Review of Meetings 2017 (contd.)

July - August

Land Settlement Association

To complete their 25th year programme of talks, members and guests of the Yapton & Ford Local History Group welcomed guest speaker Bill martin who gave an illustrated talk on the Land Settlement programme at nearby Siddlesham.

In the great depression of the mid 1930’s the Government of the day came up with an initiative to help some of the unemployed coalminers and shipbuilders of the north. This entailed giving families a plot of land as a smallholding and train them to start a new life on the land. As Bill explained, they first had to be interviewed by a selection panel and then receive a home visit before being selected as one of the lucky families to start on a new life as market gardeners.

One such location chosen by the government was Siddlesham where 120 small holdings were created. Each tenant was given a house, a chicken house a piggery and a greenhouse along with 4 acres of land. The men came first, living in a large hostel on site where they learnt their new trade. There was a central farm which bought seeds and equipment in bulk. The tools to work the land were then given to trainee smallholders and each smallholding was given an investment of £1000. Once the produce was harvested it was carted to the central farm where it was weighed and recorded before it was taken by lorry to Chichester Railway Station and taken by rail to Covent Garden to be sold.

The Land Settlement Association closed in 1983. Following the closure a group of tenants got together and formed their own company and continued trading until the late 1990’s. Many of the properties are now privately owned but there are one or two still producing their produce and selling by the roadside.

To conclude Bill told of his involvement with the Siddlesham Heritage Trail Project which includes the LSA in Siddlesham. He has undertaken a great deal of research into the initiative and has compiled a list of names of those first smallholders and their descendants complete with documents and photographs.

25th Anniversary Exhibition

To celebrate their 25th anniversary, the Yapton & Ford Local History held an exhibition in the Yapton & Ford Village Hall and coincided with the Cottage gardeners Village Show. The exhibition was entitled Yapton & Ford Past and Present and had on display over 300 photographs, maps and documents illustrating the changes to the villages over the past 125 years or so. Each major road had its own display where old photographs were paired with, where possible, the equivalent shot taken today. Other topics covered were, Farming, Commerce, Transport, Sport, School and Community. Several maps were also on show tracing the expansion of the area over the past 300 years. These maps included the Tithe Maps of Yapton and Ford.

Over the course of the afternoon between 200 and 300 people passed through the Exhibition. They consisted of villagers who were thrilled to pick out their parents and grandparents as well as their younger selves in the photographs. There were also many people who were new to the area who have bought houses in the ever expanding village and were interested in the history of their new home. The History Group had an unexpected bonus when many visitors brought along photographs and documents and donated them to the Groups library, which were gratefully received. These items plus the memories of others whose family roots stretch back into the past history of the two villages made the exhibition one of the most successful staged by the Yapton & Ford Local History Group in its 25 year history.

Allen Misselbrook
August 2017


September - October

The Dukes of Norfolk who Lived in Sussex

September's talk was titled "The Dukes of Norfolk who Lived in Sussex" and was given by Brenda Thompson, the head guide at Arundel Castle.

See this page for detail.


26th Annual General Meeting

The History Group’s October meeting commenced with the 26th AGM. The Chairman began by giving an appraisal of the past year’s activities which was the Groups 25th and the extremely successful photographic exhibition entitled ‘Yapton & Ford Past and Present’. He followed this by thanking the committee and other members who ensured the success and smooth running of the History Group, the results of which could be gauged by the numbers of members and guests who turn up at the monthly meetings. This was followed by the Treasurer’s report which showed a small loss for the year. All members of the committee expressed their willingness to stand for another year and were all returned unopposed. In the light of the small financial shown in the accounts and rising costs it was proposed that the annual subscriptions were increased from £12 to £14 for individual membership and £18 to £20 for family membership and for guests a rise from £2.50 to £3.00 per meeting. This proposal was carried unanimously.


The Churchwardens’ Lot: not a happy one!

The talk which followed the AGM was given by historian Andrew Foster who is a member of the History Group. As the title suggests Andrew gave an insight into the election and duties of the parish Churchwardens over the centuries. The following is just a flavour of what is a fascinating subject.

Two Churchwardens were elected annually, around Easter time, one by the parish and one by the minister. Their responsibilities were to the upkeep of the Church and the church buildings as well as ‘policing’ the parish inhabitants. It appears from surviving records that they were generally from the same group of families. For Yapton the family names of Billinghurst, Clapshoe, Murrell and Boniface were much in evidence in the past. Although Churchwardens came into being during the 14th century the earliest records for Yapton were dated 1742.

Accounts were kept and audited for presentation at the AGM held every Easter. Monies were raised through sources such as land rent, services and legacies which were used to pay for such diverse items as the Church fabric, mole catchers and the washing of clothing used by church officials in the carrying out their duties.

Example of Churchwarden's Accounts

Another duty which fell upon the Churchwardens was to uphold the laws of the church. These included ensuring parishioners attended Church on the Sabbath and didn’t partake in any activity that was forbidden by the Church. Failing to observe these laws would result in being ‘tried’ and punished and possibly being excommunicated by the Church which meant they could not be buried in the churchyard or leave property in their wills. One example of someone being taken to task was that of William Wilcher, a fiddler from Boxgrove, who appeared before the Churchwardens for playing his fiddle and dancing on a Sunday instead of being in church.

Sometimes Churchwardens used to use the system to settle old scores against their neighbours but this would have had a downside because should the accused end up as a Churchwarden at some point the roles would be reversed.

Allen Misselbrook
October 2017



Worthing a History; Riot and Respectability in a Seaside Town

The history of Worthing was the focus for the Group's November meeting. Worthing historian, Chris Hare, delved into his vast knowledge of the area to enlighten his audience with a few facts of its early history and some of the darker happenings of the town.

In the 1700s Worthing as we know it now would have been completely different; not actually by the sea but around Broadwater and quite rural.

From around 4000BC, the South Downs above Worthing was Britain's earliest and largest flint mining area, with four of the UK's 14 known flint mines lying within 7 miles (11kilometres) of the centre of Worthing. An excavation at Little High Street dates the earliest remains from Worthing town centre to the Bronze Age. There is also an important Bronze Age hill fort on the western fringes of the modern borough at Highdown Hill.

Worthing remained an agricultural and fishing hamlet for centuries until the arrival of wealthy visitors in the 1750s. Princess Amelia stayed in the town in 1798 and the fashionable and wealthy continued to stay in Worthing, which became a town in 1803. The town expanded and elegant developments such as Park Crescent and Liverpool Terrace were begun. The area was a stronghold of smugglers in the 19th century and was the site of the rioting by the Skeleton Army in the 1880s.

Throughout much of the 19th century, disturbances frequently occurred on Guy Fawkes Night in Worthing causing alarm and posing great problems for the local authorities. The trouble stemmed from an undercurrent of social unrest and resentment to the 'establishment', the police, Roman Catholics and unpopular local personalities. Although Worthing was not unique in these troubles, the incidents were among the worst in the South East.

In 1852, as if to mark the debut of the Local Board, a mob of Bonfire Boys with blackened faces, staves, blazing tar barrels and menacing banners rampaged out of control, and the following year the Archbishop Cardinal Wiseman was burnt in effigy.

1877 saw violent rioting and confrontation with the police. In 1880 a bonfire club was launched.

When the Salvation Army arrived in 1883 the club became the Worthing Excelsior Skeleton Army, seeking to rout the Salvationists, their attempts culminating in an unprecedented outbreak of mob rule in August 1884 when troops were called in to quell the violence.

Oscar Wilde holidayed in the the town in 1893 and 1894, writing the Importance of Being Earnest during his second visit. The town was home to several literary figures in the 20th century, including Nobel prize-winner Harold Pinter. During the Second World War, Worthing was home to several allied military divisions in preparation for the D-Day landings.

Jon Carver
December 2017



Winter Solstice, Yuletide and the Feast of Saturnalia

To round off their series of talks for 2017 the members and guests gave a very warm welcome to the returning Paul Ullson who is an old friend of the Group. Dressed in the robes of a 'Wise Man' he launched into his talk Winter Solstice, Yuletide and the Feast of Saturnalia. He took the Christmas story and slowly peeled off the 'layers' to expose what is possibly the real story. He took great pains to assure his audience that he wasn't denying the birth of Christ or wanting to offend anyone.

He went on to say that the Christmas celebrations as we know them are the result of the consolidation of many traditions down the centuries. According to Paul, the Nativity has been condensed, with all the elements appearing to take place over a few days. But when the wise men went to Herod and enquired about the birth, he ordered all the baby boys up to the age of two to be killed; did this mean that they arrived up to two years after the birth? The exact date of Christ's birth is unknown; the shepherds are always depicted carrying lambs which would suggest that it was springtime. In Judaism, the date of the Annunciation is March 25th which is associated with fertility. A nine month pregnancy would give a birthday of 25th December; Paul asks is this the derivation of Christmas day.

Nativity scene

Many of the traditions around the celebrating of Christmas can be laid at the door of the Romans. The feast of Saturnalia, December 17th, lasted for seven days and the Roman New Year was January 1st when houses were decorated with greenery, and gifts were given to children and the poor. The suggestion is that the Romans combined their Pagan festival with that of Christmas when they were converted to Christianity. The Yule log is an Anglo Saxon tradition where a log was lit and burnt for 24 hours to ward off a range of misfortunes which could befall a household, and the burning was accompanied by feasting and drinking about the time of the Winter Solstice. It was the French that created the chocolate version that we enjoy today.

Victorian Christmas tree

It was the Victorians who started the tradition of the decorated Christmas tree in Britain when Prince Albert brought the practice with him from Germany. Since Pagan times it has been the custom to decorate houses with greenery, especially at the feast of Saturnalia and the Winter Solstice, to ward off evil spirits. The Germans started bringing in trees, which they decorated, in the 1600s.

Paul then turned his attention to Boxing Day. The day owes its names to the custom of giving out Alms boxes to the poor on the day following Christmas Day. Another tradition introduced during Queen Victoria's reign was Father Christmas clad in red robes. The character of Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, was based on a 3rd century monk, St Nicholas, living in what is now Turkey, who gave away all his inherited wealth to the needy. In pre-Victorian days his character was clad in green, the colour of the traditional decorations, but the Victorians brightened him up by dressing him in red. The full history of Santa Claus must wait for another time.

St Nicholas

Allen Misselbrook
January 2018