Abandoned Communities ..... Tide Mills

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 Gordon.


Aspects of life in Tide Mills mentioned by Arthur Davis, Hilda Baker, and Percy Thompson include:


- 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 chickens.

- 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 House.

- 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.