Ovingdean's oldest resident

Photo:Peartree Cottages c1910

Peartree Cottages c1910

From the private collection of Miss Laurie Hollands

Photo:Farmhands at Ovingdean, William Hollands (Laurie's father) is 1st left

Farmhands at Ovingdean, William Hollands (Laurie's father) is 1st left

From the private collection of Miss Laurie Hollands

Photo:The 'Dudeney girls' at the entrance to Grange Farm Ovingdean

The 'Dudeney girls' at the entrance to Grange Farm Ovingdean

From the private collection of Miss Laurie Hollands

Photo:L-R Daisy Noakes, Jennifer Drury and Laurie Hollands. Pictured in 2000 at the launch of the oral history book. Laurie and Daisy first met in Ovingdean in the early 1920's

L-R Daisy Noakes, Jennifer Drury and Laurie Hollands. Pictured in 2000 at the launch of the oral history book. Laurie and Daisy first met in Ovingdean in the early 1920's

Photograph by Tony Mould

Miss Laura Hollands

By Jennifer Drury

I interviewed Laurie Hollands in 2000, for an oral history project in Ovingdean village. The project formed part of the millennium celebrations in the village and subsequently a book was published containing extracts of the interviews. Laurie is the oldest village resident and the only person still living in Ovingdean who was actually born there: she will be 94 this year.

Excellent memory at 89 years old
At the time of our interview Laurie was almost 89 years old, but her memory was very good and her village reminiscences fascinating to listen to. Laurie's father worked for William Cowley at Grange Farm in Ovingdean and in 1911 she was born in one of the very small farm cottages. 'Peartree Cottages' so called because of the large tree which grew at the end of the terrace, belonged to the farm and housed some of the workers.

Peartree cottages c1800
It is impossible to date the cottages accurately, but they are on the 1839 map of the area and were probably built in the early 1800's. Unfortunately 'Peartree Cottages' were demolished in a road widening project in the early 1930's and so became just one more victim of the cult of the motor car! In her interview, Laurie talked about her early days:

Born in Ovingdean in 1911
"I was born in the village in one of the farm cottages in 1911. Father came to live in Ovingdean because he got a job at the farm driving the engine for the threshing on the farm. The family was my mother and father, my brother Percy, my sister Vera, and I had a little brother who died with paralysis. We lived in the farm cottages on the corner by the farm but of course they were knocked down. Our cottage was the one right on the corner and if people wanted to go up the road they would say 'up at Hollands' corner'.

Church every Sunday
We used to go to church every Sunday when we small; Mother used to say, 'You must be good and you must be quiet'. We used to wear our best clothes for church but sometimes we used to put our best things on in the week but Father couldn't bear it - he used to like us to keep them special for going out anywhere or if we were asked out to a party.
Christmas parties
The rector then was Mr. Anderson, he was a stout chap. I remember going up for the Sunday school treat we used to have in the field in the summer. At Christmas
we used to have a party in the big dining room at the Rectory. It was the same down at Grange Farm; they always used to give the children a Christmas party with games like 'Postman's Knock.
The Mother's Union
The church had a 'Mother's Union' - I remember going with Mother and sitting on her knee. It was run by Mrs. Field the widow of a clergyman, she lived in a funny little corrugated house. It was built for the village teacher but there weren't enough children to go there and so the school closed. So Mrs. Field and her daughter came to live there, she was a widow. I remember one of her songs was 'Tell me the old, old story' and I remember sitting on Mother's knee and eating a bun and having a cup of tea.
Not many children in the village
She also used to take us for Sunday school tea and I always remember at harvest time she loved us to sing 'Fair wave the golden corn'. There weren't many children in the village when I was young; there was us four - but not many more. I remember there were one or two Dudeney girls, (see right) and several Cousins children, their father was head gardener at the School."

Bungalow like a doll's house
Today Laurie still lives in the small bungalow that was built for her mother and herself in about 1932. It stands high on Ovingdean Road and commands the sort of view over the fields surrounding the village that is just beyond price. The bungalow is like a doll's house and as Laurie has not had any major refurbishment done it is almost as it was when she first moved in. Sitting talking to Laurie about the village as it was so many years ago, it felt as if I had been transported back in time.

Footnote: Sadly, Miss Laurie Hollands died in June 2006.  She was the last of the 'old village' community.  Although Laurie had humble beginnings, she was always a real 'lady'.  She kept her small bungalow as clean as a pin and when I visited her I was always treated to small homemade cakes and the best china.  To the end of her days she maintained the good manners and standards she had been taught at the beginning of the last century.  She is very much missed.
Jennifer Drury. August 2006

'In Living Memory: An Oral History of Ovingdean Village' edited by Jennifer Drury and published by Ovingdean Millennium Association, is available in Brighton Library.

Laurie Hollands: interviewed by Jennifer Drury
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
My great-grandfather came from Sussex county around 1850s, his name was Caleb. His birth was around 1835, any relation?
By Richard Hollands (11/02/2006)
I came to Ovingdean yesterday and found the grave of my great grandfather, James Murrell, a farm labourer who lived in a cottage on Grange Farm. It is in one of your photos of the entrance to Grange Farm. I have some photos of him in (I believe) Ovingdean and wondered if you would be interested in them. He may be in your photo of farmhands, but the photo is too small to recognise and my eyes too bad.
By Adrian Whiteing (08/08/2006)

Re Richard Hollands: I have lived here now for approx 9 years, but my family originate from Heathfield where there are loads of Hollands in the graveyard from the last 250 years.

By Geoff Hollands (04/02/2008)

The Dudeney family of Ovingdean included Annie Elizabeth Dudeney who married Thomas McDonald in 1925 at which time the family lived at Ovingdean Cottage, Ovingdean. John was then listed as being a shepherd. Annie already had a daughter, Florence Sayers, when she married Thomas. Florence (Florrie) in turn had a daughter named Patricia.

Annie Elizabeth had a brother, John Dudeney, who was killed by enemy action on 12/10/1942. He died as a result of being hit by a canon shell (possibly ricocheting off a plough) from a strafing German fighter plane. This John Dudeney was married to Ada who died on 09/09/1952 aged 64. They are both buried in St. Wulfrans Churchyard, Ovingdean.

Annie died on 31st May 1962 at the Tarner Home, Tilbury Place, Brighton.

Dudeney Gravestones and inscriptions in St. Wolfrans Church graveyard, Ovingdean:

James Dudeney died 30th December 1868 aged 74 years. Also of Sarah his wife who died 22nd April 1871 aged 80

Alven Dudeney died 26th January 1893 aged 16 months. Also of Ada Mary Dudeney died 30th January 1893 aged 3 years

Charlotte beloved wife of John Dudeney fell asleep Jan 22nd 1894. Also of John Dudeney passed away Nov 24th 1900

Amy Alice Dudeney who passed away December 9th 1924

John Dudeney killed by enemy action whilst at work in an English field 12th October 1942 in his 55th year

Elvyn Dudeney who fell asleep 8th Dec 1955 aged 81 years

Mary Susan Dudeney who passed away Sept 30th 1949 aged 79

I wonder if the farm labourers pictured on this page include any of the Dudeneys and I wonder if the "Dudeney Girls" include Annie?

By David Ward (08/02/2009)
I believe the John Dudeney that was killed in 1942 was married to my great grandmother's sister Ada Newton.
By Jules Chapman (14/07/2009)

Yes that is correct Ada's maiden name was "Newton" born in Brighton in 1888 Q4.

By David Ward (08/08/2010)

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