The 19th Century gives us a great wealth of new sources for local history – a full Tithe survey, the Census reports, newspapers, photographs, Ordnance Survey maps and, towards the end of the century, local government records.
In Ferring, there were substantial changes in land ownership and farm management but for most residents, life was still very much a matter of working long hours in the fields and very little leisure, or comfort in their farm workers’ cottages. Perhaps the biggest change was the coming of the railway in 1846 – the Brighton line, extended from Worthing to Chichester – with a station at Goring (there was never any question of building a station, or even establishing a ‘halt’ at Ferring). Much of the land it ran over was owned or leased by George Henty, whose brother, a Town Commissioner in Worthing, was promoting and partly financing it.
The Henty family increasingly dominated the western and central part of Ferring, holding the lease of the Bishop’s estate and buying up ‘copyhold’ tenancies. After 1852 it was possible to buy the freeholds, and this they did, so that by 1910 Edwin Henty jnr owned over 600 of the 1,000 acres within the parish. The Richardson family, heirs to the Westbrooks, continued to own most of East Ferring ouitright but sold most of it, together with their Goring estate, to David Lyon in the late 1830s. The Lyons added to their Ferring estate too, including ‘East Ferring House’ (always part of the main Ferring manor), although the Cortis family continued to live there. The Richardsons are buried in Ferring churchyard but seem to have spent most of their time in Findon: the Lyons lived at Goring Hall and although David Lyon had the carriage-drive through to Sea Lane, Ferring, the family seem to have taken little interest in the village.
In the second half of the century the population was no longer exclusively agricultural. The 1851 Worthing directory lists as ‘Gentry’, not just Edwin Henty and the Vicar, but also Richard Bine, Newton Hanson and Mrs Simmonds, none of whom were farmers. A handful of ‘ Fund holders’, ‘Landed Proprietors’ and retired businessmen or professionals also appear in the census schedules for 1861 and the following decades. There were also more domestic servants, a succession of teachers, tradesmen, a few shopkeepers, railway and post office workers and, by 1855, an Innkeeper at what is now the Henty Arms. In 1845, what is now Greystoke Manor was advertised in the Times for sale or let, as a ‘Genteel Residence ….in the respectable village of Ferring ..about 4 miles from the fashionable watering place Worthing’.
Agriculture still dominated, however, and there is a very good account of it in the schedules of the 1840 agreement on the conversion of the tithe charges to cash payments: each field is named and located, its acreage set down and its use recorded as arable (69 per cent), grass (23 per cent), woodland (4 per cent) and cottage gardens and homesteads (3 per cent). Edwin Henty snr reorganised the family’s land holdings when he succeeded his father in 1829. He bought out the owners of the strips in the Common Fields and by 1840 had set up two large tenanted farms – ‘Home Farm’ based on what is now Benton & Weatherstone’s yard and another based on Highdown. These were mainly for wheat and barley, although he continued to have sheep on the 50 acres of Highdown Hill.. East Ferring was farmed by the Cortis family, with the old Manor Farm homestead used as farm labourers’ cottages. The old Highdown windmill was demolished in the 1820s and a new one built 500m to the west, in Angmering but that was wrecked in the 1870s and milling was thereafter carried out elsewhere, increasingly by steam-powered mills.
The Church continued to be a powerful influence on village life – not only for worship but for charity and education. (there were intermittent day schools as well as Sunday schools well before the ‘National’ school was established in 1873). One vicar, Henry Dixon, presided from 1832 to 1870, and the Henty family were major benefactors (paying for a major refurbishment in 1887 and getting their servants to pump the organ every Sunday).
Responsibility for poor relief had already been transferred to the Union Workhouse in East Preston and other minor local government responsibilities had moved with them, so that the Poor Law Guardians were given responsibility for sanitation in the 1870s, becoming an elected ‘East Preston rural District Council in 1895. At the same time, an Annual Parish Meeting was set up in Ferring (by 1919 a Parish Council). Responsibility for the upkeep of main roads had passed to the new West Sussex County Council in 1888.
Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in June 1897 was celebrated by a large bonfire on the top of Highdown. Rudyard Kipling, living in Burwash, no doubt saw similar bonfires in East Sussex and in his poem Recessional marking the Jubilee (and the end of a remarkable century) wrote,
‘Far called, our navies melt away:
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre’.
Certainly, the next century was going to be very different in Ferring, as in the rest of the country.