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Michael Stacey

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Michael Stacey lived in Stedham, Midhurst and for a while in Petworth
Below are some of his recollections from his time spent here.

"My Grandfather, Charles Stacey, was head gardener at Stedham Hall for some years. This would have been during the time that Mr Scrimiger was Lord of the Manor. At this time he lived in a house on the corner of School Lane and the Street and it was here that my father, Alexander, was brought up. My fathers brother, Sidney, is mentioned on the Roll of Honour at St. James Church.
When My Grandfather died in 1936, my Grandmother [Edith] moved to Box Tree Cottages, opposite the New Inn and the then small shop beside it. My Aunt took over the Cottage after the death of our Grandmother, until her own death in the 1980s.
We were living in Brighton at the beginning of WW2 and in 1940, my mother was told to evacuate my young brother [born in July 1939] and myself. My father, being a Brighton Borough Policeman had to stay, so my mother took us to live with my uncle and aunt at Petworth. We stayed in their beautiful cottage, where Uncle was gardener to the Vicar of Petworth and he tended quite a large estate.
We had not been at Petworth too long, before a bomb went down the chimney at Petworth Boy’s School. 22 boys and staff were killed. Although I was at the Petworth parish hall, which was a school for evacuees, I saw and heard the bomb falling from the Heinkel 111. The last boy on the list of dead lived over the small shop, that his parents ran, next door to where I was living. We were becoming quite good friends at the time.
We moved to some friends of the family, but would you believe it? It was to Aldingbourne at the end of the Tangmere runway! We went into Chichester several times on the Southdown bus. A curtain was run along the windows as we passed Tangmere, so that spies could not see!
Unfortunately, like all the Battle of Britain aerodromes, it was badly bombed, so off we went again.
This time to Midhurst to live at the “Omnibus and Horses” pub on the Petersfield crossroads, opposite the old Tabernacle [the HQ of the local Home Guard]. The pub had been owned for many years by Henry Dodd my Great Uncle. We settled here and lived reasonably well — I went to Midhurst Primary School and was a member of the Midhurst Church Choir.
Sometime, probably in 1943, Midhurst was hit by 2 bombs at about 4.30 or 5pm. A Dornier 17 was being chased, and it jettisoned its bombs. I watched one bomb come down just behind the Tabernacle, flattening a row of cottages. The Tabernacle probably saved my life because I was outside watching. Another bomb went through a Doctor’s house near the Church and wrecked another row of cottages. I believe 2 or 3 people were killed. Other bombs dropped in the fields near the Cowdray ruins.
I ran into the pub to see how my uncle and aunt were — I found them crawling out from under a large table. They had been doing the banking and the floor was carpeted with white fivers and the window was blown in, frame and all.
I was 10 years old, and being a close witness to the bombing, ended up a bundle of nerves. So was sent to live at Stedham for 3 months where I attended the local school that my Father had attended many years before.

Apart from a Bren Gun carrier coming through the saloon bar wall, the passing of several doodlebugs, and the continuous noise of convoys of lorries and tanks moving to the coast for the D-Day landings - not a lot more happened!
I left Midhurst in September 1944 to go back to school at Varndean in Brighton. In 1947 my Mother returned to Midhurst, to run the Old Manor Guest House, owned by Bob Amoore, for the following 25 years and later worked as a seamstress and managing an Antique Shop for an Interior designer [Michael Risley-Pritchard]. My brother was brought up in Midhurst from 1947. He attended The Priory, at Easebourne, and then Midhurst Grammar. I spent all my school holidays at Midhurst until 1950, so I suppose, that is when I left the town.
Charles White had been a photographer with the Evening Argus in Brighton. He moved to Midhurst in the late 1940's, and opened his photo business on Rumbolds Hill. When on holiday I played for a youth football team that he formed on several occasions. He really got into the local community.
When my Father retired from the Brighton Borough Police in 1952, my parents moved into the house known as Inglenook, next, but one, to Peachey House on Bepton Road opposite the White City.

"The shops on the right, were both Butchers, LH Merrits & RH Blackistons. There for many years to my knowledge. My Mother bought from both. Blackistons sausages were probably the best in the world. Many years later the son was offered a lot of money, when he had to leave due to a physical problem. Lord Cowdray wanted the business, but refused to buy because he could not get the sausage recipe." - - enlarge photo
Peachey House, also owned by Bob Amoore, was perloined by the wartime government, to become an office for the Ministry of Food & Fisheries. I cannot tell you if or when he ever got it back. My father became the gardener for Peachey House, the guesthouse and his own garden. He also went in to the taxi business with a Mr Cox, of June Lane , Midhurst. They did very well.
Because of my parents, I was regularly in touch with the town until the middle 1980's when they moved to Gloucester, to live with my brother until they died. As my parents are both buried at Stedham Church, I still go over to there every year, although there are no relatives left in the area, and visit Midhurst, always stopping off at The Bricklayers Arms which we think of as the best pub in the world.
I also recall that the New Inn in Stedham, was locally nick-named the GNU INN, in those days, a name that it retained, until it closed....."
August 2014 - email
At last I have been able to confirm that my Father worked for his Father in the gardens at Stedham Hall, along with his twin, from the age of 13, [1918], when he left Stedham school, until he joined the Brighton Borough Police in 1927. I had been advised by my late aunt Marjorie, one of my mothers' sisters, that he was sent to Brighton by his very strong Mother, because of his association with a certain lady in the village.
This explained why many years later, I was 14, the young lady I was going out with that summer holiday, my Mother refused to allow her to enter our home. Apparently, this was just before my parents were to be married. They did marry soon after, and were together until 1986 when my Father died.
Michael Stacey
Now retired and living on the coast, Mr. Stacey is looking into his family background and trying to find out what his father was up to in his younger days.
Anyone who may have any information or memories, photos etc regarding his search, or anything to add, drop us an email and we will pass it on or add it.

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Stedham photos and more memoirs
Michael Staceys BBC wartime memoir

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