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.
While out scouting at locations for a forthcoming episode of the Bald Explorer my friend and fellow researcher Jimmy and I found ourselves in a cemetery. This is not usual for history enthusiasts like us. It is always interesting to read the names of those that have passed before us and on occasions attempt to find out more about them from old post office directories and town listings. The reason we were in this particular grave yard in Petworth, West Sussex, was to see a curious oblong shaped wall that resembled the remains of a mortuary chapel. We had been scanning the satellite photographs freely available on the Internet while comparing them to old maps from the 19th Century to see what had changed over the years and this had stuck as interesting.
We wondered what the story was behind the chapel and why there was only the rectangular wall of its footings left. We marked it down as one of the things to check out when we next popped over to the old rural market town for further research. As it happens, it wasn’t what we thought. Nothing unusual there, but the mystery deepened. Looking at the low walls and the small square rusty holes sunk into it, we could see that this was a very grand enclosed grave, probably a large family affair. Unfortunately, there was no name, or anything discernible to read and it been abandoned long ago. At one time, iron railings would have surrounded it and at the east end we deduced had been a pair of gates, the recces for the hinges could clearly be observed. No doubt the railings and gates had been removed during the 1940’s as part of the wartime requirement for metal and these historic relics might very well have been used to build parts of tanks, planes or weapons.
But who could this site have been for, we wondered? The Earl of Egremont was the big name that sprung to mind, but discounted almost immediately because as the owner of Petworth House in the 18th Century and with a large number of estates up and down the country, it seemed most unlikely that he would be buried in a small and otherwise parochial cemetery. I was pretty certain that a character of his magnitude and importance would have had a private burial ground attached to the large and impressive stately home. There is an old family chapel in there after all.
But then, that evening, I met Leigh Lawson, author of a book about the Rev Thomas Sockett who ran the Petworth Emigration Committee which in the early 19th century, with the approval and help of George O’Brien Wyndham, the third Earl of Egremont and effectively Lord of Petworth, sent 1800 of the poorest members of the community in and around Petworth and other parts of Sussex to Canada for a fresh start and a new life. She informed me that this family grave was indeed. I have to say that I am appalled at the state in which the people of Petworth over the past 180 years have allowed it to become.
The third Earl, more than any other of the various families that had lived in the manor and palatial house of Petworth, had generously assisted the inhabitants of the town. He had engaged more workers that he really required, set up charities to assist the poor and gave the town an enormous amount of money to building the necessary schools, prisons, town halls and other public requirements.
It maybe 175 years since his death, but you would think that the up keep of a small area for memory of his name wouldn’t have been much to ask considering all he did to put Petworth on the map and now bring a not insignificant tourist trade to the town.
In the old days of the Richard Vobes Radio Show, a podcast that later became the Vobes Show, and which is still running, Jimmy Hastell and myself took a trip to the very splendid Petworth House and waved our microphone in front of the people at the front gate. They very kindly let us in and we recorded the following podcast.
Petworth House as we see it today is from the alternation in the 1870’s, but the original manor of Peteorde dates back to the Saxon times. It was superseded by the Normans after the Conquest and held by Robert de Belleme, the son of the great Earl and friend of William the Conqueror, Roger de Montgomery. But soon the house passed into the de Perci family ending up in the ownership of Henry Hotspur who dies at the famous Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. His sword that he wielded on that battlefield against King Henry 4th was for a long time on exhibit at Petworth House. I called them up the other day to determine if it was still there, but a rather surprised young lady said that I was the third person inquiring and that unfortunately it was lost.
The house is best associated with George Wyndam, the third Earl of Egremont. He was a very generous man. He collected the mass of the arts works that are now on permanent display and did great works within the Petworth community. More of all these things will be investigated in the forthcoming Bald Explorer episode.
Meanwhile, do enjoy the audio tour of the house with Richard and Jimmy.
As part of our research into a video episode of the Bald Explorer I always like to visit a place and get a feel for the location. I love to take photographs and look for the unusual. I took Jimmy with me to Petworth in West Sussex this time and we tramped the streets impressed by the old houses and wonderful architecture. This recording was the second podcast we made that day and towards the end we are in search of the rather grim sounding Petworth House of Correction, the local prison.
I used to live in Petworth some thirty years ago. I wasn’t interested in history then being only a young man of eighteen. I was a member of the local youth theatre and was lodged in one of the oldest streets in Petworth, Lombard Street. It is a beautifully preserved cobbled street leading down from the parish church, St Mary’s, to the market square.
Little really has changed in Petworth I am pleased to say. Perhaps there are a few more antique shops than I remember and a couple of the businesses have changed, pubs closed and now I see they charge for parking in the main car park. (Only a pound for the whole day, so it doesn’t break the bank I suppose.)
There are some lovely public houses, Inns and drinking places in the old town, but one that I had never visited in my youth was the Stonemansons Inn along North Street a little out of town. It stands close to where the old boy’s school once stood, before a stray bomb destroyed it during World War two. (See our other podcast about Petworth).
The Stonemasons Inn is made up from a small row of 17th Century timber framed cottages with each room named after previous owners. It is a fabulously atmospheric building, complete with low beams, charming fire places and plenty of character. Better than all that they also sell local real ale and produce rather lovely food.
Close by was where the old Petworth Toll House would have stood and collected the money from travellers coming and going to the market town. Luckily, these days, you can drove your sheep or heard your cattle along this busy road for free.
One of the notorious places in Petworth and not generally known about is the old House of Correction. It was opened in 1788 and mainly used to house petty criminals, but its treatment was harsh and draconian. The prisoners were given forced hard labour, including many hours on a treadmill (1o hours in the Summer and 7 hours in the Winter) and it was known ‘grinding the wind’ for it achieved in practical terms, absolutely nothing. There was also a handcrank which was turned against pressure for another period of 10 hours. I hope to explore more about this cruel institution in the Bald Explorer episode.
Meanwhile do have a listen to preliminary exploration of this delightful town.
Jimmy Hastel and Richard Vobes, the Bald Explorer, are off to Petworth to explore the history aspects of this wonder old market town for an exciting video that will be coming soon to these pages.
In this podcast, Richard and Jimmy are having a look round a graveyard. Why, you might well ask? It is actually a sad story. During the second World War a lone German bomber had crossed the channel and was trying to either ditch its load or aim to damage the beautiful Georgian property, Petworth House. Well, it missed, and one of the bombs apparently hit a tree and was deflected to a near by boys school. The result was dreadful.
It was the 29th September 1942 when the Petworth Boys School was totally destroyed and 28 children were killed along with the head master, Charles Stevenson and assistant teacher Charlotte Marshall. Many were badly injured.
The mass grave is a poignant sight with his stone memorial at one end dedicated to the lost souls of the school children and teachers. Shamefully, the rest of the cemetery has been mostly abandoned with no one willing to claim ownership and therefore responsibility for looking after it all.
Jimmy and I ventured in to find the graves and the crumbling chapel hidden within. Have a listen to our adventure.
You can check out the fabulous website that has more information at Gravelroots.
I have always been intrigued by the name of this property and wondered who the priest was and the history of this attractive timber-framed house in West Hoathly, in East Sussex. In this podcast, I take a visit. My guide is Anthony Smith, who lives there, or at least, in one side of the house.
This is just one of a number of fascinating places cared for by the Sussex Archaeological Society. They also look after Lewes Castle, Anne of Cleeves House, Bull House, the Long Man of Wilmington and Michelham Priory.
The Priest’s House has had a number of distinguished owners in it time, including Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Anne of Cleeves, Mary I and Elizabeth the first, although probably none actually lived there.
Furnished with seventeenth and eighteenth century possessions and domestic objects which are scattered to give you a glimpse of how peopled lived back then. These were wealthy people. The rest of the village would have been far poorer, consisting of smaller basic properties and hovels.
The cottage garden is well worth a look at too. Filled with plants and herbs from the period, many of which were grown for medicinal purposes.
I hope you enjoy the tour of the tour. Listen to the podcasts below.