Chapter 8. New Developments — 1911–1925

1911 — Goring sells Kingston—Howell purchaser—Moon in Newmarket Farm—Farming prices bad

The Goring Estate advertised the sale of their Kingston holdings. Kingston Farm is the main lot, which included Newmarket Farm. It was described as “comprising Cottage (containing three bedrooms, &c.), Barn (one bay of which is fitted for use as a water tank), open Cattle Lodge, Stable, Hay Room and lean-to Wagon Lodge.

Mr Howell was almost certainly the successful purchaser, for he continued to be recorded as the farmer for Kingston in Kelly’s Sussex Directory in subsequent years.

Mr Moon, head of a family of three, was the tenant of Newmarket Farm. Again, more information should be provided with the full publication of the 1911 census.

To understand the reasons for this sale, and also of the later developments in this story of Newmarket Farm we need to look further afield, to the economics of farming in the previous few decades. Britain had succeeded in creating for itself a powerful empire. From the 1870’s America started supplying Britain with cheap grain. Refrigerated ships loaded with cheap meat from countries such as New Zealand started arriving in the 1880’s. This met the needs of Britain’s growing urban population at the expense of those working in agriculture at home. The Gorings’ Kingston estate was almost entirely based on farming. It was not likely to have been generating much of an income, if any at all.

The financial state of agriculture may also explain why, in nearby Balsdean, the farmer (J.) Henry Beer required a mortgage to be able to farm.

1913 — Woodendean Farm sells land for housing

Between Newmarket Hill and Rottingdean, the northern part of Woodendean Farm was no longer farmed; it was obtained by Percy Harvey Estates Ltd for development and was nationally advertised as the Brighton Downs Estate. It comprised 528 building plots with land suitable for smallholding (plotland). One of these plots was bought by Peggy’s husband’s family in 1924. Dick Cuthbertson was given the top quarter of this plot as a wedding present to build the house which was the birth place of their children, David (co-author of this history) and Susan.

1914 — WWI—Scantlebury, Percy buys Balsdean

About 1914, Mr Beer’s mortgagors, R.E. Leman, Harrison, Alderson, Simpson, and G.C. Leman sold the two Balsdean farms, Norton and Balsdean Manor, to Essex farmers William Scantlebury and William Henry Percy.

The year 1914 also marked the start of the first world war. By 1916 compulsory conscription was introduced. Many, perhaps most of the men involved in this part of the story of Newmarket Farm would have served in the trenches. The Woman’s Land Army was created to replace the agricultural workers who were fighting on the front. We have yet to research whether any of our farmers signed up themselves, nor whether women were taken on as extra labour, for in Sussex many farmers resisted the idea of employing women as farm workers.

Directly across the valley from Newmarket Farm, German prisoners of war, from the camp in Lewes, were used to create a new road which gently wound its way around Bullock Hill, or Norton Top as it is otherwise known, down into Balsdean. It therefore became known as the German Road. The flint cobbles with which it was surfaced can still be seen today.

1918 — End of War—Land for veterans—Emma Daisy Sayers Smith

The end of the GreatWar brought many changes. Many failed to return, including three agricultural labourers (one of whom was Francis Henry Dobson, who first came to Kingston with Mr Howell from Wiltshire) and the blacksmith’s son from Kingston. Those who did return found their troubles were not over. Farmers, either by choice or circumstance, did not always re-employ former labourers. The slums of Brighton, where many ended up, were some of the most densely populated parts of Britain. The Government’s solution was to relax their planning laws to enable people to build and live in unregulated shacks. Farmers were encouraged to sell off their unproductive land to those wishing to build houses.

Miss Emma Daisy Sayers Smith acquired plots of land on Wick Farm, part of which is the village of Woodingdean today, between Newmarket Hill and the Downs Estate to its south.

1919 — Oscar Selbach buys Balsdean for property development—Edwards his farm manager

Between Emma Smith’s new property, the Brighton Racecourse, and the old Warren Farm Industrial School (built between 1858 and 1862 to house the Brighton Workhouse children, and which possessed the deepest hand-dug well in the known world at that time), was the newly developing Wick Estate. The Wick Estate land had at one time been the western most extremity of Norton Farm, part of the isolated hamlet of Balsdean. The land had passed through various hands, including the solicitors Lemen, Harrison, Simpson, and Lemen, before being acquired by Henry Pannett, who obtained planning permission for a plotland development in 1919. One of these Wick Estate plots, in Channel View Road, was bought by the Holland family in 1923. They were Peggy’s mother’s family, from Brighton, and included Peggy’s grandfather, William Douglas (whose occupation was listed as boot repairer), grandmother, Marian Edith nee Price (aged 32, born in Shoreham), Peggy’s mother, Annie Marian (aged 7), and uncle, Douglas (Dougie, aged 5, who in his retirement painted many scenes of the Woodingdean of his childhood, including one of Newmarket Farm owned by Peggy); Rose, her aunt, was born later in 1927.

On the 17th October 1919, Oscar Charles Selbach bought all 1,052 acres of Balsdean and Norton Farms from Messrs. Scantlebury and Percy by power of attorney. The power of attorney was possibly from Miss E.D.S. Smith.

Oscar Carl (Charles) Selbach was born in Ohio, USA, in 1864 to German parents. It has been claimed that he worked in Alaska as an engineer, though we have not been able confirm this. We do know that at some time he married Marguerite Kossakowska. We know this because of a birth record of his son Maurice Gaetan Selbach in Paris, France, in 1889. The next record, in 1901, listed Oscar Selbach as living in Southampton Road, in central London. He was living with his son, Maurice, and a new wife, Louisa. His employment was recorded as “Managing Director Autocar Suppliers.” Shortly after this his business was in receivership; 2 other failed businesses were also reported in the newspapers at about this time. All his businesses were automobile or engineering based. His son, Maurice, became a famous racing cyclist, starting from 1908, with his greatest successes in the early 1920’s. In 1924 Maurice set up business as a cycle manufacturer in Kennington Road, London. Sadly, Oscar’s son was killed in 1935 when he got a wheel stuck in a tram-line whilst overtaking a lorry.

The story of Oscar Selbach’s ownership of the combined Balsdean and Norton Farms, was not always straightforward. In a letter dated 1934 by Selbach to Brighton Corporation, he stated that he owned the land, not in 1919, but in the previous year of 1918. Furthermore his letter reveals it was he who employed the 30 German prisoners that made the new road and presumably repaired others to a total of over 4 miles at a cost of more than £3,000.

At about the same time that Selbach acquired Balsdean and Norton Farms, Benjamin and Adelaide Edwards and their 5 children (3 boys and 2 girls) moved into Balsdean Manor House. Benjamin Edwards was employed as farm manager. He was probably given the job by Mr Selbach, since Selbach wasn’t a farmer himself. As an innovative man, he was supposed to have modernised farming techniques.

The Edwards’ older children walked about 2 miles to Rottingdean to go to school. They were allowed to arrive 30 minutes late and leave 30 minutes early. Their mother held a Sunday school. On days when it was too wet to walk to school, classes were held for all the children; their two cousins Tommy and Cathy Boniface lived for a time in one of the 2 farmhouse cottages. During the year she organised birthday parties, the harvest supper, and a Christmas party. The mother of another family who had lived in Balsdean walked for bread every day to Rottingdean, and walked to Brighton every week for shopping.

1920 — Howell starts selling Kingston property

Meanwhile, back in Kingston, Mr Howell started to sell off some of his properties. The first to go were some of his old cottages.

1921 — Selbach buys Newmarket Farm

As the result of a somewhat complicated legal arrangement, dated 12 July 1921, involving a mortgage from James Howell to Kathlene Stacey (a widow – her husband James Stacey junior had died the year before) and Henry John Redman (cattle auctioneer in Lewes), Oscar Charles Selbach acquired 269 acres, 3 roods and 16 perches of Howell’s land in the Parish of Kingston. This included Newmarket Farm.

There were, between 1919 and 1924, a number of records of mortages and other such legal arrangements enabling Mr Selbach to pay for his new acquisitions of land, equipment, and other expenses.

Selbach’s intentions were ambitious. The land purchases of the newly combined Newmarket, Balsdean and Norton Farms were, at least in part, for development purposes. This farmland contained the highest hills overlooking the relatively attractive south facing lands that formed the slowly growing village of Woodingdean. The hills were Newmarket Hill and Bullock Hill. The valley bottoms of Newmarket and Balsdean, on the other side of these surrounding hills, could supply precious water by means of wells. Pumps at the well-heads could move that water to tanks constructed on both Newmarket and Bullock Hills. These tanks could gravity feed the proposed houses with the essential water they would require. At that time there was no mains water. He considered it would be cheaper to supply it himself.

In 1921 or 1922 Selbach drilled wells and installed pumping equipment in the valley bottoms by Norton and Newmarket farms with the intention of supplying water for his proposed housing developments. The Myers pumping engines he used were from his home state of Ohio in America.

1924 — Edwards in Newmarket Farm

The Edwards family moved to Newmarket Farm from Balsdean so that Les Edwards (aged 5) could walk to Falmer School. It was not only closer from there to Falmer than the walk from Balsdean to Rottingdean, but easier as well. However, Benjamin Edwards felt that this journey was still too much, so they moved to Chyngton, near Seaford. At about the time of their move, the other tenants of the Balsdean cottages also found work elsewhere.

Previous: Chapter 7. Life After Death — 1871–1908

Table of Contents

Next: Chapter 9. Brighton Corporation — 1925–Present

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