KEVIN GORDON - The interesting folk of Folkington

Folkington Church
Folkington Church

The tiny village of Folkington is to be found at the end of a lane leading from the A27 just north of Polegate.

For such a quiet oasis it has some interesting residents (apart from David Dimbleby who lives in the village today.)

Folkington post box

Folkington post box

In the 17th century, Nicholas Culpeper, the botanist and physician, lived here and would have surely scoured the downland and local fields for plants to study in preparation for his book ‘The Complete Herbal’, which was published in 1653.

In October, 1790, Siamese twins were born to a woman in Folkington, the two girls being joined at the hip. Unfortunately the poor children did not survive.

Folkington Place was the home of the Harisons, who also lived at Sutton Place in Seaford. Lancelot Harison (1735-1816) had seven girls Charlotte, Frances, Harriet, Sarah, Sally, Mary and Elizabeth. Life must have been dull for these girls, so in March 1797 they decided to start to educate the ‘rustic children’ of the area.

A room was set aside at Folkington Place where the local children were instructed on reading, needlework and knitting.

Folkington not only cared for its children but its animals too and at Christmas 1800 a 67 stone (430kg) pig was killed for a feast.

It produced over 13 stones of fat – a big beast indeed! Another example of the goodness of local folk is found after the Battle of Waterloo, in June 1815, when £3 was collected to send to the soldiers injured during the battle.

In 1825, two thefts occurred in the village, copper piping was taken from the church and two coats were stolen from a stable belonging to Mr Padgen.

The thieves were never brought to justice. To give a measure of how serious rural crime was considered in those days, just four years later a sack was stolen from Joseph Seymour of Folkington.

The offender, John Smith, was sentenced to transportation for life! In May 1837, James Bennet stole two lambs from a field belonging to John Padgen.

A witness, John Hilton, was later rewarded £20 by the Prosecuting Society which then met at the Lamb Inn in Eastbourne.

The main land owner at this time was Stephen Searle who owned Wootton Farm. Searle was described as a farmer and grazier but ended up a prisoner in the Fleet debtors prison in London.

A more recent resident was Bridget Monckton, a member of the family that has lived in the village since the 13th century (Viscount Monckton was an advisor to Edward III) Bridget (known as Biddy) was Commander for Women’s Services in India in the Second World War.

During the late 1960s she would regularly feed badgers with peanuts and milk in the garden of her Folkington home. They became quite tame and gave her many hours of pleasure.

When these friendly animals suddenly stopped visiting her, she established that they had been gassed by a local farmer. When she took her seat in the House of Lords as Lady Monckton she pushed through legislation (the Badgers Act 1973) to prevent a recurrence.

During the Great War the Manor House was owned by Rupert Gwynne who was the Conservative MP for Eastbourne. One of his four daughters was Elizabeth David, the cookery writer who is credited with introducing Mediterranean cuisine to the people of England. (I wonder if she knew of any recipes for 67 stone pigs?) Following her death in 1992 she was buried in the local church St Peter ad Vincula (St Peter in Chains). Her gravestone is decorated with ingredients around a sturdy cooking pot.

The gravestone seems quite modern compared to its surroundings - even the local post box is ancient!