Compiled by Tony Turk 2016
The land is in Chailey parish, abutting the village and parish of Newick. For very many years these fields and woods have been associated with the house ‘Reedens’, at the junction of Jackies Lane/A 272, that old house now being a ‘Headway Hurstwood Park’ centre for rehabilitating people with serious head injuries. The following is a history of the land, broadly in date order, including how the land changed from agricultural fields to parkland.
There is an old book called the ‘Book of John Rowe’ which refers to the name ‘Riddens in Chayley’ going back to 1560 and the 1600’s. Land tax assessment records back to the 1780’s show that the Riddens owner Edward Turner had various tenants over the years – John Picket, George Osborn, William Sturt and William Johnson. In 1808 the ownership changed to William Knight (later Knight and Co) and the occupier was John Gosling. There is extensive recorded history of the Gosling family, as occupiers and later as owners, over very many years. The spelling changes over the years – Riddens, Reedings and Reedens. A memo book by John Gosling from 1801-1821 describes some of his farming activities at Reedens. He had a lime kiln but not on the land the subject of the proposed SANGS.
The Ordnance Survey map from about 1813 shows the house Reedens and the main area of land associated with it. The estate also included land to the west of Jackies Lane and, over the years, land to the north. Since 1813, major changes have clearly occurred to the east and north-east of the site, where the houses of modern Newick have been built, along with significant changes to the road arrangement near the eastern end of the site, with the creation of Harmers Hill.
In 1825 it was advertised that the ‘...farm known by the name of Reedings containing 62 acres’ was to be sold by private contract. The description stated that the land was ‘conveniently divided into meadow, arable, hop and woodland...’
An 1830 estate plan shows the house with its curtilage and adjacent orchard, together with the rest of the land, with the names of the various fields, eg The Five Acres, The Six Acres, The Two Acres, along with shaws and a pond and about two acres as a hop garden (by Western Road). The plan included the associated land to the west of Jackies Lane.
The Chailey Tithe Map of 1838 shows the estate, owned by the Gosling family, with the field names, including ‘Chapel Field’ (at the rear of the Zion chapel which had been built in 1834). The uses for each field are shown - arable, meadow, etc. One field is named as ‘Maln Pit Field (or Malm Pit Field?), which probably means that the pit or pits were dug to remove the material for use as a soil conditioner on the sandy soils around. This is where there are now ponds.
It could be added here that the underlying strata in these fields and the area in general is ‘Tunbridge Wells Sand’ but the spot which has been dug in the past is down to the ‘Grinstead Clay’, as shown on geological maps. There was once a brickworks pit on the other side of Western Road, where the modern ‘Springfields’ houses are. Presumably that had similarly dug down to the clay level.
The 1830’s plans and maps show that a strip alongside Jackies Lane and bounded by the stream was the Lord of the Manors ‘waste’ (Houndean manor) which had the variable name of Jack’s Common /Jack Jones Common / Jack-a-Jones Common/ Jacky Jones Common / Jack and Joan’s Common (marked on the modern plan below).
In The Library of Agricultural and Horticultural Knowledge published by J Baxter, Lewes 1834, under the ‘Botany’ section, it states.... ‘Not far from the roadside between the Kings Head and Newick is a place called Jack’s Common. At the lower end of the common, a kind of bog exists. In this bog the sundew (drosera rotundifolia) grows... Mr Joshua Mantell and Dr Epps obtained a specimen of the plant’. Joshua Mantell (brother of Gideon Mantell) was a horticultural/botanical enthusiast as well as being the Newick village doctor (surgeon) and indeed was a founder of the Newick Horticultural Society. Dr Epps was his friend from London. Is this uncommon little insectivorous plant, the sundew, still growing there in some of the marshy areas? That common land in due course becomes part of the Reedens estate.
Thomas Edward Crallan (curate at Newick) lived at Reedens as tenant for a few years in the 1850’s. He was said to be very fond of fishing in the River Ouse and having a fine collection of fish (presumably in the fish pond in the grounds).
In the mid-1850’s Ferdinand Hedworth Williamson (1835-1893) acquired the property from William Gosling and became the copyhold owner (freehold owner in 1861). He had been in the 4th Kings Own Regiment and was ‘a gentleman of very considerable position’. He was a justice of the peace and a deputy lieutenant of Sussex, with his footman, housemaid, cook and a lady’s maid living at the premises. He participated in local affairs, such as the Chailey harvest home celebrations, entering exhibits in the Chailey horticultural show and he attended the South Saxon Archers events. It is highly likely that it was F H Williamson who laid out the land as open parkland, rather than keeping it as farmland with all its separate fields.
In May 1861 William Tester, a labourer from Newick, was in the Lewes magistrates court, having been found with eight pheasants eggs taken from a nest on Mr Williamson’s land. The bench of magistrates on that day included Mr Williamson – but he retired from the bench while that case was heard. Tester was fined £2.00 (five shillings for each egg) plus 18 shillings and 6 pence costs.
In 1862/1863 a Lewes to London railway line was being discussed to supplement the London/Brighton railway line which already existed. A suggested route was designed to go north/south straight across the Reedens estate. The curate at Newick suggested that everyone was in favour of the new line (except the shareholders of the existing London to Brighton line!). The farmer Robert Wood, who had 300 acres in Newick, referred to the problem of having to drive his cattle to Lewes market along the road and that a new railway line carrying livestock would benefit local farmers. Lord Sheffield at Sheffield Park welcomed the idea, saying that the railway would be cheaper than bringing in and taking out goods using the River Ouse navigation. The final route chosen for the railway line was a little further westwards. That line opened in 1882 and closed in 1958.
In 1865 it was advertised that the Reedens estate would be auctioned. The sales description referred to the house with its pleasure ground surrounded by undulating, park-like lands ornamented with thriving woods and plantations...’
The property then became occupied by a rich coal merchant, James Corrall and his wife Mary. He died in 1871. In 1873 his widow commissioned, from the Newick land surveyor John Funnell, a fine, detailed, coloured plan of the whole Reedens estate covering 200 acres. Mary Corrall married William Henry Hallett in 1875, a very successful brewer from Brighton and one time mayor of Brighton.
The 1870’s Ordnance Survey map is very illuminating in illustrating that the whole of the Reedens land between Jackies Lane and Western Road, including the former Jacks Common, is clearly park-land with many individual trees and tree groups and with no internal field boundaries. Two ponds are shown, the northern-most one being within a steep-sided pit with a pathway around it and being described as a ‘fish pond’. Streams are shown, as remain today.
About 20 years or so later, the 1899 Ordnance Survey map includes two field boundaries across the site, which appears to be broadly the boundaries that still remain now.
In 1917, auction sale particulars were advertised for the Reedens estate of 200 acres, which included land to the north and west of Jackies Lane, with a total of 14 lots. Lot 1 was the house with 16 acres of land, including the two ‘ornamental fish ponds’ (there is a photograph of one of the ponds). Lots 3 and 4 comprised what is now the SANG site, described as a pasture (13 acres) and park-like pasture land (14 acres)
There were sale particulars again in 1935 for the house and its 16 acres, including the ‘two well stocked fish ponds edged with thick wooded coppice’. Three separate lots were shown for the 16 acre site, There was a photo of one of the ponds with its water lilies.
The Ordnance Survey map below is from 1940 showing the Reedens site as parkland.
The extensive Reedens estate was for sale again in 1953, the estate agents description referring to the house being ‘delightfully situated in a fine park-land setting with magnificent views’, together with a ‘highly productive attested farm, about 83 acres’. The property was bought by Mr and Mrs Davies.
There are six postcard photographs of the site which were taken from Western Road in the 1950-60s by Friths publishers, one or two of which show livestock in the fields. An aerial photograph exists from 1959 showing the site.
A plan accompanying 1964 sale particulars for a proposed development site in Allington Road, Newick indicates the site of a main sewer on the south-eastern side of Western Road which is shown then crossing Western Road at its lowest point into a manhole on the site the subject of the SANGS. The sewer pipeline then continues northwards across the fields, with parts just above ground level, down towards the lowest part of the site near the Jackies Lane/Harmers Hill junction.
A further aerial photograph exists showing the site in 1987. Below is a photograph from 1995 showing the site in the foreground and Newick village beyond, looking eastwards.
When the Reedens owner Mrs Davies died, her will bequeathed the house to the Leonard Cheshire Foundation and it was subsequently sold in 2002 to ‘Headway’ for, it is understood, £1.00. In 2005 the ponds were being dredged and were restored by the Rotary Club of Haywards Heath. Photographs were taken of various parts of the restoration project including the duck house in the middle of the pond and paths with ‘barley-twist’ edging.
The fields have continued to be used for grazing, in recent years particularly for horses. The Lewes District Council’s Landscape Capacity Study 2012 suggests that this area should have ‘continued agricultural management and strengthen hedges’. The Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan Character Assessment in 2013 referred to this land (now intended as the SANGS), commenting on its importance in creating a distinct rural gap between Chailey and Newick and that the Western Road hedgerow should retain a rural character by not introducing any domestic or exotic planting. Furthermore, it stated that these undulating fields, with planted trees and wild deer, still retain something of the old parkland character from the time when this was called ‘Reedens Park’. The site is shown as a ‘designed landscape’ on the East Sussex County Council’s ‘Historic Landscape Characterisation’ maps.
Below are two recent views, looking north-eastwards, showing the undulating landscape, illustrating that it still retains something of a parkland character. The tall old sequoia tree on the right of the first picture particularly contributes to the character of being a ‘designed landscape’. Ashdown Forest lies in the distance.
Below are three more photographs of the site as it exists now - a springtime view of a blossom filled hedgerow, some woodland and marshland.
The first photograph below shows remains of old parkland fencing found in several places amongst the hedges. The second shows remains of similar fencing which once surrounded the prominent sequoia tree. The third and fourth photos show neglected remains by one of the ponds. The fifth shows part of the sewer pipe which crosses the site and the sixth shows an interesting old metal stile.
This history has illustrated land ownership changes and how the land changed over the years from farmland with many agricultural fields to distinctive parkland, and indeed how it still maintains some of that parkland character.
There is further documented history which could be referred to. Headway would no doubt have further historical information, including details of the restoration works carried out around the old ponds, which now looks sadly neglected. More information might be found about Ferdinand Hedworth Williamson and perhaps his input regarding the creation of the parkland. He died after a long illness on 1st January 1893 and was buried at St Botolphs church at Heene in Worthing. The current Reedens house (now Headway) has a late Victorian character but there was clearly a house there before that period.
The list of information sources remains to be completed, particularly the East Sussex Record Office references. Information has been obtained from Ordnance Survey maps, tithe map, estate plans, directories, land tax records, Lord of the Manor records (Houndean manor), parish registers, population census, newspapers, sale particulars, postcard photographs, etc.
Researched, compiled, and written by Tony Turk February 2016