Miss Lamb and her pupils
As mentioned in the Historical Overview, Miss Lamb was the headmistress of the School from 1941 until its closure in 1968. She therefore played a prominent part in the history of this village. She was also secretary of the Village Hall committee from 1956 until 1986, and was very involved with the Selmeston Players. She is fondly remembered.
In 1991, Miss Lamb recorded her thoughts of her time in the village:
When I came to the school there were about seventy children attending, including a whole ‘gang’ of evacuees (although by the end of 1941 most had returned to London, except two who were staying with Miss Wheatley in the village). The age range was between infants and 14 years (reducing down to 11 and 12). It was a happy school and I prided myself on the fact that all children left the school able to read and write, and know their tables, but not much science was taught as we didn’t have Bunsen burners. During the war we had to make do with what we had. We only had a handful of exercise books which the children filled out in pencil, and when they were full they rubbed out the entries and started again. It was such a joy after the war to receive as many exercise books as one wanted. In 1899 the school was given some common land at the rear (stretching up to the war memorial) which was used as the playground, divided in two for boys and girls each side (the boys were always fighting), with toilets at the back, which often got flooded.
The girls often played netball. I remember the Marchant girls especially, and at one time we played another school in Lewes (calling ourselves ‘The Little Ones’). The boys played hockey, and were rough. I remember one boy having seven stitches under his eye. Often the boys would skip over the road to the Old Forge, next to the Barley Mow. The children were sat at double desks, with tip-up seats at first, but these were later replaced with better desks. The children had to bring their own lunch during the war, but by 1948 a new Act was passed, stating schools had to provide hot meals. The end classroom (by the main road) was made into a canteen, using oil stoves with burners, and we had several different cooks (Miss Pimm, Mrs Ford (the policeman’s wife) and Miss Melham). A usual meal was stew and potatoes, with jam tart and custard. Each May a girl was chosen to be the May Queen, and she would have garlands, and wear a crown entirely of flowers. Dancing and plays would take place in the playground with the mothers watching. As we were a church school we would attend church on Good Friday, Ash Wednesday and Christmas, marching down the village, playing recorders.
Dick Wakeham recalled in 1991:
When I went to Selmeston school there were about seventy of us – all ages up to 14, when we left to start work, as gardeners or carpenters or working on the farm. There were three classrooms. Miss Sharp was the head teacher, with Miss Dinness and Miss Protheroe for the infants. We had school uniform to wear, the boys had school caps with the school badge on (which they had to ‘doff’ in the presence of ladies). We all had to salute the head teacher.
Another Selmeston resident, Dick Ticehurst (featured in the home guard photo), also recalled in 1991:
I went to Selmeston School in 1914,when about 120 children attended (every house in the village then had between three and five children). Mr Veal was the headmaster, with his wife as one of the teachers, along with a Miss Riddell. (I remember Miss Lamb being a teacher in 1941). It was very strict and you had to speak properly to the teachers otherwise you would get a clout, there was no talking in class. You had to salute the headmaster when you saw him, and Miss Sharp also wanted you to do that. One day the three of us didn’t salute her in the playground, and she blew her whistle to go inside. I started to laugh at that and as a result I got six ‘cuts’ of the stick on my arms (which remained black and blue for a week).
George Hufflett was at one time the landlord of The Ram in Firle, and fought in Burma during World War II. He grew up in Selmeston, and recounted his early life for a book entitled Drop Zone Burma by Roger Annett in 2008. See also the Cricket link, where George and his father Herbert are mentioned.
I was one year old when we moved to the white clapboard two-storeyed Forge Cottage in Selmeston, wedged between the Barley Mow pub and the seventeenth-century brick-built forge. I wasn’t very big but my father let me have a go at pumping the bellows and helping my big brothers strap red-hot metal tyres on to the cartwheels. They sent me to the parish school in Selmeston, over the Polegate Road – there wasn’t much traffic then, but you had to plough your way through the sheep! There were some fifty pupils – infants, juniors, and seniors up to the age of 14, under the care of three teachers, including the headmistress (Miss Sharp), who lived alongside the schoolhouse. We went out to play on the cricket field, and for books we filed down to the Reading Room. On Saturdays I earned two shillings (10p) digging in the local sandpits. I wasn’t really old enough but I made sure I got to drive the sandpit lorry – that came in useful later on. I was 16 when war was declared, me and me mates then started shovelling sand into bags for bomb defences.
Clarrissa Dickson Wright (seen here in the sidecar) was a former barrister and one of the chefs featured in the BBC TV programme Two Fat Ladies (with thanks to the BBC for use of the photograph) . She recalls in her memoirs (Spilling the Beans 2007 ) going to school in Sussex and becoming a friend of Christine Coleman (now a poet and author) and living with the Coleman family in Selmeston during the 1970s. Among other things, she relates her contact with Miss Lamb:
I had been going to rent Johhny Coleman’s house as he and his wife were going to India, but in the event it didn’t happen and in the late seventies I moved into the small cottage at Little Bells, which had been a chicken house in my youth. It had two bedrooms and a sitting room cum dining room, a kitchen and bathroom and it looked out on to the Ouse Valley with the sheep grazing almost to the bedroom window. I spent my time commuting to London for cases or if I was lucky being briefed in the Lewes or Brighton courts. Johhny’s father Sir Walter was a benefactor and patron of The Yew Tree (pub) and his arrival was always heralded: the pub door would open and through it would burst a spray of terriers, snarling and scuffling, followed by Walter. I spent many happy hours discussing food with Walter, who was an enthusiastic cook and gourmet. I decided to organise a rugby match between Gray’s Inn and a team I would call the Dickson Rioters. With Walter’s help we erected rugby posts on the grass field next to the cricket pitch and I booked Selmeston village hall and arranged for someone to roast a pig. It was a splendid event, Gray’s Inn trouncing my team as I would have hoped, but not too overwhelmingly. We drank the pub dry of beer and moved on to the party. The pig was delicious and Miss Lamb, the former village school teacher, who was stern and formidable and held the keys to the hall, was so entranced at being asked to dance by so many nice polite young men that she let us stay well past the midnight deadline. Sixteen people, among them the local copper, travelled down the village in or on my Bristol motor car, and although arrangements had been made for local beds, I awoke the next morning to find fourteen people sleeping in or around my cottage, including the fly half who was sleeping like a knight on a tomb on top of the narrow upright piano. I set to cooking breakfast for a rather fragile crew.
In 1991, Dick Ticehurst recollected living in the village:
I was born in 1909 and we lived in Manor Cottages. My father was a groom at Sherrington Manor, looking after ‘the hunters’ (during those days the hunt set off from there). Every Monday a man from the International Stores in Lewes would cycle out to the village to take orders from each household for just about anything (groceries, clothes,shoes etc.). These would then be delivered on the Thursday by horse and cart. Mrs Potter at Fairland would also sell small items like sweets, cigarettes and some groceries. The baker came every day from Wilmington and we had two butchers that called, one from Alfriston and one from Ripe. Sherrington Manor had a motor car, and one or two people had bicycles, but mostly you had to use a horse and cart to get anywhere. There was a coach and horses service between Brighton and Eastbourne, they would change the horses at Lewes and at the Barley Mow. The village lane was very rough and Mr Groveman used to cut flints to fill up the holes in the road, which were then ‘rolled in’ by the carts using the lane – there was no steam roller to do this. We did see the odd steam-driven lorry driving along the main road. As children we used to run up and down the village, rolling hoops and playing in the fields, being careful to shut the gates of fields containing cattle. We often took the cattle down the lane at milking time. When we reached the age of 12 we were allowed to help with the harvesting of corn at Church Farm. We were given a small ‘swap’ (sickle) to do this with. Working from 9 am to 9 pm, we cut the corn and then stacked it in the five fields. For a week’s work we were given two shillings (now 10p). Once a year we would have a Sunday School outing to the Cuckmere Valley or Abbots Wood.
Dick Ticehurst mentions Sherrington Manor and the family there (Chandless) having a motor car. They did in fact have three Rolls Royces, a Daimler and a ‘foreign one with a difficult name to pronounce’ (a De Lage). Cecil Chandless Snr was obviously a colourful character in the village. Ron Levett, a resident of Alfriston, who after the Second World War set up his own electrical business, was friendly with the family and would often be called out to Sherrington Manor. In 2001, he recalled:
Mr Cecil Chandless Snr. and his Belgian-born wife lived at the Manor with their three children, Marise, the eldest, Cecil Jnr., and Richard, along with two Austrian maids, Franciska and Theresa. The main switchboard was located in the large ironing room adjacent to the kitchen, which had a large scrubbed table and a Esse cooker (similar to an Aga but bigger). Cecil Snr. was an eccentric in the old English style: he loved firearms, and wore a six-gun in his belt. He drove around the estate in a WWII Bren Gun carrier, and at one time used gun cotton explosive to blow up a row of trees.
Dick Wakeham recalled in 1991 working on the land around Selmeston, helping his father to count sheep:
I had to help my father in the fields counting sheep in the old Sussex way. He would give me a stick and after he counted twenty sheep (by two at a time), I would then have to ‘score’ the stick with a notch. The number of ‘scores’ on the stick would then be known as the ‘tally’ .
The Sussex way of counting sheep: (counted two at a time)
one-erum (2) two-erum (4) cock-erum (6) cuth-erum (8) sheth-erum (10) sath-erum (12) wineberry (14) wagtail (16)
tarry-diddle (18) dem (20)
Southdown sheep were originally bred by John Ellman of Glynde some 200 years ago.
Home at Last
Left to right, front row 1 Jack Boys 2 Jim Man 3 Denning 4 Margaret Pike 5 Betty Johnson 6 Alice Ticehurst 7 Kath Moore 8 Basil Winter 9 Reg Carpenter
second row 1 Grayling 2 Lester Spiller 3 Herbert Few 4 Brian Stepney 5 Ken Stevens 6 Jessie Stepney 8 Sid Mockett 9 John Tutt 10 Arthur Edmans
third row 1 Fred Baker 2 George Huflet 3 Reg Sutton 4 Filtness 5 Tom Chilvers 6 Phil Boys 7 Cyril Winter 8 John Moore
fourth row 2 Eddie Boys 4 Ted Sutton 5 Nobby Clark
** Help needed please to identify un-named persons
British Sea Power washes up in Selmeston
Who would have thought that a six piece music band whose members come from Cumbria, Yorkshire, Shropshire and Ealing would find themselves using a remote farmhouse in Selmeston as their base for recording one of their best selling albums. This is exactly what happened with the group known as British Sea Power (based in Brighton). Formed in the year 2000, they were acclaimed ‘live band of the year’ in 2004, backing other now famous groups such as The Killers, Pulp, and The Flaming Lips to name just a few. As well as the big rock festivals, they have played at such diverse places as The Great Wall of China, the Natural History Museum, the Chelsea Flower Show and Berwick Village Hall! Anyone wishing to find further information on ‘our village rock band’ should visit their website www.britishseapower.co.uk