Saddlescombe farm - The twentieth century


This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.


A failing sheep industry, mechanisation and a devastating war brought an end to a way of life that had lasted millennia. But Saddlescombe's spirit lived on despite the upheaval.

Brighton council and the Williams family

In 1926, Brighton council bought Saddlescombe, from Earnest Robinson, to protect the underground aquifer that still provides drinking water to Brighton today - a remarkable piece of forward thinking in its day. For three generations, the Williams family were the farm tenants at Saddlescombe.

It is thanks to their very traditional farming style that the farm kept its unique spirit - most of the ancient buildings are only here today because the last tenant, Wilf Williams, resisted offers from Brighton Council to modernise the farm.


Horses replacing tractors, machines replacing people....this period is beautifully told in this recording of Stan Hollingdale's childhood memories. Stan lived here all his life.

The Second World War

The Canadian military requisitioned Saddlescombe to use the surrounding fields for military practice. During the war farming life carried on. But in nearby fields Canadian soldiers trained, German bombs dropped and English fighter planes crashed.
Stan remembered the time vividly. We interviewed him in 1996 - his wartime memories have been made into a short video diary.

Saddlescombe turns into a dairy farm

In 1942, following a failing sheep industry and a demand for crops and milk, sheep disappeared from the landscape, probably for the first time in over 3000 years. As a full scale dairy farm life at Saddlescombe changed once again. Learn more about the changes in rural living at Saddlescombe in another video from Stan.

New owners, new tenants

We bought Saddlescombe in 1995, because of its unique collection of buildings. Our first mission was to find new tenants. A difficult decision was made to stop Saddlescombe being a dairy farm - soil erosion and pollution of the water table are just two of the problems associated with dairy cows on chalk. At its heart, Saddlescombe is a sheep farm, and Plumpton College stepped in for the next decade to restore this tradition.

Next, the roofs of the most important buildings needed drastic attention - a lack of investment meant many were full of holes and the timber frames were gradually rotting away. These new roofs means the buildings will be safe for generations to come.

Saddlescombe also became our base from where we manage the wider Devil’s Dyke countryside estate - over 2000 acres of superb downland and woodland, just 5 miles from Brighton.