We can get glimpses into the way of life in Tide Mills during its last three or four
decades from reminiscences left by several people who lived there as children. People
who have described their childhood in the village include Arthur Davis, born in 1893,
his sister Hilda, later Hilda Baker, born in 1906, and Percy Thompson, born in 1920.
As mentioned above Arthur and Hilda Davis lived at no. 9 Tide Mills, and is seems
the Thompsons lived at the same address after the Davis family moved out in the late
1920s. The Thompson family came from Cwmcarn in Wales, and on arrival in Sussex Percy,
then aged about 6, spoke very little English.
The memoirs of Arthur Davis can be read in the archives either at Newhaven Museum
or Seaford Museum. Newhaven Museum holds the transcript of an interview with Hilda
Baker. Percy Thompson's memories have been recorded by David Lyndhurst and Kevin
Aspects of life in Tide Mills mentioned by Arthur Davis, Hilda Baker, and Percy Thompson
- Swimming. During the summer Hilda would often sleep in her swimming suit and go
for a swim early the next morning.
- Fishing. Fish were plentiful in the former mill pond, where on the ebb tide they
could be caught with spears. Mallet and bass could be caught with nets hung at the
archways beneath the mill buildings. You could set up a stall to sell fish to summer
visitors, shrimps and eels being especially popular.
- Other sources of food. Fruit and vegetables were still grown in the area where
William Catt's greenhouses once stood, and most people grew vegetables in their back
garden. Rabbits could be caught on the Downs to the north. Milk and other products
were delivered from local farms, but if necessary you could walk over to Eastside
in Newhaven to buy extra supplies at Amy's Store.
- Debris obtained from the sea. Driftwood might be used as a supplementary source
of fuel for cooking and heating, and you might come across tallow candles or tins
of oranges. Bamboo sticks were often found as they were used on cargo ships to support
goods and thrown overboard as the ship departed from Newhaven.
- Shipwrecks. After one incident Hilda Baker's father retrieved a corpse from the
beach and stored it in his shed in the garden until it was taken to the mortuary.
That night Hilda was unwilling to carry out her usual evening task of feeding the
- Floods. There was a constant fear that the sea might come over the shingle spit.
Hilda recalled one occasion when the tide came over and entered their house. It
climbed about four or five stairs and as their father carried out the smaller children
the water was almost up to his armpits. People assembled in the top room of Mill
- Lighting at home. As there was no electricity supply to the village oil lamps were
used in the evening.
- Outhouses. External buildings behind the houses included a wash-house where clothes
were washed in copper containers and a shed for the mangle.
- Getting to school. Hilda Baker would usually walk to school in Eastside, Newhaven,
but if she was late she would catch the train. She would promise the station master
that her father would pay tomorrow.
- The snowball man. Who would come from Newhaven with a large white bundle filled
with clothes on his back. In the village he would lay out the sheet on the road and
offer the clothes for sale.