The Bull Line, Newhaven – new material reveals its history

2 January 2018

By Anna Manthorpe

The Keep does not hold a great deal concerning our maritime history, so we were delighted to receive a small but useful collection of papers which were collected by William Harold Sparshott (known as Harold; 1909-1987). Harold had worked for the shipbrokers JH Bull and Company at Newhaven Harbour from 1926 to 1942, and became interested in pursuing the history of his former employers during his retirement.

During the earliest part of the company’s history, it ran a small fleet of eighteen ships, which operated from the harbour as colliers, flying the house flag of the bull’s head. The firm was established by John Henry Bull (1843-1907), who went into partnership with his cousin Neil Campbell Bull as JH and NC Bull, shipbrokers and ship owners, at 25 South Road, Newhaven, moving in 1888 to 2 Hillcrest, Newhaven. Neil died in 1895 aged 49 and the firm continued as JH Bull and Co. John Bull held the Eastbourne Gas Company’s contract for bringing gas coal from the north to Newhaven, but by the end of the 1890s sailing colliers were being driven out by steamers, to which they had to give way at coal tips.

In 1901, the firm moved to a corrugated building (right) at number 12 Stage, Riverside, Newhaven. The last of the fleet was sold after the death of John Henry Bull, on 17 July 1907, aged 64 at his home, 46 Fort Road, Newhaven. He had been much respected locally, and was at one time a member of the Newhaven Urban District Council, and an Overseer of the Poor. He had been master of the South Saxon and Mark Lodges of Freemasons, and was a keen supporter of sport, particularly football and bowls.

Newhaven Harbour, c1920 (AMS 7244/1/4)

Newhaven Harbour, c1920 (AMS 7244/1/4)

JH Bull and Company continued to operate as shipbrokers. In 1941, the business was bought by CO Willson Ltd and moved to a site opposite Number 16 Stage. The firm was sold to Francis Parker Ltd in 1972. It then operated as JH Bull and Co (Shipping) Ltd. By 1978, it was operating from wharves (all called Francis Wharf) at Littlehampton, Newhaven (at North Quay) and Shoreham. On 1 June 1981, it ceased trading under the name of JH Bull and Co (Shipping) Ltd and merged with PD Wharfage and Transport Ltd, under the name of Southern Port Services Ltd.

Painting of brig Carbonaria by Harold Sparshott, c1980 (AMS 7244/2/6)

Painting of brig Carbonaria by Harold Sparshott, c1980 (AMS 7244/2/6)

The archive consists of Harold’s research papers, which contain information concerning the history of the port of Newhaven, as well as his former employers. The harbour grew in importance with the arrival of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway from Lewes in 1847, which provided a through connection with London. As well as carrying passengers for the continent, it was a centre for the movement of goods, particularly during the First World War, when Newhaven passed under naval and military control, and was a hub for the movement of supplies to the western front.

There are a number of photographs of Newhaven Harbour and the ships that sailed there, as well as general views of the town. Harold produced coloured illustrations of the Bull Line vessels and, as is often the case, regretted the disappearance of many of the company records and lost opportunities to carry out research when he had the chance.



Marriage notice books – a new source for family historians

26 July 2017

By Anna Manthorpe

A new set of records, marriage notice books from the East Sussex Registration Service, are now available at The Keep. Before the Act for Marriages in England 1836, which introduced civil marriage into England and Wales from 1 July 1837, the only legally recognised marriages in England and Wales were those performed by the Church of England, Jews and Quakers. Roman Catholics and members of other Christian congregations, as well as members of other religious bodies and atheists, had to be married in an Anglican church. The Marriage Act of 1836 allowed marriages to be legally registered in buildings belonging to other religious groups, or in a civil registry office.

Extract from the first marriage notice book for Hastings, dated 1843, REG 1/5/1/1

Extract from the first marriage notice book for Hastings, dated 1843, REG 1/5/1/1

It was necessary to give the civil registrar notice that a marriage was due to take place and where the couple were to marry, and the information was recorded in marriage notice books; there were regulations regarding the length of notice required before the planned marriage could take place, and residential qualifications. Lists of the intended marriages were put on public display, and at the end of the notice period, a certificate giving permission for the marriage was issued which was valid for a stated period.

As with marriages in Anglican churches, it was possible to pay for a marriage licence to enable the marriage to take place more quickly. Initially, marriages by certificate, with or without licence, were recorded in the same marriage notice books, but from 1968 a separate set of registers were held for marriages by certificate with licence.

Copies of marriage certificates can be obtained from the General Register Office for a fee but the indexes contain only the bare details, making the purchase of documents which prove to be irrelevant sometimes unavoidable. Checking the marriage notice books first, which contain almost as much information, can avoid making costly mistakes. The registers also give free information about marriages celebrated in places whose registers have not been deposited, and may not have survived.

The existence of a notice of marriage does not prove that a marriage actually did take place – there were sometimes last-minute cancellations. And unfortunately the earliest registers have not survived for most of the registration districts. Those that we do hold are listed on our online catalogue, and we’re hoping that the registers for Brighton and Hove will also be available before long.




An Artist’s Life in Wilmington – Harold and Lilian Swanwick

11 May 2017

By Anna Manthorpe

Harold Swanwick outside his studio at Twytten House, Wilmington, c1914, AMS 6785/7/06

Harold Swanwick outside his studio at Twytten House, Wilmington, c1914, AMS 6785/7/06

Harold Swanwick (1866-1929) depicted agricultural life on the Downs in his paintings of Sussex, some of which are held by the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, and is one of the local artists represented in our holdings at The Keep.

Joseph Harold Swanwick was born in Cheshire but moved to Wilmington soon after his marriage to Ethel Lilian Heatley (known as Lilian) in 1907. The couple rented accommodation in Crossway House in Wilmington from early 1908 until August 1909, then moved to Street House Farm, Wilmington, which they purchased in 1912 from Robert Lambe; they renamed it Twytten House and remained there for the rest of their lives.

In 2005, we were donated the diary of Lilian Swanwick for 1908, and in 2011 that for 1909 arrived. Written in the early days of the marriage, the diaries give a detailed account of the couple’s life in Wilmington. Much of their leisure time was spent walking on the Downs, motoring farther afield, particularly on shopping trips to Eastbourne, or to places to paint (Lilian was an amateur artist). There was frequent correspondence between Lilian and her family, and friends stayed with them regularly. And there was considerable suspense in waiting to hear if work had been selected to hang at the Royal Academy!

The same donor later asked whether we would be interested in taking some letters written by Lilian to her brother Hugh (Harry) Heatley. Harry emigrated to Kenya in 1903, where he led a flamboyant lifestyle, but went bankrupt and returned to Arlington, where he lived for nine years, before moving to Wales. He was financially dependent on Lilian for the latter part of his life. Lilian’s letters were written during the early part of the Second World War and give a vivid account of the war effort in Wilmington. We hear about the planned evacuation of London children to the village (reversed once it was realised that the south coast was the likely invasion area), the fitting of gas masks, an attack from a German bomber, fortunately with no casualties, and a visit by Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother).

The archive has recently been further increased by scans of negatives held by the family. A researcher into the life and work of Harold Swanwick mentioned he hoped to borrow them, and I offered to do the scanning at The Keep and provide him with copies. The 30 negatives had deteriorated in some cases, but most came out well after adjustment of the light levels. Harold was a keen photographer who taught Lilian to develop photographs, and the images are doubtless the work of one or the other. Harold is depicted shooting, fishing and gardening, in addition to painting. He seems to have been a lively individual and is shown dressed up as a clown with a group of friends. Lilian is photographed in a bathing-dress in the sea, with the Seven Sisters in the background, as well as during a painting expedition on the Downs, with her paints and portable stool. Both seem to come very much alive in these pictures, which are a fascinating addition to the archive.

Andrew Forrest will be giving a talk Perspectives on Harold Swanwick at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, on Sunday 21 May at 12.00 (£6.00 or £5.00 concessions; online booking advisable).



The diaries of Frederick Wilkin – a work in progress

6 April 2017

By Anna Manthorpe

Alterations to Lower Cousley Wood, 1895 (AMS 7218/2/22)

Alterations to Lower Cousley Wood, 1895 (AMS 7218/2/22)

The arrival of new archives is often serendipitous and this was a case in point. We were not the first to be offered the diaries of Frederick Wilkin (1838-1929), but luckily the others had not responded and we replied immediately that we would like them. Getting them here could have been difficult: the owner lived in Malvern and the diaries would have been heavy to post. I suggested that I could collect when visiting my mother, who lives about 40 miles away, but the donor very kindly offered to drop them off when I was next there.

We knew that Frederick Wilkin had been a director of the British Gas Light Company in London and moved to Lower Cousley Wood. I had wondered whether many of the diaries would would relate to his time in London and have little local connection, but this was not the case. They commence with his marriage in 1877 to Charlotte Elizabeth Lefroy, and continue until 1923; the couple purchased Lower Cousley Wood in 1881, by which time they had two sons, Anthony and Arthur.

A memento of Frederick and Bessie's visit to Egypt, 1896 (AMS 7218/2/24)

A memento of Frederick and Bessie’s visit to Egypt, 1896 (AMS 7218/2/24)

The diaries turn out to be a source of much local information. Frederick wrote detailed daily entries in a clear but small hand – it is essential to use a magnifying glass if reading them for long. Each journal covers at least three years, so reading through one takes some hours. Early progress was slow because it was necessary to identify the large number of family members who appear. Frederick and Charlotte Elizabeth (known as Bessie) only had two sons, but Frederick had ten siblings and there are also numerous references to the Lefroy cousins.

The second volume covers five years and just picking out the most important events for the catalogue took the best part of two days. There were so many interesting snippets: the search for ‘old Stapley’ who was found dead, still clutching his billhook (January 1883); the possible separation between Sam and Blanche Key, (he has beaten her often and is misbehaving with Annie Lane, the daughter of Col Lane of Bexhill), July 1883; visiting Noakley Cottages to see Pitt who had cut himself badly with his ‘swop’ and found the bleeding had been stopped by the application of cobwebs to the wound on his right forearm (August 1885); the fire at Jarvis Farm at Flimwell and there was some trouble to save the house (August 1885); the visit to old Mrs Clout who was 84 and living in one of Mrs Thomas’s cottages, thought to be so filthy that no one can enter, and Frederick contacted Dr White about the Sanitary Inspector visiting her (he did not enter), December 1885.

Laboratory staff at the Kitchener Hospital, Brighton (Arthur Wilkin is second from the right), 1916 (AMS 7218/2/39)

Laboratory staff at the Kitchener Hospital, Brighton (Arthur Wilkin is second from the right), 1916 (AMS 7218/2/39)

I therefore decided that I must return to reading the diaries and expanding the catalogue entries as an ongoing task. In preparing the catalogue, I listed loose papers which were interleaved. Many bear witness to holidays abroad – both were inveterate travellers. Son Anthony accompanied the couple when they visited Egypt in 1896, and soon became a respected ethnologist and Egyptologist. Tragically he died from dysentery in 1901 when he was involved in an expedition to Abyssinia to dig for antiquities. His mother Charlotte Elizabeth, who often suffered from ill health, died at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands in 1914. Unsurprisingly, Frederick wrote at the end of the diary, ‘So end 5 anxious or sad years’.

One of the few photographs showed the staff of a laboratory in Brighton in 1916. It was exciting to realize that the initials AW stood for Arthur Wilkin, the second son. A check of Alumni Cantabrigienses revealed that he qualified as a doctor and served as a Captain in the Royal Medical Corps during the First World War (mentioned twice in despatches) and worked as an Assistant Bacteriologist at the Kitchener Hospital, Brighton.

I hope that further expanded diary entries will soon be uploaded. In the meantime, the archive is available to order through the online catalogue, and is a fascinating source for the Wadhurst area.



Theo Ward, musical director of the Eastbourne Orchestral Band

16 February 2017

By Anna Manthorpe

Portrait of Theo Ward, c1900 (AMS 7205/1/2)

Portrait of Theo Ward, c1900 (AMS 7205/1/2)

Music is not well represented in our holdings and it was good to receive an interesting group of papers relating to Theo Ward (1863-1935), who was appointed musical director of the Eastbourne Orchestral Band in 1899.

Born in Marylebone, London, Robert Theophilus (Theo) Ward’s early life is rather mysterious. Despite claiming in an interview that that his people were all engaged in the medical profession and he had been destined to become a doctor, in fact his father, Theophilus Frederick Ward, was a photographer who died in 1875 aged 39, when Theo was 12. His mother Louisa seems to have possessed an indomitable spirit and in 1881 was enumerated as landlady of The Welsh Harp, 47 Chandos Street, together with Theo, described as a hotel servant, and his five siblings.

Theo claimed that he did not receive a music lesson until he was 18, and entered the Royal Academy of Music the following year. He was certainly a student there in 1889, when a Royal Academy orchestral concert included a piece composed by Theo, described as a most promising pupil (Pall Mall Gazette, 18 April 1889). Theo was already active on the London musical scene, and his appearances included an organ recital at the International Inventions Exhibition at South Kensington on 4 November 1885.

Theo Ward's 'Devotion', dedicated to his wife, 1904 (AMS 7205/3/7)

Theo Ward’s ‘Devotion’, dedicated to his wife, 1904 (AMS 7205/3/7)

In 1891 he met Charles Wyndham and was offered the conductorship of the Criterion Theatre in London, where he remained until 1893. He then went to India with Mrs Brown Potter and Kyrle Bellow, who were performing a number of Shakespearian revivals, and Theo worked with a large Indian orchestra. He was in India for around a year, and upon returning, revived a burlesque The Babes for Willie Edouin at the Strand Theatre. He was also appointed musical director of the Princess’s Theatre in the same year. In the late 1890s Theo was engaged as musical director of the Blackpool Winter Gardens for the season, and then returned to the Princess’s Theatre.

On 5 May 1899 the Pleasure Grounds Committee of Eastbourne County Borough unanimously agreed to appoint Theo Ward as Bandmaster of the Town Orchestral Band at £350 a year, subject to him providing the necessary music. It was the heyday of bandstand music, and unthinkable that the ‘Empress of Watering Places’ should lack such an amenity. The need to make economies became apparent, however, and in September 1906 Theo wrote to the Eastbourne Pleasure Grounds Committee regretting the dismissals of three of his bandsmen in the municipal band and orchestra: ‘it is impossible to produce the proper effect without suitable material’. A cartoon in the archive depicts him as a one-man band busking on the seafront.

On 16 August 1907 the Pleasure Grounds Committee reported that notices had been served on the conductor and members of the municipal band to terminate service as from 17 November and 31 October respectively. It seems that Theo was offered the chance to continue on a reduced salary, but left Eastbourne in November. Theo certainly did not leave under a cloud. The Mayor and Corporation provided him with a sealed testimonial expressing their appreciation. He was clearly very popular and the locals were sorry to see him go; the Eastbourne Chronicle reported that he was besieged by people anxious to shake hands and extend best wishes for his future at his final evening concert. The Eastbourne Gazette published a poem which commenced with the optimistic refrain:

Cartoon of Theo Ward, 1906 (AMS 7205/1/5)

Cartoon of Theo Ward, 1906 (AMS 7205/1/5)

If you’ve resigned your baton here,

Don’t hang your head and all that;

Your future lot you need not fear,

You’ll get a Band and all that!

Theo did obtain a prestigious post in 1911 when he became musical director at Buxton Gardens in Derbyshire, and later in his career undertook a musical tour titled Masterpiece, for which the publicity stated that he was hailed by critics as being the greatest pianist of the day. He was certainly very accomplished as a conductor, pianist and organist, as well as being a prolific composer, and the archive contains a number of examples of his published works which demonstrate his love of comic opera and song.








Lantern slides of travellers return

5 January 2017

By Anna Manthorpe

Traveller children with a dog cart, 1920s; R/L 39/1/7

Traveller children with a dog cart, 1920s; R/L 39/1/7

We had been aware for some years of the existence of a number of lantern slides of travellers held by East Sussex County Council’s Schools, Library and Museum Service, having borrowed them to scan as a security measure in 2009. Some of the images were then used in a WRVS Heritage Plus project concerning the lives of travellers, and published in Hidden Photographs of a Hidden People; in and around the south country hop gardens (2010). We were delighted when it was agreed recently that the lantern slides should be transferred to The Keep for safekeeping and to make the images fully available for everyone to enjoy.

The lantern slides were formerly held in a large wooden box thought to have been owned by Dr Edwin Percy Habberton Lulham (1865-1940). Lulham had a very interesting and varied career. He was initially a professional cricketer: he was in the Sussex team, and played for England in 1894. He became a doctor, graduating from Guy’s Hospital in 1896. He worked at the Sussex County Hospital in Brighton as a ‘dresser’ for the Senior Surgeon, Dr Blaker, and practised as a doctor in Ditchling and Brighton. In 1911, he was enumerated at 38 Sweyn Road, Margate, the home of Dr Thompson, but lived in Ditchling. He was at 11 Prince Albert Street, Brighton, from at least 1915-1923.

Dr Lulham tends a patient, 1920s; R/L 39/2/2

Dr Lulham tends a patient, 1920s; R/L 39/2/2

Lulham also wrote poetry inspired by the Sussex countryside, which included Songs from the Downs & Dunes (1908). He became interested in rural life and customs, and is known to have given talks illustrated with lantern slides. He was an authority on gypsy life and was an honorary member of the Gypsy Lore Society. It is thought that he stopped practising as a doctor during the 1920s due to sciatica and high blood pressure, and concentrated on photography and public lectures. He committed suicide on 27 June 1940, and was then living at Haven, Hurstpierpoint.

In 2009, the lantern slides had not been scanned in any order, and cataloguing involved arranging them in a way that made sense; in the process it became clear that not all the images were by Lulham. Lantern slides were available commercially, and it is likely that some were obtained from photographers with similar interests. But Lulham was certainly responsible for the majority of those depicting gypsy life in the 1920s and 1930s, two of which show him tending to traveller patients.

A large number of the lantern slides also depict rural life and crafts. It is not always clear whether the photographs were taken locally, but a considerable proportion are labelled and include fine views of the harvest at Housedean Farm, near Lewes, and the Clergy House at Alfriston under restoration. Even when there seems to be is no known local connection, the images still provide fascinating viewing, ranging from the activities of a mole catcher to convicts working in a quarry, possibly HM Prison Portland, Dorset. There are a number of forgotten crafts such as rope-making using a rope walk, charcoal burning, and bee-keeping using hives in the form of straw skeps.

The digitised images are now available for viewing in The Keep’s Reference Room (reference R/L 39) and browsing is highly recommended!



New acquisition: the knights of the black and white dogs

26 August 2016

By Anna Manthorpe

Victorian women generally appear very sedate – their clothes cannot have allowed much freedom – so it was a pleasant surprise to see the antics of Leila Lamb and her friend Mrs Musgrave dressed up in armour and doing battle to champion their pets.

The photographs shown below come from albums which were purchased on 3 August 2016 at auction, thanks to funding from the Friends of The Keep Archives  (FoTKA). The albums illustrate the related families of Lamb of Beauport in Hollington, and Adamson of Rushton Park (later Vinehall) in Mountfield. Leila, who married Charles Anthony Lamb in 1886, was an Adamson.

The photographs are evocative of the late Victorian and Edwardian upper-class life of leisurely country pursuits and house parties. Both families clearly loved their dogs, whose names are unfailingly recorded. The archive also includes a visiting book, in which the Lamb family entered photographs of the houses they visited with the signatures of those present.

We are most grateful to FoTKA for their generous donation. Unfortunately, military history is now very sought after and we were outbid on further albums, including material concerning Charles Lamb’s military career in the Rifle Brigade during the second Boer War (1899-1902).



Where the wild things are – Drusillas comes to The Keep

16th July 2016

By Anna Manthorpe

Many will have fond memories of visiting or taking small children to Drusillas Zoo Park, and we were delighted to receive the archive of the Ann family which established this well-known local attraction.

The story is very interesting. The founder, Douglas Ann saw active service in the Royal Sussex Regiment during the First World War, and in 1920 he and his wife Drusilla started Old Thatch Pedigree Poultry Farm in Hellingly. Douglas solved any labour shortages by taking in paying lady students to learn how to run a small holding. Career opportunities for women were few, and the First World War had meant that there were many single and widowed women for whom marriage would be impossible.

Douglas soon decided to move on, and in 1924 purchased the site which became Drusilla’s Tea Cottage in Berwick(although only up the road from Alfriston). One would imagine an idyllic rural setting, but the farm-buildings and land purchased from the Gage Estate for £1000 had been used as bone mills for the preparation of fertilizer; he showed great vision.

The 1920s saw an expansion in use of the motor car, and Drusilla’s opened to meet the demands of the discerning motorist venturing into the countryside and hoping to find the better sort of establishment at which to take afternoon tea. Drusilla’s Tea Cottage opened in 1925 and from the beginning stocked a ‘Baby Zoo’ with monkeys and small animals as an added attraction. Chauffeurs could be given their own refreshment in a separate room at a small additional cost.

The winning formula of offering pupil vacancies to the daughters of ‘gentlepeople’ was continued at Drusilla’s. Pupils were trained in baking, waiting and general management at a charge of 2 guineas a week to cover tuition and board residence. They received a half share in staff gratuities after the first four weeks, and were ‘usually’ offered a weekly salary after three months if they wished to stay for the remainder of the season.

The business expanded apace. There was soon a craft shop which sold Dicker Pottery, river boating with canoes and punts for hire, a children’s boating lake, putting course, playground, cinema shows and evening dances with egg and bacon suppers. In 1935 a narrow-gauge railway was opened which ran under a 60 foot brick-faced tunnel to a landing-stage on the River Cuckmere.

Douglas’s entrepreneurial spirit seemed unlimited. Hired canoes were sometimes abandoned downstream, and his answer was to open another landing-stage near the mouth of the Cuckmere at Exceat. In 1932 the Chyngton Estate in Seaford came up for sale, and he purchased Exceat Bridge Cottage and a piece of land next to the river on the opposite side of the road, where he sited the new landing-stage. In 1934 he applied for building consent for a new tea room and alterations to Exceat Bridge Cottage, which became the well-known local landmark, The Golden Galleon (now the Cuckmere Inn). Business had to be suspended during the Second World War, and The Golden Galleon was sold in 1947.

Douglas died in 1958, and his work was continued by his son Michael, later joined by his younger brother Christopher. Michael took the decision to expand Drusillas as a zoo for young children with the emphasis on smaller animals, in which it has been extremely successful. Early and later chapters in the business’s history are well-represented in the archive, up to the time that the Ann family sold it in 1997. Cataloguing it has been a fascinating exercise.


International Women’s Day: Jam, Jerusalem and history; the WI archive at East Sussex Record Office

11th March 2015

By Anna Manthorpe

WI 112/1/1: Coronation year scrapbook (1872 - 1973)Established in Canada, the Women’s Institute movement began in Britain during the First World War as a response to the need to encourage the growing and preservation of food; it was soon recognised that the country would face grave shortages when imported foodstuffs were in short supply. The Agricultural Organisation Society of the Board of Agriculture promoted Women’s Institutes as part of the war effort, recognising that improving the education and interests of countrywomen would enable them to contribute to the home front.

The first local WI branch in England was established at Singleton, West Sussex, in December 1915, and Wivelsfield became the first East Sussex WI, founded in March 1916. Lady Denman, the first Chairman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, lived at Balcombe Place in Balcombe, then in East Sussex.

WI 032-3-2-18Sussex was at the forefront of the movement, and it seems appropriate that the East Sussex Record Office should hold what is probably the largest WI archive in the country – we have the records of nearly two hundred local WI institutes in our stores.

The records reflect local life, particularly in rural communities. WI scrapbooks are a particularly useful historical source since many contain interesting collections of photographs, news cuttings and papers relating to their locality. They are of potential interest to anyone researching an individual, a particular aspect of the community, or social history. The scrapbooks range in date from the early days of the WI movement, to the commemoration of the Millennium. A number were compiled for the East Sussex WI Village Scrapbook Competition to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, or a competition to mark the Golden Jubilee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in 1965. They often contain material which is much earlier in date, and are beautifully compiled, often with carefully embroidered covers.

The WI has enhanced the lives of so many women since its foundation, and 2015 marks its centenary in Britain. The East Sussex Federation of Women’s Institutes will celebrate with a major event at The Keep in April.


Tomorrow, Kate Elms will be writing about Ellen Nye Chart, actress turned manager of Brighton’s Theatre Royal.