall thus outing the draft and reducing three entrances to one. The dining room wall was also the wall of the cowshed and on winter nights, when the cows were in, we could hear them rattling their chains as they reached for more hay or salt lick. Timorous visitors could be alarmed with stories of theHill Placeghosts.
The cellar was under the drawing room and was probably constructed in the late 15th century, or thereabouts [more recently dated to the 16th century], when the chimney was built. There was a set of stone steps leading down to it and a window-like chute by which barrels or other containers could have been let down from outside. One wall was formed by the foundations of the chimney and the others were brick or the living rock; the floor was brick. We used it mainly for apple storage but it was probably intended originally for beer and cider.
The drawing room was a pleasant small room which we did not use very much except when we had visitors. At one time though, before we went to school, we had a governess, Miss Benson, and then we did our lessons in there. It had beam and plaster walls, a large casement window with small panes looking onto the garden and a small Victorian style Duck’s nest fireplace built into what had once been an inglenook and now was half filled in with a cupboard. Most of the rooms in the ‘old’ end, including the drawing room, had been papered with many layers of wall paper of rather large and striking floral design; gradually these were stripped off and the beams and plaster exposed.
The staircase at the ‘old’ end led up from the drawing room passage in a curve to a short landing. There had been an original medieval window giving light onto the stairs but it must have been covered over when the upper part of the front of the house was protected with hung tiles. For about forty years this staircase was not used and it was floored over to provide an extra cupboard upstairs, it was deep and dark and a good place for losing one’s clothes or possessions.
The landing at the top of the stairs had a door leading up to the attics and two others leading to the main bedrooms. The west bedroom had a window looking onto the garden and was low with a beamed ceiling and beam and plaster walls. There was a cupboard space behind the chimney and this was later opened out to give an extra doorway into the bathroom. Not many bathrooms have three doorways leading into them! The other bedroom had a window onto the garden too and also a window overlooking the cowshed roofs. It was quite a large room with one central beam and a plaster ceiling and it was soon divided by an asbestos partition to make two bedrooms. Both windows looking onto the garden had diamond shaped leaded panes with greenish glass in them. They were rather ill fitting but probably very old and we missed them when they were replaced by sliding windows in the 1930’s.
Above the bedrooms were two large attics, one either side of the chimney, and each had a ladder leading up to it. They were oak floored and had probably been used to accommodate farm servants or the younger members of the families who lived there. They were cold in winter and warm in summer but airy and dry.
There was not much garden to the house at first but soon tarred paths and lawns were laid out and a tennis court made. A privet hedge was planted around to give privacy and the southern aspect and sheltering wall of the cowshed made a pleasant and relaxed place in front of the house. A fine yew tree, perhaps several hundreds of years old, stood to the west of the house, keeping guard over it as it towered above the roof level. Was this perhaps the yew which all yeomen were once to plant to provide wood for bows to defend their homeland?
Between the Wars 1919 to 1939
The period between the wars was one of great difficulty and financial struggle in farming as in many other walks of life. After two or three years, grain growing almost ceased at Hill Place and production concentrated on milk, eggs and crops like potatoes and fruit which could be sold on the milk round.
There were still no tractors on the farm and all the ploughing, dung carting, haying and harvesting were done with horses. Occasionally we would trudge up and down with the plough as it turned its single furrow, watching for the pressure on the handles which would lift the coulter and share and the swing as the horses turned round at the headland. The plough carried a little spade for cleaning off the earth when necessary and I had rather a fondness for its small size.
We grew a field of cabbage for winter cattle feed and the colours of the occasional leaves were brilliant, from purple through blue-green to yellow and orange, one could pick a colourful bouquet of them. Further down the same field, thee or four acres of potatoes were grown; some for sale on the milk round, some for our own use and several rows for the use of the farm men; they could plant what varieties and how much they wanted some evening in spring, using the farm horses and tools and then they could lift them when they wanted later in the year. The ware crop was housed under straw in theSussexbarn and brought as wanted for sale.
Hay was still carted by waggons and though we were not allowed to ride on the full loads for fear of slipping off, we could go back to the fields in the empty ones, juddering about on the bottom boards after we had been lifted in by the men or climbed in over the tall wheels. If the season had been catchy and the hay had been brought in at all damp or green there was a real danger of it heating in the stack; an iron bar would be thrust into the centre of the stack to test its heat and perhaps a chimney would be cut out to cool it down; if that did not work it might smoulder and blacken and then in the winter the cattle would eat it only if salt was added. In the worst situation the rick would catch fire and I can remember arriving at school half way through the morning one day because we had been running to and fro with buckets of water to keep down the combustion. I imagine that that excuse for late attendance was rarely duplicated. If all were well, as it usually was, most ricks would be thatched in early winter and that process was well worth watching too. Sheaves of straw would be unbound and laid out; they would be kept damp in buckets of water, and handfuls would be pulled out and laid evenily and parallel on a hod like carrier with a hinged bar to hold it steady; when there was enough it would be carried up the ladder to one end of the rick and, starting at the bottom, handfuls would be laid, each held down by wooden spars and binder twine between. Sheep shears would be used to trim the ‘eaves’ and the whole thing would be neat and weather proof all winter.
After some months the hay underneath would have become compacted very closely and, as it was used during the winter months, it would be cut out in blocks leaving sheer sided stops. A great hay knife was used which had a long, curved cutting edge and a handle at the top at right angles to the blade, with a curved haft. The cutting edge was kept sharp with a carborundum stone and the block of hay to be used would be transfixed on a long pointed bar, levered from position and carried down the ladder on the man’s back and to the stalls.
During these years, father went into partnership in a dairy business in Norbury with Mr J H Robinson, selling milk from his farms at Ifield and some fromHill Place. Our own methods of production and handling milk and our own sales on the milk round were increased and modernised. Egg production improved, some eggs being sold on the round and some to the Egg Packing Station at Stonegate which was part of a Co-operative Selling Association of producers of which father was a Director.
The three daughters of this family, Hilda, Gwen and Mary (always known in the family as Flinders) were born in the house in the latter half of the 1920’s and were attending school at the Grammar School in windmill Lane in the 1930’s. Many helpers came and went in the house and on the farm.
There were changes in the farm buildings in these years. In 1934 the tile roof of the cart lodge was replaced with corrugated iron and the walls partly renewed with brick. The cowsheds also were modernised, the brick floors being replaced by concrete with ditches of regulation width. The wooden partitions between the stalls were replaced by tubular steel and the water supplied to the individual drinking bowls now filled automatically to a set level. Concrete mangers instead of wooden ones took the cattle cake and each stall had a metal holder containing salt lick. We used to like to taste this and noticed which cows licked hollows right through them quite quickly and which rarely touched theirs. As each cow came in with the herd she turned from habit into her own stall under her own name. In 1932 electricity was brought into the farm and made lighting much more efficient but it was not until the late 1930’s that an electric milking machine, an Alfa-Laval, was installed.
The dairy premises were modernised too and now had floors of reinforced concrete. Gas was introduced in 1935 and this provided power for heating the hot water needed in washing the milking utensils and the bottles when they came in from the round. There was a metal double sink with an electrically driven bottle brush above it; each bottle was lifted from the hot water and put onto the spinning brush before being plunged into the rinsing water. After rinsing, bottles went upside down into the crates and were lifted into the sterilising cabinet. This cabinet, put in in 1935, was designed by George S Clayton Ltd of St Anne’s Works, Limehouse, and had doors on both sides. The washed bottles and utensils went in on one side, the doors clamped shut and the steriliser operated with much hissing of steam. When the far door was unclamped, the bottles were taken out into the further bottling room.
Bottling was an un-mechanical process; first the milk was brought in churns from the nearby cool room, an electrically operated walk-in refrigerator; then it was poured into the bottle filler which was like a bucket with an outlet in the bottom fitted with a spring and a valve with a rubber nozzle of the dimensions of a milk bottle’s top. Whoever operated this filler stood astride a crate of milk bottles and placed the rubber end into the neck of each bottle in turn, pressing down on the handles each side until enough milk had been released to fill the bottle. Then came the topping up by hand from a measure and the putting in of a cardboard disc to complete the bottling operation. Sometimes we helped with the topping up and the capping, and woe betide us if we used the milk from the wrong churn or pressed the cap too firmly and put our thumbs through the central circle which was supposed to be used in opening the bottle.
The vehicles on the milk round were upgraded now. When father took over the farm, Mr Crawley was the roundsman, helped by a boy on a trade bike; he had churns on the back of a royal blue two-wheeled float and he sold milk by the pint measure to those who brought their own jugs to him. Later we had a cream coloured four-wheeled float made to father’s specifications by Bridgelands, ironmongers inEast Grinstead. It had compartments of the right size to take milk crates, and a boy on his trade bike still helped to speed up the twice daily deliveries. There was also a two-stroke Jowtt-Javelin van used mainly to take milk to Sunshine House for Blind Babies at Frampost each day. In the later 1930’s a motor delivery van completed the fleet. The milk float when not in use was kept in a shed near the stock yard and beside it was the stable for the milk pony.
There was a succession of milk ponies but the one I remember best was a chestnut called Peggy who was a great favourite with the customers on the round; another was a grey called Jack. When Mr Crawley gave up working in about 1930, Mr Rylott Dixon became our roundsman and continued until after the Second World War, when the round was sold. After that he still remained with us taking over the poultry side of the farm. Mrs Dixon was a great help with the book-keeping for the round and later with the poultry and her gentle kindness made her much beloved of us all. Their elder son, Dick, also helped on the milk round until he was called up and served atDunkirkand on theBurma Road. They and the younger son Jim, lived first at Old Mill Cottage and then at the Bungalow on the farm and were very much part of our lives as a family.
There had been only one henhouse and run at the end of the orchard when our parents took over the farm and we called it the Blackhouse. We thought it was a treat to go and help shut up the pop-holes and lock the door in summer time just before we went to bed. About 1936 the poultry were much increased and several new houses were put up. One was made and erected by Papworth Industries, a firm which employed men who had been shell-shocked or otherwise affected by the 1914-18 War in ways which made it difficult for them to follow ordinary employment. My father always kept Sunday work to a minimum and we took part in the life and worship of our localMethodistChurchbut this firm asked if they could continue to work over Sunday because their men found an idle day very hard to cope with, and father understood and gave consent. This particular chicken house was so magnificent that we called it after the new transatlantic liner, the Queen Mary. A brooder house was also put up and father made divisions which could be adapted to accommodate varying ages and numbers of chicks. It was a pleasure to go in there after a new hatching of day old chicks had come off and had been moved over from the incubators. Special low hung lamps were burning to keep them warm but if it were sunny they would soon be running out from under them and cheeping as they picked up their first mash. There was Vita glass in the panes so that they could have the maximum benefit from the sun and after a few days they would begin to feather up and to run out through the pop-holes to pick up what they could outside in the run.
Looking after the incubator required turning the eggs on the trays twice a day and seeing that the water holders were full so that the atmosphere was sufficiently damp. If there was an electricity failure it was a real crisis but when hatching day came it was a delight to watch through the glass front and see the cracks appearing in the shells and the bedraggled little chicks struggling out and moving towards the light; when they reached the front they dropped down into the tray below where they dried out before being transferred to the brooder house. The incubator room and the egg grading and packing room were both part of another new building put up in 1936 which we called the food store, the other and larger end was used for storing poultry mash and grain. Egg packing could be quite a tedious job and when we had two thousand birds there was a lot to be done. The hens were free range so in muddy weather many eggs had to be washed because the hen’s feet muddied them in the nest boxes. At all times they had to be graded by rolling down a run way which had sections counter-balanced by weights, a light egg would pass over the heavier counter weights without tripping them and eventually reach its correct division; then the eggs were packed in appropriate crates for Specials, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grades or Smalls. All eggs had to be candled as well, that is held above a lamp to make sure that there were no blood spots in them. The packing station deducted payment for any that were faulty in any way. This larger poultry enterprise was first looked after by Miss Gladys Roberts then during the War years by Mr Kenneth Lawry, and after the round was given up in 1952, by Mr Dixon.
Father very often had a farm Assistant or trainee who lived in the house and worked on the farm, at the same time gaining experience. As they lived in and sometimes stayed a number of years, we got to know them very well and they were as part of the family. One of the early ones was Mr Stanley Gillings who was with us when the two elder daughters were toddlers; he later called his own daughter after one of them. Then there was Mr Kenneth Lawry who was particularly interested in poultry and went on to start his own poultry farm at Upper Dicker. His father, a photographic journalist, used to visit us sometimes; we called him Mr Daddy Lawry and loved to look at his pictures. Kenneth Lawry came back to us during the War and worked with us throughout those difficult years. Mr David Burbridge was with us for some years before marrying and farming on his own account at Fenland Farm near Turners Hill; he too was very good to us children. John Geering came to us from his father’s farm inBerkshirefrom June 1932 to September 1936. He supervised much of the development in the cowsheds and dairy when father was away a great deal in Norbury; when he left us, he emigrated to New Zealand where he qualified as a Veterinary Surgeon and had a very distinguished career in Veterinary education and as an advisor on stock rearing for the World Bank in many parts of the world. When the youngest daughter of our family emigrated toNew Zealandafter the War his home was a second home to her and the links between the two families have always been kept up.
Other people and families worked for our parents from time to time. There were four tied cottages which went with the farm to house the workers. One was Old Mill Cottage at the bottom of Coombe Hill, and the others were three cottages in a row four at High Grove on theImberhorne Laneclose to what was then the Sanatorium for Infectious Diseases [now the amenity tip]. The High Grove Cottages were very small by present standards and eventually after the War were made into two larger ones with more amenities. In 1932 the Ideal Home Bungalow was put up in a corner of the Pony field nearest to the lane; we had to provide a concrete base and a brick chimney to specification and all the rest came in ready made parts and was erected very quickly. I believe that then the whole thing cost a little over £100, though it has been added to quite a lot since.
One family at High Grove we remember very well and that was George Awcock’s. George was a very good worker and a 1914-18 veteran; he would forecast the weather by the state of his frost bite acquired in the trenches. His eldest daughter, Emily, worked for our mother in the house until she married and we children were very fond of her; one of the younger boys, Jackie, worked as a boy on the milk round and continued to do so even after his father left to work at Worsted’s Farm. I think there were perhaps ten children in the family but probably they were never all living at home at the same time. Emily was succeeded in the house by Joyce Weeks from 1935 to 1938 and she too was a great favourite. Another worker who lived at High Grove was a New Zealander calledTaylor. He had three or four children but had great problems in caring for them when his wife left him for a while. Eventually he decided to return to his homeland and worked there in forestry and prospecting and what ever else he could find. John Geering kept in touch with him and considered joining him in a forestry venture. Many years later, when they had both retired, they met again whereTaylorwas living on the West Coast of South Island. At another time, shortly after the War, a Scotsman named Ambrose McClusky lived at High Grove and worked on the farm; it was pure coincidence that he was mentioned when some friends from Lincolnshire were staying with us and it was discovered that he had been befriended by them when in camp near their home outside Boston in the War years. Tom Carter and his family were also at High Grove for a number of years; he had a very dry sense of humour and his wife would repeat his sayings to our mother without any idea that they were funny. Tom’s daughter married another of the farm workers, Fred Stone.
Inside the house there were some changes between 1928 and 1940. In 1932 the wiring of the house for electricity brought much more comfort and convenience. We had not as children been allowed to carry lamps and candles around ourselves and so were used to going round in the dark if we wanted something in another room. I can remember coming to ask if we could put the light on here and there each time before we got used to it. There was a shilling in the slot meter beside the back door and father would take shillings from the leather bag which held the milk round money and fill the meter each weekend before banking. We didn’t have any electric heaters for some time and no electric cooker but an electric iron was a real boon. Our first wireless was an Ultra 44 and we had it for Christmas 1934 and listened amazed to the King’s speech. In the early 1920’s the house had known an accumulator battery set belonging to a cousin who lived with us for a few months. It was then a rarity and many local people came to listen to the wonder. The proud owner would often try to improve the tuning only to lose everything in a great whistle. When father particularly wanted to get the weather forecast he would stand guard with a ruler in his hand to ward off disastrous interference.
In 1935 when gas was installed in the dairy we also had it in the house and then we had a gas cooker in the kitchen and a gas geyser in the bathroom. Life was still not luxurious but few homes were what we would consider really comfortable nowadays.
The War Years 1939 to 1945
The coming of war gave a totally new outlook and direction to the agriculture ofBritainand affected this farm profoundly, too. Production throughout the country was closely supervised in order that the maximum food should be grown at home. Prices were better related to the costs of production and farming began to prosper again and be better capitalised. Agricultural Committees were set up for each County and father became a member of the East Grinstead War Ag. He put in many hours supervising and helping on neighbouring farms and attending meetings in Lewes, and eventually he was asked to take over additional land from Hazleden Farm. He had for some time been an elected member of the Milk Marketing Board which necessitated meeting at Thames Ditton and he was also called to attend meetings of the directors of the Egg Packing Co-operative which met at Tunbridge Wells and in addition to all this he was planning and working to produce the maximum at Hill Place.
Arable farming was again being encouraged and the farm began to grow grain once more; some steep fields were ploughed perhaps for the first time and oats, wheat and barley again came off the fields and into the stack yard. They were harvested by reaper and binder and the sheaves were stood in stooks until the grain was dry enough to be carried in; there were as yet very few combine harvesters inEngland. It was difficult to buy concentrated imported cattle foods so farmers turned to silage made from young green grass or maize sprinkled with molasses to help the bacteria to work. The smell could be high but the cows seemed to like it and do well on it. The poultry population was fully maintained and pigs became an important item too. They were reared not only in the old piggeries but also in a new unit which was set up along side. There were several favourite old sows, especially one called Mimi, and the piglets grew on until they reached the required weight for baconers which was checked on a set of walk-in scales.
It was difficult to maintain the labour force and everyone worked at full stretch; now almost all the work was done by tractors and was more highly mechanised. Hay was no longer carried loose and put in stacks but made into rectangular bales stacked in barns. Some of the seasonal labour was provided by groups coming in from the town for potato picking or at harvest and we had a land girl for a time too who came in mainly to help in the dairy work. Dick Dixon was called up and served inFrance; he escaped on the beaches ofDunkirkin 1940 and after a short time at home went to the Far East and spent the last years of the War as a Prisoner of War inBurma. How everyone watched for the mail and news of these distant friends; Mr Lawry came back to join us and worked on the milk round and took charge of the poultry for the duration. The men, in addition to their farm work, took on defence duties like fire watching, Home guard and Air Raid Precaution Services. Father was an ARP Warden and had to be on the look out during air raids and for most of the War he spent each Saturday night on duty at the Wardens Post near Dunnings Mill.
Mother, like every other housewife, had the difficult job of making rations go as far as possible and deploying the points coupons, meat rations and clothing coupons to the best advantage. It is true that we had plentiful eggs and milk from the farm and garden produce, and on occasion chicken, but the shortages were there for all of us and it was difficult to get much variety into the meals. During harvest time there were extra rations of things like cheese for farm workers but these had to be applied for and bought by the employer. Friday tea time saw the neatly sorted and weighed goods set out on the kitchen table to be collected along with wages. The local Food Control Committee supervised distribution of rations and tried to detect any infringements on the Black Market and the Office of the full-time staff was in the show rooms of Stennings timber merchants. Father was one of the members of the public chosen to be on the voluntary committee and doubtless his experience in the dairy industry gave him valuable insights.
And how did the War affect the daughters of the family? We were all at Church on the Sunday morning when War was declared and the first siren went; nobody quite knew what to do but it was decided that the congregation should disperse so, with a cousin and a friend who were staying with us fromCornwall, we hurried home. After that first false alarm siren there was no enemy activity during a period of about a year of the ‘phoney’ war but our school was shared withClaphamCollege, evacuated fromLondon, and numerous school children and mothers with small babies were billeted in and around the town. We never had any official evacuees in the house but we knew many and they visited us as friends. We all were issued with gas masks and had to carry them everywhere with us and occasionally put them on in class for practise; very rude noises can be produced when you blow the air out at the side of the rubber next to the face!
There was discussion about our going to stay with cousins inCanadafor the War and we had our medicals for it but when a ship with many children on board was sunk the scheme was dropped nationally. So we attended the East Grinstead Grammar School as normally as possible, saw the air raid shelters built on the playing field and at some periods spent more time in them, between ‘Mona’ the warning siren and ‘Clara’ the All Clear, than we did in the classroom; but eventually we took our various examinations and finished our courses. Hilda, the eldest, left school in 1940 and began her training at the Blind Babies Home near Dunnings Mill, later she went to theLondonHospitalfor her SRN training and was there during the blitz. There was great strain on all the staff during those years, particularly on the night of the great raid in August 1944 when there was a direct hit, but they carried on the work there and in the Sectors outsideLondon. Hilda used to come home exhausted sometimes for her nights off and return rested after the relative peace of the countryside. Gwen continued at school until 1943, getting involved in the various war time activities like knitting for the troops and fund raising for charities and the war effort that all school supported.
The boys at school mostly joined the ATC but for the girls a Youth Detachment of the Red Cross was formed and we took courses in Home Nursing and First Aid and did occasional duties at the localQueenVictoriaHospital, famous for its work in caring for badly burned war personnel. One highlight was in 1943 when Gwen was chosen to parade with the South East Group of the Youth Red Cross at a national review by Queen Elizabeth held in the grounds ofBuckinghamPalace. King George was reviewing Home Guard troops in Hyde Park on the same Sunday afternoon and as our Group marched away from the Palace we seemed all set on a collision course with a column of the home guard leaving their parade. Their drill was more adaptable than ours and they courteously marked time until we got ourselves out of the way.
After leaving school Gwen went toLondonUniversitywhich was evacuated toCambridgefor her first year, returning toLondonin time for the V1s and V2s, but also in time for the VE celebrations inTrafalgar Square. Mary the youngest sister was at school throughout the War and was an avid follower of all war incidents, especially those associated with aerial activity. She made a collection of war souvenirs and manufactured brooches out of spent machine gun bullet cases by cutting them in half and soldering a safety pin inside; she also made a war diary by pasting selected newspaper articles into a used ledger from the milk round.
The whole of the South East was like a fortress and theEast Grinsteadarea was no exception. Many Canadian and Irish Guard troops were quartered nearby and on Ashdown Forrest and all roads were mined or prepared for defence. A barbed wire entanglement stretched across Pattendens at the bottom of Coombe Hill and the bank by Hazleden Crossroads had large metal drums dug into it so that, at short notice, explosives could be put in and the bank could be blown up to block the road. There were large cones of concrete lying alongside too which could be rolled out into the road to strip caterpillar tracks from advancing tanks. In 1976 Mr Lawry remembered these defences of the 1940s. “I remember the house at the bottom of the hill from East Grinstead (Old Mill Cottage) being altered by having holes made in its walls all round so that troops could be put in and be able to fire through the holes should the Germans ever come into the country. I lodged inEast Grinsteadand would walk toHill Placeand I was always stopped at this house by a soldier and asked who I was and where I was going.”
Our house experienced some modifications as well; the glass of the windows was painted with a kind of clear plastic and stuck with plastic strips to prevent flying glass if it was shattered by bomb blast. Dark curtains and sheets ofEssexboarding were made into Blackout and had to be pulled or fastened up every night before any lights could be put on; lights in the yard and the buildings were kept to a minimum and even the hurricane lamps were shaded. The cellar was reinforced with wooden posts and crossbeams to form an air raid shelter which would have been safe from everything except a direct hit, but I remember sheltering in it only once. The dining room, which had only one short outside wall, was our usual shelter and at dangerous periods we would all sleep on mattresses under the table or elsewhere on the ground floor, perhaps for weeks at a time. The sound of bomber engines overhead during night raids seemed to be magnified down the great chimney into the dining room. The house has always given shelter and hospitality to a wide variety of people but during the war time this seemed to be greater than ever. Friends working on Civil Defence in London would come down for weekends, a cousin working on the Board of Trade was a frequent visitor; various relatives in the Forces from other parts of Britain and also from overseas came to see us on leave and many who were temporarily separated from their homes.
Some of the wider campaigns and events of the War had their repercussions on the district and on the farm. From June to December 1940 there were many bombing raids, mainly directed againstLondon, but sometimes a plane would jettison its bombs or on a cloudy day a hit and run raider would come down through the clouds and drop a stick of bombs. One night in June a sea mine was dropped near Forest Row, perhaps mistaking the misty valley for water, and the noise was shattering. On another September night a Molotov Bomb scattered its incendiaries across the farm and caught a hedge alight. Heaps of sand had been put at strategic places because it was important not only to save buildings and property from fire but to put out all light immediately, so the incendiaries were soon put out. There were several high explosives dropped on Tilkhurst and Hurley Farms quite close by too.
Anti-aircraft guns were moved about a lot; along with the bivouacs [temporary encampments] of crews. Many were on the high ground ofAshdownForestbut one might meet them anywhere and once there was one outside the Cinema in the middle of town. We saw quite a lot of the Battle of Britain from the yard and fields of the farm in September 1940. For days on end the weather was clear and sunny and by night and day huge bomber formations flew over; once we saw three formations of many tens of planes each, droning their way across the sky, so high up that vapour trails streamed out behind, the fighter escorts weaving a pattern behind them. Often our fighters would be up to intercept once the bombers were over the Ack Ack Zone and a dog fight might develop overhead. We were always supposed to take shelter but it was sometimes too exciting to leave. Mr Lawry remembers “one day when a German plane had dropped a bomb in East Grinstead and then came racing up over the farm, firing its machine guns, I know I had never moved so fast and jumped a six foot gate and dropped in a ditch for protection.” When the fight was over and the All Clear had sounded we would go to look for bullet cases and other souvenirs and after a night raid there might be a ‘window’, strips of black paper with a metallic side, dropped to confuse our Radar detectors.
In early September 1940 an incident occurred of which we were almost eyewitnesses and an account of these times, written in a letter to a friend abroad, was kept by him and returned many years later. I quote it as it has the realism of immediacy:
“It is Sunday evening, my usual time for letter writing, Mummy is writing opposite to me, Mary is painting and Daddy is reading the Observer in the armchair (This distinguished journal has been reduced to one double page now because of the paper shortage). We have just heard two whacking great bombs drop somewhere near and the plane is still cruising about, listening to old Mona, our siren, I expect. There was great excitement at school the other day. The siren sounded about eleven on Friday morning, just before break and our school hooters soon followed and in two minutes all those of us who have special doors to watch, lamps or apparatus to fetch, were at our places and down we went to the shelters. These shelters have got grass growing all over them now and look like ancient tumuli [burial mound or barrow]. All was quiet for a bit so the privileged Sixth sat on the steps and got on with some work, some privilege I must say! Before long however, a swarm of bombers came over escorted by patrolling fighters and down we all bundled into the entrance. The Head Mistress is our form mistress, so she was with us as well as the groundsman, caretaker, kitchen staff and one master, not forgetting two Sixth Form boys who fit up our wireless for us in Shelter 3.
A battle royal started overhead which we got so excited about that we forgot about taking proper cover, then a plane started hurtling down towards us, but still we took no notice. It came on with smoke pouring from its tail and swooped over the playing field, evidently trying to land; we could see the swastikas and crosses as plainly as anything. Its colour was greenish silver with black markings and it crashed onto a house just over the hedge in Felbridge. A cloud of dense black smoke at once started and pieces of ash kept falling all over us. A part of the plane had fallen onto the school field and some idiots of boys at once dashed out to pick it up but they were headed off by the staff as there were still planes overhead. Mr Longhurst the caretaker, didn’t care if there were, he and the groundsman started off just as they were in their shirt sleeves, despite the remonstrances of Mrs Longhurst who devoutly hoped that nobody would recognise him. Nobody felt like settling down to work after that, I can tell you, especially as some spitfires, one being the one who had shot it down, circled through the smoke and roared off above us to the accompaniment of cheers and acclamations of the whole school making its way inside. Later some belated kids, who had to shelter at the station, found dozens of machine gun bullets and clips inWindmill Lane. There was excitement at theCouncilSchoolbecause one bullet came down on the escape hatch of a junior shelter.
Mr Lawry has just come in from putting up some eggs and he says that the explosions were gunfire; they must have moved a gun even closer up to us than before. You know the Leggat’s farm don’t you? (Mill Place, Kingscote) they have had two lots of high explosive and one Molotov bread basket, hardly any of which did any damage. Mr Leggat was just going to bed at the time of the Molotov but he got up pretty quickly and dashed outside, then everybody set-to to shovel earth onto about fifty incendiaries scattered about the stock yard and farm buildings and there were many miraculous escapes. One dropped between two hen houses which were close together and could not be reached except by dropping a round iron water trough over it; another dropped on a wooden trough above the orchard and did not catch it alight and more wonderful still, Mr Leggat saw one drop and roll under a fence, a bit of bark was hanging half stripped off just above it and a sack had been laid over the fence a bit further along, but nothing caught alight. They kept running to and fro with shovels full of earth from the crater in the home field. The telephone wires were broken and the drive messed up a bit but otherwise no damage at all was done. We have had well over two hundred bombs within a radius of five miles from the town I should think, but so far the town itself has not bee hit once….
We sleep downstairs now because of the raids. We have got only nine budgies now because they are becoming too expensive to keep with food shortages in the distance so we have given a good many of them away. The last one we caught this morning for a little girl whose own budgerigar is lonely. They are cutting out all the pines from the lovely woods but they are going to plant again I think and most of the beeches and oaks have been left. We have been having perfect autumn weather, warm and slightly misty but with a hint of frost in the mornings and evenings and the autumn tints are really lovely, better than I’ve ever seen them I think, but then, I always do think that every year.”
During the years several bombs were dropped onEast Grinsteadcausing damage and casualties in October 1940, early 1941 and October 1942, but worst of all in July 1943 when there was a direct hit on the Cinema. Everyone in the town must have known someone involved in that tragedy.
In June 1942 came an incident which made us the envy of all at school. At 11am on June 5th a Lysander plane cruising around on a training flight, came down through low cloud and made a forced landing in the Front Meadow; it taxied across, broke through the fence and across the lane and was brought to a stop by trees in the back garden. We were at school at the time but rumours soon sped around and Jim Dixon dashed home on his bike in the dinner hour to find out what had happened and brought us a report that no one was hurt, not even the two men in the plane, but that an armed guard had been sent to protect the wreckage. When we walked home after school we were stopped at the gate and asked to state our business, which we did with some indignation. Our youngest sister was most hospitable with offers of cups of tea for the guard and was allowed to explore all over the plane and even sit in the cockpit, recreating the adventures of her hero Biggles. Within four days the plane was dismantled and the parts were taken in trucks to Yeovil for salvaging and reassembling.
The summer of 1944 saw the preparations for D Day getting under way. Most of the woods and many open spaces became huge munitions dumps with the shells and other explosives piling up for the Invasion. Our friends, the Leggats at Mill Place Farm, were almost cut off because of security measures and one had to have a pass to go to visit them. One night a Canadian Army group on manoeuvres bivouacked in our yard; the officer had his camp bed in father’s office and the men were supposed to be around the buildings. Various of our friends phoned up during the evening to say that they had been asked how to findHill Placeby Canadian soldiers who had taken the opportunity to slip into town and were not sure how to get back! and then one morning they were all gone, making their way silently to the coast and so to the Normandy Beaches.
We hoped that the War was well on its way to an end but, in some ways, the worst time for the South East was still to come. From June to August the V1s, pilotless planes, flying bombs or doodle-bugs as they were known, came up bomb Alley in a last attempt to defeatLondon. East Grinsteadwas almost on the edge of the Alley but many doodles flew over and many fell or were shot down in the area. Their engines made a great noise if they were low and when they cut out it was said that you could count forty before they exploded. The fighters tried to shoot them down in open country before they reachedLondonbut that too caused damage. Mr Lawry remembers again, “There were a lot of these bugs coming across with a British plane flying along its side and as soon as they passed over the town and reached the countryside the plane would draw close to the bug with one wing just under the wing of the bug and it would then twist sideways which would tip the bug over and down would go the bug into the ground and explode. This happened a good many times. I can see now, after waking up one night, seeing one of the first doodlebugs flying across the sky with the vented flame shooting out from its rear.” We have seen as many as four in the sky at the same time and there was never time before the sirens to give warning. For a time there was a crew of soldiers in the Front Meadow firing flames to try to guide the fighters. Again we spent our nights under the dining room table until the flights died down. V2s followed, but one did not know anything about them until they exploded and not very many fell outsideLondon.
After the rejoicing of VE Day and VJ Day the country settled down to trying to restore damage, return to a normal way of life and see to many things that had had to be neglected during the War. We had for a long time rented the grazing on some rather marshy land belonging to Ridgehill near Kingscote Station and now this was to be drained. The work was actually done by teams of Prisoners of War from a camp at Rowfant, first Italians and later Germans. They would come over in army trucks and spend quite a time boiling their billies and eating their rations, supplemented by boxes of our orchard apples. Eventually they set to work to dig ditches across the land and fence them to prevent the cattle from treading them in again; and, in due time there was improvement in the pasture. The people and the country were wearied after the long strain of war and it took time to recover in peace.
Aftermath 1945 to 1965
The effects of the War were felt for many years after the signing of Peace. Rationing of some food continued into the 1950’s and with it the additional harvest farm rations. It was still difficult to get such things as curtain material because clothes and fabrics were still on coupons and the Utility Mark on household goods, though a guarantee of a standard quality usually meant a limited and rather unexciting choice. During the later years of the War some cracks had appeared here and there in the walls and ceilings of the house due to the indirect effects of the bombs and this damage was assessed and later repaired by the authorities; mother got quite excited in choosing colours for the repainting from a catalogue that she was given, only to be told that in practice the only one was the cream colour. The Agricultural Executive Committee continued to meet and exercise considerable authority on farming policy and the Hazleden land which had been temporarily transferred toHill Place, continued to be farmed with it.
Gradually things returned to pre-war ways but some changes seemed permanent; there was still the considerable arable acreage growing grain and a lot of silage was made, mostly from early grass, and in 1951 and 1952 two silage towers were built of concrete slabs, each with a wood and corrugated iron pitched roof. They stood on either side of the lane in order to be handy for the cow shed. During silage making the grass was cut with the hay mower and allowed to wither a little before being loaded onto the trailers with the greencrop loader and brought in to the silage towers where it was chopped and taken by conveyor belt to be blown up into the towers. Molasses was sprinkled at each layer to help bacteria to work and we sometimes helped to do the sprinkling from watering cans and to trample down the grass. For some weeks, as the silage was fermenting, there would be a very ripe smell in the air and often a sticky dark brown trickle down the side of the drive.
The farm became altogether more mechanised. The last horse was sold in 1952 and we relied entirely on tractors; a rota-bailer arrived in 1954 and the days of the stack yard were over. In 1951 a concrete barn had been built on the site of the stackyard and this elegant looking structure, along with the Dutch barn, was now used for storing the bales of hay and straw. Much of the grain harvest was now done by combine harvesters under contract, perhaps Colin Clarke. The oldSussexstyle waggons were now rarely used and in 1964 two were given to the Sussex Archaeological Society for exhibition at Michelham Priory.
Some other new buildings also appeared during these years. In 1949 more cattle sheds were built around the concrete yard at the drive end of the cattle shed to house a few more milking cows and in 1950 another calf pen was added. In 1953 some ex-army Nissen huts were bought through Mr Chalkley and set up at the top of the poultry field; most of them were used for hens in deep litter but for a while some of them housed pigs. In 1954 new piggeries were built, the parts arriving in sections to be erected on the previously prepared concrete base; a couple of years later electric water heaters were installed here to help in the preparation of the feed. At this time we sent a great many bacon pigs to the Harris factory.
Some of the farm staff during this period were with us for a relatively short time but most were longer. Bill Garbutt and his wife lived in the High Grove Cottage and he was a helpful young man with initiative; he left to make his way inSouth Africabut was drowned duck shooting on a lake soon after his arrival. The stalwarts of the team were still theDixonfamily until his retirement in 1959, and Charlie Langridge and Cyril Wickens. Our father bought High Grove Lodge which had housed the Ambulance driver for the Sanatorium and here one of the men lived until Edward Roberts came to help manage the farm in the late 1950’s and he brought it as his own home. In the meantime, modernisation was needed on the row of four cottages at High Grove and between 1956 and 1959 two good sized dwellings, with bathrooms and roomy kitchens, were formed from the four small ones.
The milk round was sold in 1953 and thereafter the milk went to the Milk Marketing Board. Each morning their big lorry drove into the yard to pick up the churns which would be waiting on the stand outside the dairy. The days of tankers and their pumps were still in the future.
In 1958 the Bluebell Railway Line which ran through the farm was closed by British Rail as part of the axing scheme of Dr Beeching. Paul and our mother, his granny, had a ride to Horsted Keynes on one of the last trains and Mrs Dixon waved to them from the poultry field with a towel. The line was re-opened for a short while again, because of a legal technicality, but then finally closed; over the next few years the rails and sleepers were gradually taken up and the last gravel was removed in 1965. The Broads eventually bought the section that went through the farm, [the line was re-opened in 2013 making travel by train a reality once again betweenEast Grinsteadand Horsted Keynes].
In 1960 big changes in the house made it much more comfortable. A solid fuel boiler replaced the old kitchen range and it provided hot water for the kitchen and bathroom, and for radiators all over the house. The brick floors in the kitchen and scullery were replaced with concrete, covered with lino tiles and the scullery was further modernised by the removal of the copper and the addition of a large stainless steel sink and a big double window. Upstairs a lavatory was added at the end of the bathroom and to give enough height in the sloping roof a small flat roof projected out, and a window gave light.
The family of course experienced many changes during these years. In 1948 Hilda left theLondonHospitaland came to nurse at theQueenVictoriaHospital, eventually becoming the Sister of Dewar Ward. In 1950 she married Eric Scott, who had been at school with us and had served in the RAF during the War, mostly on Radar technology. He and his brother were now in partnership in an electrical business inEast Grinsteadwhich specialised in Radio and later in Television; they were all working very hard to build it up. In 1952 Hilda’s and Eric’s son Paul was born and as a little boy he used to spend a lot of time at the farm with his grandparents.
Gwen took her Honours Degree in history atLondonUniversityin 1946, took a teaching Diploma in 1947 and went to her first job at Sleaford inLincolnshirethat year. She was there until 1964 when she returned to teach inSussexbut spent most of her holidays on the farm. Mary (Flin) trained as a physiotherapist at theLondonHospitalfrom 1947 to 1950 and then worked in theKentandSussexHospitalat Tunbridge Wells until 1954, when she went on an emigrant scheme toNew Zealandintending to return after about two years. However, she met and married aNew Zealandsheep farmer called Jack rose in 1956 and for some years there were too committed with responsibilities there to visitEngland. Their son, Colin was born in 1957 and their elder daughter Alison in 1959. Letters, photographs and visits from their friends made them seem nearer.
The greatest change of these twenty years as far as the family and the farm were concerned was that they came to own it. In February 1953 Mr Edward Blount, the owner of the Imberhorne Estate of which the farm was part, died, and in June Mrs Blount also died. Their two daughters Miss Marguerite and Miss Clare Blount, succeeded to the Estate, though for the time there was no change atHill Placeexcept the sale of some timber. However, in 1957 it was decided to sell some of the land and the Misses Blount offeredHill Placeto our parents on helpful terms as sitting tenants. The offer did not include the Top Fields, which were to go separately for housing development, but it covered all the rest of the farm and the cottages. It was a big decision to take and involved taking up a mortgage; our parents by then were no longer young and had not the same energy as earlier, but they decided to take the opportunity and thus became owners ofHill Place. From then until his death in 1965, father was a Freehold Occupier farming his own land and I think he is the only person to have been in that position so far in its [Hill Place] History.
During the years when their family had left home, our parents continued to work hard, to welcome many friends and family to visit them and to go on with their public work and interests. Mother managed to find time for her painting and exhibited several pictures in the Society of Women Artists inLondonand with the Sussex Artists. One of father’s main hobbies was engineering and he loved to tinker with cars and to improve and maintain the farm machinery. Many a summer evening would see him in his workshop grovelling under some piece of equipment and next morning he would be up at Rice’s Agricultural Engineers welding some part or shaping it at their anvil. Time was beginning to tell though and in 1964 mother was seriously ill in Hospital; she recovered well but father’s health had been undermined by strain and especially by the difficulties of the very hard winter of 1962. Then the milk lorry had been unable to get in for several days and he had taken his own and other people’s churns to a picking up point at Turners Hill on the tractor. By 1964 and in 1965 he had periods in Hospital with angina and had to take life more quietly. In April 1965 he suffered a heart attack at home from which he died [aged seventy two].
After William Nanscawen Broad 1965 to 1972
In the story of a house or farm, as in the story of a family, there seem to be periods of steady activity without great change, and then, perhaps shorter, periods of very considerable reorganisation. So it was withHill Placeafter Nanscawen Broad, our father, died in 1965, and again after mother, Gwen Broad, died in 1972.
Decisions concerning the future and ownership of the farm had to be made by the family in 1965 as father had left no will. Much advice was sought and eventually it was decided that the farm would be kept under a deed of family arrangement and a tenant found. Old Mill Cottage would have to be sold and the money applied to towards paying off the mortgage which was necessary if the whole property were not to be sold. Mr and Mrs Leonard Hobbs from Crondal nearBasingstokeand their son Tom were to be the tenants from March 1966 and in the meantime Edward Roberts, who had overseen the farm for father in later years continued to manage it for the Broad family.
Before father’s death the part of the family inNew Zealandhad planned to be at home for Christmas 1965 and they still carried out that plan. This meant that they were very helpful in consultation and in the practical details of re-arrangements in the house. For some time a young couple called Mercedes and Andy Hare had been living in the bungalow in return for Mercedes helping mother in the house; now the bungalow was to be rented with the farm so it was decided the divide the farmhouse and for them to live in the newer end. TheHobbsfamily were to live at High Grove. This plan necessitated some alterations in order to make each end of the house independent. The former coal house was converted into a downstairs bathroom, the sunken dairy was filled in and made into a coal house, with an outside door leading to the garden and the former box room became a downstairs cloakroom for the old end with a lavatory wash hand basin and cupboards. The builders, W Manning & Sons of Crawley Down who had done much work at different times around the premises, were very skilful in making an airing cupboard from what had in the distant past been a bread oven in the chimney. The cattle medicine and toy cupboard was transformed into a little kitchen with a door into the back porch so that the two ends had separate access.
The staircase at the old end of the house was re-opened and repaired and the little front hall became a passage with a window letting more light into the dining room. It was decided to make the old end of the house lighter by putting a new window upstairs and downstairs on the west end of the house and one upstairs on the east, and by building a sun porch onto the front of the house into the garden. These changes made the two ends of the house separate but they still shared electricity, water and heating systems and connecting doors remained open. The internal alterations were mostly completed in 1965 before theNew Zealandfamily came home and new lion tiles were laid; decorations done and carpet put down with the help of Flin and Jock. Some other alterations were done between January and May 1966 when Mercedes and Andy moved in and the window and porch were begun in the late summer and completed whist mother went on a long visit toNew Zealandbetween September 1966 and April 1967. In April 1966 also a new lavatory was built near the back door for the use of the farm staff.
Meanwhile a sale of farm equipment, 28 cows, pigs and poultry was held on 9th March 1966; many farming friends and neighbours, including the incomingHobbs, made it a good sale. TheHobbs family wanted a much bigger milking herd so the number of stalls in the cowsheds was now insufficient and in any case they needed a milking parlour rather than continuing stall milking. The parlour was built on the area in front of the Dutch barn during August and September 1966 and by September the herd had increased to 42 cows. There was still insufficient accommodation and during the summer of 1969 a set of cow kennels was put up on the far side of the Dutch barn and first used in November 1969.
In 1968 Mercedes and Andy Hare decided to go toSpainto live as that was Mercedes’ home. By then the Hobbs and Broad families had got to know one another well and it was decided that Mr and Mrs Hobbs and Tom should come to live in the newer end of the house and High Grove be used for a cowman. In September 1969 Tom Hobbs married Vera Collard whose parents farmed Brook House Farm at the bottom of Coombe Hill. Their first married home was at High Grove but in March 1970 theHobbswere asked to take the lease of Sainthill Farm and they farmed it withHill Place. The milking herd remained atHill Placeso Mr and Mrs Len Hobbs went to live at Sainthill and Mr and Mrs Tom Hobbs came to live at one end ofHill Place. Tom and a man did the milking and managed the herd.
The next two years were ones of steady expansion and consolidation of the farms but by October 1971 the Broad family experienced a tragic loss when Jock Rose, the son-in-law inNew Zealandwas killed in a car accident. Flin and the three children were very gallant but the shock was great. By December mother was failing perceptibly; in January and February she was in a nursing home and then until May a rest home and came home at weekends and holidays when Gwen was at home. She died in May 1972.
When our mother died in May 1972 further changes became necessary in the use of the old end of the house. Her grandson, Paul Scott married Janis Daniels in November 1972 and the young couple came to share the house with their aunt Gwen, for a while. A kitchenette-dining room was installed where the coalhouse had recently been; no coalhouse was now needed because the central heating had been earlier converted to oil fires. Paul and Janis had the former kitchen, the dining room and the west bedroom; the bathroom was shared. Gwen had the drawing room as a sitting room and it was much enhanced by taking out the Victorian fireplace and opening up the Tudor inglenook which gave the room better proportions. During the work on the chimney a 15th century jeton [token or coin used for calculation between 13th and 17th centuries] was discovered in a crack in the beam over the fireplace. A doorway was opened from this room to the new kitchenette (former coalhouse) and it was found that there had been one there years before, perhaps then opening to the outdoors.
These arrangements for sharing continued until 1975 when Paul and Janis moved to a home of their own in Crawley Down, and then on to Redhill where Paul was in the Police Force. Their daughter Hannah was born in 1977 and Sarah in 1979. By this time Tom and Vera Hobbs had two boys, Tony and Nicholas, and were finding the space limited at their end, so they took over the rooms which Paul and Janis had used. They opened up the big fireplace in the dining room too, and the inglenook was found to be much larger than the drawing room.
By 1978 theHobbsneeded more space at their end and a new project went through the planning stages. Brian Babb, a young builder living in the bungalow with his wife Carole and their little girl; it was he who did the construction. Two new bedrooms and a bathroom were added above the kitchen area at the new end of the house. Room was made by building a roof ridge and gable at right angles to the existing one and the whole was clad with tiles from old farm buildings. TheHobbscontinued to use the dinning room at the old end.
One autumn there was considerable subsidence in the yard at one spot and investigation showed an old well quite close to the back door. It had to be re-plugged and capped but not before the excellent brickwork had been admired.
Two households made considerable demands on the central heating and hot water systems so in 1987 these were divided and anew boiler was installed in the utility room of the old end. At the same time the electricity systems were divided too.
During these years, big changes came in about farming policy. TheHobbsgave up keeping a milking herd and concentrated on grain and beef. They no longer needed the High Grove Cottage and that, with a small adjacent piece of ground was sold to the Wades. Tom began an enterprise called Southern Sheeting Supplies for the distribution of roofing materials, mainly for farm buildings. This proved to be a needed service and flourished well, which was most fortunate as these were not good years in agriculture.
From the early 1970’s it had become obvious that the old buildings set up as a model unit probably in the 1870’s, had no commercial use in modern farming. The two cowsheds, stables, dairy and cottage were area too small for modern machinery and activities but they were costing a lot in maintenance, and even so were becoming dangerous. The space would be put to better use accommodating a large covering shed which could be used for the sheeting supplies or for farming purposes. Planning permission was obtained and in 1987 demolition of the old buildings began. The new covered area was not yet compete before the storm of the night of October 15th to 16th which did much damage to the old Dutch barn and to trees on the drive and around the farm. Eventually the repairs and reconstruction were completed and by Spring 1989 the Dutch barn had been replaced.
The side of the house exposed by the removal of the cowsheds now had to be restored and permission was obtained to put in two windows downstairs on that side. While this was being done and the clap boarding was removed from the upper storey, it was discovered that there had once been three mediaeval windows, one above the other on this side of the house. The plaster on the outside upper part had a pattern incised into it made by a four-pronged comb, making a wavy line alternating with a series of dots. At this time a garage was also built against the inner wall of the former cowshed for the use of the occupants of the old end of the house, using some of the old tiles. What had been a window of the old cowshed looking onto the garden was now made into a doorway from the garage close to the front door.
Rebecca Hobbs was born in 1983 and the boys, Tony and Nicholas, were busy at school and scouts and with various activities during these years. In 1987 tony began an apprenticeship inCrawleyand in 1988 Rebecca too began school. A member of the Rose family fromNew Zealand(the family of Flin Broad, later Mary Rose) and their friends came and went and friends fromCanadaor nearer at hand often made visits too. Hilda and Eric Scott came sometimes from Emsworth where they were now living, but the whole family suffered a great loss when their son Paul died tragically in 1988.
The Old Barn is repaired 2002 – 2003
The old barn at the bottom of the yard has sometimes been dated as 16th century but is possibly much earlier. In earlier times it had a wooden threshing floor running back from the big double doors, a large space on the right and an even larger space on the left. Almost certainly it was used for storing grain in sheaves and grain that had been threshed, and the wooden floor would have provided a hard base for the beating of the flails and the winnowing of the corn. In the time of W N Broad the barn was used mostly for storing commodities like artificial fertilisers and farm implements but also for field potatoes which were later sold on the milk round. These were kept in a clamp and sorted through a riddling machine for size as ware potatoes which were bagged and sold, or chats which were small and were boiled up in a copper to be fed to pigs and poultry. This work was welcome during wet winter weather in the shelter of the barn.
During the early tenancy of Mr Len Hobbs the barn, was for a short time, used for young stock but the pressure of their weight and the build up of straw and manure during the winter were forcing out the bases of the walls , so this was discontinued.
The access through the big double doors, though large enough for old waggons, was not sufficient for large modern machinery so the only use became storage. Gradually it became necessary to spend a considerable sum on repairs, particularly of the timber cladding on the walls, but was this justified? In the late 1990’s we explored the possibilities of converting the barn into a dwelling but we were advised that the access and situation in the yard made this impossible. Deterioration became worse and we consulted various barn experts whose suggestions were far too expensive without increased return to justify them. Eventually, in May 2002, we agreed with Charles Stimpson Associates for them to supervise an operation to do the basic work to safeguard the structure and make it weatherproof. The next months saw frustrating paper work concerning permissions, schedules and safety measures but eventually tenders were sought. In September 2002 the contract was awarded to Valley Builders and work began in November. It was completed in February 2003 with the replacement of the corrugated iron roof of the cart shed at the end of the barn with new roofing from Southern Sheeting.
The early 2000’s saw the start of the northern extension of the Bluebell Railway with the purchase back and clearance of the 600m strip of land within Hill Place, the first step towards re-linking the stations of East Grinstead and Kingscote absent since 1965. The line eventually re-opened in 2013, the event coming five years too late for Gwen to witness.
Research notes and archive of Gwen Broad ofHill Place, FHA
Handout,Hill PlaceFarm, JIC/SJC 01/13.
Texts of all Handouts referred to in this document can be found on FHG website: www.felbridge.org.uk