Just off to visit Malcolm Emery (E Sussex Reserves Manager, Natural England) at Castle Hill Nature Reserve – helping with the clearing of the Newmarket Farm site. I thought it might be useful for me to quickly post some more images of the site before heading off.
This is an artist’s impression of Newmarket Farm. My great-uncle Dougie Holland used to visit his sister’s family, though when he painted it – about ten years ago – he admitted he didn’t really remember very much of what it used to look like.
This is an overlay map of the site I created based on old and recent Odnance Survey maps and a Google satelite image showing Newmarket Farm’s approximate location.
It all started with my mother pointing out that a pile of demolition rubble over the Downs beyond Woodingdean, hidden by nettles and brambles, was her birth place. So I asked her uncle, Dougie Holland – an artist who had distant memories of the farm – to paint a picture of what it might have looked like. His memory was not clear, and nor is that of everyone else we have spoken to with their distant memories of when they lived or visited, over 60 years ago.
Was the well on the south or the north side of the house, and how big was it? Was the outside toilet by the front garden gate or next to the house by the front door? And indoors, what was the fireplace like – how big was it, and was it in the centre of the house against the wall which divided the downstairs into two? And where was the pantry? Was there a backdoor?
Amongst the brambles and nettles I discovered a patch of spearmint, to the south of the house site, which coincides with the approximate location of a water tank shown on a plan of the farm drawn in about 1920. However, no-one who lived there seems to be able to recall such a tank. Perhaps it was really a well? Such plans have often been found to be incorrect – the plan may have shown a proposed tank which was never constructed. But then again, memories are also known to be fallable.
These are some of the reasons why I started to consider the possibility of an archaeological excavation. Those who used to live there have memeories of the place. An archaeological dig would provide material substance to their precious memories. In turn, their distant memories would help give meaning to the objects which may be found.
Off to the printers with a draft copy of our book! A History of Newmarket Farm. The book has a fair way to go before it is finished. There is still more research that we want to do, as well as some of our research which has not yet been included. Nevertheless, it has progressed well during the past two years, and at about 180 pages can no longer be called ‘A Short History of Newmarket Farm’.
A number of people have shown an interest in the book – so watch this space – I plan to post draft versions of chapters from the book and other items of interest in the hopes of gaining useful feedback.
Two hundred metres above the nearby English Channel, Newmarket Hill crowns that part of the South Downs which lies between the towns of Brighton to the west and Lewes to the east, and between the villages of Rottingdean to the south and Falmer to the north. It’s top is in the parish of Kingston near Lewes, the village of which is about a mile and half away. However, it is now only about a mile to the north-east of the relatively modern village of Woodingdean and a mile and a half to the north-west of the deserted medieval hamlet of Balsdean. Its south-eastern slopes form a part of Castle Hill National Nature Reserve which is a site of European importance. This blog is about the history and ecology of its surrounding downland.
Newmarket Farm by Douglas Holland.
In April 2013 I managed – as a volunteer for Natural England – a community based excavation of the site of a 19th century farm labourer’s cottage, farmyard and barns called Newmarket Farm, just inside Castle Hill NNR, near the summit of Newmarket Hill. It was built in 1830 and was the birth place of my mother in 1942, shortly before it was requisitioned for military training by British and Canadian troops stationed both locally and further afield in SE England.
Newmarket Farm location. Overlay of old and new O.S. maps and Google satellite images.