Episode Five: A Rural Town

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.

Podcast: Petworth Boys School Bombing

Petworth Cemetary or the clumbing remains of it.

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.

The mass gave of the victims from the Petworth School Bombing.

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.

Newspaper cutting from 3rd October 1942 - with kind permission from http://www.gravelroots.net

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.

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