Richard Vobes is the Bald Explorer, dashing about Britain discovering the history of its towns and villages. In this episode he is off to Petworth in the heart of West Sussex, close to Chichester and not too far from London. It is a very rural town renown for the beautiful mansion-house, upon land that once belonged to the Roger de Montgomery and later the de Percy family.
It was the third Earl of Egremont who had a vested interested in the town of Petworth. He supplied the money to build the boys school, which was later destroyed by a stray German bomber during the second World War. It was the Earl who brought water from the near by Rover Rother into the town centre and whose land it was the grim House of Correction was built on for convicted offenders from all over Sussex.
One of the prettiest streets in Sussex can be found in Petworth, complete with old shop fronts and cobbles on the ground and the Bald Explorer reveals that he once lived there.
Back in the 19th century, many of the poor were assisted out of poverty and given the chance of a new life in Canada thanks to the local rector. Also, many do not realise that a special kind of stone, Petworth Marble was mined from this area and made into all sorts of wonderful objects.
Of course, most visitors , if not travelling to see Petworth House, go to hunt around the abundance of antique shops that flank the roads or take refreshment inside the independent tea rooms. And lets not forget the beautifully restored old railway station that is now a fabulous bed and breakfast establishment with genuine Pullman Carriages to stay the night in.
Recently, Harriet, my walking friend and I, took a trip to Hay on Wye to explore the town and its famous bookshops. Before we got there, we decided to take have a walk over the famous Black Mountains and record a podcast.
I couldn’t find a reason way this range of hills as so known, other than that John Leland made reference to them and used this name back in the 16th century. I figured it had something to do with the fact that as the sun passes to the south of them, if you were standing in the Midlands in England, the silhouette so caused would make them seem black. It is not a convincing argument, but it is all I have to offer.
The mountain range itself is part of the Brecon Beacons area in Wales, above Monmouthshire in Powys and close to the border with England and the county of Herefordshire. It is a beautiful spot to escape the pressures and stresses of life and if you like to climb up to get views of fabulous British countryside, then this is as good as any that I could recommend.
As part of the recent filming for the Bald Explorer in Petworth, I took a trip to the old railway station which lies a little to the south of the town. It is no longer in active service having been closed in the 1960’s but in its day was part of the Pulborough to Midhurst line. It was built specially for Edward 7th so that he could access Goodwood racecourse and friends living close by, but was naturally also ultilised by the locals.
Gudmund Olafsson purchased the station along with the Pullman coaches as a bed and breakfast business and has been restoring the property and getting rid of the rotten wood. It now looks splendid and is definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in the area. It is a destination ‘hotel’ with much ambiance of the golden era of steam travel and there is nothing finer than sitting on the station platform and sipping tea in silver service dreaming of gone by times.
Recently I had to go to Newark-on-Trent for a corporate video job and it reminded me that it would make a brilliant town to visit and explore for another BE episode. It is a most elegant place with plenty of Georgian architecture to feast the eyes upon and some timber-framed buildings too. There is a castle and interesting old coffee-house, not to mention rather large market square.
Newark has the River Trent flowing through it and just down from the castle is a large lock complete with little hut and lock keeper, ready to jump to action every time a boat approaches. I spent some of my time there watching many a pleasure cruiser and ancient looking narrow boat pass through. It certainly isn’t a quick place to get through, but fun to observe the old fashion navigation way of life.
I was told that King John died at Newark and after a little searching on my mobile internet device, I discovered it was from dysentery, which cannot be a pleasant way to go. I leaned that there was a long siege carried on during the English Civil War as well as many attacks carried out by the Parliamentarians which eventually rendered most of the medieval castle being destroyed. A lot of the shell is there and plenty to fire up the imagination.
The Romans were there and part of the Great North Road runs (now the A1) used to run through it, although the fast dual carriageway thunders past the town a little to the east. There is a splendid bridge, a wonderful and quite huge parish church and grade one listed Town Hall. I am sure there is plenty more to discover and I have added to the list of places to return to go back and film.
Bignor Roman Villa is situated in the centre of the designated South Downs National Park, only metres from the Downs themselves. The site commands unrivalled views of the Downs to South, East and West with instant access to miles of beautiful footpaths heading in all directions.
Bignor Roman Villa is a large Roman courtyard villa which has been excavated and put on public display on the Bignor estate in the English county of West Sussex. It is well-known for its high quality mosaic floors, which are some of the most complete and intricate in the country.
I popped down there a few years ago to find out all about the Roman’s and the remains they left behind. Listen to the podcast and see what you think.