Richard Cobden was born just outside Midhurst, and returned to rebuild his birthplace into what is now known as Dunford House, where he lived for many years. He was one of the great social reformers of the 19th century, and Dunford House, which still contains many of his possessions, would make a great museum. He is buried in the churchyard at West Lavington and comemmorated by an obelisk bearing the words:
GOODWILL AMONG NATIONS
Dunford House was recently put up for sale by the current owners, the YMCA, and the Cobden family descendents, now scattered all over the world, together with the people of Heyshott and surrounding area, argued that the YMCA are morally obliged to return it to them. The house had been a gift 60 years earlier, from the Cobden family to the YMCA, to preserve Richard Cobden's name
It has now been announced that YMCA have ignored the request and accepted a commercial bid, but it's not too late to have your say. The Cobden family have appealed to the Charity Commission. If you think that Dunford House, home of Richard Cobden, should be preserved for the nation (and our little part of it) tell the Charities Commission. Write to:
This is the email we sent to the Charities Commission on 3 August 2019:
Dunford House, Heyshott, Midhurst
It is a difficult task, running a charity. I know from my own experience (with The Midhurst Society) that sometimes principles are compromised for the greater good in the longer term.
However, I was disappointed to hear that the YMCA has accepted a commercial offer for Dunford House. Over 60 years ago, the Cobden family entrusted the estate to the YMCA to preserve Richard Cobden's name and legacy. If the YMCA has found that it can no longer honour the pledge made at the time it would seem fitting and proper that the estate be handed back to the family.
The memory of Richard Cobden deserves to be preserved. The YMCA does valuable work, and no doubt the proceeds of a commercial sale would be put to good use. But this is one time, surely, that the bigger picture needs to be examined. By handing back what remains of the estate (parts have already been sold off, for commercial gain) the YMCA would be ensuring an honourable end to their custodianship.
NCVO, in addressing the question of ethics, state:
”All charities should proactively champion ethical behaviour and reflect and apply their charitable values in any activity they undertake, in addition to meeting their legal and regulatory requirements.”
In times of stress individuals and nations tend to revert to insularity and protectionism. The Cobden Monument, just outside Midhurst, proclaims: “Free Trade, Peace, Goodwill among Nations”. This is not just a nineteenth century and obsolete curiosity; it is a message for today and for future generations. In the hands of the Cobden family and local supporters Dunford House could become a beacon of enlightenment. It would be a scandal if this unique building became just another hotel, conference centre, or block of apartments.
On behalf of The Midhurst Society, which represents the views of many of the residents of the town and surrounding parishes, I urge you to intercede in this matter and demonstrate that all charities, whilst maximising financial benefit for their good causes, are also obliged to operate in an ethical manner. Dunford House should be handed back to the Cobden family.
The Midhurst Society
"Making Midhurst a better place to live, work and enjoy"
Soft Sand Quarrying
We have campaigned from the beginning to have soft sand quarrying excluded from the SDNP. It was disheartening, therefore, to read that the Government Inspector had insisted that six sites within the National Park be re-examined with a view to having them inserted into the Local Plan. We drafted our response and submitted it to SDNPA on 2nd March 2019, with copies to MTC and various other interested parties. The Midhurst & Petworth Observer quoted from our submission on 7th March.
Our response can be seen here view PDF
Midhurst has been without an ambulance station since 2016.
On 6 March 2019 we sent this email to SECAMB and proceeded to follow it up over the next few weeks with SECAMB and WSCC. We were told that an informal agreement had been reached between the ambulance people and the fire station people for a vehicle to be based at the Fire Station in New Road, Midhurst. WSCC, however, had insisted that a formal agreement be prepared - but this seems to have been given low priority.
On 5 April 2019 we sent this message to the lawyers representing SECAMB:
"I represent The Midhurst Society. We are concerned that lives are being put at risk in the absence of an agreement between SECAMB and the Fire Station in New Road, Midhurst.
"I have been told by WSCC that you have the agreement for final approval and signature. We have been without an ambulance base in Midhurst since the old ambulance station was sold in 2016. I would be grateful if, on behalf of all the people in Midhurst, you could expedite this matter at your early convenience.".
Our campaign featured on the front page of the Midhurst & Petworth Observer on 11 April 2019 and was acknowledged by Midhurst Town Council.
On 20 June 2019 we were advised that the lease had been completed
Easebourne Park Pathways
Easebourne Parish Council raised funds in 2018 and turned an empty field into a community 'destination' with children's playground, picnic area and pathways. In 2019 they want to raise more funds to make the pathways suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. We have supported the campaign on Facebook but we are not active in the fund-raising.
We have been active on several fronts in the last few months. We are liaising with various parties on the future of a number of sites that have strategic importance for Midhurst and surrounding villages, in particular:
- the empty site behind the hoardings at The Grange Centre; this site has been earmarked for a residential nursing home. The developers have yet to lodge a planning application, so we will wait until the appropriate time to consider our comments.
- the Blue Bell, Cocking; the pub in Cocking has been closed for some time and residential development plans fell through. A community initiative has been established in the village to raise funds with a view to buying the building and re-opening it as a pub, village shop, post office and restaurant/cafe (a community hub). We have supported the campaign on Facebook but we are not actively involved in the fund-raising.
- Dunford House (Richard Cobden's old home); The descendents of Richard Cobden have teemed up with the local community (Heyshott) and are raising funds to make an offer for the site with a view to preserving the house and artefacts for future generations. We have supported the campaign on Facebook but we are not actively involved in the fund-raising.
- the Bailey Unit at the Community Hospital; This unit is part of the hospital and was closed in 2018 because of staffing difficulties. The whole site is now being considered as the health care centre/hub for the North Chichester Area. We maintain a watching brief.
- Rotherfield Mews, adjacent to the Community Hospital. This building has been empty for many years. It could be suitable for use as consulting rooms or staff accommodation as part of the new Hub but we have yet to see plans that take this into account. We have urged the appropriate section of the NHS to find a use for it or make it available for other purposes - e.g. affordable housing through the Midhurst Community Land Trust.
See our News section for more details
We have also submitted to Midhurst Town Council an exciting and innovative proposal for a project to enhance The Stag Garden Roundabout on the northern approach to Midhurst. We received this response from MTC on 19 December 2018:
"It was reported at the Full Council meeting on Monday this week that you had facilitated this proposed project, and the Council were very grateful and very positive about the proposal. At the meeting they formed a Task and Finish Group, made up of 3 Councillors, of whom one is also a Chichester District Councillor. They have the remit to investigate the project further, co-opting other people as needed."
We are bound by secrecy to say no more at this stage, but watch this space!
We have looked at the idea of a swimming pool in Midhurst but that's not at the stage of being considered a campaign!
We will provide more details as these campaigns develop.
In March 2018 we invited our members to let us know what issues they felt we should become involved with. We sent out questionnaires covering various topics. It was a healthy response, and gave us encouragement to continue what we started doing in 2017: widening our field of interest beyond just planning. This is what we said to Members:
The composition of your Committee has changed in recent years, and after this year's AGM we will have a new chairperson. Looking to the future, it would be helpful to know what issues members would like the Committee to support. We would be grateful if you could indicate your preferences on the list below. Please feel free to add other items in the blank spaces or on the reverse.
And this is the result, summarised to show the percentage of those who responded were in favour of our involvement. The fact that some topics did not receive a great deal of support should not be seen in negative terms. Those Members may well have been in favour of action; just not by The Midhurst Society. Click Survey Results here
Of course, we cannot promise to make things happen, but as and when appropriate we can present your concerns to the press, the planners, or other interested parties.
Midhurst’s Memorial Hall gets its place in history
WHEN treasured plaques were removed from the Memorial Hall in Midhurst there were fears the historical significance of the much loved old building would be lost forever.
But now [not sure of this date] thanks to members of the Midhurst Society, its importance has been preserved.
Chairman of the society Sheila Ryan said: “When Capron House and adjoining buildings were acquired by the South Downs Park Authority and were immediately shrouded in builders’ hoarding, there was apprehension in Midhurst, rightly or wrongly, the ‘Memorial Hall’ would lose its historic identity.
“This belief was perhaps exacerbated by the removal from the hall to Midhurst Rother College of the First World War Memorial, together with a memorial to the much respected and long-standing headmaster of the Midhurst Grammar School, NBC Lucas.
“The Midhurst Society, which is always concerned about the preservation of the history of Midhurst’s listed buildings, decided to provide a short record of the history of the Grade II listed Hall and the South Downs National Park Authority welcomed this offer.”
In drawing up the history the society drew on the recollections of its vice-president, Henry Bond, a pupil at the grammar school in the years between the wars, and of Dr Joe Vitagliano, principal of Midhurst Rother College.
And now a framed notice, containing a photograph of the war memorial to grammar school boys killed in the first world war has been handed over to Helene Rossiter, director of corporate services at the SDNPA, and her colleagues by Mrs Ryan who was accompanied by Mr Bond and members of the executive committee of the society.
The notice will hang on the wall formerly occupied by the war memorial as a reminder to everyone of the part played by the hall over its long history since its construction in 1821 as SCHOLA GRAMMATICALIS.
“Importantly,” said Mrs Ryan, “the notice confirms that in its new existence as part of the SDNPA headquarters the ‘Memorial Hall’ will continue to be known as such.”
As it appeared in the Midhurst and Petworth Observer.