Delving into Rough Notices of Beeding Church and Priory, a vicar’s journal

Newspaper cuttings kept in an old journal have caught the eye of Beeding and Bramber Local History Society secretary Pat Nightingale.

She was going through some papers belonging to the society and came across the journal, a sort of scrapbook, kept by the Rev J.R. Bloxam, vicar of Upper Beeding from 1862 to 1891.

Pat said the journal is filled with interesting items, which Mr Bloxam called Rough Notices of Beeding Church and Priory.

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His book is now kept safely at West Sussex Record Office but Pat has been able to type up a few snippets from newspapers which she though would be of interest.

The people of Upper Beeding were 'happy in the light of night' after being supplied with public gas lamps in 1888. Picture: Derek Martin DM1993164a

One tells of a narrow escape from drowning in Steyning on August 31, 1879. A lad named Woolgar from Bramber was walking along the bank of the River Adur, between Beeding Priory and Beeding Street.

The report reads: “Near the bend in the river there is a sluice, opening into a dyke under a bridge, which at that point forms the boundary between two adjoining fields, a double fence or stile turning across.

“The lad, instead of getting over the fence, climbed round the end of the bridge, intending to support himself by the rails, but the wood proving rotten, he was precipitated into the water of the river below.

“Several comrades were not slow in raising the alarm at the danger of their companion, and happily, at this juncture Mr Triggs, stationmaster, and Mr Lawrence, who were walking near the spot, came up, attracted by the cries of the boys, and after considerable difficulty, and imminent personal risk, contrived to extricate the lad, who, through the tide coming up at the time, was in great danger of being washed under the sluice, when, of course, further efforts to save life would have been frustrated.”

Tenantry Down - on the left, marked by a line of trees, is the track from Golding Barn to the top of Beeding Hill and on the right is the Bostal Road, which goes from the Henfield Road in Beeding to Beeding Hill, meeting with the other track and the road from Shoreham. Picture: Pat Nightingale

A report in the West Sussex Journal tells of a drama involving runaway horses on Monday, November 16, 1863.

“The Rev Bloxam sent a man and a boy with a horse and cart on the Tenantry Hill for a load of turf, when from some unexplained cause, the horse galloped away at a tremendous pace to the top of Beeding Hill.

“It then turned down the Bosthill and came down the hill past the Nells garden and up the hill, on towards the New house to the Rising Sun, where it turned round by the blacksmith’s shop and into Beeding Street, when it was fortunately stopped.

“What makes the affair most singular is that it should have escaped without damage; not so a waggon drawn by four horses, which was preceding it at the time up the hill.

A lad had a narrow escape while walking along the bank of the River Adur in 1879

“The carrier, on hearing the noise and seeing the danger, ran forward with the idea of stopping the animal in his wild career, when the horses attached to the wagon, becoming frightened, bolted over the bank on the north side and ran down the hill into the Henfield Road, where the second horse fell, dragging the third one down, unfortunately causing serious injury to one of them; the other is cut about very much, but there is no doubt it will soon recover.

“The other two escaped unhurt, neither did the waggon sustain any damage. Any person conversant with the locality must be surprised they were not all smashed to atoms.”

Pat points out the Tenantry Down lay alongside the track which leads from Golding Barn to a junction with the Bostal Road and the South Downs Way, and says that New House is now known as Valerie Manor.

There are some rather sad stories, like a death due to exposure to the sun in the extreme heat in 1884 and the death of Thomas Young, 59, who choked on escalops at the Rising Sun public house in Upper Beeding in 1885.

At Mr Young’s inquest, a verdict of accidental death was returned and the foreman of the jury ‘saw fit to raise an objection to the arrangements by which the body of the deceased had been allowed to remain in the private room of the Inn, the room being shut up, and the landlord greatly inconvenienced as a consequence’.

Generally, thought, the stories tell of village life, like the report of lighting in Beeding in 1888.

“Upper Beeding is getting on! The village has just been supplied with public gas lamps; and these are found to be a real boon to the inhabitants.

“The cost of the lamps has been met out of the surplus from the Jubilee Fund, with the addition of some donations since received.

“The people of Upper Beeding are now happy in the light of night and are already beginning to ask when Bramber is going to make up its mind to go and do likewise.”