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Many of us have driven through Midhurst and passed the film set style ruins of Cowdray House, but have you stopped to explore the ruins and hear the tale of the great family that once lived there?

The ruins are now open to the public and our local Worthing broadcaster Richard Vobes visited recently and had a guided tour, taking his microphone with him.
Listen to the audio on his website at www.vobes.com/cowdray.php

Cowdray-ruins

Here are a few images of the house, but I urge you to take a look for yourself the camera cannot capture the full scale and majesty of the imposing structures that remain. The official Cowdray House website is http://www.cowdray.org.uk

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Coat of Arms

 

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Porch ceiling decoration

 

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Still a working kitchen

 

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The family Chapel showing the delicate plaster work on the walls

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I am fortunate to know a member of the Worthing Archaeological Society, and on Sunday I visited him and the WAS team at work in a field close to Walburton, West Sussex.

In the past two or three years the team have their annual two week ‘Dig’ to investigate a Roman Villa which was discovered back in 1972 when the country was suffering from a drought and reservoirs were at their lowest for decades. An aerial photograph of the parched area showed up the interesting outline of what seemed to be a structure of some kind.

The local farmer was very interested in the project and with his permission, and at the appropriate time between growing crops the site was opened up. About 8 inches below the ploughed surface flint walls were discovered and Roman roof tiles found. Many artifacts were discovered including pottery of various descriptions, ranging from everyday Coarse ware to fine terracotta coloured Samian ware. A copper alloy bracelet, bone pin and ring fragment have been found in previous years.

The villa did not have highly decorative floors; but never the less, with it’s verandah running the length of what was possibly a two story building it would have been a grand residence compared to the round houses of the native population. Much of the Roman structure has been robbed away and is believed to have been incorporated in the original structure of the local church.

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Possible bath house

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Careful excavation of a pot

Each year the excavation site is recovered and sown with a crop until the following year, when once again another section of the site is excavated. On our tour we were shown the area which is believed to have been a bathhouse, the walls of several rooms and a ditch which seems to have been where the rubbish was deposited. This is where many of the pottery shards, a chicken skeleton and Oyster shells were found.

The highlight of the dig this season was the rather sad discovery of a tiny baby or fetal skeleton, this is not uncommon on such sites, another was found on the Bignor Villa site a few miles East.

‘The Dig’ was open to the public for the weekend and many visitors toured the small site. It was an enjoyable and interesting trip.

You can watch video’s of Field Unit Director Keith Bolton touring the site, taken in 2008.

http://sites.google.com/site/worthingarch/Home/society-videos1

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RESPECTS

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He had been the oldest man at 113 and WW1 veteran,
and I wanted to pay my respects to this wonderful gentleman
and the generation he represented.

After a short train ride I arrived at Brighton Station and headed down Queens Road. I knew the funeral procession would be leaving St Dunstans, high on the cliff at Ovingdean about 11.15am, drive along the coast road, up West Street in to Dyke Road.

I turned right in to Church Road and climbed the hill, passing a large BBC screen positioned overlooking the churchyard.

Henry4DSCF3718Army cadets stood at the gates to St Nicholas Church handing out ‘Order of Service’ booklets. Already a number of people were gathered in the churchyard and photographers and camera crews were setting up.

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The church bells were ringing and the screen showing the church interior indicated people were taking their seats. I noticed the time was passing quickly, the service was due to start at midday.

I walked quickly to the junction of Western Road and Dyke Road to wait. Beside me stood an old soldier smartly dressed in blazer and beret. The leading Police outriders turned the corner from North Road into view, stopping the traffic. The funeral cars followed behind. The many people lining the route started clapping as the cars passed by and the WW2 veteran at my side saluted.

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The cars headed up the hill toward St Nicholas Church. I followed, along with many others. The bells continued ringing and we waited and watched as the guests made their way into the church. A Policeman stood at the church entrance as standard bearers took their places and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester arrived. Preceded by the Mayor and other dignitaries including both Army and Naval personnel, Vice Admiral and Air-Vice Marshal.

The bells fell silent as the family arrived followed by the minister and pallbearers carrying the coffin. It was a very moving moment which hushed the crowd. The only sounds were of the cameras and the vicars words.

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We moved across to sit or stand on the grass in the summer sunshine to watch the screen and listen to the service. It was a very moving service and spoke of a warm, generous man of great humility. We heard about ‘Grandpop, England’ from his American Grandson and tributes from the army and airforce.

For me it was the words of a poem read beautifully by his great granddaughter that moved me most, called ‘Distant Fields’.
I thought of my own Grandfather who had experienced the horrors of WW1 when he fought at Gallipolli and in the French trenches. Like Henry, he had returned safely, but he had lost friends at his side and never spoke of those dark days.

———

I touched his hand and his touched mine
And silently he touched my mind

I looked into his telling eyes
But couldn’t hear the silent cries…

…Of men that passed so long ago
In distant fields, in rain and snow

They knew not how or when or where
But all knew what they stood for there

The friends they lost, the sights they saw
The mudled minds with nerves so raw

His furrowed hands, with wrinkles worn
Weaving trenches, from smoothness torn…

So frail, so thin, yet firm and strong
Like those before amongst the throng…

…Of men that passed so long ago
In distant fields, in rain and snow

As sight and hearing fade away
His senses live in another day

When sounds were etched upon the mind
and sights could not be left behind

The memories that churn around
Of friends and colleagues never found…

…Of men that passed so long ago
In distant fields, in rain and snow

But now the time has come to go
To leave behind the world below

And meet again with comerades lost
Who lost their lives at such great cost

To laugh and joke and share some time
With those cut down within their prime

He touched my hand, they touched my mind
And many of you now left behind

So remember them, who gave their lives
and left children and their wives…

Remember those for us who fought
And don’t forget to spare a thought

…for men that passed so long ago
In distant fields, in rain and snow

– Attributed to Lieutenant Commander John Scivier, Royal Navy


henry7DSCF3738We were lucky indeed to have had a man amongst us who didn’t choose to be born when he was, or live as long as he did. But despite all he had seen and experienced, choose to be a kind, generous and able teacher, in how we should treat one another.

His parting words of wisdom to his American grandchildren on his return to England after visits with them was simply, ‘Be good’.

We heard about the deep love he had shared with his wife of over 50 years and how he had passed on his wisdom to the many school children he had been involved with.

The service continued, hymms were sung and words spoken and the bells started to ring once again.

As his cofin was carried out of the church the bells feel silent and after a short while a lone bugler could be heard over the silent crowd. During the one minute silence people quietly made their way to other vantage points ready to watch the cars leave the church. Camera presenters watched their monitors.

The Reveille sounded and the church bells started to toll. At this point, bi-planes flew over the church in the blue sky to the sound of clapping from the crowd.

We waited, and as the car left the church and passed by, a ripple of respectful applause accompanied it

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It hadn’t been a media circus and there was no heavy security. It had just seemed like a funeral for a well loved man, who had friends in ‘high places’ and we, as the general public had been allowed to show our respects in a dignified way.

It had been a memorable and moving experience. One I shall not forget.
RIP Henry Allingham, and thank you.

Take a peek at this 5 minute video made by a local film producer.

Based in Worthing, Richard Vobes creates and produces his own video and audio content for his website. Some of which is local to us here in Lancing/Shoreham.

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New memory posted

Pauline & Graham Dyson, we moved down to the Brighton Road in the early 50’s. I also went to Irene Avenue,and remember well the Heene Rd. baths. We were one of the first families to have a beach hut, the only other hut on Widewater beach was owned by Barnado’s. After emigrating to Oz in 1970 and travelling the world I have finally settled on Widewater.

I suspected a distant relative was illegitimate and today I found her in the parish records. Her baptism recorded 1837. Ruth; with the simple statement  ‘Illegit’ written in neat hand writing by the Rector in his register. I thank him.

I now have her mothers first name too.

Family gossip suggests Ruth was the daughter of a ‘Gentleman of the house’. So my next task is to see if I can trace staff records for the various estates in the area I am researching. A trip to West Sussex Record Office may help.

airraid_DSCF7793Do you have any memories of this shelter?

It was open during the Sompting Festival weekend and is part of the old Sompting Village School which is now the Community Centre.

I would be interested to record any memoirs you may have of the shelter and its use.