The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex

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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 Edwards

Edwards, George. Living at the Furnace Farm, formerly called the Yew Tree and part of the Hartfield Grove Estate. Farmer and carpenter.

I was born on 15 November 1814 on the Forest close by Coleman's Hatch in the house now occupied by James Wheatley (stone digger - witness). My Father (now dead) told me that he enclosed the land and built the house and I believe he always paid 2/6 a year to Lord De La Warr's predecessors for it. He sold it before his death to Wheatley's father. At 1'/2 years old we removed to the Lodge at the South end of the Five Hundred, where my father lived as a sort of caretaker for Lord Whitworth and at the same time worked regularly as sawyer till his death for Lord Whitworth and George John, Lord De La Warr. I lived with him till I was 17. When I was about 11 years old I went as carter boy on Fisher's Gate Farm in Withyham which was farmed by Lord Whitworth and afterwards by George John, Lord De La Warr. As soon as I was big enough I worked as a sawyer for Lord Whitworth at Fishers Gate sawyard. When I was 17 I went to Uckfield and was apprenticed to a carpenter and worked there 8 years, coming home once in every 5 or 6 weeks. When I was 24 I married and came to work for Lord De La Warr as a carpenter and worked for him for 19 years. During this time I, with my brother Joseph Edwards, first lived at the Pest House for 2 or 3 years. Then had a cottage and field near the 500 roughs for several years and when I had worked for Lord De La Warr about 11 years I took Little Bassetts Farm, a field of Neave's Farm adjoining both in Hartfield close to Chuck Hatch and belonging to Lord De La Warr and farmed it for 16 years. The last 8 years I left off working for Lord De La Warr and worked about with my own team. In 1866 I moved to Furnace Farm which I have had ever since. The first few years I worked with my team but as heavy work grew slack I gave it up and took to carpentering again.

While we lived at the 500 I used to help my Father cut brakes in the 500 and also on the Forest for our pig and we always took turf off the Forest for our fuel. This was till I was 17. My Father continued to live there till about 1850 and I know he continued to do the same. While I lived at the Pest House my brother Joseph used to cut brakes and litter for his pig in the Forest. I have seen him taking it and have helped him bring it home in a handcart. He used to have turf for fuel from the Forest I never helped cut it but I used to see him on the Forest bringing it home. I have known him have the use of Mr. Jackson's bullock team to draw it home. He worked for Mr. Jackson at Holly Hill. While I lived in the cottage and field of 1'/2 acres which belonged to Lord De La Warr near the 500, I always took brakes and litter and turf off the Forest and always turned out my cow, horse and pigs and occasionally 5 or 6 sheep.

My uncle Robert Edwards who was then the Reeve used to see my stock out but never interfered. While I had Bassetts (Lord De La Warr's property) I had brakes, litter and turf off the Forest every year regularly.

I could have from about 8 to 12 load of litter a year there and always turned out everything I had on the Forest. Since I have been at the Furnace Farm (Mr. Melville's property) I always had brakes, litter and turf every year off the Forest except in 1878. I have never had litter this year (1879). I have turned out my stock, horses and sheep every year and sometimes a donkey and a goat. Occasionally I have taken gravel from a pit adjoining for bottoming my yard and for footpaths. I have always done these things openly. I have never paid anything for it and have never been interrupted till the autumn of 1877 when William Pilbeam, one of Lord De La Warr's men, saw my son Percy cutting some litter for me and told him he must not do so and put down his name but he continued to cut for me notwithstanding and we heard no more.

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