Idyllic pictures bring past into focus for Midhurst area villages

Iping Rectory, now a private house
Iping Rectory, now a private house

You can’t beat a bit of nostalgia when you get to a certain age.

Looking back over how things used to be is somehow rather comforting even though life may not have been very comfortable in the material sense.

Mr Newman's Shop. 1942-1945

Mr Newman's Shop. 1942-1945

The production in the autumn of 2010 of the book, Midhurst in Living Memory, has spawned another in similar vein.

This time, it is neighbouring Stedham and Iping in the spotlight as people who know them well – many having lived there all their lives – draw on their memories of the past 60 or 70 years.

Ironically, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee fete held at Stedham on June 4, where the book, Stedham and Iping Remembered, was launched, was in itself evidence of how life in the two villages has changed over the past 60 years. Fetes and fairs, like many other examples of rural activities, have all but disappeared.

Sanchia Elsdon, who lived in Stedham for 30 years, is the common factor between the Midhurst book and the latest publication.

She edited Midhurst in Living Memory and has produced the new book with villagers Christine Dicks and Colin Dunne, the latter two spending 18 months interviewing and recording to build a picture of the two villages as they once were.

Collection

A remarkable collection of photographs of how they looked in the past, particularly Stedham, helps to illustrate that picture.

As Mrs Elsdon says in her foreword: “It is incredible how conditions have changed, and with the change in conditions has come a change in attitudes and behaviour.

“Where previously the farms, shops and domestic service provided most of the work, now practically no-one works in Stedham or Iping.”

Commuting elsewhere to work or to shop has been enabled by the ‘almost universal ownership of a car which, in itself, has contributed enormously to the changes in the way of life’.

Contributors to the book can remember how as children, in the school holidays, they helped get in the harvest on the numerous farms, and deliver the milk.

They remember the sporting events, the fetes, and the fairs which were held on the common until the lord and lady of the manor of Stedham, John and Jessie Scrimgeour, gave them a sports field. Other benefits the Scrimgeours provided included public baths and a village library boasting 150 books. When they died and the estate was sold, their daughter enabled their tenants to buy their homes at less than market rates.

The book is written in the form of an illustrated walk through the villages as they were six or seven decades ago. There is also a section on some notable residents.

-Stedham and Iping Remembered, a copy of which has been lodged with the British Library, is available at £6.50 from Sanchia Elsdon on 01730 814050, Christine Dicks on 812038 or Vanessa Blaber on 817547.