Farming and Horticulture in Binsted
Farming and Horticulture in Binsted today
The principal farm business in Binsted is Church Farm owned by the Wishart family since 1922. Since 1936 the Wisharts have also owned Marsh Farm and subsequently they also bought some of the Read/Pethers family's land so that now the great majority of farmland in Binsted belongs to Church Farm, other than individual smallholdings. In the 1970s there was still a substantial dairy enterprise but apart from the grazing marshes the land is now primarily arable, with some fodder crop grazing by sheep, and is farmed in collaboration with the Norfolk Estate.
The other aspect of Church Farm's landholding is woodland. This is managed for conservation by minimal intervention, with very limited harvesting. There are some diversified enterprises in the woodland such as bushcraft sessions or crossbow archery.
Angie and Matt Teear keep sheep in various locations including at the Strawberry Fair fields.
There is also a substantial agricultural contracting business run by David Chandler.
The Brownings at Mill Ball have a model traditional smallholding with orchard fruits, sheep and chickens, honey and ducks.
Horticulture is represented by the Tristrams' Binsted Nursery, established in 1978 and now a major supplier of herbs and other container grown plants to garden centres throughout the UK. Its original, Binsted Lane site produces the young plants to pot on at its other locations in Barnham, and some finished plants. Binsted Nursery and its sister company Walberton Nursery, both in the Farplants Group, provide between them about a hundred workplaces. Each year they provide the site for the Strawberry Fair, and donate plants which the Strawberry Fair sells to generate much of the money it raises for its charities.
Earlier History of Farming in Binsted - mainly based on British History Online
The Anglo-Saxon name 'Binsted' means a place where beans were grown. (Another interpretation, by Niels Nielsen who lived many years at Mill Ball, was from old Danish, 'place of boats' - which Binsted may have been before the Arun was embanked and when sea levels were higher - but generally the beans seem to be the favoured explanation.)
Mediaeval commoners, tenants and later estates
In the 14th century produce included corn, wool and lambs, cider, flax and hemp, piglets and calves, milk, honey and eggs. Medieval tenants were generally about 10-15 in number and their' holdings were not large - perhaps 10 to 30 acres. Open-field strip farming was practised in the central fields east of the church. The land had been inclosed possibly by the early 17th century but in 1840 all six proprietors of arable land in Binsted still had at least one piece there.
The woodland and pasture commons of the parish were divided and inclosed gradually from the late 16th century, and the process may not have been completed until c. 1800. In 1581 the Crown leased 9 a. of wood and underwood, described as part of Binsted and Tortington common, to be enclosed and fenced for coppicing; the woodland seems to have been on the south side of Scotland Lane against the boundary with Tortington. A common called Binsted Ball, on the east side of the parish, was mentioned in 1601, but by 1614 at least part of it was in several ownership; later it became the western part of the parkland of Binsted House. Woodland occupying 70 a. immediately north of Binsted Ball was common in 1600 and common was claimed there in 1789, but by c. 1815 it was part of the Binsted House estate. West of that woodland there was a tract of common called Binsted heath in 1647, later belonging to Marsh farm and described in part in 1840 as Furze field. Common of pasture was mentioned in 1663 on Binsted's lower common, adjacent to the cottage later called Goose Green, the name of which itself suggests a common.
The marshland in the south end of the parish had been drained by 1572, when Binsted men were ordered to make their portion of the common ditch along the south side of the parish, and in 1573 the meadow land of various tenants was separated by ditches. In 1635, however, there was still common meadow belonging to the parish, perhaps that added to the Church farm estate and called Town mead in 1840.
Copyholders' shares in the meadow, which lay along the three sides of the southern half of the parish, were never large: in 1601 one with 3 crofts and 9 a. of arable had only 1 rood of meadow. Although the smaller estates were mostly bought out, and Marsh farm included the whole south-west corner of the parish as several meadow in 1606, some small holdings of meadow remained in 1838.
After 1600 the three large estates, Binsted House, Church Farm and Marsh Farm, absorbed most of the smaller ones.
Marsh Farm crops in the 18th and 19th centuries
One of the three was based on Marsh farm, 140 a. in 1606, including 25 a. of meadow and 57 a. of pasture, and 228 a. in 1840. It was said to have kept great flocks of sheep before 1706, when it had a flock of only 40. It also had then a dairy herd of 4 cows, and pigs, geese, ducks, and chickens; it grew wheat and barley in almost equal parts of 51 a. and pease on a further 10 a. In 1797 the farm also produced hops, potatoes, turnips, fruit, pigeons' eggs, honey, and garden herbs. The lessee in 1785 was required to fallow the arable in alternate years or sow it with peas and vetches.
Other farms and their crops and animals in the 18th - 20th centuries
Smaller farms grew wheat, barley, peas, and oats in the 17th century. Clover was grown by 1730 and turnips by 1749. The main crops on Binsted's arable in 1840 were wheat, barley, and turnips, as in 1875. In 1801 the parish had in all 21 draft horses with 8 wagons and 12 carts, 297 sheep with 34 lambs, 43 cattle including 4 fatting oxen, and 107 pigs. In 1840 Henry Upton, the owner of Marsh farm with 173 a. of arable, also farmed the agricultural land of the Binsted House estate, with a further 73 a. of arable. Church farm, the core of the third main estate, had 135 a. of arable, 38 a. of meadow, and 11 a. of pasture in 1840. About 1880 both Church farm and Marsh farm had considerable acreages of root crops.
A mill may once have stood in or near a close called in 1838 Mill Ball, at the head of the valley west of Binsted House. The most likely site for a 'ball' on which a mill would have stood, in what was known as Mill Ball Field, may have been the barn in which the annual Strawberry Fair takes place (Mill Ball field included both the Strawberry Fair fields and the Mill Ball smallholding.)
During the agricultural unrest of 1830 some ricks in Binsted were burnt, and a barn on this possible former windmill site was destroyed by 'Captain Swing' arsonists protesting against the hardships caused by labour-saving threshing machines, in 1831. The present flint buildings used at the Strawberry Fair are replacements built in 1834.
Labour had to be imported from adjacent parishes in 1867. In the later 19th century hedges were removed to create larger fields: the largest in 1838 was 14 a., whereas the big field east of Church Farm was 53 a. in 1903. In 1879 half of Church farm's 94 a. of arable grew turnips and swedes, and in 1889 Marsh farm and the Binsted House land grew 38 a. of turnips and 37 a. of seeds. Wheat, oats, turnips, and tares were the only crops reported in 1909. In 1875 there were 492 sheep and lambs, but none in 1909, when the stock of cattle, at 92, had almost doubled since 1875. In the 1870s a dairyman occupied Meadow Lodge. In 1938 there were a fruit grower and dairy and poultry farms.
In 1922 Church farm and Marsh farm, together 710 a. forming two thirds of the parish, both belonged to the Avisford House estate.
Both the old demesne woods and the former commons that had been taken into the Marsh farm and Binsted House estates were coppiced in the 17th and 18th centuries. Coppices occupied 349 a. of the 378 a. of woodland in the north in 1840, when there were also 13 a. of young plantations. The woodland acreage was virtually unchanged in 1875-6.
The name Sawpit field recorded in 1838 suggests exploitation of the woodland. In 1861 two woodmen lived in the parish, and in 1870 a grocer also dealt in timber. A wheelwright in the parish took an apprentice in 1750, and another worked 1861-81 at Marsh farm. The woodland and farm economies will always have been closely interrelated. A hurdle maker was recorded in 1915. Before that, a tanner was recorded in 1536, a carpenter in 1559, and a sawyer in 1574.