• Binsted, Past Present & Future

      • On 31st May 2016, the Arun West group of U3A (the University of the Third Age) enjoyed a gripping talk by Emma Tristram, editor of 'Binsted & Beyond', on 'Binsted Past Present & Future'. Emma talked about Binsted's independent spirit over the years, and reactions to our landscape in folklore ('spooky!'), art and care for nature. (www.maves.org.uk).

        In the photo you can see some places where the plaster has been stripped away revealing the medieval flint wall underneath.  These are part of an investigation for how to cure the damp and keep Binsted church fit for the future.  There are usually about 20 people at church services there, with many more on special occasions like Rogation, Easter, Harvest and Christmas Carols.

        Here are the notes which formed the basis of Emma's talk (the slideshow that accompanied it may be added later):

        Talk on Binsted for U3A.

        1. What is Binsted? 


        1.Aerial photo.  

        Binsted is an independent, isolated place - isolated by its geography.   In this photo you can see the wild and woolly woods that cover much of the northern part of the parish, and the west, south and east boundary streams lined with small, damp fields.   The western stream valley is quite steep – I think 60 feet deep at the north end, - and is thought to be the result of a catastrophic ‘melting event’ at the end of the ice age.

        The boundary streams drain into the Arun.   The fields next to them were regularly flooded which made them ideal for hay and pasture, while the central fields were for arable.

        The north part of the parish is higher land, so the whole parish formed a peninsula, possibly cut off by the sea at times.   Binsted rife may have been navigable.   The lane at the southeast of the parish is called ‘Hoe Lane’ – meaning a spit of land as in Plymouth Hoe.

        This geography was what made Binsted Lane curve round almost in a ring – and the 38 houses are scattered along it, and were never concentrated into a village centre.   It’s a ‘non-nucleated’ village, i.e. it doesn’t have a ‘village green’ or central area, so it can be hard to get a picture of what Binsted is like.   It is interwoven with its countryside.    


        1. This map of the houses in Binsted and Tortington, made for the anti-bypass campaign, shows how the houses are intermingled with the woods.   Altogether 10 or 11 houses are within the woods, if you count the Oaks pub which is now a house and a flat.


        1. Binsted’s character.  

        3.Binsted parish is shown in this map of 1875 – shaded green. 

        Binsted was an independent parish for hundreds of years.   It was added to Tortington in 1937.   That didn’t work – a newspaper article was headed ‘Binsted is on strike’ – so in 1985 it was detached from Tortington and added to Walberton.

        So Binsted is no longer a little self-administered kingdom, but it has become more unusual over the years.    You can see in this slide of the 1875 map that the woodland outside the parish is shown in the same way as the woodland outside it.   But that has changed.   Now they are very different. 

         The landowning family in Binsted, the Wisharts, have never cut their woods since acquiring the land in the 1920 – but the woods outside Binsted are now plantation woodland.   The woods to the north are regularly cut: Tortington Common was planted with conifers in the 1970s which completely changed its character – though it’s now recovering, because many fell in the 1987 storm.     So the feeling in Binsted is of a place that is unchanged – a window into the past.

        This map also shows Binsted Park as parkland.   This was a mediaeval-style park created in about 1800 by the owners of Binsted House.   A sort of gentrification, imitating grander parks higher on the Downs.

        I’ll point out a few other landmarks:

        • Hundred Copse.
        • Brickkiln Copse.
        • Paine’s Wood.
        • Strawberry Fair fields.
        • Binsted Lane.
        • Binsted church. 

        4.To show Binsted’s historic independence, this is a painting of the Poor House

        that used to be next to the church, by Charlotte Read of Binsted House, the family that made Binsted Park.  

        The Poor House was built by the Parish to look after its poor, funded by a tax on parishioners.   The 18th-century Poor Books still exist – in the Record Office – recording who paid what and what the money was used for.


        1. This view of the woods in the distance and the central agricultural land is typical of Binsted.  

        This view does not give any idea of how big Binsted Woods are.   They are 250 acres.   One of the reports about the Bypass (I’ll come to that) called them ‘nationally important’.   It said ‘destruction or fragmentation would substantially damage their national importance’.

        That was in 1992, and led to a bypass route being chosen through the conifer woodland of Tortington Common.   But now all the woodland southwest of Arundel  is in the National Park, and the current route that’s being mooted through Binsted goes through these fields, bisecting the village.   I’ll come to that – but a bit more background first.

        These big fields in the centre of the Parish were farmed in strips in mediaeval times.   Land ownership was intermingled, so there were three main farms, and these and some other owners would have some strips in these central fields, and some hay and pasture meadows down by the streams.  

        Planners tend to dismiss Binsted as being ‘on the coastal plain’.   But the central fields in Binsted are quite sloping, showing that we are on the foothills of the Downs, not on the coastal plain.

        6.Binsted’s character: proud, independent.   The character of Binsted is also sometimes said to be ‘spooky’.  

        There are plenty of huge, grotesque fallen trees in Binsted Woods that make it feel mysterious and unspoilt.   These are very good habitats for insects.

        You will hear many tales of Binsted being ‘haunted’.   I had a blood test the other day and when the phlebotomist saw my address she said ‘Binsted – Ooh isn’t it haunted?’   When the septic tank men came out to a house in Binsted Park the other day they said the same thing.    They had been in the woods and heard something following them which stopped when they stopped.


        1. Binsted’s history.


        7.New discoveries about Binsted’s history.   My map of the forest.

        VCH says Binsted Woods were in Arundel Forest, but actually the whole of Binsted was in Arundel Forest.   I started to research this and found a 15th-century description of the bounds of the forest – basically a list of place names, many of which are unknown or have changed.   This map was my first attempt to trace the boundary of Arundel Forest from this list of names.

        Starting from Arundel, it went up the river, along the north side of the Downs, as far as the Hampshire border, then south of Chichester, through Westergate, Walberton, then down to the sea at Cudlow – a parish which has been largely washed away by the sea – and back up the river bank to Arundel.  

        It was very useful to have river banks included in a Forest as then fishing could be included in the products of the Forest.

        A Forest was not necessarily all woodland, but was an area where Forest Law was in force, where a nobleman’s deer were kept and hunted, in this case the Earl of Arundel.   Forests had their own courts to take money from people who broke the Forest laws, and to administer rights people had such as pasturing their animals in the Forest.


        8.    Let’s see where the Forest boundaries really went.

        This map is from John Langton and Graham Jones’s project ‘Forests and Chases of England and Wales c. 1000 to c. 1850’, based at first at St John’s College, Oxford (http://info.sjc.ox.ac.uk/forests/Index.html),

        Their map shows an earlier and a later boundary for Arundel Forest.   The dotted line is the earlier boundary and You’ll notice that the whole of Binsted is included in the Forest, not just its woods.   

        This forest history is recorded in Binsted’s place names.   The Forest court was known as the Aves court, hence the name Avis ford – the forest court by the Ford.   That is, the ford across the Binsted rife.

        The forest court was held in Hundred House Copse, the part of Binsted Woods just to the east of the Rife and this ford.   The Hundred was an administrative area dating back to Saxon times – the Hundred of Binsted reached down to the sea.   The administration of the Hundred, and of the Forest, took place at Hundredhouse Copse.   Binsted Hundred at first had that name – the name was later changed to Avisford Hundred, as the Forest court became more prominent in people’s minds, perhaps soon after the Norman conquest.

        I mentioned pasturing animals in the Forest, such as pigs eating acorns.   This was just one of the rights people had in the Forest – another was taking firewood.   Woods looked very different under that system.    There wasn’t such an obvious divide between woods and fields.

        A great book, ‘Rethinking Ancient Woodland’, by Barnes and Williamson, points all that all woodland, before it was enclosed and coppiced, was used as wood pasture, back to Neolithic times, so there would have been more animals and fewer trees.   Some trees would have been pollarded to keep new growth from the animals.   Enclosure of woodland happened gradually, and there were still wooded commons – areas with some trees where people pastured their animals – in Binsted in the 18th century.


        1. Archaeology.

        9.Forests could include industry such as iron smelting, mining, or kilns.

        The trees were essential for providing fuel for the industries.   In fact Oliver Rackham, the great historian of woods, points out that the existence of industries preserved woods from being grubbed out for agriculture.   So Binsted’s kilns may have helped preserve the woods.

        This aerial photo from the 1960s shows the mediaeval tile kiln excavated by Con Ainsworth.   It was under a big willow tree in the garden of the house then called ‘Tyghlers’, now much bigger and called ‘Ashurst’, or ‘Bonnie’s Boutique B and B’.  

        The lane is Binsted Lane, and the wood on the left is Hundred House Copse, where the Hundred and Aves Courts were held.   The triangle of woodland here – where the kiln is – was called ‘All the World Copse’ in the 1838 tithe Map: what with the Hundred Court, the Forest Court, and the tile business, it was a very busy place in mediaeval times.

        The Iron Age Earthwork:

        Another interesting thing in this photo is that you can see the line of the Iron Age earthwork.   This is marked by two big trees – now gone – and a small bank crossing the fields.   This bank and ditch went right to the top of the Downs and extended southwards under the church and along the east bank of the Rife.

        It seems to be part of the late Iron Age system of banks and ditches known as the Chichester Dykes or Chichester Entrenchments.   They appear to connect with waterways to form defensive systems.   Our earthwork joins up at the top of the Downs with another one called War Dyke which goes down to the Arun, thus using the Arun, and its tributary, the Binsted rife and the Tortington rife, along with the earth bank, to defend an area.


        10.The other tile kiln.

        The other mediaeval tile kiln – operating in the 13th and 14th centuryies – was excavated by WAS in 2005 and 6.   It’s in the field opposite the Black Horse pub.   it is entirely built out of tiles – underneath is the place where the fire was made.


        1. Shows more of this uncovered.   

        As well tiles, Binsted potteries made jugs, known as Binsted ware.   Sometimes a grotesque face was applied to the jug.

        They stacked the pottery on top of these bars, built the fire underneath and made an earth mound on top and fired it.

        The uncovered kiln, at the dig, was a remarkable object – glowing red rather like a huge barbecue grill.


        1. New discoveries.



        This is an image produced by Laser radar, which shows humps and pits hidden by woodland.   Binsted was included in the recent Lidar photography of the wooded area of the Downs.   This led to a project called Secrets of the High Woods, run by the National Park, to relate what the Lidar shows to what is on the ground.

        This half of the Binsted Lidar map shows

        • The iron age earthwork
        • Pits in Brickkiln Copse and Brickkiln Piece.

        These are the remains of an 18th century brick making industry.   On a walk with WAS we found 18th Cent. Bricks lying around near these pits.

        We also found that someone has recently been mining the clay at the bottom of one of the pits.   It has been carefully dug out and stacked nearby under a tarpaulin to weather.

        On a previous walk with a friend we saw two men dragging something in a piece of tarpaulin.   We were slightly too nervous to ask what they were doing!

        Now I wish we had.   As they were obviously taking clay away and we would have found out who is doing the mining.

        • It also shows – excitement – the Roman road through Binsted woods – this straight line.


        13.Here you can see more of it.

        At the east end it coincides with Scotland Lane, an old path through the woods, and if you go to that part of Scotland lane you can see ditches 10 feet apart that I would love to see excavated.

        James Kenny (District Arch), with John Mills (County Arch) and Alice Thorne of SHW have looked for the road in Paine’s wood and say it is just visible.   The boundary ditches are silted up and the ground between is only slightly higher.

        But this seems definitely to be it, and it will be written up by James Kenny.

        In the 1940s, Margary, the great roman road expert, deduced a route for the RR from Chichester to Shoreham and thought it followed Scotland Lane itself.   But it doesn’t look straight enough.  

        The Historic England Sites and Monuments Record lists this Roman Road as a monument with a deduced line.   This line on the Lidar has ‘truthed’ that route and shown that it really exists.


        1. Spooky – and a bit decayed.


        14.You’ll remember that area shown as parkland on the 1875 map. 

         Binsted Park was a mediaeval-style park made in about 1800 by the owners of Binsted House.  Woodland was removed to leave huge trees: a track in front of the house was removed; they made a haha and ponds and a ‘Lovers’ Walk’.


         IN the 1940s  Binsted House became derelict.   This 1946 painting by Ralph Ellis shows it abandoned and ivy-covered.    For years it was the delight of local children to explore and try on clothes out of the wardrobes and try not to fall in the cellars and down wells.

        It’s now been replaced by a modern mansion.   Needless to say lots of Binsted’s ghost stories centre round this house and its Park.

        John Mills on the same WAS walk told me that James Kenny saw a ghost there as a child.  So when I went to a lecture by James Kenny I asked him about it.   He told me he was trying to get into the old Binsted House, aged about 10, with a friend, and they saw a man in a ‘Guy Fawkes hat’ go into the house.   So they tried to follow him in, but another man appeared and told them to go away.

        You sometimes hear a rumour that Puritans were martyred here and that is why the house and pond are haunted.   Imaginative people out at night have seen bodies in trees.

        I think the person who told the children to go away was probably Henry Pethers, father of Bill Pethers who lives at Manor House, the 1920s house the Read family built to replace the impractical Binsted House that was left to fall down.   Henry Pethers was the son of the couple who kept the pub, Londoners, Harry and Win Pethers; he married Margaret Read, daughter of Henry Read of Binsted House and Florence Lewis of the Old Rectory family, who married in the 1890s.   Bill has hundreds of photos dating back to the 1850s of the Read and Lewis families and Binsted Park.

        15, 16 and 17.   The Reads in their Park – about 1870; about 1930.   The Park today.

        18. The Madonna Pond.

        One bit of Park-making by the Read family was to create three linked ponds beside Binsted House.   One still exists and is known as the Madonna Pond because of this statue.   It was put there in 1952 by Lorna Wishart in memory of her mother.   That is the official story, as told me by Luke Wishart, her son, the landowner owning most of Binsted.

        Stories tend to be told about this too: a coach and horses disappeared into it, and it’s bottomless.   A book called ‘Blood Knots’, by Luke Jennings, which includes many lovely scenes of fishing in Binsted in the 1950s, gives a different origin – Luke says he was told by workers on the farm that Lorna had put it there because the place was haunted.

        The first Madonna was a statue carved by Lorna herself.    It was vandalised, and eventually was replaced by this plastic statue with bars to deter vandals.


        19.This is a poster from 1996 designed by Julia Robson.

        She was the only person, back in those days, who was against new road building.   She founded a group called SCAR – south coast against roads.   SCAR organised a torchlight procession to the Madonna pond to protest against the plan to build a new road through this area.

        1. Here is the torchlight Procession.

        21.  The pond itself.

        This was just after the previous bypass battle, from 1987 to 1993.   Another bypass battle is on at the moment, but I’ll come to that.   First some more slides of Binsted to show what would be lost.


        1. Still proud and independent: Fair, Book and Festival.


        22.Binsted’s 12th century church.  

        Like all old churches it is a sink for money.   Friends of Binsted Church have replaced the roof, made attempts to deal with the damp, and paid for other work, with money raised by Binsted’s annual Strawberry Fair.   This committee has raised over £100,000 in the 28 years since it was founded.   Each year a third or a half goes to the church, and the rest to local charities.   This year it is Doctors without Borders, the South Downs Society and CPRE Sussex.

        23, 24, 25  show some scenes from the Strawberry Fair.

        26.   The villagers of Binsted are very active people.  

        They got together in 2000 to create the book ‘Binsted and Beyond’, edited by me.   This was funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £5000 and we sell it at the Strawberry Fair.   It includes history about the families I’ve mentioned, extracts from the Poor books, memories from people who have lived in Binsted, and a chapter on the road campaign of the 1990s.   Something new was needed, as you’ll see when we come to the current road plans.   So we are having a Binsted festival called the Binsted Arts Weekend, from 10 to 12 June, with 7 events, mostly in the church.

        A few seats are left for the talks on Friday 10 June by Valerie Grove, Laurie Lee’s biographer, and Luke Jennings, who grew up in Binsted and is a novelist and critic.   There’s also room on the talk ‘Poets and the Sussex Landscape’ on Saturday at 2, the poetry evening and prizegiving on Saturday evening – both free events – and the folk music concert by Cotillion at 3 on the Sunday, about the ‘working horse and ox’, ‘The last trip home’.

        I am leading a walk called ‘The art and literature of Binsted Woods ‘  - almost fully booked, but I hope to repeat it, so do contact me if you’d like to go on it.

        As background to my walk I’ve been researching artists connected to the Wishart family.


        H. Binsted artists.

        27. A key Binsted painting is this one by Lorna Wishart herself.  

        Lorna was a great beauty and local personality who lived in Binsted most of her life.   She died in 2000.   This painting brings together:

        • - Lorna herself on her horse
        • - Arundel Castle
        • - Tortington Common with newer trees
        • - Binsted Woods with a typical gnarled old tree
        • - A pond like the Madonna with a religious vision waiting for Lorna: a deer with a crucifix between its horns as appeared to St Hubert.

        The painting is owned by a local person connected to the Wishart family and you can see it and some other paintings by artists in the family in the exhibition which opened today at Forge Gallery in Walberton, on the theme ‘A Way through the Woods’, to lead up to the festival.

        ‘A Way through the Woods’ was also the theme of the festival’s poetry competition which attracted over 200 entries and with its entry fees more or less funded the festival.

        If I have time I will read one of the poems.

        28.    This is a painting by Lorna’s son Michael Wishart.  

        1928 to 1996.   He was another notable Bohemian, like Lorna, and he wrote a memoir, ‘High Diver’, which I’ll quote from on my walk.   It contains the immortal line ‘Binsted Park epitomised the vanishing England of my youth’.   I haven’t yet found any paintings by him of Binsted, but I’m sure they exist.  

        This one of butterflies reminds me of Binsted Woods.   Last summer I discovered how to see the Purple Emperor butterflies which live in the canopy of oak trees.   (Go to the place where Scotland Lane crosses the track coming south from the mobile home park – it’s sunny there and they come down to bask on the path and look for horse dung to feed on.)    This painting has some of the excitement of that discovery.

        29.   This is another painting by Michael, Field and Trees,

        that reminds me of Binsted Woods.   One feature of the woods is the 4 fields entirely enclosed in the woodland.   You might be back in Anglo-Saxon England.   This looks like one of them – Broad Green.

        30 and 31.   These are by Yasmin David, daughter of Lorna Wishart and Laurie Lee, born in 1938.    Yasmin went on to develop her own style of mystical landscapes, showing nature in a state of flux, often with shafts of light.  

        Michael was bisexual but he was married for 10 years to Anne Dunn, also an artist.   They had a son Francis, b. 1951, also an artist. 

        32 and 33.    Two paintings by Francis Wishart.  

        Francis lives partly in Canada and partly in France, and paints monoprints of trees – you paint on a metal plate and then take a unique print.   These are reminiscent of Binsted Woods.

        34 and 35.   Laurie Lee’s self portrait, and a painting by him of a crouching girl.  

        Laurie Lee is better known for his memoirs and poetry – ‘Cider with Rosie’ and ‘As I walked out one midsummer morning’.   In Binsted he is known as the lover of Lorna Wishart and father of her daughter Yasmin.

        This may be a portrait of Lorna.   On my walk I’m going to read part of his extraordinary diary entry for 18 August 1940, which he spent in Binsted Woods with Lorna, making love while bombs dropped all around them.

        36. Lucien Freud’s ‘Girl with a tulip’ is a portrait of Lorna.  

        She left Laurie Lee to have an affair with Lucien Freud.   She had tried living with Laurie, but it did not last.   Her husband Ernest Wishart tolerated these affairs – she had married very young – and she came back to Binsted and was a strong presence locally, until she died, riding on her horse between here and Arundel, as in her painting, often with her pet goat following behind, then driving round the woods in her landrover.

        37.   Lorna in her youth – impossibly seductive.


        J: Threats to Binsted: the road plan saga.

        38.   And now the road.  

        This is the right hand half of the map issued by the Dept of Transport in 1987 with three ‘options’.  

        - Purple route which is a modification of the existing road

        -Orange route through Binsted Woods

        - Red route closer to the town (same as the Orange route across the flood plain).

        The Blue route, added by hand, was the route the Arundel group ABAC asked for, further from the town.

        39.   And here is the Binsted end of the map.   This is a palimpsest of the schemes of that time.

        - Red, close to houses in Torton Hill, the suburb of Arundel south of the present A27.   People form there shouted ‘Not the Red route’ in meetings.

        - Orange: through all the best parts of Binsted Woods, quietest, south facing, sunny, furthest from the A27, best for wildlife, most important to the village.   10 of Binsted’s 38 houses are within the woods.

        - The National Park boundary, created in 2009, includes all the woods – and several fields – so that tells you where the woods are.

        - Brown – a slight modification by the Dept of Transport that made no difference at all.

        - Modified Orange – the Binsted group’s first attempt at a compromise.   This was awful, but we were told by the Sussex Wildlife Trust that ‘the further north and east the road goes the better for Binsted Woods’.

        This was 250 yards from the south end of Havenwood Mobile Home Park.   We thought it might be better for them than the present situation where they are a few feet from the present A27.   They thought not.

        This little bit of TipEx: the Pink Route idea.   This was suggested by Frank Penfold of the SWT.   Originally it was just this short stretch joining the top of the Red route to the Blue route wanted by Arundel group.

        • When we and the environmental groups suggested that, ABAC suggested the Green Routes through Binsted.
        • First, a ‘Green Corridor’.
        • Then 4 routes.

        Green was compared with Pink by government consultants in 1992-3 and found to be more damaging.   Pink-Blue was chosen as the Preferred Route.

        40. Here it is.   It was never built.   It has been in the Local Plan for years.  

        41. The National Park was mooted in 2001.   The history of its boundary is intimately tied up with the history of the road plans.

        - The orange line is original draft boundary.

        - 2002: a study called SOCOMMS, South Coast Multi Modal Study, recommended that the Pink-Blue Preferred Route should go ahead.   So Tortington Common, and some of the watermeadows, were taken out of the draft boundary.

        - in 2003 Alistair Darling, then Secretary of State for Tranport, cancelled the bypass.   So Tortington Common was put back in the draft National Park.

        At Binsted, we suggested two possible additions.   I gave evidence on behalf of Friends of Binsted Church.

        • One was the ‘small addition’ as a minimum.   The draft boundary had included only the main block of the woods and none of the outlying copses.
        • The other was the whole of Binsted.
        • The South Downs Campaign agreed with the ‘small addition’ and also wanted the watermeadows in down to the railway line.
        • CPRE wanted the whole of Binsted in, and all of the Arun valley down to the sea between Climping and Littlehampton.
        • This map doesn’t show the final boundary, but
        • The small addition at Binsted was accepted.   The addition of the whole of Binsted was rejected.
        • Tortington Common was put back in.
        • At Arundel, none of the watermeadows were included, nor was the town – just the Park where the Castle is.

        42.   So now what?   This is Highways England’s ‘conceptual’ map of the routes it is considering in its ‘A27 Feasibility study’. 

         It published 3 reports in March 2015 about the Arundel Bypass.   They did not contain any maps, just this conceptual map in an earlier version.

        Three of the routes are known:

        • Blue line is old Purple route, the semi-online route which could include a short section of new bypass south of the station.
        • Red line is the old Red route, near houses in Torton Hill.   You remember ‘Not the Red route!’  
        • Pink (plus Blue) the old Pink/Blue route also known as the Preferred Route, across Tortington Common.   Which by the way is much improved, since many of its conifers fell in 1987 and much of it has regrown as semi-natural woodland.
        • NEW: a route through Binsted skirting the National Park.

        43.   And here it is.  

        The local group ABNC Arundel Bypass neighbourhood Committee, has found by FOI the Bullen report of 2004, which looked for alternatives to the Preferred Route cancelled by Alistair Darling the year before as too damaging.   This included the new route through the fields at Binsted, cutting off most of the village from the woods and going right through the middle of the village, through the fields where the Strawberry Fair is held.   It would have to cease.

        44. What are we doing?

        The group is preparing a Report to show why this route simply cannot happen, to present to Highways England.   We want them to reject it at the present stage, the ‘Options Identification Stage’, which ends in November.   The ‘Public Consultation’ will be early next year and we don’t think a route through Binsted should be presented as an option.

        We’ve also started a press campaign – see www.arundelbypass.co.uk.

        We’ve got a new organisation called MAVES, Mid Arun Valley Environmental Surveys, doing wildlife surveys and conservation work.

        And Hence our arts festival!   It is more that our best argument against a route through Binsted is to show and help people appreciate its intimate connections with the countryside around it.   

        Please come.   It ends with a party at the Forge Gallery on the evening of Sunday 12 June, 6 pm, free.