North Ferring and Highdown

A Walk in north Ferring and Highdown

Some History Group members did the North Ferring walk on a lovely late Summer day on 16 August. If you were not able to join us here are some notes, with which you can do it yourself.

Start at the Henty Arms, until 1928 called ‘New Inn’. Notice the coat of arms on the pub sign. The six gold discs represent the six branches of the Henty Bank, the three roses represent the three generations of the family involved with the bank, ending with Edwin Henty jnr who died in Ferring in 1916. The name was given in 1928, possibly in honour of Edwin’s widow, who died that year – Edwin’s cousins owned the brewery. Previously it was the ‘New Inn’ for reasons which become apparent a little later on the walk. It was built some time between 1845 and 1850 (not mentioned in the purchase of land for the railway but mentioned in the Post Office Directory of 1851).

Walking north along Ferring Lane, the bungalows either side are from the 1920 and 1930s, on the land that belonged to the farmhouse now known as Elford House. This known as Sewells in 1635 but was considerably altered in 1727, for John Brooks (there is a plaque on the east wall). The farmland was sold in 1811 (ending up with the Henty family) but the house continued in private ownership. In 1914 it was owned by the Rev. Algernon Bagot- Chester, the curate at St Andrew’s, and named after the village in Staffordshire where he was born.

Walk on, to the next bend in the road and you are in ‘Franklands Green’, shown as a separate hamlet on the 1911 Ordnance Survey map. The pre-20th Century buildings are Franklins Green Cottage, a farmhouse built (or rebuilt in 1636), Franklands Green Cottages (now Jasmine and Clematis Cottages) built for the farm workers in the early 19th Century, and Franklands Manor. The latter is an 18th Century house, built in 1751 by John Holden. It was occupied in the 1780s by his son John, the village carpenter, and  then by his widow. It is named as the Carpenter’s Arms in 1783, when an auction for an adjacent piece of land was held there. This was a posting inn, just off the Broadwater to Littlehampton road. When it closed (possibly because of the railway killing of the ‘post’ trade) the ‘New Inn’ was opened, closer to the village centre (possibly hoping to be next to a station, which never came).

Now walk up and cross Littlehampton Road (known in the 19th Century as ‘Herstlestreet Lane’) and up the footpath towards Highdown. This is the parish boundary: try to ignore the modern development on the left which has infiltrated as the planners slumbered, and follow the path along the field edge and into the wooded area that takes you up to the information board about John Oliver the eccentric miller. Turn left for the Miller’s Tomb (which is just inside the Worthing boundary).

John Oliver worked the windmill until soon before his death in 1794. We know where his cottage was (about 200 yards north of his tomb), adjacent to his three and a half acres of ‘croft’ (still known as the Miller’s Croft in 1840) but there is nothing on the ground to show where the mill stood (and had stood since 1180 – with occasional rebuilding after violent winds). We know from old maps, however, that it stood a good 300 yards west of the tomb, and a little higher up the hill. The first Ordnance Survey map in 1806 (one inch to the mile) shows it at the intersection of three paths. This was shortly before the mill was demolished in 1820.

As you walk north-west up towards the top of Highdown, think of the vast span of history which it displays – the New Stone Age farmers whose flint implements have been found near Hangleton Farm, the Bronze Age enclosure, later made into the Iron Age fort, the Roman bath house a few yards over the border into Angmering, the Saxon cemetery, the Armada beacons, and the 1940-44 radar station watching the sea. The Saxon Cemetery, used between 550 and 700AD, has left the fullest remains – many of the bones and grave goods are now in Worthing Museum but there can be little doubt that there are more remains up there. In fact the whole of Highdown seems ripe for modern archaeological investigation – but there is no funding.

Walk on westwards to the farm gate and hedge that marks the boundary with Angmering. The Roman bath house was excavated just beyond the gate. Turn south along this hedge and going over a style you find yourself between two old chalk quarries, delightfully overgrown. As you come out, turn left and then right onto a very well-surfaced path heading south again. This is the top end of Hangleton Lane. Walking down towards Littlehampton road you pass (Upper) Hangleton Farmhouse, a fine old flint building with a plaque above the door showing the date 1734 and the initials J O A, indicating that John Oliver (the miller) and his wife Ann had this house built (or rather altered) in that year, soon after their marriage (in 1752 they had a similar plaque put up at what is now Holly Lodge).

Near the bottom of the lane, you pass White Cottage (recently painted in brilliant white). From the front this looks like a modern house but in Ferring Past Michael Standing says it has a late-mediaeval core. Now hurrying past the awful extension to the Peugeot Garage forecourt, you cross Littlehampton Road and walk down Langbury Lane. The 1931 Ordnance Survey map (25 inches to the mile) shows this stretch, down to the Rife culvert, as Hangleton Lane, and Hangleton Farm still has its 17th Century farmhouse on the west side of the road and Hangleton Cottages opposite them, built a little later, where the farm workers lived. Either these cottages, or a house nearby, since demolished, was once called ‘Waterhouse’ because behind it there was a wide stretch of the Rife, where it changed course from south-west to south, before going under the road.

Continuing along Langbury Lane, the walk ends at The Henty Arms, where it began, two hours ago. Time for a drink. Ed Miller