Little Gibbshaven

Little Gibbshaven

The site of Little Gibbshaven extends along the south side of the Crawley Down Road and Felbridge Road, just before the 'S' bend of Hophurst Hill, being formerly part of the parish of Worth in the manor of South Malling - Lindfield, held as a freehold property by the lords of the manor of Hedgecourt.  It is known that there was once a house on the site but unfortunately this is no longer standing. 

Historically there were close links between Little Gibbshaven and the property known as Gibbshaven Farm that abutted Little Gibbshaven to the north, and although the two properties are closely connected, this document will concentrate primarily on Little Gibbshaven making reference only to Gibbshaven Farm when considered appropriate to the development of Little Gibbshaven. 

The aim of this document is to discuss the derivation of the name of Little Gibbshaven, chart the history and development of the site, assess the development of the site that was latterly known locally as Felbridge Nurseries, and cover the lives of some of the people associated with the property.

As Gibbshaven Farm has been discussed previously and it has been found that there are many joint owners and occupiers for both Gibbshaven and Little Gibbshaven, the histories of these joint owners and occupiers have been condensed for this document [for further information see Handout, Gibbshaven Farm, SJC/JIC 07/07].

Little Gibbshaven - origin of the name

The first use of the name 'Little Gibbshaven' appears in 1600 in a dispute between John Gage and William Blonden otherwise Blundell, with regards to the tenure of land called 'Little Gibbes otherwise Fennes'.  The use of 'Little' preceding Gibbshaven was probably introduced to distinguish between the two holdings that formed the 'lands called Gybbes'.  The most likely origin of the name 'Gibbshaven' and ultimately 'Little Gibbshaven', is based on documentary evidence found in the Court Books for the manor of Hedgecourt and the Lay Subsidy Rolls of the early 1500's, which would suggest that the name derives from land that was held by Gilbert atte Fenne.  In 1530, descendents of the Fenne or Fenner family are recorded as holding 'lands called Gybbes', which, from the Court Books of the manors of Hedgecourt and South Malling - Lindfield, included the site of both Little Gibbes (Little Gibbshaven), and 'Gybbes a ffenne' (Gibbshaven), now called Gibbshaven Farm. 

In 1597 the 'lands of Gybbes' are recorded as 'Gibbs a ffenne' - Gibbshaven, and the implication is that the name was originally a reference to Gybbe, an abbreviation for Gilbert, who held or resided at the area known as 'ffenne or Fenne'.  This equates to 'fen' in modern English, and 'fenn' in Old English, used to describe 'low, flat, swampy land, a bog or a marsh', with 'a fen' an abbreviation for 'at fen', which could also be written as 'a ven' or 'Aven' because the letters 'f' & 'v' were interchangeable.

The name of Little Gibbshaven remained unchanged until 1919 when the property adopted the name of Felbridge Nurseries.

Early history of the site of Little Gibbshaven

The site of Little Gibbshaven was originally part of the manor of South Malling - Lindfield and was held as a freehold property by the lords of the manor of Hedgecourt.  It has so far proved impossible to determine the precise early history of the site of Little Gibbshaven as it did not adopt the name until the end of the 16th century.  However, there is some evidence to suggest that the site may have been part of the land holding known as Husses [later written as Hussiers] or Honeys, or possibly a separate land holding abutting Husses or Honeys to the north. 

The name 'Husses' may have associations with Roger Husse, and his heirs, who were the lords of the manor of Hedgecourt from 1324 until 1374 when William Husse granted the manor of Hedgecourt to Nicholas de Loveyne.  The manor then remained with the Loveyne/Syncler family until 1435 when it passed to Nicholas's great grand-daughter Eleanor, the wife of John Gage.

From the early Court Rolls for the manor of Hedgecourt there is some evidence that what became known as Little Gibbshaven had associations with the holdings known as 'Honyscroft alias Culyncroft', which travelled with 'Warnetts Croft', both freehold properties of the manor of South Malling - Lindfield, that were held of the manor Hedgecourt by the Fenner family until 1535. 

The Fenner family

It is believed that the Fenner family of Sussex descend from Hugh at Fenne, and the earliest mention of an 'at Fenne' in Worth appears in 1332 with John atte Fenne appearing in the Lay Subsidy Roll in the villat of Burle [Burleigh] in the hundred of Bunttyngehulle, the hundred in which Little Gibbshaven was located.  The Lay Subsidy Roll records that John atte Fenne was paying 2/- rent.  In 1367 there is mention of Gilbert atte ffenne of Worth, and it is probably either he or his son Gilbert, that gave their name to the property known as Gibbshaven.  Based on this evidence, the Fenner family probably held land in the Gibbshaven area from the late 1300's.    

In a Feet of Fines of 1400 John ate Fenne acquired 'a messuage and six acres in Worth', from William Mortymer and Agnes his wife.  John is probably John at Fenne of Worth, great grandson of Gilbert at Fenne of Worth.  Later entries found in the freeholder's Court Books of the manor of Hedgecourt suggest that the 'messuage and six acres' may have been part of Honeys Croft.  It is also evident from later entries in the Court Books for the manor of Hedgecourt that this six acre property was later held as part of Gibbshaven. 

The line of the Fenner family that remained in Worth holding the Gibbshaven area descend from John at Fenne, who was probably the son of John at Fenne of Worth.  John acquired Gybbes afen and the 'messuage and six acres' from his father John at Fenne of Worth, and it is this John whose obituary appears in the Court Rolls of the manor of Hedgecourt in 1530. 

Little Gibbshaven in the 16th and 17th centuries

On the death of John at Fenne in 1530, the Court Roll of the manor of Hedgecourt records that the lands known as Gybbes afen, amounting to twenty acres, as well as the holding of 'Honyscroft alias Culyncroft' and 'Warnetts Croft' passed to his son Roger att ffenne.

In January 1535, Roger Aven [atte Fenne] the Court Roll of the manor of Hedgecourt records the grant of the croft of land called Honneys, as well as the croft of land called Warnetts (located to the east of Honneys), to John Gage, lord of the manor of Hedgecourt.  The description of the boundaries in the grant are given as: 'Croft of land called Warnetts in Worth, being on the south, the road from Crawley Down to Leyhhothes Grene, on the east, the road from Leygh Hothes Grene to Sheres stone, and on the north and west John Gage's land called Smyths Fourth.  Croft of land called Honneys in Worth, being on the north, Felbridge Heath, on the west, the road from Sherestones to Crawley Down, and on the south and east, land called Smythes Fourth' (see map in appendix).    

Later, in 1680, Gage is recorded as paying 5s 6d quit rent on a holding that included 'Hussey's alias Honeys, Brookes, Crawle and Shirleys' in the rentals list for the manor of South Malling - Lindfield confirming that the property was held as a freehold of the manor of South Malling - Lindfield by the Gage family, and as lords of the manor of Hedgecourt there is strong evidence that the quit rents for Honneys and Warnetts were collected by the manor of Hedgecourt.  This evidence can be found in associated entries in the Court Rolls and Books for the manor of Hedgecourt referring to a series of leases made by the Gage family between 1567 and 1652 in which 'Honneys Croft' and 'Warnetts Croft' appear together with the properties that formed the manor of Hedgecourt, ie: 'the demesne lands of the manor of Hedgecourt, the lands of Hedgecourt Park, Coddinglighe [Cuttinglye] Park, Sharnowrs, Gages Meades, Cowper [Cooper's] Hill, Tanners, Smythforde Court, the Tylt, and Myllwood [Furnace Wood]'.  However, after the sale of the manor of Hedgecourt to Edward Evelyn in 1747, the collection of quit rents for freehold properties of the manor of South Malling - Lindfield that held been held by the Gage family were returned to the steward for the manor of South Malling - Lindfield, and as such it is recorded that the quit rent for the property known as 'Little Gibbs Aven' was 4d.   


In 1539, the Court Roll for the manor of Hedgecourt, records the alienation of Honey's alias Cuhling Croft, late of Roger att fenn, to John Payne, gentleman.  Unfortunately there are several John Payne's in the area (including the Lord of the manor of South Malling- Lindfield) and it has not yet been possible to determine which one acquired the property.  

In November 1541, John Payne is recorded as holding Gybbes at fenne, when he alienated six acres, 'being part of Gybbes at fenne', to John Jewell de Lymsfield.  These six acres are probably the holding that was originally part of the property known as Honey's alias Cuhling Croft, as referred to in the Feet of Fines of 1400.

In 1562, the Court Book for the manor of Hedgecourt records John Bysshe paying rent for Gibbs Att ffen, containing twenty acres, suggesting that the site of Little Gibbshaven, at this date, was held separately from Gibbshaven, although it has not yet been possible to determine when John Bysshe succeeded John Payne.  However, on the death of John Bysshe in 1582, he is recorded as holding 'a tenement containing twenty-six acres called Gybbesaven now or late in the tenure of Andrew Stone', suggesting that the six acre site of Little Gibbshaven again formed part of Gibbshaven, the twenty-six acre holding passing to his son Matthew. 

In 1567, Edward Gage as lord of the manor of Hedgecourt, granted a twenty-one year lease on the demesne lands of the manor of Hedgecourt, together with other land in the area that included 'Honnyes' and 'Warnars Crofts', to John Thorpe of East Grinstead, a yeoman, for the rental of £40 per annum.  For 'Honnyes' and 'Warnars Crofts' to appear listed individually, and with the absence of  any mention of Gibbshaven, would suggest that they were identifiably independent from Gibbshaven. 

Andrew Stone

In 1579, Andrew Stone is recorded as paying a rental of 2s 6d to John Gage on the property known as Gybbesaven amounting to twenty-six acres, valued at 20/-.  From the parish registers, there is an Andrew Stone living in Worth around this date.  He was married to Susan and they had four children christened in Worth, Susan born in 1580, Andrew born in 1588, John born in 1591 and Joan born in 1593.  If this is the correct family, and there is no conclusive evidence to say it is, then at least Susan could have been born at Gibbshaven as her father, Andrew, is recorded as occupying the property until at least 1582.

After the death of John Bysshe, his son Matthew only held Gibbshaven for a fairly short period of time as in 1597 Thomas Thorpe, the brother of Richard Thorpe held Gibbshaven, paying the 2s 6d rent.  However, in 1600 the Court Book for the manor of Hedgecourt record that William Blonden, otherwise Blundell, had entered on lands called Little Gybbes in Worth, held by the manor of Hedgecourt, suggesting that the six acre site of Little Gibbshaven was under the occupation of William Blundell.

William Blundell

On 19th April 1600, William Blundell was called to the Court of Wards to answer John Gage with regard to his tenure of land called Little Gibbes, otherwise Fennes in Worth.  This document would suggest that by 1600 the six acre site, formerly being part of 'Honnyes', had become known as Little Gibbes, as in 1609, Richard Thorpe was recorded in the list of Freeholders of the manor of Hedgecourt as holding the tenement known as Gibbs at ffenn, before Roger Roger at ffenn, before Simon at ffield, amounting to twenty acres at a quit rent of 2/-, plus other plots called Honys and Hamel Croft lying at Gibbs at ffen, for a quit rent of 6d.  From this entry it would suggest that the 'lands of Gybbes' that had amounted to twenty-six acres, made up of Gibbshaven and the six acre plot purchased by John atte Fenne in 1400, had been divided.  It is perhaps important to note that Gibbs at ffenn, which is now known as Gibbshaven Farm, consisted of twenty acres right up until its recent sale in 2007, and that the site of Little Gibbshaven originally consisted of six acres before the inclusion of two fields off the Common at the east end of the property [date not yet established] that increased the size of Little Gibbshaven to just short of eight and half acres. 

Unfortunately, there are no other references to William Blundell of Worth in the Gage papers, and there is no conclusive candidate for him in the surviving local parish registers, although there is a William Blundell recorded as occupying Felcot Farm on Hedgecourt Common in 1676 who could have had a connection with the William Blundell of Little Gibbes [for further information see Handout, Felcot Farm, SJC/JIC 04/04].

Thomas Thorpe is recorded as holding Gibbshaven until 1609 when Richard Thorpe, his brother and heir acquires the property, paying 2s 6d quit rent.  Evidence from the Court Books for the manor of Hedgecourt implies that Richard Thorpe not only held but also occupied Gibbshaven, although it is unclear whether he was sub-leasing the site of Little Gibbshaven.  On the death of Richard in 1649, Gibbshaven passed to his son Richard who held Gibbshaven until 1672 when he sold his interests to William Saxby of Lingfield.

Unfortunately there is a large gap in the records for the manor of Hedgecourt at the end of the 17th century but by 1703, Gibbs at ffen, containing a messuage and garden with land adjoining [no acreage given] at a quit rent of 2s 6d was held by William Saxby, the nephew of William Saxby, having been held since 1672.

Little Gibbshaven in the 18th and 19th century

As established above, Little Gibbshaven could have been part of Honneys Croft held as a freehold property of the manor of South Malling - Lindfield by the Fenner family until they sold their interest in 1530 to the Gage family.  At this date, Honneys Croft became individually named, appearing as associated lands in subsequent leases of the manor of Hedgecourt.  The site adopted the name Little Gibbshaven from around the end of the 16th century and would appear to have had connections with Gibbshaven, which was held by William Saxby at the turn of the 18th century.  However, the Bourd map of 1748 records that both the areas of Gibbshaven and Little Gibbshaven were held by Mr Green, the area of Gibbshaven being 'Mr Green's', whilst Little Gibbshaven was referred to as 'Mr Green's land' suggesting that it may not have had an associated dwelling at this date. 

The Bourd map was commissioned by Edward Evelyn to depict his newly formed estate of Felbridge after his recent acquisition of the manor of Hedgecourt from the trustee of William Gage who died in 1747.  Bourd was accurate when depicting the buildings that belonged to Edward Evelyn and he also depicted important structures that bounded the Felbridge estate.  For the area of Gibbshaven, Bourd depicted the house at Gibbshaven but for the area of Little Gibbshaven he depicted only a barn adjacent to 'Givessiven Green', now the line of Felbridge Road, the barn being situated roughly where the houses called Halidon and Hoadley now stand.  Bourd did not depict any other buildings on the site of Little Gibbshaven suggesting that there may not have been a dwelling on the site at this date, although from later map evidence it is known that a house stood close to the southern boundary of the holding, the furthest boundary from the edge of the Evelyn estate.

In 1758 the Court Books for the manor of Hedgecourt record that Edward Green paid the sum of 10/- for four years quit rent on '20 acres lying at Gibbs at Fenn', implying that the six acres of Little Gibbshaven were not included in the collection of quit rent for the manor of Hedgecourt.  In February 1760 the Court Book for the manor of Hedgecourt records the presentment of Edward Green, after the death of his father, the presentment being for 'one messuage or tenement called Gibbs at Fenn being by estimation 20 acres, late William Saxby, before Richard Thorpe' for the annual quit rent of 2s 6d.  Again the inference is that the site of Little Gibbshaven is not included in the acreage of Gibbshaven. 

In 1786 the Court Books for the manor of Hedgecourt record the death of Edward Green and his holding of Gibbshaven passed to his daughter and heir, Catherine, the wife of John Cranston.  Catherine Cranston appears in the Court Books for the manor of South Malling - Lindfield as paying 4d quit rent for 'Little Gibbshaven', showing that both Gibbshaven and Little Gibbshaven were in the hands of the Green and Cranston families.  The Worth Land Tax records, which begin in 1780, show that both Gibbshaven and Little Gibbshaven were held by the Cranston family but were being leased separately, with Richard Taylor occupying Gibbshaven and John Apted occupying Little Gibbshaven, being succeeded by Richard Apted in 1782.  However, from the schedule of deeds for Little Gibbshaven, John Ellis is recorded as tenanting land at 'Gibbs Aven and Little Gibbs Aven' in 1797 suggesting that perhaps he was a sub-tenant of either Taylor or Apted. 

The most likely candidate for John Ellis was born in 1749, the son of George and Mary Ellis.  He was christened at East Grinstead on 24th April 1749 and had at least four siblings; Thomas born in 1753, William born in 1758, George born in 1762 and Amy born in 1766.  Unfortunately no other information has yet come to light on John Ellis. 

John and Richard Apted

John Apted appears as the occupier of Little Gibbshaven at the beginning of the Worth Land Tax records in 1780 but by 1782 he had been succeeded by Richard Apted.  Unfortunately there is no clear candidate for John Apted and no connection with Richard has yet been established.  However, the most likely candidate for Richard Apted would appear to have been granted a Settlement Order to Worth on 21st December 1778, having moved from Coulsdon in Surrey.

Unfortunately no birth date can be found for Richard Apted but it is known that he was married Sarah Gibb in 1777.  Richard and Sarah had at least eight children that included; Ann christened in Horne in September 1781, Fanny born in 1783, Richard born in 1786, William born in 1788, Phebe born in 1790, John born in 1892, Thomas born in 1794 and David born in 1797, all christened in East Grinstead.  Unfortunately Sarah died in 1799 and was buried at Horne on 27th October, 1799.  Four years later Richard Apted married Elizabeth Shepperd, a widow, on 14th November 1803 in Worth.

It was probably during the tenancy of the Apted's that a dwelling house was constructed at Little Gibbshaven, which, as stated at the beginning of this document, is no longer standing, and as such there is no structure to survey and no photographs had yet come to light that might give an idea of the structure.  The first depiction of a house appears on the Gardner and Gream map of 1795, along with the barn that was depicted on the Bourd map in 1748.  A clearer depiction of the house comes from the Draft O/S map dated 1805 and shows it sited on the southern boundary of the enclosure, in a position furthest away from the most obvious access road - Felbridge Road.  However, it is not until the sale of Little Gibbshaven in 1895 that a full description of the dwelling is found (details to follow).

The Land Tax records Richard Apted as the occupier of Little Gibbshaven from 1782, paying 5/- rent for the property, until 1825 when he was succeeded by Henry Cresswell.

Henry Cresswell/Criswell 

Henry Cresswell occupied Little Gibbshaven from 1826 until sometime between 1861 and 1871.  He was born around 1791 in Graffam, Sussex and by 1815 had married Elizabeth who had been born in Worth around 1793.  Henry and Elizabeth had at least nine children; Thomas born in 1815, Elizabeth born in 1816, Ann born around 1817, Henry born in 1824, Sarah born in 1827, James born in 1829, Ebenezer born in 1832, Clara born in 1834, and Harriett born around 1839, most of the children being christened in Worth or at the Countess of Huntingdon Chapel, implying that the family were non-conformists.

The Worth tithe of 1839, produced during the time that Henry Cresswell was in occupation of Little Gibbshaven, gives the first detailed break-down of the land that formed the property consisting of:



Name                                      Use


193 E

The Lea                                    P

00. 00. 39


Spring Field                             A

00. 02. 31


Barn Field                                M

00. 02. 21


House, garden & Orchard

00. 02. 25


Meadow                                   M

02. 00. 32


Little Meadow                         M

01. 00. 39


Common Field                         M

02. 03. 21



08. 02. 08



An analysis of the tithe apportionment shows that the majority of the land usage, 82%, was turned over to meadow with only 9% being used as arable and just 3% of the land being turned over to pasture.  This would suggest that Little Gibbshaven was being run as a livestock farm or as a small-holding by this date.  It is also interesting to note that the acreage had increased with the inclusion of Common Field, which had been enclosed and incorporated as part of Little Gibbshaven by this date.

In 1841 Henry, Elizabeth and most of their children were still living at Little Gibbshaven, Henry working as a bricklayer.  In 1851 and 1861 Henry was recorded as a farmer, but by 1871 he had died and his wife had moved from Little Gibbshaven to Glen Vue in East Grinstead where she was living with her daughter Clara who had married Caleb Lucas.  In 1871, Elizabeth gave her status as a widow, formerly a builder's wife, and her son-in-law Caleb was recorded as a bricklayer and chimney sweep, and Little Gibbshaven was in the occupation of Thomas Mitchell.

Thomas Mitchell

Thomas Mitchell took over the tenancy of Little Gibbshaven sometime between 1861 and 1871.  He was born about 1813 in Worth, the son of Henry and Jane Mitchell, and married Ann Terry on 16th November 1933 in Worth.  Ann had been born in 1816 in Worth, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Terry, being related to the Terry family who occupied Parkfields and later Acacia Cottage in Crawley Down Road, Felbridge [for further details see Handout, Acacia Cottage, SO 07/03].  Thomas and Ann had at least seven children; Harriet born in 1834, Thomas born in 1836, James born in 1838, William born in 1841, Mary Ann born in 1843, Ellen born in 1846 and Henry born in 1849, the first three christened at East Grinstead and the remainder christened at Worth.

In 1841, Thomas had been working as an agricultural labourer and the Mitchell family were living in the cottage next to Shepherds Hole in Crawley Down.  By 1851 the family had moved to a cottage between Parkfields and Hophurst Farm and by 1861 they had moved to a cottage in the Snow Hill area before moving to Little Gibbshaven by 1871, Thomas recorded as a farmer of ten acres.  However, by 1881, the Mitchell family had moved to Gibbshaven Farm and were succeeded at Little Gibbshaven by James Gorringe.

James Gorringe

James Gorringe occupied Little Gibbshaven from sometime before 1881, having moved from Gibbshaven Farm where he had been living since around 1860.   He was born about 1823 in Worth, the son of Hezekiah and Jane Gorringe who were occupying Felcot Farm around 1841 [for further details see Handout Felcot Farm, SJC/JIC 05/08] .  In 1841, James Gorringe was living with the Agate family at Hedgecourt Farm, working as an agricultural labourer.  Five years later he married Mary Ann Wilkins on 5th September 1846 in Worth, the daughter of John and Jane Wilkins, who had been born in 1822.  By 1851 James and Mary Gorringe had moved to Southwark and were living with James' youngest brother Hezekiah, working as a coal carman.  In 1852, they had a daughter Mary Jane and in 1855 a daughter Elizabeth Ann, also known as Amy, and by 1861, the Gorringe family had moved back to the Felbridge area and were living at Gibbshaven Farm. 

In 1871, James Gorringe was recorded as 'a farmer of 40 acres at Gibbshaven Farm' but by 1881 James and Mary Ann Gorringe had moved to Little Gibbshaven.  Living with them was their daughter Amy and her husband James Webber, [for further details see Handout, Parkfields, SJC 05/05].  However, it would appear that by 1888 the Gorringe family had left Little Gibbshaven as the schedule of deeds records that the property was in the occupation of Mrs Mitchell.  This was presumably Ann, as her husband Thomas Mitchell had died in 1886, but by 1891 Ann Mitchell had been succeeded at Little Gibbshaven by John Pentecost.

John William Pentecost

John Pentecost succeeded Mrs Ann Mitchell at Little Gibbshaven sometime between 1888 and 1891.  He was born in 1853 in West Hoathly in Sussex, the son of William Pentecost and his wife Sarah née Mitchell (no relationship as yet established with Ann's husband, Thomas Mitchell).  William and Sarah had at least two other children, Jane and Thomas both born about 1851 in West Hoathly.  As a point of interest, Thomas Pentecost went on to become the farm bailiff at Imberhorne Farm [for further details see Handout, The Farm at Imberhorne, SJC 05/03].

In 1880, John Pentecost married Ellen Charman who had been born in 1854 in Godstone, and they had at least seven children; Annie born about 1881, William John born about 1883, Albert born about 1885, Arthur born about 1887, James born about 1889, Millie born about 1891 and Daisy born about 1890, all the girls being born in East Grinstead and the boys in Crowhurst, Lingfield.

In 1881 the Pentecost family were living at Kingscote Cottage, Kingscote in East Grinstead, John working as a carpenter.  By 1883 the family had moved to Lingfield and sometime between 1889 and 1891 they had moved to Little Gibbshaven, John working as a farm labourer.  However, they only occupied Little Gibbshaven for a short period of time as in 1895, Little Gibbshaven Farm, together with Gibbshaven Farm, was put up for auction by Rev. Randolph Charles Marriot, Arthur Hastie, Rev. George Hubert Marriot and Cordelia Isabella Marriot, descendents of Edward Cranston.  At the time of auction, the sale catalogue records that the property was occupied by Charles Wren, and in 1901 John Pentecost and his family were living at Tilkhurst Farm in East Grinstead, where John was working as a stockman.

Charles Wren

Charles Wren was probably a member of the Wren family that were blacksmiths in the Felbridge area working both Woodcock Forge and Felbridge Forge.  However, it is impossible to discern which Charles Wren was occupying Little Gibbshaven at this date as there are at least two potential candidates [for further information see Handout, Golards Farmhouse, SJC 11/07].

Again the Wren tenancy of Little Gibbshaven was for a short period of time as in 1895 the freehold of Little Gibbshaven Farm had been bought by Robert Brain for the sum of £550.00 and by 1901 Charles Wren had been succeeded by William Richard Young.  Although Robert Brain held the freehold he was still liable for paying quit rent on the property implying that it had not yet been enfranchised and was still ultimately in the ownership of the manor of South Malling - Lindfield.

The sale catalogue, dated 10th January 1895, gives a full and complete description of the property known as Little Gibbshaven, and to date contains the only description of the house.  Put up for auction as Lot 1 of two lots, (Gibbshaven Farm being the second lot), the description of Little Gibbshaven is as follows:

Small Freehold Farm

Known as

Little Gibbshaven,

(or Little Gibsaven), comprising

Four Enclosures of Meadow Land

In the Parish of Worth, about one mile from Grange Road, Station, and 2 ½ miles from the

Market Town of East Grinstead.

There is an old-fashioned brick-and-tiled Farmhouse, which contains

Two Good Bedrooms, one with stove; Living Room, with Chimney corner; Kitchen, with copper and small baker's oven, and Pantry.

The Buildings include timber-built and tiled-roof Stable and Cowshed, with yard, brick and tiled Pigsyte, and a Wood Lodge.  There is a capital Well of Spring Water. 

The whole has an area of

8a. 3r. 36p.,

Divided as follows:-


No. on Plan





02. 03. 00



01. 01. 21

823 & 824

(part of)


02. 01. 17

829 & 824

(part of)


02. 01. 00


House & Garden

00. 00. 36



08. 03. 36



This property possesses a very extensive frontage to the road leading from Felbridge to Crawley Down, and it is let to Mr Charles Wren, on a yearly tenancy at the rent of

£16 per Annum,

Who pays all Rates and Taxes, which last year amounted to 17s 2d, and Land Tax of £1 per Annum.


The description of the house implies that it was quite small being of only two rooms upstairs with a living room and kitchen downstairs.  The associated domestic facilities of a copper, baker's oven and pantry are listed as being contained within the kitchen, although there may have been accommodated in an out-shot that is clearly visible on the sale plan.  The description of the dwelling as 'an old-fashioned brick and tiled Farmhouse' would suggest that it was not timber-framed, but as a point of interest, Gibbshaven farmhouse, in the same sale catalogue, was described as 'built of brick and partly tiled' and that structure has been dated to the mid to late 14th century [for further details see Handout, Gibbshaven Farm, SJC/JIC 07/07]. 

There is no mention of the barn that was depicted on the Bourd map of 1748, although a structure appears in the correct position on the sale plan in field no.824, perhaps having been converted as either the timber-built stable or cowshed.  The land usage also confirms that Little Gibbshaven was being run as a livestock farm, probably as a dairy farm, as there is no allocation of arable land on the premises.

The following statements appear at the end of the sale catalogue:

This Property is believed to be Copyhold of the Manor of Framfield, and is subject to an annual quit rent of 13s 8d to a Heriot (best beast), on death or surrender, unless the surrender still remains seized of an entire tenancy of copyhold land.

Notes - The Shooting on both Farms is let for this season at the rent of £10 per Annum.  Both lots are sold subject to the existing tenancies, and as to the tenant's rights thereunder the purchaser is to be considered as having full knowledge of the same.

The timber, timber-like trees, tellers, pollards and saplings, down to the value of 1s per stick, and the underwood down to the stem, standing on both lots, are to be taken by the respective purchasers at valuations in the usual way, and paid for by them respectively in addition to the amount of respective purchase-moneys.

The Land is all in good heart and condition.  It is not often that Farms of this size come into the market in this neighbourhood, and the sale offers a Good Opportunity for Investment.

The term 'This property' referred to both Little Gibbshaven and Gibbshaven and it is unclear why it was believed to have been held of the manor of Framfield, but it is with this sale that both Little Gibbshaven and Gibbshaven Farm left the freehold of the Cranston family, the freehold of Little Gibbshaven being purchased by Robert Brain, although he only owned the property until 1904 when he sold it to Robert Charles Head of Lingfield. 

Robert Brain 

As already established, Robert Brain purchased the freehold of Little Gibbshaven in 1895.  He was born in 1831, the son of Richard and Mary Brain of Croydon and was one of at least five children, his siblings being; Hannah born around 1820, Mary Ann born around 1824, Benjamin born around 1827 and Elizabeth born around 1829.  In 1841, the Brain family were living in Surrey Street in Croydon, Richard working as a currier.

In 1851 the Brain family were recorded as living at 27, Surrey Street and around 1859 Robert Brain married Phoebe Dakin, the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth.  Phoebe had been born on 22nd November, 1830, although she was not christened until 15th November 1832.  Robert and Phoebe had at least six children; Phoebe born around 1860, Robert born around 1861, Celia born around 1863, Benjamin born around 1865, Rosa born around 1868 and Arthur born around 1874.  The Brain family remained at 27, Surrey Street until sometime between 1891 and 1901 when they moved to 26, Surrey Street. 

Robert spent his working life as a leather seller, and the Brain family do not appear to have occupied Little Gibbshaven, choosing to remain in Croydon.  The most likely reason for the purchase of the freehold was as an investment as the property was leased by him to William Richard Young during his ownership.

William Richard Young

William Young occupied Little Gibbshaven from sometime around 1901, having moved from Gibbshaven Farm.  William was born in 1849 in Lingfield, the son of John and Sarah Ann Young, one of six children who included; Jane Penelope born in 1845, Henry born in 1853, Charles born in 1855, Gertrude born in 1853 and Thomas born in 1860, all christened in Lingfield.  William Young married Mary Jane Holman in 1885 and had at least six children, Easty Annie born in 1876, John born in 1888, Archibald born in 1890, Edward born in 1894, Aubrey born in 1897 and Lydia born in 1899, all christened in Worth. 

In 1871, William Young had been working as a butcher but by 1881 he had moved to Miles Farm, now Michaelmas Farm, off Copthorne Road, where he was recorded as 'a farmer of 37 acres'.  By 1891 he had moved to Gibbshaven Farm, and by 1901 William Young and his family had moved to Little Gibbshaven, however, at present it is unclear when the Young family left Little Gibbshaven.

Little Gibbshaven in the 20th century

At the turn of the 20th century, the freehold of Little Gibbshaven was owned by Robert Brian, and the property was in the occupation of William Young.  Unfortunately, in 1904 Little Gibbshaven farmhouse caught fire and burnt down.  A local newspaper article described how the building could not be saved as the fire had taken hold of the large beams, implying that it may actually have been of timber frame construction although it was described in the sale catalogue of 1895 as an 'old-fashioned brick and tiled Farmhouse', and perhaps, like Gibbshaven, which was described identically in the same catalogue, the façade was hiding a much older structure.  With no farmhouse, Little Gibbshaven was put up for sale on 12th August 1904 by Robert Brain and was sold to Robert Charles Head of Lingfield in Surrey, for the sum of £700, with a further £40 for the timber standing on the property at the time of purchase.

Robert Charles Head

Robert Charles Head was born in the spring of 1853, the son of Charles and Jane Head of Lingfield.  Charles, originally a carpenter by trade, went on to become a builder in the Lingfield area.  Apart form Robert, Charles and Jane had at least six other children including; William born about 1849, Lydia born about 1862, Alma born about 1864, Emily born about 1869, Kate born about 1871 and Mabel born about 1874.

Robert, like his father, trained as a carpenter and in the spring of 1875 married Eliza Cockrell who had been born about 1854.  Robert and Eliza had at least five children including; Lillie Frances born about 1876, Charles Robert born about 1877, Raymond born about 1879, May born about 1888 and Maggie born about 1889.

By 1881 Robert and his family were living at 1, North Street in Lingfield, moving to Station Road, Lingfield, by 1891 and Western Villa in Lingfield by 1901, being listed as a builder.  Robert together with his son Charles built up the family firm that still operates today as Head & Southon from 18, East Grinstead Road, Lingfield.

On 21st May 1907, Robert Head sold Little Gibbshaven to Ebenenzer Cayford of Huntslands, in Crawley Down, for the sum of £800.

Ebenezer Cayford

Ebenezer Cayford was born around 1836 in Marylebone, London, the son of James and Lydia Cayford.  James worked as a coach smith in Marylebone, and he and his wife Lydia had at least seven other children including; James born about 1822, William born about 1827, Phyllis born about 1830, Lydia born about 1833, Samuel born about 1838, Daniel born about 1840 and Rebecca born about 1848.  Of these, James, William, Samuel and Daniel all trained as blacksmiths, Phyllis worked as a dressmaker, and Lydia and Rebecca worked as nurses, although by 1871 Rebecca was working as a 'saleswoman in toys'.

In 1851 Ebenezer was studying as a medical student but by 1861 he is recorded as the head of household at Grove Road, Marylebone, implying that his parents had died as the household included his brothers Samuel and Daniel, sisters Lydia and Rebecca, a nephew called James Cayford, a visitor called Emma Puddifoot working as a milliner, and one servant called Emily Wacketts.  By 1851 Ebenezer was no longer studying medicine but was working as a ship broker's clerk, and within a couple of weeks of the census, Ebenezer had married Emma Puddifoot who had been born about 1846 in Paddington.

By 1871 Ebenezer and Emma Cayford had moved to 120, Palsdon Road, Paddington, Ebenezer still employed as a ship broker's clerk.  However, living with them were several boarders suggesting that they may have been making additional income by letting rooms.  In 1876, Ebenezer and Emma had their first child, Nellie Maud, followed in 1878 by Alfred.  By 1881 the Cayford family had moved to West Lark, Edgeware Road, Ebenezer recorded as an Australian ship broker.

By 1891 the Cayford family had moved to 64, Hamilton Terrace, Marylebone, Ebenezer still employed as a ship broker, but by 1901 they were living at Meads Road, Eastbourne in Sussex, and Ebenezer was recorded as a ship owner.  By 1907, at the time of the purchase of Little Gibbshaven, the Cayford family had moved to Huntslands off the Turners Hill Road in Crawley Down.  At the time of purchase, Ebenezer was described as a gentleman, having risen up the social scale during his lifetime from being just the son of a coach smith.  However, his ownership of Little Gibbshaven was short as he died on 26th March 1908, and on 14th September 1908 Little Gibbshaven was sold by Ebenezer's daughter, Nellie, to Barry Fenton Thomas for the sum of £850.   

Barry Fenton Thomas

The most likely candidate for Barry Thomas, based on the fact that only one appears in the 1901 census, was born about 1886 in Camberwell.  In 1891 Barry Thomas was recorded as a visitor of his uncle John Simpson, together with his mother Ruth who born about 1860, and his siblings Herbert, born about 1883, and Annie born about 1884.  In 1901 Barry was still living with his uncle and was working as a solicitor's clerk. 

It is unclear what was happening at Little Gibbshaven during the ownership of Barry Thomas, but on 9th August 1912 he sold the property to Alexander McNeill of 29, Green Street, Mayfair, for the sum of £550.  At the time of sale, Little Gibbshaven was listed as under the occupation of Edward Marden, suggesting that he could have held the tenure during ownership by Barry Fenton.

Edward Marden

Edward Marden was born in 1854, in East Grinstead, the son of Henry and Rebecca Marden.  Edward Marden married Alice Elsey in 1877 in East Grinstead and they had Frederick K in 1878 and Maude born in 1882.  However, shortly after the birth of Maude, Alice died at the age of just twenty-four, and             in 1884 Edward married Sarah Ann Smith.  Edward and Sarah had at least five children including; Kate born in 1886, Lillian M born in 1888, Percy Alfred born in 1889, Thomas Edward born in 1892 and Dorothy Mable born in 1894.  Kate and the last two children were christened in East Grinstead and Lillian and Percy were christened in Lingfield.

In 1881 Edward Marden and his family were living at Croft Cottage, next to Halsford House at North End, Edward working as a labourer.  By 1891, the family had moved to 4, Windmill Lane, East Grinstead, Edward still working as a labourer.  In 1901 the family were living at Gibbshaven Farm and Edward Marden was recorded as a farmer.  However, it is known that he left Gibbshaven Farm sometime during World War I, being succeeded there by Alfred Searle [for further information see Handout, Gibbshaven Farm, JIC/SJC 07/07], and went to work at the nursery that was being established on the site of Little Gibbshaven by Alexander McNeill.  It is also known that sometime between 1912 and 1919 a cottage, now called Minstrels, was built on the site of Little Gibbshaven to accommodate the nursery foreman so it is possible that Edward Marden moved there from Gibbshaven Farm, and remained there until at least 1919 when the site of the nursery was sold to Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. 

From photographic evidence, the nursery on the site of Little Gibbshaven was growing tomatoes and possibly peaches in at least one of the glasshouses, and had a workforce of five men and two boys.  Also from photographic evidence, goats were also kept on the undeveloped fields, possibly to keep the grass down.

Alexander McNeill  

As established above, Alexander McNeill purchased the site of Little Gibbshaven in 1912, but unfortunately it has not been possible to find a conclusive match for him as he could be one of several candidates found in the national records.  However, it is known that the site of Little Gibbshaven, amounting to nearly nine acres, was developed as a nursery during the ownership of Alexander McNeill, the business going by the name of the Horticultural Travelling Structures Company Ltd., which had been founded in 1894.

Sometime between 1912 and 1919, four large wooden-framed glasshouses and one smaller glasshouse were constructed in Common field, formerly field no. 820 on the sale plan, which by 1912 had become field no.228 on the Ordnance Survey map.  The four largest were some of the biggest glasshouses built at that time, being 50ft (15.4m) wide and 150ft (46.2m) long.  They were built as a block of four, joined together, with the smaller one attached to the west end of the block, and they were heated by large coal fired boilers.

The main crops being grown at the nursery at this date is thought to have been peaches that were transported to Covent Garden Market by horse and cart.  One of the local legends that was handed down through the nursery workforce tell of how the driver, having always managed to get to the market, was generally drunk by the time he got home to Felbridge having stopped at all the pubs on the way back.  Fortunately, the horse knew how to get home without guidance!  Also, it was quite common for the wheels of the cart to get stuck in the tram rails in London and break, so a spare wheel was always carried on the journey.

On 24th April 1919, shortly after the end of World War I, the company known as the Horticultural Travelling Structures Company Ltd., together with Alexander McNeill, sold the nursery on the site of Little Gibbshaven, which at the time was under the occupation of Edward Marden, to the newly formed company called Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. for the sum of £3,250.

Felbridge Nurseries Ltd.

Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. was been set up by the Hon. Rupert Edward Cecil Lee Guinness CB, CMG, ADC, MP, (later 2nd Earl of Iveagh), together with Percy James Machin and Cecil Courtney Chorley, on 22nd April 1919.  As established above, on 24th April 1919, Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. purchased the site of Little Gibbshaven together with the stock in trade of the Horticultural Travelling Structures Company Ltd, which included the following:



14125 Pots, size 60s (small, medium and large)

    195 Pots, size 48s

      91 Pots, size 32s

    372 Pots, size 16s

    162 Pots, size 12s

      12 pots, size 12 inch.

510 Seed Boxes

16 bundles of Training Sticks

2 large wooden tubs

2 potting benches

150ft x 5ft staging

Large iron Tank

44 Peach Trees

                6,             16 inch pots)

                6,             14 inch pots) - Planted with peach trees

3,               9 inch pots)

4 Stoking Tools, Coal Hammer and Shovel

1 Screen

15ft x 11ft Tilt

6 Stoking Tools and Flue Brush

1 20 gallon Galvanized Pail

3 Ordinary Galvanized Pails

1 Small Hand Bowl

2 Scrubbing Brushes

1 Syringe

4 Water cans, 5 Roses

1 Hoe

1 Spring Balance

1 Plant Barrow

4 Thermometers

1 Sieve

1 60ft length 1in hose

3 Pairs of Steps

2 Wooden Stands

6,000 canes, 3ft to 6ft

2 Pairs, 8ft Tressell New

2 Plant carriers 4ft x 2ft 6ins, New

One Spray and Connections

3 Garden baskets

2 Wheelbarrows

1, 1in Cold Water Valve and connections to 2ins

7, 4ins Hot Water bends

1, 3ins Drain pipes

1, 6ins Drain pipes

2 Cultivation Hooks

3 Trowels

1 Line and Reel

1 Turfing iron

1 Bill hook

3 Shears

1 Small Digging Fork

3 Spades

5 Digging Forks

3 Rakes

5 Hay Forks

1 Scythe

66ft Tape

Spirit Level

Quart Measure

2 Spanners

1 Adjustable Spanner

1 Horse and 1 Pony

5 Sets of Haynes (not cerplets)

2 Corn bins


1 Broom

1, 2 Wheel Cart

2, 4 wheel Carts

Chaff Cutting Machine

2 Ladders

Cow Shed, 2 Tubs

1 Hay Cutter

1 Water Cart

1 ½ in Wood Chisel

1 1¼ in Wood Chisel

1, 2ft Rule

1, Brace Rule, 7 Bits and Drill

Screw Driver



Pail Lifter

Wire Brush

Coal Hammer

Box of Nails

2 Spanners

1 Pair of Wire Cutters

Small pair of Scissors

4ft of High Tension Wire

Rubber Stamp and 3 Pads

10ft, 2ins Hose and Connections

1 Stove in Shed

1 Plant Protector and Lights

3 Plant Protectors (without lights)

1 Strebel Boiler (Old)

4, 4ft Lights

Small Saw

2 Paint Brushes



Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. paid a further £625 19/- on top of £3,250 for the stock in hand of the Horticultural Travelling Structures Company Ltd.

As established above Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. was set up by the Hon. Rupert Guinness, Percy James Machin and Cecil Courtney Chorley, the bulk of the shares in the company held by Hon. Rupert Guinness. 

Rupert Edward Cecil Lee Guinness, 2nd Earl of Iveagh

Rupert Guinness was born in London on 29th March 1874, the son of Sir Edward Cecil Guinness and his wife Adelaide, the daughter of Samuel Guinness.  Sir Edward was 1st Baron and Earl of Iveagh and became the richest man in Ireland after floating the family brewing company Guinness.  Guinness Brewery had been founded by Arthur Guinness, Rupert's three times great grandfather, in 1759 at St James Gate, Dublin, and by 1833 it had become the largest brewery in Ireland.

Rupert Guinness was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, and served with the Irish Hospital Corps in the Boer War in 1900.  He later served as a Captain in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was commanding officer of HMS President from 1903 until 1920. 

Rupert Guinness married Lady Gwendolen Florence Mary Onslow in 1903, and they had at least five children; Richard who was born in 1906 but who sadly died shortly after birth, Honor Dorothy Mary born in 1909, Arthur Onslow Edward born in 1912, Patricia Florence Susan born in 1918, and Brigid Katherine Rachel born in 1920.  As a point of interest, Arthur married Elizabeth Cecilia Hare and served with the Royal Artillery in World War II but was sadly killed in action in February 1945, and Brigid married Frederick, Crown Prince of Prussia, and died in 1995.

Between 1908 and 1910, Rupert Guinness became Unionist MP for the East End constituency of Haggerston and between 1912 and 1927 MP for Southend in Essex, being succeeded by his wife Lady Gwendolen.  On the death of his father Sir Edward Guinness in 1927, Rupert succeeded him as Earl of Iveagh and chairman of the family brewing business in Dublin, which he greatly expanded during his control.

Along side the brewing business, Rupert Guinness was a keen agriculturalist and transformed his 23,000 acre estate at Elveden in Suffolk, into a productive farm by investing in dairy cattle and using their manure to fertilise the land.  It may have been due to his interest in agriculture that he invested in the nursery site in Felbridge, which continued to grow peaches and introduced nectarines, to sell at Covent Garden Market until the out break of World War II when the Ministry of Food decreed that all production of luxury foods was to cease in favour of basic food stuffs.  It was therefore during the war years that the growing of peaches and nectarines was replaced by the growing of tomatoes at the nursery.  All the produce grown at Felbridge Nurseries was carted to Covent Garden Market and sold through T J Poupart (further information to follow).

Unfortunately little information has yet been found on Percy Machin, one of the other partners of Felbridge Nurseries Ltd.  There is a candidate born in 1881 in Hackney but this cannot be conclusively proved to be the correct Percy Machin.  The only other information known is that he was residing at Hare Court, 62, Aldergate Street, London, in 1919 when Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. was formed.  However, a little more information has come to light on Cecil Courtney Chorley.

Cecil Courtney Chorley

Unfortunately it has not been possible to determine when Cecil Chorley was born, but it is known that he served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and it would seem likely that it was through this association that he became acquainted with Rupert Guinness.  Cecil married Irene M Collis in the September quarter 1913 in Barnett and they had a son, Peter C born in the September quarter 1914. 

At the time of the formation of Felbridge Nurseries in 1919, Cecil Chorley and his family were living at Retford, Chardwick Road, Westcliffe-on-Sea, Essex, and at this date Rupert Guinness was MP for Southend, which is a close neighbour of Westcliffe-on-Sea.

Information from Dave Wedge, an older local residents of Felbridge whose father Arthur Wedge worked as the boiler stoker at Felbridge Nurseries, suggests that Cecil Chorley was the partner who over-saw the daily running of the nursery, moving from Westcliffe-on-Sea to a newly built house at North End that he named Retford, which still carries the name to this day, being located just short of Sackville Lane when heading towards East Grinstead.  Cecil Chorley was living at Retford, North End, by 1924 and was still living there during World War II.

Dave Wedge recalls that his own family moved from One Oak, Rowplatt Lane, to the house on the site of Felbridge Nurseries, now called Minstrels, Dave's older brother Kenneth being born at Minstrels in the late 1920's.  In the early 1930's, when the Wedge family had expanded yet again, they moved to Spinbaldack in Crawley Down Road.

Arthur Wedge worked at Felbridge Nurseries, possibly from its formation, under Mr Chorley.  Other workers employed during his time at the nurseries included Arthur Tingley from Crawley Down, Eric Brown from East Grinstead and Mr Simmons [first name forgotten] also from Crawley Down.  Arthur Wedge was in charge of the big boilers that had to be kept running in cold weather.  Even on a Sunday, if the family went out, he had to be back to stoke the boilers.  During the war, when coal was rationed, it was quite a feat for him to keep them stoked as he had to ensure that there was enough coal from the coal merchants, Hall and Co., of East Grinstead.     

During the 1930's and the war years, the nursery only covered the land to the east of the current site, the land to the west being leased to the Prevett family of Gibbshaven Farm who used the fields as additional grazing for their dairy herd.  During the war, the nursery only grew tomatoes, all that the Ministry of Food would allow them to grow, and Mrs Pentecost, who lived at 2, Warren House Cottages [now the half of Vine Cottage nearest to the nursery], used to help every summer.  She would pick and sort the sizes of the tomatoes, pack the tomatoes into boxes that were then taken up to Covent Garden Market.  Also during the war, the nursery were issued two land army girls who came to help at the nursery, being housed in Minstrels 'after it had been done up'.

The nursery made all its tomato boxes.  They used pre-cut wooden slats that were nailed together using a large machine.  This machine had to be filled up with nails and operated by pulling a lever down with your hand at the same time as pushing your foot down onto a pedal, firing a nail into the joint when the slats were in the correct position.

One event that Dave remembers well, as he was at the nursery at the time, was that Mr Chorley's son, who was in the Flying Corps of the Royal Navy, 'buzzed' the greenhouses one day.  He had flown along Crawley Down Road in his bi-plane and then dived on the glasshouses, pulled up and did a loop-the-loop.


Throughout the operation of Felbridge Nurseries under Cecil Chorley, the business built up a reputation for its fruit, which was sold at Covent Garden Market through T J Poupart under the banner IMC, the initials of the three partners -Iveagh, Machin and Chorley.  This trade mark was to be used right up until 1971 when the last fruit, by then only tomatoes, were grown for market.

T J Poupart

There had been Pouparts in the Felbridge area since at least 1911 with Martin Poupart was in the occupation of Park Farm off Woodcock Hill, and one Mr G Poupart was leasing land at what is now Llanberis Farm, Crawley Down Road, [for further information see Handout, Llanberis Farm, SJC 07/07], opposite Felbridge Nurseries.  Also, Poupart tokens inscribed with W Poupart, Covent Garden, have been found at Park Cottages on Copthorne Road.  These tokens offered the bearer ½ a load of lettuce, 1 load of cauliflower, one shilling (over-stamped with 45) and 2/6.

The company T J Poupart, known as TJP, was founded by John Poupart who was born in 1876, the son of William Poupart of Marsh Farm, Twickenham.  The Poupart family descend from Jean Poupart, a Huguenot who arrived in England in the mid 18th century, and from at least 1776 his son Jacque operated a market garden business from Stamford Bridge on the site of Chelsea Football Ground from at least 1776.

In 1892, John Poupart, the great, great nephew of Jacque, began travelling to Covent Garden Market to sell his father's produce.  In 1895 John Poupart was approached by some of the smaller growers with the request that he might sell their produce for them.  He accepted and formed a separate business that went by the name of T J Poupart, the 'T' standing for Twickenham.  Today, TJP has developed from a single proprietor business growing and marketing its own produce, to a subsidiary of a major food group representing growers from all over Britain and around the world, supplying every type of client.

It is through TJ Poupart that the produce of Felbridge Nurseries was sold at Covent Garden Market right up until it stopped growing fruit in 1971.

Sale of Felbridge Nurseries Ltd.

Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. continued under the ownership of Rupert Guinness, Percy Machin and Cecil Chorley until 1st December 1950 when it was sold to partners Herbert Otton and Alfred Edward Pedley of Midway, West Common, Haywards Heath, and Percy Victor Jeffries of Silverburn, Balcombe Road, Haywards Heath.  On top of the sale price, an extra £750 was paid for the purchase of plant, equipment, stocks of coal, manure, seeds, tools and fixtures and fittings, together with all the stock in trade in and about the premises of Felbridge Nurseries.

The Jeffries Family

Jeffries family legend states that they originate from sheep farmers in Kent, around Bexleyheath, before Frederick Jeffries bought the land where IKEA now stands on the Purley Way in Croydon, in the late 1800's.  From here Frederick grew roses that he showed at Crystal Palace for which he won numerous medals that the family still own.  

Frederick James Jefferies was born about 1864 in Dover in Kent, but unfortunately it has not yet been possible to determine the names of his parents or siblings.  In the spring of 1885 he married Sarah Ann Wingrave, the daughter of Thomas and Eliza Wingrave.  Sarah was born in 1867 and christened at Walkern, Hertford.

Frederick and Sarah had at least six children including; Edward born about 1886, Lydia born about 1888, William born about 1892, Arthur born about 1894, Albert born about 1896, and Percy Victor born about 1898.  The first three children were born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, Arthur and Albert were born in North Cray, Kent and Percy was born in West Wickham, Kent.

In 1891, Frederick Jefferies and his family were living at Rose Nursery Cottage, Elwick Road, Ashford in Kent, where he was working as a nurseryman.  In 1901 Frederick and Sarah had moved to 13, Welles or Willes Road in Thornton Heath, Croydon, Frederick, along with his son Edward, both employed as gardeners.

According to family legend, Albert also trained as a gardener and worked for various private houses and estate.  Albert married Elsie May Ogden in the spring of 1919, the daughter of John and Harriett Ogden.  Elsie was born in 1900 and was christened in Lincoln.  Albert and Elsie had two sons, Percy Victor born in 1920 and Ronald born in 1922.  Both boys trained in floristry and green grocery, the Jefferies family running three shops in the Croydon area until World War II interrupted.

In 1946, just after the end of the war, Albert and his sons Percy and Ronald bought a nursery in Haywards Heath in Sussex, which they sold in 1950 for development.  Albert and his son Ronald each bought their own nursery, one in Holland-on-Sea and the other in Basildon, and Percy Jeffries, together with two partners Herbert Otton and Alfred Pedley, bought Felbridge Nurseries Ltd.

Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. under the Jeffries

Records show that at the time of purchase by partners Herbert Otton, Alfred Pedley and Percy Jeffries in 1950, the nursery glasshouses extended to about one and half acres and were heated by six hand-fired coal boilers.  Between the wars, the original four large wooden-framed glasshouses had been rebuilt as a block of eight, being 28ft (8.6m) wide by 150ft (46.2m), and the smaller glasshouse had been retained but the wooden framing had been replaced by metal. 

At the time of purchase the nursery only produced seven tons of tomatoes per acre, and soil-borne disease was rampant.  Percy Jeffries started a programme of sterilisation to overcome the disease problem and within twenty years the tomato crop had risen to eighty tons per acre, although today production needs to be at nearly 300 tons to break even!

To rest the soil between crops of tomatoes other vegetables were grown that included climbing beans, cucumbers and lettuce.  The open fields were brought into use for growing sweet peas and chrysanthemums that were dug up in September and October and transferred to glasshouses for flowering in November and December.  Early indoor sweet peas were also grown along with stocks, and for several years Felbridge Nurseries had the order for a special pale blue stock for the Queen Mother for use at Ascot.  Beans were also supplied via Fortnum & Mason, for the Royal Train journeys.

Eventually, Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. became the sole ownership of the Jeffries family, which by the 1960's included Percy and his three sons.  The first expansion of the business came in 1969 with the erection of half an acre of a Dutch designed Venlo structures.  The Venlo commercial glasshouse has a standard roof width of 10ft 6ins (3.2m) and can be made up of between one and four roof sections supported with galvanised steel and aluminium lattice girders, making the structure extremely versatile and giving maximum light levels when required. 

During the fuel crisis of the early 1970's the new Venlo glasshouse was put down to carnation blooms for two years as they needed very little heat.  During this period indoor plants began to gain popularity and from 1973 the nursery only produced pot plants, 80% of the production going to Woolworth's, the plants being sold in their 1,200 shops across the country.  Felbridge Nurseries became Woolworth's third largest supplier and peaked in the early 1980's when £250,000 of plants were sold for Mother's Day in just seven days.

In 1962/3, the nursery embraced changes from the original hand-fired boiler to an automatic coal-fired central boiler-house, which, in the 1970's became oil fired.  At peak heating times about 120,000 litres of oil were being used per week, and because of Woodcock Hill and possible icy roads, six weeks of oil had to be kept in stock.  In the Great Storm of 1987, about 30% of the old glass was damaged and an immediate rebuilding programme was instigated with the decision taken to replace everything.  The whole nursery was re-built at a cost of £750,000.  A new heating system was installed and the latest technology, with supplementary sodium lighting, thermal screening and heated zone benches introduced.  In the 1990's all the heating equipment was converted to gas and in 2000 it cost £1,000 per night to heat and the nursery then extended to four and half acres of glasshouses, producing some 1.5 million pot plants. 

However, after the rebuilding of Felbridge Nurseries there was not enough profit being made to support the remaining three owners, (Percy Jeffries having retired some years earlier), and thirty-five members of staff.  One of the remaining three partners retired from the business in 2001 in an attempt to lower overheads and other cropping changes were made to reduce the fuel cost but to no avail. 

In March 2006, Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. closed, the heating bill having reached £3,000 per night during cold weather.  Attempts were made to find a buyer for Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. to allow the site to continue as a nursery, but all attempts failed.  Subsequently, the whole of the property was sold to Welbeck Land (Felbridge) Ltd, a development company, to settle all outstanding bills and pay back all loans.  It is because of today's high fuel prices that so many nurseries are closing and why most of the plants are now imported. 

Site of Little Gibbshaven today

Today the site of Little Gibbshaven lies unused, the glasshouses of Felbridge Nurseries Ltd. growing abundant weeds instead of the fruit, vegetables or flowers of former years.  The site of the nursery is now in the hands of development company Welbeck, and recently Comdeo Ltd. put the property forward to Mid Sussex District Council as a potential site for small scale housing.  However, the council stated that the site of Felbridge Nurseries was 'Technically a greenfield site comprising of large greenhouse buildings' and that is was situated within the 'strategic gap location', in an 'unsustainable location, remote from service and facilities' and that 'access would have environmental impact'.  Currently, any future development is not expected to happen within the next ten years.



Handout, Gibbshaven Farm, SJC/JIC 07/07, FHA

Court Roll for the manor of Hedgecourt, 1530, SAS/G43/84, ESRO

Gage/Blundell Dispute, 1600, SAS/G46/5, ESRO

Godstone by U Lambert

Schedule of Deeds for Felbridge Nurseries, FHA

Freeholders Court Book for the manor of Hedgecourt, Box 3151, SHC

Lay Subsidy Roll, 1524, SRS 65

Court Roll for the manor of Hedgecourt, 1533, SAS/G43/85, ESRO

Grant between Aven/Gage, 1535, SAS/G43/30, ESRO

Court Book for the manor of South Malling - Lindfield, 1680, ACC2327/1/5/1, ESRO

Court Roll for the manor of Hedgecourt, 1539, SAS/G43/86, ESRO

Court Roll for the manor of Hedgecourt, 1541, SAS/G43/87, ESRO

Court Roll for the manor of Hedgecourt, 1547, SAS/G43/90, ESRO

Sussex Inquisition - John Bysshe, SRS vol. XIV and SRS 3

Rental for the manor of Hedgecourt, 1579, SRS

Gage/Thorpe Lease, 1567, SAS/G43/32, ESRO

Gage/Thorpe Lease, 1629, SAS/G43/122, ESRO

Gage/Thorpe Lease, 1629, SAS/G43/123-128, ESRO

Freeholder Court Book for the manor of Hedgecourt, Box 3151, SHC

Court Book for the manor of Hedgecourt, SAS/G16/80A, ESRO


Surrey Marriage Index, FHA

Burial Index for Non-Metropolitan Surrey, FHA

Sussex Marriage Index, FHA

Census Records, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1971, 1881, 1891, 1901,

Birth, marriage, death index,

Survey of cottages on the heaths of the manor of Bletchingley, 1676, K60/1/14, SHC

Handout, Felcot Farm, SJC/JIC 05/04, FHA

Bourd map, 1748, FHA

Worth Land Tax, FHA

Court Books for the manor of Lagham, P25/21/11, SHC

Court Books for the manor of Lagham, K61/7/ 5-30, SHC

Rentals list for the manor of South Malling - Lindfield, 1830, ACC 2327/1/5/15, ESRO

Handout, Wiremill, SJC 03/06, FHA

Handout, Golards Farm, SJC 11/07, FHA

Mid Sussex Book Law Records, 1601-1835, FHA

Gardner and Gream map, 1795, FHA

Handout, Parkfields, SJC 05/05, FHA

Sale Catalogue and plan of Little Gibbshaven and Gibbshaven Farm, 1895, FHA

Handout, The Farm at Imberhorne, SJC 05/03, FHA

Local newspaper article, 1904, BS

Documented memories of B Jeffries, FHA

Horticultural Travelling Structure Company, Ltd.,

Guinness Family History,

Rupert Guinness, 2nd Earl of Iveagh,

Tenancy list of Felbridge estate, 1911, Box 3151, SHC

East Grinstead Directory, 1924, FHA

Documented memories of D Wedge, FHA

Poupart Post, Centenary Issue, 1895-1995, FHA

Handout, Llanberis Farm, SJC 01/07, FHA

Mid Sussex District Council at

Our thanks are extended to Brian Jeffries for his information on the Jeffries family and Felbridge Nurseries Ltd.

SJC 07/08