Introduction Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Renovation and change
After the Aggs, Mr Kingley took Hilders Court. He had to do with British Lion Films. They had a big swimming pool built. They used to get all the actresses up there. And then he left, and the man who came after him was one of the directors of Odhams Books. They all kept the staff on.
It was all broken up after that. That was the end of two hundred years. It's a huge disaster, to my way of thinking - builders yard in part of it, keeping horses in another part, kitchen garden all destroyed and a field with a road going through it.
Hilders Court is in my mind so much. If a magic wand could go over it like that, I know
exactly how it was, I could go to any part of it. Where there used to be huge
banks of gloxinias, where the hot-houses and the tropical houses were, where
they grew peaches and nectarines, all the beautiful things like that. There was
a beautiful Acacia tree that was over a hundred years old, that my father said
the Richardsons planted. It's been cut down.
What changed, like, is that a lot of these old places have been renovated. I did a lot of work at Pilgrims. It was in a very, very dilapidated state. The owner, John Anscombe, really saved it. He was very interested in the old place. I think it's a credit to him. The roof was in a terrible state, and the ceilings were half coming down. There was so much work in uncovering what others had covered up. In the top room, he had a carpenter working for weeks and weeks putting new oak beams in identical to what was there.
My interest in the village really gelled when I bought the pub. It was 1970. The pub looked derelict, but it had been in use right up until I took it over. I had to close it for 18 months. You could walk through the front door and look up through the roof. There was moss growing in the sink. I remember a great deal of dereliction in this village. There were loads of derelict places down by Stream Farm where we used to play as children. One had been burnt down, vandalised.
Water and Electricity
Mum had an enormous great tin bath, and she had to boil all the water in the kettle. She starched and blued, and put it all through the wringer. When you think what they had to do in those days, how long it all took, and nowadays people say they haven't got enough time to do things!
We had electricity in 1954, and the water came afterwards, in about 1957 or
At Whitesmith, we were one of the first to have the water, and that was either the late 50s or early 60s. Our house was very derelict when we took it over, and we had no water, no light or power, and no sanitation, just an earthenware bucket outside.
I wasn't born in Chiddingly, although my grandparents lived in here, and my great-grandparents as well. My mother came down here in 1906 when my grandfather was in charge of the men who slated in the roof of the school. And then I was evacuated down here during the war for about nine months, and went to school at Chiddingly. And I used to come down here occasionally on holiday.
I met my husband, went full circle; got married and came down here to live. It was really weird, because I hadn't got that much contact with Chiddingly really. We met by accident, through a friend. I was in Thornton Heath and he was down here, so we used do alternate weekends on the coach, one weekend in Thornton Heath, one weekend in Chiddingly.
So then all my children went to Chiddingly school, and I ended up as School Secretary there for 26 and a half years! I noticed a difference in the children by the time I left. It's a shame, I think.
When I first came down here from Thornton Heath, obviously I'd had electricity, gas, water, everything laid on - we had nothing, just a well. We didn't even have a sink. Just a bowl with an enamel top. Every drop of water we used had to be taken out to the drain. And I had three babies like that! The washing was boiled up on the blue-flame oil stove. We had a double-burner for cooking. And toilets outdoors.
The day we had electricity, it was wonderful!. They connected the water up on my birthday, and I said it was the best birthday present I'd ever had! It must have been the mid-sixties by then. Other places had it earlier, at the end of the fifties. I wouldn't want to go back to the hardship of no electricity and no water.
Storms and snow
The snow of '62. Poor old Jimmy Carpenter died. They had a terrific job to
bury him, because of the snow.
We have been struck by lightening three times. It must be because we're at the top of the hill. It struck the poplar trees and ran all the way down the barbed wire and into the kitchen sink. Our boy would have been waiting out there for the school taxi, but it came on to rain hard. Had he been there, I don't think we would have had him any more. Each bough of the poplar tree was split, and it died afterwards. It came through the kitchen window because our drainpipe was overflowing. It threw the switch off the wall, it took a bit out of the wall, it split a bit of pumice stone on the window sill. My little girl was in her high-chair, and I was cutting bread at the table. I couldn't see - it all went dark. My little girl was screaming. I knew where she was, so I came and sat with her. After a minute or two I began to be able to see. The sulphur in the house - my husband, who had been pumping water, thought there must be a fire. He ran up the stairs into all the rooms to check that it was all right. This was 1957 or 58.
The last lightening that struck, we were sitting here one evening and it was
all quiet, and then we heard a terrific bang. I said, "That sounds like a
jet plane." Everything went out. Our daughter-in-law was putting a tape in
the tape machine, and she lost the use of her arm. It came back at the end of
the evening but it was a horrible fright. It blew the central heating, I
remember, because that was a great expense. But the tape machine worked! I
suppose our daughter-in-law had earthed it or something! The house up Stone
Hill, quite a long way from us, it blew a lot of their windows out. Just one
We had a lot of damage in the 1987 storm. We had one chicken house, the 100ft roof completely lifted off. We had a lot of trees down.
I hardly heard the storm - I wasn't going to get up for a bit of a gale! It was the roar of the wind afterwards that got my nerves. When we pulled the curtains in the morning, there was one tree right over the garage. I said, "I didn't know it was as bad as this!" But thinking about what could have happened is worse than the actual experience at the time. Our house is over four hundred years old, so it's withstood a good many storms.
We had eleven really major trees come down in the 1987 storm. We lost some ridge tiles off the roof, and we've never found them yet! Goodness knows where they went to - they're hefty things!
The storm of '87 blew down some beautiful trees that people loved, but I
think it also cleared out some rotten ones. A lot of them had got holes in. I
did hear a couple say that the man had always wanted to cut down a big oak tree
from beside their house, but his wife didn't want to, and they'd nearly had a
divorce over it. Well, the storm came and blew it down, and now they think it's
wonderful, because it was beginning to rot in the centre.
The Village Now - 1993
I look at certain things, and they've changed shape. They've changed the shape of haystacks; they used to be stacked triangularly once, as a stook. Then it became square blocks, and then round, and now they're covered in black plastic.
Children and entertainment
When we went to the School, there were 122 children. Earlier still, there were 144. And they were Chiddingly children. Now they come from Hailsham, some of them.
There are 81 at the School this term, and one or two more are joining at Christmas. Then the School is full up, unless they get some more classrooms.
The drop in the school figures must reflect the numbers in the village. They
were all farm workers then. Now they've all had to move away.
They've got a lovely school here, which they go to until they're eleven. Then they go to Ringmer or Heathfield, and then they don't want to know the Village. In the Festival, yes. But not apart from that. You see they've got so many friends elsewhere - they go away swimming, and it takes the younger ones away. The chap who took over the Youth Club from me, he tried and tried, and in the end four or five would turn up, and I admire him for doing it, but it faded out.
The Six Bells is now the main training ground for teenagers, and it has its "fors" and "againsts" Lots of village boys and girls start as a bottle boy there. They come in as a thirteen-year-old, to put all the bottles in the right crates. They're always local children. I take an interest in all my old bottle boys, how they're getting on. Sadly, none of them are living here now. The village pub actually employs thirteen people, and they all live in the village.
If I was a parent here, I would be happy to know that my kids could walk to the Six Bells and walk back. It's a meeting place. It is a bit dominated by teenagers at the week-ends, but why not?
There used to be a Youth Club, while we were doing the Bells up, extremely
well-organised and running well. But once the Bells came back on the scene, the
Youth Club slowly disintegrated. There were other reasons why it disintegrated
as well. If there is a Youth Club now, it's the Bells.
We didn't want to leave Chiddingly. But we lived right opposite the Six Bells. And they'd have motorbikes. Fifty or sixty motorbikes there at night.
The new owner was all for the young ones, and they kept having rave-ups. We
complained to the Council to get the noise down, and they said they were doing
this, that and the other, but you couldn't sleep until about half past twelve or
one o'clock. It was terrible. And they'd come along and park on your grass, and
throw stuff over the garden. It wasn't good enough. So we moved to the outskirts
of Hailsham in the end.
I started pubbing when I was fifteen. I used to play darts at the pub. I hardly go to a pub now. So expensive. I think I've spent too many hours in the pub! I've got my darling wife, and my Bovril!
There's so much happening there now, quizzes, you name it, they're no longer pubs. They're restaurants now.
Have you been to the Six Bells? Very crowded. Music.
I haven't been in the pub for three years. They tell me these bikers are good lads. I don't know whether they are or not. But if I go into a public house, I like to see someone in there that I know, so I can have a chat. You go in on a Sunday morning, it's full of complete strangers. So I have a half of lager