The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex

The Ashdown Forest Dispute 1876-1882
by Professor Brian Short
published by Sussex Record Society in 1997
Excerpts from this work have been reproduced on this site with the kind permission of Professor Brian Short

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William Augustus Raper
George Tester

24 Sept 1878

Tester, George. [At] Tompsetts Bank. 93. Cousin of Henry Thorpe. Born at Stumble Wood on the Forest in Maresfield. Baptised at Horsted Keynes, so his mother told him (but thinks the entry in the Register is not to be found).

When I was a boy lived with Father on Old Brickyard Farm, 18 acres right out in the Forest. Belonged to old Squire Newnham of Maresfield Cross. Lived there till 14 years old. Father turned out cows and sheep and a horse on the Forest. Took litter and brakes regularly for fodder. What I call litter is heath, furzes and fern and the like. Nobody interfered with nobody there then. Father used to cut scrub for firing. Almost all the poor people from Nutley used to come out on the Forest for wood. We always had turf or peat from the Forest to burn. We used to cut bushes for stopping up gaps in our hedges. This is the 8th Lord of the manor I have known. They all stirred up about the Forest and wanted to claim it as their own but never could yet.

While I lived there I used to [see] many of the neighbouring farmers teams come on to the Forest and carry away litter. I recollect Humphrey, William Wheeler, Osborne. Humphrey had a farm joining to the lane leading from Nutley to Fletching. Anthony Wheeler and after him his son William Wheeler were tenants of Masketts and used to have a good deal of litter. Osborne of Courtland Farm between Maresfield and Nutley used to have large quantities. All their cottagers had turf. I have seen them taking it.

The Forest used to be stocked with the farmers' bullocks. The farmers would also turn out their sheep out at times and the poor people used to turn out their sheep. The farmers would sometimes 6 or 7 of them meet with great long whips at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning and drive the Forest and impound all horses and sheep at Nutley pound. They made the owners pay a fine and the poundage and would have a grand dinner at Nutley afterwards. I often saw them driving. I never knew by what authority they did this. In those days Currey was the Reeve of the Forest and wore a green coat and waistcoat with large buttons and yellow breeches and a tall hat with a gold band and he rode a big horse. He was never with the farmers when they drove. I must have seen him had he been there.

They left off driving the Forest before I left Nutley. I remember several of the tenants of the Nutley Inn. They had a farm with the Inn. I have seen their teams many a time taking litter. All Nutley people had turf for fuel off the Forest; nobody interfered with them.

Mr. Verrall was tenant of Blackvenn. He used to have a great deal of litter. I used to know his teams well. He was a large farmer and used to fat a great many bullocks. He was too far away to turn out.

I knew Bunts Grove very well. It was but a small farm and I remember 3 or 4 tenants but cannot recollect now the names. I know they used to have litter off the Forest. They kept 3 little horses which used to come and carry it. I often used to go over to Bunts when I was a little boy with my Mother to see my uncles and aunts who lived about there.

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