by Bill Martin
By Bill Martin
Photo courtesy of Bill Martin
During the industrial depression of the 1930s more than 1000 unemployed miners and shipbuilders moved from the north-east of England and South Wales to 20 different LSA's (Land Settlement Association's) across England to begin new lives as market gardeners. Sidlesham, established in 1936, was the largest LSA and had 120 smallholdings built on the land of three farms, Keynor, Batchmere and Fletchers. Each tenant was provided with a house, piggery, chicken battery, glasshouse and 4 acres of land. Roads such Cow Lane, Chalk Lane, Fletchers Lane, Street End Lane and First, Second and Third Avenues in Almodington were constructed for the LSA and houses were built by Stirland (still in Birdham) at a cost of £325 each.
The earliest arrivals lived in a wooden hut while they were being trained and six months later they were joined by their families and moved into their houses. Keynor Hut then became a community facility used as a base for the local tenant's association, the Home Guard during the war as well as a pre-school, brownies, guides and the WI meeting house. Keynor Farm House was home for the overall manager, and the adjacent Keynor Industrial Estate housed a packing shed, offices and store.
A scheme for improvement of the school was carried out including the addition of four large 'sunshine' classrooms as the school role increased from 120 to 284.The Sidlesham School Admissions Register has been an extremely helpful source of information, having the names and previous addresses of the early tenants. Contact has been established with the relatives of 30 of the original tenants and research is now taking place to trace some of the families who were unable to adapt to the new way of life and 'returned north'. The outbreak of war in 1939 required new tenants to have qualifications and experience. During the 1960s, when chickens and pigs were phased out, the emphasis shifted to horticulture in additional glasshouses. The LSA continued until 1983 when Sidlesham Growers was established, operating until 2000. Many of the smallholdings are still farmed and produce can be purchased from the roadside, others have become equestrian facilities and three have been converted to gardens open to the public.
LSA properties, many extended and adapted over time, can still be seen on the heritage trail, but it is the stories which ex-tenants and LSA staff have shared which bring the trail to life.
Mrs Littler recalled the family's train journey from Newcastle and the later taxi ride from Chichester to Sidlesham, which had a rope wrapped around the vehicle to ensure that the 14 passengers didn't fall out.
An account book, with precise details of the produce, income and expenditure was kept by Freda Booth of number 15 Cow Lane. This account book tells many interesting stories including of Penelope the pig who had a litter of 22, 5 of which were reared in a laundry basket in Freda Booth's bedroom.
'Darkie' Kemp, an iron moulder (shipbuilder) from West Hartlepool, arrived in 1936, the youngest of the early settlers at 28.After the closure and in honour of the LSA he named his house El-Es-Ay.
With the support of The Novium Museum a film was produced which combines archive footage and interviews with ex-tenants and LSA staff. A heritage trail leaflet has been created and can be purchased at The Novium, where a display telling the story of the Sidlesham LSA has been available since November 2015. The exhibition will be moving to the Weald and Downland Living Museum at the end of April where an original LSA house will later be moved and erected, once suitable funding becomes available.
More information about the history of the LSA and the heritage trail can be found on the web: