Memories of life on an old farm

In the Register of Electors in 1915 Sidney Mansfield Hamblett (it is not clear if the ‘Mansfield’ is official, but it seems that Marjorie also liked to use the extended name) is resident at the Farm House, Roedale Road, Preston, Brighton. In the 1925 register (Preston Ward, North) Sidney Jnr. is recorded at the same address. The family came to live at ‘The old Farm House’ of Harrington Farm on Roedale Road, Preston, Brighton in 1909, when Sidney was 19 yrs old. It is recorded in the Register of Electors of 1915 (R3426) that Sidney James was renting ‘One furnished room’ at the front of the house for 15s a week. The landlord was Mrs [Susan] Hamblett. I do not know why his Father was not landlord.

The old farm house
An interview with Marjorie, his sister, by an unknown historian resulted in the following extract from a 1986 compilation of anecdotes from the people of Hollingdean, a booklet by Ray Carter, a school teacher of Hertford Road School:

“We moved to the old Farm House in 1909, there had been three farms which had been broken up, Harrington Farm (when we went there it was in the middle of a nursery and was owned by a man called Scutt, who had a shop in Ditchling Road, now Eastwoods), the other two farms were the one by Hollingbury Park, somewhere at the top of Lewes Road (later Gates Nurseries) and now I think part of Moulsecoomb and the Wild Park.

A large estate
The old house was a ten-roomed, farmhouse, double fronted with a porch in the centre. There were two large kitchens, one with an old fashioned range, the other one was a wash-house or scullery and also had a large black kitchen range. We had extensive gardens and lawns. There was one tree in the middle of the lawns which was a landmark for miles around. It was nearly always bright yellow. During the 1914-1918 war a Belgian artist painted a picture of a tree somewhere in the garden, which was hung in the Brighton Art Gallery. Also in the Museum, was a large tree-wasps nest. I was in the garden one day and saw this nest suspended from the branch of a fir tree. It looked as if it were made of paper.

Fighting rats and perfumed gardens
We had our own road to the house as you know. That was taken over by the Council, also our small copse – to make Hertford Road. When we (left)? moved in, my father and brothers used to go down to the cellar at night to fight the rats which came from the farm buildings which were being dismantled. There was a lovely old walnut tree at the bottom of the lawns and about a hundred fruit trees. There were also beds of roses, the real fabulous old fashioned kind, they had such lovely perfume.

The property was then owned by the late Sir John Blaker, who was a grocer in Brighton. It was offered to my father for £400. He refused – what a fool he was.

Bottomless Pit
There are still some of the original trees standing, including a lovely old Horse Chestnut, now in the grounds of Hertford Road School. On the left hand side, coming up from Hollingdean Terrace was a large field, in it was a bottomless pit. It used to be filled up over and over again but whatever went in just disappeared. One of the houses (or its garden) must be somewhere over it! It was said there was an underground stream running under the back gate of the farmhouse, going right down to the town through the London & Lewes Road area. Perhaps that accounts for the bottomless pit.

Incidentally we moved out on a Monday although still in possession until Thursday. On coming home from work on that Monday I went down with a friend to get some stuff from the vegetable garden and found about twenty people all digging as fast as they could. The place was almost bare, not a fruit tree in sight. Even the ones my father had put by ready packed to bring here were gone. They had even dug up the tiles from the porch. Anyway, dad found out where most of the trees were, and made them pay in lieu of taking them to Court.”

Extracts from a letter from Margery Hamblett who used to live in ‘Harrington Farm’ or ‘The House in the Trees’ as it was known locally.

Comments about this page

  • I am researching the history of Hertford Infants School for its 75th birthday this year. By coincidence (as I have never looked up this web site before) today I found a reference in the Education Committee minutes of March 5th 1930 Hertford Road School ‘that the action of the Town Clerk in agreeing with Mr.S.M.Hamblett for the payment to the latter of the sum of 200 pounds and legal costs in consideration of his relinquishing his tenancy of the house on the site, be approved and that this cost be met out of the loan for the erection of the school.’. To get some idea of what 200 pounds was worth – most teachers in the financial minutes for that year were earning about 140-170 pounds for their annual wage. The clerk of works who was to oversee the building of the school earned 6 pounds 6 shillings a week. I hope this is of interest to add to your information about your relative. I wonder if he managed to buy his next home with the money?

    By Joy Whittam (02/02/2006)
  • I have only just seen this comment from Joy and it is very interesting.  I wouldn’t know if he spent all the money on the house he bought in opposite the Greyhound pub in Keymer, but it must have helped. He would have been well known in the pub!

    By Ray Hamblett (03/10/2006)
  • I always thought that the Infants as it is now, used to be the Juniors and vice versa.  Could be wrong of course!

    By AS (01/12/2006)
  • Hertford Road Infant school used to be a primary school (infants and juniors mixed). I attended the school until I was eleven years old.

    By Lynda (18/03/2007)
  • Is anyone interested in St Joesphs Infant school, in Davey Drive?

    By Bridget (09/01/2008)
  • I lived in Hollingdean Terrace with my family from 1950 until 1962 when we moved to Portslade. I went to Hertford Road school and during that time we moved up to St Joseph’s in Davey Drive. When I was 11 years I went to the Technical School in Hanover Terrace near Elm Grove. I would be interested in tracing some of my old school friends such as Simon Eastwood (his parents run the florist at Fiveways) and Christine Smeeton who I think lived in Roedale Road? During my time at the school my close friend Melvyn Gray emigrated to Australia. Who was the headmistress at that time? I do not remember her name.

    By Geoffrey Steel (16/03/2008)
  • Geoffrey – I am writing an article on St Joseph’s school and would be very interested to hear your memories of your time there. With regard to your old school friends – the Eastwood family ran a garden centre at Fiveways, until retirement about 3 years ago. The site is now awaiting redevelopment. I think they still have a nursery in Ditchling. I live in Hollingbury Place and my house was lived in by a Mr and Mrs Smeeton for over 60 years who used it as a small market garden. Could they have been related to your friend Christine? The headmistress of Hertford School in the 50’s was a Miss EA Young, who seems to have spent a fair amount of time going back and forth between the split site of Hertford Road, the annexe building at St.Joseph’s and reception classes in the middle at St.Richards church hall.
    You can contact me via

    By Joy Whittam (25/03/2008)
  • I went to St Joseph’s from 1979-1983. Does anybody have any school photos from that time?

    By Terry Potter (17/10/2008)
  • I went to Hertford Road school in 1960. The Head Teacher was Mrs Young. We lost Mrs Bradbury to cancer and planted a tree in her memory in the grounds. Mrs Haffenden took the Infants and Mrs Dewhurst started the Juniors. Miss Budd and Mr Hickman were also there. As I remember, the school hall had four teams, Normans, Danes, Saxons and Britains – Green, Red, Yellow and Blue were the colours, but there again it was 49 years ago. I went to piano lessons with Miss Rogers who lived almost opposite in a bungalow at Number 2b. Anyone who was at the school at that time I would love to hear from.

    By Phillip Ward (06/07/2009)
  • Geoffrey and Joy: If my memory serves me correctly, Christine Smeeton lived in the top house of Hollingbury Place, opposite the junction with Barnett Road. I think she had an older brother Bob. I think Simon Eastwood still lives locally. Years ago they lived in the corner house in Stanmer Park Road, with that lovely landscaped rockery. I think Simon’s brother Peter (aka Fred) runs the plant nursery in Ditchling.

    By Peter (21/07/2009)
  • I have just posted an old photograph of Mr Hickman and the school soccer team c1954 on the Hertford Road School page. Most I can name, but two players need identifying.

    By Peter (30/10/2009)
  • Would Gates Nurseries possibly be Bates Nurseries, hence Bates Estate, named after my great grandfather?

    By June Churchill (03/02/2010)
  • I have just read with great interest the above information. Here is a chance for another group of “kids” from a bygone era to have a reunion. I used to think we were the only “kids” with history, the above proves me wrong. Thank you all for sharing your memories.

    By Bonny Cother (16/05/2010)

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