New booklet shines a light on Ouse villages

HMS Forward (circa 2000), South Heighton
HMS Forward (circa 2000), South Heighton

A fascinating insight has been given into the little written about history of South Heighton, Denton and Tarring Neville in a new booklet by local author Brigid Chapman.

It covers the recorded history in these three ancient communities from the tenth century to the present day.

In earlier years the weather – and the river – had a significant effect on the daily life of the inhabitants of the area, explains the writer.

During the 18th century a hurricane removed Denton’s windmill from Cantercrow Hill and a storm reduced South Heighton’s Church of St Martin to rubble around 1769.

Today it is believed to be the only village in East Sussex without a place of worship – or the remains of one.

Brigid said: “With the change to the outlet of the Ouse and the creation of a New Haven in the 16th century Denton residents ceased fishing for food and took to farming instead.

“The opening of the Portland Cement Works at South Heighton in 1884 quadrupled the population – and the number of houses of the area.

“World War I added an Army Ordnance Corps Depot at which there was a fire in a stock of phosphorus bombs; World War II, an extremely secret underground Royal Naval headquarters, HMS Forward, which monitored all sea and air traffic in the Channel.”

A network of secret tunnels under South Heighton which were part of HMS Forward remain to this day, but are sadly closed to the public.

Peace brought new affordable homes to Denton and the famous potter Ursula Mommens, great grand-daughter of Charles Darwin and a descendant of Josiah Wedgewood came to South Heighton.

She died, aged 101, in 2010 and today the kiln there fires the work of Chris Lewis Ceramics and up at the Old Forge is sculptor Christian Funnell.

Another notable resident of Denton was Ralph Reader, originator of the Scouting Gang Show.

Brigid said Tarring Neville’s Church of St Mary still had its bell inscribed Johannes Est Nommens Eiuscast by Whitechapel bellfounder William Chamberlain in 1426.

Today, with its two farms and seven cottages, it is the smallest village in the Lewes District.

Further information and booklets from CGB Books by calling 01273 476622 e-mail:

The booklet costs £8.99.