Manor Cottage Heritage Centre: Southwick Society welcomes back visitors with new exhibition about the history of Southwick Street

Manor Cottage Heritage Centre is ready to open again and the Southwick (Sussex) Society is staging a brand new exhibition about the history of Southwick Street.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 10:29 am

Did you know Southwick Street was part of the network of ancient trackways that criss cross the Downs? Long before the modern houses which now line it, the road connected the coast at Southwick with Portslade, Hangleton and West Blatchington and other downland settlements.

Two thousand years ago, the Romans built an extensive villa beside Southwick Street on a site now covered by the Methodist Church and nearby houses. People have probably been living next to the road ever since.

Nigel Divers, secretary, said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome visitors back to the Manor Cottage and hope that they will enjoy these stories of our local history.

A Ford Consul outside Southwick Railway Station

“This new exhibition tells the story of some of the road’s now lost buildings and some of the surviving ones. The Roman villa dates from the 1st century AD and was one the earliest and largest in the county.

“Southwick’s windmill once stood west of Southwick Street until the mid-19th century. Today’s community centre was once the Manor Farm and several of the farm buildings remain, albeit converted to new uses.

“The Homestead, part of the Community Centre complex, is a high status 16th century house. At the beginning of the 20th century, The Homestead became the home of the Odhams family, well-known newspaper publishers until the middle of the century. Their son Valentine was killed in the Great War while serving with the Durham Light Infantry. His sister Muriel became the driver for the commanding officer of the Royal Marine Engineers encamped on The Green while building the Mystery Towers. Here, she met and later married Major John Reith, one of the engineers working on the project. Reith later became the first director general of the BBC.

“What is now the Southwick Square shopping centre was, until the early 1960s, the Egg Field with an ancient barn bordering Southwick Street. Populated until the end by horses and chickens, the field was one of the last remnants of agriculture in the town.

Manor Farm House and The Homestead, looking towards the Downs

“The Manor Cottage Heritage Centre itself is a 15th century timbered framed hall and is probably the oldest house in the road.

“When the railway reached Southwick (it opened in 1840, a year before the mainline from London to Brighton), the line crossed Southwick Street on a brick bridge, probably built with bricks made in the brick field which was then operating by the road. The entrance to Southwick’s first station was in Grange Road but it was moved to Southwick Street (on its current site) at the beginning of 20th century. At this time, the part of Southwick Street south of the railway was renamed, Station Road.

“These and many other stories, such as The Manor House, The Ship Inn, the Station Hotel and Southwick College are told in this exhibition.

“Entrance to the cottage is free but we would welcome donations towards the upkeep of the cottage. We would also encourage everybody interested in Southwick to join the Southwick Society.”

Manor Cottage is at 16/18 Southwick Street, opposite Southwick Square. The exhibition opens on Saturday, July 24, and will be open every Saturday until August 28 inclusive, 10.30am to 12.30pm.

The Southwick Society is a registered charity and in addition to running the heritage centre, it works to protect and enhance Southwick and its environment.