In a time when as a species we seem to be too often struggling to rediscover our connection with nature, we are able to shine a light on a notable green heritage in Henfield. To help inspire Sustainable Henfield 2030, take a look back at the life of one green of finger and of name - Charles Green.
Charles was born in Lewes, but by the time of the 1841 Census, he had arrived in Henfield and was lodging at Church Street in the house of Sara Ward as an Apprentice Gardener (aged 15). Each day, he would walk out of Church Street and proceed up the High Street towards Golden Square and work, where, for almost a century and a half, a great verdant mass of flora greeted visitors to Henfield - also unmistakable for those arriving across the Common or up Barrow Hill. This was the famed garden of the Italianate Barrow Hill, home to William Borrer Esq., one of the foremost botanists of the first half of the 19th century, a particular expert on salix and lichens (and recently featured in the museum's roving display case). Green had had the high good fortune to be taken on by Borrer. He no doubt collaborated closely with Borrer over the next two decades, continuing to put the main physical manifestation of Borrer's life's work into the soil. By 1851, he was lodging at Chatfields with Daniel Buckwell and Daniel's wife Mary and daughter Harriett. Daniel too was a gardener and most likely also employed at Barrow Hill.
By the time Borrer died in 1862 at the age of 80 - tragically from a cold caught attending the Christmas play of the school to which he had been a primary benefactor - Green had progressed from Apprentice Gardener to the Head Gardener of a nationally renowned botanical garden with over 6600 separate species of plants. He would likely have assisted with the subsequent transfer of many of the rarer plants to Kew Gardens (along with Borrer's Herbarium - his lifetime collection of books of dried specimens). By this point, his wife Lucy had also died, leaving him a widowed father looking after his four year old daughter Lucy with help from his mother in law (also Lucy!).
Green's photo was apparently taken at the garden of his next employer, William Wilson Saunders, who like Borrer was a fellow of the Linnean and Royal Societies and no doubt got the inside track on acquiring Green's talents after Borrer's death. Green subsequently elevated Saunders' garden at Hillfield, Reigate to national horticultural fame. It apparently contained over 20,000 species and was 'one of the most extensive botanical collections then seen in a private garden'. By this point Charles had remarried to Emily. Eleven years later Saunders suffered financial catastrophe and the collection was sadly dissolved in 'one of the greatest calamities that has befallen horticulture in our time.'
Having to move on, Green ran a commercial nursery at Reigate for a few years where he continued to popularise plants and pioneer new hybrids. For example, at the January 1876 meeting of the Royal Horticultural Society, the Floral Committee voted him a botanical commendation for his submission of the other-worldly looking lithops succulent Mesembryanthemum truncalatellum, with thanks also given for his other submissions, including the orchids Masdevallia melanopus and polysticta (plus variants thereof).
Before too many years had passed, Green was happily recommended to Sir George Macleay by Saunders, allowing him to move out of the commercial nursery business and back to his much preferred world of private gardens. His final garden at Macleay's Pendell Court was described as containing 'one of the richest private collections of plants in Europe'. Both it and Hillfield were famed for their large greenhouses, particularly focused on orchids and ferns. Descriptions of both gardens still survive.
Green died at Reigate at the age of 60 in 1886. The anonymous author of his obituary in The Garden magazine stated that 'Few men of the present day possessed such an extensive knowledge of plants...and his love for all kinds of plants, especially those out of the ordinary run, was only rivalled by his skill in growing them.' Green was 'Unassuming in his manner, ever ready to impart information about plants, he won respect from everyone. His death is a real loss to horticulture, for it may truly be said that he was the means of preserving many a plant that would have been cast aside in accordance with the vagaries of fashion, and of rescuing other fine plants from the oblivion into which they had fallen.' The obituary also notes that 'Borrer's Garden contained one of the finest collections of plants, particularly of hardy perennials, then existent'.
A touching anecdote was sent by letter to The Garden magazine in response to their previous publication of his obituary:
'Of all the plant growers that I have ever known, Green seemed to me to individualise and love his flowers with an affection I have never seen equalled. As a proof of this I may mention that he gave to me as the reason of relinquishing his nursery at Reigate...that he could not bear to part with the plants he had been tending for years. I remember his saying that to me in a quite broken-hearted sort of way, and as a nurseryman's business consists in passing things rapidly through his hands, Green soon had enough of it, and he was much more happy at Pendell Court. How successfully he managed that most splendid collection not a few can remember, but I have put together these few remarks to emphasise the fact that he loved his flowers as much as most men love their own children. H.E.'
Green is still discussed today, cropping up in a journal article in May 2019 (with some recent research having discovered his photo and a little of his elusive story). Botanists at the University of Johannesburg discussed his likely commemoration in 1880 by the rockery plant Aloe greenii. Due to confusion with the name having already been used five years prior, they supported the renaming of this plant to Aloe viridiana, which still credits Green, if now a little more loosely.
He is credited as having been the source of the name for several others, with more likely but not definitely attributed:
* Sempervivum greenii ('houseleek', a succulent perennial)
* Mormodes greenii (an orchid, flowered by Green's employer Wilson Saunders and named in Green's honour by J.D. Hooker in 1869)
* Zygostates greeniana (an orchid, now renamed Centroglossa greeniana)
* Streptocarpus ×Greenii (a Cape Primrose hybrid raised by Green ~1876 from S. saundersii - also named for Wilson Saunders - and S. rexii)
- Possible -
* Haworthia greenii (a succulent)
* Echeveria greenii (a succulent)
His story having been lost in shadow for all too long, Charles Green surely now deserves due credit for his two decades of work at Barrow Hill, the foundation of a career for a man whom the then Director of Kew Gardens, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, in 1869 called 'one of the most accomplished and skilful of English gardeners'.
Article by Robert S. Gordon, first published in the Henfield Parish Magazine 2019, amended Jan 2020.
Images of some of Green's plants
Anon, The Gardeners' Chronicle: a weekly illustrated journal of horticulture and allied subjects, Volume V, London, 1876, p. 118.
Anon, The Garden: an illustrated weekly journal of gardening in all its branches, Volume 30, London, 1886, p. 530
Gideon F. Smith, Estrela Figueiredo, Joachime Thiede, The elusive Mr Green and the eponymy of Aloe greenii Green ex Rob. and A. viridiana. Bradleya 37, 2019, pp. 41-45.
Driver, James, Charles Green(1826-86): Head Gardener to Sir George Macleay at Pendell Court, Surrey. Garden History, vol. 40, no. 2, 2012, pp. 199–213.
The photograph above is the only known of one of Henfield's most renowned figures, botanist William Borrer III (1781 - 1862). His stern expression belies what was said to have been a kind and gentle nature, although one astute in the management of his domestic affairs as local squire as in his study of plants.
William's father was a wealthy farmer and grain merchant from a family associated with the Brighton Union Bank, who supplied local army camps during the Napoleonic Wars. While a young man, Borrer assisted with these duties, taking every opportunity these travels around Sussex afforded to collect, record and begin to build his impressive expertise and passion for the natural world. Coming into the family wealth, he was able to dedicate himself in a high degree to his passion for flora and the natural world.
George Busk, like Borrer, a Fellow of the Royal and the Linnaean Societies, described Borrer's early inspiration:
'To this study he had, in fact, a bent from his earliest years, and his brother, John Borrer, Esq., of Portslade, who was about two years his junior, has stated that he did not remember the time when he was not enthusiastic in his love for flowers, and in his admiration of the vegetable world in general; so that there was no muddy ditch, no old wall, no stock of a tree, no rock or dell, no pool of water, or bay of the sea, that did not add to his delight, and open to him a wide field for investigation or enjoyment.'
Based at Barrow Hill in Henfield, his own noted garden held 6600 species on his death, as recorded by his head gardener Charles Green prior to the rarer plants' removal to Kew Gardens. The Gardener's Magazine stated in their description of 1838 that 'the number of species of rare herbaceous plants is so great, that we do not know any garden in the neighbourhood of London that can be compared with it.' Borrer travelled widely around Britain to collect samples and corroborate or disprove findings. One representative tale was reported in his obituary in the Journal of the Linnean Society: 'A Westmoreland "guide", in the Lake District, had represented the discovery...of a habitat for Cypripedium Calceolus; but Mr. Borrer, doubting the correctness of the statement, was at pains to visit the spot for three years successively, at the time of flowering of the plant, and was at length able to expose the attempted imposition.'
Corresponding with and providing an expert sounding board for both enthusiastic amateurs and the leading professional botanists and naturalists of his day, he was a leading figure in botany in this country, much credited by luminaries such as Charles Cardale Babington and both William and Joseph Hooker. His West Sussex Gazette obituary stated that 'there was not a work on British botany for the last 50 years that has not acknowledged his assistance', which literal or not, gives an idea of his activity. George Busk of the Linnean Society stated that 'Mr. Borrer's extensive and valuable collections of plants, as well as the ample stores of his exact knowledge, were always at the service of his friends and fellow-labourers.'
Sussex historian Mark Lower stated of Borrer, that 'I might from my own knowledge mention some to whom, when pecuniary means were wanting, this benevolent man and true friend of science made valuable presents of scientific apparatus'.
While Borrer was debatably Britain's foremost botanist for a period in the early 19th century, this was certainly the case for lichens and certain other specific genera such as willows (salix), roses and succulents. Regarding salix - or willow - on August the 12th, Borrer's friend and fellow botanist Charles Cardale Babington sent an illuminating reply to a younger correspondent who had apparently been defensive about referring to Borrer and another's opinion on willows:
'I am rather amused at your defending yourself for mentioning to me the opinions formed by Messrs. Borrer and Watson concerning the Willow. The opinion of the former upon any plants and more especially the Willows, has very great weight with me. I always feel doubtful of an opinion when I find that he has arrived at a different one concerning any species.'
Borrer married Elizabeth Hall, the daughter of one of the partners at the Brighton Union Bank, and they had 13 children - 3 sons and 5 daughters survived to adulthood. Their elegant new home of Barrow Hill house was built upon their marriage in 1810. In William's case, although he was appointed J.P. and active in village life as required of man of his position, he was of a personally modest and fairly retiring nature. The family were nonetheless well known benefactors to Henfield. Projects included those in support of the church and local schools, with funding for an extension to St. Peter's Church for the use of local children (removed during the drastic remodelling of the church later in the century) and a donation of £2000 made to the Vicar's stipend - so encouraging the resumption of full time services. Indeed, the new Vicar Charles Dunlop was to marry Borrer's daughter Fanny - they moved into the newly built Red Oaks, the land and house having been given by Borrer and named after the American Red Oaks he had planted there.
When it came to education, as well as providing funding, he constructed local schools on his own land (including the Infant School at Nep Town), and furthermore personally taught several boys at Barrow Hill, subsequently finding them appropriate employment. Perhaps it was symbolic that Borrer was to die from a cold caught while attending the annual prize giving at Christmas 1861, at 'the National School which was established principally by his exertions'. Such was the level of respect to 'William Borrer, Friend of Henfield', that all shops closed on the day of his funeral, with over 300 attendees, many from out of town. Borrer's probate came to just under £70,000, over £8 million today.
Perhaps the most striking commendation of Borrer's unrivalled breadth of knowledge comes from the famous Hooker botanical family. Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, twenty year director of Kew Gardens, described Borrer as 'long the Nestor of British botanists'. (Nestor, the wise king of Pylos in Homer's Odyssey). As a stark illustration, his father, Borrer's good friend and earlier twenty four year Kew Director, Sir William Jackson Hooker, received from Borrer for the year of 1823 alone 145 letters on botany. In 1855 Sir William dedicated the 7th edition of his and George Walker Arnott's seminal work, The British Flora, to Borrer with the following words:
'No one, we formerly remarked, has a critical knowledge of British plants superior, and scarcely any equal, to your own; and we desire thus again to testify how much, on many occasions, we have profited by the numerous notes and observations you have kindly communicated to us. That the uninterrupted friendship which has subsisted for so many years between us, may continue during the remainder of our lives, is the sincere wish of, Dear Sir, Your faithful and affectionate Fellow-labourers, The Authors.'
Article by R. S. Gordon, 2020
George Busk, The Journal of the Linnean Society: Zoology, Volume 6, London, Linnean Society, 1862, pp. lxxxix, lxxxviii.
Loudon J.C. (ed), The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural and Domestic Improvement etc., Volume IV , London, Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1838, pp. 501-503
Anon, The Journal of the Linnean Society: Zoology, Volume 6, London, Linnean Society, 1862, pp. lxxxix-xc.
Sir William Jackson Hooker, George A. Walker Arnott, The British Flora etc., London, Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855.
Mark Antony Lower, The Worthies of Sussex: Biographical Sketches of the Most Eminent Natives etc., by subscription, 1865.
Joseph Dalton Hooker, A Sketch of the Life and Labours of Sir William Jackson Hooker etc., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1903, p. lxxxi.
H.C.P. Smail, Watsonia, Volume 10, 1974, pp. 55-60.
A person who deserves greater recognition for her work in Henfield is Miss Margaret Knowles of Henfield Place. She gave a large tract of land, part of the garden of her house, to the village to be used as a recreational area for the children of the village. The gift was to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935, and was therefore known as the King’s Field (next to the sports centre). An oak tree was planted in memory of the gift, but was unfortunately felled during the building of Northcroft. The land originally bounded Upper Station Rd, but in the 1960s houses were built along the road and additional land was acquired at the side to compensate. There is now no recognition of her gift to the village.
Miss Knowles was born in London to a Charles Julius Kino on 22nd May 1877. Family tradition gives his birthplace as Russia, coming to England during the 1870s. He married Louisa Essinger in London in 1874. The 1881 census shows them living in Edinburgh Terrace, London. Margaret had 2 siblings, Hugh C, and Guy J. F. Guy was a civil engineer who started a motor vehicle company with Lucien Legros, the son of the artist Alphonse Legros. They produced the ‘Iris’ car, which in early days at least was described as ‘cumbersome and slow’ with a slow revving engine and was nicknamed the ‘Old Buggerinas’.
Charles Kino is recorded as a tailor and woollen Warehouseman. By 1891 the family name changes to Knowles. It would seem that Charles also indulged in property development in London and built 7 blocks of apartments on Prince of Wales Drive, possibly with Lord Battersea.
He began collecting artwork and became friendly with 2 artists: Whistler and Rodin, Guy as a child would play with clay in Rodin’s studio. After Charles died, his wife Louisa developed an infatuation with Rodin and commissioned a cast of Rodin’s “Brother and Sister” for her son Guy in March 1903.
When Charles Knowles died he left his son Hugh £1.2M and his son Guy £400,000. It is interesting to note that before his death he brought Linkenholt Manor in Hampshire, including the whole village. Margaret was left several endowments and large sums of money.
It is believed that Margaret came to Henfield Place in 1913. In 1939 at the start of the war, she allowed Henfield Place to become the ‘Henfield Central Hospital Supply Depot’. From 1939 – 1945, 8448 garments were sewn in various workshops and sent to Henfield Place to be packed and sent to P.O.Ws, Emergency Maternity Hospitals, people blitzed and liberated captives. Also, due to the dedicated home knitters, 3272 knitted garments were sent to British and Allied Forces; the final total of work reached 13,022, all being packed and sent from Henfield. All local men were given Christmas parcels. Proudly no man was forgotten.
Henfield Central Supply Depot provided garments and bandages to Shermanbury Grange Hospital and the Royal Sussex County Hospital. Margaret Knowles was the driving force behind an organisation called the Girls Friendly Society (GFS) in Henfield. The GFS was a national girls organisation founded in 1875. It was originally set up to help young girls/women who left home in the country to work in towns and cities, and who very often had no friends or family and were extremely vulnerable. The Society’s aim was to befriend and mentor these girls. In 1880, the Society had 40,000 members and provided lodges which offered cheap good quality accommodation for young women working in domestic service or mill and factory workers.
During the war years the Henfield GFS threw itself into the war effort raising money for, amongst others, the White Horse Club for boys and girls in London; another was to provide housecraft training for 16 - 18 year old girls. The GFS carried on after the war and was active into the 1960’s and became a youth club for young girls.
All in all, Miss Margaret Knowles gave a lot to the village both in time and money; next time you walk through the Kings Field to the Leisure Centre or go and play tennis or football, have a thought for this kind person.
Margaret’s sister Kate Christine Knowles set up the ‘Forget me not’ League, originally set up to send books and games to captured allied servicemen, but it developed into giving parcels of toiletries, shaving equipment and small luxuries. To join the League you paid a fee of 1s (5p) and then undertook to raise money by organising dances, whist drives, etc. When you raised 20s (£1) you were awarded the Forget-me-not medal. Margaret died on 25th January 1947, leaving around £300,000 (equivalent to almost £12 million in 2019). It is interesting to note that the village that Kate lived in named a road after her – Knowles Walk; and Henfield named a road after Margaret – Knowles Close.
It is not known why Charles Kino changed his name and why he chose Knowles, but it is known that Henfield is better off for having had such a kindly benefactor and friend.
By Steve Robotham (Assistant Curator) with thanks to Maureen Fletcher and Adrian Vieler (researchers), first published in the Henfield Parish Magazine, June 2019. Iris car image added 2020.
Although Dulcima assisted her father and sister with the production of stained glass, she was perhaps more famous as an actress, author and playwright, perhaps taking after her mother who was a successful author under the name of “William Beaumont”.
In 1919, the Brighton Herald carried favourable reviews of a play “The Younger Generation” in which Dulcima was appearing at the Palace Pier Theatre. The play toured the UK to good reviews. The West End beckoned, and in 1921 she was described as an actress and writer, having written “Red Indian and Fairy Stories” for children.
In 1922, the radio station ‘L2O London’ broadcast a show called “Children’s Corner”, this eventually became “Children’s Hour” which included a transmission of the first episode of Dulcima’s story “The Queen who came to Town”. She became a prolific writer of plays, books and articles. In 1925, Dulcima joined the BBC and was the first person to adapt a play for radio. When she resigned in 1933, she had dramatised for radio over 200 plays. She then concentrated on writing her own plays, and in 1939 all the Glasbys moved to “Three Oaks, Worthing Rd, Horsham”, where they lived until 1942.
Following the 1933 slump, the two sisters opened a wool shop in Putney and then in Horsham (East Street), and then later in Henfield High Street.
In 1945, Barbara and Dulcima moved to Sunnyside, Upper Station Road, Henfield where they stayed until moving to Kentwynds, Blackgate Lane, Henfield in 1953, where Barbara died. Dulcima moved to a nursing home in Cowfold, and passed away in 1975. Dulcima may still be remembered as the woman who ran the wool shop in the High Street in Brick lane, where Hamfelds is now.
William’s work can be found in various churches in Sussex, including;
Pulborough parish church
St Matthews church West Worthing
Denton church, Newhaven (St Cecilia’s window)
St Giles church Dallington, East Sussex
All Saints church in Herstmonceux.
The museum is very pleased to have a collection of plans and design drawings of the windows sent to Atlanta, and a small collection of children’s stories written by Dulcima.
Article by Assistant Curator Steve Robotham, first published in the Henfield Parish Magazine, March 2019.
For further information on Henfield's Glasby connection and examples of their work, click here.
Major A. G. Wade was born in Henfield in 1881, and lived at Croft House in the High Street (in recent times Lloyds Bank), his father Charles was a solicitor (he also designed Croft House using handmade bricks from Partridge Green). Although the house remains largely unaltered, the gardens have disappeared. The gardens originally were a half-acre of garden containing a croquet lawn, a wild border, a pergola, a pigeon-cote and a summer house.
He joined the Imperial Yeomanry in 1901 very much against his parents' wishes, after an almost idyllic childhood in the village. The Yeomanry were mobilised and sent to South Africa, and it was during this campaign that he met Baden-Powell (BP) for the first time in 1901. On the journey home BP explained his plans regarding setting up a training scheme for boys, modelled on the training he gave to boys who were scouts at the Siege of Mafeking. He returned home in 1902 and joined the local militia with the rank of Lieutenant.
Whilst home he had discussions with his sister, Audrey, about Baden-Powell's ideas of a Scouting Movement for boys. In 1907 Audrey started one of the first scout troops in the world, assisted by Miss Sybil Mead. The boys came from her Henfield Hockey Club; Hockey was a winter activity and Audrey wanted something to occupy the boys all year round. It was in this year that Baden-Powell set up his experimental camp on Brownsea Island in Dorset. The programme at the camp was published everyday in the local press, and Audrey enacted them with her boy Scouts in Henfield. She reported that there was a vast improvement in the morale and behaviour of the local boys.
In January 1908, Scouting for Boys was published in fortnightly parts, and Audrey arranged for the publication to be delivered to Henfield Station bookstall. At this time Baden-Powell was very accessible and members were encouraged to contact him, so one of the Henfield boys wrote to him to ask about uniforms and instruction as to how to get them. He wrote back with the simple instruction “make your own”.
So the boys went around the village collecting material, the shorts were fathers cut down trousers, made from clothing condemned as not good enough for jumble. Enough material was bought to make grey shirts for all the troop, and the boys made their own. The first HQ was a disused shed, and chairs and tables were made by the boys from tubs and boxes presented by the local grocer.
Major Wade helped his sister with the Henfield boys but then moved to Chichester and became the scoutmaster for the 1st Chichester troop. He eventually became the County Secretary for Scouts in Sussex. In 1910, Baden Powell invited Major Wade to go to Canada with 16 ‘Kings Scouts’ to show the Canadians how Scouting could be carried out in practice. Major Wade returned to the UK and was based at the Boy Scouts HQ in London as Baden Powell’s organising secretary and then Joint Secretary of the Scouts Association. Unfortunately, his plans were scuppered by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
On Friday 31st June 1914, the Major was summoned by Baden Powell to mobilise the Scout movement. Government departments were all clamouring for the services of the Scouts. Lord Kitchener telephoned asking that Scouts relieve the coast guard so they could mobilise with the fleet. The Chief Engineer of the Post Office wanted Scouts to guard all the main telephone lines from London to the south coast. The War Office wanted messengers and Scouts were also asked to guard stretches of railway line and viaducts, bridges, etc. Some Scouts took on the duties of Special Constables. Thousands of Scouts were offered to the Mayor of Dieppe to help with the harvest. He was very grateful but declined because the war would not last long, and German forces would not get across the border!
The 1st Henfield Scout Troop is recognised by the Scout Association as being the oldest Scout Troop in existence, and for this reason Henfield was chosen as the only place in Britain to host the Centenary Flame on its trip to Brownsea Island in 2007.
By Steve Robotham (Assistant Curator), originally published in the Henfield Parish Magazine, May 2019.
With thanks to Dave Malkin.
Ref: “Counterspy!” by Major A G Wade MC (Stanley Paul & Co Ltd).
A loud banging echoed around Parsonage House and the heavy oak door shook on its frame. The dark had long since closed in on a cold January evening in 1644. Light from many torches cast flickering shadows, fitfully lighting the large Tudor house. King Charles had dissolved his final parliament and for not the first time in its history, the country was torn by Civil War.
The party of Roundheads had just galloped through Henfield High Street, a quiet village on the road to the coast. Their destination - the estate and home of Colonel Henry Bishopp. The younger brother of Sir Edward Bishopp of Parham - the black sheep of the family and a leading Sussex Cavalier in all senses of the word - Henry was thus not in a position to easily talk himself out of the situation.
The royalist stronghold of Arundel had just surrendered on January 6th 1644 after a three week siege, but not before Edward had been overheard by a prisoner stating 'in a very 'malitious and threatening manner' that he would 'burne the towne of Horsham' (a Parliamentary stronghold) if the king ever arrived to relieve him... A throwaway comment? Perhaps, or from a man who had sixteen years earlier got away with the murder of a family friend in the street, perhaps not... Edward's estate was confiscated by parliament. Refusing to pay their fines, he was to die a prisoner in the Tower of London before the decade was out.
Casting aside the protestations of a household servant, the soldiers had ridden straight through the gatehouse, and now demanded that Colonel Bishopp give himself up. Hearing the disruption outside, Henry jumped from his chair. Another servant rushed in - the Roundheads were here! Moving quickly, he went upstairs to the master bedroom. Like the rest of the house, dark wooden panelling lined the walls there, with fine inlays above the fireplace. Built into the panelling was a cupboard...
This house had been built by Henry's grandfather Thomas Bishopp Esq., a prominent Tudor lawyer and attorney for the Bishop of Chichester, who had arrived in Henfield over a century earlier (in the phonetic fashion of time, the family name was spelled a multitude of ways, although Bishopp was most common for Henry).
Taking an 80 year lease on the rectory estate from the Bishop, he determined to create a house worthy of his new wealth and status on the site of the older medieval parsonage. However, in the religiously riven England of the 16th century, Thomas held increasingly strong Catholic loyalties, as did by certain accounts his son (and Henry's father), Sir Thomas Bishopp, the purchaser and 1st Baronet of Parham. This younger Thomas had been accused of hiding Catholic recusants in Henfield. Of the two, one was responsible for the installation of a carefully hidden 'priest hole' in the cupboard next to the chimney...
Henry went straight to the cupboard, a favourite spaniel following at his heels. Opening the door, pushing aside cloaks and shirts, he removed a floorboard and swiftly climbed down. Handing the dog down, the servant replaced the board, shut the cupboard door and darkness descended...
Within moments, the sound of heavy boots reverberated throughout the house.
Outside the bedroom raised voices sounded and the door burst wide. A Roundhead strode in, hand on sword. Glancing around, he noticed the cupboard. Pulling it open, he pushed the clothes aside to reveal...nothing but bare floorboards.
Feet away, but a floor below, Henry stood, praying that the dog remained silent. The cupboard closed, the footsteps receded. Voices converged in the hall, then receded. The sound of hooves arose...and receded. Ten minutes later, the floorboard was removed and candlelight lit the priest hole. Henry climbed out, but this was too close a call and the time had come to leave Sussex. Meanwhile, the Parliamentarians, their mission unsuccessful, took consolation at the White Hart...
Drastic measures were clearly necessary and the New World beckoned... News had spread amongst the Cavaliers that the governor of the colony of Virginia was sympathetic to royalist refugees. Acting swiftly, Henry set sail for Jamestown, a sea voyage that often took a gruelling 6 - 8 weeks. Having purchased an estate of 600 acres, he later doubled this by sponsoring eleven emigrants (9 men and 2 women), for each of whom he received fifty acres of land in Virginia: 'On the S. side of James River commonly called by the name of Lower Chipoak' - supposedly a reference to a Henfield location. This land was owned years earlier by William Powell (an early associate of John Smith of Pocahontas fame), killed during an Indian reprisal raid in 1622.
Henry did not remain long and was not idle. The tide of the Civil War was not turning in the Royalists' favour - even Jamestown was eventually cowed. A mysterious and apparently all powerful petitioning letter was dispatched by Henry in 1645 to the Speaker of the Commons. From the Grand Assembly of Virginia, it expressed that it was 'the earnest desire of the Colony of Virginia' that Henry be given safe return!
Doing so in 1646, Henry took the National Covenant to parliament and through unknown means but surely wide connections and string pulling, was able to pull off the unheard of feat of having his sequestered estate discharged to him without any fine whatsoever the next year! Perhaps a promise to sponsor the eleven emigrants influenced the letter?
Confiscating royalist estates was a key way Parliament raised money. By comparison, his brother Edward was initially fined £12,300, or about £2.8 million today - although eventually reduced to £800 and never actually paid before his death.
Ever farsighted, Henry was referred to in a history of the Commons as 'an active royalist conspirator during the Interregnum'... Which no doubt put him in an extremely good position upon the return of Charles II in 1660 - he was allowed to buy the extremely profitable role of Postmaster General for the entire kingdom - for £21,500 (i.e. £4.2 million today) annually. 'Whereas We have by Our Letters Patents under Our great Seal, constituted and appointed Our Trusty and Welbeloved Henry Bishop, Esq'e, Our Post Master General...' Charles R. 16 Jan 1660-1.
Henry's gift to posterity was his invention of the postmark: 'A stamp is invented that is putt upon every letter shewing the day of the moneth that every letter comes to the office, so that no Letter Carryer may dare detayne a letter from post to post; which before was usual.' H. Bishop, 1661. Henry gave up the role in April 1663, four years before it expired - no doubt pressure was applied by those likely to benefit from a fresh appointment.
After an eventful life, Henry died at the age of 86 on March 19th, 1691 (Julian calendar). His marble memorial tablet in the Parham Chapel in St Peter's Church, Henfield, states (translated from Latin):
Henry Bishop AR
A certain friend in uncertain times,
Charitable, Hospitable, Urbane, Excellent,
When, (by various adventures and many crises)
He completed eighty six years,
Old age at last exhausted,
He was laid here amongst his ancestors,
March 19th, A.D. 1691
Postscript. The Bishopp legacy still lives on in Henfield to this day via one of the country's oldest charities, the Elizabeth Gresham Trust. In her will, Henry's sister had bequeathed in perpetuity the rent from a certain field (since known as the 'Flannel Field') to go towards clothing the poor of the parish. Henry was one of the first trustees - his successors ensure that donations to local good causes are still given out annually by the trust to this day. As for Parsonage House, it was reduced in size after Henry's death, but remained with the descendants of the Bishopps until 1911, when finally sold out of the family.
J.W.F., Parham in Sussex (London, B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1947).
Baggs, A.P. et al., A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town, T. P. Hudson (ed.) (London, Victoria County History, 1987).
Cooper, Esq., William Durrant, FSA, Royalist Compositions in Sussex, during the Commonwealth.
Davidson, Alan, Coates, Ben, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, Thrush et al. (eds) (2010).
Greer, George Cabell, Early Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666 (1912, online transcript).
Henning, Basil Duke, The House of Commons, 1660-1690, Volume 1 (1983).
Nugent, Neil Marion, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants (1934, online transcript).
Shirley, Evelyn Philip, Stemmata Shirleiana (1873).
Squiers, J. Granville, Secret Hiding Places - The Origins, Histories And Descriptions Of English Secret Hiding Places Used By Priests, Cavaliers, Jacobites & Smugglers (1934).
Squire, John, Hudson, Peter, Three Hundred and Fifty Years of Dame Elizabeth Gresham's Charity 1661 - 2011, Private Print, Henfield, 2011.
Various, Report from the Secret Committee on the Post-Office (1844).
We hope you enjoy the variety of blog articles on the people and places of Henfield past!
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