Having just posted a historical enquiry on your website, I went back to it and found your request for stories about the Great 1987 Storm. Although I live in London, I have a memory which your readers may well enjoy, because it involves the possibly unique experience of actually having received advance warning of it!
I was working by London Bridge at the time, and that evening, before going home, had to go to meeting nearby. I walked down the street to the office building where it was to be held, and went in.
The place was deserted. I walked around, trying to find the room where the meeting was being held. As I walked past one room with an open door, a fairly elderly man in a laboratory coat suddenly rushed out of the room at me, eyes like saucers. He grabbed me by the arm - he had never seen me before - and pulled me into his room, clearly in a state of high excitement, saying "Come and look at this. I've never seen anything like it!"
He took me to the window, where he had a barograph on the cill. The needle had been drawing a horizontal ink line along the cylinder, which had suddenly turned a right angle and plunged about an inch.
"I'm an old Naval man", he said, "and when we saw that sort of thing at sea, we'd expect a hurricane!!"
I went home and said to my wife, "I don't know what sort of weather we are going to get, but..." and related the story.
An hour or so later, Michael Fish went on television, made his immortal statement, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I remember being awake in the night and hearing the storm. Our bedroom is at the back of the house and the tiles from the roof were flying off and landing all round the house some smashing through the conservatory roof. One end of the corrugated iron roof of our outbuilding had lifted and was banging noisily and our back gate has blown free and was swinging wildly on its hinges. Stuart went out to try to prop the gate shut and I can remember thinking he was going to be killed by the tiles.
Our daughter Naomi who was 5 at the time, woke up too and we eventually decamped into the spare bedroom at the front of the house which wasn’t so noisy. Jen was one and was normally a terrible sleeper but she slept through all the noise and I can remember wrestling with the decision of whether to wake her to move her from her bedroom which had the only chimney above it or leaving her to take her chances in the hope that the rest of us might get back to sleep. I hasten to add that I did of course move her but I did have to think about it! It proved to be the only night she slept through until she was 5.
I remember standing at the window facing Beacon Road, watching the storm and being amazed that the trees opposite our house were still standing. There were still cars coming past trying to get through to the Beacon, but by that time the road was obviously impassable further up and they were having to turn round and come back. One driver stopped outside the house to warn another who was trying to go towards the Beacon. Another car returning from the Beacon was trapped behind them and I remember seeing the terror on the driver’s face knowing he was stationary under the trees which were whipping about above his head.
Eventually when we thought the worst of the storm had passed we all fell asleep and obviously slept like the dead because when we woke up it was quite late (no alarm in the spare room). We were amazed when we opened the curtains to see a scene of total devastation. A tree on the pavement on our south side had come down neatly between the front of the house and our hedge, both of our cars were beneath it. One of the trees opposite has also come down and was across the road, resting on next door’s front wall. People were out in the road, wandering round in a state of shock at the damage caused in the village.
I don’t remember much of the day after that – I presume someone must have told us that the school was shut because I don’t remember trying to get Naomi there. We must have extricated one of the cars because Stuart managed to get to work in Burgess Hill to check his premises, but as there was no electricity he came home again and helped Terry Scully cut through the tree blocking Beacon Road.
We were lucky in that we had a gas cooker that still worked, but we had no electricity for two weeks. I remember quite enjoying life by candlelight. I remember John Williams calling round to see if we wanted the use of an emergency generator but as the freezer has already defrosted and we had the cooker we didn’t need it. I find it odd that I cannot remember how long I was off work or how long the school was closed.
The aftermath of the storm caused us further problems. I remember being disappointed that our other car, which had both front and rear windscreens smashed and lots of scratches was not written off. It was repaired and valeted but even so I remember continuing to find glass embedded in the seats and even in the glove compartment afterwards, so not trusting it with small children we eventually exchanged it.
We didn’t even try to get the roof repaired for a while as everyone was so busy. Stuart has a sign business and was doing a brisk trade with people adding ‘roofing’ to their skills set, so we were determined to find a proper roofer to do the work. Our insurers would not send a loss adjustor out (I seem to remember that they had a £4000 cut off before they would come) but advised to use a company who were in the yellow pages with appropriate credentials. Eventually we found a roofer who was listed in the directories as a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen and who agreed to repair the damage which was mainly to one of the hips of the roof. We should have been warned when he arrived without any ladders that were long enough. He went off and bought a new extending ladder and slapped up replacement hip tiles at crazy angles, leaving his new ladder and promising to return to complete the work. Needless to say that was the last we saw of him, we eventually heard from Trading Standards who were already investigating him for fraudulent use of his qualifications and had to provide evidence in his subsequent court case. The insurance company finally agreed to send out a loss adjustor who discovered that not only was the repair work substandard but that the entire back of the roof had been lifted and dropped back slightly out of place so it turned into a much bigger job.
I worked in Brighton then and I remember the shock of seeing the bank of trees against the railway line by Patcham Place completely flattened and the completely different appearance of St Peter’s Church in the Steine without any trees.
The day after the storm was so quiet, the high winds of the previous night had died away, no traffic moving but damaged property everywhere ... I ventured out with a bow saw to establish the state of the rest of the village. Power lines out, heavy trees blocking all roads. No sign of outside help so it was a case of all hands to attempt to make roads clear for accessibility.
THE CALLING OF DITCHLING FAIR
(Ring of Bell)
"O Yea! O Yea! O Yea! Hear this O Citizens of Ditchling. You are commended and commanded that on this day at the hour of nine of the clock, you shall assemble in the village to witness the ancient rites of Ditchling Village Fair.
Hear the grand proclamation; watch in wonder the crowning of our gracious Fair Queen. Partake of luscious sweetmeats; see the mighty feats of men; delight in the music and the dance; join in the games and festivities.
O Citizens of Ditchling - all this is your Fair! God save the Queen!"
(Ring of Bell)
Starting at 6.30am the Wizard calls announcing Ditchling Fair, visiting every road (and The Twitten and Watermen's Homes),
35 calls, before a final call at the Crossroads at 8.30 as the sound of the pealing bells of St. Margaret's church die away.
This tradition started in 1994 with Peter Luckin, who chose the figure of the Wizard, specifically J.R.R.Tolkein's Gandalf who loved throwing big parties.
The Wizard also wakes the Fair Queen by calling in the garden beneath her bedroom window - a collaboration with Mum & Dad.
(Ring of Bell)
"Awake! Awake ........(name)! Wherefore art thou dear ......?
The time has come for you to prepare for your great day for, at one half of the hour past nine of the clock, you are to be crowned our Fair Queen. Be not a minute late lest your powers be lost!
Delight us with your gracious presence at all our festivities and encourage those that entertain us. This is your Fair, O Queen - the Citizens of Ditchling await your command.
Farewell dear ......... 'til we meet again!"
(Ring of Bell)
The Wizard Peter continued his duties until 2016 when he handed over his bell and staff to Michael Hughes
I am very interested in finding out what a miner would have been doing in Ditchling in 1841, as this came as something of a surprise to me. William Dash, born about 1816 in a county other than Sussex, married into my Ditchling Hemsley family in 1840, but his wife Sarah, the eldest daughter of my 3 x great grandfather Thomas Hemsley, died in 1842. She had given birth earlier that year to their son Edwin Bond Dash, who was subsequently brought up by other members of the Hemsley family. William Dash seems to have disappeared - I cannot find him anywhere. It might help to trace him if I knew what kind of mining he might have been engaged in in Ditching. I would be very grateful if anyone could shed any light on this.
dear a.s. turner
I have been studying the turners for several years,but I think the 2 families you mention are not related- one family were all farmers and your one ran the newspaper/greengrocery shops in the village,perhaps we can set up a dialogue to see what we both know so far ??
I am trying to find information concerning the artist, Adeline Newman, who lived in Ditchling in the 1940's. Sussex County Magazine reports that she exhibited 'at a private house for the Red Cross Fund'
A. S. Turner
I am descended from the Turner family from Ditchling and at the moment struggling to see if/how an Edward Turner married to a Lydia I found on various census records born 1810, possibly in Nuthurst but who spent most of his adult life at 11 West Street, Ditchling where he worked as a draper and grocer might fit in with the rest of the information I have on the family line from Ditchling including a Richard Turner (1781 - 1857) married to Elizabeth Groves, his son George Turner (1821-1887) and his father John Turner (1753 - 1827) married to Anne Swaine.
From the potential christening record I have located I think Edwards parents may have been James Turner and Anne but don't know if they are related to the Turners of Ditchling or he just moved there for work.
Any information or assistance any one could provide on a link or on the Turner family line earlier than the John Turner I have details of (I think his father may also have been a John Turner possibly married to a Mary or Sarah but I have no dates yet) would be most appreciated.
I was wondering if anyone has information about the Friend family. Josiah Friend was born in 1749, the son of James Friend (born 1710) and Ann?
Josiah moved to Ringmer as an adult
Nick von Tunzelmann
I would like to find out more about two sisters who lived in or near Ditchling until 1970-3 and who are buried in Ditchling Burial Ground. They were Eileen Mary and Helen Muriel de Tunzelmann. Can anyone remember them or anything about them?
The two Miss de Tunzelmanns were private patients of Dr Linton Bogle when I first arrived in the practice in 1962. They were reputed to be some sort of European aristocracy (Countesses or something) and lived in about the third bungalow on the left down Underhill lane from the bottom of the Beacon - wooden, it was demolished and replaced in about the seventies. They were a pleasant, genteel couple and I saw them at home a few times for minor ailments though can't remember when they left, I'm afraid, though it can't have been much after 1970. It sounds as though at least one died locally, though whether under my care I am dubious
Dr Philip Tombleson
As a child living in Beacon Road
during WWII I used to see Miss Tunzelmann almost daily. I don't know what her first name was and I didn't realise she lived with a sister.
In the 1938 Electoral Register the name appears as 'Mary Aline de Tunzelman' and she lived at Appletree Cottage in Underhill Lane, which I think might have been a wooden bungalow, possibly semi-detached, now demolished (as Philip said) and a brick built bungalow
Ashdown Cottage built on the site. I remember Miss Tunzelman as a tall, slight lady with a very long stride, who walked to the village virtually daily. She often wore a long coat and a beret type hat. I don't ever remember seeing her again when we moved to the Lewes Road in 1946 and I don't recall her being involved in any of the village activities, although I remained living in Ditchling until 1964.
To Richard (re Percy Kensett). I am Percy Kensett's great (or great great) niece. I cannot help you with details of where he lived in Ditchling, but have some other information and a photo of him with my Grandmother. You may also have some information which will help with my research. His mother was a Trinder from Gloucestershire and his father was a Kensett from Sussex. He seemed to split his time between Sussex / Surrey/ London and Bibury in Gloucestershire where he had a large house. I am happy for the project to forward my email address.
I have been doing some research on Henry Gander and his family who lived in Ditching. They appear in the 1861 census as living on Ditching Common and he is a brickmaker. I'm also searching for information of George Hobden who married Ellen Gander (a daughter of the above Ganders). She was his 2nd wife. His first wife was Jane Gander who was much older than her so not a sister. Would love to be able to find a connection between these 2 women and anything else about this line of Ganders.
Many thans for any help.
Sandra from Canada
I am researching Percy Frank Kensett (1868-1940) and his 1925 novel set in the Hassocks/Clayton/Ditchling area called 'The Amulet of Tarv'. The novel is set in 1919-20 (and 1,000 B.C.). Percy would have been familiar with the area due to the presence of Kensett relatives in the village (including William) and his Aunt Mary Kensett who lived in Hassocks from the 1890s and is buried in Ditchling Unitarian Chapel following her death in January 1921.
Although I cannot be certain, it seems quite likely that Kensett may have had the use of a cottage in Beacon Road. His main residence in Wimbledon was Broadmeadow - I gather there was a house of that name in Beacon Road as well, though could just be coincidence. This was at some stage occupied by Esther Meynell, and also by that celebrated lady of science Mary Jane Longstaff (nee Donald). William Kensett owned land in Beacon Road, and it is possible that his family built a house there after his death in 1891.
I would be very grateful for any information about Percy Kensett in Ditchling.
Can anyone tell me if there is evidence of iron making in or around
I reside in Spatham Lane and believe I have uncovered a 'Bloom'.
If so, is this a regular feature in the area or something quite rare?
Many thanks for your enquiry about iron making in Ditchling. This all sounds very interesting! If you would like to tell me where your 'find-spot' is, what type of iron material you have found and how extensive the area I would be happy to advise you who best to contact for further help in identifying your find.
To the best of my knowledge there are no reports of bloomery sites/iron production as far south in the Weald as Ditchling. The geology map of Sussex shows the main iron-bearing sand stone areas in the Weald well north of Wivelsfield.
I look forward to hearing further information,
Please could I check a fact for an article I'm writing for The English Home? I need to know if there were three working forges in Ditchling at one time (North End, East End Lane and one other, I have been told).
There is talk of a third forge, but we have never been able to establish it for a fact. The only reference we have comes from a reminiscence written by a Miss Dollman who wrote it I believe in the 1950's and says she is talking in general about times some 50 -70 years earlier, but makes the point that this information pre-dates that time. She says
"In West Street, past Hoadley's and almost opposite the bus stop there are two small bricked-up arches in the Church wall. These are the remains of the blacksmith's cottage which used to be here, longer ago than the 50-70 years of most of these notes. The smaller one is possibly a living-room fireplace and the larger a bread oven. The forge itself was on the west side of the cottage I think, and a little further along the other way, where the Warehouse now stands, were some steps leading up to the Churchyard."
I have never seen any other record of this. The 1841 census shows a small garden on the site, but no building even at that date, so I don't know when Miss Dollman is referring to or where she got the information.
I don't know when the other two forges were first in use and therefore if there is any chance that all three might have run simultaneously. In our book the Village at Work, we quote Doris Hall from Growing up in Ditchling who says that the forge moved from East End Lane to North End, and that the East End Lane forge had closed by 1926.
How much detail do you need? To be certain I think you would need to visit the Record Office at Lewes to see if they have any further information, but I would be interested to hear if you do find anything.
I came across your site and wondered if you were able to help me with some research please?
I am researching one of my ancestors; William Pocock who was a resident in Ditchling from 1861 until his death in 1890. He lived in Russell House which according to the census of those years was in North Street. I am planning a trip to Ditchling at Easter and wondered if you could tell me if the house still existed or if you have any information about William Pocock.
Thank you in advance for reading my message and I would be very grateful for any information or help you are able to offer.
William Pocock lived at 44 North Street, also known as the Blue House/Russell House (a five minute walk from the Village centre). Unfortunately, we have no further information on the man himself. He was not buried here in Ditchling however his housekeeper, Harriett Dungate was. Recently we have undertaken to research everybody buried in St Margaret's Churchyard. Tracing Harriet through the census returns was quite interesting since we learnt that she continued to live at Russell House after William's death and her status changed from 'Housekeeper' to 'Living on private means'.
We hope this information is of use to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us again if you need further help.
I am researching the artists Amy Sawyer and Blamire Young who exhibited in Ditchling in January 1914. I would like to make contact with your group as I have fragments of a catalogue for an art exhibtion (not the one mentioned above) which I am seeking assistance identifying.
We have two members who have a special interest in Ditchling Artists so I will ask them to contact you direct. In the meantime, do you have access to a scanner so that we may see the catalogue you are referring to?