Have you ever lain awake at night and, looking back over your life, wondered what it would have been like if just that little thing had not been allowed to have turned your feet into another course? Rather like a great express train is directed – just by flicking over a set of points which causes the great monster to go into a quite different direction. So it has been with our lives, little trifles so very small – hardly noticeable – have been used in God Almighty’s hand to direct our steps into quite a different path than we expected or that might have been. I believe in God, and believe that He had an over ruling hand in what happened in my life.
It so happens that in my family I can look back over 220 years and yet only then come to the birth of my great grandparents! My father was 49 when I was born, that was 80 years ago. My grandfather was 49 when my father was born. Then, strange to say, my great grandparents were both 44 when my grandfather was born, which brings it back to 1777 covering only 4 generations!
In another article I have told you how I listened to bits of conversation as I sat on the claw of the table under the chenille tablecloth. There i got the impression that my great grandmother Sarah had been a woman of some character. She was the daughter of a certain JOHN BURTON 1747-1835. John had come from a well connected family who had lived in Rottingdean for some 200 years. He had married a young lady in Newtimber, but sadly she had died only 6 months later. Then he met another lady who had just become a widow – ANN HYDER, and who had been left with 2 children and a large market garden. No doubt a mutual sympathy and an ability to help her brought them together. They married and had two daughters, one of whom was my great grandmother Sarah.
I get the impression that when Sarah met my great grandfather Allen who was the son of a very small farmer in Chailey, that it was felt that she had married beneath her! When later, John Burton made his will, he completely bypassed his son-in-law and made his grandson his heir. He made the necessary provision for his daughter Sarah during her lifetime. John owned the farm on which they were living and the adjoining farm on which he himself was then living, besides property in Brighton and the market garden and land in Hurstpierpoint, which had been his wife’s. This latter property he gave to his second daughter Barbara before his actual death. That Sarah was his favourite daughter was pretty obvious, as each of her children received a portion in his will. Her sister is stated in a codicil as having had her portion during his lifetime, and her children are not mentioned.
Sarah and Allen had 9 children. Ann, the eldest, married at the age of 20, a certain CHARLES TULLEY, and went to live at the mill farm at Scotches Farm at New Close, about two and a half miles from Fowls Farm, her old home. Here, on 23rd of March 1821, she gave birth to her little son Charles. After his birth she suffered much from postnatal depression. This caused her husband much anxiety, and one day while at work in the fields, Charles had such an impression that all was not well. At first he ignored it but it became so insistent that he dropped his tools and hurried home – only to find his fears well grounded – Ann was floating in the mill pond – dead!
Now, what to do with baby Charles? He was rushed up to Fowls Farm to grandma Sarah. She herself had been delivered of her youngest son John William on February 23rd. So, baby Charles was to be suckled by his grand mother. In after years John William would tell the story of this and laughingly say “ Yes, Charles had all the cream while I had only the skim milk!” It so happened that Charles was a tall finely built man while John William was short.
So, Charles and John William grew up together like twins, – uncle and nephew, – while Sarah ruled. So much so that when the boys became 13 they felt that enough was enough and they ran away! Charles went to Brighton and became a butcher’s boy. Speaking of this time he used to tell us of how, tired and footsore, he would have to walk through the streets carrying a wooden tray of meat on his shoulder. One day in particular he would recall how he sat down on a certain door step and burst into tears. But many years later he was able to buy the very house where he had sat!
He learned the trade of butchery and opened eventually his own shop and slaughter house. This was at St John’s Common, which at that time was fast becoming an important residential area owing to the nearby Pottery and Brick Works. After this he had his own farm at Pangdean and became a very noted breeder of Southdown sheep. So wealthy did he become that as his family married, he gave each a house, and built himself a house at Hassocks to which he and his wife and his one unmarried daughter retired. He lived to the ripe old age of 103 years and 11 months.
In his book, A Sussex Farmer, Mr William Wood writes: “At one of those fairs at Lindfield, a very dry year, .. ewes and lambs were in very poor condition and I came across a very large consignment.. . quite up to the standard of other seasons. The owner, Mr Charles Tulley of Pangdean Farm, sat on the wattles, and I congratulated him upon the fact that his sheep were as good as they always had been in spite of the drought. “Yes” he said, “nine years out of ten my flock keeps me, and when we get a year like this – I keep my flock.”
My grand father, John William ran in a different direction. He went to Chailey to his Uncle CHARLES AVERY of Longridge Farm, and became his carter boy. He was allowed to sleep in the attic, and he worked hard, one of his tasks being to take cattle to the market. He very soon became a very good judge of what was good or bad in cattle. This gift became very noticeable to other farmers. It got to the stage where they found it worth their while to get him to buy for them. In this way John began to get substantial tips and to store them away in his little room under the eaves.
Now on the opposite side of the road from Longridge is another farm originally known as “Huggetts”. But later it is known as “New House Farm”. A long row of Poplar trees had been planted along the road hedge at one time and while they were there the house was frequently known as the Poplars. About 1815 this farm was let to a WILLIAM LINDFIELD (Ref:#108 in database). He had been born at Keymer in 1788 as the son of Thomas and Sarah (n� Scrase). He had married first LYDIA STUBBS, but after the birth of their only child Frances, Lydia had died and William had married ELIZABETH WALKER in 1816. To her there were born 8 children and the lovely old house became a happy home to these youngsters. The great old farm house on the south side of the road had not been so blessed. Charles Avery was not married until much later in life. He did eventually marry the lady who had been his housekeeper so faithfully for so long. You can imagine my grandfather as a lad felt lonely at times, for “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” the saying goes! One little dark haired girl especially became a favourite with John William. He was five years older than she. It was not long before thoughts of the future began to form in his mind and being of necessity practical minded boy, he says “ I used to sit in my little attic window and look across to New House, count up my savings and try to work out how long it would be before I could marry Martha” (Ref: #224 in database).
Perhaps this was a good incentive to perseverance for we find that on March 26th 1841 at Chailey Parish Church John William married his heart’s desire- little Martha Lindfield though she was only 15! Yes, only just! After the service was over the Clergyman who married them said “If I had known you were so young I would not have done it! The marriage was witnessed by her father and mother so they must have had some confidence in him. For the first few months they lived at home with her parents but when their first child was born they are living at Ditchling. So I guess with intention to better himself John William is with Martha’s relatives at Ditchling learning how to be a butcher? Before the next child arrived they are settled at Stream Cottage, Wivelsfield Green, where they have a part of the house turned into a butcher’s shop with a small slaughter house at the rear. Here at Stream cottage were born nine children. By this time John their eldest son intends to get married so – again John William stops to think.
Martha Lindfield 1826-1874
Martha’s parents have died and the eldest son has decided to vacate New House. What could be better than for John William and Martha and their nine children to move back to New House and leave son John and his new wife in Stream Cottage. So, in 1864 they moved back to Martha’s old home and here was born the last of their 14 children, my own father being the 13th.
But sadly, in 1874 Martha died, not in childbirth but with appendicitis for which in those days there was no known cure. She was only 48 and my father lost a loving mother when he was only 6. But Grandfather was not to be daunted. The following year he married again and they had 3 more children, but my father said how kind his stepmother was to him.
But to return to great grandmother Sarah. During her life time the preaching of that great Evangelist George Whitfield and his great confederates had changed the lives of many families throughout England. At Great Ote hall in Wivelsfield, Salina Countess of Huntingdon had opened her house for preaching. The great William Romaine and others were guest speakers at her home. At last she built for the people of Wivelsfield a chapel now known as Ote Hall Chapel. The Burton Family were staunch Church of England attendants but somewhere along the line great grandmother Sarah and her family became Chapel attendants. The story went that Sarah who had been a keen card player, saw them image of Satan on the back of her cards and she put them down never to play again. Members of her family became much attached to Ote Hall Chapel and then there was a breakaway there, and Bethel Chapel was built. Children were often taken to chapels miles away to be named instead of being christened and because of the distance they were done in batches! In the case of William Lindfield’s family I eventually found them at Jireh Chapel Lewes where 4 of them were named in May I824. after Bethel Chapel opened batches of children were named there. When researching one needs to know a little about their lives and the signs of the times.
I wonder what future generations will remember about us.