In my father’s house there was a photograph, which fascinated me. The picture showed a family in a country garden. The man is standing, holding the hand of a little girl and the woman is seated, with a baby on her lap. Although he is not smiling, the man’s face appeared good-humoured to me, the woman looked more severe. But what stole my attention and always brought me back to gaze again, were the elaborately-fashioned dresses of the woman, the child and the baby. How had these country folk come by such clothes and who had made them? It was not until many years later that I was to learn the answers to these questions. The people were Hasted Lindfield and his wife, Mary Miles, taken in 1872. The infant on the lap was, in fact, a boy and my grandfather, also called Hasted. Mary’s distinctive features were to be handed down through several generations of Lindfields.
One late, sunny, summer afternoon in 2005 my brother, Barry, and I were poring over the records of the Bethel Chapel, Wivelsfield, which pastor Roy Partridge had kindly made available to us. We had not then heard of the One Name Group and were researching our ancestors by parish record. A chance remark by our aunt had brought us to Wivelsfield. We were astonished to find no fewer than 35 Lindfield forbears, 13 of whom were our direct ancestors, descended from Thomas of Keymer and his wife Sarah Scrase. Their sons, William and Peter, had settled in North Chailey in the early 1800’s. Much has been recorded of the descendants of Peter of Broadstone farm, but my brother and I stem from William of New House farm, formerly Huggetts.
In 1840, Thomas Baldock was appointed to the ministry of the Strict Baptist chapel at Wivelsfield. A small community had broken away from Ditchling in the 18th century on a matter of doctrine and had begun meeting at the house of John Pannet, who was related to the Lindfields by marriage. The new community of Baptists had mixed fortunes over the years. However Thomas Baldock was an impressive-looking, patriarchal figure, very charismatic and a formidable preacher. The local farming families flocked to hear him and the congregation swelled. Amongst these, as well as the Lindfields, were the Avery, Knight, Mariner and Miles families, all of whom were related by marriage.
Barry and I also searched among the headstones in the tranquil, sunlit graveyard behind the chapel. Birds were twittering, my brother tinkled the piano for a break and his wife made us tea. A cluster of headstones particularly arrested us, the inscriptions still clearly visible. One read In affectionate memory of Mary, beloved wife of H Lindfield, June 28th 1883, aged 52. Also of Hasted Lindfield, April 26th 1913, aged 84 years. Here was the resting place of our great grandparents – the people in the old photograph! Opposite stood the memorials to Mary’s parents, Thomas and Rebekah Miles of Lent Ridge, Plumpton. In the fullness of time, Mary’s last child and second son would be named Thomas Miles Lindfield.
Hasted was born in 1829 at Huggetts to William Lindfield and Elizabeth Walker, he was their sixth child and third son. Six of their eight children grew to marry locally and raise big families. There was another child, Frances, born to William’s first wife, Lydia Stubbs, who sadly died in childbirth. Frances survived until her teens, but died the year that Hasted was born. Lydia’s mother had been a Joyce Hasted and thus the name was chosen to commemorate William’s first family. This unusual name was to be kept for four generations of Lindfields.
The 1851 census finds Hasted at New House farm at the age of 22 and qualified as a butcher. Meanwhile Mary, aged 20, is still living with her parents at Lent Ridge, probably helping her mother with the household and younger children. It is believed that Hasted’s father, William, may have been cousin to Thomas Scrase, who also lived at Lent Ridge and that this relationship could have led to the meeting of Hasted and Mary. Or they might have met at a farmer’s market, or indeed at the Bethel Chapel, for by then both families were members of the congregation. On 15th November, 1855, aged 28 and 25 respectively, Hasted and Mary married at the Bethel Chapel in the presence of Thomas Miles the bride’s father and her sister Sarah Miles, (who was to play an important role in the lives of both families). They started their married life at New House, but lost their first child in early infancy the following year. They went on to have five daughters as well as the two sons, Hasted and Thomas Miles our grandfather and great uncle.
In 1860 the situation at New House changed. On 2nd May, Hasted’s father William surrendered the farm to the use of John William Avery the husband of his daughter Martha. Although freehold possession existed at this time, William probably held the farm on a Copyhold lease – a system surviving from feudal times, when the land was leased to the Lord of the Manor by the sovereign in return for providing soldiers when armies were required..The baron would give a Copyhold lease to the farmer in return for rent and the Copyhold would normally pass to the second son, the first presumably being a full time soldier. When William surrendered the lease, another local farmer, George Hills, was involved in a conditional surrender to his use for a security of £800, a large sum in those days. The following year on 20th May a further conditional surrender was made to the use of George Hills for a security of £200 with interest. However, on 18th November 1864 there was a warrant by George Hills to vacate the above surrenders by John William Avery for securities of £500 and £800 plus interest. It is therefore supposed that there was a prosperous living to be had.
It is interesting to note that, although a successful farmer, William was illiterate, but it is thought that not all earlier Lindfields were. He made his mark at the time of his marriage at the Baptist Chapel to his third wife, Eliza Holford, on 21st June, 1851, when he was 63 and she was 36. However in 1862 William died from the awful affliction of cancer of the palate, which he had suffered for 12 months, quite probably brought on by heavy pipe smoking and possibly drinking too. There was probably little relief that the medical profession could offer at that time. On 30th May he was taken back to Keymer to be buried with his father. Hasted and Mary moved into a cottage in Scaynes Hill, where Hasted had a butcher’s shop near the old forge. John Avery and Martha continued to live at New House where the last of Martha’s 14 children was, sadly, stillborn. Martha herself died in the same year, 1874, from appendicitis.
It was while living at Scaynes Hill that the old photograph was taken with little Hasted, my grandfather, and his sister Edith, possibly during a visit back to New House. It seems that their life was prosperous and the family close. After Mary’s death in 1883, Hasted did not remarry as was usual in his day. Instead his daughter Adah, a dressmaker, moved in with him and looked after him for the rest of his long life. Our father, Herbert Hasted, was only 6 and living in London when his grandfather, old Hasted, died in 1913, but he well remembered his Aunt Adah from visits and during the Great War, when he was evacuated to Scaynes Hill and attended the village school. The school occupied the building of the old chapel of ease and at that time was called Old School House. It remained a school until 1981, when it was converted to residential use.