Review of Meetings 2012

January - February

The Yapton & Ford Local History Group’s New Year programme started on Monday 9 January with a verbal excursion along the coast of West Sussex illustrated with slides. The 'guide' was Geoffrey Mead of The University of Sussex. He delved into the history and geography of our stretch of coastline, describing how climate and the action of the sea combined to produce what we see today. One of the most interesting geographical features was Chichester Harbour and how it was formed by the drowning of river valleys which ran north to south from the South Downs. Islands were formed, notably Thorney and Hayling.

The members listened to Geoffrey outline the development of Selsey, the history of Pagham Harbour and how the mouth of the River Arun has moved over the years. Worthing Pier’s eventful past was also touched on. Built in 1862, it was burnt down and rebuilt in 1926 and again in 1935.

The members and guests also heard a little about places that have succumbed to the sea. Villages such as Atherington and Cudlow which had been washed away along with part of Middleton whose original church now lies under the waves.

The talk was not just about the fabric of our coastline but also of the people. The Romans found our soil very fertile and grew grain for exporting, the farmers, the fishermen and smugglers who found our shores to their liking.

Finally, while refreshments were being served, Geoffrey answered questions put to him by the members and their guests.

The Group’s February meeting saw the return of an old friend in the person of Sylvia Endacott. Sylvia delved into her cache of historic photographs of Bognor, describing to old and new members alike what it was like to have lived in Bognor during the last century or so. Views of Bognor were shown where some features could still be recognised but many which have disappeared for ever.

A familiar sight in the early days of Bognor were the bathing machines where boys under 10 years of age had to stay with their mothers while their fathers had to bathe on another part of the beach away from the women. The Pier’s wartime history came under scrutiny when it was used for training. Another building which has had an eventful life is the Railway Station. Sylvia recounted the day when it burnt down and its subsequent rebuilding and the days before the railway when day-trippers arrived in charabancs.

Sylvia has a wealth of knowledge and memorabilia about Bognor but constraints of time meant that the evening had to draw to a close, leaving much to be shown on her next visit.

Allen Misselbrook
March 2012


March - April

A story of industrial archaeology worthy of 'Time Team' unfolded at the Yapton & Ford Local History Group’s March meeting. Martin Snow of the Sussex Archaeological Society and the Industrial Archaeological Society explained how his interest in the Devil’s Dyke led him to discover the history of the local attraction. By studying documents, photographs and maps he was able to piece together the development of the site with its Railway Station and Hotel, popular in the Georgian and Victorian eras. ln the 1880s, a Mr. Hubbard leased the Hotel and installed amusements such as a 'Bicycle Railway' and a 'Camera Obscura'. At one time there were as many as five golf courses. Martin followed his researches with visits to the Dyke where, to his delight, he was able to locate the remains of the various sites.

Martin also discovered the area was used for testing bombs in WWI. There was a bomb storeroom and a track along either side of the Dyke which were used to position supports or a cross-wire from which bombs were suspended and then dropped. Several sizes of bombs were used ranging from 25lb to 250lb. The tests were filmed so the effects could be studied. All that Martin could find of the assembly shed was a few concrete blocks but the line of the tracks could still be seen as could the scars in the Dyke where the bombs exploded.

The family history of one of the country’s oldest families stretching over |000 years or so was the subject of the April meeting. Brenda Gaye, of Petworth House, traced the current Lord Egremont’s pedigree, with all its intrigues, from William de Percy who came over with William the Conqueror. Brenda skilfully condensed into a one hour talk, the main twists and turns of the family, whose seat was initially in Northumberland, through the ages, outlining its associations with the Kings and Queens of England, sometimes with and sometimes against the Royal family.

Much of the family fortune came from marrying into moneyed families. This enabled the 2nd Earl of Egremont to build up his Art and Classical Sculpture collection which was the second largest in Britain. So large that he had to build an extension to display them. Turner was a great friend of the Earl and became the artist in residence.

The members and guests were made aware of the connections that the Earl had with Yapton and Ford. He organised assisted passages for the poor who wanted to make a new life in Canada, several of whom came from our villages. He was also one of the main shareholders of the ill-fated Arundel to Portsmouth Canal.

Due to the lack of male heirs the title of Egremont was lost, passing down to George Wyndom, an illegitimate son. The title was re-instated by the Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, in the 1950s.

The property passed to the National Trust but with the Egremonts' descendants living in one of the wings.

Allen Misselbrook
May 2012


May - June

Our meeting in May was a guided walk led by Alan Green around 'Georgian Chichester'. The walk commenced at Eades House which is a fine example of Georgian architecture. The walk then took us up North Street where we observed that buildings built in the Tudor period now appeared to be Georgian in appearance due to external change. We continued along the 'walls' and arrived in the 'new town' which was built to accommodate the growing population of the period.

We were lucky enough to be able to visit St John’s Chapel in the 'new town' which provided opportunities for worship as existing churches could not cope with the increasing numbers. The walk finished by surveying the beautiful Georgian houses behind the Cathedral.

The Yapton & Ford’s Local History Group’s June meeting was cancelled due to the local flooding. Hopefully the discussion on "Plans for Historical Projects on the recent history of Yapton and Ford" to be led by Andrew Foster will be arranged to a future date.

Allen Misselbrook
July 2012