Midhurst: the Place to Remember


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Hello to you

Update January 2018.


Book 1 has proofs printed: publication is near. To support that event this site is now being updated. 


Website Launch in July 2017


I'm celebrating. Here we are. After much consideration a site to support the needs of my WW2 Midhurst Memoirs project, and other writers in the Midhurst District,  has become clear. It is a simple website to begin with.

I have no intention of it being a depository for historical materials; that is for other existing sites, like Gravel Roots, and published books to cover. This site will keep you up to date with progress and be a focal point into other endeavours that can help your own project writing  needs. It will publish news of project developments and give links for them - if you care to send them in! 

It is easily changed by me so do send in any comments, improvements and corrections that might just help the lot of the lonely long-distance writers of the District.

Welcome to Midhurst Memoirs

My background and Good Luck

I was born in London just before WW2 started and was evacuated to Midhurst in West Sussex. I lived for a while in Red Lion Street - on the right side of this lovely Philip Martin watercolour bought on a visit. 

Our family migrated to Adelaide, South Australia in 1951 where I have lived as 'base camp' ever since. I started work as an electrical apprentice. Wanting to know how and why the technical world ticks led me to into an academic career in engineering. 

After gaining the BE (hons) and ME at University of Adelaide, with my wife and baby daughter, I moved to Warwick University for a PhD research period. After a decade in NSW, as an academic in geophysics, I returned to Adelaide to be a Professor and Head of a School of Electronic Engineering. Three decades later I took early retirement. I had been awarded the higher Doctorate, DSc, by the University of Warwick for my research and publications. 

Over the years my interest was fired up by the oft asked question "What did my Dad do in WW2?"

Hence the renewed and deepened interest; first of my story in Midhurst; and then on to wanting to know what, where, and who were part of that story. I thought 80 pages would be all I could usefully write because there seemed to be little to find... but it blossomed into an expected 10 volume task!

I was so lucky to be sent to the Midhurst District for my formation years.

My writing roots

I have always been attracted to writing. It started in a uni student rag in 1964. My trade and technical hands-on background led to freelancing technical articles in the monthly magazine, Electronic Today International. They covered general science, and my career speciality of measurement and instrumentation. After a 35 year career in academic teaching and research I had published many text and research books and been a book series Editor for Wiley, in Chichester. I think this all prepared me to take on the Midhurst Memoirs project in 2013.

Working far away in Adelaide, Australia has not been a problem: the Internet, and its email, provide most of what is needed. If I lived locally I would still be using it just the same. I do, however. miss the coffees there or a beer in a local pub. Locals are so helpful to me when needed.  I made renewal visits in 2014 and 2015.

My style

Having been trained in academic reporting and also in popular technical styles I felt the need to now write in a more relaxed manner, somewhere between the two extremes.

In the WW2 Midhurst Memoirs my aim is to bring facts together by leading readers through my own little evacuation  story, using that to draw out the thrilling back stories of those around us in the Midhurst Rural District of the time. In the time sequential volumes I will lead you through time as your host.

About the Memoirs

Publishing Plan

These Memoirs are intended to be primarily a compilation of local history that can be updated as needed and searched for topics for decades to come. On-line sources are used where available. A large personal collection of relevant books has been collected that provide a research resource for information not available on-line.

The primary outlet will be an e-publication to suit that need. Print copies are being considered.

The various memoirs materials are being prepared in chronological order. The sequence of volumes is being compiled as 4 time periods.  Each volume is expected to contain around 80,000 words and 130 illustrations. 

The periods are: 

Period 1 Pre-war (Pre 1940)  

Period 2 Lowest Times (1940-1942) 

Period 3 Fight Back (1943- mid1944)   

Period 4 Peace Returns (mid 1944-1950)

Period 1 comprises 

Volume 1: Centuries of Formation; Myself and Midhurst.

Volume 2.  Formation of World War 2

Volume 3:  The District Responds

Vol 1 is ready to release in July 2017. Vols 2 and 3 are well advanced in their preparation with an envisioned release in early 2018. The others are scoped with content topics listed and much of the writing started.

The writing is being done in the software tool, Scrivener. 

Volume 1: in Period 1, (Pre 1940)

After a  short overview of my own heritage, in the first volume, we start off into the story of WW2 wartime in the Midhurst District. It makes little sense to delve into events of WW2 without looking back first; it was the times well before 1939 that formed the nature and characteristics of the Midhurst Rural District. How did the District come to be how it was when war broke out?

Volume 1, therefore, provides background on how the District grew to maturity as one of the many times acclaimed, loveliest, places to live within England. 

Of Interest

Assistance with Local History Research and Publication

The Midhurst Memoirs project has uncovered much material and located many researchers, writers and publishers in the District. Here they are listed. Their Websites are easily found on browsers.

Parish/Village Newsletters and Archives

United, Easebourne Parish magazine. Graffham Parish News, Graffham Parish news. Envoy, Midhurst and Woolbeding Parish news. Fernhurst News, Fernhurst magazine. Valley Diary, Lavant Valley, including Singleton and East and West Dean. Harting Parish Newsletter, The Hartings newsletter. The Rock, St Peter’s Parish, Petersfield newsletter.  Outlook, Lodsworth Village magazine. Parish Magazine, St. Mary’s Church, Pulborough. Parish Magazine, St Mary’s Church, Midhurst.

Local Book Publishers 

Middleton Press, Easebourne.

Local Printers

Blackdown, Fernhurst.

Kerry Type, Midhurst.

Societies with history content

Midhurst Society.

University of the Third Age, Midhurst.

Village history groups, as per above Newsletters.

Websites with History Information 

Violet Designs.

Gravel Roots.

Gilbert Hambone's Diary

Web-sites of villages above.

Other Writers

Recording history for others to use needs a good writing style, good planning of its contents, and plenty of other skills - just like fiction writing.  It also needs loads of experience to get published sensibly, with a small learning curve.  The Midhurst Writers’ Group is a local set of experts to consult, or even join.  Email contact@midhurstwritersgroup.org.uk and website http://www.midhurstwritersgroup.org.uk

Please email other entries that should be present.

Local History Writers: Recent Publications

People who have published on the local history since 2000 are listed here. Their books indicate interests:

Boxall, Ronald E. A Midhurst Lad, Red’n’Ritten, Steyning, 2003.  

Butterworth, Mary and White, Diana. Graffham - Memories Articles Photos. Thursday Club, Graffham, 2015.   

Cocking History Group, A Short History of Cocking, Cocking History Group, Cocking, 2005. 

Coates, Rachel; Pons, Tania and Snow, Diane. Singleton Scrapbook- 50th Anniversary, Singleton School, 2014.  

Dicks, Christine: Dunne, Colin: and Elsdon, Sanchia. Stedham & Ipping Remembered, published by authors, printed Kerry Type, Midhurst, 2012.  

Elsdon, Sanchia, Midhurst in Living Memory, Midhurst Society, Midhurst, 2010 .

Fernhurst Soc. Voices of Fernhurst, Fernhurst History Group, Fernhurst, 2006.  

Guyatt, Andrew R. West Lavington School, 1853 - 2008: A Brief History. Private publication for School, 2008. (CofE First school.)
Guyatt, Andrew R, Budgenor Lodge, Self published, Easebourne, 2012.

Howard, Bridget. Cowdray, Cowdray Heritage Trust, Midhurst, 2009. 

Litchfield, Tina. Easebourne Village Vignettes. Self published, Tina Litchfield, Easebourne, 2011. Neve, James. The History of Cowdray House & the Visit of Queen Elizabeth 1 to Cowdray, Scribd ebooks, 2011.   

Mitchell, Vic and Guyatt, Andrew. Cowdray and Easebourne, Middleton Press, 2007.  

Royal British Legion, They Also Served, Royal British Legion Midhurst, Midhurst, 2000. Skinner, Denys. ‘Sussex: People and History” Crowood Press, 2002.   


Howard, Bridget, H.G. Wells & Midhurst, Midhurst Society, leaflet, 2004.

Howard, Bridget and Elsdon, Sanchia. Knights Hospitaller at Midhurst, Midhurst Society, leaflet, 2005

Howard, Bridget, The Saxon Defences, Midhurst Society, leaflet, 2006.

Howard, Bridget, St Ann’s Hill,  Midhurst Society, leaflet, 2006.

Howard, Bridget, The Market Square, Midhurst Society, leaflet, 2006.

On the Way this year

Pons, Tania. The Secret Airfield,  to be advised  

Sydenham, Peter H. Memoirs of the WW2 Midhurst Rural District. to be advised.

Many other related publications, from past times, are introduced in Midhurst Memoirs volumes.

NEWS ITEMS: Things have been happening

1.  9 July 2017. This supporting website midhurstmemoirs.com has been set up in July 2017. Seeing it explains its purpose. Another brick supporting the project has been laid. 

2. 9 July 2017. You  must be wondering what has been happening in my den.

Good news. After 5 years of communicating, searching,  buying older books, collecting, sorting and writing up, Volume 1 is ready for publication. It's contents list is as follows:

1 Our Journeys Begin

  1.1 My coming into the World and start of Memoirs

2 Shaping up

  2.1 Family Heritage

3 Formation of the Midhurst Rural District

  3.1 History of the Midhurst Rural District and Midhurst town

4 Catholic Faith - Cowdray Period

  4.1 Cowdray Catholic period

5 Catholicism after Cowdray Period

  5.1 Catholics struggle on

6 Anglican Faith

  6.1 Reformation passes the ownership

7 Education

  7.1 Education 

  7.2 Keeping the Peace

8 Transport

  8.1 Rother Navigation

  8.2 Railways

  8.3 Road Transport

9 Poverty Existed

  9.1 The ‘Midhurst Lad’s’ Legacy

  9.2 Accounts and Diaries

  9.3 Petworth Scheme and the Easebourne House of Industry

10 Rev.Tatchell - The Man of Golden Deeds

  10.1 Support for the Townsfolk

11 Health and Welfare

  11.1 Health

  11.2 Epidemics

12 Development history

  12.1 Barriers to progress

13 My Pre-war London

  13.1 Life in Pre-war London

  13.2 Dad's war service begins

  13.3 Life was a lot different 

14 Events lead to Midhurst

  14.1 Place to Be. Testimonials

  14.2 Wot luk I git Mid erst

References: Vol 1

Watch this space for publication details very soon.. I hope!.

10 October 2017

3. Preparing your MS for a print book.

  I am still at it, just needed lots of time to get ready to print. I am jumping for joy! My trial pdf files are OK for digital printing. There was a lot to learn there. MS Word can be so confusing – until you realise the procedure to get a function - and then it is so simple.

  I always thought the layout of a book was standardised. Consulting my varied book collection, it became clear almost anything goes; and many writers do not know what is ‘best practice’.  So, for me, it is full steam ahead to now enter the pictures, one chapter per file to allow hi-res image files to be used. Then it is just a matter of saving the several pdf files and passing it all over to the printer.

  It is almost impossible now for local history topics to get a publisher who will to take the risk for you; self-publishing has become essential part of being a writer. From observations made of those who offer such services it is clear you can pay a hefty fee to get this part of a book done. The problem is that there are many features that can be left out that leave the book less than excellent. Having done it now I can see where those hired editors sometimes take easy paths at times!  Soon I will be given some proof copies; more reading to come!  

Your FAQs

As the site gets used I expect there will be questions you need answers for that can be usefully shared.

Please register

I can update you and receive your suggestions for improvements. Thank you for your interest.

Please email any corrections and new materials for later updates.

Peter Sydenham  July 2017