Review of Meetings 2013 (contd.)

July - August

With no meeting during August the members of Yapton & Ford Local History Group experienced another 'first'; a coach trip was organised to Lewes Castle which included a talk, museum and free time to explore what remains of the castle.

21 members and guests enjoyed the afternoon which started with a talk given by a resident archaeologist in the Barbican about the history of the castle and its inhabitants from Norman times. This was followed by free time exploring the well preserved castle which was built by William de Warenne who was a relative of William the Conqueror. Although parts of it have been built on over the centuries it is still possible to appreciate the dominance that the castle had over the town and river. The museum was open for those who wished to discover more about the castle’s past.

Allen Misselbrook
September 2013


September - October

The 21st AGM of the Yapton & Ford Local History Group held on the 2nd September was well attended and heard the Chairman outline the very successful year that the Group had enjoyed. He promised that the coming year would be no less entertaining. The committee members were thanked along with other members who gave their time to ensure that the year ran smoothly. With a small surplus on the operating costs for the year, membership subscriptions were once again held for the coming year. The current committee members and officers were returned to serve for another year.

The AGM was followed by an illustrated talk given by group member Rupert Head entitled 'Life on the Lower Gun Deck of Nelson’s Ships'. He described the dark, crowded conditions they lived under. The food they ate once the 'fresh' food had been exhausted. The members heard how shortages of crewmen were made up of prisoners and other undesirables along with men press ganged from local towns and villages. Men and boys who, once their services were no longer required, were put on shore sometimes hundreds of miles from where they originated.

When it came to fighting, the ships were quite often alongside the enemy and the gun crews continued running out the guns and firing from point blank range. Many were killed or maimed, not from the shot but from lethal wooden splinters torn from the ships structure. The gun deck was dark, filled with smoke and deafening noise. Many gun crews were permanently deafened for the rest of their lives.

The Lower Gun Deck

The lives of the sailors were hard and dangerous, a far cry from the image given by the sight of a 'ship of the line' under full sail.

Anne Charlesworth, a volunteer for over 20 years at Petworth House, gave the members and guests of the Yapton & Ford Local History Group a talk entitled 'Below Stairs' at their October meeting.

Anne first described the sleeping arrangements of servants in Saxon times and how they slept where they worked, quite often on the stone stairs leading from the kitchen. lt was Henry VIII who first provided the servants with their own rooms, at his palace at Hampton Court.

The majority of household servant positions were held by men, Anne explained, positions such as Butlers, Stewards, Footmen and Cooks for instance. Women only prepared the food or served as maids and were under the control of a Housekeeper who in turn answered to the Steward or Butler. There was no contact with the staff and 'Upstairs' except by the Butler.

Right at the bottom of the pecking order was the Kitchen Maid who was first up, about 5:30am, to clean and light the fires and then to put the kettle on. She was also the last to go to bed.

Anne then went on to explain how the men and women were segregated having their own separate rooms and staircases. lt was instant dismissal without a reference for anyone caught on the wrong 'side' of the house.

Before 1900 there were more men than women servants but this ratio changed with the coming of WWI, and following WW2 the number of people entering 'service' dropped due to thle availability of jobs elsewhere.

Allen Misselbrook
November 2013


November - December

The seaside came under the spotlight at the Yapton & Ford Local History Group's November meeting when actor lan Gledhill described, with the aid of slides, the rise in popularity of the seaside in the UK. Our love affair with the seaside was not always so. It was only in the past couple of hundred years or so that physicians started advocating the benefits of seawater and the sea air for certain ailments. Before then the sea was the domain of fishermen, smugglers and sailors.

On the south coast, Brighton was made fashionable by the uncle (The Duke of Cumberland) of George, Prince of Wales. George, the future King George IV had a local farmhouse extended into what is now the Royal Pavilion. Other towns along the south coast tried to emulate Brighton. Towns like Worthing and our own Bognor where Richard Hotham had grand designs to develop the little fishing village into a resort that would also attract royalty.

lan explained that with the coming of the railways and other travelling improvements, more and more people were visiting the seaside around the country. People were taking to the water but because of the prudity laws men and women were not allowed to swim together, so to preserve the women’s modesty bathing machines were introduced whereby they could be wheeled in and out of the sea away from prying eyes.

With the increase of visitors came the expansion of seaside entertainments: piers, theatres, donkey rides and boat trips, and the appearance of the Boarding House landladies. Today the seaside does not enjoy the same amount of popularity but on a hot summer’s day we still like a day at the seaside.

ln keeping with the season the History Group enjoyed a festive evening for their December meeting. The members and guests welcomed the return of Lizzie and Tony Gilks who, while dressed in costumes of the Victorian era, gave an amusing account of the origins of the Christmas Celebrations as we know them. The origins of many customs were disclosed, mostly in rhyme, and supported with an array of examples of tools and items to add substance to the narratives.

Many were surprised to hear that they could be arrested for eating Mince Pies because Oliver Cromwell passed a law banning all aspects of Christmas including the consuming of mince pies and the law has never been repealed. Christmas puddings traditionally consisted of 13 ingredients but because the number 13 was taboo to the Victorians they added a 14th, the silver thrupenny piece.

The packed room heard many more anecdotes and derivations during the evening which was rounded off with a glass of wine and a mince pie and not one person was arrested.

Allen Misselbrook
January 2014