Category Archives: Posts – members only

The Gowlland Family Return to Fairlight After 58 Years

By Paul Draper

Background:- During the early research for his book on Fairlight, Haydon Luke visited the Screen Archive Southeast to try and find any film footage of the area. He found several short films taken by the Gowlland family during and after the Second World War.

Nearly every year, from 1947 to 1957, the Gowlland family drove down to Fairlight from their home in Croydon to spend their holidays at a property in Sea Road.

Windover Cottage, Sea Road

We understand that the family were able to rent the property for £20 per year and treated the house as their second home. The owner, a family acquaintance, lived at Marsham Farm.

Fortunately, the father, Geoffrey Gowlland was a keen, amateur photographer, using both cine and still photography. As a result, he filmed their holidays in Fairlight, in both black and white and colour, and all of that material still exists today. After their parents died, their children John and Rosemary decided to donate all the cine film to Screen Archive Southeast. His archive of 41 cine films covered many varied subjects including footage from the Second World War and some early holidays in Europe. These films can all now be viewed at Screen Archive Southeast in Brighton, by prior arrangement. However, John and Rosemary kept the albums of still photographs.

In addition, John and Rosemary are both very interested in their family history and have created a website dedicated to the Gowlland story. At the end of the 19th century, William Gowlland (Geoffrey’s uncle) started a business manufacturing ophthalmic instruments from their base in Croydon. During the last one hundred years, the business grew and underwent many changes but the name still exists today although no longer under the Gowlland family control.

The 2015 visit:-

In the summer, after reviewing extracts from the films, we decided to try and contact Rosemary to ask if they have any stories or further information that they would be willing to share with us in Fairlight

They were delighted to be contacted and immediately volunteered to drive down to see us and suggested bringing their photo albums covering the years 1947 to 1950.

We agreed but decided that we should first contact the present owner of the property in Sea Road. This was sorted out and after some discussions, we arranged to all meet up on the 28th September.

It was a lovely clear day when John, Rosemary and her husband, Peter arrived mid-morning. They brought in the five albums and, after a cup of tea and a cake started talking us though the photos and their memories of Fairlight. We then drove along to Sea Road and parked in the drive of ‘Windover’ where we were met by the present owner, Ken.  He showed them all over the house and around the gardens where John and Rosemary had played for so long as children. They were both delighted to be back at the scene of so many happy holidays but Rosemary could not believe how much the property had changed. However, she still recognised some of the rooms. We drove back and on the way showed them some of the sites they would have known, including Waites Old Farmhouse and Pixie Wood.

They spent their holidays down on the beach beneath the cliffs. As they are now, the cliffs were eroding then and they recall walking down temporary steps carved in the cliff-face below Cliff Way and sometimes having to use the rope.

They remembered being sent for shopping from the Post Office and walking from Sea Road to St Andrew’s via the Firehills, to attend Sunday School. They did not remember the Village Hall or St Peter’s being constructed, both of which had happened during the time of their visits. They have a photo taken at the Fairlight Village fete 1948. They do not remember the location – we think it might be at the back of Waites Barn – does anyone  know where the fete was held in the late 1940s.

We made copies of some of their photos. John and Rosemary are happy for anyone who is interested to view the photos, but they do not want them posted on the internet. Indeed, if anyone has any information, stories or photos of Sea Road, Waites Barn, Waites Old Farmhouse, Pixie Wood or any of the older bungalows with diamond shaped roof-tiles, can they contact us.


By Paul Draper.

The Story of Fairlight Residents’ Association – Part 1

An article in four parts by Paul Draper published in Fairlight News in 2017

The story of the Fairlight Residents’ Association

What were its origins and how did it develop

Part 1 – The origins:

This year, 2017, we will celebrate the first seventy years of the FRA, the Fairlight Residents’ Association, but how did it all start?

Shortly after WW2 ended, in 1947, the residents of Fairlight realised that they needed an association to look after the pressing local matters of the time. The most important matter seems to have been the need for compensation from the Military Authorities for the damage inflicted on all the local roads by the army and the other services. We will look at this story in greater detail, but first we need to look further back.

We, the FRA, are lucky enough to have not only the Minute book covering the years 1947 to 1951 but also for the years 1929 to 1938. How are there records from before the war? Well the book covering the years 1929 to 1938 is actually for an earlier association called the Fairlight Ratepayers and Residents’ Association, the FRRA!

We do not have the records for the FRRA from the beginning, but newspaper articles from the time tell us that this association was formed in 1924. The Minute book contains the minutes of each ordinary meeting during that period but does not contain the AGM minutes. Luckily for us the FRRA Secretary took it upon himself to send an outline report of each AGM to the local paper, the Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, and these records are still available. The first record we can find is in the year 1927 and it seems that the FRRA started with yet another name, but it was undoubtedly too long to remember, namely ‘The Fairlight Cove (Waites Estate) Ratepayers and Residents’ Association’. This latter name was only changed in 1928 to the then FRRA “in order that all ratepayers in Fairlight should be eligible to join”. In fact, yet another name was reported in the HSLO in 1926, namely the ‘Fairlight Property Owners and Ratepayers Protection Association’, but this name was unsubstantiated.

As can be surmised from the early names, the primary concern of this early association was to obtain a fair level of rates for residents of the new properties in Fairlight Cove and the rest of Fairlight parish. It seems that the proposed rate for our region were nearly double that for Hastings. Obviously similar differences were encountered across the county because the FRRA was obliged to join the Federation of East Sussex Ratepayers’ Associations. When this Federation aligned itself politically with the National Union of Ratepayers Associations, the FRRA faced strong objections and resignations and so voted to leave the Federation.

The first Chairman of the FRRA was Captain Francis Vernon Wilson (sometimes referred to as Commander). From what we can ascertain, Captain Wilson was an influential character in the early days of Fairlight Cove. It seems that following the Fairlight Hall Estate sales in 1917 and the subsequent rapid change of ownership of the lands of Waites, Wakehams and Warren Farms over the first few years, it was Captain Wilson who purchased Waites Farm and set about the development of this part of Fairlight Cove. He lived at Waites Farm until he moved away in 1931 and died later that year. He passed the ownership of his properties to his family, notably his younger siblings and it was they who continued the development of the estate. Many of you will probably find their names in your deeds or in the early covenants covering your land.

Anyway, when we look at the subjects covered by those early minutes it seems that nothing changes. The problems seem very familiar, namely cliff erosion, the state of the roads, unmade in those early days, drainage and the telephone kiosk at the Post Office.

We do not have records after 1938, but we must conclude that the FRRA stopped functioning during WW2 and when it was revived after the war, it was relaunched as the Fairlight Residents’ Association in 1947.

In the next part we will look at the formation of the FRA and the early issues of the village.

By Paul Draper.


The Story of Fairlight Residents’ Association – Part 2

The story of the Fairlight Residents’ Association

What were its origins and how did it develop

Part 2 – 1947 and the early years:

This year, 2017, we are celebrating the first seventy years of the Fairlight Residents’ Association, the FRA. In part 1 of this story we looked at the FRRA, the earlier incarnation that had represented the residents up until the war years, but had then ceased. After WW2 ended, the residents of Fairlight realised that once again they needed an association to look after certain local matters of the time.

There was no FRA in 1946 but in 1947, many notable events hit the headlines, including Thor Heyerdahl crossing the Pacific in Kon-Tiki, the brand Ferrari S.p.A. was created and launched the 125S, the transistor was invented, the C.I.A. was founded, Princess Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh and Tommy Lawton was sold by Chelsea FC to Notts County for £20,000, the highest transfer fee in British football at the time. (see photos attached). Not making the news was the formation of the FRA in 1947.

We cannot find the very first minutes, but we have the first official Minute Book covering the period from 17th November 1947 until 20th April 1951. As we mentioned in part 1, the most pressing matter seems to have been the need for compensation from the Military Authorities for the damage inflicted on all the local roads by the army, the R.A.F. and other services. Indeed, the FRA would appear to have been created to act for the Fairlight Cove frontagers in claiming their share of the compensation in negotiations with the owners of the roads who were the recipients of the compensation. The early minutes are predominantly about the negotiations with the landowners and then deciding how to actually carry out the work to all the damaged roads utilising the net funds when they were paid to the FRA. We will detail some of this below.

However, there are some important facts to note from those early days. Firstly the initial annual membership was one shilling. Nominally, one shilling equates to £0.05. This seems a very low fee compared to the current £5, being exactly one hundred times more expensive, but when modern equivalency formulas are applied, the current equivalent purchasing power of one shilling appears to be anywhere from £1.58 to £8.96, depending on the basis of the calculation. £5 would therefore seem to be about the same in real terms.

In the beginning there was no regular newsletter or magazine. Despite this, annual membership fees had to be collected, but apparently this was proving a problem due to a shortage of volunteers. The solution was to introduce a fee for the ‘collectors’ as an incentive. According to the minute of 21st September 1949, each collector would henceforth be paid one penny for every one shilling collected. (Back then, they were not even carrying heavy bundles of magazines up and down the roads of Fairlight!). It seems that this system still did not do the trick because in 1950 the committee considered increasing the fee to two pence per shilling collected, but we do not know the outcome of that particular idea. We also do not know when fees were dropped altogether. (Does anyone remember?).

Another major difference in 1947 was where to meet and hold events. There was no Fairlight Village Hall in 1947, so the committee had to find suitable venues. It seems that routine committee meetings were held at the homes of individual committee members, such as, Stockdale, Waites Farm, Pinehurst, Thalassa and Stream End, but larger gatherings, such as AGMs or social events were held at The Barn, The Fairlight Cove Hotel and Quarry Hall, Church Lane. (Quarry Hall seems to have been part of the Fairlight Sand Quarry set up, located where the Firehills carpark and toilets are now). However, in December 1949 the first village hall appeared, after a few false starts, and ever since then it has acted as home to the FRA.

So, looking back at the state of the roads, the most important event of those early years, we see those very familiar words – pot holes. However, alongside these words we also see “cart ruts”, a problem we no longer have on our roads! In the late forties the roads were not nearly as good as our present billiard-table smooth roads! Many were unmade and after years of neglect and continued punishment from military vehicles something had to be done. Mr. Godfrey West, the solicitor acting for the road owners, is quoted as saying “The roads in question were never roads as such and were in a very indifferent condition in 1939”. The seven roads named were Waites Lane (from Fairlight Cove Hotel to the Haddocks), Broadway, Cliff Road, Rockmead Road, The Avenue, Smugglers Way and Sea Road. (nb This section of Waites Lane was later renamed Lower Waites Lane and Cliff Road became Cliff Way).

Accordingly, after protracted negotiations the Military Authorities agreed to pay £516 7s 9d to the owners of the Fairlight Cove Estate but the net sum to be made available by the owners to the frontagers was first mentioned to be £450 after their deductions. It seems that after talks between the owners and the frontagers were slow. After a time, it was agreed that the FRA would represent the frontagers and oversee the distribution of the monies in question. The final net figure paid over to the custody of the FRA was £300. Negotiations for the exact application of this money were contested and disputed all the way, but utilising local contractors and free local manpower the work was duly carried out.

Later the condition of the first section of Waites Lane and of Hill Road, following the operations at R.A.F.Grangewood (located on the southern side of Hill Road) also became the focus of FRA assistance. As the funds dedicated to the maintenance and repair of roads throughout all Fairlight were very limited, contributions were sought from frontagers and the FRA maintained separate accounts for the road repairs under three separate headings. The annual accounts of the FRA even as late as 1960 show these as separate items, namely, “Cove Roads” (the seven mentioned above), “Waites Lane” (the first section from the garage to the hotel) and “Hill Road”.

As the problems of the roads unravelled and the functions of the FRA became clearer, the familiar issues of our village began to emerge. Early minutes cover bus shelters, water supplies, seats on the cliffs, steps down to the sea and candidates for the Parish Council and for Battle RDC. The Post Office was often under discussion and many residents were pressing for sub-branches both in the centre of the Cove and near the church. Nothing became of these ideas.

Also found in the first minute book is the attached poster and newspaper cutting giving details of the first FRA social event, an “Informal Social Evening in the lounge of the Fairlight Cove Hotel” held on Friday the 1st December 1950.

We hope that the above snippets from 1947 and the formative years of the FRA give you some insight into those early post-war days and in part 3 we will look at the introduction of the Fairlight News and the increased role of the FRA in the development of Fairlight.


By Paul Draper.


The Story of Fairlight Residents’ Association – Part 3

The story of the Fairlight Residents’ Association

What were its origins and how did it develop

Part 3 – The FRA news sheets and magazines:

This year, 2017, we continue to celebrate the first seventy years of the Fairlight Residents’ Association, the FRA. In part 1 of this story we looked at the FRRA, the earlier incarnation that had represented the residents up until the war years, but had then ceased. In part 2 we looked at the FRA in the year 1947 and the immediate post-war period.

All members of the FRA know and love the quarterly magazine, the Fairlight News. The latest magazine consisted of forty eight pages, plus the cover pages, and is now produced in high quality print with several pages in colour. This was not always the case.

In the FRA archives we hold a large but incomplete collection of the magazines. The earliest we hold is dated January 1983 but is only numbered sixty nine. This means that the first sixty eight magazines are still needed for our collection. If we calculate backwards, assuming four issues per year, then the first Fairlight News was produced in January 1966. (If anyone has any of these first magazines and they are willing to share them, can they contact me on 814154 or anyone from the committee).

Until this month, July 2017, we believed that the FRA started with the magazine in !966. However, I have just been handed two double-sided sheets dated April 1964 under the heading “No.4 News Sheet”. This appears to be the forerunner of the magazine (see attached sheets).

The news sheet was handed over at the Gardening Club Hut by a kind resident who found it in his recently purchased house and noticed the article on the formation of the Fairlight Gardening Club (first meeting held 12th March 1964). We are very grateful.

There are many interesting stories and snippets of information to note. Firstly membership of the FRA is given as half a crown (numerically 12.5 pence). This was already a substantial increase from the original 1947 price of one shilling (5 pence). The AGM was scheduled for 6th May 1964 and on the agenda once again was a proposal to adopt a new Constitution.

It seems that there were many problems to deal with, particularly the “pest” who was stealing daffodils in bud from front gardens at 7.30 in the morning! Driving standards were more casual in 1964 as demonstrated under the heading of “The Circle” where the FRA were appealing to drivers to “keep left” at The Circle as drivers were taking a shortcut to Commanders Walk. It then quotes that “It is certainly contrary to the instructions contained in the Highway Code”! Hopefully this advice does not need repeating today.

On the subject of roads, Waites Lane and Shepherds Way were being reconstructed but the contractors were having problems with streams of water from the hills. The footpaths were yet to be constructed but when complete, East Sussex would be adopting these two roads with a promise that Broadway would follow. Meadow Way was only under construction at this time. Furthermore, motorists heading up Channel Way, Fyrsway and Bramble Way at night were being asked to turn off their headlights as they were dazzling the Coastguards Lookout at the top of the Firehills!

Other interesting articles from 1964 include the Fairlight Players having to cancel their production of ‘Roar like a Dove’ owing to “circumstances beyond their control”. Also, the problems encountered by the collectors of FRA subscriptions, as detailed in the last article were continuing. Often members did not have the money available and they had to be visited two, three or more times. (Speaking as a collector myself, it seems much easier today). The shop previously run by Mr. Rimmington had been taken over by the Misses Graydon and Butterfield and was to be known as the Woolpack. (The building remains today, but is now a private residence).

Finally from the 1964 article we are told that the new Hastings lifeboat, named ‘Fairlight’ was about to be handed over. The vessel was built by William Osborne of Littlehampton, of the type known as ‘Oakley’. The vessel is 37’ long, with 12’ beam, weighs 12 tons and runs up to 9 knots with power from two 43hp diesel engines and will carry up to 40 people.

We hope that the above snippets from the formative years of the FRA give you some insight into those early years. In the final part we will look at the FRA today and in the most recent years.

By Paul Draper.

The Story of Fairlight Residents’ Association – Part 4

The story of the Fairlight Residents’ Association

What were its origins and how did it develop?

Part 4 – The modern era:

This year, in 2017, we are celebrating the first seventy years of the Fairlight Residents’ Association, the FRA. In part 1 of this story we looked at the FRRA, the earlier incarnation that had represented the residents up until the war years. Part 2 looked at the formation of the FRA in 1947 and some detail from those early years. Finally part 3 looked at the magazines, when they started and some of the more interesting stories of the time.

Today, in 2017, the FRA has a more relaxed outlook on life in Fairlight and concentrates its efforts on providing additional information, services and events for the village. If we look at the last eighteen months we see that events put on by the FRA for its members and others include, Quiz nights, Variety Nights, Fairlight News magazine, Distributor Nights (for the hardy souls who deliver the magazine to a total of 550 houses), the email scheme, stalls and exhibits at the Village Hall Fairs and recently the one-off exhibition to celebrate the 70th anniversary.

At the request of the FRA, Haydon Luke and I put together a small exhibition at the Village Hall with the theme being the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Fairlight Hall Estate sale and the Lucas-Shadwell family. Before the 1917 sale, Fairlight was a very different place comprising St. Andrew’s Church, the school, Coastguard cottages on the Firehills and at the Haddocks, a few houses off Fairlight Road, along Pett Road (part of Fairlight Parish at the time), Peter James Lane and Rosemary Lane plus a few scattered farms mostly owned by the Lucas-Shadwell family. Immediately following the 1917 sale there were a few years of change during which time some of the land belonged to Salehurst Fruit Farm Ltd, before they quickly went into liquidation and the land was acquired by Lord Rothermere and the Harmsworth family (of Daily Mail fame). Then on the 30th March 1921 the Harmsworths put the farms up for sale again (the sale included Waite’s Farm, Wakeham’s Farm, Chisholme Farm, now known as Little Stonelink, Lower Stonelynk Farm and other lands) and it was the people who acquired Waite’s at this sale who started the development that became known as Fairlight Cove. Thus the modern Fairlight was born. Subsequent boundary changes have reduced the size and shape of Fairlight Parish to where we are today.

The exhibition was held on Saturday the 12th of August and was very well attended (see photo below). The exhibits covered the history of the village, from before the 1917 sale and right through until the post-war period. Many maps at key stages of the Cove development showed the gradual onset of the building. The maps were complemented by enlarged extracts from the various land sale catalogues and a collection of local photographs. These were displayed on multiple boards in the centre of the hall (kindly loaned to us by Fairlight Art Club) and the display was further enhanced by many framed pictures, maps and photographs lent to us by David and Sarah Kowitz of Fairlight Hall from their private collection.

The exhibition also included a collection of the illustrated sale catalogues from 1917, 1920, 1921, 1936 and 1937 (These were kindly loaned from the private collections of Mr Dymott and Mr and Mrs Bridges).

Ever popular, were the three albums held by the FRA on behalf of the former members of the now disbanded Fairlight branch of the Women’s Institute. The albums, put together privately by some of the members of the WI from paper cuttings, photographs, tickets, specially written articles, etc., display a fascinating story of our village since the war. (the albums were privately assembled by WI members in their own time outside of the auspices of the WI and thus we have been able to retain them in Fairlight for future generations to share).

The 12th August Exhibition                                                      Diane, Emilie and Bertrand Masure

held at the village hall                                                              with Haydon Luke and Paul Draper

The 1917 sale was put together on behalf of William Noel Lucas-Shadwell, the last of the male line of Lucas-Shadwells who owned Fairlight Hall and a substantial portion of the lands, farms and houses from Martineau Lane east to Rye Harbour. Noel had inherited the Estate when his father, William Peter Lucas-Shadwell, died in 1915. (See my earlier articles in Fairlight News for expanded details of the family). Thus, it was with great delight that we welcomed Diane Masure, the great granddaughter of Noel, to our exhibition. Diane and her husband travelled overnight from mid France with one of their children to attend the exhibition and meet people from Fairlight. Noel was the last of the English line, but he had five daughters with his French wife, Marie Therese, and they were brought up mainly in France, although Noel travelled a great deal at this time. Today there is a large expanded family in France, all of whom are directly descended from William Noel Lucas-Shadwell, but none of them bear the original family name. Diane has been studying her family history with other members of the family and was delighted to be invited to Fairlight.

We hope that the story gives you some idea of the FRA and its activities on behalf of the people of Fairlight Parish in 2017

By Paul Draper.