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.
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.