Life in Ruins Part 1

Published February 19, 2012 by pennyrandall

There’s not much left of the once thriving community at Tidemills, near Newhaven on the Sussex coast. A few crumbling walls, the old tidal millpond, traces of a railway. On a chilly winter’s day, when the wind whips in from the sea and waves pound the shingle beach like it’s done something wrong, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever living here.

But they did. And in its boom years, their village must have seemed as permanent to them as our towns and cities do to us. Then, at the end of the nineteenth century the redevelopment of the nearby port closed the tidal creek to barge traffic and the coming of the railways made it cheaper for farmers to send their grain to market than have it milled locally. The mill shut down; the settlement  fell into decline and in the 1930s, after several houses were  declared unfit for human habitation and demolished, it was dubbed “Britain’s most backward hamlet” by a national newspaper. It was finally cleared in 1940 as part of the country’s sea defence strategy and used for street fighting practice by Canadian soldiers stationed nearby.

A memento mori of brambles and broken bricks, Tidemills is a whispered reminder of how our own certainties are built on shifting sand. And while nothing lasts forever, I suspect the relevance of that message will endure for a very long time.

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7 comments on “Life in Ruins Part 1

  • Hey Kit! I think someone else has beaten me to it a few years back but just wait until you see some of the other abandoned villages I’ll be posting about. One at least will have a starring role in a future work. Thanks ever so much for dropping by. pxx

  • Oh yeah, hon, it’s not that far from Called world actually, it would be on Rowan’s patch anyway. Have been thinking of stuff to do when you come…do you like castles, proper, fairytale ones? Arundel is pretty cool and it’s not that far. And of course, there’s the antique shops of Lewes to check out…. xxp

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