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The Grange Tower Street

by Pat Saunders & Amy Roberts

By Pat Saunders, volunteer at the Novium Museum and Amy Roberts, Collection Officer.

At the north end of Tower street, on the west side, is an area still known as The Grange which currently houses the  offices of West Sussex County Council which were built in the 1960s as a large extension behind the main building.

Records for the land, mainly maps, have been found as early as 1246. Back then it was known as Common Barns, an area of barns, cottages and stables owned by the Dean & Chapter and by St Mary's Hospital (the latter having a close called 'Longcroft'). A common barn was leased for 7 years at £16 a year to Thomas Cresweller in 1481. A later descendant ,John Cresweller, in his will of 1527 refers to 'My shop with close adjoining to the common barns' and to a mill house. A barn with tenement adjoining with outhouses referred to as Blackhurst along with the tithes of hay and grain was leased in 1533 for 31 years at £20 a year. The tenant was expected to do all the repairs whilst the Dean and Chapter provided the rough timber.

On the night of 29-30 March 1654 a disastrous fire broke out which affected several local people. They lost quantities of barley, fodder, cattle and horses, farm equipment and household goods. One gentleman, George Butterly, lost the Parsonage House valued at £40. All involved made claims at the Quarter Sessions for the loss that collectively amounted to £1,050 but it is unlikely any help was given to them.

At some time between 1837 and 1840, The Grange was built on the site of an earlier house. It was constructed for William Cobden Rhoades (c.1790-1878) and his wife Amelia Anne Rhoades (nee Newland) who had married a few years earlier in October 1829 in St Peter The Less, Chichester. Rhoades was a solicitor and was Mayor if Chichester in 1831.

The Grange was a Victorian building described as a Gothic fantasy, inspired in design by the likes of Horace Walpole and Sir Walter Scott. It incorporated building materials and internal features salvaged from older demolished properties. Some of its stonework, like the carvings above the large bay windows, came from Halnaker House in Boxgrove, which was demolished when the manor was absorbed into the Goodwood estate.

The inside of the house had features associated with the Gothic styling, including pointed doorways and windows which contained diamond shaped glass panes.

A number of the wonderful carved fixtures and fittings from The Grange now reside in The Novium Museum's collections. The oak staircase balustrade, and treads and risers were decorated with cherubs, birds, including a hooded hawk, fruit, flowers, and a bat. The hand rail has been carved in the shape of a serpent. The staircase was designed in the English style of the mid-17th century, although it is believed the serpentine handrail may have been added at a later date when the staircase was installed within The Grange. The newel post (a post at the head or foot of a flight of stairs, supporting a handrail) was carved in the shape of a lion's head, and has subsequently been affectional nicknamed Fred, by a former member of staff at the museum. The museum is also home to a carved oak overmantel from the building which sat above the fireplace in one of the rooms. It is dated to 1644 and shows biblical scenes.

William and Amelia unfortunately did not have any surviving children and as a result upon his death in 1878, the estate was left to two of William's nephews, Rev'd Edward James Rhoades and Henry Tull Rhoades esq both of Rugby, Warwickshire.

The house had a number of successive owners and occupants including in 1881 The Rev John Frederic Maul, vicar of St Paul's and chaplain to Chichester Infirmary. In the 1890s the house was occupied by eminent explorer Admiral John Moresby. We believe the final occupant of The Grange was a Miss Maude Alexandrina Craigie-Halkett who remained in the house until 1939. By the late 1950s the building was in a poor state, and was subsequently demolished in 1962.