Thanks to Daniel Robertson, formerly of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, I now have a copy of the only surviving photo (known to me) of Newmarket Farm. It was found in a scrapbook of WW2 photographs taken by the former Brighton Corporation Superintendent of Parks, Captain Bertie Hubbard MacLaren. He was responsible for the 1920s redesign of The Level and other projects of that era, including the Preston Park Rockery. They are one of the many hidden gems held by The Keep which have yet to be added to their public catalogue by their busy staff.
This photograph was part of a collection of WW2 photographs of Brighton and its surrounding downs. The album included military parades, bomb damaged buildings, crashed aircraft, and a series of photographs of Balsdean Farm (of which the Newmarket Farm was a part).
These pages show one or more military parades or inspections in Brighton, a number of pictures of Balsdean Manor farmhouse, farm and barns, including the former Balsdean Chapel, Norton and Newmarket Farms (labourers’ tied cottages), what appears to be a bombed Whitehawk Farm, and a bombed terrace of houses – probably in Brighton.
The photograph numbered 392 in the scrapbook is a tragic one. It is of the thoroughly destroyed 12th century Balsdean Chapel. It was deconsecrated and had been in use as a barn. The photo was taken in the paddock between the Manor farmhouse and the row of two farm labourer’s cottages, on or near the same spot as photo 398.
The following photograph (393) shows tanks rolling into an apparently intact Balsdean, behind a double row of military barbed wire. These photographs are not in chronological order for the isolated building slightly left of centre is the Balsdean Chapel, still intact. The War Office requisitioned these downs in May 1942, though the military were training in the area long before this. Of interest is that a copy of this same photograph also exists in my family’s photographic collection. Our copy was from an old Woodingdean friend of my father, Peter Jackson, though he may not have taken the picture himself. He was in the Brighton Railway Home Guard which he probably joined when 18 in about 1944. The track in the foreground is that which follows the valley bottom roughly southwards towards the Balsdean Pumping Station.
Photograph 394 was probably taken at the same time as photograph 392. The demolished remains of the Balsdean Chapel look equally fresh. The row of two labourer’s cottages in the centre of the photo and the Norton Farm behind appear relatively intact. Norton was originally a separate farm but by WW1 the two farms had merged, and the farmhouse had become dilapidated and was only used to house farm labourers. The main difference between this photo and the previous one is the systematic destruction of most of the farm buildings. It suggests that the military exercises did not involve the indiscriminate shelling of Balsdean. Each building was therefore individually targeted. This photo probably belongs to a series which included photos 392, 395, 398, 401, 404, 406 and 407.
Photograph 395 shows part of the site of Norton Farm towards the end of the war. The walls of its farmyard and barns are in the front of the picture. The timber framed structure behind was also a barn and can be seen in photo 406.
Photograph 396 shows some of the barns and outbuildings – old and new – of Balsdean, not far from the Manor farmhouse, taken north-east of photo 399.
Photograph 397; Newmarket Farm.
I had hoped to find a photograph of the Newmarket Farm for so long that I had almost given up. And now I see it I have mixed feelings, more sad than happy. Some of the romance has gone for me. It looks bleak, very exposed and somewhat run down. Examination of the photograph shows that the outside toilet visible in the north-west corner of the front yard, opposite the front door of the cottage which was used by my mother’s family and the Phipps family before that is not to be seen. Archaeological and oral history evidence indicates that this toilet was built in or very shortly before 1934, so the photo is probably older than (almost) all of the other photographs in this scrapbook. The Phipps and Latham families 1934-1942 have told me that the field in the foreground was used for stock, yet the farmyard and garden gateways in the photo appear to be missing their gates. This suggests that the cottage may have been empty at the time of the photo. Bob Copper in his book ‘A Song for All Seasons’ tells how he visited the Newmarket Farm as a child on a walk from Rottingdean to the Newmarket Plantation. He was born in 1914 so this would have been sometime in the 1920’s.
One evening, climbing a steep, chalk cart-track and drawing near the top of a high hill, I noticed over the brow a small cottage, more of which became visible with every step we took. I had never seen it before. This part of the downland was particularly bare and you could walk for miles up and down the interfolding hills without seeing even a fence in those days. I was about to ask Jim what it was, when he said, ‘There’s Baldy’s cottage. Did I ever tell you about him?’ It was a bleak, desolate spot and there was something in the tone of Jim’s voice that made it seem even more sinister. ‘No,’ I said. We walked on for a bit in silence… There was a stiffish breeze blowing when we reached the top of the hill and as we approached the cottage we could see it was empty. We came to it and stood there looking down over the smooth hills that fell gently away to the sea, some three miles away. The wind moaned under the eaves of the slate roof and into the cottage through a broken window-pane. The sun was rapidly sinking in the west…
However, the Phipps family said it was cozy, and the best place they had ever lived in the whole of their lives. If it was still standing they would move right back in.
Photograph 398. The, somewhat beaten up, row of Balsdean farm labourer’s cottages. The photo was probably taken at the same time as photo 394.
Photograph 399 is of a barn more or less directly opposite the Manor farmhouse. It is shown more clearly in photo 403.
Photograph 401 was taken more or less at from the same location as photos 393 and 394. It may well have been taken at the same time as photographs 392, 394, 395, 398, 404, 406 and 407. They were all taken on a winter afternoon and show the same damage. This photograph was taken from the side of the track which drops steeply down into Balsdean on the most direct route from the back of Woodingdean. The demolished remains of the Manor farmhouse can just be seen in the trees behind the building on the far left of the photo. Photograph 407, which also shows the demolished remains of Balsdean Manor, was taken from the other side of these trees.
Photograph 402 is of a barn at Balsdean, though I haven’t been able to identify it in any of the other photos. Nevertheless, the hillside in the background is identical to that of photos 396 and 399, suggesting they were taken at the same time. No sign of damage to the buildings so probably these were taken pre- or early war.
Photograph 403 shows the same barn as in photo 399. Both were taken either side of Balsdean Manor’s front garden. On the open hillside, just above the left end of the barn, is what appears to be a linear trench, with chalk spoil in about 8 piles on either side of the trench. It is also shown in photo 403 and still looks relatively fresh. This would therefore suggest that the closely related photos, 396, 397, 399, 402, 403 and 405 were all taken in or shortly before 1942. The Balsdean farmer in 1941 complained to Brighton Corporation about the problems they had with all the soldiers. They were definitely conducting live firing and other exercises at least a year before the farm was requisitioned in 1942.
Photograph 404 shows a badly damaged Norton Farmhouse. The other photos of Norton Farm, 395 and 406, all appear to have been taken on the same day.
Photograph 405 was taken in the paddock between the rear of the Manor farmhouse and Balsdean Chapel. More interesting is that a copy of this photo was given to Peter Longstaff-Tyrrell by the Edwards family for inclusion in his ‘Lost Villages’ book. It is of the Edwards family children and was taken on or shortly before 1925. Their father was the farm manager from 1918 – 1925 and they lived in the Manor house. It is possible that they also took photo 397, that of Newmarket Farm, which they said they moved to in 1924. Apparently they often returned to visit Balsdean of which they were so fond, and it may have been on one of their visits that they met Captain Bertie Hubbard Maclaren and gave him a copy of this photo.
Photograph 406 is of Norton Farm, and shows the relative location of the buildings shown in photos 395 and 404.
It is hard to believe that photograph 407 is of almost the same view as that of the Edwards family children sitting in the paddock next to Balsdean Manor’s back garden gate. In the distance, more or less in the centre of this photo, is the farm building shown in photo 401.
An amazing series of photographs. The rest of the scrapbook would be of interest to anyone researching Brighton’s WW2 history. Ownership of these photos rests with the Royal Pavilion and Museums and the book reference is HA930078. Their copyright policy is:
The images and data in this site are made available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 Creative Commons licence. This means that you can use the images under the following conditions:
1. The image may not be used for any commercial purpose
2. Where published, the image must be credited to ‘The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove’
3. Where the image is used in another work, that work must be shared on the same basis as this image ie. free of charge.
As far as I know the scrapbook has yet to be added to their public catalogue, so an email to firstname.lastname@example.org is required to make a request to view it.