Posts Tagged ‘Furlongs’

Dick Freeman

November 8, 2015

A part of my heart will always be at Furlongs Farm, on the South owns near Lewes. Childhood holidays there were a truly formative experience for me. It is still an area where I feel utterly at one with the world.

Back in 1969 I was introducing my girlfriend (now wife) to the delights of the place and had driven her down there at lambing time. We went to the farm and there was Dick Freeman, the tenant farmer, tending his charges just at the back of the cottage.

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Dick was a true countryman. On the face of it he led a rough sort of life, occupying one room of this lonely cottage and sometimes heading off to a sister’s house a mile or so away. The cottage had limited amenities. Water was available but electricity and sewerage were not. I’m afraid I wouldn’t know the extent of Dick’s travels. Many a blog these days seems to imply you are incomplete if you don’t travel. Dick proved otherwise. Here was a wise and knowledgeable man on all sorts of issues. This was not just local knowledge. It truly was worldwide. Looking at the scruffy old man in the photo, you’d be amazed to know how many friends Dick had, but if you joined him, sitting on a log around his roaring fire, you’d have seen his wall of postcards which people he knew sent him. Amongst his friends were top rated artists for the bulk of his cottage was let out to such people. They kept in touch afterwards. My dad may not have been in that league, but from the time we got a car and sometimes went elsewhere for a few days, Dick always got a card from him.

I really couldn’t tell you where Dick picked up information, but I can tell you he was woefully lacking in knowledge of local bird life. Small birds in hedgerows had a generic name. Dick called them all linnets.

Time moves on. Dick and his wider family are no more. The cottage is let to I know not who and there is not the same incentive to visit. I find it hard to be a stranger in a place I once saw, almost, as home. However, the nearby field, where we camped is in a right to roam area and that retains all its old magic for me.

Peggy Angus

October 25, 2014

Designer, Teacher, Painter

My Life in Tickets

Our September holiday in Sussex, which included my sister’s funeral was certainly a roller coaster ride as far as emotions were concerned. Visiting an art exhibition in Eastbourne combined all the highs and lows. For me, this exhibition which was about an artist called Peggy Angus was a fantastic, enjoyable and informative occasion. But one thing was wrong. I had planned to go with my sister who would also have found it a fantastic occasion.

You see, we knew Peggy Angus from childhood days.

So let’s begin with the ticket, which, of course has been saved and added to the collection.

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The exhibition was at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery and it took us through Peggy’s rather Bohemian life which actually began in a prosperous family based in South America and involved with railway construction – or at least, the funding of it. Peggy had the sort of struggle that many women had to be truly recognised although her design work could be seen in many public buildings. She became recognised as a tile designer and, as an example, Peggy Angus tiles were used in the new Gatwick Airport when it opened back in the 1950s.

But to support herself Peggy needed a steady income and so had a job as a teacher where, by all accounts she was truly inspirational.

Her get away from the hurly burly life in North London was a remote cottage nestled in the South Downs. It was devoid of much in the way of modern conveniences like water, electricity and flush toilets, but Peggy first rented it in the 1930s and it stayed as one of the places where she lived into the 1980s. The cottage was at Furlongs Farm and regular readers may realise that this was where I spent childhood holidays. So Peggy Angus and her friends were our neighbours each summer. That’s how we got to know her.

Now as a child I had no idea that she was a highly regarded artist. We called her by her married name of Mrs Richards (Mr Richards was never in evidence – not surprising as I now know for the marriage had ended long before). She was a kindly, motherly figure as far as I was concerned – cheerful and contented with what seemed to me like a primitive life style – not so different from ours whilst we camped nearby. I had no idea how she made a living. I was a kid and like youngster do, I just accepted her as I saw her and didn’t have any concept of her wider world.

Photos weren’t allowed at the art gallery, except of their wall writing explanations so here’s the one about Peggy and Furlongs.

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I bought James Russell’s lovely book about her at the Towner.

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In many ways it paints a very different Peggy from the one I knew. I knew nothing of her friendship with North London gypsies when she was a child. I knew nothing of world travels. I knew nothing of great works.  Perhaps I should just say,’ I knew nothing!’

This was the happy, friendly lady I knew.

image006 She’s sitting alongside Dick Freeman the farmer and they seem to be enjoying a good joke.

Furlongs and the campsite

October 19, 2014

It was a couple of days after the funeral of my sister that we (my wife and I) visited Furlongs. It was an emotional visit for me because Furlongs was where we camped each year from 1954 for at least 15 years. A little ledge on the South Downs was, and remains, a very important place for me. I know I spent about 6 months of my life there, over those years. They were six summer months and six months which did a huge amount to form who I am. In fact it did much to form who we were as a family of which I am now the sole survivor. Actually, there are a couple of other family members who ‘camped’. One is my wife although she was a mere girlfriend back then. The other is my dad’s second wife. I won’t say that camp had quite such an impact on them but at least I can still share experiences with them.

And there are other survivors too. There’s a past boyfriend of my sister who spent some time with us one year and there are day visitors some of whom remain good friends of mine.

Anyway, this post is about my rather emotional return to the camp site we loved just those couple of days after that funeral.

We found a spot from where we could look down on ‘our’ ledge.

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Sheep used to graze the field by day and that meant it was a smoother shorter grass sward generally with less shrubbery on the hillside beyond.

I, of course, made my way to the ledge.

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And that’s me with our ‘classic’ view of Mount Caburn across the valley made by Glynde Reach. That view can just take me to a state of happiness as enjoyed by me as a child up to 60 years ago. I can point out changes but essentially, it looks very much the same.

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I think my sister must have taken this 1954 picture. The four people I see in it are me, my mum, my dad and my brother.

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There are no tents, of course, in 2014.

A zoom in on a passing train (a mile away in Glynde) reveals differences.

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The most notable one would be the streetlamps along the main road. Back in the 50s and 60s it was a dark world at night. There was a spot where cars (occasional of course) came over Ranscombe Hill on the road where the headlights pointed straight at us at camp. For an instant it was possible to read a book by that light from a couple of miles away.

By the way, my dad attempted a photo of a train back in 1954.

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Interestingly, 60 years on I can tell you this was a train going from London to Hastings without going in to Eastbourne. The make up of the carriages makes it clear to me.

This, then, was our ledge, where we camped each year and where I spent 6 months of my life.

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I was pleased to find a September flowering scabious.

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Another view of our camp ledge, this time from one of the arable fields.

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Now Eric Ravilious produced a picture (Downs in Winter) from a similar spot which shows our ledge

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I decided I’d match his 1934 picture with a 2014 Cambridge roller which was actually elsewhere in the same field. So the picture below is edited and has the roller added.

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Well, the rollers have certainly got bigger in 80 years!

 

Eric Ravilious – June

June 30, 2014

Seventh Heaven

Yes, I’m in seventh heaven with the June image on my Ravilious calendar. The picture is called ‘Tea at Furlongs’. It was painted in 1939 – the summer before the war and 15 years before I came to know Furlongs, Here’s the calendar picture.

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In 1939 and in the 50s and 60s when I knew Furlongs it was a lady called Mrs Richards who rented the bulk of the Shepherd’s cottage. The Shepherd, Dick Freeman, retained one room for his own use and, in truth, that was the only part of the cottage I went in with any regularity. I saw and talked to Mrs Richards, who like Eric Ravilious was an artist, quite often. As an artist she was known as Peggy Angus. Eric was a friend of Peggy’s and often stayed at the cottage.

This picture just makes the memories flood back. It’s a wonderful image that seems to sum up the peace and tranquillity of life in that era. The truth was, perhaps that the Furlongs artistic community were a somewhat Bohemian bunch of people but Mrs Richards and others I met all seemed honest and decent enough.

Sadly, I never had a chance to meet Eric Ravilious for the great man was killed whilst working as a war artist. But what a legacy he left behind.

The Freeman Brothers

December 5, 2012

It may have become clear that I am keen on family history – but sometimes it isn’t my own. The Freeman brothers are a case in point.

They were Dick, Harry and George and they lived in Glynde in Sussex. They farmed. Harry and George had a dairy herd at Station Farm in Glynde. Dick was more of a shepherd at The Furlongs. Of course they all got together for tasks like harvest for they had quite an acreage of arable at Furlongs, on the slopes of the South Downs.

George was the only one of the three who married and he had a son, Julian. Dick and harry, nominally lived with their sister Margery, in Glynde.

Every year from 1954 onwards my family camped at The Furlongs. Altogether I spent close on 6 months living in this remote spot. The Freeman brothers were part of our life.

A few years ago some memorial cards were on sale on Ebay. I bought them.

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These had a connection with Glynde. Surely, I thought, Solomon must have been related to our Freeman brothers.

So a little research was done and Solomon was, indeed, the Grandfather of Dick, Harry and George. The research came up with surprises for me. Dick – I knew him best was the most Sussex person I ever knew. Clearly, I thought, generations of Freemans had lived in Sussex before him. But this was not so. Solomon came from Hertfordshire and his wife was from Suffolk. Dick’s dad, another George Freeman was born in Glynde but his wife, Dick’s mum was a Londoner. So Dick’s only Glynde born ancestor was his dad.

Doing the research enabled me to get the ages of the three Brothers. As a child I just regarded them as ancient. Dick was born in 1893. He was 61 when I first knew him so I am now, clearly into the ‘ancient’ class. Harry was born in 1900 and George came in 1901.

Let’s see some photos – mostly taken by my dad.

This is Harry doing the milking.

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I think that’s a fantastic photo. Well done Dad! It dates from 1955.

Dick and Harry at work with the sheep.

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That’s young Julian, George’s son, on the tractor just finishing  harvesting a field of oats.

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With the harvest in, Dick thatches a stack.

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Dick in the colour era – about 1968. He’s chopping mangolds for the lambing ewes.

A final picture shows Dick relaxing with a friend. This is not my photo and I’m not sure who took it. The friend is Mrs Richards who made The Furlongs her base every summer. She was a top commercial artist using her professional name of Peggy Angus.

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