Review of Meetings 2010

January - February

Members and visitors at the February monthly meeting of the Yapton and Ford Local History Group were treated to a film show by Alan Readman of the West Sussex Record Office. He told us of their current work in preserving old films and showed us some short films made in the 1920s and 1930s, many with a local flavour. Most were what we would now call documentary, showing, for example, the Flying Circus at Ford Aerodrome. But there were also fictional stories - amusing to watch considering 'talkies' hadn’t been invented yet and there was no sub-titles! lt seems even 'home movies' have a place in preserving our history by showing what life was like for ordinary people 80 years ago - Sunday promenades along Bognor pier (before the war and weather took its toll on the poor pier).

ln January, Paul Ullson illustrated what life would have been llike at Christmas in Tudor Times, complete with sample food! We learnt of the way food was prepared and eaten 450 years ago and the way foods changed during the great seafaring reign of Elizabeth I as new herbs and spices started to arrive from the East. lt’s the simple things, which we usually take for granted, that fascinate me: the first use of the fork for instance! But just when we did we change from using a fork with the right hand to using it predominantly with the left hand?

Geoff Westcott
March 2010


March - April

At the March meeting members and guests were given an illustrated talk by Dr Sharon-Michi Kusunoke on the West Dean House & Estate.

West Dean is a 6400 acre estate and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. The estate entered into the possession of the Peachey family in 1739 and, in 1804, Sir james Peachey (1st Lord Selsey) commissioned james Wyatt to rebuild the Manor House, thus creating the core of the flint mansion seen at West Dean today. He also extended the estate and his family laid out the parkland and arboretum thereby enhancing the house's setting.

In 1892 the estate passed into the hands of the James family and William Dodge James extended the house to include the present series of state rooms. In 1912 the estate passed in trust to Edward James (aged 5), the only son of 5 children and he came into full possession of the estate at age 25. After a brief marriage to Austrian ballet dancer, Tilly Losch, he divided his time between America, Mexico, Europe and West Dean.

In 1964 the Edward James Foundation was born, a charitable trust which today supports and teaches artists and craftsmen. The flint Mansion was converted and opened as West Dean College in 1971.

Edward James was a lifelong patron of the Arts with a great interest in Ballet and Music. He is best remembered for his patronage of painters particularly the Surrealists Dali, Magritte, Tchelitchew, Firi and Carrington, amassing reputedly the finest collection of Surrealist Art in the world. He died in |984 and is buried in the Arboretum.

At the April meeting fellow member, Dr. Andrew Foster, led a talk and discussion on the subject "Whither Local History". Dr Foster pointed out that due to continuing lack of funds many archives set up by Councils and Universities are having to severely reduce their activities and in some instances having to cease operations completely. It was also noted that whilst historical documents were being transferred into a digital format for storage purposes, this work was being done more and more by IT people and not by qualified Archivists. This could result in items being listed under headings without any reference to their historical importance. This could mean that future researchers would find it more difficult to source information.

Various comments were made by group members about access to archives. A particular gripe was that documents in the possession of institutions such as the British Library were only available to the very few. As someone remarked they were very elitist. During discussions it became evident that Local History groups would become more and more important for receiving and storage of historical information as institutions like the county records offices find it more difficult to operate as they have been doing previously.

A conclusion as to "Whither we go from here", say over the next 20 years, was not arrived at but it was agreed that people would always be interested in their local area and therefore History Groups would continue to flourish for the foreseeable future. All in all a very enjoyable evening!

Ron Griffiths
May 2010


May - June

On 10th May members enjoyed an evening's walk and talk on the National Trust Slindon estate and park. The group were met at the Slindon estate office by Mark Wardle (Head Warden), who gave an outline of the estate and park before leading the group around the perimeter of the park and back into Slindon village.

The estate comprises some 3500 acres mainly down to agriculture and woodland and also includes two thirds of the properties in the Slindon village including Slindon House (now a boys school). The National Trust has owned the estate since 1950 when Frederick Isaacson (the owner of the estate since 1913) bequeathed it to them.

The highest point on the estate is at Glatting Beacon (254m) and the best known landmark is the Folly (built early l9th century). The sea at one time came up to Slindon and excavations have revealed a raised beach. The Romans have also left their mark on the estate, most notably Stane Street. The section through the estate dates back to AD79 and is the best example of a Roman road in the country.

The estate has been in existence since AD 684 and has passed through the ownership of the Archbishops of Canterbury and HenryVIII. A palace was built for the archbishops near to the site of the modern day Slindon House. The estate was once famous for its magnificent beech woods until many were felled during the great storm of I987. The woodlands today are very much managed with wildlife in mind.

During the walk traces of the old shingle beach were walked upon as part of the footpath around the park. Traces of the ditch and bank where the paling wall was built to keep deer within the park area were also viewed at various locations. It was noted that in medieval times tenants living in the estates cottages were each responsible for the maintenance of a section of the paling fence.

A truly informative walk/talk given by a very enthusiastic guide on a beautiful spring evening.

On 7th June, members and guests enjoyed an illustrated talk by Sue Peyman-Stroud on the History of Parham House.

After the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, Henry VIII granted the Manor of Parham (which had belonged to the Abbey ofWestminster) to a London Mercer called Robert Palmer. Parham House’s foundation stone was laid in 1577 by Robert's two year old grandson, Thomas. It was considered lucky to have this duty performed by the youngest member of the household. Thomas's mother was the god-daughter of Queen Elizabeth I and there is a legend that the Queen visited Parham.

Thomas Palmer sold the house in 1601 to Sir Thomas Bysshopp, and his descendants lived at Parham for the following 320 years. In 1922 the House and Estate were sold to the Hon Clive and Alicia Pearson. The Pearson’s then undertook a significant amount of restoration work on the structure of the building which was in bad state of repair and also began the collection of paintings and artefacts that adorn the house at the present time.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Parham became home to 39 evacuee children from Peckham in south east London. In 1942 the children were re-housed in Storrington and part of Parham House was requisitioned for billeting Canadian officers. During this period the Pearson family lived in the other part of the house taking in old governesses, relations and other friends stranded by the war. Soldiers from 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry divisions were billeted in Nissen huts in the park.

On the I7th July 1948 Parham House was opened to the public and 61 visitors paying 2/6d for adults and 1/6d for children, were admitted. Parham House has welcomed visitors ever since but is now run as a charitable trust. 

Ron Griffiths
July 2010