Brookside, Gatwick

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Contributed by Iris Cole, former owner

Brookside was built in 1740 on the Midleton Estate, probably as a woodsman’s cottage, and is an exact twin of Kingshott Cottage, some 200 yards to the north. They both had “two up, two down” and identical cupboards in the living room, with cottage inglenook fireplaces. The original roof tiles, held by wooden pegs and battens, still remain on the north side and also in the barn. A stream runs along the edge of the garden, which is the boundary between Shackleford and Puttenham.

1900s

In the 1970’s we had a visit from a lady now living in Australia. She was about seventy years old, and remembered staying with her grandmother at Brookside as a small child. She told us that she used to be given a penny for “opening the gate across the road near Gatwick Bridge”, which suggests that Lombard Street was another entrance to the Midleton Estate. Various people scratched their names and date on bricks on the north side of the house: “C. Home 1897”, “Rossiter” and “A.H. Querney” 1903, “F.C.”, H.A., “J.W. 1900. I wonder who they were!

1939-45

The field to the south was an army camp during the 2nd World War, and there are two pillboxes on the edge of the wood by the water meadows of the Wey – presumably to defend a possible assault across the river. The camp site and woodland were assigned to Brookside in January 1948.

Since the war there have been at least three owners – each of whom made additions to the house. They include the Dempsters (and 5 or 6 children) and the Parrotts.

1966

The Cole family came to Brookside in August 1966.

1968

The year of the great floods! The Brookside stream reached over the lawn, but did not reach the house. The water meadows were definitely “meadows of water” and half the woodland was under water.

1970

Gilbert Cole designed and made a lake in the field between the garden and the wood. Kingfishers were frequent visitors.

1976

The year of the fires. The common land between us and Cutmill Ponds was on fire to the south and the Army was called in to fire-fight and save Heath Cottage, ¼ mile west of us. They saved the cottage, but were on duty for about a week putting out fresh outbreaks in the peat.

1987

The year of the October Hurricane. Trees fell all around us! We lost nearly 100 on our land. Lombard Street was blocked for a day in both directions and all the householders were out early with saws and any helpful tools, and tractors. We had ten days without electricity (there is no main gas in this area) and about a week or so without the telephone. We all listened daily to the local radio for reports on progress and relayed the news to our neighbours. The local radio gave frequent reports on the restoration of electricity to the villages. I used to drive around in my car with the heater on, de-frosting the next frozen meal!

P.S. Old maps show the woodland which is marked as “Gatwick Alder Bed”. A “bed” suggests soggy ground – which it is – and therefore suitable for Alders. They have obviously been grown and coppiced with a purpose. Why? The answer is GUNPOWDER. It is made of saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal – the charcoal mostly being made from alder wood, which was obtained from local coppices. Surrey was the chief supplier of gunpowder and one of the main mills was at Chilworth. The mills were started in 1625 and were finally closed in 1920.