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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Remarkable West Sussex Women – Lady Gertrude Denman

Lauren Clifton

Born in 1884, Gertrude Denman (neé Pearson) was the daughter of Weetman Pearson, Liberal MP and supporter of women’s suffrage, and Annie Cass, a charitable worker and active member of the Women’s Liberal Federation. Being raised in such a politically active and openly feminist home, it is little wonder that the influence of Gertrude’s parents, later the Viscount and Viscountess Cowdray, with extensive estates in West Sussex, is evident in the causes she later chose to support herself. As the founding president of the Women’s Institute, and director of the Women’s Land Army during WW2, Denman devoted her life to the rights and roles of women in society.

Garland N22143

Garland N22143 Lady Denman making a speech at Arundel Castle Land Army rally (May 1943)

Following in her parents’ footsteps, she served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Women’s Liberal Federation (1908-10), and was active in supporting their refusal to support Liberal parliamentary candidates who refused to answer the Executive’s questions on suffrage. Gertrude also became involved in many charitable and community organisations, and reportedly believed that the only use for the wealth her family possessed must be to serve the greater community, a cause which she devoted much of her life to.

Marrying Liberal peer Baron Thomas Denman and becoming Lady Denman, Gertrude accompanied her husband to Australia upon his brief appointment as the 5th Governor General in 1911. On her return to England in 1914, Denman resumed her positions both in society and in philanthropic and political activism. Wasting no time, she swiftly became chair of the Smokes for Wounded Soldiers and Sailors Society (1916–17), which operated from her London home, the ballroom acting as a packing room. With Queen Alexandra as patron, the ‘SSS’ supplied free smokes to service hospitals, with volunteers meeting hospital trains and ships to supply wounded soldiers and sailors with much-needed cigarettes.

Not content to take on just the one wartime project, Lady D was at the same time Chairman of the subcommittee of the Agricultural Organization Society (AOS) which had undertaken to found Women’s Institutes in 1915. The role led to her eventual appointment, at just 33 years old, as the first Chairman of the Women’s Institute in 1917, a position to which she was re-elected annually until her voluntary retirement in 1946.

Celebrating their centenary last year, the first Institute in England was the Singleton WI in West Sussex, and in 1917 the sixteen East and West Sussex WIs united forces to form the first County Federation. With the organisation expanding and developing rapidly throughout the country, Denman was keen to retain the democratic and independent nature of the institute. She saw the movement as an opportunity for social reform, and embraced the opportunity for a female-only forum to be used for the benefit of widening women’s knowledge and for improving their standards of life.

Alongside her work with the WI, Gurtrude was a founding member and later Chairman of the National Birth Control (later Family Planning) Association, another office which she held until her death. The stated purpose of the association was “that married people may space or limit their families and thus mitigate the evils of ill health and poverty”, a belief that Lady Denman shared having witnessed in Australia the suffering caused to women by too-frequent childbirth. Her support for this controversial cause was unwavering and highlights her dedication to the most basic needs of women from all social backgrounds; she considered it to be the most difficult job she had ever undertaken.

Burrell Mss 4-1 statistics

Burrell Mss 4/1 WLA enrolment statistics under the leadership of Lady Denman

In perhaps her most well-known role, Lady Denman, as head of the women’s branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, helped re-establish the Women’s Land Army (WLA) and became its Honorary Director in 1939. She lent her home, Balcombe Place near Haywards Heath, as its headquarters, and was actively involved in both recruitment of girls and the management of their duties.

Known as Land Girls, the women of the WLA were civilian volunteers who took on traditional ‘men’s work’ in agriculture throughout the Second World War, replacing those called up to military service. Over 200,000 young women from a wide variety of backgrounds served between 1939 and 1950, and with more than one third from London and other large cities, most had little to no experience of agricultural work. Girls were accommodated in WLA hostels, working long hours on the farms and away from family, and as such, lifelong friendships were formed between young women thrown together by war.

The official national archives of the WLA appear not to have survived, and few counties have recorded in detail the activities of the WLA. For many years, the Land Girls’ dedicated role in the social history of wartime Britain has largely gone unrecognised. However, with her connections to the county running deep, West Sussex Record Office is lucky enough to

Burrell Mss 4-1 enrolment

Burrell Mss 4/1 WLA enrolment literature (1939)


hold several deposits of Lady Denman’s personal papers relating to the WLA. Her correspondence in particular (Acc.5926) offers us a unique look at the administration of the WLA, and the issues faced with running such an organisation. In her letters, Denman personally discusses wages and health insurance paid to Land Girls and the Women’s Timber Corps, there are notes ensuring the standards of living in WLA accommodation, including the amount of sheets and towels required at hostel accommodation, even the inadequate depth of pans (apparently it was difficult to ladle out soup from a 5 inch deep pot) at the WLA Canteens. She was clearly a hands-on Director, and the records show evidence of her dedication to everything from uniform supplies, clothes rationing, repairs and bicycles, to the gift she personally sought and gratefully received from the British War Relief Society of America to obtain two ‘rest-break houses’ in Torquay and Llandudno for Land Girls (1944). Lady Denman was well known for being a champion for the Land Girls, and waged constant battles for their proper recognition in the face of a government who ultimately refused to award them the grants, gratuities, and benefits which it accorded to women in the civil defence and armed services, forcing Lady D to resign in protest on in February 1945.

Burrell Mss 4-1 wages

Burrell Mss 4/1 Letters from Lady Denman to editors regarding the need for a fixed national agricultural wage for women (1941)


Throughout the many roles she held in women’s organisations, Denman is remembered for her unwavering determination and dedication for all women’s rights, during a period of history when social and political change was more possible than ever before. Involved at every level of the causes she championed, she used her astute administrative drive, formidable committee leadership, and intolerance of dishonesty and pretension to ensure the firm guidance of women’s social and cultural rights towards the recognition they deserved. The ongoing success of female-only organisations such as the WI, and associations concerned with the sexual wellbeing of women whose origins lie with the National Birth Control Association have much to thank the pioneering Lady D for. However her lasting legacy remains that of the Land Girls, and the success of the movement in improving employment rights for all agricultural workers, destroying stereotypes of women working physical and traditionally male roles, and offering thousands of young women the chance to claim their own space and identity in a country torn apart by war.

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Record of The Month

Add Mss 2857 Estate Map of the Manor of Prinsted (1640)image1

In previous blog posts on West Sussex Record Office map collections,  we have touched on a number of estate maps, and I feel that the Prinsted Manor Estate map of 1640 is definitely worth an entry as Record of the Month. On it you can see houses are drawn in perspective view, its occupiers are identified by elaborate colours and symbols and tiny little gates are shown between the fields.

Estate maps usually date between the 16th and mid-19th centuries and were compiled by landed gentry and estates such as Petworth, Goodwood and Wiston. In this particular instance it is the estate of the Right Honourable Sir Richard Lumley, kt., Lord Viscount Lumley of Stansted, who appears to be owner of the estate from 1609 – 1686.add-ms-2857-prinsted-village-a4-detail

Historic maps are normally made from parchment or vellum and the Prinsted map is an example on vellum; you can still see the tiny hair follicles on the back of the map! Evidence of conservation can be seen on the original as well, with repairs around the edges.

Like other maps in our collection, estate maps are a great source for establishing the history of a property or the local landscape. JH Mee in his description of the Prinsted map (WSRO Lib 15601) points out that nothing much has changed in nearly 400 years, however, when compared to a modern map you can see that the village of Southbourne is non-existent and we don’t start to see its beginnings until the late 1890s.

Imogen Russell

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Secrets of the High Woods project; An Archives Consultant’s View

Dr Caroline Adams

One of the best things about archives is that they are about people – both the researchers in the present, and the men and women who wrote or handled the document you are looking at. I joined the Secrets of the High Woods project as a consultant on the advisory committee when I was still working as Senior Archivist at West Sussex Record Office.  My working life has been in outreach, and I really enjoy introducing people to the archives of their area or their family, and sharing their excitement at what they find.  I was very pleased to be asked to be the consultant for the documentary research.


Dr Adams with project volunteers at WSRO

The Secrets of the High Woods project was based around the results of new evidence. LiDAR imaging is an archaeological technique, which allows the viewer a good idea of the topography of the ground, even when covered by trees (hence ‘Secrets of the High Woods’).  The results, when interpreted and analysed, are of huge benefit for uncovering the local history of the area – in this case the high woodland on the Downs, stretching from the Hampshire border to Arundel.  Added to documentary evidence by regular use of the record office, the results were very exciting, and about thirty volunteers took up the challenge:


LiDAR image

It is a Wednesday morning and up to fifteen people are crammed into the Record Office workroom. Each volunteer has a story to tell about their progress on their own area of study, and the others listen intently because there is so much connectedness between each experience.  Ideas fly back and forward across the room, and the conversation ebbs and flows between the Iron Age earthworks at Arundel (“are they shown on the 1590s map?”), through racing and stables (it wasn’t only Goodwood) along the south side of the slopes to the Canadian battle school around the Stansted area.  The LiDAR survey is the common factor in each of the areas of study.

I loved these meetings. There are very few areas of research more rewarding than being able to compare letters, deeds and other documents which give


West Dean Mss 3154

landscape information, with maps dating from the 1590s, the 18th century or the 1940s, and then looking at the LiDAR, going out to walk the area, and then back to search for answers to the new questions raised.  But it’s even better being the research consultant!

I have been amazed and thrilled to see how enthusiastic people can be, and how much time the volunteers are prepared to give. Most of the work has taken place at West Sussex Record Office, Arundel Castle Archives, East Sussex Record Office at The Keep in Falmer, and The National Archives.  Intrepid volunteers have braved the battery of ‘do’s and don’t’s required at any archives repository (for, unlike books, these documents are completely unique and irreplaceable, and therefore security is high) and discovered a world that many of them didn’t know existed.  From that beginning, they used the record offices regularly and enthusiastically.


Stansted House (1724)

Gradually, over the months each volunteer found their own area of expertise, and at meetings and training days, the archives’ volunteers shared their knowledge openly and discussed each other’s viewpoints without animosity. Some became obsessive over faint lines on the LiDAR images, pits or lumps in the ground, or ambiguous words in estate deeds and accounts in the archives. Everyone was prepared to learn a great deal, but nobody got precious over their theories.  Many people displayed a passionate knowledge of the locality which I found very moving.

In the end it’s down to grounding yourself in the roots of where you live. The sense of satisfaction in having gained a deeper understanding of your surroundings is coupled with the knowledge that you have contributed to and taken part in a much bigger project, and that the work you have done will give other people that satisfaction too.  It’s called ‘a sense of place’ and it is more beneficial than any amount of prescriptions from the doctor.


Find out more about the Secrets of the High Woods project on their website;

Come along to an illustrated talk by Dr Caroline Adams ‘Secrets of the High Woods – How archives have helped to reveal hidden landscapes on the South Downs’, at the Record Office, Tuesday 28 February 2017. Phone 01243 753602 to book tickets (£8).

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Valentine’s Day in the Archive


The origins of Valentine’s Day are widely disputed, with several Saint Valentines claiming feast days during Lupercalia, an ancient fertility festival celebrated by the Romans from the 13th-15th Feburary.

The two Saint Valentines most commonly associated with the 14th February, were both martyred in Rome. Valentine of Terni in roughly AD 197, and Valentine of Rome in roughly AD 496.

Of the many stories linked to both St Valentines, the most well-known include the tale of Valentine himself falling in love with his jailor’s daughter while incarcerated for practicing Christianity, writing a note for his lover signed ‘from your Valentine’, and a tale of a Valentine who reportedly performed secret marriage ceremonies for Roman soldiers forbidden to take a wife.

The medieval concept of Courtly Love, and the influence of Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem Parlement of Foules in the 14th Century, saw the flourishing of Valentine’s Day’s association with expressions of romantic love. By the 18th Century, handmade Valentines greetings began to make an appearance, with the tradition of romantic poetry continuing into the cards and keepsakes we would begin to recognise as traditional ‘Valentines’ today.

The advances in printing and mass-production during the Victorian era saw the rise of commercially manufactured Valentines greetings, aided greatly by the penny post, which allowed couples to send romantic keepsakes from any distance. Adorned with intricate lace, gold leaf, and embossed decoration, Victorian Valentines used illustrations of flowers, cherubs, and lovehearts to create beautiful and romantic favours.

Many wonderful examples of these 19th Century fullsizerenderValentines still survive, giving us a unique glimpse at how love has been celebrated on this day throughout history. Amongst our collections here at West Sussex Record Office, we have a handmade Valentine sent by William Pitt of Chichester to his future wife Anna Maria Heath on 14th February 1808 (Add Mss 16972). The marriage register for the parish of St Peter the Great in Chichester (Par 44/1/3/1) tells us that William and Ann were later married on 10th September 1820, by license rather than Banns, although a note records the marriage is ‘with the consent of parents’. The Valentine itself is a beautifully intricate illustration of a woman framed in a personalised poem dedicated to Ann. Formed of hundreds of delicate pin-picks, the message appears only when held up to the light, revealing a heartfelt and romantic dedication from a young man in love.

‘When charming Ann gently walks 

Or sweetly smiles or gayly talks 

How few there can with her compare  

So sweet her looks and how soft her air

In whom so many charms are plac’d 

Is with a Mind as nobly Grac’d 

With sparkling Wit and solid Sense

And soft persuasive Eloquence’

Another Valentine in our collection is a later example of a Victorian mass-produced souvenir (Buckle Mss 401). Sent on 14th February 1870, the envelope is addressed to ‘My darling Valentine’, and written in the hand of Charles Mathew Buckle. buckle-401-wholeHidden inside the lace-trimmed and rose-wreathed card is a pull-out poem, ‘The Lovers’ Oracle’. A modest Valentines rhyme the verse reads; ‘This simple flower betrays my heart, And breathes for me the wish I wot: It bids my thoughts to language start, And asks thee to Forget me not’.

The Buckle collection at the Record Office holds the papers of the Buckle family, spanning almost 400 years. The archive is mostly used in relation to the family’s connection to Naval and shipping activity, however private correspondence and unique Valentine’s cards like this give us an insight in to how traditions and customs develop and change over the years, and how personal notes can be rediscovered and enjoys hundreds of years later.

So whether you’re spending hours scoring out a poetic message with a pin in the style of William Pitt, or popping out to quickly buy a mass-produced card like Charles Buckle after realising the date, we hope you have a love-filled 14th February and celebrate the romantic feast day of our many Saint Valentines!

Lauren Clifton

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Record of the Month

AM 991 – Walking Journals (1931-1932)

Simply titled ‘Rambles’, these 2 walking journals were deposited at the Record Office in 2016. They were written by Miss Lillian Ash who worked as a clerk at the Portsmouth Dockyard in the 1930s and handed to me as one of the many items the staff are given to catalogue.  I simply fell in love with them, and they remain one of my most favourite documents in the Record Office collections.image1

The walking journals are hardback volumes, beautifully handwritten and include the most charming black and white photographs to accompany the text. Miss Ash writes of her walks that she takes, mostly with her friend Ve, and Ve’s dog Baron, often after finishing work at the dockyard in Portsmouth.  Her ‘rambles’ take her all over East Hampshire, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight, and lists of the villages she mentions can be found in the catalogue entry.  Some occasions they would take half a day from work and jump on the next bus or train, sometimes not arriving back home until nearly midnight.  Other times they take the whole day off, or even in one example, made a holiday of it and took a few days, staying in Arundel and visiting Amberley, Chichester and other nearby places.

There are many reasons why I adore these two journals, from the fact they were written by a woman during the brief peace of the interwar period enjoying her independence with her image2friends and making the most of her free time (one photograph shows a lovely group of them enjoying their day together), the layout of the journals and the care Miss Ash took to record her walks (which I expect meant a great deal to her, to preserve them in such detail) and the way she writes, describing each beautiful scene she saw. With each page I felt as though I was walking right beside her and her friends, enjoying the scenery and sharing conversation with them.  It has certainly inspired me to get out on the Downs and enjoy some ‘rambles’ of my own!

Holly Wright

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‘Bygone Sussex’: The photographs of George Garland and John Fletcher


‘Old Shep’ (William Shepherd), January 1925 (George Garland, ref Garland N879)

The lives and work of two of the county’s most important photographers will be explored at an illustrated talk at West Sussex Record Office on Tuesday 31st January (7pm).

Join Archivist Nichola Court to find out more about the collections of the Petworth-based professional photographer George Garland, who worked from the 1920s up to his death in 1978, and the hitherto-unknown amateur photographer John Fletcher, who lived in Bognor and was active from the 1880s until his death in 1915.


Bosham – boats and shore, 6 June 1892 (John Fletcher, ref PH 26113/63)


Pagham windmill, 1902 (John Fletcher, ref PH 26114/8)

Although different in nature and content, when taken together the two collections provide an invaluable glimpse of ‘Bygone Sussex’, illustrating many of our county’s lost rural traditions and crafts, countryside characters and long-since vanished landscapes and scenes.

Light refreshments will be provided and there will be an opportunity to view original material from the archive. Tickets cost £8 and advance booking is essential. For further information and to book tickets, please contact West Sussex Record Office on 01243 753602.


Mr Oscar Pyle’s Southdown sheep being driven over the Downs from Angmering to Findon – for the fair, 14 September 1935 (George Garland, ref Garland N12007)

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