Fryern Ladies’ Probus hosts Arun Valley historic postcard talk

Tony Pratt at the Fryern Ladies' Probus Club
Tony Pratt at the Fryern Ladies' Probus Club

Historian Tony Pratt spoke about his collection of old postcards illustrating Sussex villages in times gone by at the latest Fryern Ladies’ Probus lunch meeting.

The Roundabout Hotel in West Chiltington hosted the club’s monthly get-together on Thursday, which included pre-lunch drinks, a ‘delicious meal’ and the talk.

Tony’s project, the Arun Valley postcard trail, started as a series of short documentary films based around his large collection of postcards that date back from before the First World War.

The trail centres on the River Arun, featuring both landscapes and the histories of people associated with the river as users or observers.

Tony uncovered the stories of characters such as John Harvey of the Littlehampton shipyard, who ran the business with his brother Henry until 1916.

There is also a postcard of Edward Tickner-Edwardes, vicar of the village of Burpham, whose novel Tansy was made into a silent film by Cecil Hepworth in 1921.

The Arun runs from its source near the eastern outskirts of Horsham at St Leonard’s forest to the English Channel at Littlehampton harbour.

Russ Fry, of the Fryern Ladies’ Probus Club, said: “Throughout this journey we were shown illustrations of old postcards resulting in a kaleidoscope of stories and depicting many Sussex villages.

“We saw Tansy’s Cottage in Peppering, sheep washes in the river, sailing and steam vessels, ferry men, census data, old maps, barges and Arundel with its fairytale castle and then on and on to the sea.”

The presentation started at Littlehampton and travelled through Arundel, Burpham, Houghton, Bury and then to Pulborough and Stopham.

The river was only navigable using a small craft for 20 miles from the coast to Stopham bridge, whose seven arches date back to 1420, but the flood plains were extensive as they can be seen today.

However, from around 1863, the use of the river has declined. The introduction of mainline trains and more road bridges have changed the landscapes revealed in old postcards.

Russ Fry said: “We appreciated our glimpse into times gone by, the awareness of local history and the nostalgic memories ignited. Thank you for this Tony.

“Joan Richardson gave our collective thanks and said how beautifully researched his presentation was.”

Tony Pratt has been working on a series of short documentaries on the villages in the area, which are to air on Brighton TV.

Information used in the project was sourced from Rendel Williams’ Sussex Postcards website, on which there is an interactive map of postcards from 1900 to 1980 located in the area. For more information, visit www.sussexpostcards.info.