28 May 2022

Locks Hill, Portslade

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2022)

 copyright © G. Osborne 
  An Edwardian photograph of Locks Hill, with St Nicolas' Infants School and Freeman's Cottage on the left

The Name

It is an unusual name, and people often wonder about its derivation.

It may come from the time when flocks of sheep were a major part of Portslade’s landscape and economy. According to Parish’s Dictionary of Dialect the word ‘locks’ was the name given to wool taken from sheep after a tailing operation. These locks were then given a good wash, and sold separately from the wool obtained from shearing.

copyright © D. Sharp

The Victorian mansion called Loxdale was so named because the land on which it stands was once known as Locksdale Field, and was thus mentioned in the tithe apportionment map of 1840.

Then again, the venerable Captain Bately, Portslade’s first local historian, was of the opinion that the name was once Lot’s Hill. Perhaps that was a misreading of some document because it is difficult to see what relevance Lot has to Portslade although readers of the Old Testament would no doubt recognise the name, it being of Hebrew origin. Although Lot himself was not of any great importance, it will be remembered that the unfortunate Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for daring to look over her shoulder at the scene of destruction from which they were fleeing after being told not to do so. Apparently ‘Lot’ means ‘hidden’.

Walls and Footpath

copyright © D. Sharp
The flint garden wall of the Manor Lodge and the brick garden wall of Loxdale

Old flint walls are to be seen on Locks Hill in front of Manor Lodge. Since re-cycling is not a modern concept, it may well be that components came from elsewhere because the walls are not made exclusively of flints gathered from Portslade’s fields or beach. For example, there is a round, white stone that may well have come from Lewes Priory when it was demolished because it is a fact that a cart-load of material found its way to this area, being used at Hangleton Manor, and also possibly in the twitten beside St Nicolas Church. These walls are therefore historically important, and protected today.

In April 1903 Portslade Council granted Mr Eastwood a contract to take down the old flint and rubble wall, and build a new red brick wall, complete with kerbing, channelling, and paving for the cost of £171.

In August 1906 it was reported that the footpath leading from St Nicolas School to the church was in a dangerous state. Apparently, it was supported only by an earth bank, and on several occasions it was repaired with timber supports. It was felt that a more satisfactory solution was for the footpath to be lowered.

A Lost School Building

copyright © G. Osborne
Note, the north end of the Freemans Court Cottages (see below) can be seen on the left of the school.  

This was situated on the west side of Locks Hill north of Tate’s Garage at Southern Cross. It is a wonder that Locks Hill was never knick-named Education Hill because there have been no less than four school buildings within a short distance of each other. The structure in question started off as St Nicolas Infants School. The land was donated for the purpose by John Eardley Hall, and the school was officially opened by the Bishop of Chichester on 23 July 1903.

In 1936 the education of infants was handed over to the local authority and St Nicolas became a Junior Mixed School, while the senior boys were located at the Locks Hill building until 1940 when they moved to the Windlesham House premises at the top of High Street. Meanwhile, the building at Locks Hill reverted to use by younger children.

In around 1989 the Locks Hill premises became the Chimney Family Centre. In 1996 a mural with an ocean theme was painted on a brick wall to brighten up a drab playground, the funds having been donated by Amex. By 1999 the following activities took place:

A creche

A ‘Living with Teenagers’ support group

A parenting group

An after-school club for children up to 16 years

A young people’s drop-in advice centre

Relate (formerly Marriage Guidance) held sessions

The latest suggestion was a discussion group just for men. Staff also made checks on children on the Child Protection Register.

Karen Southern was the centre’s manager for some years.

copyright © D. Sharp
The former St Nicolas' Infants School and later the
Chimney Family Centre in the process of demolition in February 2018

In 2018 this building was demolished. It was a great shame because it was an attractive-looking building with the contrasting colours of the roof tiles making a lasting impression. Instead, a new housing development arose on the site, and it is fair to say that it is much easier on the eye than the usual boring structures.

copyright © D. Sharp
'Freemans View' built in 2019 on the site of the former St Nicolas Infants School


Brackenbury School

copyright © J.Middleton
  The former St Nicolas School (now an annex of the Brackenbury Primary School)
The inscription on the School's west wall reads: These Schools were erected by Hannah Brakenbury for the benefit of the Poor of the united parishes of Portslade and Hangleton A.D. 1872.

The building was designed by Edmund Scott and opened in 1872. It was named Brackenbury School because wealthy Hannah Brackenbury paid for it to be built. It was a church school, and later became St Nicolas C. of E. School. Today the school has moved to new premises north of the old site, while the original building has become part of the newly-named Brackenbury School whose main building on a corner site was once known as Portslade Infants’ School.

copyright © D. Sharp
The 'new' St Nicolas C of E Primary School

St Nicolas School

This popular school has a long history in Portslade, staring off in the old farmhouse in the village with the only other alternative being the local Dame School. The school moved down to Locks Hill in 1872 through the generosity of Hannah Brackenbury.

The foundation stone for the new St Nicolas School was laid on 7 June 1963, and the school was officially opened on 12 July 1967. It cost £71,000 to build.

copyright © J.Middleton
The former North Cottages on the left, renamed Freeman's Cottage in later years, on the right is the garden wall of  Sellaby House.

Freemans Court & Cottages

The 1840 Tithe Map shows three plots, numbers 44, 45 and 46, at the south end of Locks Hill at the junction of the Old Shoreham Road. These three plots were owned by John Borrer of Portslade Manor. This land was also Rectorial Glebe land which required John Borrer to pay a yearly fee to the Revd John Hoper of St Nicolas Church.

Plot 44 on the east side of Locks Hill at Southern Cross was a large field called Freemans Court, where Sellaby House and the Brackenbury Schools are today. This was a plot of 2 acres of arable land with no buildings. Freemans Court is a strange name for a large field, it is possible that there once stood an unrecorded house on this land. In later years Plot 44 was purchased by Hannah Brackenbury so that the ‘1872’ St Nicolas School and the 1870s  Sellaby House could be built there.

The Archdeaconry of Lewes Register of Wills lists for the 8 April 1738, a John Freeman, a yeoman of Portslade, (a yeoman was a land owner in the 18th century). John Freeman was born in Portslade in 1672 and married Miss S. Newman on 8 February 1704 in  St Nicolas Church , he was buried in St Nicolas churchyard on 26 November 1737.
John was the son of William Freeman (d.1680) and Elizabeth (d.1679) who were also buried in St Nicolas churchyard.

Plot 45, Freemans Court Cottages, were situated on the west side of Locks Hill, where Tate's Garage and the recently built Freeman’s View houses are today.

Plot 46, North Cottages, built in 1738, are on the west side of Locks Hill and still survives to this day, but is now a single residence called Freeman’s Cottage.
Coincidentally the North Cottages (now Freeman's Cottage) were built a year after John Freeman died.

The next plot north of North Cottages (now Freeman’s Cottage) in Locks Hill was plot number 105. It was named Eight Pieces Plantation, a wooded area owned by John Hall of Portslade House.

In 1881 John Borrer of Portslade Manor sold his estate which included, the East and West Manor Farms, Freemans Court Cottages and the Old Rectory and its lands.

copyright © D. Sharp
Locks Hill at the Old Shoreham Road junction in 1909
N.B. Historic records show ‘Freeman’s Cottage’ is the
only location that used an apostophe ‘S with the name ‘Freeman’

It was most likely that these two terraced cottages were erected as tied cottages for workers on the Portslade Manor’s two farms. But there have been recent fanciful ideas as to the occupants. For example, Captain Bately thought number 8 might have been the vicarage, although in reality the vicarage has always been next to the church. Other people thought it might have been occupied by the schoolmaster because the school was just across the road.

copyright © D. Sharp
Number 8 - Freeman's Cottage, the year 1738 is inscribed
above the doorway

The cottages were heavily populated in times past. For example, in the 1841 census no less than 41 souls were living there and earned their living on the land.

Agricultural Labourers:- Samuel Hobden, William Hobden, Henry Hobden, John Hobden (aged 12), Thomas Pollington, Thomas Geer, William Geer, George Aldridge, William Aldridge, Thomas Truseler, William Truseler

Labourers:- Richard Patching, Edward White, David David Winton

By 1861 the number of occupants had grown to 48.

Agricultural Labourers:- Thomas Geer, aged 42, married, James Duke, aged 30, married, Thomas Geer aged 42, married, Samuel Sanders, aged 69, married,

Gardeners:- William Mills, aged 44, married, John Gander, aged 51

Bricklayers:- William Truseler, aged 58, married, George Miles, aged 40

Blacksmith:- William Coom

Shepherd:- Richard Beard, aged 63, married

1891 Census for Freeman's Court Cottages:-

Number 1 – Thomas Turner, gardener, 28, wife, 3 sons

Number 2 – John Povey, 41, gas labourer, 2 sons, 2 daughters, 1 boarder

Number 3 – William Payne, 35, gas stoker, wife, 4 sons, 2 daughters

Number 4 – Samuel Ayling, 31, brick-layer, wife, 4 daughters, 1 son

Number 5 – Stephen Downer, 62, gardener, wife, 1 boarder also a gardener

Number 6 – Alfred Burtenshaw, 48, gardener, wife, 1 daughter, 1 son

North Cottages (Freeman's Cottage) :-
Number 7 – Stephen Baker, 63, retired, wife

In 1902 the cottages were owned by J. Eardley Hall of Barrow Hill, Henfield, whose family had once owned Portslade House. Mr Hall had new outside lavatories installed for the cottages in 1902. A modern innovation was that they were to be connected with the main sewer, and obviously there would be no need for cess-pits any more, so the old privies were filled in. There were four lavatories for the lower block, and two for the cottages facing Locks Hill. The plans were drawn up by Harry James Burt and approved by Portslade Council.

In 1923 the cottages were up for sale. Numbers 7 and 8 (now Freeman's Cottage) boasted the following:

Two bedrooms, one with a fireplace

A living room with a kitchener

A scullery with a copper and sink

A strip of gardener

A frontage to Locks Hill of 66-ft

These cottages were let to Alfred Burtenshaw and William Town for four shillings a week.

 copyright © G. Osborne
1920s photograph of Tate's Garage at Southern Cross, next to garage's low brick building is a shop front built into the south end of  the former Number 1, Freemans Court Cottage.

The lower cottages (Freemans Court Cottages) were described as a corner block of four freehold cottages, flint and timber built, and had three bedrooms, one with a fireplace, but otherwise the same amenities as numbers 7 and 8. The original frontage to Locks Hill was around 79-ft, while the return frontage to Old Shoreham Road was 123-ft. These cottages were let to Messrs Ford, Greenfield, Glazebrook , and Passiful at four shilling and two pennies a week. Adjoining number 3 were two rooms that were not inhabited. The lower cottages were demolished in the 1950s.

However, the upper cottages (Freeman's Cottage) remains to this day, although as a single residence rather than two cottages, and now numbered 8 rather than 7 and 8. On 22 September 1971 it became a Grade II listed building. It is interesting to note that the central, ribbed, plank door is an original feature.

copyright © D. Sharp
Number 8 - Freeman's Cottage, built in 1738

In the summer of 2000 a large board appeared in the garden. At first it was stated that the cottage would be sold by auction, but then another sign said it was for sale at £150,000. How those old-time labourers would have gasped at the price.

Greenways

The name has an ancient derivation, dating back to at least the 17th century. John Rowe (steward of the Manors of Lord Bergavenny from 1597 to 1622) stated that Edward Blaker was the owner of the property called Nottinghams Greeneways at Ringlehay, Portslade.

copyright © D. Sharp
Greenways as viewed from the Old Shoreham Road

In more recent times there was a large house called Greenways situated on the east side of Locks Hill to which there was access by means of a long, tree-lined avenue running south of Loxdale grounds. The house was constructed in around 1935 for Herbert Baker.

By 1958 Henry Reed was the occupant, and in the 1960s an architect, Ewart E. G. Cummins, lived in the house. It was Mr Cummins who decided he would sell some land and build a block of flats on his plot of land, reserving the pent-house for himself; he was also the architect for the project. The flats went up in the 1970s, and naturally the pent-house enjoyed extensive views.

In May 2022 there was uproar when it was revealed that Timothy Jennings had applied for planning permission to erect six one-bedroom, semi-detached houses on the driveway leading to Greenways. A more unsuitable site for housing would be hard to find. For example, there could be no road in such a narrow space, and so access would be denied to emergency vehicles such as an ambulance or fire engine, and never mind bin lorries. Long-serving Councillor Leslie Hamilton described the scheme as ‘ridiculous’ urging the planning people involved to make a site visit before coming to a decision. He reminded them that the site was near the Portslade Village Conservation Area. But neither the Heritage Team nor the Conservation Advisory Group raised any objection.

copyright © D. Sharp
The former Greenways' Locks Hill driveway in 2022,
on the left is the boundary fence of Loxdale
on the right is the boundary fence of St Nicolas C of E Primary School.


In fact, the plans were passed by six to one in favour with the lone ‘against’ vote being made by Councillor Carol Theobald who said she thought that building on a driveway was going a bit too far.

Joseph Pearson of Lewis & Co Planning, Mr Jennings’s agent, claimed that although the development was unconventional, it was ‘in keeping with the natural features’. Astonishing. The buildings would be made elsewhere before being erected on site. It seems that Mr Jennings would be obliged to pay £113,000 towards affordable housing somewhere else in the area.

Loxdale

copyright © D. Sharp
Loxdale on the east side of Locks Hill

This Victorian mansion of Loxdale was designed by Samuel Denman on behalf of Walter Mews, the joint owner with his brother, Herbert, of Portslade Brewery, with planning permission being granted in 1899. Walter Mews died in 1922, and was buried in the churchyard of St Helen’s, Hangleton.

Manor Lodge

copyright © D. Sharp
Manor Lodge on the east side of Locks Hill

It has been stated that this venerable building dates from around 1785, although an on-line source prefers the date of around 1810. But this cannot be correct because Portslade Lodge was already mentioned by name in a legal document from 1789 concerning a marriage settlement.

Access Road

In May 1969 it was announced that Portslade schoolmaster, P. R. James, had won his four-year battle to stop the construction of an access road in the middle of Locks Hill. In July 1968 there had been a Public Enquiry into the proposal, and in May 1969 the Ministry of Transport decided not to confirm a compulsory purchase order, which would have allowed Portslade Council to acquire parts of existing front gardens in order to provide visibility splays for the new access road.

copyright © D. Sharp
Locks Crescent junction with Locks Hill

Although that battle was won, the proposal again reared its head in the 1970s when land on the east side of the old allotments site was developed into housing, and the new access road connected Locks Crescent with Locks Hill. However, it should be noted that the road was rather more modest than the one envisaged in the 1960s.

Locks Hill Re-routed

copyright © G. Osborne
The 1930s layout of the junction of Locks Hill, Manor Road and South Street.
Note, there are no road markings for this junction.

In 1962 the East Sussex County Council purchased a north-east
corner of the Village Green to create a long bend in the Locks Hill road to join directly with South Street. The original layout of the north end of the Locks Hill road was a three-way junction with Manor Road with a sharp left-hand corner into the narrow South Street.

copyright © D. Sharp
The present day layout of the Locks Hill and the South Street connection. Note the position of the modern lamp post with the original lamp post in the 1930s photograph above to appreciate how this road layout has radically changed.

The original east end of South Street was very narrow and passed very close to St Nicolas Church’s vicarage wall where there was no pavement, which made it increasingly difficult for the new larger buses and Council services vehicles of the 1960s to negotiate the sharp left hand corner into South Street.

It is now largely forgotten, but this road layout modification to the north end of Locks Hill cannot be underestimated, this road building was a major event in 1960s North Portslade with the disruption to traffic flows it temporarily caused. The junction of Locks Hill with Manor Road and South Street was becoming more and more dangerous with the increase of road traffic flows from the housing developments in the Old Village, Easthill Estate, Drove Crescent/Valley Road Estate and Mile Oak all converging on a narrow three-way junction by St Nicolas Church.

copyright © D. Sharp
Locks Hill as viewed from the Southern Cross

Portslade Planning Approvals

1899 - A new house for Mr Mews called Loxdale

1926 – Messrs Morris & Jay, four houses

1926 - Messrs Harrison & Whittingstall, 22 houses, numbered 10 to 57

1926 – Messrs Harrison & Whittingstall, 12 houses, numbered 54 to 76

Sources

With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of four the above photographs from his private collection.

Argus
(4/5/2022 / 10/5/2022)

Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade’s

Portslade Council Minute Books.

Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Keep

Copyright © J.Middleton 2022
page layout by and additional research by D. Sharp