Storrington and District Museum

The idea of a museum for Storrington has been discussed at various times since 1946, but it has only been in the last year that something has actually materialised. Thanks to the supreme efforts of local historian Joan Ham and her husband Ron, and the enthusiastic support of David Garrett who conducted a feasibility study for the parish council – and until recently Chairman of the Museum Committee – premises have been found in less than a year from the date of the first public meeting.

The original intention of Storrington Parish Council was to purchase the freehold of 13 Church Street, which would have provided a location close to the village centre, but due to legal complications this was eventually rejected. Instead a room was offered at the Old School, which has certain advantages as far as car parking, toilets, kitchen facilities and disabled access are concerned. Although the premises are not ideal in terms of size and the lack of storage space, they are a very useful start until something more permanent can be found – hopefully at some time within the next five year. And so, on Easter Monday, the new Museum room at the Old School Building in School Lane, opened for its very first visitors.

Now it is up to all those involved with the project to make it a success because only by attracting the support and enthusiasm of the general public will the parish council respond favourably when the time comes to consider a new location. Certainly there is a very active ‘Friends’ organisation who have run a well-supported winter lecture programme; for the Summer months a series of local walks have been arranged to reveal some of the fascinating history of the parishes involved. Why am I telling you all this, you may ask? Firstly, as Secretary of the ‘Friends of Storrington and District Museum’ I do have a vested interest in the new project. But as a family historian, it is significant to our group that all of the parishes covered by the Museum have important Lin(d)field connections. Take Storrington, for instance: Edmund Linfield was making brass dial clocks in the village from the 1750s (see article " Edmund Linfield of Storrington, Clockmaker" in ‘Longshot’ Vol. 6 No. 1, December 1997), and there is a superb example of his craftsmanship now on display in Horsham Museum. He lived in the village from at least 1753 until his death in 1799, when he was sadly an inmate of the local workhouse. His kinsman, Peter Linfield was the local butcher, moving to the village from West Chiltington in 1779 when he set up his butchers’ business in Church Street (see article "Peter Linfield of Storrington 1734-1791"in ‘Longshot’ Vol. 2 No. 1, May 1993). He still retained ownership of his farm and farmhouse in West Chiltington – called ‘Palmers’ -which remained in the family for many years. Although Edmund and Peter both ran businesses in the village, their fortunes ran in opposite directions: whilst Peter thrived and his business grew from strength to strength, Edmund’s eventually failed, possibly because there was nobody to carry on when advancing age forced him to give up.

The other parishes involved in the project presently include Sullington, Parham, Thakeham, Warminghurst, Washington and West Chiltington. Thakeham, of course, is still home to the mushroom business known as ‘Chesswood Produce Ltd.’ In 1913 AG Linfield and Sons of Worthing first acquired the land at Town House Farm where they set up a number of farming activities, including mushrooms, which in those early days were a risky but worthwhile crop because of the high prices they could command (see article "A Family Business" by Peggy Champ in ‘Longshot’ Vol. 3 No.1, May 1994). They became a large market gardening business, but after the Second World War mushroom growing expanded dramatically as cultural improvements and extensive mechanisation heralded a new era of prosperity. By 1960 they had become the largest mushroom growers in Europe. The firm ceased to be a family business in 1980 when control initially passed to Ranks Hovis McDougall (RHM). I intend to set up a museum archive which should help to reveal more of the history of a business which has played a prominent part in the local area. It will hopefully pull in more material as people gradually become aware of its existence and make their own contributions.

The former parish of Warminghurst (now part of Thakeham) was for many years the home of the famous Quaker William Penn and his family (see article "William Penn and the Quaker Linfields of Sussex", in ‘Longshot’ Vol. 3 No. 2, December 1994). Penn bought Warminghurst Place in 1676 and we know of at least one Linfield Quaker marriage taking place at his house, when John Linfield, Blackskmith of Ifield married Mary Wolvin in 1693. At the ceremony, the parents of the groom, William and Mary Linfield of Horsham, and his brother and sister attended. Warminghurst Place was situated between the two churches of Thakeham and Warminghurst, and was sold to James Butler in 1707. Butler disliked Penn so intensely that he promptly demolished the old house, even going so far as to dig up the very foundations so as "not to leave a trace of the Old Quaker."

In previous articles, our former President Eric Linfield has related his family history connections with Sullington and Washington (see articles "The Storrington Linfields & their Poor Relations of Sullington and Washington", Part 1 in ‘Longshot’ Vol. 2 No.2, November 1993 and Part 2 in ‘Longshot’ Vol. 3 No. 2, December 1994). Eric relates how his great great great grandfather Edward (1774-1861), who was a younger son of Peter Linfield of Storrington, left the village in his youth and moved to the neighbouring parish of Sullington. Coming from a large family, it was understandable that younger children often had to move away from the parish of their birth and find work elsewhere. Initially, he carried on his father’s trade as butcher, but by 1841 he is running a 3 acre market garden at the crossroads junction where Water Lane crosses the Storrington to Thakeham road. His son Peter (1810-68) joined him at the market garden, whilst his other sons Harry and William worked locally as agricultural labourers. Harry (1807-78) was Eric’s great great grandfather and completed 50 years service working for the Carew-Gibsons on the Sandgate Estate. We are extremely fortunate to have a surviving photograph of Harry, wearing the traditional smock of the Sussex labourer (reproduced in ‘Longshot’ Vol. 3 No.1, May 1994).

At the last count, there were over 1600 catalogued items and photographs in the museum collections. Now it is open, many people are bringing things along and it is an exciting time as the collection expands. I think it is important to establish a Lin(d)field archive at the museum because we are a family with particularly strong and long standing connections with the parishes involved. If anyone would like to join the ‘Friends of Storrington and District Museum’, then please get in touch with me and I can send you a membership form – the cost is £5 per annum for individual members or £7 for family membership (two adults and any dependent children living at the same address).

It is probably worth finishing this article with the words of Joan Ham, taken from the January newsletter: "Storrington and District Museum will not be a dull collection of things in glass cases. We intend to make it a living part of local life. Displays will be changed regularly. Neighbouring villages which make up the "and District", will be invited to contribute. The proximity of public rooms means that we can welcome school and other parties with an introductory talk, or stage temporary exhibitions . . . The new year and the new millennium will see the beginning of an exciting new project that has been discussed and wanted for the past half-century. Now we can make it happen."

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