Hilaire Belloc bought King's Land (in Shipley, Sussex), 5 acres and a working windmill for £1000 in 1907 and it was his home for the rest of his life. Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her: he lived there for most of his 83 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her. "He does not die that can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows, Or dares, persistent, interwreath Love permanent with the wild hedgerows; He does not die, but still remains Substantiate with his darling plains."

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Wednesday 31 July 2013

A splendid commemoration of Belloc's 60th Anniversary...

Quite a number of Bellocians enjoyed a splendid day in Sussex, recently, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the writer's death. The day started with a High Mass at the parish church of Our Lady of Consolation. Father John Emerson, who is the superior of the Fraternity of Saint Peter in Scotland, preached a stirring sermon the likes of which is rarely heard today. The chief celebrant was Father Matthew Goddard, who is the son of the Rector of the church (which has a very interesting history). Following the Mass we had an absolution at the graveside.

We then had a picnic and were treated to a small talk by the veteran Bellocian Blaise Compton (Hilaire Belloc - A man 'stuffed with vision'). We hope to publish Blaise's talk on this Blog in due course.

From thence back to the graveside for some Bellocian verse followed closely by Benediction. In the evening we migrated to The George and Dragon near Shipley Village. The Inn is very close to Belloc's old house, 'Kingsland', and it was one of his 'locals'. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the clergy who participated, the servers and singers, our speaker and, last but not least, my co-organiser. Our next event will probably be in September and the theme will be: in search of The Four Men. Watch this space.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Join us for the Worthing Downlanders' annual celebration of Hilaire Belloc...

Chris Hare, of the Worthing Downlanders, has asked me to remind everyone of their annual celebration of Hilaire Belloc this Saturday at The Parsonage Bar, Tarring (7 for 7.30pm) in Worthing:

''This year we would like to also include works from other Sussex based/inspired Poets and Writers, and as always we invite everyone to contribute their favourite readings.

The evening will include a Bread, Cheese & Pickle Supper, and The Parsonage Bar have agreed to put aside an area specifically for Worthing Downlanders.

Members £5, Non-Members £6.''

As they have to notify The Parsonage Bar of numbers in advance could those wishing to attend notify them as soon as possible: chrisharex@yahoo.co.uk

I will be driving down from London in the morning (as I will be walking around Elsted, in the South Downs, during the day). If anyone would like a lift, and would not mind a brisk walk in stunning countryside, it will be first come, first serve:


Monday 15 July 2013

High Mass, picnic, poetry and music in West Grinstead this Saturday...

There will be a High Mass for the repose of the soul of Hilaire Belloc at the parish church of Our Lady of Consolation at 12 PM (on Saturday the 20th of July). This year is the 60th anniversary of the great man's death. The sermon will be preached by Father John Emerson, who is the superior of the Fraternity of Saint Peter in Scotland. The chief celebrant will be Father Matthew Goddard, who is the son of the Rector of the church (which has a very interesting history).

After the High Mass there will be an absolution at Belloc's grave (in the churchyard). This will be followed by several French military trumpet pieces (which Belloc would have been familiar with during his time in the French Army) including a 'Raillement'. We will then picnic and be treated to a small talk by the veteran Bellocian Blaise Compton (Hilaire Belloc - A man 'stuffed with vision'). Thereafter, there will be poetry followed by Benediction. Please feel free to recite your own favourite piece of Bellocian verse. In the evening we hope to have folk music, and food, at The George and Dragon near Shipley Village. The landlord has kindly offered to erect a marquee for our exclusive use.We will be descending on the pub at 7.00 PM. By way of an aperitif, we will be having afternoon 'tea' at the The Countryman Inn (after Benediction). The Inn is very close to Belloc's old house, 'Kingsland', and it was one of his 'locals'.

There will be a mini-bus leaving Clapham, in London, at 9.30 sharp, from Saint Bede's church - Thornton Road. Seats are available on a first come, first serve basis (currently there are two left). Those of you who are desirous of availing of this transport opportunity are invited to e-mail the blog administrator:


If there are any servers out there we are a little bit short at the moment.

Finally, if you are coming, don't forget to bring your picnic!



In other words:

12 pm Mass.

1.20 pm Absolution at Belloc's grave followed by trumpet pieces (the trumpet pieces have been cancelled).

1.30 pm Picnic.

2.45 pm Talk by Blaise Compton during picnic (Hilaire Belloc - A man 'stuffed with vision').

3.05 pm Poetry at the grave.

4.00 pm Benediction.

5.00 pm Onwards - departure for The Countryman Inn.

7.00 pm Arrive at the George and Dragon for food and music. 

Sunday 14 July 2013

Hilaire Belloc Supper Evening - Saturday 27th July

The Worthing Downlanders announce:

Join us for our annual celebration of Hilaire Belloc.

This year we would like to also include works from other Sussex based/inspired Poets and Writers, and as always we invite everyone to contribute their favourite readings.

The evening will include a Bread, Cheese & Pickle Supper, and The Parsonage Bar have agreed to put aside an area specifically for Worthing Downlanders.

Members £5, Non-Members £6.

As we have to notify The Parsonage Bar of numbers in advance (and also to pay for the catering), could those wishing to attend notify us (please reply to us at chrisharex@yahoo.co.uk) and post/deliver the relevant amount per head by July 23rd, payable to our treasurer, Steve Wealthy at: 42, Stanley Rd, Worthing BN11 1DT.)

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Hilaire Belloc and a High Mass - Robert D. Hickson

Narbonne Cathedral

Dare I say it, but Belloc does make a disparaging remark about the High Mass in The Path to Rome. By 1927 he seems to have changed his tune. Anyway, he is going to get one on the 20th of July in West Grinstead

A unique and unrepeatable event 

In October of 1927 Hilaire Belloc first published his book, Towns of Destiny, (1) which contains his grateful depiction of a unique and unrepeatable event that so unexpectedly manifested itself to him in southern France on the High Feast of the Holy Ghost: a sacred action in a very special setting. In my view, this book often reveals to the attentive reader some of our beloved Belloc's deepest thoughts and resonant, as well as animating, convictions. One small test of this judgement, and an initial measure of its sufficiency, will be found if we consider only his thirty-second Chapter, entitled “Narbonne.” (2)

Consider how Belloc starts his presentation of Narbonne, interweaving geography and history and his recent personal travel and so much more. For, he is preparing us to savour more fully a set of converging facts and acts that combined to nourish him so gracefully and sacramentally in the Spring of 1925, almost seven months before Pope Pius XI published his own sacramental Encyclical, Quas Primas: his own declaration of the High Feast of Christ the King, in light of its underlying doctrine: 

Upon a Whitsunday [in May of 1925] I found myself returning from the Balearics, through Spain, to that luxuriant warm plain between the mountains and the sea, which the Romans knew as the “Narbonnese.” It was the wealthiest district of their Gaul; grouped round its great central port; the pole of so much energy, superb achievement and tradition. (223) 

Towns for centuries drowned 

Drawing us then further into his first-person narrative, both his just-completed personal journeys and his evocations of earlier, but still timely, military history, he says: 

I had spent these spring weeks from April [of 1925] onward, in passing through the recovered countries of Sicily, North Africa and Spain, drawing and writing upon the towns in which our civilisation has re-established itself, so gradually, recovering them from the flood of Mohammedanism in which they had been for centuries drowned. (223—my emphasis added) 

Back again in unbroken tradition 

Acknowledging the near completion of his wandering expeditions and his consolation to return closer to home, he adds: 

Here, in the Narbonnese [with Carcassonne and Castelnaudary to the West], I was at the end of that excursion and back again in the unbroken tradition of our people and of our Faith. For though the Saracen flood had indeed beaten upon the walls of this place, and though sundry small garrisons of Islam had lingered on between the Pyrenees and the central mountains of France, yet had they not here occupied,ruined or transformed, as they had occupied, ruined and transformed elsewhere. And Narbonne catches on back through 2,000 years to its origin without interruption and has, stored up within itself, the very essence of Rome. It was in these fields that the great landed family, the highest name in whose lineage was that of Charlemagne, had its origin and root. (223-224—my emphasis added). 

Nourishing rootedness 

Belloc in various ways stresses the theme of continuity and nourishing rootedness, and he even said paradoxically that Narbonne is now “better suited for the conservation of the past and for the handing on of most ancient memories to us, the modern passer-by, from the fact that it is decayed.” (224—my emphasis added). Because of certain geographical changes, especially the mysterious silting up of its once-famous harbour and inlets, history, in a certain sense, largely then passed it by. thus, certain towns, like Narbonne, “have been arrested at some moment and fossilised, as it were, and we can live it again within their walls. It is so with Narbonne.” (224) Indeed, “That mother city slowly turned to a shrunken, inland place, its ancient function lost,” (224) for it was effectively isolated and no longer copiously open to the Mediterranean sea and its water-borne traffic. Then we come to face a sacred edifice which was still to be seen in that old mother city, now situated on a “shallow lagoon” that was no longer a great bay: 

And the date of the turning point, when at last the narrows [to the open sea] had become too difficult, and the harbour too shoal for a continued life, is well fixed by the enormous cathedral and palace of the Bishop, which stand like a fortress, and are yet uncompleted, halted at mid-building in the very midst of the Middle Ages. (224—my emphasis added) 

The fortress and the keep 

The Narbonne cathedral, nearly contemporary with “the Palace of the Popes in Avignon,” somehow combines the effects of both “church and stronghold,” for “both the ideas are commingled and form one thing.” (224, 225) Expressing his own recent perceptions of that unfinished Narbonne cathedral, Belloc adds: 

Coming upon it from the outer streets, if you approach by the palace side, you see indeed the buttresses and the ogives of a Gothic church, but there is a strength and bigness, a massiveness of stone, a reduction of ornament, which still suggests the fortress and the keep. (225) 

A place of coloured light 

Though that “huge thing is incomplete”—“an apse with transepts only begun...and uncontinued” like the nave and its “unconnected juttings of great stone”—something of mystery once again happens, as Belloc moves from the outside to the inside: 

But this effect of power and resistance, this character of standing for a siege [perhaps a Mohammedan siege?], which is the great mark of the cathedral of Narbonne, disappears in a sort of magic and a transformation when one passes the door and gets within. Then all is suddenly changed into a place of coloured light. And that which externally was all shoulders and masonry, seeming to allow but small open spaces between, from within is one great round of those solemn and soaring windows which turn the greater glories of the thirteenth century into a vision. (225—my emphasis added) 

After this framing preparation—by way of geography, history, and architecture—Belloc prepares us further for the approaching Sacred Action: 

When I thus came to Narbonne, it being yet long before noon in the mid-morning, a strong May sun poured through that glass and made that whole airy cavern celestially alive. It seemed to have...the height of Beauvais, the majesty of Paris [Notre Dame], and something of the magic of Chartres. For the thirteenth century learned to work this miracle of contrasts: so to arrange the external stonework that its characteristic to the onlooker from without was the strength of this world, but so to devise the interior with the least proportion of fine, long-drawn supports, that the lights were its universal mark, and that the building itself seemed half air. (225-226—my emphasis added) 

By some divine chance 

In a later, and characteristically modest book, The Catholic Church and Conversion, G.K.Chesterton also memorably wrote that, as with a Gothic Cathedral, the Faith is much larger from the inside, than from without—and this more spacious and intimate sense of being within the Church, not outside, is what he gratefully and joyfully experienced as a convert, in 1922, to the Catholic Faith. 

Now is the time for Hilaire Belloc to introduce us to his special experience and receptivity, and his timing was perfect (like the timing of God!): 

I came to the town just in time for the Great High Mass of Pentecost, and going straight to the palace and past it into the cathedral, I took my place in what were once the stalls of the canons (for, as I have said, there is no [full] nave, and only the choir is roofed), till the procession entered, and the Sacrifice began. It was an experience such as I shall not have again, I suppose, in this life; such as I had not had before in all the many years and towns of my travels. For there met in combination there, by some divine chance [or special Providence?], certain streams of emotion, their combination all enhanced by the quality of the place.” (226—my emphasis added) 

More significant than anything else in the world 

He will now intensify the resonance of his deeper meaning by recalling us first to some sharp contrasts from his own recent travels: 

What I had just seen in Barbary [the Maghreb of North Africa], the several crossings of the Mediterranean Sea, the town [of Narbonne] under the strong light [of May], the mountains to the south and to the north, far away, the richness of the plain, the great story of [Narbonne's] activity and of [its] decay, all this combined to give an immense significance to this which I was about to follow, this Act, repeated daily upon ten thousand altars, which is also more significant than anything else in the world. (226—my emphasis added) 

Such is the truth, inherently, about the Sacred Action of the Mass—the Actio Sacra Missae. 

Then, our beloved and humble Belloc will draw us on to other, less intrinsic, yet intimate, enhancements, which will also show us a deep glimpse of his heart: 

It was as though this High Mass which was about to open had something about it especial; catching up the spirit of the myriad others [the other Masses] which in succession were rising to meet the sun in the progress of the morning light around the world; and I was filled with the recollection that I had 
chanced, by the best of fortunes [or by the Grace of Providence], to find myself here upon the Feast of the Holy Ghost. It was a little after nine o'clock of the morning of that Whitsunday. (226—my emphasis added) 

Emotion, mood and Faith 

Now we turn to his consideration of “sacramentals,” as it were, and other enhancing supports of the Intrinsic Sacred Action of the Mass, while always still aware of the “unseen glory” of a low Mass offered with modesty and love amidst grave poverty, or even under conditions of wretchedness: 

Men are often blamed (and more often justly blamed) for permitting the sensual to invade the intellectual; that is, for allowing their judgement (which is our highest faculty, after love) to be warped by the appetitive in man. On this account it is that the detestable Manicheans (for whom their modern name is “Puritans”) reject the proper glories of worship and the unison of the whole of man into the act of God's praise and of God's service. Without considering their unhappy malformation [i.e., that of the Puritans and their Forebears], it remains true that a man must never misinterpret his mere emotion for faith, nor his mere mood for intellectual assent and conviction, still less must he ever substitute intention for act, and a feeling, however strong, for achievement. Faith is of the will. He would be a poor heir of the Catholic Church who should consider the splendours of her most noble pageantry in the greatest Mass, as in some way adding to the inward values and to the unseen glory of a low Mass said hurriedly in some chapel of a hamlet. (226-227—my emphasis added) 

The soul supported by sacramental things 

After this gracious and noble reminder of the truth, Belloc will yet disclose his own yearnings and special vulnerabilities: 

Nevertheless, I would advance it to be [additionally] true that the soul is supported by all sacramental things; that is, by all unison of the mind and the body upon a proper object; and [more specifically] that when great architecture and glorious colour and solemn music, and the profound rhythms of the Latin tongue, and ritual of many centuries, and the uncommunicable atmosphere of age, all combine to exalt a man in his worship, he is made greater and not less. He is supported. He is fed. (227—my emphasis added) 

This last passage, I believe, should be read and read again. It is not only true, but a glimpse into the deeper heart of Belloc—a key to his own vividly expressed Sacramental Memories and Sacramental Visions and Understanding Heart, as will be found in his other writings, as well. 

I cannot boast to be of such a kind 

In his next transition, he gives honour to those who are of another stamp and attitude and habit of reverence, before admitting the needs of his own poor soul: 

Well do I know that the greatest of visions have come to men in small rough huts of stone, round in shape, piled by their own hands above the western seas of Ireland or in the Hebrides. And I know that these men have scaled heaven. I also know that men similarly isolated in the deserts between the Nile and the Red Sea perceived our final inheritance and were admitted into the divine company. 
There is no necessity of any aid from the senses; and the greatest of those who were adepts in the search for heaven did, upon the contrary, withdraw themselves from all influence of the senses when they most desired the satisfaction of the praegustatum—the foretaste of that for which wewere designed: our home. But I cannot boast myself to be of such a kind, and on my own poor level it is landscape, the sea, human love, music, and the rest, that help to make me understand: and in their absence I am very empty indeed. (227-228—my emphasis added) 

Does this passage not make others also understand why we so deeply cherish and truly love Hilaire Belloc? As he says in one of his own verses: “Blessed is he that has come to the heart of the world and is humble.” (3) 

A great good 

With this fuller preparation and revelation of his heart, Belloc brings us to his rich accumulation and the climax of his narrative and its implications: 

Now here in the cathedral of Narbonne, upon the Whitsunday of 1925, having come in with one companion [probably his friend, Edward “Bear” Warre] in the morning of a hot summer's day, after so much exploring of the heights of Africa, so much watching the conflict between Islam and ourselves, so much content in the glories of Spain and in the peace and wealth and good manners of Palma, of Majorica, so much breathing of the Mediterranean air in long nights upon the decks at sea, certainly all the support requisite, all the augmentations valuable to a man of my kind, came very fortunately together; and I received, at this Whitsunday High Mass in the cathedral of Narbonne, what I had desired to receive: a great good. (228—my emphasis added) 

O that unbelievers could have witnessed this! 

Belloc admits that those who “misunderstand the end of dignity do not confess these things to their fellow beings,” but he [Belloc] is “willing to confess them,” in part because “whatever has done oneself good should be communicated to others” and, besides that, “we are bound for a very different journey from that of this world.” (228) And, so, he will now conclude with vivid specificity and a consequent call for our further-faithful Catholic Witness, as was the case with Saint Dominic: 

Well then the Mass began. They bore above the head of the celebrant that round shade of silk which had also come centuries ago from Rome. They had their particular rites of the bishopric, and of their tradition. They read the Gospel, not from the altar steps, but from high up near the roof, above the heads of the whole people; from the organ loft, in splendid fashion. And when they sang the Veni Creator, I could swear that the light which fell on the place took on another quality. And I remembered the singing of that same song on that great day, when St. Dominic sang it upon the scaling ladder, and our people stormed the wall and destroyed the mortal Albigensian peril, and restored Europe. I must tell you that all this time the Blessed Sacrament was exposed above the altar on a very high place in a blaze of light. The Mass proceeded; the final prayers were said; the thing was over. If I could have got into that nave of Narbonne all the starved unbelieving men cut off from the past in the dissolution of the modern world, there would have come out some reasonable proportion restored to the traditions of Europe [and hence to the Faith and the sacred traditions of the Faith]. (228-229—my emphasis added) 

And, once again, Hilaire Belloc has borne his inimitable and vividly trustful Catholic Witness, here in
 the year of 1925, now almost a century ago, between the two civil wars in Europe—sometimes called another Thirty Years Wars—but more commonly known as World War I and World War II, about which Our Lady of Fatima also mercifully forewarned us, and especially the authoritative leaders of the Catholic Church. May Belloc's own combined sacramental words and gratefully communicated, special experience draw us also on to a greater fidelity to the Faith and hence to the Blessed Mother herself, Our Lady of Fatima. 

Blessed be he who has come to the heart of the Faith and is humble.

© 2013 Robert D. Hickson 

(1) Hilaire Belloc, Towns of Destiny (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, 1927)—“Illustrated by Edmond L.Ware,” 
Belloc's beloved friend and travel companion. The book is divided into seven parts: Spain; Portugal; The Recovered 
Country; France;The Rhine March; Tournai; and Three Towns of Life and Death (i.e., Narbonne, Chaise Dieu, and 
Corneto of the Tarquins). It is a richly variegated and highly differentiated book of 238 pages. 

(2) This seven-page chapter, simply entitled “Narbonne,” may be found on pages 223-229 of Towns of Destiny. Further 
page-references to this chapter will be in parentheses in the text of this essay. 

(3) Hilaire Belloc, Complete Verse (London Gerald Duckworth, 1970), p. 79— “From the Latin (But Not So Pagan),” line 1. 

Monday 8 July 2013

On Being Close to Things Primary - Professor James V. Schall, S. J.

In the Hills and the Sea (Marlboro Press, 1906), Belloc tells of being high in the Pyrenees, in a place recalled as "Los Altos", which I cannot tell whether it is a specific area or merely that it is in a very high part of these very high mountains. The essay in which he tells us this is entitled "On 'Mails'". He begins right away to tell us what "Mails" are. They turn out to be in fact "malls". Belloc describes a "mail" as a "place set with trees in regular order so as to form alleys, sand and gravel are laid on the earth beneath the trees, masonry of great solidity, grey, and exquisitely worked, surrounds the whole, except on one side, where strong stone pillars carry heavy chains across the entrance." The spelling "Mails" confused me.

Belloc did consistently put the term "mails" in quotation marks to indicate, I take it, an obsolete or foreign usage. I tried to find a dictionary or a reference book, a topic that shall come up shortly, to explain this usage. Finally, I found it in that microscopic version of the Oxford English Dictionary, after almost going blind with the magnifying glass. Evidently, it refers to a game, pall mall, or to a place where the game was played in Paris. I do not know this game, but the term Pall Mall is also a street in London where stylish folks once were said to live.

"Mails", Belloc tells us, take about two hundred years to perfect themselves and last in good condition for another hundred. They were popular during the time of Charles II of England and Scotland and Louis XIV in France. This essay is really about Belloc's "little pen" which has led him from one thing to another so much so that, at this point, he entirely forgets "The 'Mails'" until he realizes at the end of the essay that he has wandered into different intellectual and sentimental alleys.

At the mention of Louis XIV and Charles II, Belloc first begins to wonder which of these monarchs was older. He calculates this comparative age according to certain dates he does remember, the fact that Charles came back to England in 1660 and that Mazarin signed a Treaty with Spain in 1659. With such figuring, he finally decides that Charles is about thirty years older than Louis. At this point, of course, I eagerly wanted to look up the facts, which I did. It seems that Charles II was 1630-85, while Louis XIV lived from 1638-1715. So Belloc's memory was right on the money.

But this memory exercise was a literary trap for the reader, of course. Belloc himself could not look up the fact but had to recall it from his own memory because he was up in the Pyrenees at the time with no luxuries of civilization around him. "How dependent is mortal man on those Books of Reference," he sighs. At this point in my reading of this charming essay, I begin to wonder if I should have looked up the facts. Anyone with a few Books of Reference at his desk, Belloc observed, can seem more learned than Erasmus. There was the trap! Vanity! Belloc suggests in fact that "five out of six men who read this" essay will have such reference books at hand. I certainly did, which was why I could look up the dates and seem as wise as Erasmus.

But Belloc has another point to make, much more philosophical: "Let any man who reads this ask himself whether he would rather be where he is in London on this August day (for it is August), or where I am, which is up in Los Altos, the very high Pyrenees, very far from every sort of derivative and secondary thing and close to all the things primary?" This obviously rhetorical question -- I know there are some dull souls who would still rather be in London even in August -- forces us to ask ourselves about things secondary and things primary.

At this point, Belloc decides to describe what this rocky place in the high Pyrenees looks like. Beech and pine cling to the steep sides of the mountains, limestone precipices jut out. The going from camp site to camp site is very slow, dangerous. "It seems dead silent. There are few birds, and even at dawn one only hears a twittering here and there." The silence at first makes it seem as if nothing at all is being heard. Then he reflects that if he were suddenly to pick this Pyrenees place up and put it down in London, it would not be a silent place at all. What he hears at all times, day and night in Los Altos, is the roar of the torrent crashing down the steep mountainsides into the valley below. This noise has become so "continuous, so sedulous, that it has become part of oneself."

After several days, Belloc decides that he must begin to descend. Gradually, he notices signs of human life, an abandoned cabin, a path, "and thence to the high road and so to men." After he is among men for a while, he begins to think of where he has been. "I shall miss the torrent and feel ill at ease," he tells us, "hardly knowing what I miss, and I shall recall Los Altos, the high places, and remember nothing but their loneliness and silence" -- a silence and loneliness that has become "part" of himself.

When he gets to the valley, Belloc will saunter into a town, "St. Girons or another, along the riverside and under the lime trees...." And it was with this word "trees" that Belloc suddenly remembered "The 'Mails'", the very topic about which he had begun to write. At this sudden ending, he addresses, with mock seriousness, his little fountain pen with which he is writing these reflections of his stay in the Los Altos, his "companion and friend." He asks it "whither have you led me, and why cannot you learn the plodding of your trade?" Of course, we are most grateful that this little pen did not learn the "plodding" if its trade. We are delighted that, with its user in charge, it rather wandered from place to place, from topic to topic, beyond the Books of Reference and the relative dates of Charles II and Louis XIV, but, all the while, still remembering in mountains and, yes, in the "Mails" that take two hundred years to mature, "nothing but loneliness and silence." Here at last, we are again reminded to distinguish in our lives the things of "secondary" and "primary" importance, the great task of our existence.

From Schall on Belloc, Generally Speaking, March, 1997.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Interesting article on the history of West Grinstead...

The parish of West Grinstead, which includes the growing village of Partridge Green, and which is noted for its long Roman Catholic tradition, lies midway between Horsham and the north slope of the South Downs. Though the distinguishing prefix is recorded from the mid 13th century, the parish has no connexion with East Grinstead. The ancient parish contained 6,720 a. in 1881. Between 1882 and 1891 a detached part of Ashurst within West Grinstead containing Upper Posbrooks Farm (37 a.) was added to it. In 1971 the parish comprised 2,733 ha. (6,753 a.). The parish is irregular in shape, especially on the south side where Ashurst parish makes a deep salient within it. In the south-east the boundary is formed by the two branches of the river Adur, which join at the parish's south-eastern tip. In the north and west the boundary partly follows streams. Elsewhere it follows what are evidently old roads: that from Partridge Green to Nuthurst in the northeast, and that from Bramber to Knepp castle and Horsham in the south-west and north-west. Windsor common in the north-east corner of Wiston parish perhaps originally straddled the boundary between Wiston and West Grinstead. 

The highest land in the parish, between 100 and c. 160 ft. (30 and 49 metres), is in the north-east, north-west, and south-west parts. The western branch of the river Adur flows from north-west to south-east across the parish and is fed by tributary streams from both sides. The parish lies chiefly on the Weald clay, with alluvium in the valleys, and there are outcrops of Horsham stone and other sandstone beds in the extreme north and north-east. The river Adur was subject to serious flooding in 1797, and continued to be so during the 19th and 20th centuries despite the improvement of its banks after 1807. It was tidal in both branches in the south-east corner of the parish in 1984. In the Middle Ages much of the parish was presumably covered by woodland. By 1830, however, woods, hedgerows, and shaws were estimated to comprise less than a sixth of its area, and in 1983 the parish was much less wooded than the surrounding country to north and south. The Lock estate included c. 228 a. of woods in 1984. Jolesfield common and Partridge green in the east remained uninclosed waste until 1872.

Parkland has been extensive in the parish since the Middle Ages. The two chief parks, Stock park in the west, recorded between the 13th century and the 16th or 17th, and the park attached to West Grinstead manor house, recorded between the 16th century or earlier and the 20th, are discussed below. In addition, the new gentlemen's houses built afterc. 1800 often had parkland attached, and there was parkland in the parish belonging to Shermanbury Grange by 1896; in 1982 it still adjoined Partridge Green village on the east. Parkland and park-like farmland were dominant in the landscape in the mid 20th century; in 1965 West Grinstead and Shipley together were described as 'the Weald ... tamed, then let back, on a leash as it were, to be wild within limits'.

Early medieval settlement in West Grinstead, as elsewhere in the Weald, was scattered. Some sites originated as pasture places for manors in the south part of Bramber rape, while the farm name Bowshots contains the element scydd which describes huts built as the seasonal dwellings of herdsmen.

The name Grinstead was recorded as the hundred name in 1086, and was apparently transferred later to the vill and the parish. The surname 'of Grinstead' occurs locally c. 1230.  A village of Grinstead was mentioned c. 1260,  but there is no evidence for a nucleated village. The only dwellings known to have existed near the church are Glebe House to the east and two buildings that stood beside the churchyard, one of which was used as a shop in the 17th and 18th centuries; the manor house lay 2/3 mile (1 km.) to the north. Glebe Cottage, on the north side of the churchyard, is apparently a 17th-century building, with exposed timber framing in its northern outshut. The symmetrical south front with end chimneys was added in the 18th century; at the same time, apparently, the plan of the house was altered to give a central staircase flanked by two rooms. A one storeyed red brick range running north-south was built on the north-east side in the 19th century to serve as a school; originally separate, it was later joined to the house. The main range was extended eastwards in the 20th century, when various fittings brought from elsewhere were inserted in the house, and the shell hood was added over the entrance doorway. Across the river south of the church are Fosters, a timber-framed building apparently of the 17th century or earlier, with a possibly 18th-century brick barn to the south, and Butcher's Row, a group of 19th-and 20th-century estate cottages. The other vill recorded in the Middle Ages was Byne, which lay partly in West Grinstead and partly in Ashurst; again, no nucleated settlement can be shown to have existed there in West Grinstead.

The sites of some medieval farms can perhaps be inferred from modern farm names corresponding to medieval surnames recorded in the parish; examples are Chuck's, Fuller's, Hobshort's, Lloyts, Need's, Posbrook's, Thistleworth, and Tuckmans farms. Pinland farm was also recorded before 1500; it, Hobshort's, Thistleworth, and Brightham's farms all occupy knolls, like many others in the Weald clay country. Many isolated farmhouses in the parish are of the 17th century or earlier,  and many that are post-medieval may occupy the sites of earlier buildings. Well Land Farm north of Partridge Green is a four-bayed hall house with crown-post roof; into the hall were inserted first a smoke bay, and then a central chimney. Rookland Farm east of Dial Post includes a three-bayed medieval range, probably a cross wing to an earlier house now destroyed. Sand's Farm nearby and Tuckmans Farm in the north-west corner of the parish are basically 16th-century, but the former has a medieval cross wing. Lloyts Farm, probably of the early 17th century, is a timber-framed house of three-room plan with a slightly later rear kitchen wing.

In the 18th and 19th centuries many new houses were built along the main roads of the parish, benefiting from their improvement under turnpike trusts after 1764. The chief areas of settlement at that time were the three adjacent hamlets in the east, Jolesfield, Littleworth, and Partridge Green, and the hamlet of Dial Post in the west.

A tenement called Jolesfield existed in 1590, and Jolesfield was a road destination in 1535 and 1635. Some farmhouses of the 17th century and earlier surround what was uninclosed common land until 1872. Blanches, near the south-east corner of the former common, is a late medieval house of four bays with a two-bayed central hall. In the late 16th or early 17th century an upper floor was inserted into the hall and a chimneystack added on the rear wall. The two-storeyed oriel on the front of the building is 17th-century, but may represent an older form. At Joles Farm, south of the common, the probably 16th-century main range also had a central open hall of two bays; by c. 1600 an upper floor had been inserted and the south end remodelled, two external brick chimneystacks being built.

At least one building described as a cottage existed on or beside the common in the early 18th century; surviving buildings at Jolesfield of the 18th and early 19th centuries include the old Green Man inn at the south-west corner and buildings on the north side which housed workers at the Jolesfield brickworks. About 1840 there were 15 or 20 buildings around the common. The hamlet of Littleworth lay at the north-east corner of the common along the road to Nuthurst; some buildings of before c. 1800 survived there in 1983. One or two other buildings were put up at Littleworth before c. 1840. 

About ½ mile (800 metres) south of Jolesfield common, houses began to spring up by the 18th century beside Partridge green, a strip of waste land along the road which leads from the Horsham-Steyning road to Shermanbury and which became Partridge Green High Street. By c. 1800 there was a group near the junction of the two roads, besides other buildings both south of that junction and east of the green towards the Shermanbury boundary. Some 18thcentury or earlier buildings survived in all three places in 1983.

Building continued at Partridge Green in the earlier 19th century, and by c. 1840 there were c. 6 buildings at the road junction, including an inn. The settlement expanded much faster after the arrival of the railway in 1861 and the inclosure of the green in 1872. Shortly before 1867 some new cottages were built by small proprietors near the station; having two bedrooms they were superior to the general standard of cottages elsewhere in the parish at the time. Some grander Italianate stuccoed houses in South Street off High Street are contemporary. Further houses had been built in both streets by 1896, and by 1909 there was building along most of High Street between the Horsham-Steyning road and the edge of the park belonging to Shermanbury Grange. Building land was offered for sale north of High Street in 1907 and 1911; at the latter date there was claimed to be a good demand in the area for houses and cottages of moderate size. 

West Grinstead', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2: Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) including Horsham (1986), pp. 83-89.