One Year Blogging!

Garland N38919

Last Sussex Day, 16th June 2016, West Sussex Record Office launched our 70th anniversary celebrations with our very first blog post. We asked our users, depositors, volunteers, supporters and staff to explore the archive and nominate their favourite document. Over the following months, 70 of these unique records featured on this blog, each with its own story to tell and each illuminating a very different aspect of the archives. Since then, we have continued to feature a ‘Record of the Month’, and have used this blog to post topical features, such as our hugely popular ‘Victorian Christmas Traditions in the Archive’ post, and now celebrate our first anniversary as regular bloggers!

Over the past 12 months, our most viewed and shared post was the nostalgic Sense or Insensibility : Chichester in the 1960’s, guest-written by Alan Green, and posted in support of his popular talk given at the Record Office in March. A Record of the Month chosen by searchroom assistant Immie has been our second most popular post about Aerial Photography of Chichester (APH 126, 1904). Immie highlighted one of our more unusual records, an early aerial photograph of Chichester, taken from a hot air balloon! The response from posts like this, and comments from our followers on Twitter and Facebook have shown the importance of spreading the word about West Sussex history, and the work the Record Office does to preserve it.

One year later, and after 98 insightful, interesting and sometimes surprising posts, a total of 9353 people have viewed this blog, from all over the world. Whether you we the one visitor for Nepal or Mozambique, or one of our hundreds of visitors from the UK, US, and Australia, we thank you for your support and continued readership, and hope to continue intriguing and entertaining you for some time yet.


WSRO worldwide blog readership over the past year


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Sir Patrick Moore: Early Life, Mentors, and Notebooks

Patrick Moore talk

The early life of Sir Patrick Moore will be the subject of a talk at the Record Office in Chichester on Tuesday 27th June.

The talk on West Sussex local Sir Patrick, who died in 2012, will be given by world-renowned astronomer and principal lecturer at the South Downs Planetarium, Dr John Mason. A close friend of Sir Patrick for nearly 45 years, Dr Mason will provide a fascinating insight into the first 25 years of his life, before he became a household name as an astronomer, author and broadcaster.

And he will showcase examples from a large collection of observational notebooks compiled by Sir Patrick, together with memorabilia recovered from his former home in Selsey. The notebooks have recently been digitised by staff at the Record Office and the audience will have an opportunity to view images on their public access computers.

The event has been organised to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the BBC’s Sky at Night programme, presented by Sir Patrick from its first episode in 1957 until his death in 2012.

The talk will be held at West Sussex Record Office, 3 Orchard Street, Chichester PO19 1DD on Tuesday 27 June at 7pm.

A limited number of tickets are available at £8 each (including light refreshments), which should be purchased in advance by visiting the Record Office or calling 01243 753602.

or e-mail for more information.

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Project Book Launch: Military Voices Past and Present

BookAe two year oral history project, Military Voices Past and Present, organised by West Sussex CC Library Service and supported by the Record Office, has seen some 95 audio interviews recorded with West Sussex veterans from World War One, World War Two and Post 1945 conflicts to the 1990s, published in a new book Military Voices Past and Present. The project outcomes were celebrated on 24th May, where veterans and volunteers were presented with copies of the book by Louise Goldsmith, Leader of WSCC, Debbie Kennard, WSCC Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities, and Wendy Walker, County Archivist. Following the completion of the project, West Sussex Libraries have produced:

  • a 550 page book: Military Voices Past and Present: West Sussex Veterans in the 20th Century (West Sussex County Council, 2017) ISBN 978-0-86260-593-3; on sale for £10 at Record Office, plus lending & sale copies via all 36 county libraries
  • a website of over 130 audio clips:
  • a travelling display (promotional pull-up banners now touring libraries)
  • a listening turret (over 130 clips; at Worthing Library until 13th July)
  • all 95 full interviews (over 120 hours of audio) on pcs at the Record Office & all west Sussex public libraries


The idea for this Project came out of a previous joint project between Libraries and Record Office, on the Great War. Worthing history teacher Peter Baker offered his collection of audio cassette interviews with First World War veterans to the Library Service for research and he was persuaded to deposit these precious recordings at the Record Office. The Peter Baker Collection of Great War Interviews (WSRO ref. OH 454-


Walter Evans (Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) 1914-17, Worthing resident 1966-87, whose grandson Graham was moved to hear, for the first time, his account of being shot on the 1st day of the Somme

471), made between 1983 and 1985, is of both local and national significance, given that no veterans of that conflict survive. The veterans, most then living in Worthing, were regulars, volunteers and conscripts from regiments across Britain. Featured are artillery, infantry, engineers, medics and airmen, medal winners, and a female VAD nurse.

Project Manager Emma Worrall (nee White) was appointed in autumn 2015 and some 45 volunteers came forward to help. One team of volunteers were offered research training and prepared case studies of the 1914-18 veterans. Another team received oral history training and went on to record over 60 new interviews with current veterans. Our volunteers did a great job for us and felt rewarded too, by the moving work they undertook. Many of the new recordings were over an hour long, some two or three hours.


Martin Hayes

County Local Studies Librarian & Project Supervisor


Military Voices Past and Present: West Sussex Veterans in the 20th Century (West Sussex County Council, 2017) ISBN 978-0-86260-593-3; is available to purchase for £10 at the Record Office, plus lending & sale copies via all 36 West Sussex libraries

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Record of the Month

Aerial Photography of Chichester (APH 126, 1904)

A type of record not mentioned in our 70th Anniversary booklet or previously on this blog is aerial photography; In particular early aerial photographs, like this one from 1904. According to the caption it was taken at 1500ft in a hot air balloon by Aeronaut Percival Spencer on 4th June 1904. It is an oblique view of Chichester, meaning it was taken at an angle from a fixed point or hand held camera. The Chichester Observer comments that its inhabitants were ‘startled as a couple of balloons made their way towards Chichester and Goodwood reaching a maximum height of 10,00ft’.APH 126 with Caption

Interestingly, the history of aerial photography might be surprising to some. The first aerial photographs were taken by the Frenchman Gaspar Felix Tournachon (also known as Nadar) in 1858, almost 32 years after the method of photography was invented by Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1826. Sadly none of Nadar’s photographs have survived, but since then methods in photographic technology have developed significantly from pewter plates and 8 hour sunlight exposures to instant images taken on a digital camera.Picture1

Like Percival Spencer, Nadar also used a hot air balloon, which was invented by the Montgolfier brothers in 1782, with the first human flight by their comrade and pilot Pilatre de Rosier on 21st November 1783. Before the invention of the plane by the Wright brothers in 1905, early pioneers not only used hot air balloons, but also kites, pigeons and rockets to lift their cameras high. Panoramic aerial views of the destruction left by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake were captured using a string of 17 kites with the Camera attached to the last kite and carrier pigeons of the Bavarian pigeon corps were used both as messengers and reconnaissance birds, in the early part of the 20th Century.

Like maps, aerial photographs are an excellent source for looking into the history of the landscape because they show features not normally recognised by the OS maps, such as house boats, caravans and swimming pools. Our main collection of aerial photographs covers a period form 1947, with RAF photographs, to 2001, taken by companies such as Meridian or Bluesky ltd.

So why not consider aerial photography as a source when conducting your own House History.

Imogen Russell

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‘On The Beat’ – The History and Archive of West Sussex Constabulary (1857-1967)

Lib 14178-842017 marks not one, but two very special anniversaries for West Sussex Constabulary. They were formed on 4th April 1857 as a result of the County and Police Act 1856 which made it compulsory for counties to have their own police force.  The earlier County Police Act of 1839 enabled Justices of the Peace to form their own police forces, but it was not compulsory to do so; West Sussex was one of the counties which decided not to at this time.  West Sussex Constabulary ended in December 1967, when all the forces of Sussex were amalgamated into Sussex Constabulary on 1st January 1968 as part of the Police Act of 1964.  However, the Sussex police forces had previously temporarily amalgamated from 1943-1947 due to the war effort.

West Sussex Constabulary was not the first system of policing in the county. Chichester City police and Arundel Borough police had existed since 1836 due to the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 which

Kevis 3-10

Kevis 3/10 Petworth: Police Group 2nd Squadron (1880)

allowed boroughs operating under this act to form their own police force.  They existed until 1889 when the Local Government Act of 1888 declared that boroughs with less than 10,000 people were not required to have their own police force; thus they were amalgamated into the local Constabulary.  Before this point, law enforcement such as parish constables and prosecuting societies were in place to try and keep the peace.

West Sussex Constabulary started with 70 police officers in 1857; at the time of amalgamation in 1968, it was nearly 700 strong. The original headquarters was at Petworth, later moving to Horsham, and finally ending up in Chichester.

West Sussex Record Office holds the West Sussex Constabulary archive. It includes a wealth of documents such as day and occurrence books, charge registers and examination books. The police archive is a great source of social history; police officers were required to keep meticulous records and no one knew the local area better than the bobby on his beat!  As we also hold Quarter Session records, it is possible to see the whole paper trail, from arrest, charge and court trial, through to conviction and sentencing or acquittal.

The examination books are service records of police officers and give a great amount of detail, such as their date and place of birth, where they were stationed, remarks about their service, what their occupation was and so on. Many of the records also mention ‘permission to marry’: police officers were required to get the Chief Constable’s

Kevis 1-A109

Kevis 1/A109 PC Amell, Horsham (1908)

permission to marry, and were not allowed to marry into a family which had a ‘reputed bad character’!  Some of the more poignant records of service include letters written to the Chief Constable asking to join Kitchener’s Army at the start of the First World War and requesting that their place in the police force remain open (some even ask whether their wives can stay living in the police cottage during their absence).  94 West Sussex Constables went to the Front: 21 did not return.  Considering there were only around 150 constables in the force during this time, it was a large percentage.  Over 800 men were sworn in as Special Constables during the first 18 months of the War; a report in the Chichester Observer remarked that Chichester, with the exception of higher officials, was entirely run by special constables.

The first policewoman in Sussex joined West Sussex Constabulary in 1919; her name was Gladys Moss and she was the first woman police motorcyclist, serving in Worthing until her retirement in 1941.

If you would like to find out more about West Sussex Constabulary, I am giving an illustrated talk at the Record Office on Tuesday 25th April at 7pm entitled ‘On the Beat: the history and archive of West Sussex Constabulary 1857-1967’.  Tickets are £8 including refreshments and a selection of documents will be out on display.  Tickets must be booked in advance by calling our reception on 01243 753602.

Holly Wright

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Record of the Month

Par 193/7/2 West Tarring Market Charter (11 June 1444)

The West Tarring market charter is the oldest document that I have had the pleasure of cataloguing in my twenty seven years at West Sussex Record Office so, as I am retiring at the end of the month, I thought that it deserved a mention as our document of the month! Par 193

The charter came in to the Record Office as part of the West Tarring parish records collection in 1992. At that time I was responsible for cataloguing parish records and so it fell to me to list them. It was an amazing collection to be involved with, as the older records of most parishes had been deposited here many years previously, so it was mostly more recent records together with a few older registers that came my way. The West Tarring records ranged from the charter of 1444, through the ‘Landscot Book’,


Par 193/12/1 The ‘Landscot’ Book

to correspondence and papers relating to the repair of mosaics in the church. The ‘Landscot’ book covers the years 1622-1742 and includes the amount of rate set 1622-1638, a summary of accounts 1622-1742, and a list of parish officers for each year from 1632.  What I found particularly interesting was the list of briefs (requests for charitable relief read out from the pulpit) that had been collected for various causes. This was fascinating reading. In 1686 there were a number of collections ‘for the relief of French Protestants’, but in 1690 there seemed to be a spate of fires throughout the country resulting in these parishes being in need of relief. Parishes listed included ‘New Alsford’, ‘Bungay in Suffolk’, ‘Bishops Lavington Wiltshire’ and ‘St Georges’ in the Borrough of Southwark’. However, it was the market charter that afforded me most pleasure because of its age. It was in fairly poor condition but had been repaired and still had its seal attached. It was in Latin but, as my Latin is limited, I was pleased to be able to consult a translation, also on parchment, that had been compiled in 1904 by Edward Sayers. However, although titled as a translation I was disappointed to discover that it is, in fact, a summary. However, there is also available a handwritten copy of the Latin charter, together with another handwritten translation. It would seem that the inhabitants of West Tarring have no market and have to travel to other local markets to trade.


Landscot book

Par 193/7/2 20th century summary translation

They petition that they are concerned because dwelling by the sea, and, according to the summary, ‘they at various times do suffer great injury…from our enemies of France, and from other parts, because, as they say, having no market of their own, during their absence at the market, they are in terror lest their village should be ransacked and their goods taken’. The charter to hold a market was granted to be held on every Saturday provided it did not interfere with any other neighbouring market. However, we must not forget that the granting of a charter also involved the granting of revenues so it was to the financial advantage of the person to whom the charter was granted.

Susan Millard

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Sense or Insensibility : Chichester in the 1960’s

Alan Green

‘If you can remember the 1960s you weren’t there” runs a well-known maxim. Whether you were there or not, it was a decade irredeemably associated with permissive attitudes and the ripping out of the hearts of so many towns and cities in the name of modernisation, often as a result of dodgy dealings between developers and corrupt councillors. It was also a time of great political turmoil.

View across Somertown during demolition, Mar 1964. The house on the north side of High Street are still there.

I do remember the 1960s in Chichester as I was there – having been born and bred here and it is where I still choose to live. For Chichester the 1960s provided a period of challenge, conservation and culture – and a stimulating time to have been brought up there.

Then, as now, Chichester was regarded as a near-perfect market town with its ancient streets radiating out from its market cross in the shadow its cathedral. It was small (population only 20,000 in 1961) sleepy and took so long to get to from London that its growth had been retarded. It seemed as though the era of 1960s modernism would pass it by. Indeed today’s first time visitors to the city, seeing its streets of well-maintained Georgian buildings and neat parks and gardens, might get the impression that the 1960s had passed Chichester by, but they would be wrong.

Lennards’ shoe shop, at the corner of North and East Streets, seen supported by raking shores, Feb 1960

Chichester was faced with the same challenges as other places as a result of the received needs to bow to the supremacy of the omnipotent motor car and sweep away whole streets of alleged ‘slums’ and replace them with modern housing. The blueprint for Chichester’s modernisation had actually been set down in the Sharp Report of 1949 which proposed, inter alia, the demolition of 700 ‘slums’ and the creation of an inner ring road and car parks, changes that were supported by some councillors, but feared by others. The seeds of modernism had been sown – they had just taken a long time to sprout!

It was the wholesale demolition of the east side of Somerstown in 1964, when 171 late Georgian artisans’ cottages were needlessly destroyed, that caused outrage, outrage expressed in the national press by no less a personage than Sir Laurence Olivier. Following further losses and the building of the first section of the ring road the brakes were applied, and in 1968 Chichester was chosen as a study in conservation along with Bath, Chester and York, as a result of which it became one of the first conservation areas in the country. The sixties was a time when architecture got a bad reputation and some Chichester developments reflected this, but on the other hand it acquired some new buildings which enhanced the city – the Festival Theatre, the library and the Chapel of the Ascension being three good examples.

Showroom for Masons Garage, occupying the former F J French’s wholesale warehouse, Southgate, 1961

Conservation did not mean that Chichester suddenly became preserved in aspic – far from it. Whilst all this was going on it was enhancing its reputation as a centre for the arts with the opening of the Chichester Festival Theatre, with the aforementioned Sir Laurence Olivier as its director, and to cater for its slowly-growing population new housing estates were being built along with two new schools to cater for their young.

Throughout the 1960s the fortunes of Chichester were overseen by Chichester City Council which was made up of people who lived and worked in the city and therefore cared deeply about it, something that the next decade was to bring to an end under the 1974 local government reorganisation.

Most of the research for this talk, and my book Chichester in the 1960s, was carried out at WSRO with the corporation minute books being the starting point followed by the Chichester Observer and other sources in which the collections are so rich. I was also lucky to have access to three seams of previously unpublished photographs by John Iden, John Templeton and Rod Funnell and these feature in both the talk and the book. Much of the material is, naturally, drawn from memory of what was happening around me at the time.

Alan Green will be giving an illustrated talk on Chichester in the 1960s at the Record Office on Tuesday 28th March. Find out about this, and other forthcoming talks, on our website:

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