(Part 4, Chapter 2, Section 5) ( Bk. Index )

[ Some Other Notable Houses and Properties ]

5. Barrack Yard and a Barn

A barracks for soldiers in the Napoleonic wars, or an awful barracks of a place?


On the south side of the High Street there is today a terrace of four houses named The Drills. These were constructed by the well known Angmering builder Edwin Harris in 1935. They replaced a set of eight cottages that had been condemned as unfit for human habitation, and demolished soon after 1928, the site being cleared by the time of the 1932 OS map. These old dwellings had long been known as the Barrack Yard cottages, either in fame or infamy. 

Across the road and seventy yards to the east, there was another plot of land that has an interesting association with Barrack Yard. This site is at the west side of Hillside Crescent, and it was occupied by a barn and yard, which Harris demolished in 1899, replacing it with a pair of villas in 1902.

There has been much controversy over the origin and meaning of the name Barrack Yard, and it is unlikely there will ever be closure. But what is known is that there were blocks of four cottages, one to the east and the other west of a narrow yard, the north ends abutting the Street, and at the south end of the yard a ‘wash house’ for general use. Now these are gone beyond all memory, and there is no possibility of an archaeological survey, which leaves nothing on which to base an history. other than a few miscellaneous documents and maps, and photographs of tantalisingly small sections of these buildings.

It may be imagined that military records would confirm, one way or other, whether there were barracks in Angmering in about 1803, when invasion was most feared, but this is not so. Well supported evidence exists for bases at Crossbush, Worthing, and Littlehampton, but is found inadequate for Angmering [Military Defence of West Sussex, John Godwin, 1985]  There was a barracks for 40 men at Western Road, Littlehampton, vacated by 1819, while those at Crossbush were demolished by 1832, although some of the circuit wall remains. [VCH draft] But the case for Angmering remains a matter of personal opinion.


However, the history of these cottages is not confined to a few fleeting years, and a beginning may be made long before, in the 17th century. All the houses on the south side of the Street belonged to East Angmering manor and, although the 1679 survey is very difficult to pin down in a changing environment, there are three entries that need to be considered, with the particular assistance of The Cottrells in placing them. The name Cottrells is even today perpetuated in a small estate to the west.

The sites as deduced, from east to west in 1679.

62/..                      Tithe 418  Rose and Crown
Allso Richard Sturt and Mary his wife hold for the Terme of their naturall Lives by Coppy of Court Roll bearing date the xvijth of October 1676 One Tenement being a Cottage and Garden with the appurtenances lying in East Angmering bounded by Angmering Street on the North by Lands of Robert Crossingham on the East and the Lands of Nich Chalk on the South and West

66/..          416-417 a part of Barrack Yard site
“Allso Nicholas Chalk holdeth during the life of Thomas Paine and after to Margarett his daughter and Martin his sonn for their naturall lives by coppy of court roll bearing date the xiiijth of October 1673 One Tenement being a barne a plott and  five acres of Land with the appurtenances lying in East Angmering bounded as followeth (viz) The barne and plott adjoyning bounded by the Highway on the North,  and by the backside of Richard Sturt on the East,  by the West Towne feild on the South,  and by the Lands of Richard Sturt and Edw Monke on the West
[Lands described]
“Whereunto the said Nich Margarett and Martin Chalk were admitted at a Court holden for the said Mannor the day and yeare abovesaid To have and to hold by the yearly rent of three shillings and four pence herr after every death or alienation the best beast or thirty shillings at the Lords choice Fine at the will of the Lord and other accustomed services And they paid for a Fine on their said Admittance xL [£10]
Margin notes :   Acres v [5]     Martin Chisman     Rent iijs iiijd [3s 4d]  Herr xxxs [30s]  Fine ...”

A description of various fields attached to this property has been omitted. For their copyhold a rent of 3s 4d was payable each year, and in the early 18th century it was owned by Martin Cheesman. When he died his heir was liable to a heriot of either the best beast or 30 shillings. A list of heriots in the 18th C includes John Cheeseman for 30s in lieu of his best farm animal, although this is confused by his owning a copyhold in the Steane, on the opposite side of the road, with the same kind of heriot.

67/..                      Tithe 416  Barrack Yard
“Allso Edward Monk holdeth of the Lord of this Mannor for the Terme of his  naturall life by coppy of Court Roll bearing date the [blank] One Tenement being a Cottage and Garden with the appurtenances lying in East Angmering bounded by Angmering Street on the North,  by the Lands of Nich Chalk on the East,  and by the Lands of Rich Sturt called Cotterills on the South and West
Whereunto the said Edward Monk was admitted at a Court holden for the said Mannor the day and yeare abovesaid to have nad to hold by the yearly rent of six shillings and Eight pence herr after every death or alienation [blank] Fine at the will of the Lord and other Accustomed services And he paid for a Fine on his said
Admittance [blank]
Margin notes;  Thos [Clemens]   rent vjs viijd [6s 8d]   herr    Fine  ..”

That is the full entry for this property. A copyhold paying 6s 8d rent yearly, and annotated as belonging to Thomas Clements in the early 18th century.  A heriot of his best beast, or farm animal, was payable on the death of a tenant, and in the 18th century a list has Thomas Clemmans as liable to this levy.

The Sturt family were extensive owners in the village, and Richard Sturt of the Rose and Crown and Richard of Cottrells appear to have been one and the same person, having inherited the properties from his father John.  Richard died in 1701 and although he had sons John and Edward, the Cottrells was sold in 1717, and it can be deduced that the Rose and Crown was parted with about the same time.

Another rental dating to the 1790s, is bare of detail, and all that can be gained form it is the negative information that none of these tenancies mention eight cottages. But this is not conclusive, although the building of blocks of dwellings of that kind was not general in local villages until the 19th century, apart from almshouses and parish cottages such as Longback. Where several cottages occupied one building it tended to be a farmhouse in reduced circumstances, with these supplemented by built cottages as the population increased towards 1800 and later.

The Site

The Barrack Yard site can only be described as it was in the tithe map of 1839. Both the Inclosure map and Bishopp map of a generation earlier, are less detailed and show nothing substantially different, other than indicating the neighbouring Rose and Crown as two crofts or gardens. But at this date three properties had become two, as long enclosures side by side of about half an acre each. The Rose and Crown with Barracks Yard to its west. It has to be assumed that the three 1679 properties had been amalgamated in some way.

1839 Map

Barrack Yard Map 1839
Barrack Yard cottages and  the Barn with nearby houses from the Tithe Map.
The Village Square or Green is off the map to the left

By this time the eight Barracks cottages had been built, and the Rose and Crown site had up to five tenements, although some of these were the farmhouse itself split into cottages.

The 19th Century

The first salient point to be made is that there is no evidence that the eight Barrack Yard cottages existed in the 18th century, but they certainly did when the 1814 Bishopp estate map was made. Indeed the site is also indicated on the slightly earlier Inclosure map, and although the buildings are shown in a sketchy way they probably were the two blocks of cottages, and they already belonged to Thomas Olliver,

Bishopp map schedule 1814
177       Eight tenements leased to Thomas Olliver.

The terms of the supposed lease are not known, but this is a clear change from the former copyhold status. This was an era when copyholds that had reached the end of a particular sets of lifeholds, were being altered to more formal leaseholds, and usually at far greater profit to the lord of the manor. Almost any exchange of lands and rebuilding might take place at that juncture.

The Thomas Olliver in question was no doubt the same as the owner of a house further along the Street, who was heavily in debt and died intestate in 1819. Much of his estate was conveyed to George Cortis of Angmering, who also took over the lease of the Barracks. Cortis died in 1840 and thereafter the cottages belonged to the Salter family, until well into the next century.

A contradictory note appears here, because in various electoral registers of the late 19th century and early 20th, Barrack Yard is stated to be copyhold.  A return to copyhold after being made leasehold must be rather unusual.

In census returns made every ten years,1841 to 1901, the occupiers of these dwellings are listed, although the name Barrack Yard does not appear until 1861. Quite an early use, and one might think not such as would be employed if it were s slurring epithet rather than a proper title.

The Buildings

Ordnance Survey maps tend to be highly reliable, including those of the 19th century.  Maps from three series show the outline plan of these cottages, for the 1870s, 90s, and 1911, but only the empty site in 1932. The significant features illustrated, are that the two blocks backed hard against adjoining gardens making rear doors impractical, and the blocks were very different in size. The eastern block wider but shorter in length than the western block or range. The east range quite probably not having all its cottages of the same size, whereas those on the west side of the yard were more or less square, but not necessarily different in area. At a very rough approximation the west range was around 60 feet long and 18 feet wide, with the east range 50 feet by 20 feet. South of the houses the croft was set out in gardens surrounded by paths.

With the arrival of photography in Angmering, and the craze for postcards, numerous pictures were taken all over the village of street scenes and houses, with villagers crowding round. Several photos survive showing parts of Barrack Yard, although it was the eastern range that was most favoured, albeit by chance. On the other hand it may have been more picturesque, for it was very different to its neighbour.

View from east

Barrack Yard 
View from the east in the Street of the East Range with the
West Range in the background

The picturesque east range had a half-hipped thatched roof, with flintwork walls, and although three of the four cottages were of the same size, the arrangements of doors and windows was quite varied, with the north cottage opening onto the Street, and only the two centre cottages having a door with window adjacent, and a window midway on the upper floor. Undoubtedly the building was what is termed one and half storey, with the bedrooms having sloping ceilings each side down to the eaves. On close inspection of the photos, there are vertical lines of brick in the east wall at about the width of one of the cottages, and these have straight edges facing each other, which very much suggests a former central barn door opening. It is distinctly possible that the south end cottage was built on, as an extension to the barn.

On the other side of the yard, the only cottage visible in the photographs, is the one adjoining the Street. The most striking feature of this is that it was built entirely of brick, and presumably the others were too. The roof was thatched,  as fairly usual for houses of an early 19th century date, but it is shown hipped and the chimney is on the flank wall rather than central to the house. There is a remnant of wall which remains today [2009] at the west side of the site, and this is largely flint, and would have formed part of the rear of these cottages. Whether built at that time, or a boundary wall that was merely incorporated, is impossible to say.

All windows in both blocks were timber casement, rather than the more ostentatious sash windows. There were no rear doors, only windows overlooking neighbours gardens.

All that is known for sure about dates, is that the eight cottages existed at the immediate end of the Napoleonic wars, in 1814. At a reasonable guess from the available evidence, it is likely that the eastern range was a conversion into cottages of an existing barn, or even a redundant farmhouse. While the brick cottages may well have been purpose built at the same time, with cheaper bricks increasingly available in the 19th century.

There is more known of them from later comments by the builder Mr Harris, and from census returns. In both 1891 and 1901 each one was stated to be four roomed, which means nothing about how useful these rooms were, but two up and two down was a common enough provision.  Then, in 1928, when Mr Harris was pressing for their demolition, he affirmed they were all 12ft by 15ft 6in inside and had ‘practically’ only one bedroom. It can be taken for granted he had not measured the houses in both blocks, and did not intend to flatter.

Census Returns

Detailed returns are available from 1841 to 1901, but with only total house numbers given from 1801 to 1831. There is a problem with the way these totals were calculated, and in 1801 and later it is strongly suggested that former farmsteads with multiple occupancy were counted as one ‘house’ rather than as several dwellings. An increase in quantity, as scheduled, took place in the first decade 1801-10, from 81 to 106.  If firm dates can be found for the building of various houses, some of these extra dwellings may be identified, and thereby whether Barrack Yard was included or excluded. At present it can only be stated as a possibility that Barrack Yard was built in that decade. In 1724 the village had 64 ‘families’, which can be interpreted as households, suggesting that not much new building took place during the rest of the century from that low base.

The 1811 and later returns give the number of households in various kinds of occupation, but there is nothing to suggest the quantity of ‘others’ to be expected if soldiers families were temporarily present. However,  an encampment might well have been treated as one household. The Workhouse in East Preston was just one ‘house’ in this way.

The 1841 census has almost no clues as to ‘addresses’ and the 1846 rate book, which names the owner Henry Salter, is more reliable in identifying  the occupants. Eight families, comprising Thomas Smart, Wm Gracemark, Widow Parsons, Geo Clear, Geo Hopkins, Widow Penn, Wm Green, and Wm Hayler. There is nothing to suggest the cottages were meant for any specific category of occupants, such as the elderly or paupers, with the men listed all being farm workers of middling age. The rateable value of the cottages, at no more than £3, was the common level for labourers dwellings.

In 1861 the Yard is identified by name and here again almost all its occupants were working labourers. The youngest  householder aged 37 and oldest 67.  With 43 people listed as present, that gives an average of over five to a household.  More realistically the range is from four to nine, the nine being the household of Thomas Parsons, a typical young family including four infants. In those days a poor person could expect to live half his life in extraordinarily overcrowded conditions, with the children turned out of doors for most of the day.

By 1901 there is a broadening of employment in the village, and a slight improvement in household sizes, with 35 people present on census day, which is over four to a household.  A range of two to eight in numbers, and all but one family in manageable numbers for the accommodation in these houses.

Mary Pocock aged 79, a widow and her daughter. Henry Edmunds a labourer aged 52, wife and daughter. David Parsons age 40, bricklayers labourer, with a wife and six children. Henry Dartnell age 25, a Private in the Royal Sussex, with a wife and son. John Barnett age 43, nursery worker, wife and two children. Thomas Edmunds, a 30 year old farm worker with a wife and two children. Mary Smart, a 55 year old widow with four children but fortunately three of them working, including Emily a pupil teacher. Finally, William Edmunds, a postman aged 27, with a wife and three children.

Village Memories

Fading village recollections of these cottages, from those who lived nearby, were recorded twenty years ago.. This includes the Hammond family, more associated with the Rose and Crown, although some of the clan lived at Barrack Yard at various times. These memories are largely of the early 20th century running up to the time the Yard was finally vacated, but also include folk memories about how the buildings originated.

According to what I was told the Barrack Yard was stables with sleeping quarters above for the “ostlers”. In the centre at the back was the “wash house”, so called even in my youth.  All the land at the back was open space made into gardens later for cottagers.  At the top of this land was a cottage. Tom Green, who was married to Grandfather’s  older sister Martha (Aunt Pat) lived there.  It had a large garden reaching to the top of Honey Lane and there was always bees kept there when I was a kid.  Tom was Martha’s second husband, the first was named Roberts, so I expect he inherited the bees, so your author was right when he thought that might have given the lane its name.” [quoting L.Baker 2002]

“The yard was all cobble stones, the folk living there had removed some along the house fronts and had narrow flower borders about 12-18 inches deep.  I can remember nothing else.  The wash house had a wash boiler in it and if I remember right the well was in there also.  Wells were very deep and water hauled up on a windlass, it was a heavy job.  I only did it once or twice, Dad usually drew enough to last the day.  The cobbled yard makes me think the first use of the place was for horses, it could have been changed for military use later, but I think a parade yard would have been earth, not those uneven cobbles, roof thatch, walls stone like most old houses.”

“There is an item I forgot to tell you.  Something brought it to mind – it was the “Lamp Lighter”.  I remember watching him clean the lamp in front of the Barrack Yard.  He had a two wheeled hand-cart and a ladder which hooked onto an arm up near the light.  Later he had to go around lighting the lamps and I believe, but can’t be positive, that it was Simeon Pocock who had that job, but by War time (WW1) when there was the “black out”, I don’t think it was ever used again.  The lamps burned coal oil (paraffin) and after the war I believe “gas” came to the village, but here again I can’t be sure.  But I am sure of watching the lamp being filled and the glass shade being polished.”

Drawings made from memory by a villager, showing the layout and appearance of the cottages, are not entirely accurate when compared with photographs, but give a good general idea. The wash house one end, lamp the other end, and names of some of the later occupants. On the east side, from south to north, the Collins and Miss Hammond; Jack Barnett; Riddles; and Granny Barnett. On the west side, Pelhams and Turvys; Granny Edmunds; Burchfield; and Aylings. Granny Edmunds was the widow of the village postman and grandmother of the lady who provided these names.

Edmunds Family

Barrack Yard early 20th century
View of the west side of the East Range, and the Yard,
from the Street with the gas lamp in the foreground
Bill Edmunds, village postman is shown with children.

Various cottages are mentioned, as laying south of the Yard, and whether or not these had access into it, they appear to have been more associated with the Rose and Crown, in point of ownership.

The Practical and Romantic.

It is a fit of fortune, that when the Yard was about to be demolished, an attempt was made to rescue it, with the resulting quarrel taking the form of letters to the West Sussex Gazette in 1928. These provide invaluable information, and folk memories, that might otherwise have been completely lost. One source quoted, a notebook kept by the Rev. Orme, who was Rector from 1866 until his retirement to East Preston, must be taken seriously. Albeit, this notebook is probably now lost.

These letters are worth quoting, more or less fully. [Par/6/7/14]

Francis Skeet writing from Syon House.

“Barrack Yard Angmering
In order to try to save an historical block of cottages, I have written to-day to Messrs Newland Tompkins and Taylor as follows:

Dear Sirs,
1-8 Barrack Yard. I see in the West Sussex Gazette, these cottages are for demolition. Is there a possibility of buying them with the land, so that they may be restored, and rendered fit for habitation, to be let at reasonable rents to farm workers? They are very picturesque, and a feature in this village, which alas, is gradually losing its old-world character. Only today a poor woman with a delicate husband told me she had to pay 10s a week. I would agree not to ask more than 7s 6d or 5s from those actually employed on farms. Once they are pulled down the opportunity will have gone to save the buildings used for troops in the Napoleonic wars. I have only recently written about them in the introduction to the Catholic Registers of Arundel, which I have transcribed. I am sending a copy of this letter to the West Sussex Gazette.”

Edwin Harris reply.

“Barrack Yard, Angmering, Sanitory [sic] Facts
As unanimously requested by the Parish Council, I pressed for the long-standing closing order for the above cottages to be made operative. After the tenancies were vacated, both the owner of the cottages and the Rural District Council found that repairs satisfactory to the Medical Officer of Health were impossible, and consequently the Council’s seal was fixed to an order for demolition. Until this was done it seems to have occurred to no one that the cottages were picturesque. Certainly I had never noticed it. Nor do the cottages possess any history, except one that had better be forgotten. Soldiers never occupied them, and they received their name exactly as any other overcrowded slums are termed “barracks.”
They consist of eight cottages, each with a total floor space of 12ft by 15ft 6ins. There are no back doors, or possibility of getting any. They possess neither sinks, drains, larders, eaves gutter, nor damp-courses. There is only one fireplace to each cottage, and practically only one bed room.
Infectious disease is endemic in them, and because of two cases last winter, one of which was fatal, it was determined to close them. Some years ago, for a long period, about 40 persons “lived” in them. Children passing the first seven years of their lives there were, more or less, ruined for life. Elderly persons were “eaten up” with rheumatism. As it has been decided by many competent and practical persons that these cottages cannot be made fit for human habitation, it is to be hoped that any idea of restoring them will be abandoned.”

At this point Beatrice Eustace of Canonbernes, Crossbush, takes up the cudgel, with Skeet bowing out. She was the daughter of the late Rector.

“The Barrack Yard, Angmering
There are several misstatements in the letter of Mr Edwin A Harris in your issue of the 11th inst. The Barrack Yard at Angmering is most certainly historical, as it was built for the married quarters of the military who were stationed along this part of the coast to prevent possible invasion by the French, about 1804. There were barrack cottages at Poling (demolished in late years) and also at Cross Bush, which cottages are still standing, and the fields opposite are called the Barrack Fields. The Barrack Yard at Angmering is certainly picturesque, and never fails to attract the attention of the intelligent observer. I have known the inhabitants of the cottages for over 50 years. They appear to have survived the insanitary conditions in a marvellous way, and are no more “eaten up” by rheumatism than I am. By saying this, however, I am not implying that I think the cottages are fit to live in to-day. Our ideals and our knowledge of health have, happily, progressed, and had Major Skeet been allowed to buy the cottages, as he wished, he would naturally have restored them in every way, according to the requirements of the Rural District Council. In a note-book kept by my father, the late Rev J B Orme, after describing the Barrack Yard, he writes:
“In an old barn hard by the Barrack Yard and now demolished, some of the soldiers were quartered, and the lower beams still bore the marks of the points of their bayonets, which they had pressed against the woodwork while cleaning and polishing them.”
I am sorry that an interesting link with the past history of our country should be destroyed. I am grateful to Major Skeet for making an effort to preserve this curious little Yard, and I hope that he may be successful in his attempt.”

Mr Harris is adamant.

“Barrack Yard Angmering
These cottages were certainly not built in 1804 for the residence of married soldiers, as Mrs Eustace suggests, for there is abundant evidence that they were in existence 200 years before then. Neither is the old barn, quoted by her from the late rector’s note book, correctly described as “hard by Barrack Yard.”
It stood 70 yards north-east, on the opposite side of the road. This barn belonged to me, and when it was pulled down in 1899, I preserved the date stone and other relics. It had two stories, and the timbers, from 3 to 4 feet above each floor, were pitted with bayonet marks, as described by the rector. It had a drill yard in front. It possessed living accommodation for 25 to 30 men, and had any building in Angmering took its name from the occupation of soldiers, this undoubtedly would have been one. More than 40 years ago, I made most minute enquiries among old residents, whose parents were living at that period in Angmering, as to the occupation of soldiers here. The evidence was to the effect that a coast patrol was stationed at Angmering, and occupied the barn above described. There was certainly a recollection of soldiers being billeted amongst cottagers, but no shred of evidence that soldiers had possession of these eight old cottages.
But even supposing that soldiers did occupy them for a short period, does such a commonplace and trivial event warrant the word “historical.”
I submit that as it is a local custom to describe overcrowded slums as “reglar barracks” there seems little doubt that these always overcrowded cottages came under this fitting designation. Similar remarks apply to those two wretched roadside huts (now happily demolished) at Poling, which Mrs Eustace says were named barrack cottages.
But all this is beside the point. No halo of romance, or plea of picturesqueness (both in this case thoroughly undeserved) can be permitted to take precedence of human life and welfare. At least three successive Medical Officers of Health, at every outbreak of fever, have urgently condemned these cottages as unfit for human habitation.
The question is, can they be made fit, even if the cost is not regarded? Can the eight be made into four serviceable cottages?
The answer must be in the negative. Nothing can alter the fact that (not to speak of other fundamental and irremedial defects) they would not possess back doors, and therefore, with the best will in the world, would not meet the rules and regulations of the Rural District Council, and so could not be occupied.
At present they are a danger and a menace to the village, and almost everyone would rejoice to see them swept away.”

The Lady has a final word.

“The Angmering Barrack Yard Cottages
The ex-cathedra statements of Mr Harris will not do. The style of the Barrack Yard cottages is not that of 1600, but early 19th century. Were they of the date assigned to them by Mr Harris, it would be an additional reason against their demolition.
Mr Harris is, of course, a comparatively new-comer to Angmering, but the notes taken by my father, the late Rev T B Orme were from people who were actually living when the military occupied the Barrack Yard and old Barn. Our old gardener was 12 years old when the soldiers came to Angmering. With regard to the expression  “hard-by” my father could as easily have written  “near” or “close” (both given as alternatives in Webster’s dictionary) the Barn being but a stone’s throw from the Yard, opposite Honey-lane. I remember it well, and my sorrow when Mr Harris acquired it and pulled it down, building a couple of modern villas on the site.
Can one call the threatened invasion of England by Napoleon, and the steps taken to preserve our liberties, either commonplace or trivial? The history of our country is the priceless possession of all classes, but, unfortunately, it is often easy to plead commercial advantage.”

This excellent correspondence illustrates how pure honest facts, as understood, can be employed for opposite ends.  Mr Harris lists deficiencies in the houses, all perfectly true no doubt, but none of them of any great significance, and if there were no great structural defects to the walls and roofs, any architect could have made four good houses out of these buildings, back doors or not, improving the frontages with porches and small gardens.  They would certainly have had character that nothing today can replace.

As to the age of the property, the estimated 200 years, taking it back to the 17th century, is perfectly acceptable. That is for the barn and other buildings then occupying this area. It would be a marvellous find, if any sort of deeds survived of that date, it being a copyhold property and the manor books that contained transactions and changes of copyholder, long lost.

Major Skeet died in 1943, owning several houses in the Street, but sadly not Barrack Yard. By 1932 they were gone, and in 1935 Mr Harris submitted plans for four houses to replace them, and they remain today as The Drills.

Skeet’s note relating to the Catholic Registers at Arundel Castle, is worth quoting. It is in a published volume, which also contains an extensive description of the remains of the barracks at Crossbush, associated with the Eustace house Canonbernes.

“A number of entries [in the burial registers] relating to Irish soldiers occur between 23 August 1804 and 14 December 1818.”

He then writes about the Crossbush barracks where a large body of soldiers were based, and goes on.

“There was a detachment at Poling, about a mile east, where, until lately, there were the “Barrack Cottages,” a group of small dwellings, demolished a few years ago. Some three miles further on to the south-east, at Angmering, there are still cottages known as “The Barrack Yard,” where another party was quartered.
We find the following cavalry regiments mentioned: 1st King’s Dragoon Guards, 1804-1808;  5th and 7th Dragoon Guards, 1811; 13th Dragoons, 1818. And the following infantry units: 89th, 1805; 45th, 1806; 18th and 68th, 1810; 3rd, 1811; 37th, 1812; three Irish Militias, Dublin, Clare, and Waterford, in 1813.”  
[Catholic Record Society 27 intro,]

A perusal of Angmering registers reveals no entries to suggest soldiers of any kind, or unusual names for this part of England. If a unit had been based in the parish it passed through quietly, without need for church rites.

Recent research has nothing to say about Angmering in particular, but illustrates the strategic situation in 1801 and 1803.

 “The first line of defence would pivot on four fixed points. … Highdown Hill west of Worthing would be the pivot for regiments deployed between Littlehampton and Shoreham.”
The evacuation of inhabitants and livestock from the coastal villages and towns was to take place on an invasion taking place.
“Compulsory billeting in private households had been prohibited since 1688 and it had become the practise to requisition billets in inns and public houses which had no such exemption. … Most of the smaller barracks dotted about West Sussex seem to have been built after 1792 … The number of soldiers accommodated meant that most barracks would have been wooden huts … At Steyning, Littlehampton, and other places local tradition refers to some flint … cottage type dwellings …       It is possible they were used by smaller detachments, or perhaps as officer’s quarters …”
[Military Defence of West Sussex, Goodwin,1985]

The Barn

But it is now apparent, from letters written by Harris and Eustace, that the barracks question goes far beyond Barrack Yard itself, about which they were at loggerheads. On the other hand, they were both agreeable about troops being based at a nearby barn on the other side of the Street. The cynical remark might be made that this building had been demolished in 1899, and so its history was a matter of only academic interest.

From the Harris description the identity of this barn cannot be doubted. Its site was directly opposite Honey Lane, and both the tithe map and O.S. maps show a barn and yard directly east of a house, referred to as the Court House in early records. Edwin Harris replaced it with a pair of villas in 1902, and these can still be seen on the west corner of Hillside Crescent against the Street.

The barn, or its ancestor, was almost certainly mentioned as belonging to the Court House in 1679.

1/  Tithe 366 Court House and Barn [The term ‘mannor house’ was crossed out]
“The Mannor house together with two garden plotts One Barne and the Gateroom and adjoyning to the Street of West Angmering ……

In the 1814 Bishopp map these two buildings are listed:

104 - Court House and yard
105  - Barn and Yard,  54 perches [a third of an acre, including land to the east of the building]

The land attached to the barn on the east was subsequently removed, leaving a yard directly in front by the road, in the 1839 tithe map:

Tithe 365           Barn and Yard  20 perches         Owner Pechell Captain   Tenant Penfold James

Edwin Harris was quite correct with his calculation of the barn being a distance of nearly seventy yards east of the Barrack Yard.

Beatrice Eustace quotes her father’s notebook.

"In an old barn hard by the Barrack Yard, and now demolished, some of the soldiers were quartered, and the lower beams still bore the marks of the points of their bayonets, which they held pressed against the woodwork while cleaning and polishing them."

Could bayonet marks be so readily identified? They might have been made by farm implements, but for the testimony of old villagers that they were made by soldiers billeted there.

Mr Harris provided information rather more persuasive.

“It stood north-east on the opposite side of the road.  This barn belonged to me, and when it was pulled down in 1899, I preserved the date stone  and other relics. It had two stories, and the timbers, from 3 to 4 feet above each floor, were pitted with bayonet marks, as described by the rector. It had a drill yard in front. It possessed living accommodation for 25 or 30 men, and had any building in Angmering  took its name from the occupation of soldiers, this undoubtedly would have been the one.
More than 40 years ago [c1890] I made most minute enquiries among old residents, whose parents were living at that period in Angmering, as to the occupation of soldiers here. The evidence was to the effect that a coast patrol was stationed at Angmering, and occupied the barn above described.”

In all old manorial records the barn is referred as such, and so it is interesting that Harris describes it as two storey. Possibly he was talking about the loft at one end, usually found in threshing barns. But an unusual feature for a threshing barn, is that it was aligned east to west, rather than north to south. The suggestion therefore is that, either it was a house reduced to a barn, or originally a two storey malting barn. If timbers a few feet above the floor were marked by bayonets, this suggests a timber framed building. Although he kept the datestone and other relics, nothing is known of these today, and it can only be rued that they were not placed in a museum.

What kind of ‘accommodation’ he meant is obscure. Provision for bunks perhaps, rather than individual cubicles, although NCOs may well have had separate sections. Thirty men might well have needed two floors for adequate space.

Contemporary Witness

The answer may never be known. But with the testimony of a notebook kept by a reliable Parson recording villagers memories; the testimony of Mr Harris; and the likelihood that Barrack Yard in some form was probably of late 18th century date, and made eight cottages soon after 1800. And finally, the acceptance of Barrack Yard, as a proper name used in the 1850s, rather than a populist jibe.  It is quite believable that a detachment of troops was occasionally quartered in the village, at the two sites mentioned, with their commanding officer finding more comfortable quarters at the nearby inn.

There is one contemporary source which can be trawled through for scant reward in references to Angmering. That is the Sussex newspapers of the era, and as yet little has been done, but this task has been undertaken for Littlehampton, and many of the excerpts published are relevant. [Littlehampton History Society: Sussex Weekly Advertiser – 2 vols, 2002, by A Chapman]

What these prove fairly conclusively is that any regular military base at Angmering is highly improbable. Contracts for supplies to Sussex barracks were advertised for, and these presumably list all the establishments in being.  In 1794 eight were listed, including Shoreham and Littlehampton as the nearest to Angmering. By 1803 the number had expanded to meet the imminent threat, with thirteen including Bognor, Arundel, Littlehampton, and Worthing. These largely carried on until their “annihilation” or rather, the sale by auction and removal of buildings at Littlehampton and elsewhere in 1814.

There was undoubtedly also a Signal Station on the shore at Kingston, to warn in the event of invasion, this being manned by the Navy, with a lieutenant in charge. It also had two dragoons to despatch to the nearest army commander. These minor outposts for the army did exist.

Unless all folklore, and carefully noted reminiscences, are to be discounted, attention must be paid to the very particular term used by Harris of a ‘coast patrol’. That diverts historical speculation to the vast smuggling industry in Sussex, which had opposed to it the lone bodies of Riding Officers, including several in the immediate area. These were individuals with four miles of coast to patrol on horseback, although occasionally they could they call on other officers in the neighbourhood for help, and on the dragoons when a large smuggling operation was underway.

The earliest Ordnance Survey maps of c1810 do clearly mark the barracks at Littlehampton, and Arundel, but nothing at Angmering. Nevertheless the village was at a good strategic location, and a party of dragoons placed there, as needed, would have cut off smuggling gangs on the coast from the way north, and could descend on them at Kingston and nearby villages more readily than from the main barracks. For that matter a useful place to be in the event of French invasion. Perhaps Harris and Orme were both partly in the right.

RWS 19.5.2009 NRD