Strengthening of The Midhurst Society Committee

Chairman Mike Balmforth is delighted to announce that following increased involvement with the affairs of Midhurst this year The Midhurst Society have strengthened their Committee...

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YMCA 'sells' Dunford House?

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:


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Future of Stedham School

This week the Midhurst & Petworth Observer picked up on our message to WSCC regarding the possible closure of Stedham Primary School. Here is the full text of our email (dated 5 August 2019):

Dear Sirs,

We were disappointed to see that once again WSCC is looking at the economic case for closing or merging some of our rural schools. We are particularly concerned about Stedham School, which is in our area of activity.

We are aware of the tremendous strain felt by WSCC as budgets get pruned year after year, but village life, such a vibrant aspect of West Sussex, is not just about economies of scale. Church, pub, shop, post office, and school: these institutions give heart to a village. If we lose them the local community suffers, and there is a knock-on effect on the wider community.

In a world-wide survey conducted by OECD in 2013 it was found that village schools in the UK perform better than urban schools. Britain was ranked 30th our of 57 countries in terms of results achieved by urban-based pupils but were 10th in the world based on scores in rural areas.

Commenting on the report at the time, Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said:
“Rural schools often performed better because they had a more settled pupil population. In cities, parents get a choice between lots of schools and word quickly gets round that school A is good and school B struggles, which often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and leads to a very socially-segregated system. In a rural setting, the school is geared towards the whole range of abilities, interests and aspirations and often does better across the board.”

Attached please find a selection of comments made by members of the community in response to our Facebook post on the subject.

We urge you to find savings elsewhere and keep Stedham and other village schools open.


Harvey Tordoff
The Midhurst Society
"Making Midhurst a better place to live, work and enjoy"

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Breaking !!!

At a packed SDNPA Memorial Hall on 18 July Philip Jackson stunned the audience with the announcement that he is to donate a full-size bronze to the people of Midhurst.

This came during a talk given by Philip, one of a regular series of inspirational, entertaining and informative talks presented by The Midhurst Society, on subjects of local interest or with local connections. 

The figure Philip has chosen is of Dante looking for Paradise.  Having ventured through the Inferno and Purgatory Dante now arrives within sight of Paradise.  Midhurst!

Dante currently exists as a small maquette (shown) which  Philip will scale up to prepare a full-size bronze casting.  In this process modifications may be made as the sculptor takes into account the way the piece will be seen in situ.

For several months The Midhurst Society has been working with Philip, Midhurst Town Council and Midhurst Town Trust to identify a suitable site, and Market Square has been chosen.  The Society will take the project forward, seeking consents where required and funding for site preparation.

This is an incredibly generous gift.  Dante will no doubt be embraced warmly by the people of Midhurst and is surely destined to become a tourist attraction for the town and the National Park.

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Summer Garden Party

Tony and Sarah Bolton generously opened their wonderful garden in Woolbeding for our summer garden party on the evening of 7th June 2019.  With impeccable timing we chose the wettest day of the summer, but over 80 members and guests braved the elements and enjoyed the food, drink and conversation on offer. 

Unfortunately, the torrential rain confined us to the marquee, and we were unable to stroll round the garden, but even so it was a delightful evening.  Our thanks go to Sarah and Tony, and to Sue Balmforth who arranged the evening.

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Tree-felling: A286

Concerns have been expressed at the tree-felling alongside the A286. In June 2019 we put those concerns to Cowdray Estate.

CEO Jonathan Russell provided this helpful response, which we hope reassures our members and followers that the Estate has acted responsibly:

"Thank you for your e-mail relating to the tree felling alongside the A286. This work has been undertaken as part of the Estate’s ongoing tree safety management and as a response to threat of Ash Dieback. This section of road was surveyed over the winter by our forestry team who flagged the area as high risk in terms of the impact of dieback and the proximity of trees to the highway. Over the winter two trees on Cocking Hill failed and narrowly missed falling onto the carriageway so the decision was made to fell the trees as soon as possible to maintain public safety. 95% of the trees removed have been ash, although there have been a very small number of oak, sycamore and cherry felled where significant defects or decline were found during the inspection. The hazel understory has been cut to facilitate the felling of the mature trees. Felling work in the Cocking area has now been completed and the remaining residues will be removed over the next couple of weeks. The Estate will then undertake some replanting of the cleared areas later in the year using site native species.

"We would normally try to do this type of work outside the bird nesting season however it was felt that the imminent threat of significant tree failure was such that it was unavoidable. We are aware that the site had a significant rookery. These birds nest early and fledge by mid May. A drone was flown over the area in advance of felling to ensure that the birds had fledged and the nests were empty. The contractors undertaking the work were briefed on the environmental impacts and undertook their own site assessments prior to work taking place to minimise the impact of the operations.

"All work undertaken has been compliant with environmental and forestry management guidance and is legally compliant.

"Unfortunately, Ash dieback is going to have a significant impact on our landscape and the Estate, along with other landowners in the area, are acting now to maintain public safety but also looking at how we manage ash in woodland areas in the future. This involves retaining ash in low risk woodlands to see if any trees show signs of resistance to the disease as well as planning future regeneration of ash dominated woodlands through appropriate replanting programmes."

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Midhurst Vision

Midhurst Vision has re-launched (11 July 2019) and is seeking views on the future for Midhurst. 


Tkae part in the survey and make your voice heard!

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Sussex, West (Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of England)

Special Offer !!!

Yale University Press is offering The Midhurst Society members 20% off the full price of £35.00 of Pevsner Architectural Guide to Sussex: West, plus free P&P. Valid for UK orders only, via the Yale website (
Offer ends 1st August 2019
Enter promo code Y1952 at the checkout stage of your order.

The revised edition has new colour photography and expanded entries, including a section on Midhurst that highlights its churches and Pevsner-approved perambulations (!).

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Blue Bell Hub Cocking

Cocking’s Community buys the Blue Bell Hub (Press Release: 9 May 2019)

The Blue Bell Community Hub in Cocking, near Midhurst, West Sussex is on the verge of reality as local support has enabled the village to buy its threatened pub. Now they are seeking the final funds for refurbishment and a tenant to share in the vision.


Completion on the purchase took place on 30th April 2019 as ambitious plans to transform the Blue Bell into a thriving Community Hub bear fruit. A Community Share Offer remains open for anyone to invest, and people can also support via donations on the project’s crowdfunding site. Three quarters of the targeted £637,000 has been raised, with another £150,000 to be found.

The village is now preparing to refurbish the building, and is holding a series of fundraising projects – a quiz night raised money in March, on the 22nd May an Open Garden and Charity Fair will be held at Crypt Farm and an Open Gardens Event will be held on 16th June.

Villagers and supporters from further afield rallied round to help provide the funds for the new hive of community and voluntary activity at the centre of Cocking as well as a visitor gateway for the South Downs National Park.

In addition to pledges, grants and generous support from local and national trusts and donors, a Community Share Offer has seen over 80 households so far invest in the venture which will not only save the pub, but provide a shop, café, meeting place and the post office when the local post master retires.

Peter Gibbon, one of the villagers spearheading the fundraising campaign, said: “The Hub will be a hive of community and voluntary activity, a relaxed, accessible venue where people of all ages can enjoy the pub, restaurant and café. It will enhance community life, preventing social isolation and bringing young and old together. The Hub will also create employment and volunteering opportunities, and we plan to partner with local charities to offer garden maintenance, bicycle repairs and the chance to work in the café.

“By working with the South Downs National Park, we have been determined not to lose the key assets of our community and to welcome all those visiting the South Downs and key destinations in the area, such as the Weald & Downland Living Museum, West Dean College and Goodwood.”

Peter added: “We are now seeking a suitable tenant to run the venue, to live on site and share in the vision for the pub to become a true social hub, providing facilities and services that bring the community together and serve its visitors.”

The South Downs National Park is supporting the project in principle and subject to planning permission, with a visitor gateway in the Hub, providing a place where ramblers, cyclists and all those visiting this beautiful area can discover more about the Park with its historic sites, walks, trails and wildlife.

Andrew Lee, Director of Countryside Policy for the South Downs National Park, said: “The SDNPA is keen to foster the social and economic well-being of the local communities in the National Park and to enable them to understand and enjoy this nationally designated landscape. With immediate access to the South Downs Way and many other local attractions the Community Hub’s unique location offers the opportunity for an important Visitor Gateway attracting people to the area to and supporting local businesses in the process.”

The Community Hub was launched after agreement was reached to buy the closed pub. A packed village meeting demonstrated support and a Community Benefit Society was set up to raise funds: exchange on the property took place at the beginning of April.

To get involved and support the project visit or go to

For further details on the project contact Frances Russell at


Read the introduction to the share offer by world-renowned sculptor (and resident of Cocking and President of the Hub) by clicking on 'More' 

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Dunford House

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:


Dunford House is now being put up for sale and the Cobden family descendents, now scattered all over the world, together with the people of Heyshott and surrounding area, are endeavouring to take the house under their wing.

If you would like to help the new foundation build up a case for ownership, please consider completing this questionnaire and let them have your views.

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Defibrillator for Cowdray Sports Pavilion

On 13 April 2019, just three months after donating a defibrillator (AED) to Midhurst (located outside Tesco in North Street) The Midhurst Society handed over a second, this time to the Cowdray Sports Pavilion. Several clubs use the Pavilion, and on hand to receive the AED were representatives of Midhurst Rugby Club, Midhurst Cricket Club and Midhurst Stoolball Club. Between them the clubs have approximately 450 members, so with spectators and visiting teams this is an ideal location for life-saving equipment. It will also be accessible for polo matches on the adjacent field.


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2019 AGM

The Midhurst Society will hold its 58th Annual General Meeting at the South Downs Memorial Hall, Midhurst GU29 9DH on 18th April at 7.00 pm. 


1.Apolologies for absence

2.Approval of the Minutes of the 57th Annual General Meeting 2018

3.Matters arising

4.Report from the Chair

5.Report from the Treasurer

6.Adoption of Accounts

7.Election of Officers

8.Election of Executive Committee

9.Appointment of Independent Examiner


Item 7

CHAIR: Michael Balmforth is willing to stand for re-election


HON.SECRETARY: Sue Balmforth is willing to stand for re-election

HON.TREASURER:Harvey Tordoff is willing to stand for re-election


Item 8 The following members of the Executive Committee are willing to stand for re-election:

Michael de Jong-Smith, Peter Shaw

Please note that Claire Cox is standing down and this position is therefore Vacant

Interval of 25 minutes



A live on -screen tour of the Society’s new website with a stop at our Planning and Campaigns pages updating all our members on the status of each application. Presented by Harvey Tordoff


Guest Speaker to round off the evening’s events

David Johnston is a local artist who has exhibited widely in Sussex. His paintings of local landmarks depict everyday scenes in bygone days.  He will have post cards on sale and will take orders for larger prints.


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Future of the Midhurst Community Hospital

From an email from Healthwatch West Sussex on 11 March 2019:

"Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust own the [Riverbank] site and we understand they are currently undertaking a detailed review of how to utilise the whole site in the interest of meeting the local need for NHS services, that includes Rotherfield Mews but excludes the Medical Centre, which is owned by the GP Practice."


Brief notes taken at a Meeting hosted by Rural North Chichester Patient Participation Group

South Downs Memorial Hall, 26 February 2019

The majority of the speakers were GPs, and they outlined the vision and priorities of the group.


  1. The group consists of the practices from Midhurst (Riverbank), Petworth, Pulborough and Loxwood.

  2. In addition to the ongoing problems of dealing with the changing conditions and needs of otherwise generally healthy patients, a special need was identified for providing:
    - Social care prescribing service
    - Frailty service
    - End of life care
    - Home visits
    and obtaining feedback from patients and other organisations.

  3. Solutions would have to include:
    - Community networking
    - A reactive hub
    - Proactive prevention of illnesses and conditions that drain NHS funding and resources
    and fit within the NHS Long-Term Plan

  4. Teams should include:
    - GPs
    - Community Matron
    - District Nurses
    - Occupational Therapists
    - Occupational Psychotherapists
    - Social Workers
    - Community Psychiatric Nurses
    - Pharmacists

  5. These teams, or hubs, would therefore need to be:
    - accessible (perhaps with free transport)
    - multi-disciplinary
    - one-stop assessment centres (with integrated IT records)
    where GPs could refer patients with complex needs, and where a patient would remain on the caseload for life.

  6. The focus would be on patients remaining in their homes wherever possible, with care at the Hub or in the community provided by staff whose needs are understood and recognised to ensure staff retention and resilience. This would be cost-effective and efficient in the long-term because it would reduce unnecessary hospital visits and stays, as well as unnecessary staff recruitment and relocation costs. 


The location of a hub for this area hasn't been decided, but as the Riverbank complex is “a fantastic site” and as there is nothing else that compares it seems highly likely that this will become the hub. Meanwhile, the Bailey Unit remains closed, and the Rotherfield Mews building has been closed for many years, growing ever more dilapidated. It is hoped that full use can be made of the entire site.

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Defibrillator comes to North Street

On Monday 14 January 2019 The Midhurst Society and Tesco 'opened' a defibrillator outside the Tesco store in North Street.  Funding came from the Mrs E G Carne Legacy (under the control of The Midhurst Society) and the charity Tesco Bags of Help.

What they said:

“We are delighted that we have been able to install this life-saving equipment in memory of Mrs Carne. It has been a pleasure to work with Tesco on this project.” (Harvey Tordoff, Organiser, The Midhurst Society)

“It means a lot to us that we have been able to work with The Midhurst Society for the benefit of the community.” (Dave Woods, Store Manager, Tesco)

“Midhurst Town Council are thrilled to see this defibrillator installed in North Street and offer our thanks and congratulations to all concerned.” (Judy Fowler, Midhurst Town Council)

“We are delighted to see this defibrillator just a few yards from our shop. All our volunteers are CPR-trained and can be called on if necessary.” (Zoe Nunn, Midhurst Manager, British Heart Foundation)

“This is great news, but this isn't all that we're working on. We are in talks with members of Midhurst Sports Association with a view to installing a defibrillator at the Cowdray Pavilion.” (Mike Balmforth, Chairman, The Midhurst Society)

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Chichester District Councillors come to Midhurst !!!!

At a packed Memorial Hall on 10 January 2019 Chichester DC Leader Tony Dignum and his wife and co- Councillor Pam Dignum faced a grilling from the people of Midhurst.


Harvey Tordoff, who organised the event on behalf of The Midhurst Society, explained the plan for the evening. Questions had been requested in advance and made available to the Councillors several days earlier. Now they would be read out by the questioners to be dealt with one by one. First, Pam and Tony introduced themselves and outlined the relationship between CDC and Midhurst; in particular, the many ways in which CDC had supported initiatives in the town. The biggest single financial commitment was the £8.3m paid out of reserves for the building of the current Grange Centre, resulting in more CDC money being spent in Midhurst than in any other part of the District.


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Midhurst Magazine

What do you think of our magazine?  The format hasn't changed in recent years, consiting primarily of three or four lengthy articles - usually with historical interest, with black and white photographs.  Back in the 1990's the magazine had more varied content.  Should we reintroduce that variety?  Let us know what you think by email at or by printing out and completing the attached questionnaire 




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Christmas Celebration

The Midhurst Society Christmas Celebration took place on 5th December in the Castle Room at the Walled Garden. Mulled wine was drunk, nibbles were nibbled, mince pies were consumed.  And there was lots of chatting.  Amazing how we can talk for two hours!  A great evening.

Thanks to the staff at the Walled Garden; thanks to the organisers on our side; and thanks to everyone who turned out at the end of what had been a very wet December Day.  


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The old NatWest Building

Facebook:  3 October 2018

The old NatWest building in Rumbolds Hill has only been empty for a few months and already it's looking run-down. It's being offered for rent, but there is a restrictive clause: it can only be used for banking purposes. As most banks are moving out of town centres, perhaps we can expect the building to remain empty for quite a while.

Rather than wait for something to happen - and then decide we don't like it - should we be taking action? Our options are limited. Should we be supportive of any attempt to remove the restrictive clause? Should we encourage Nationwide to move across the road? What do you think?

(1,225 people reached; 17 comments)

7 October 2018: wrote to Midhurst Town Council and the CEO of Cowdray Estate, urging them to remove the restrictive banking clause that could result in the building being unoccupied for some considerable time.  Also wrote to the Deputy CEO of Nationwide Building Society alerting him to the current opportunity.



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Redevelopment of the Grange Site

Facebook 4 October 2018

Let's clear up some of the confusion surrounding the Grange site.

CDC own the site and paid for the development of the new Grange Centre. As owners, they are entitled to do whatever they want with it, subject to the usual planning laws. They made it clear when the new Grange Centre was built that they would need to sell off the remaining part of the site to offset some of the costs.

CDC cannot enter into a dialogue with every resident who has an opinion. The long-established system is for local town and parish councils to protect local interests.

Perhaps our Town Council didn't do enough to solicit local views during the four years since Waitrose withdrew; perhaps CDC could have communicated more with the Town Council. Perhaps the people could have been more proactive. That's water under the bridge now.

We at The Midhurst Society intend to be more proactive in future - hence our post regarding the old NatWest building. Meanwhile, we encourage everyone who is concerned about the proposed nursing home to use the planning process before SDNPA considers the application on its merits.

As always, we will attempt to collate views expressed here when we make our representations to SDNPA.

(303 people reached)

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Facebook: 21 September 2018

Those of you who don't believe in divine providence might want to think again. The forecast of high winds has resulted in the cancellation of Velo South on Sunday. According to the Chichester Observer, a West Sussex County Council spokesman said: “We have been informed of the decision to cancel the Velo South cycle ride by the organisers CSM Active due to the serious weather forecast this weekend.

"We sympathise with those who have trained hard and raised money for charity and made many arrangements to attend on Sunday but obviously safety comes first in any large event and we are pleased the organisers are taking that duty so seriously.

"The Temporary Traffic Road Order (TTRO) will not be enacted and roads will be open as usual.”

Let's hope that lessons have been learned, and that if a similar event is to be held in 2019 the organisers take time to consult with those affected. If that happens, let's not bear a grudge; let's give the cyclists a warm Sussex welcome.

(235 people reached)


We forwarded this message to WSCC on the same day:
The announcement of road closures to facilitate Velo South 2018 created some heated exchanges, some of them on our own Facebook page. The major criticism was that people who were affected had not been consulted. The cancellation gives us all breathing space, and if the event is to be considered in 2019 can we request that our own Town Council in Midhurst be included in consultations at an early stage. We would also appreciate it if The Midhurst Society could be informed as well. This morning I posted this on our Facebook page: "Let's hope that lessons have been learned, and that if a similar event is to be held in 2019 the organisers take time to consult with those affected. If that happens, let's not bear a grudge; let's give the cyclists a warm Sussex welcome."



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Sussex Record Society

On 21 September 2018 we received this message from Martin Hayes:

"I’m on the Council of the Sussex Record Society and we went live with an online Sussex Bibliography 15 months ago. Between 1,500 and 2,000 users look at the Bibliography each month and it is the most popular part of the SRS website.
"You may find the Midhurst entries interesting and hopefully comprehensive as regards books. Indeed there are over 100 entries on the town, grammar school and Edward VII hospital."
Happy browsing!

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Swimming Pool for the Grange site

Facebook: 31 August 2018

When Geoff Thompson replied to our post about the Grange Site he had this to say:

"When the new sports centre was being built there were many rumours that this plot was to be a swimming pool, which was a very popular idea. It would draw in customers from the surrounding area's who are currently travelling away from Midhurst to Chichester and Petersfield. It would also upgrade Midhurst's attractiveness to anyone looking at moving to the area, especially families with children. It would be very nice to see this plot used for the benefit of the Midhurst and surrounding community!"

Swimming offers good exercise in a safe environment, something that would be welcome as levels of obesity continue to rise.

What do you think?

(3,164 people reached; 1,500 clicks; 114 comments; 22 shares)

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AGM 19 April 2018

At the 57th Annual General Meeting of The Midhurst Society, held at The Memorial Hall, North Street on 19th April, retiring Chairperson Sue Edwards thanked the large number of members and guests who had shown their support with their attendance. The minutes of the previous meeting, together with the Treasurer's Report, were approved and adopted, and Sue delivered her final report from the Chair. She drew attention to the steady decline in membership numbers over the last few years and the difficulties experienced by the Committee in ascertaining the wishes of the membership. Various initiatives have been undertaken in the last twelve months to raise the profile of The Society and to communicate with the wider community, and Sue hoped that this would lead to more involvement as we move forward.

Sue thanked her committee members individually, acknowledging in particular the dedication and commitment over a number of years of retiring members Malcolm Hutchings and Lesley Campbell. She then introduced Mike Balmforth, who had agreed to put himself forward for the Committee and take on the roll of Chairman, and his wife Sue Balmforth who was willing to serve as Honorary Secretary. They were duly nominated, seconded and elected unanimously. Treasurer Harvey Tordoff, Administration Officer Claire Cox, Membership Secretary Michael de Jong-Smith and Talks Organiser Peter Shaw were also re-elected unanimously. Mervyn Evans-Jones was thanked for checking the Accounts and was appointed Independent Examiner for another year.

As the meeting was brought to a close ex-Chairperson Sheila Ryan thanked Sue Edwards for her tireless work for The Society since being elected in 2012, first as Membership Secretary and then as Chairperson. Sheila presented Sue with an orchid and an e-book gift card and wished her well in her much-delayed retirement.

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