Glimpse history through old images of Midhurst, West Sussex, England.
Midhurst in 1939
In the same year World War II started, the quiet and ancient streets of Midhurst were captured on film.
Occasionally you’ll see a car, but they are so few in number the absence of pavements wasn’t an issue for the local residents going about their daily lives.
Midhurst (1939) – British Pathé on YouTube
Portable Canoes in 1950
Down at the River Rother at Midhurst in 1950, a group of young people hiked to the riverbank, where they constructed a portable canoe that could float in as little as three inches of water.
Easter Parade – Record C Canoe Hiking (1950) – British Pathé on YouTube
Extract from an Old Book
Extract from “Rambles Round Midhurst and Neighbourhood, Giving a Full and Interesting Account of All the Chief Places of Interest: the Ruins of Cowdray, the Park, the Walks, and the Churches; Being a Complete Guide and Companion to the Visitor“, by D. Wolferstan
Published in 1865
But all earthly glories must have a term . Sir
Anthony Browne diéd , and was laid in Midhurst
Church by the side of his two noble wives , whose
virtues and his own services are still recorded upon
the family mausoleum , which has been removed from
Midhurst to a small chapel erected for its reception ,
and that of later monuments of the family near the
church of Easebourne .
The Lords Montague who
succeeded Sir Anthony seem to have remained sted
fast to the old religion until the seventh of the line ,
and he became a Protestant .
He also enlarged the
park , and tradition still points to one magnificent
clump of chestnuts , close to the town , as having been
planted by him .
He left two children – a daughter
and a son – the last Lord Montague .
The story of
this young nobleman’s death has often been told ;
but such incidents never lose their hold upon the
The last Lord Montague then , whilst still in
the prime of youth , left England ( in 1793 ) on a
Continental tour . His companions were a Mr. Bur
dett and an old and faithful servant . On arriving
at the famous falls of Schaffhausen , he and his friend formed the rash project of passing the falls in a boat
-a feat which had never been accomplished , or even
attempted , by any visitant .
The project , it seems ,
came to the knowledge of the authorities of the
place , and they , knowing that inevitable destruction
would overtake the rash adventurers , placed guards
to prevent the attempt .
Lord Montague , however ,
and his friend found means to elude these , and were
entering the flat – bottomed boat they had provided ,
when the young nobleman’s servant instinctively
seized his master by the collar , declaring that he
should forget the respect of the servant for the duty
of a man .
His efforts , however , were in vain ; the
young nobleman extricated himself from his retainer’s
grasp , with the loss of part of his collar and necker
chief , and the two young men pushed off .
over the first fall in safety , and began to shout and
to wave their handkerchiefs in token of success .
They then pushed down the second fall – by far
more dangerous than the first – after which they
were no more seen or heard of .
The supposition is
that they were carried away by the violence of the
cataract and their boat jammed between the two
The servant of Lord Montague remained
three weeks near the falls , bewailing the fate of his
beloved master , who had thus , in the prime of life ,
fallen a victim to a spirit of rash adventure .
The intelligence of this melancholy accident , by
which the line of the Viscounts Montague became extinct , had not yet reached England when the
family mansion at Cowdray was destroyed by fire ,
originating , it is supposed , in the carelessness of the
servants engaged in cleaning it .
There are yet old
men living ( the day was September 24 , 1793 , ) who
remember seeing the reflection of the fire at many
miles ‘ distance .
Little or nothing was saved of the
magnificent pictures and valuables – the accumula
tion of ages – with which the house was filled .
Many of these , impaired by the flames , are said to
have been concealed by the country people who
flocked to the spot ; some few , of little value , are
still preserved in the houses of the steward and the
The frescoes , with which the walls were
covered , of course perished with them ; and all that
now remains of the magnificent edifice , erected by
the Earl of Southampton , are the ivy – covered frag
ments of the walls , by which the extent of the build
ing may still be judged .
The letter , bearing the intelligence of this calamity
to Lord Montague , crossed , on its way to Germany ,
another letter , bearing to England the news of the
death of the Viscount at Schaffhausen .
The calamities of the race did not end here . We
have said the seventh Viscount left a daughter as well
as a son . This young lady , on the death of her brother ,
inherited the vast property of Lord Montague . She
became the wife of W. S. Poyntz , Esq . , and the
mother of two sons and three daughters .
Although no attempt was made to re – build Cowdray House ,
Mr. Poyntz lived on the estate in a lodge which he
built , going at certain periods with his family down
to the sea – coast , where he had a pretty place , called
the Pavilion , at Aldwick , near Bognor . It was
here that a catastrophe occurred which put the
climax to the misfortunes of the Montague family .
Mr. Poyntz and his two boys were fond of boating ,
and were in the habit of making excursions in the
vessel of an experienced boatman named Allen . So
close was the house to the water , that from the draw
ing – room windows Mrs. Poyntz and her daughters
could watch the course of the boat .
They were doing so one fine day , in the summer
of 1815 , when , to their horror , they beheld the boat
upset and disappear . A sudden gust of wind had
capsized it , and the whole of the occupants were
struggling in the water . Allen was a first – rate
swimmer , and , seizing hold of Mr. Poyntz , he was
able to sustain him until help arrived , but the two
unfortunate youths perished beneath the eyes of their