The Naked Landscape

Writing on water for the last blog post has got me onto thinking about the landscape more generally. A good way to get your head around how a particular locality might have been lived in over the centuries is to strip out all the works of mankind and start again with a blank canvas. The bare bones of a landscape are essentially the topography (i.e. the hills, valleys, plains etc.), the water (springs, streams, rivers) and the geology (what is beneath the ground). Everything above that, particularly in an intensively inhabited place like England, is going to be either created or planted by people.

I find the easiest way to do that is to get hold of an Ordnance Survey Explorer 1:25,000 map (the common walking map) which has the contour lines marked on it, and then just trace over the contours (you can do this digitally or manually). That will give you the topography. You can then also trace over the springs, streams and rivers, which will give you the water. For the geology, we are blessed with the British Geological Survey, whose website contains a “Geology Viewer” which plots all the different geologies in the UK, and you can again just trace them off as appropriate (

When you have finished doing this you will end up with something like this:

Topographic map of Harting parish (outlined in red), showing the contours, water (the blue stars are springs) and geology (boundaries marked in purple)

This exercise presents you with a picture of what the first settlers would have encountered, when they turned up, in terms of the “base layers”. Obviously the vegetation above is not so easily demonstrated, since we simply do not have enough data to be certain of what it looked like. The traditional view was that the whole lot was covered by trees, before man came and cut them all down, but voices have been raised to question this, and it is not impossible that the landscape was in fact rather more varied, with potentially quite large open spaces grazed by herds of animals.

Returning to the three elements of our base map, we will start with geology. Harting, like many of the Sussex parishes, has a wonderfully mixed collection of geologies, with the chalk Downs in the south, sloping steeply down to the shelf of Upper Greensand upon which the villages of West, South and East Harting sit, which in turn dips down to the Gault Clay, with Nyewood upon it, and finally the Lower Greensand, through which the River Rother meanders.

Each of these geologies has its own characteristics, but the main interest for us is those that effect what people do. The chalk is well-drained, with generally thin, easy to cultivate soils. The Upper Greensand is moderately well-drained (there is a varying clay content) and the soils are more fertile. The Gault clay is generally pretty horrible, being too wet in winter and too dry in summer, because of its poor drainage. The Lower Greensand is well-drained, and of middling fertility.

A glimpse at the Google Earth aerial photos will give you a pretty good idea of how farmers now use these different soils, so you will see mainly pasture over the highest Chalk slopes and over the Gault Clay, and then mainly arable over the Upper Greensand and lower southern chalk slopes. The Lower Greensand is slightly more mixed, with some arable and some pasture. While we have to make some allowance for improved methods of ploughing and more effective fertilisers, modern use is not a bad guide to past use, and it seems likely that back in the day cultivation followed roughly the same pattern. The one exception seems to have been that the thin chalk soils on the upper slopes of the Downs were more heavily used for cultivation, probably because they were easier to plough, but we will return to that in a later blog.

It is striking also to note that the vast majority of settlement seems to have squeezed onto the Upper Greensand shelf, probably because the Downs had no water, the Lower Greensand was too low lying and, frankly, no-one wanted to live on the Gault Clay (sorry residents of Nyewood). Again, this may have been different in the case of the chalk in the further past, as we will discuss in that later blog.

Water we have looked at a bit already, but the map above shows that within the eastern half of the parish, as well as the west, and so you can see the fate of the “east stream”, as it leaves West Harting Manor at the base of South Gardens and makes its way north-eastwards to exit the parish on Dumpford Lane. There is a third stream right up against the parish’s eastern boundary, starting close to the bend in the Elsted road, flowing through Sheepwash Copse and exiting into Elsted parish shortly afterwards. Because of its relatively short length within Harting, it does not have the same significance as the other two streams, which were both heavily exploited, as was that short stretch of the Rother that forms the north-western boundary of the parish. As has been stated, once you hit the Downs, water disappears, and any settlement upon them has to make use of deep wells, seasonal ponds, or simply hard grind in lugging water up the hill.

The final element, the topography, is the most striking. Essentially the parish runs down in a series of steps to the Rother from the north scarp of the Downs, but then slopes down more gradually from the same scarp to the south, over the back of the Downs.

Two key factors are immediately apparent, the first being transport. Put simply, how do you get from one end of the parish to the other, particularly over the Downs. Here the contours can really help in predicting where people might, in the past, have done this. The lowest point over the Downs in Harting parish, for example, is clearly where the current Compton road runs, although the valley it uses does fork as it approaches the scarp from the south, with one arm running down to South Harting, and the other running round the west of Hemner Hill. But I will be looking at roads in another later blog.

The other key factor which the topography throws up is settlement. We have already seen the position of most of the current villages, sitting as they do upon the Upper Greensand shelf. Outside of this, settlement is limited, and there has to be a good reason for it existing elsewhere. For example Nyewood has its origins as a railway hamlet, but you will see that even then, that it sits upon a spur of higher land sticking out into the Rother valley, or in the case of the houses at Durford Mill, they are obviously there because of the mill.

I am sure you can draw many more conclusions from studying this base map youselves – some of which I hope to look at in the future. Do feel free to make comments/suggestions, or, if you wish, requests for the subject matter of later blogs.


Water is obviously a key resource at any point in history, and this blog will focus upon its influence upon the history of Harting. Water obviously matters in terms of domestic consumption, for drinking, washing, cooking etc., but it also was the prime source of power, particularly until the advent of electricity. For water powered mills, and then later iron furnaces.

That part of Harting south of the Downs was pretty much water free, and so here the only solution was either to import it, catch it from the rain, or dig down for it in very deep wells. This is one reason why settlement was pretty sparse in these areas. But north of the Downs there was a fairly plentiful supply, and in particular from two streams that flowed from the base of the chalk. One of these streams flowed through West Harting Manor, and the other largely through East Harting Manor, although the latter also began in the west.

The two streams as traced from the 1632 map of West Harting Manor. The eastern stream can be seen starting within the deer park (outlined in yellow) but soon flows into East Harting Manor and is lost to our 1632 map

The eastern stream starts within the deer park attached to the Manor House of West Harting, just to the south-west of the modern village of South Harting. Its source is a spring running out of a little combe just to the west of The Warren, the water now flowing via a small pond down into South Gardens just below the lowest of the existing ponds there. However the 1632 map shows the spring being immediately dammed into two larger ponds, separated by a path, which then flow down to a building at the end of the now missing fourth pond of South Gardens. It is this building that is likely to be a mill, and probably a mill whose predecessors date back to Saxon times. In the Domesday Book, the reference to Harting includes a grand total of 9 mills, of which this was almost certainly one. The current ponds in South Gardens, also probably spring fed from the highest pond, may well have developed slightly later as fish ponds – the watery equivalent to the living larder provided by the deer park. After leaving South Gardens, the stream crosses the Chichester road and thus enters into East Harting manor, and out of the range of our 1632 map. Its lower course will be discussed in a later blog.

The origins of the East Harting manor stream, showing the spring-fed ponds feeding the mill (the upper shapes shaded green) and the later fish ponds of South Gardens (the three lower green shapes).

The West Harting manor stream originates from a spring near Ditcham, again at the foot of the Downs. It flows under the Petersfield Road (B2146) and through what is now Torberry Farm. From there to the River Rother, where it ends, it has an eventful journey, being dammed at least four times for various purposes.

Nowadays the highest dam is that at Hurst Farm, where a mill still exists, although no longer in use. This mill does not appear on the 1632 map, but is there by the date of the 1st Ordnance Survey edition of 1808. Further down stream there was an earlier mill, confusingly called “New Mill” which ironically now no longer exists. It used to lie in Goose Green, in angle between the road to Ryefields and that to Manor Farm, with the mill building located at the eastern end of a small rectangular pond, and several other buildings forming a small hamlet to the west.

New Mill at Goose Green. North is to the right. The mill is the rather faded building at the right hand end of the pond, with two more structures above, presumably one being the miller’s house.

Further downstream again we find what is now called “Harting Pond”, a much larger body of water. There is no sign of a building on the 1632 map in the vicinity of the pond’s dam, and no writing to indicate what its original purpose was. The most likely explanation is that it was the site of another of Harting’s nine medieval mills, but without further evidence this remains uncertain.

Harting Pond, lying next to the West Harting to Durford road. It is a much larger pond than either that of Hurst Mill or New Mill, but its function is not given on this 1632 map

We are on firmer ground with the next pond, although this time, conversely, no pond survives, but a name does. For on the 1632 map the words “Furnace Pond” are written over the area between channels of the West Harting stream, just as it exits the modern parish and enters Rogate, to the north-west of Nyewood. As the name suggests, this was not the site of a mill, but rather of an iron furnace, or more properly an iron hammer. The buildings of the hammer probably lay at the far eastern edge of the pond, inside the parish of Rogate, with the water backing up all the way to Parlour Copse or even Down Park Farm. Iron hammers tend to work in partnership with iron furnaces, with the latter extracting the ore from the rock and the former hammering it to produce a more marketable iron product. The pair for this hammer lay to the north in what is still called Harting Combe, although it lies now in Rogate parish, for here the site lay over the Weald clay, in which the ore can be found, whereas the hammer is over the Gault Clay, which does not contain ore.

The site of “Furnace Pond” to the north-west of Nyewood, on the border of the modern parish. By the date of this 1632 map the furnace has ceased working

The hammer and furnace were in operation from about 1588-1608, a relatively short period, perhaps suggesting that they were not very profitable, certainly compared to the many others that lay further into the Weald to the east. If you want to see the site of a furnace that lasted much longer and survives much better, then North Park Furnace at Fernhurst is the place to go (they have an annual Open Day in September which is well worth a visit (

Shortly after the hammer, the West Harting stream empties into the Rother, just to the west of Habin bridge, by Mizzards. And so also ends this blog ,except to observe once again that water meant power in centuries past, and a power that you could just keep on exploiting, building more and more dams to control and use its flow to power mills and furnaces. And the power was not just in the water, for whoever owned the water could make significant sums of money as a result of selling the produce of those mills and furnaces.

Harting in 1632

The 1632 Caryll map offers us a fascinating snapshot into life in Harting at this time, or at least to half of Harting, since by this date the old manor of Harting had been split into two – West and East. The term “manor” can be a bit confusing, so it is worth just saying a few words about it. Nowadays we tend to talk of the “manor” as being a building, but actually originally it was an area of land held by one authority, who may well have lived in the “manor house”, i.e. the principal house within the area of the manor. Back in the medieval period the “manor” of Harting was the possession of the Hussey family, but when the male descendants of that family ceased in the late 15th century, the manor got split between two daughters and their husbands, and then descendants, so that by 1568 it had become divided into two halves, West Harting and East Harting, with the dividing line running pretty much north-south along the line of the Nyewood – South Harting – Uppark roads. West Harting had become the possession of the Sir John Caryll who had the 1632 map of his lands drawn up, while East Harting was owned by Sir William Ford, whose wife was actually another Caryll.

West Harting manor included all of what we now refer to as West Harting village, together with the western half of South Harting village, which was rather uncomfortably split down the centre of the High Street between the two manors. When you compare the number and spread of houses shown on the 1632 map with those existing today, what is most striking is the shrinking of West Harting, for there was a significantly larger number of houses four hundred years ago, than there are now. But actually, apart from that, there is surprisingly little change in settlement and landscape. The bulk of the population growth in Harting has actually been in the eastern manor, with the village of Nyewood appearing in the 19th century and the growth of eastern half of South Harting in the 20th century.

The two manors of Harting, with buildings shown on the 1632 map as red dots – South Harting is in the centre, and West Harting is the very dispersed spread of buildings in the northern half of the manor

I will return to look at West Harting in a later blog, but for the moment we will stick to the main course, which is the central village of South Harting. This was the location of the manor house itself, which lay just to the west of the current church, on the site of what is now Church Farm. It was, in its time, a very impressive set of buildings, with a large crenellated gatehouse facing onto the High Street. Not only did it have a large private garden, of which South Gardens still retains the name, but it was also set within its own private deer park, which extended westwards to the slopes of Hemner Hill, southwards to the summit of the Downs and northwards to the current Petersfield Road

The Manor House of West Harting, with its “South Garden”, containing four ponds (the northern of these is now empty of water)

As you can see the Manor House was part of a large complex of buildings, which I may discuss in more detail in a later blog, but the main building is the tallest shown, to the west of the church, with the gatehouse, almost equally big, situated to the north of the church. Between the church and the Manor House lies a walled garden, which now forms part of the churchyard, still enclosed within the same wall. The building lying at the south-west corner of the largest pond (the northern one) may well have been a mill, powered by the water held back in the upper three ponds. This building does not survive

The Manor House of West Harting, with its deer park to the west (outlined in yellow)

The deer park was not a large one by contemporary standards, but would have been well stocked with deer, probably numbering in the hundreds. Its purpose was to act as a living larder for the benefit of its owners, and also as a source of gifts to those they wanted to favour. By the date of our map, such parks were losing their original function, and being turned over to agriculture – hence the subdivisions into fields, which would not have existed a century or so before. The park as a whole was surrounded by a fence, known as the “pale”, to keep the deer in, and this fence is still marked on the map, even though the park has ceased to be a proper deer park.

In the next blog we will look at another aspect of the 1632 map.

Maps: Part II

In the last post we looked at how the historic maps of the Ordnance Survey can be used to see what your house, village or town looked like in times past. However, these only take you back to the early 1800’s, and then not in great detail, or the 1870’s, if you want to be able to pick out an individual house. But there are maps that will take you back further, and in some cases a lot further.

The first port of call on our journey back in time are the Tithe maps, produced in the mid-19th century in order to facilitate the calculation of the new monetary tithes that landowners were required to pay, as opposed to the old payments in kind (agricultural produce). These maps cover the majority of the country by parish and are at a much more detailed scale than the one inch Ordnance Survey. Back in the day when they were made, three copies were produced of each map, one went to what was essentially central government (now held in the National Archives), one to the Diocese and one to the parish. It is these latter that are now the most easily accessible, since the majority ended up in Local Authority Record Offices. For South Harting the local Record Office is that for West Sussex in Chichester, and the Tithe map can either be viewed there, or purchased from them on CD. At some stage it is to be hoped that they will appear online.

For some places the Ordnance Survey maps and the Tithe are going to be your only historic maps, but for others a whole new world of mapping can open up, from enclosure maps (as the name suggests drawn up to map the enclosure of common land) to private estate maps and other more random examples. These can be held anywhere, including in private collections, but the most accessible ones are held in public archives, such as the National Archives, the British Library or local record offices. All of these have searchable catalogues of what they hold, so it is fairly easy to find out what maps they might have for your area.

In the case of Harting there are more the ten maps pre-dating the Tithe, but the best of all is one held by the British Library (No. Add MS 20089 A). As you might imagine, the further back in time you go, the fewer maps there are, with only a comparatively small number pre-dating the 18th century. But the British Library’s Harting map is one of these, and dates back nearly 400 years, to 1632.

Extract from a map of Harting, dated 1632, showing the village of South Harting
(British Library No. Add MS 20089 A)

Often these older maps are very colourful and tend to include all sorts of extra decoration and details. They also commonly show the buildings in a sort of 3D, rather than from a bird’s eye view, as modern maps do. The titles that go with them are also often rather long and elaborate, as it is with this map, which reads: “An exact & perfect description & general plan of the manor of West Harting in the county of Sussex wherein are set forth & delivered all the houses, gardens, tenements, cottages, woods & underwoods, wastes, commons, warrens, sheep downs & lands situated, lying & being within the tithing of West Harting belonging to Sir John Carill knight now lord of the same manor” and then it carries on quite a bit longer.

Sadly of all the maps discussed above, and in my previous post, only the Ordnance Survey ones are available to view online, which is not terribly helpful in the present circumstances, when we just cannot get to record offices and other archives. It is to be hoped that some day all these old maps will be scanned and make their way onto the web for all to see.

Maps: Part I

During this time of lockdown I am sure many of us are developing new hobbies and interests, or perhaps finally getting going with one that has been on the back-burner for years. For a lot of people this might be researching the family history, something which is getting both increasingly popular and achievable, with all the on-line resources that are around. But another line of enquiry into the past is to research the history of where we live – our house, village or town. This can be a bit harder, since most people don’t really know where to start and there is no one-stop-shop like So the purpose of these first WSA Blogs is to give those who want to have a go, a few pointers in how to go about it.

The best place to start is with maps. The UK is peculiarly blessed with its maps. We have to thank the Scots and the French for our most comprehensive set of maps, for if it had not been for their audacity in posing a threat to the rule of the Georges, we may well have never had the Ordnance Survey. In order to make it easier for us to locate and lock up rebellious Scots and to defend our coast from the Corsican tyrant, maps were drawn up that would eventually cover the whole nation.

The first of these were the old one inch maps produced in the first half of the 19th century, and these can now be viewed on-line at: Once you are on the site, the easiest way to get to the right place is to enter the name of your village, town etc. into the search bar at the top. This can require a bit of lateral thinking, because the search engine does not always recognise every place. For example, entering “South Harting” will take you, for some reason, to South Korea, which is interesting, but perhaps slightly irrelevant. Once you have finished looking at maps of South Korea in the 19th century, you will probably want to have another go. The secret to get to the right place, is to try entering the name of somewhere else nearby, maybe slightly more internationally famous that South Harting, and see if that does the trick. So in my case “Midhurst” is the answer. This will then give you a long list of maps on the right hand side of the screen, but most of these can be viewed better elsewhere, and we are really after the early 19th century one inch maps, so the next thing to do is to press the clock icon at the top and slide the bar from today to pre-1850. This then narrows the list, and at the top should appear the one we want, in this case entitled “Midhurst 8”. If you click on that, you will then be able to make your way to the map itself (it is worth clicking on the “view as overlay” option). You will see the resolution is not the best, but it is as good as it gets at this scale.

South Harting in 1808 from the one inch Ordnance Survey map by Charles Budgen

In the later 19th century the Ordnance Survey started producing what is known as the “County Series” maps, which were much more detailed. These can be viewed at: Once again, enter the place name that you are interested in (or the postcode) and up will pop all the maps from the 1st edition (normally from the 1870s) onwards. The search engine for this is rather more effective, so it will usually handle small hamlets and villages.

South Harting on the 1898 2nd edition 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map

These two websites will enable you to access pretty much all that the Ordnance Survey has to offer in terms of maps. In the next post I will go further back in time and look at some of the older maps and where they can be found.