The largest, and most distinguished, component of the farmyard is Perching Barn. This is a Grade II listed eighteenth century building with weather-boarding on a flint base. The roof is slate, hipped at the north and half-hipped at the south. A large building today, the map shown above suggests that it was quite a bit larger still in the mid-nineteenth century.
Perching Barn was a fine example of a Sussex threshing barn. It had a wide entrance in the centre of the (long) side that faced west and was high enough to allow a threshing machine to be positioned and operated in the centre of the building. Sheaves of corn were loaded from both sides of the machine and the grain was then stored on either side of the building. Once threshed, the straw was ejected from the back of the thresher to the outside of the building. When not in use during harvest it was available for other uses — such as village barn dances and parties.
Some time during the 1930s or 1940s, a man known only as Martin lived in the lower half of a two-storey barn situated behind this building, on ground that fell away sharply towards the stream to the north east. It seems that he was ex-army and well educated, but chose to live there on an earthen floor, using old sacks as bedding. From time to time he became very ill and was moved to the workhouse at Chailey, but as soon as he recovered he would walk back to his simple home in Fulking. It is thought that his income was mainly from an army pension, but he supplemented this by chopping wood and doing odd jobs at Perching Manor for which Henry Harris is thought to have paid him 10 shillings a week.
George Greenfield was the local tramp. He may have been the George Greenfield who was born in Steyning around 1884. He lived rent-free in the ‘duck hut’, an open fronted, lean-to shed located at the southern edge of the farmyard. The shed had an open front and faced Perching Drove and the pond. George walked with a stick and had a dog. He was well known around the village and on most evenings could be found sitting in the same place at the Shepherd and Dog. He was known as the ‘threshing machine feeder man’ as this was his job when the contractor arrived in the district for the autumn/winter threshing period. In summer he did no work at all. Like Martin, his bedding was sacking and he hung sacks across the front of his hut to keep out the wind and rain. He cooked on a brazier and in winter he moved this inside the hut to provide heat. However, this meant that the hut filled with smoke, as there was only a small gap just below the roof for it to escape through. When he became ill, George was also taken to the workhouse at Chailey, but once recovered, he too always walked back to his shed, where he eventually died.
As farming became more mechanised, the barn was divided up. Half was used as a grain store, whilst the other half became a milking parlour and dairy. Later, Brian Harris, who was the farmer at the time, switched to arable production only. This decision was brought about partly because it was becoming impossible to find a cowman prepared to work the unsocial hours associated with livestock production and partly because of changes entailed by European Union farming policies. As a consequence, the barn became largely redundant.
[Copyright © 2013, Anthony R. Brooks. Adapted from Anthony R. Brooks (2008) The Changing Times of Fulking & Edburton. Chichester: RPM Print & Design, pages 182-185.]
The 1990s Willis development process in pictures:
Currently popular local history posts:
- The Aerial Cableway 1894-1909
- John Ruskin, the pump house, and the fountain
- The Shepherd and Dog
- Nathaniel Paine Blaker
- The Steep Grade Railway 1897-1909
- Perching Barn
- Fulking Post Office
- Farmers in Fulking: A History of the Harris Family
- Tottington Manor: Sussex WWII Auxiliary Units HQ
- Customary Cottage