Chris Field: Memories of the Nevill Estate

Nevill Memoirs > Chris Field

Chris Field’s email to Ann Holmes,  November 5, 2016

I think I can contribute a few items from my memory bank (now 82 yrs old) about the lovely Nevill Estate.

My parents were Hubert George Field (Bert) and Mary Ann Field (Moll), and we lived at 23 North Way until 1938. Dad was a warder at the Prison – as were some of our neighbours I believe, so perhaps No. 23 was a “Prison House”.

One name that stood out on the list of residents shown in your website was Maywood, also in North Way. I believe, but can’t claim to remember, that the Maywood daughter was given the task of taking me for a trip in my pram in 1936. Apparently we went missing for quite a time, causing Mum to get Dad and some mates to scour the streets, even into the country. Eventually they found the two of us waving to the passing trains at the railway crossing at Offham….

Another name I remember from North Way was Boseley, who lived on the opposite corner – Peter became one of my school-mates.

On my 4th birthday we moved to 3 Hamsey Crescent – much to my disappointment as it was my 4th birthday, with no cake/cards/presents… My Dad had bought the place for some 350 pounds – now you would have to multiply that by 1000! (He sold it for 1850 in 1948).

I shall send more info in a few days about my memories of friends/schools/pranks etc – as I’m writing this 12,000 miles away in NZ it will take some piecing together.

Regards to all Lewesians, whether Old or not.


Chris Field’s email to Ann Holmes, November 12, 2016

Following on from my recent letter, you might like to hear a few more memories of the ’30s. We moved in to 3 Hamsey Crescent on 22 Sept 1938 – my 4th birthday. I remember being greeted at the gate by another young lad – Peter Welfare from No. 8.

We were great mates for the next ten years – along with: Dave Arnell and sister Joy from No. 5, Norman Briggs from 2 Firle Crescent, John Dunn from 3 (?) Firle Crescent, Roy Brown from East Way (still there I believe), Colin Dolloway from the end of East Way, and Brian Hoadley from Mt Harry Rd.

Most of us went to St Anne’s Primary School in De Montfort Rd, walking all the way of course, unlike today’s kids who get carted or bussed… (Norman Briggs went to St Pancras, also in De Montfort Rd.)

There were two teachers at St Anne’s – Mrs Reid and Miss Gregory – both firm disciplinarians, which was to be expected in those days. One common punishment was to be sent into a corner of the classroom , standing straight up with both hands joined on your head, facing the wall for half an hour – it usually worked…

We had a Christmas play in 1939, I was Joseph but forgot my only line, though I remember it 77 years later: “Come in, and you shall see Him”.

Next came Western Road school, with Mr. Cull as Head, and Miss Salvage as my form teacher. I believe they got married some years later. There was also a Mrs Courtney, and another whose name I can’t remember.

Great school – plenty of activities in and outside the classroom, must have laid a good foundation for my gaining a BA in NZ in 1965!

Following that came Sussex County Grammar School in Mountfield Rd – now Priory School. Head was Mr Bradshaw – a truly great leader of young gents, with a wonderful team of staff such as Tayler (Latin), Auld (French), Duffin (Maths) and so on.

Duggie Auld lived near us in Nevill Estate, would often pass us on the way to school in the morning on his bike – calling out “Bonjour -mes amis!” to which we were expected to reply “Bonjour, monsieur.” You were not allowed to speak in English in his room, only in French, after the first couple of weeks of term.

My next text will describe some of our out-of-school activities.


Chris Field’s email to Ann Holmes, November 13, 2016

To continue on the joys of being a lively lad in the Nevill Estate – especially 1938-48 in my case – we were a close-knit gang with one of the world’s best playgrounds just up the road – the South Downs. Just up the road in Firle Crescent was a pathway up to the “Shepherd’s Pond” – not actually very watery but it presumably had a history of providing flocks of sheep with water. We could get the occasional frog or tadpole there.

Nearby, on the levels next to the race-course track, we would play all sorts of ballgames – no real rules, just fun. These later turned into rather more sober-sided cricket. The race-track fencing – horizontal poles on pillars – gave us great opportunities to practice “tightrope” walks, while the girls, with skirts shoved into their knickers, would do roll-overs.

A good walk along the track brought us to “Schiffner’s Woods” – I’ve never seen the name on any map – near Offham. That was a good source of fun for tree-climbing, and for cutting ash branches to make bows and arrows. Norman Briggs shot me (accidentally?) in the right eye one day – I had to go to Brighton Hospital for a day or so. Nothing could be done, apparently – and my eye still bears the scar!

Another great interest for us were the chalk cliffs – nothing could be more exciting than to send a sizeable boulder or two down towards the Cliff Inn on the Offham Road – although we did scatter once when we nearly hit a bus going to Chailey. The smaller cliffs called “Bonnie Scotland” were where we did intrepid climbing – and in later more swotty years searching for fossils.

The Ouse was another attraction, though quite a walk for youngsters. My lasting memory of that river was the time I went to kick the mud off my shoe – only to see the shoe hurtle into the river. The trip back with one shoe was more comfortable than the arrival home to tell Mum….

During the war years we were not really interrupted much in our fun-seeking, in fact loved seeing the flashes in the sky over London during the Blitz. One day a Jerry plane crashed just up on the hills behind Nevill Estate – we had to be restrained from hurtling up there to view it of course, and several Hamsey Crescent men took off with sticks and spades to grab the Jerries.

Another interest came when an army group did pre-D-Day training up near the race course. They left some bullets and a mortar shell by accident – Peter Welfare and I carried them home to his garden, much to his mother’s annoyance. Within a short time Constable Harman from East Way was there to admonish us, and a squad of soldiers soon arrived to remove the dangerous goods.

Air-raids whilst at school were not common, but we all sat in the big concrete shelters, singing songs such as “Rule Britannia” and “Roll out the Barrel” with great gusto – hoping that the Germans would drop a bomb on to the school, but they never did.

In my previous letter I didn’t mention that during those war years, my father having been recalled to the Navy, we were moved to Devonport for three periods while he was temporarily based ashore, having been sunk three times… This meant that I had to be moved to local schools there – no probs from my point of view as there were similar pals to link with, for somewhat different activities – e.g. swimming in the Tamar, and catching sneaky rides on the chain ferry that took cars across to Saltash.

Each time we returned to Lewes the Nevill squad would remark “You don’t half speak funny” – they weren’t trained to listen to the Devonshire burrr that I had acquired.

The end of the war saw the return of Bonfire Night in Lewes – we just had a marvellous time with small rockets that we often sent whizzing low over the crowds’ heads in High Street, and chucked bangers between the girls’ ankles to make them shriek.

1948 saw my father being transferred from his job at Lewes Prison to a new Borstal in Portsmouth, so we had to move yet again.

Subsequent moves (to Brixton, then NZ) have however still left me with wonderful memories of Lewes and Lewesians. I often meet Kiwis who have never been to UK and don’t know the best places to see in a limited time. I assure them that once they’ve seen Buckingham Palace they should go to Victoria Station and hurtle down to Lewes where they can have all the historical stuff about England encapsulated in one lovely small town – and it’s only 8 miles from Brighton, the first seaside capital of the world.