Note:  Written by Percy Sherrell (1873-1958) c. 1933 and transcribed and edited by his grandson, Bill Trowbridge, October 2004.  The typed MS had been in the possession of Percy Sherrell’s youngest daughter, the late Mrs Dinah Smith, who remembered her father dictating it to her in the early 1930’s.




                          CHAPTER 1.                              DAYS AT BEDFORDSHIRE

                          CHAPTER 2.                              DAYS AT EASTDEAN

                          CHAPTER 3.                              DAYS AT AMBERLEY

                          CHAPTER 4.                              RETURN TO AMBERLEY

                          EPILOGUE: `                              DEATH OF REV. GEORGE SHERRELL



It was about 1879 when I was about 6 years of age that we came to see our Grandfather Mr James Sherrell who was living at a place called Maulden, near Ampthill in Bedfordshire.

 While we were there my father was working in Sussex where he was about to take up an appointment at Eastdean, near Chichester, with the Congregational Union of' Brighton. He was going on probation for three months on a preaching tour.

 When we all arrived at our Grandfather’s house and saw our grandparents for the first time, I thought my Grandmother was a wonderful old lady. She had lovely long black curls all hanging round her neck. Grandfather was a very nice old gentleman full of fun and jokes.

 I do not think my Grandmother was very fond of children because we were not allowed to have our food with them. We did not mind this though, as our mother was always with us. I remember breakfast consisted of bread and. milk, with salt instead of sugar. There were about 6 in family at this time, and my grandparents being by themselves, I expect we were often a worry to them.

 After a while my grandfather took a cottage some little distance away from Maulden in a village called Flitton, and here we lived with our mother. This was my first experience of country life. Flitton was a beautiful village and many lovely flowers and beautiful trees were to be found growing there.

 The village comprised chiefly of agriculture workers, small-holding was the most important work, and nearly everyone had their own little plots of ground on which they grew all kinds of vegetables. I often saw people washing their carrots and tying them up in bundles. Some of the woman would often be busy plaiting straw for hats.

 Everyone seemed very happy in the village and on Sundays the beautiful Church bells would ring out and nearly all the people went to Church. I remember in that Church we sat in Pews and could not see the Parson. In the afternoon we went to a class held by the Rector at the Rectory, and in the evening we went to another class. My chief interest at this last class was looking all round the room at the nice things and pictures etc, instead of listen­ing to the lesson.

 In the week time we attended the village school, I got on very well here, although one of my brothers was often in trouble. Of course our father being away from home we were more or less without management for my mother would let us do what we liked. I can remember fishing with my brother George over a bridge and we caught several nice little fish.

 Not far from our cottage there lived a farmer whose name was Mr. Corkus, he would get very excited if we walked through his corn fields bird nesting or chasing butterflies.

I remember going black berrying with George near a place called Hollington Basin; the water was rushing down in such torrents like a water fall into a kind of dam. We saw some lovely blackberries all round the edge of this waterfall and we tried to get them. We took off our shoes and stockings and let the water wash over our feet, what a good time we did have. We were told afterwards it was a most dangerous thing to do, because we might have been drawn down into the water.

 I can remember many happy instances in the village. The Sunday school treat when we had tea out in the meadow adjoining the Rectory. Then there was the old village school standing on the corner of the road, I remember one of the teachers was a Miss Julia Dawny.

There was an old lady who was noted for making Dandelion wine, and she would give the children bags of sweets to bring dandelions to her horse. There was a very nice man with pink eyes.  I can remember some of the people’s names, Harris, King, Matthews.

Another thing I well remember was a big fair held at Silsoe. I was very interested in a machine which turned round like the hand of a clock and if it stopped at a cer­tain number you won a prize, which was a large rock.

I think we had been in this village for three months when father returned home. How pleased we all were to see him, especially mother. He brought us all presents; I had a lovely pocket knife.

 My father and mother were very happy, and we had family prayers that night. In a few days time we moved away from that little village to my father's new appoint­ment in Eastdean, Sussex.



We arrived at Chichester and were met by a Mr. Miles with his Enterprise carriage, and proceeded by road to Eastdean. There were eight of us altogether, and if we had gone on by train from Chichester we should have had to walk from Singleton the nearest station a distance of about two mile

So we arrived at our Sussex home, and a change in our life began. Our school days began under the tuition of our father in the school room. Our lessons would be put in front of us in the morning and we all had certain work to do which father expected finished by the evening.

 My father’s work consisted of two chapels, one at Eastdean, and one at Graffham about 4 miles away. The latter was really a lovely old chapel right under the hills.

 The old world village of Eastdean was practically owned by the Duke of Richmond, who lived at Goodwood House two or three miles away. I often saw the Duke out riding his horse, and I remember my first impression was that he looked just 1ike an ordinary person. He was well spoken of in the village and nearly all the people worked for him. I never heard of him coming to Father’s chapel.

 There was a beautiful old church in Eastdean. It stands out now in my mind today, especially one vivid picture in the church yard. This was the funeral of a great friend of ours. Her name was Jessie Miles, daughter of Mr Miles the village grocer, a very nice girl. One day Jessie was taken ill with diphtheria and died. She was buried in this little church yard, and it was the first Nonconformist funeral held there for a long time. My father took the service in the little chapel, for I remember they were very strict in those days about dissenters’ funerals being held in church. I was not allowed to go to the funeral, but crowds of people went, and I shall never forget the day. Soon after this funeral my brother George who was working for Mr Miles and lived in his house also caught diphtheria and was ill for a long time, but I am glad to say he recovered.

 Another event was about to take place in our family life although we did not know anything about this at the time. Several of my brothers and myself were removed to other sleeping quarters in the village, to a Mr Glovers a Woodman to the Duke of Richmond. We would arrive at his house about 7-30 in the evening, and all sit round the fire listening to stories and drinking home made wine. The house we were living in at Eastdean was right out in the country and the doctor had to stay the night, his name was Dr Scaife from Chichester. The next morning when we arrived home again we heard that we had two new baby brothers. This made our number ten.

 The next thing I remember after this was a big fire on the farm of a Mr Atkins causing very heavy damage and loss. Granaries of corn were burnt and some animals. All the people turned out to put the fire out. That very night a wonderful thing happened, a comet appeared in the sky, a great streak of fire with a long tail.

 Fox hunting was a great sport in those days. Lord Leconsfield’s hounds used to meet in the village. Hundreds of ladies and gentlemen  would be seen riding their horses, sometimes they would stop outside the old Public House and drink beer and eat bread and cheese. I remember the old publican very well, a Mr Steer, he had a daughter called Sarah.  There were also shooting parties, the Duke of Richmond would be there with all the sportsmen and the gamekeepers with the big dogs.

 Pillygreen and Eastdean woods were great places for birds, rabbits and hares. There were many gamekeepers in charge of these places, and it was quite a big business feeding the birds and taking care of them, one often saw beautiful pheasants walking about as proud as peacocks.

 I  remember on one occasion my brother George and I had been walking from Eastdean to Graffham and we saw a wonderful sight. It was a tremendous ants home.It was like a hay stack with millions of ants all working very hard carrying little chunks of wood towards the stack they were building. There were 4 or 5 ants struggling along with a bit of wood several times the size of themselves and we watched them until they had got the piece into positionWe also saw something else that day, it looked like the top of a small round table of golden colour and laid very quiet until my brother just dropped a small stone on to it then we saw it was a great adder, which might have killed us.

 There was a large pond in the village full of ducks. Speaking of this reminds me of the ducks we used to have. These ducks were getting full grown and had never yet been into the water, so one day we put some water into a tub, and then placed two of the ducks in. they seemed to flounder about at first, and then nearly sunk in the water. We took them in doors and dried them, but were afraid they were going to die, when I suddenly thought of putting them in the oven. My mother wrapped them in flannel first. They had not been in very long before we heard a very loud quacking, and out they came full of life. They must have had cramp, the water being very cold.

There were many days when we had to take the babies out, the twins James and Frank, in a wooden pram with a small wheel in the front and two large wheels behind. I often think now that we might have had an accident because we use to let the pram run down the hill with the twins in it, and how they enjoyed it. They were wonderful little boys; both had fair hair; one curly and one straight. One with blue eyes and one with dark blue eyes.[1]

Of course all this work had to be done besides attending School, and it was no easy matter to get our lessons done. Our father was very strict, and we often had the cane because our sums were not right, or our spelling was wrong.

 Every year father would take mother and all of us to Westdean Park, the ancestral home of the James family. This was a wonderful place with Rhododendron trees full of blooms, and we always spent a very happy day there.

 On August Bank holiday we all use to go to Bognor with Mr Miles and his family in their Enterprise, and a very happy day on the sands. The chief amusement was riding donkeys round the square. There were also goat chaises[2] which my sister Nellie preferred. After she had paid her 2d for the ride the goat man told her she was too big and that it was only for children.  Nellie did not like this and demanded her ride, and she had it too.

 Farmers at Eastdean held Harvest suppers for the men when the last load of corn had gone into the barns. These were wonderful gatherings. The men would sit down to a big dinner, and then the farmer would pay them their Harvest money. These were great days for the farm labourer.

 There were also the usual club days. Friendly societies would have a club day in the village, with amusements, a kind of fair. There would be roundabouts, cocoanut shies and all the usual side shows, ending up with a big supper for the members at the Public House, and presided over by a local gentleman.

 I remember sometimes I had to walk to Singleton to fetch letters for my father, and to the station also for parcels of books. Two or three of us would usually go for the books though because they were often large parcels. My father had hundreds of books.

 My mother had plenty to do always. Washing day was a great day. Every Monday the copper fire was going ready, an old person a Mrs Oakley would come up from the village to do all the washing. Our garden looked like a laundry when all the washing was hanging out.

 Mother was very good at baking jam. I remember seeing over one hundred pots of different kinds on the larder shelves all made by mother. This jam would sometimes be twelve months old before we had eaten it all. My brothers and I fetch the fruit from Graffam, great baskets full of Greengages, Damsons, plums etc, and we used to eat a lot on the way home, in fact so many that we did not like them any more. We were allowed a good supply from the folks we obtained them from for ourselves.

 My brothers and I would often accompany father to Graffham on Sunday where father preached in the afternoon. It was our duty to carry the Sacrament, the wine and silver cup in a box, and bring it back again.  My father was very friendly with the Rector of Graffam, the Rev Roly Lascelles and we often went to the Rectory to have milk to drink before going home.

 I remember once, on the way home I picked up a rabbit which a stoat had killed, it was quite warm. I was interested in all kinds of animal. I shall never forget one day catching a mole. I took it home and put it in the garden, and it was gone in a moment, leaving its trail as it went, we saw the ground going up. On another occasion an owl was flying about in our Chapel and I caught it after great difficulties, tying a piece of string round its neck. This owl was afterwards preserved and put in a glass case[3].

 There was very little unemployment in those days. If a man was seen on a week day in his Sunday suit, everybody wondered what was the matter.

 Harvest and Hay making were very busy times, also hoeing times. Great numbers of men and women too would be working in the fields hoeing the Turnips etc, even old men. Old men over 70 would be seen working hard on the roadsides breaking up stones. I remember one old man whose name was Button Hewson, he was a very energetic man and would break up the stones very small, and sing whilst he was working,

Some say the devils’ dead and buried in Gold Arbour;
Some say he’s risen – and tidily winks the barber.

This old man could be heard singing this song very often.

The agriculture people would have a supper every night and it nearly always consisted of hot pork, potatoes and cabbage, followed by Roly-poly current pudding all boiled in the same pot. These people nearly all had pigs of their own and they used to pickle their pork, so they always had a joint ready for dinner or supper.

 Eastdean was only 3 or 4 miles from the Goodwood race course, so I remember the races very well. The little village of Eastdean would be turned into practically a great town for one week. On the Sunday before the races started hundreds of hansom cabs would bring people to stop in the village. They paid big rents so the villagers had a little harvest during that week. The bookmakers use to arrange sports for the children in the evening and gave quite a lot of money away for prizes. My father was very much against horse racing and would not allow any of us to on to the race course. All the shops did a very good trade, and I remember seeing the bookmakers with their hats full of golden sovereigns. It use to take them quite a time to count them all out.

 I remember one evening a gentleman came to our house and wanted to know if the man of God lived there. We were very surprised as we knew this man was one who attended the races. My father took him into his room and was with him for a long time and when he went away he looked very much brighter. Father said this man had a lot of trouble but that was all he would say about him.

 On another occasion a woman asked me to tell my father to come and see her, she said she had seen the devil in the night. I asked her what he was like, but she was so frightened that she could not tell me. I said I would tell my father to come and see her, and he would be able to help her.



 I was about 11 years of age when we first arrived at Amberley (July 1884). My father was going to take charge of the Congregational Church in this very old village of thatched cottages surrounded by the great mount of Amberley and the historical castle which Oliver Cromwell bombarded. It stood then exactly as it did all those years ago, when Cromwell’s cannon balls penetrated its noble walls. I use to see the old cannon balls lying about in Amberley, in fact there were several of them in our garden.

 My father continued to educate us at home, and this was a big job for him besides his church work about the villages. My father was a great walker, and must have walked many thousands of miles during his career. We had another church at Pulborough under his charge also, and he frequently use to walk there and back a distance of about 20 miles[4].

 He use to preach to large congregations every Sunday. He was very friendly with the local clergy especially the Rev. Clarkson who was Rector at the time. Father and this worthy Rector were often seen walking about together and often in the Parish Church.

 Amberley was known far and wide for its lovely old houses, and many artists came to stay there. I remember Mr Stott R.A.[5] and would often watch him painting, also Mr and Mrs Grace other noted artists who lived quite near my home.

 My father had a great struggle to maintain our large family, and I can remember when he bought 13 pairs of boots. It was my job to clean these boots every Saturday night ready for Sunday, also the knives and forks. We had a large garden and often did my share of this too. We use to go for long walks with our father sometimes after school work was finished

 Our principal amusement was fishing in the Arun, and sledging. We use to take our sledges on to Amberley Mount and have very enjoyable rides. I remember we once saw an old gentleman trying to fly with a machine that he had made. He would go up a few yards from the ground. When one thinks to-day of the great advances made since that time, it is really wonderful.

 The principal work in the village was agricultural and the manufacture of Lime. Everyone seemed to be contented and happy. Labourers were not getting big wages, but most of them had pigs of their own and gardens well planted full of vegetables and flowers, and fruit trees. The villagers had an old custom of wassailing. They would stand round the trees in groups singing:

Here stands a good old apple tree, stands fast root,
Bears well top, every bough apples new, hats full,
Caps full, four and twenty sacks full, hip hip hurray.

These folks used to come dressed up in smocks and carry lanterns and ask if you would like your trees wassailed.

The people in the village were very nice; most of them would attend the Parish Church in the afternoon and our Chapel in the evening. There was one old war veteran who lived in the village, he used to show us his medals and tell us about the war of those days gone by. There were many Roman Catholics Priests also in the district.

 I remember on day going with my father and brothers to the funeral of the Duke of Norfolk’s first wife at Arundel[6], it stands vividly in my memory today. Arundel was crowded with visitors from all parts of the country. There were hundreds of little children in white, many Priests in magnificent robes all carrying candles as thick as broomsticks. The coffin was suspended right up in the air on great standards, and incense was burning. When the Duke[7] arrived he dropped a card at the entrance of the Cathedral[8] and I picked it up for him.

 Later on in the day father took us down into the vault of the Fitzallan  Chapel under the old Parish Church[9] and saw all the coffins of the Norfolk family on shelves. There were some glorious flowers down there that day, including a greatly castle of them from Queen Victoria. I was very interested in these old vaults, and later on I went down again on my own and had another look round. When I came up some men were getting ready to close down the place, and they also told me it was lucky I came up at that moment for I might have been locked in.

 I can remember a terrible fire close to my home on Mr Humphrey’s farm. Nearly everybody in the village helped to put it out, including myself, all carrying cans of water.

 Amberley was a very nice place in the summer time, but in the winter it was very damp. Brook land was covered in water like a great sea. The general saying was:

Amberley: God knows in the wintertime
But in the summer time, where would you live.

 It was a great place for frogs. In our garden I often found very large ones. I used to keep one under a tremendous flower pot. One day it jumped at me, drawing itself right up into a great ball, and I was very frightened and fell back hitting my head. Needless to say I gave up frog farming after this.

 My brothers and I often wandered through the village. We were very interested in the castle and its old grounds, which we often explored. We found many interesting objects in the old walls, petrified fish etc. It was said that you could walk from Amberley castle to Arundel castle by the underground passage to Arundel castle.

 My father doctored us when we were sick. Nearly every morning our tongues were inspected and at the least ailment father gave us some medicine, usually brimstone and treacle from a big wooden spoon or sometimes Senna tea with a few prunes. Father was a most careful man, every night he would see that the doors and windows were all securely fastened. He would often come into our bedroom and ask if we could smell fire.

 I remember seeing Charlie Grace on his Velocipede, this was a machine like a tricycle and it was great fun to see it. Mr Stone the village schoolmaster was a very nice man and would often talk to my brothers and I. He had two or three sons. I remember especially Archibald and William both nice boys. Harvest festivals and tea meetings were great days. The Chapel would be decorated with flowers and fruit and corn etc. from local farms and special sermons were preached by father. The collections would be for various institutions. Then on a weekday a tea meeting was held with public speakers. The whole of Amberley and many from Arundel and Pulborough used to come to these social gatherings and prizes of books were given to the scholars attending Sunday school.

 I especially remember our family prayers. My father had prayers and bible reading every morning. We all had to read a verse in turn. It seemed to me in my young days listening to father praying that he was just talking to God as if he was really in the room, which of course he was, only at the time I did not realize the truth of this. Father was very clever, a Greek, Latin and Hebrew scholar. He was very strict with us and we had to learn our lessons. Although we could not aspire to reach his knowledge we did get a sound commercial education and were able to leave home and take up a job when we were quite young.

 I would now say a few words relative to my mother. She was a marvel, a great and good woman and her work was never done. Besides her special care of us which was no easy task, she assisted my father very much in his work amongst the people of Amberley. There was always something for mother to advise upon, someone sick or requiring help. My mother had a pleasant way, she was full of sympathy, and had lovely eyes.

 My sister Nellie was a good girl and a great help to mother, especially with the young children. She was a good nurse and was always nursing the baby. She was a silent worker and loved by all the Amberley people.

 My father remained at Amberley for about 13 years, and this came about for economical reasons for his stipend was very low indeed. I do not think he received more than £80 per anum with his house, just 30 shillings weekly, but he never complained, although when one thinks of it today it was hardly the wage of an agriculture worker, yet alone a minister of the Congregational Church of England and Wales.

 After father left Amberley he took up an appointment as Pastor of the Congregational Church at Bishoplydeard[10] near Taunton, Somersetshire, his ministry continued here for sometime. Afterwards he held an appointment at Meare near Glastonbury. My youngest brother Sydney Thomas is buried here. Then father was Pastor of Low Ham Congregational Church and was there for many years, and from here he retired to live at Burnham on Sea, Somersetshire.

 The following are the names of our family in order:





Age 1895§


George James Samuel





Ellen Louisa





Frederick William










Ernest Alfred





John Franklin





Herbert Henry




















Benjamin Frances





Alexander Daniel





Sydney Thomas




Editors Notes

*  In the order as written by Percy Sherrell

§  Data supplied by the editor; Hinkley a place not identified in Sussex; the family were living in Amberley at the time.



 Nearly 50 years have passed since I once more return to the dear old village of Amberley. My dear wife and I were staying with our son at Worthing, and he motored us over.

 The village was exactly the same. I called on the present minister Rev. Rose and asked him if we could go over the chapel. He was very pleased and told us of his work in the village. I asked after some of the folks and found that Mr Robert Philby had just given up his work. I noticed a small tablet in the chapel to the memory of Mr John Philby, this was Mr Robert Philby’s son who was killed in the war.

 I could not help noticing that everything looked exactly the same, even the lamps, Miss Cross the caretaker told me these had never been changed since my dear father left. I did notice however, a little alteration in the seating arrangements. The massive old seats of our day had been replaced by seats of a lighter timber, and choir seats had been put in. There was also a small communion table.

I said to Mr Rose, “Nelson cottage looks just the same”, he said “Nelson cottage, I have never heard that name before; we call it the Manse now”. Dear Maud, Harold and little Marigold[12] all came in to the chapel, and when this darling toddler ran about I thought of my dear father and the changes. We also called at the Post Office and found the postmaster and his sister, Mr S Ruff and Miss Ruff. They did not remember me, but were very pleased to see me after so long a time. They must be over 70.

 I understood from Mr Rose that 16 Pastors had been and gone since father left, and he also said many of the old people had passed on. I was not in the village more than an hour, otherwise should have made a few more calls. A peculiar sensation came over me when I arrived; it seemed just as if I was going to see my dear parents. I felt their presence near me all the time.





The following appeared in the Langport papers:

Death of the Rev George James Sherrell - former Pastor of Low Man, Somersetshire.

 We much regret to record the death of the Rev George James Sherrell which occurred at the old Vicarage Burnham on Sea on Wednesday morning. Mr Sherrell retired to rest on Tuesday night in his usual state of health, but on Wednesday[13] morning when his breakfast was taken to him it was found he was suffering from a seizure, he passed away shortly after the arrival of the doctor. No inquest was necessary. The late Rev G.J. Sherrell was for many years the evangelist in-charge of Low Ham, Henley and Pitney Congregational churches. Whilst at Low Ham he endeared himself not only to his own congregation but to other parishioners as well. He was a preacher of no mean ability, a man mighty in the scriptures, and a fearless opponent of ritualistic and modern teaching.. He had formerly held charges at Amberley Sussex, and at Meare.

About nine years ago Mr Sherrell retired from actual ministerial work in which he had been engaged in for 44 years and went with his wife and daughter to reside with his son and daughter-in-law  Mr and Mrs Benjamin Sherrell at the old vicarage Burnham-on-sea. Here he was attached to the Baptist church. His wife predeceased a few years ago.

George James Sherrell Preaching at Low Ham C. 1918

Letter written by George to his son Percy shortly after the death of Dinah Sherrell

The Old Vicarage
Monday Evening
Nov. 22nd 1926
My dear Percy
We were very glad to receive your letter on Friday to hear that you arrived safely and found all well − I can understand 
that you missed out getting a cup of tea at Charing Cross in consequence of the train being ready to go on to Dover, 
We send you a paper containing the report of the Funeral and we hope you received it this morning. I enclose the card 
you left behind and Nellie is sorry that she forgot to give it to you before you departed from Burnham. In consequence of 
the state of the weather I have not been out since Friday afternoon − Nellie attended service at the Chapel last night.
I received another letter of sympathy this morning from the members of the Adult School − I need not assure you that 
I am continually thinking of the departure of your very dear mother. It does mean more than tongue or pen can express 
but we hold fast to that which has been written for our learning and strengthening and we are kept by the love of God − the 
God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is indeed the God of all comfort and he will comfort us − keeping all his 
precious promises. We pray that you may realise that our loving father is leading, guiding and blessing you in all the future.
This is the first letter that I have tried to write since your dear mother departed − we shall be glad to receive another 
letter later on and for the present I must only add, with love from us all, to you all. 
Yr affe. Father


[1] These twins both fought in the Mons battle (WW1). Frank was killed and James wounded.

[2] An open ‘goat’ drawn carriage

[3] Percy’s grandfather James Sherrell was a bird stuffer

[4] A ‘slight’ exaggeration as the distance from Amberley to Pulborough is 4 miles as the crow flies.

[5] Edward William Stott, 1859-1918

[6] Lady Flora Paulyna Hetty Barbara Abney Hastings b. 13 February 1854, d. 11 April 1887

[7] Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk  b. 27 December 1847, d. 11 February 1917,

[8] Presumably the Catholic Cathedral in Arundal

[9] Resumably the Chapel at Arundel Castle and not the Parish church.

[10] 1897

[11] Twin with Frank

[12] Harold ‘Boy’ Sherrell’s daughter Marigold Sherrell

[13] March 1930