Review of Meetings 2014 (contd.)

July - August

The Yapton & Ford Local History group’s Vice Chairman took centre stage at their July meeting. To commemorate the Centenary of the Great War, Jim Payne gave an illustrated talk about a group of villagers who gave their lives in the service of their country. The group of young men were all naval stokers.

Jim started the talk by explaining what a stoker was and the conditions that they had to work under. During Queen Victoria’s reign warships started to convert from wind power to steam power. To produce steam large coal fired boilers had to be installed which required a new breed of sailor, the Stoker. While the task of some was to move coal from the holds to the boilers, others had to keep the boilers charged to maintain the steam to drive the propeller shafts. A Dreadnaught required 500 tons of coal just to get up enough head of steam to get the ship moving and with a company of approximately 700 men, 200 would be stokers working in shifts of 4 hours on, 8 hours off. Jim painted a grim picture of their working and living conditions. With very little available room each rank had their own mess and washrooms where the housekeeping and cooking was amongst the men.

Stoking the boilers

When the time came to refuel the ships were closed down to prevent as much coal dust as possible from entering the main body of the ships and all hands had to assist in the loading of the coal. The record for loading 880 tons of coal was 2 hours 20 minutes. lf the refuelling took place at sea the coal was transferred from the supply ship by cables at a rate of about 60 tons/hour.

During any action watertight doors were closed to protect the boilers from any possible flooding which meant that in the event of a ship being sunk the stokers had very little chance of surviving.

To finish his talk Jim gave details of the men from Yapton who lost their lives. Their names were Henry Allen, Frank and Herbert Bennett, Charles Bowley, Albert Chitty, Henry Holland and Harry Langrish. He told us their ages, where they lived and what job they did before they signed up to serve their country. He also told us on what ship and where they were killed.

Jim has not been able to uncover any information about Henry Holland. If anyone has details about him Jim would be pleased to hear from you.

As there was no meeting of the Group during August a tour of the Brighton Pavilion was arranged. A coach full of members and guests left the carl park of the Yapton & Ford Village Hall at lunch time on Saturday 16th for the drive to Brighton and enjoyed a 90 minute guided tour of the historic building. Some of the group completed their afternoon with tea and cakes in the restaurant before making the return trip to Yapton, arriving back at the Hall about 6pm.

Allen Misselbrook
September 2014


September - October

The Yapton & Ford Local History Group welcomed Richard Angus as their speaker for September’s meeting. Richard, a volunteer at the Weald & Downland Museum at Singleton gave the packed hall a little background to the reasons for establishing the museum. ln essence to secure the future of historic buildings of the Weald and Downland area by dismantling and re-constructing them at the museum in their original condition, and by the methods that would have been used at the time.

Advisers were available to help try and keep the buildings on their original site but if all else failed and they were destined to be demolished then the museum was allowed to dismantle and re-erect them at Singleton. Planning permission still had to be applied for and granted before they were allowed to do this.

The buildings in the Market Place came from Tichfield, Horsham and Crawley, while the Toll House came from Beeding. Much work had to be carried out on site before the Watermill, which started life on the Leconfield Estate in Petworth, could be returned to full working condition because there was no water available. This problem was resolved by digging two ponds and installing a means of pumping water from the lower pond to the upper one. The Mill is so successful that corn has to be bought in because not enough can be grown on site to satisfy the demand for the stone ground flour that is sold.

Richard went on to describe the background to many other buildings that can be viewed. There are still buildings in storage waiting to be erected but as the museum does not receive Government funding it has to raise funds by other means to allow the building programme to continue.

There is one modern building in the grounds and that is the award winning Downland Gridshell Conservation Workshop built in the 1990s. The museum has acquired about 1500 artefacts, all donated, which were stored in the surrounding locality so the Gridshell was built to house them. The building is also used for exhibitions and displays when the need arises.

The Weald & Downland Museum is always evolving. lt is currently revamping the entrance and catering facilities.

The October meeting combined the Groups 22nd AGM with an illustrated talk by member and local historian David Ruffle.

The Chairman’s report to the AGM gave details of another very successful year consisting of a variety of interesting talks and visits as well as two exhibitions. The Chairman thanked the committee and other members who gave of their time to achieve this and promised that the coming year had all the makings of being just as successful.

A virtual tour of Church Road and Church Lane followed the AGM given by local historian David Ruffle who was born in the village. His tour was based on the History Group’s publication Heritage Trail. David gave background information of many of existing buildings as well as those that made way for the more modern buildings that we see today.

Attention was paid to the old Post Office (now flats) sited opposite the building that was 'The Shoulder of Mutton and Cucumber'. The building that existed on this site became the Post Office in 1890 when the PO moved from C.Sprinks & Son, the building which is now Fontwell Flooring. This 'new' Post Office was itself knocked down and rebuilt in 1922. The Postmaster was then Mr Diggance whose family ran it until it closed in 1988.

Jonathan Cottage was another building that David put under the spotlight. Built c. 1740, its uses have included a Cycle Dealership, a Confectioners and a 'Greengrocer, Fruiterer and General Store'. The house was substantially altered in the 1960’s and again in the 1990’s.


The Old Post Office, 1910

Mr Wooldridge at The Forge

Among other buildings that had their history outlined to the members and guests were The Old Bakery, The Old Forge, Pound Cottages (no. 1 being the Police house in 1875), Walnut Tree Cottage and Cobblers Cottage.

Allen Misselbrook
November 2014


November - December

Shoreham Fort was the subject for the Yapton & Ford Local History Group’s meeting in November. The founder of 'The Friends of Shoreham Fort', Gary Baines, told the meeting the reason for building a fort at Shoreham. This was one of a chain of forts which became known as the Palmerston Follies (because they never fired a shot in anger), named after Lord Palmerston the Prime Minister who, in the 1850s commissioned the forts to counter the threat from Emperor Napoleon III.

Before the designs were approved several prototypes were built to prove the design. Littlehampton was built first in 1854 and was found to have many design faults which were rectified in the design of Shoreham, built in 1857.

Gary then proceeded to give a few facts and figures about Shoreham’s design. The Fort included a I5 foot (4.57m) deep ditch on the front and sides which had a 12 foot (3.66m) high Carnot wall at the bottom with a rounded top which prevented any attacker from getting a hand grip. At the rear was a barrack block which could be defended if required.


Carnot Wall at Shoreham Fort

Gun Platform at Shoreham Fort

Armaments included 6 cannon which fired in pairs and were served by quick fire magazines tended by 'powder monkeys'. These cannons were the first to contain rifled bores rather than smooth. This was in the form of grooves on the inside of the bore which accepted lugs on the side of the shells which vastly increased the effective distance and accuracy of the shot. It could fire a 64 lb. shell 4,500yards (4115m) as opposed to 800 yards (731m) from a smooth bore.

The Fort was manned by the 1st Sussex Artillery Volunteers and it was their bandmaster who sounded the charge for the Light Brigade led by Lord Cardigan at Balaclava. Gary also mentioned another personality associated with the Fort and he was scenic artist and film maker Francis Lyndhurst, grandfather of Nicholas perhaps better known as Rodney in Only Fools and Horses. After the Fort was decommissioned in 1906 Francis started making films at Shoreham Beach and his first film, The Showman’s Dream was filmed in the Fort.

The Fort also saw military service during WW2 when two 6” guns were located there. But since then the Fort was allowed to fall into ruin until a group of people inspired by Gary formed 'The Friends' in 2010 who, with the permission of the owners, Shoreham Port Authority, and English Heritage have been renovating the Fort to its former glory.

With the Centenary of the outbreak of The Great War being in the forefront of everybody’s minds, the Yapton & Ford Local History Group was delighted to welcome back Martin Hayes as their guest speaker for their December meeting. Martin, who is the County Local Studies Librarian based at Worthing Library, was one of the main organisers of the West Sussex Libraries', Great War Project which was funded by the Lottery Fund.

As the members and guests heard, the project with the help of 150 volunteers, concentrated on three areas of research. The first strand involved collating and digitising photographs mainly from the Royal Sussex Regiment records. The second strand consisted of case studies, typical examples being those produced by our own member Jim Payne on the lives of the serving people from Yapton, and finally the third strand involved indexing and digitising the local newspapers covering the period.

Martin described the role of West Sussex during the war years. Due to its proximity to the English Channel there was a call for billets as the build-up of troops escalated. One such place was the training camp Slonk Hill near Shoreham which accommodated 10,000 men. Airfields were created for the RFC at Shoreham and Ford with a third at Rustington which wasn’t completed due to the armistice being signed, and a fourth airfield didn’t advance past the proposal stage at Goring.

2-seater bombers and reconnaissance aircraft were based at Shoreham while Ford was going to be the home for Americans flying Handley Page twin-engine bombers, but the war was over before they became operational.

It may have surprised some in the meeting that seaplanes were built at Middleton with the wooden hull being built by a boat builder situated on the banks of the Arun at Littlehampton. ln all about 900 people were employed in the production of these aircraft which were used for coastal reconnaissance. Another airborne service was based locally, that of airships stationed at Slindon which were used for Submarine spotting.

Other aspects of the war affecting the home front were also touched on by Martin. In accordance with the Defence of the Realm Act, 'aliens' had to register, and people with foreign-sounding names came under suspicion from some quarters of the population. Even the Kursall Theatre in Worthing had its name changed to 'The Dome'. Blackouts were introduced because of the bombing threat from Zeppelins.

On the economic front, Income Tax was raised from 6% to 30%, women, children and POWs took over jobs vacated by the men going to the 'Front', and food doubled in price.

Finally, Martin described the immediate post-war situation with men returning home suffering from being gassed or shell-shocked. Others finding it difficult to work and being jeered for it and widowed women attempting suicide. This was part of the result of fighting the 'War to end all Wars'.

Allen Misselbrook
January 2015