A Chronicle

A Chronicle of Blatchington Pond

by Kevin Gordon

In Medieval times there was a problem locally with ‘unlicensed brewers’. Although in Seaford these brewers appear to have been fined, traditionally the punishment was being placed in the ‘Cuckingstole.’ The cucking-stool is frequently mistaken for a ducking-stool but although similar was slightly different. We know that Seaford had a cucking-stool because in 1594 and again in 1607 it was reported in the town records that it was in a state of disrepair. A cucking-stool was literally a toilet or a commode that a female offender would be tied to and wheeled around the town with her head and feet bare.

A cucking-stool was mentioned in the Doomsday Book as being in use in Chester. It was traditionally used as a punishment for women, bakers and brewers. Other miscreants were subject to the pillory. By the seventeenth century the cucking-stool was replaced by the ducking stool which was a chair lowered into a pond. It was either in the form of a see-saw type device or could be as simple as a chair dropped into the water from an overhanging tree.

The ducking stool was used for women, particularly scolds who overly nagged their husbands, although it is reported elsewhere that arguing couples who annoyed their neighbours could be tied back-to-back to be ducked. In 1644 Goody Rance was convicted at the court in Seaford for being a scold and was presumably dunked in a nearby pond. The term ‘Goody’ is a version of ‘Goodwife’, an older version of ‘Mrs.’

But which pond was Mrs. Rance dunked in? The closest pond to the town was presumably the Blatchington Pond, which was definitely in existence in 1644 because the following year it is reported that a servant girl called Sarah Reynolds was drowned here. At this time there were actually two ponds: Blatchington Pond and the Lily Pond which was on the site of the former Elm Court building. The ponds were fed by a stream, probably the Lynn Brook which came out to sea near the Salts. This is the origin of Brooklyn Road off Claremont Road. Sutton Drove was a sunken lane from the village of Sutton just north of Seaford. A ‘drove’ is a route used by shepherds or herdsmen to drive sheep or cattle along and which was banked up on both sides to prevent the animals escaping. The animals would have been herded to the pond for a last drink and a quick wash before they were moved on to Seaford market at the Crouch.

On 19th January 1789, the local paper reports that the water in Blatchington Pond was frozen for such a long time that the fish died. Later the stinking fish caused such a smell that the cattle would not get near it.

The pond was again frozen over in January 1907 as it was mentioned in the local paper that, along with Chyngton Pond, it was ‘patronised by ice-skaters’. Skating on the pond however could be fatal. On Valentine’s Day in 1845 the son of Mr Galvin (a Seaford ‘riding officer’ – exciseman) was sliding across the thin ice of the pond when it gave way. He was rescued by Thomas Chambers and taken to the Old Tree Inn in Broad Street where ‘every means to restore animation proved fruitless’.

One Seaford lad, ‘Lionel’, remembered the pond during the First World War. In his memoirs he recalled that one hard winter (probably 1918) Blatchington Pond froze over, and the boys and girls all had a grand time sliding across it until a Canadian soldier turned up with real ice-skates and proceeded to carve up the children’s ice-slides. The children stood aside to watch him when, to their delight, one of his skates caught the rim of a tin bucket which had been thrown into the pond and had frozen with just its rim above the ice. He fell with a great bang and soon left to allow the children to return to their sliding.

Before the Great War the pond was owned by Robert Lambe of nearby East Blatchington but in June 1913 he sold it to Seaford Urban District Council for a nominal sum of just £10.

The pond has been a pleasant beauty spot between Seaford and East Blatchington for many years and photographs from 100 years ago show sheep grazing nearby. Mr Cullingford presented an ornamental seat at Blatchington Pond in 1877.

In 1923 there were calls to turn the pond into a boating lake but this was not forthcoming and a few years later, after a few dry summers, the clay lining cracked and the pond all but dried out. In 1935 Richard Lamb, who lived at the Lodge in Firle Road, planted elm and sycamore trees at the pond.

For many years the area was a bit of a muddy mess until in the late 1970s a group of worthy local people got together to urge the council to restore the area to its former beauty. Unfortunately Seaford council, who owned the site, declined but undeterred, local people started a campaign which raised over £2,000 in just one year. See our Restoration page for more details.

The restoration has been a great success and Blatchington Pond is an oasis of countryside in the centre of our town where plants, insects, frogs, birds and bats have established themselves. There are always plenty of ducks to be seen.

The pond is always worth a visit but unfortunately (or should I say fortunately?) one thing that you will not find any more at the pond is the ducking-stool!!