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Newmarket Farm: labourer's cottage

Newmarket Farm - from a childhood memory - painted by Douglas Holland
From the private collection of Peggy Cuthbertson

Hidden places on The Downs

The Downs beyond Woodingdean are full of secrets. One of these hidden places is the site of Newmarket Farm. It was an ‘out-farm’ of the Kingston near Lewes estate, a remote farm labourer’s cottage and barns, built in about 1830 as part of the Enclosure of Kingston & Iford. It was located near the top of Newmarket Hill, a mile and a half beyond the village of Kingston, between Falmer and the deserted hamlet of Balsdean. It was not far from the modern village of Woodingdean, and just a few yards south of the ancient Juggs Road which ran over the hills between Brighton and Lewes.

Destroyed in WWII

Sadly, like Balsdean, the farm labourer’s cottage was destroyed by allied training during WWII, shortly after the birth there of my mother, Peggy, in 1942. Very soon afterwards it became a nettle and bramble covered mound of demolition rubble in the far north-west corner of the Castle Hill National Nature Reserve, forgotten by almost everyone except a very few.

An archaeological dig

This year an archaeological dig has revealed it was particularly posh for a farm labourer’s cottage; substantial flint and brick walls, a terracotta tiled floor in the washhouse, and imported stone flag and decorative brick in the outside toilet. The fireplace was fairly large, for it would have originally been used for cooking, and in the 19th century wash-house there was a ‘copper’ for heating water to do their laundry. They may well have burnt coal, since trees were almost non-existent on the Downs. The cottage was remembered by former Kingston shepherd John Dudeney, who wrote how he kept the books he used to educate himself in a hole in the turf which he called his ‘library’, situated near the later site of Newmarket Farm.

Can you help?

I have been researching the farm’s history for a couple of years now, delving into remote and dusty archives, meeting and sharing information with many interested and interesting people. But the one thing which I have not been able to find is a photograph, yet photographs were taken by anonymous passing tourists during the 1930s. If you know of any photographs I would be most grateful if you would contact me. I have a blog on Newmarket Hill which explores its natural and local history and you can leave me a message there.

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