Celebrating 25 Years

25 years of the Yapton & Ford Local History Group

The Yapton & Ford Local History Group is now in its Silver Jubilee Year. This thriving local group came into being as a direct result of a year long course organised by Tim Hudson, Sussex editor of the Victoria County History, and Barry Fletcher, a lecturer at the Bognor Campus of what is now the University of Chichester.

The purpose of the course was to assist Tim Hudson with his research into the history of Yapton villages. Following the course, several members of the group wanted to continue with the research and so the History Group was born. A leaflet drop was organised inviting any like minded people to attend an open meeting with the aim of increasing the number of members of the embryo club.

The information and documents accumulated over the previous year were donated to the new group by Tim Hudson which became the basis of what is now an extensive library of documents, photographs and books which are available, to members and public alike. Because of the close ties that Yapton has with the parish of Ford, the area of interest was expanded to cover its near neighbour which included Ford Airfield and the junction of the Canal with the River Arun.

The early intentions were to study documents procured from the West Sussex Records Office and other sources to build up a picture of the village history. This only appealed to a limited number of people with the inevitable result that numbers dwindled. In an attempt to increase membership, guest speakers were invited from time to time to give talks on local topics, which proved popular and attendances steadily rose. Today the Group has a very healthy membership with the monthly meetings regularly attracting between 30 and 40 members and guests.

A natural progression from these monthly meetings was the inclusion of field trips. Once or twice a year the committee organised trips to local attractions. Among the list of visits were Fishbourne Roman Palace, Tangmere Air Museum, Lewes Castle, Shoreham Fort and the archaeological site at Boxgrove where the bone of Boxgrove Man was found.

Over the years publications have been produced containing articles written by members based on information uncovered by in-house research. The earliest of these was a short run of the ‘Village Past-Times’ booklet. It consisted of four thin issues containing such items as ‘The Man Who Sold His Wife’, ‘The Birth of a Pub’ (The Lamb) and ‘What’s in a Name?’ (possible derivations of the name Yapton). This was followed by the Millenium Map which was part of a county wide project led by Kim Leslie of West Sussex Records Office with the aim of persuading as many parishes as possible to produce a map which was a snapshot of their village in the year 2000. The Group's contribution was the production of a map of the parishes of Yapton and Ford illustrated with village scenes as well as historical items. All the work was carried out by members and local artists and the original can be seen hanging in the foyer of the Village Hall. There are still copies of prints available for sale.

The most ambitious project undertaken was the production and publication of five Heritage Trail booklets which was funded by a £20,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Five trails were identified: four in Yapton and one in Ford. These Trails guided the reader through areas of the village and included photographs and a few lines of historical details about buildings of interest. These are also still in print and are available for purchase.

The latest project was producing sets of postcards which portrayed local buildings. The pictures are based on watercolours painted by local artist David Day. Again these are still available for purchase.

Perhaps the most visible signs of the Group’s activities are the regular exhibitions which are normally held in the village hall. In 2015, with full co-operation of the churches of St Mary, St Andrew and the Free Church, the exhibitions portraying the history of the Churches in the Community were held in the churches themselves.

Over the past 25 years there have been exhibitions commemorating VE Day, the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, and the centenary of the Battle of the Somme where the screening of the original film The Somme was shown courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. There have been other exhibitions with a more local flavour where visitors could study old maps of the area including the 1841 Tithe Map, old photographs, and documents all telling or showing aspects of the history of the two villages.

Perhaps the most poignant exhibition was held in 2010 which mapped out the history of Ford Airfield with special focus of the 70th anniversary of the air attack by Stukas of the Luftwaffe on 18th August 1940 which left 28 people dead. The village hall housed displays telling the history of the Airfield while outside the playing field was taken over by static displays of Military Vehicles, Land Army Girls, and Armaments, all supported by a Marching Band. Guests of Honours were the Chairman of Arun District Council and the Fleet Air Arm’s Eastern England Commodore. The star of the show was undoubtedly a flypast by the Fleet Air Arm Memorial Flight’s Seahawk which is the only example left flying in the world. They were a common sight flying over Yapton & Ford in the 1950s. Approximately, 1500 visitors attended during the course of the day, an event which the BBC covered on their local news broadcast.

The History Group is very fortunate in having the support of both Parish Councils and several local businesses and shops who regularly help with funding or giving of their services to ensure the Group is able to continue to research and promote the history of our two villages for the local community to enjoy.

Our Group meets in the Clubroom of theYapton & Ford Village Hall at 7:15pm on the first Monday of each month with the exception of May and August or when it falls on a bank holiday (see local posters for information). Members are free, visitors £2.50. Come along and join us you will be made very welcome.


Exhibition in the Village Hall

Allen Misselbrook
Chairman, Y&FLHG
April 2017

(Originally published in Yapton News, May 2017)

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