Working Party: Day 2

The Saxon farmstead in Sussex, Sullington Manor Farm, has been a hive of activity today. It’s the second day of the SPAB’s annual Working Party and work is well under way. Despite the size of this ambitious project — extensive repairs to six buildings in five days — our army of volunteers and experts are optimistic that everything will be completed by the end of the week.

Sullington Manor

Sullington Manor

The work at St Mary’s church, Sullington has called for all hands on deck.  Volunteers, along with building conservation expert Anthony Goode and our own Douglas Kent, are working on the boundary wall of the churchyard. The 10-strong team have removed the ivy that has damaged the stonework and are now repointing with a non-hydraulic mortar mix (1 lime putty : 3 locally sourced sharp sand).

Repointing the boundary wall of St Mary's Sullington

Repointing the boundary wall of St Mary’s Sullington

A particularly intrepid volunteer donned his abseiling gear to scale the interior of the Saxon tower at St Mary’s church, Sullington. Concrete mortar on the exterior of the tower had caused dampness issues inside.

Lime washing inside St Mary's church, Sullington

Lime washing inside St Mary’s church, Sullington

Another major project is the repairs to the cart shed. The base of an integral plinth had become rotten and the weight of the unsupported tile roof had caused the timber walls to buckle. A team of Scholars, Fellows and volunteers have began to carry out structural repairs and low-level repointing.

Repairs to the cart shed

Repairs to the cart shed


Repointing with lime mortar


Timber for the week’s repairs to the cart shed

For more photos around the site, please visit our Facebook page. The SPAB will be blogging from the Working Party site all week. Subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss an update.


Working Party: Day 1

The SPAB’s annual Working Party, where we put our philosophy of conservative repair into action at a building in need, is off to a great start. All our volunteers arrived over the weekend at Sullington Manor Farm in Sussex to pitch their tents, establish their barbecuing areas and get to know each other.

Working Party_2015

The packed programme of work began today. Our 70 strong group of volunteers were divided into their groups so work could begin on the six buildings on site; the tithe barn, small barn, cart shed, cow shed, granary and the local church.

‘Sullington’ is a Saxon word meaning, more or less, ‘muddy place’ and the church, which forms part of the complex of buildings, has Saxon origins – so the complex of buildings at Sullington dates from 1000 years ago but it can still be muddy in winter! The tithe barn is not quite so old but many of its timbers have been reused and could date from early medieval times. The construction of the east porch indicates that this was built around 1500 but the main construction of the barn is recorded as being 1685. In 1685 the manor was owned by the Shelley family who increased the area being farmed with the addition of neighbouring land on the south side of the Downs, thus explaining a major re-build of the barn.

Small barn, Sullington Manor

Small barn, Sullington Manor

Sullington farmstead is now a rare example of a once frequent settlement model along the spring line on the north slope of the South Downs. In medieval times Sullington was owned and occupied by the lord of the manor; the Saxon thegn, Ulward, held the manor of Edward. The Norman noble family, de Couvert, owned the manor from c.1242 until 1366. Sullington was bought in 1546 by the Shelley family who refurbished the house, re-built the small barn and then enlarged the tithe barn to its current size. The Shelleys moved from Sullington to Sandgate which became the seat of the lords of the manor from the mid-18th century, the farmhouse was again tenanted.

Work on the small barn roof

Work on the small barn roof

Sullington farm was sold to Lord Leconfield of Petworth in 1789, as indicated by the odd numbering, 491 and 492 (Petworth estate numbers) are the only houses on the west side of Sullington Lane. Tenant farmer Albert Hecks bought the farm from the estate in two phases in 1912 and 1920 but very sadly he and his son died in the same year, 1951, and the farm was broken up for sale. Ivan Kittle purchased the farm itself, and John and Grahame Kittle, Ivan’s son and grandson, have since farmed in succession at Sullington.

Cart shed at Sullington Manor

Cart shed at Sullington Manor

Hands-on History at the Working Party

Sullington Manor Farm

Historic Sullington Manor Farm near Storrington in West Sussex is the destination for our Working Party. Each year the SPAB decamps from its London HQ to put its advice and expertise into practice at a building in need. Conservation experts and volunteer heritage enthusiasts from all walks of life will descend on site for one week (Monday 6 July – Friday 10 July) to carry out vital maintenance and repair work on this important medieval survivor. We will be blogging everyday of the Working Party, subscribe for updates so you can keep up with the news on site.

Sullington Manor Farm is an ancient hillside farm settlement clustered around a Saxon church on the South Downs. The farmstead is a rare example of a once-frequent settlement model along the spring line on the north slope of the South Downs.  ‘Sullington’ is a Saxon word meaning ‘muddy place’ and the church, which forms part of the complex of buildings, has Saxon origins.

RE Nov 2014 Sullington tithe barn

The SPAB team will be carrying out low-level repairs on several buildings during the week, including cart sheds, barns, a granary and a church. There will be a free public open day on Wednesday 8 July, 10am-5pm. It will be a chance to see conservation in action, tour the ancient site and have a go at hands-on activities. There will be a day-long programme of talks and walks about old buildings, old farms, bats and butterflies and about historic Sullington. You can have a go at brick making, peg making and much more.