SHE has coped with a few crises over the years, including an outcry over ‘invading’ monks and a full-blown rebellion against overbearing local government decrees.
But it has all been in a day’s work for Margaret Bentall who, at 72, is about to hang up her boots after 31 years as clerk to Trotton with Chithurst Parish Council.
Margaret also notched up 25 years as clerk to Rogate Parish Council from 1975, which she gave up in 2000, and was also assistant clerk at Midhurst Town Council for ten years.
“I’ve enjoyed it all very much,” she said, “and generally it’s been a happy time.
“But there is one very big reason why I am finally giving up at Trotton and that is I cannot get broadband at my home and I feel I am not able to keep in touch.
“The job has got bigger and bigger over the years and I just can’t do it without broadband.
“I also feel after 31 years, it’s time to make way for some fresh blood.”
Looking back over the years, she has had an interesting three decades at Trotton with Chithurst.
She took over when Shirley Budd retired in 1983 and she was approached by the then chairman, Alistair Robertson.
“I had been working for the highways department at West Sussex County Council so that helped me understand the job,” she said.
One of her first tasks was to help the parish in its battle with the county council for traffic lights on Trotton bridge.
“The battle was convincing the county council we needed the lights,” she said.
“Everyone in the parish wanted them because there had been so many accidents on the historic bridge and it kept being damaged.”
There was elation in Trotton when villagers finally won their battle and the lights were installed, and they remain there today.
Another major battle was persuading Chichester District Council to support the parish council’s fight for low-cost housing.
“We wanted the young people in the parish to be able to stay and there was nowhere for them at all, they were completely priced out.
“We had found a piece of land and just had to keep pushing the planning people to help us find a developer.”
It was another battle Trotton won when low-cost housing association homes were built for rent in Mill Lane.
There were two very successful parish council-organised Queen’s silver and diamond jubilee celebrations in the parish and a storm when Chithurst House was sold to the Buddhist monks some 25 years ago.
“We had to hold a public meeting because some parishioners were so against their plans for use of the house. They thought there would be so much noise and traffic and nuisance
“Then we had to stop the meeting because people got so out of hand.
“In the end, of course, the monks came to Chithurst and have been no problem at all.”
But Margaret reckons the highlight of her Trotton career was finding herself without a council.
“A new declaration of interests form came in which they all had to sign and all except one refused.
“I thought it was extremely amusing because I landed up with no council. There was even a tribunal .
“It all happened before an election and in the end, new councillors were elected who did sign the declarations.”
Margaret was born in Easebourne and lived with her farming parents and two brothers at Souters Farm.
She went to Conifers School in Easebourne and then on to St Michael’s and All Angels at Duncton, now Burton Park.
After leaving school at 17, she had a year at St Margaret’s Convent in Midhurst where Sister Ursula taught the secretarial course.
But her career took a dramatic turn when she got a job with instrumental precision engineers George and Henry Hobbs at Haslemere.
“They were designers and I made things, all under an inch long, for distilling machinery. I also made parts of microscopes.
But when the brothers died, the firm closed and Margaret went to work at Midhurst Granaries and later at the county council.
She met her husband Chris at a darts match in the Holly Tree pub at Easebourne and they were married at St Mary’s, Chithurst on April 22, 1974.
They had two children, Philip and Jane.
Sadly Chris died after a short illness in November 2006. Margaret now has three grand-children, Isla, six, Andrew, three, and Alexander, who is also six.
The young Chris and Margaret started off in half Copyhall Cottage at the beginning of their married life.
There was no water, no electricity and soil floors, but they fell in love with the place and it became their haven. They later bought the other half and turned it into one home
Although they had a young family and both worked, Margaret’s farming roots – she was the first woman chairman of West Sussex Young Farmers – stirred again.
“When autumn came we were going to sell our sheep, but a Falkland Islander who lived down the road sheared them for us and we built up to a flock of 60 ewes.
“Chris learnt to shear them himself and he did it every year.”
Her horse Bella, now 20, arrived when the children learnt to ride and Margaret still rides out on her today.
Margaret hit the headlines and found herself on television when one particularly cold winter, her mother-in-law knitted brightly-coloured jackets for all the lambs. She was featured again when an elderly ewe had four lambs which she hand-reared.