Bodle Street Green

When an old army hut costing £42 became the village hall in 1923 it added an extra dimension to social life. The village responded to new diversions enthusiastically, 150 packing the building to hear Mr Woolgar play a selection on his gramophone … and Mr Young read a paper ‘Is Music Beneficial to Cattle?’ The WI was born and a newspaper cutting described a meeting when a ‘most useful demonstration was given on how to make indoor slippers out of an old felt hat.’

But all was not serene at the rectory at about this time. The Rev Ferguson Reed resigned his living because he could not manage on a net income of £4. 6s a week. He told his parishioners in a letter: ‘It is the wages of a plumber or a London policeman, or half what a collier gets …I am compelled to live in a large house and keep up a position and live like a gentleman’. His protest seems to have had some effect because by 1927 the stipend had been increased to £321 per annum.

Edward ‘Cocky’ Wrenn was described in the 1871 census as postmaster and shoemaker. In order to collect the post he had to walk to Hailsham and back every day, relieving the tedium of his 14-mile journey by indulging his passion for reciting narrative verse. Paradise Lost and John Gilpin was a Citizen were favourites when he stopped off at the Five Bells beerhouse. This colourful character (who claimed kinship with Sir Christopher Wren) would also give his rendering of England, with all Thy Faults, I Love Thee Still to the Hailsham ropemakers for a penny.

The Isted family flit in and out of Bodle Street Green’s picture down the centuries. They were certainly an enterprising lot. Edward Isted of Trumpets Farm took to iron digging as a sideline and found himself hauled before the Quarter Sessions at Lewes in 1638 because he had done so much damage to the road from Bodle Street to Woods Corner that it had become both dangerous and impassable. He and his tenant, William Price, were ordered to repay the parishioners of Warbleton for the cost of the repairs.

In later years Edward’s son John Isted appeared in a curious case before the Exchequer Chamber at Westminster because he had conveniently managed to ‘lose’ a 20-acre holding called Dill on which the rent was 4s. He lost his case and was ordered to pay the Lord of the Manor of Bucksteep the two years’ missing rent.

The threatened invasion by Napoleon in the early years of the 19th century brought vast numbers of troops to the area, men who must be fed … and here were John and James Isted building a post mill to capitalise on the boom time. Chicken fattening was big business in this area (see Warbleton) and the Isted family would not fail to make the most of it. A steam mill was started at Trumpets Farm in 1909, grinding the oats for delivery to the rearers and fatters.

The White Horse had a rather seedy reputation at the turn of the century; drunkenness and fighting made it a place you could not go without running into trouble’. But it had a good quoits team, playing across the road in what was then the pub garden. During the Second World War the distinctive white horse painted on the roof was ordered to be removed, because it would have provided a landmark for enemy aircraft.

Bodle Street nearly acquired a railway station on two occasions. In 1868 it would have been a halt on the proposed line from Hellingly to Hastings, and in 1896 it was included in a scheme to link Pevensey with the Kent and East Sussex Railway. If both plans had gone ahead the village could have been a railway junction today!