Review of Meetings 2019


Gilks Dunnickin

The start of the new year of talks, members and guests of The Yapton & Ford Local History Group welcomed back Tony and Lizzie Gilks of Timespan. Tony spent the evening recounting his career as a local police officer with anecdotes of his time on the beat as well as stories of his time spent as a School’s Liaison Officer.

Born in Birmingham, the son of a prison officer, he moved with his family to West Sussex. He spent his early years working for Barnham Nursery where one of his co-workers encouraged him to apply to become a policeman, which he did, taking his test at Chichester, and spent 30 years in the service. Worthing, Arundel and Littlehampton were some of the stations he served in. He was married in Yapton Church and his reception was held in the old Yapton Village Hall, now the Co-Op.

One of his amusing stories concerned Yapton. It was known that two or three local lads were involved in stealing motorbikes among other things. They knew which house they operated from so Tony decided to ‘stake out’ the house one night while hiding in some nearby bushes. After several fruitless hours of watching, he felt a tap on his shoulder and a kindly resident asked if he would like a cup of tea.

After many years of being on the beat, Tony transferred to the Schools Liaison Unit and spent several rewarding years going into schools, 6th Form Colleges and Universities educating students in the ways of how to be safe and law-abiding citizens. Possibly his most satisfying episodes was the time when one of the young students he saw regularly in a classroom of disadvantaged children. The student had a flair for art. Tony managed, against the rules, to place him in an adults evening class. He was rewarded by the young student sending him an excellent painting which Tony had brought with him to show the Group. These were just a few of the many entertaining tales related during the evening. Tony and Lizzie had brought with them several items of memorabilia gathered from his time in the Police Force. Items which included a range of truncheons, a cat-o-nine tails, prisoner identification badges and documents. The audience also had the opportunity of buying a copy of his autobiography.

Allen Misselbrook
February 2019



100 Years of Ford Airfield

Following the successful exhibition last year, Allen and Kevin Misselbrook presented a slideshow and talk to a full house, tracing the history of the airfield from its construction in 1917/18. The slideshow, previously shown at the exhibition, included all the major users of the airfield over the past century. These included the RFC, the Americans and RAF from the WW1. Yapton Aero Club, Ford Aviation Company (Division of Ford Motor Company), Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus and Flight Refuelling from the inter-war years. Followed by the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF during and after the WW2. Finally ending up with Ford Prison and the Industry of the post war years. The commentary accompanying the 120 or so slides added a little background to the story, with tales of heroism and accidents claiming lives of some of those that served there, especially from the war-time bombings.




The audience heard about the Naval Observer Training School and the Naval School of Photography. Ford airfield was in the fore front of the development of radar installed in aircraft to locate and attack enemy aircraft at night. The Fighter Interception Unit (FIU) was based at Ford. Under the control of the RAF, aircraft from Ford played a major role in supporting the Dieppe Raid and D-Day. Ford also played host to returning prisoners of war, over 11,000 of them.

The final series of slides concentrated on the Fleet Air Arm’s occupation of the airfield. The trials unit which tested all new aircraft equipment as well as inventing some of their own. Early forms of Air–Sea Rescue were pioneered on the airfield with the development of a scoop-net to fish downed aircrew from the sea.

There was an opportunity to purchase a book which was written to accompany the Centenary Exhibition, copies of which are still available.

Allen Misselbrook
February 2019



Hilaire Belloc

Yapton & Ford Local History Group gave a warm welcome to Chris Hare at their March meeting. The subject of his talk on this visit had a literary flavour as his subject was Hilaire Belloc, his life and his association with Sussex.

The Group heard about Belloc’s early life, being born in 1870 just outside of Paris and how his father died when Hilaire was only 18 months old. Following the Siege of Paris by the Prussians, a revolution was staged by a group of French Socialists calling themselves the Paris Commune which was overthrown with much bloodshed. 20,000 members were executed. Against this backdrop Belloc’s mother, being English and fairly wealthy, returned with her son to London.

Chris went on to say that after the family suffered some financial reversals Hilaire moved to Slindon where he grew up loving the countryside traditions and slower pace of life than he was accustomed to in London. As a French Citizen he returned to France to complete his National Service in the French Army before returning once again to England in 1892 to study at Oxford University where he gained a 1st Class Honours Degree in History. He obtained British Citizenship in 1902 and three years later he bought a house and five acres of land in Shipley near Horsham which included a mill at Slindon. By this time, he had married an American woman, Elodie Hogan in 1896 with whom he had five children.

In 1906 he stood for Parliament and was elected as the member for Salford South, a seat which he held in the election of January 1910 but lost it in the December election of the same year.

Hilaire Belloc

Hilaire Belloc was a most prolific writer, writing many books about his beloved West Sussex as well as many books on historical topics. He was also a poet with 102 poems to his name. In addition to these he also wrote novels, one of which was ‘The Four Men’, a story about four travellers walking from west to east across Sussex.

Chris finished by saying that Hilaire suffered a series of strokes in the early 1940’s and was unable to write again. He died in 1953 at the age of 82. He is buried in Our Lady of Consolation and St Francis Churchyard, West Grinstead.

Allen Misselbrook
April 2019



The Swing Riots of Sussex

In contrast to last month's talk, the subject of the History Group’s April talk was about riots in the Sussex countryside. Guest speaker, Gary Purser, explained why and how agricultural workers of the county followed the example of other counties and revolted. Amongst the causes were mechanisation of farming, Tithes and low wages. The introduction of threshing machines and other mechanised farm machinery such as ‘Gin Gangs’ (round buildings in which horses attached to wooden gearing mechanisms which drove threshing machines) threatened the livelihoods of village folk putting many of them out of work and into poverty.

To head up the protests a fictitious leader was invented and went by the name of ‘Captain Swing’. Letters were received by landowners setting out demands which included the destruction of all offending machinery and were signed ‘Captain Swing’. Failure to do so would result in hayricks being set alight and machinery smashed in the middle of the night. Mobs, sometimes 2000/3000 strong, used to gather together to carry out the threats. The first ‘Swing Riots’ occurred in Kent, spreading to Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

Swing letter

The first rick to be set ablaze was on June 1st 1830 in Orpington and the first threshing machine was destroyed on August 28th 1830. The government reacted but as there was little or no police force at that time it was left to the local magistrates and JPs to administer punishment. A reward of £50 was offered for information about rioters and £500 for information about arsonists. These were great inducements considering the weekly wage for a farm labourer was 8/4d (42p). To make sure that nobody went to the authorities every member of a mob was required to ‘burn something’ which in so doing implicated them in the crimes. The riots only lasted for 2 years and during that time there were 1,976 trials: 252 people were sentenced to death (only 19 of theses were actually executed), 505 were transported, 644 imprisoned, 7 fined and 1 whipped. The rest were either acquitted or bound over.

Firing of a Hayrick

Gary gave some local examples which concerned the Innerwhyke and Outerwhyke farms in Felpham. Thomas Cosens, owner of Innerwhyke Farm, received demands from a large mob to increase the labourers pay to 14/- (70p) a week.

The movement achieved a general increase in wages and eventually, in 1834, the Government amended the Poor Law Act.

Allen Misselbrook
April 2019



Visit to Boxgrove Priory

In place of our usual monthly meeting, the Yapton & Ford Local History Group organised a guided tour of Boxgove Priory followed by tea and cake. 28 people were shown around by Tim Pullman who mapped out the history of the Priory Church of St Mary and St Blaise, indicating points of interest. Although the Norman Priory (some of which has been demolished over the centuries) was built in the 12th century, the Domesday Book of 1086 mentions an earlier Anglo-Saxon church existing on the same site. Some of the 12th century building still exists. Evidence of further buildings could be seen as parch marks in the grass. The 14th century Priory Guest House cared for by English Heritage is now just a ruin.


Boxgrove Priory

Guesthouse Ruins

Before moving inside the Priory our guide brought our attention to some of the stone used in the building. It has recently been discovered that it came from Lavant. The clue is in the fossilised shark’s teeth found in the stone which is peculiar to an old quarry which existed there.

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the buildings and land were granted to Sir Thomas West, Baron de la Warr, Lord of the Manor of Halnaker, who had the impressive Chantry Chapel built. He also commissioned a local artist, Lambert Barnard to paint the ceiling with a design of flowers and foliage which included the family badges and arms of his and his wife’s families.

Over the centuries the Priory passed through the hands of The Crown, The Earl of Arundel, Sir John Morley and Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond. Today the current Duke of Richmond & Gordon is the Patron.

Allen Misselbrook
June 2019



The Changing Face of Public Houses in Bognor Regis

The History Group were delighted to welcome back Sylvia Endacott back as their guest speaker for their June meeting. Her topic for this visit was Bognor and its Pubs and how they have changed over the years. Sylvia’s talk was set against the backdrop of 1300 Public Houses which were lost in 2018.

The first Public House (actually an Inn) that Sylvia mentioned was the Fox Inn, which in 1790 was situated on the seafront. Sadly, it was washed away but was rebuilt, this time in Felpham where it is still serving pints today. Many of the Pubs mentioned can now only be found in history books. Establishments such as The Fountain (1835 – 1911) eventually became Gough’s Art Shop, the Elephant and Castle in Steyne Street (demolished 1970) and The Crown (converted to flats c.1986). Sylvia went on to say that some Pubs survived but suffered name changes. The William Hardwicke in the High Street started life as The New Inn a coach and horse stop (1820’s) before becoming the Sussex Hotel and finally The William Hardwicke, which was the name of the original builder. A Public House in North Bersted has been known as The Rising Sun, Bersted Tavern and The Stamp House since it was built in Victoria’s reign. The original landlord accepted a bet in 1882 that he couldn’t decorate a whole room with postage stamps. The landlord, Richard Sharpe won the bet. The building which was converted into a Tesco’s store, was built on the site of the old pub around 1957 and known as The Rising Sun.

Rising Sun, North Bersted

Finally, no talk about the Public Houses of Bognor Regis could end without the mention of the Royal Oak at North Bersted, the Pink Pub. Circa 1980, the landlord and landlady were going on holiday and were told by the brewery that they would re-decorate the pub while they were away. On their return they found that the pub had been painted pink!

Allen Misselbrook
June 2019

Royal Oak, North Bersted