A timeline for High Wood

We discussed the chronology of the area one day at Highwood Mill and it makes sense to archive this material with the stone. The landscape around is a palimpsest, like a manuscript on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing; something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its past.

145 million years ago – the end of the Jurassic period – when our Portland stone was laid down – a little earlier than the softer Sussex chalk.

100 million years ago – sea levels 250m higher – highest of South Downs peaks would have been  little islands in the sea; Cissbury Ring underwater (warmer seas, less ice, more water in oceans)

60 million years ago – chalk formation from sea muds complete

130,000BC – last time the sea level was as low as today

20,000 BC – LAST GLACIAL MAXIMUM water levels 130 metres lower as a result of evaporation and transfer into the Laurentian Ice sheet

a time of the land bridge between East Anglian and the Netherlands/Germany “Doggerland” (and what is now Dogger Bank on the shipping forecast)

14,000 BC – start of rebound; Britain becomes an island again as waters rise

up to 10,000 BC PALEOLITHIC which lasted from about 2.6 million to about 10,500 years ago. Because of the simple, large tools used, this era is also called the Stone Age. Water level higher – we had raised beach up to Slindon/Boxgrove on the Downs at that time.

6000BC MESOLITHIC occupation – the end of the stone age – smaller lithic tools and weapons – microliths

occupation shown by presence of worked (or remains of) flint clusters – Wickhurst area


1. occupation show by post hole remains and circular walls of hut circles (“dispersed farmsteads”)

2. circular hedge line around the base of High Wood COULD date from this time – a wealden oval enclosure started out as simple hedged bank and ditch 

3. pollen analysis of remains

4. funereal remains/pots

LATE IRON AGE  – to 25 AD- ish


100-200 AD Roman IRON The Wealden geology of sands and clays yielded the iron ore, as well as the stone and brick to build the furnaces; the woodland provided the charcoal fuel; and the numerous small streams and valleys ensured water power for the bellows and hammers of the forges and furnaces. In the first two centuries of the Roman occupation the Weald was the main iron-producing region in Britain.

1st-4th Century ROMANO-BRITISH – could drove roads date back this far? No evidence.

8th Century – Wic hurst as a settlement linked to Sullington parish – grazing land linked by drove roads

10th Century NNE-SSW orientated fields formalised, based around drove roads connecting the coast with the damped lands of the Weald

“early MEDIEVAL” 750 -1175

11th Century – (Old) Wickhurst Lane in use

13th Century –  Stammerham Farm – to the north of the railway

14th Century – Farthings (formerly Farthingbridge) Farm

15th Century – Parthings Farm land where Highwood Village sites

Tudor and early-Stuart times – the Weald was again the main iron-producing region in Britain

“late medieval” 1175-1550

1500s FULLING MILL – for mechanical cleaning of simple cloth with Fullers Earth

identification from presence of pond and constriction; channel sediments in sectional cut ditches

ridge and furrow remains

1724 Budgens Map of Sussex – shows the curved Five Oaks-Farthings Hill road respecting former boundary

1760s HILLS PLACE – Capability Brown landscape

1820 – landscape lost and back to farmland

1840s TITHE MAPPING – gives field names which reference earlier stages of history

1848 – railway and Horsham station initially connection from Three Bridges

1850 – Broadbridge Mill – flour production

1861 – rail connection to Shoreham

1862 – Horsham rail connections to Dorking, Leatherhead and London Victoria

1865 – rail connection to Guildford

1896 Warnham Brickworks, which before 1909 moved east of the railway; houses for brickworkers were built near the station by 1896, and by 1909 there was a row of ten. The Warnham brickworks too were much enlarged in the 20th century. In 1903 the Sussex Brick & Estates Co. was formed to take over the Warnham brickworks, and in 1907 it took over the Southwater firm as well.

1902 – Christs Hospital School – occupying much of the fromer Stammerham

1930s – memories of new Farthings farmer daughter – stock brought by train from Devon

1940s – River Arun much higher as weir/waterfall at base of High Wood to allow leat for the Broadbridge Mill


postwar, Arun water level lower as weir in disrepair and mill not in use

1950s A24 road bisects landscape

1962 the Warnham brickworks, output was the largest in south-east England, employed c. 300 men

into 2010s development starts  – allowed the archaeological investigation of Wickhurst Green as well as the eastern side of the A24

2019 Highwood Village community occupation begins – with the historic oaks through the Village and the Fulling Mill site on the other bank signifying the oval enclosure boundary that may date back 2500 years. Our sculpture, Fluvius, nods to the occupation of the Wic hurst, and all the sculptors’ presence amidst both the historical and the birdlife of the Arun flowing tight around the base of High Wood.

Days 28, 29 – young eyes

Day 28: One of the comments from last session’s river nymphs alerted to Percy Shelley’s 1918 poem The Woodman and the Nightingale here – in which he incorporates the Greek dryad or spirit of the tree. The woodman hates the song of the nightingale, but the bird unites all the other creatures of the forest; every soul except the woodman’s is moved by the nightingale. The woodman spends his days chopping down trees, each of which contains the soul of a wood nymph which provides beauty and shelter to the world. The world is full, says Shelley, of people like the Woodman who expel Love’s gentle Dryads from the haunts of life, And vex the nightingales in every dell.

The creatures of the High Wood are all stimulated and brought together by the bird’s song. The woodman’s stance threatens this entire community – Shelley is warning men not to steel themselves against the beauty of nature. The Romantic poets thought of themselves as metaphorical nightingales uniting people through their words; sculptors do the same thing, waiting for others to see forms and – at Horsham – join in with creating them.

The discovery of the poem is serendipitous as it give some broad support to our emerging, hidden larger figure – a soul of the trees. The woodman is perhaps a symbol of civilisation; the demand for growth leading to habitat destruction. But we have a counter story here – the planning system protects, and Berkeley Homes as a ‘placemaker’ is both careful with the stretches of countryside (like our upper Arun Valley corridor) and actively wishes to restore or integrate new green spaces. Our heritage oaks form what helps makes Highwood Village special – and why perhaps people might choose it over living somewhere else.

Day 29 saw new young carvers, the first spotting things in the stone that the sculptor had not seen. This is exactly the role that transforms a sculpture, either bolstering what is there or perhaps influencing taking on board something new or better. He ‘gets’ the water stream coming in over the mill wheel but saw the abrupt, abstract end as a ‘pipe’ (see the far right of the form just above the wheel). That sums up how I want it to convey – the sculpture sits in reality but borrows dreams beyond the edges of block.

our green ‘soul of trees’ figure here just appears as a picture frame to this profile of the stone

Our second new carver might be our youngest yet, but proof that hand/eye co-ordination can be practised even at two. Our block can be his dinosaur stone; or at least muddy, shelly fossils left below where the Jurassic plesiosaurs and ammonites were a-swimming.

Some things to look out for on your next visit:

a cow’s head low in block – a memory of the grazing fields either side of the Arun

a lost monkey on the bridge, with the sculpture in the far ground

a second tree developing, with burgeoning foliage

Next carving Weds 22nd, Sat 25th.

Day 16 – The Shelleys and the vital spark

We discussed the poet at day 11 here. At 19 Shelley eloped and then married a tavern-keeper’s daughter with whom he had a baby girl. Increasingly craving more intellectual stimulation, he studied Italian, was mentored by the philosopher and author William Godwin and fell in love with Godwin’s daughter Mary. They ran away to Italy, leaving Shelley’s wife Harriet expecting their second child. Returning to England penniless (and having angered Mary’s father) Shelley and Mary lost their own first child and then married shortly after his wife Harriet took her own life. He lost custody of his two children with Harriet through his atheism.

Yet, Percy and Mary’s creative outputs increased and they spent a summer in Switzerland with Lord Byron in Switzerland where Mary, (now with second child, William), conceived ‘The Modern Prometheus’ – the subtitle to her 1818 novel Frankenstein.

In Greek myth, Prometheus created men out of water and earth and was known for his championing mankind and the human arts and sciences generally. He defied the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity, which enabled progress and civilization – but annoyed Zeus. This scenario became a play by the Greek Aeschylus, which was later widely circulated in the 18th century through illustrated translations. Prometheus represented human striving (particularly the quest for scientific knowledge) and the risk of overreaching, or unintended consequences.

Shelley used the imagery in one of his prefaces ‘to awaken the nation against slavery and degradation to a true sense of moral dignity and freedom’. Promethean iconography was trending; a cultural lens for observing the dynamics of sovereignty, slavery and liberation.

The Shelleys left Marlow in 1818 for Italy (now with a third child, Clara, named after their first). He was working on Prometheus Unbound‘, a new play. After the sad death of Clara, it was finished in 1819. He disliked how the original drama dealt with Prometheus’ release from captivity. He abandoned the reconciling of Prometheus and Zeus for the captor losing support and falling from power, allowing the captive’s release. “I was averse from a catastrophe so feeble as that of reconciling the Champion with the Oppressor of mankind. The moral interest of the fable, so powerfully sustained by the sufferings and endurance of Prometheus, would be annihilated if we could conceive of him as unsaying his high language and quailing before his successful and perfidious adversary”.

The Shelleys’ second child died too. After the loss of William, when Mary was twenty-one, she gave birth to their third and only surviving child. In 1822, her husband drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm near Viareggio. He was not yet 30.

So what can we take from all this, carving in the cold in Horsham?

Percy and Mary Shelley both employed Promethean imagery, and they also both turned cold words into living poetry and prose; they added the magic spark. In a cruel twist, the short life of Percy Shelley came to be regarded in the Romantic era as Promethean – embodying the lone genius whose efforts to improve human existence could also result in tragedy.  

In short, you don’t get owt for nowt. We hope that our local poet’s magic spark can rub off with our cold stone through the striving which will have taken place for its creation. “Our” metaphorical Zeus can perhaps be seen as the elements we carve beneath, the resistance of the tenacious quarry block against little tools – and the psychological effect of the enormity of the task.

YOU, through your support and involvement are all valued parts in sustaining that endurance and adding the essential magic spark. But it’s not over yet, so the more you can spread the word, the more energy we can harness in our immense and tough quest.

Next carving Sunday 7th.

Day 11 – Shelley, ‘Capability’ Brown and the dangers of the cerebral

We carve a mile or two from Field Place where the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley grew up. In his childhood he probably walked the course of the Arun right past our stone, with his Horsham-dwelling cousin Thomas Medwin. Today, a red kite flew over the river valley in the harsh winds. Are they common in the area?

A conceptual sculpture might play on the possibility of spirits of the historic creatives, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Shelley somehow meeting Continue reading

Day 9 – the historic Highwood Mill

Despite there being no post-1750 map evidence of buildings closer than Broadbridge Mill downstream of High Wood, Horsham’s tithe map of 1844 give evidence of ‘Fulling Mill Field’, and with archaeological investigations published in Wealdbaera : Excavations at Wickhurst Green. Broadbridge Heath and the landscape of the West Central Weald (2018, Andrew Margetts ISBN 978-1-912331-05-5) we can see that the tree’d area on the south west corner of Highwood Mill (and just to the west of the three new houses looking south over the Arun) once formed the site of a fulling mill perhaps from the 1600s or 1700s, which would have used a water powered wheel from a dammed pond in the narrow valley, to enable woven cloth to be beaten with fuller’s earth to clean it before dyeing.

P1200219So the vertical disc we found in the stone on day 2 (only pecked out as there was an arc visible at the very base of the block) starts to have some visual relevance – it is a possible historic narrative.

At the other end of the block, the basis of a horizontal plane is beginning – an attempt to convey the riverine form which may allow another ‘figure’ to emerge on the cut edge. See if you can see what it might be.

Our ‘oak’ form progresses. The only truly viable narrative so far, so those area around it can deepen in confidence that it may play some part of the final sculpture.

Cold wind today and Saturdays seem to be less busy that Sundays, but some returner carvers today, a visiting woodcarver, a pair of cameramen filming some action, and two students intelligently debating some of the possible choices of forms. Amongst many other dog walkers and visitors not ready to get dusty quite yet. We have HDC Culture 2019 coming out to do a piece on TUESDAY 12th at 1.30pm if anyone is around and would like to carve. (I’ll be there all day, and next – Sat 16th).

Day 6 – Rain

How the rain reduces visitors! A few hardy dog walkers but other than a few taking breaks from the sales suite and construction site, I saw few people. The wind was up and gusts occasionally unsteadied my work ladder. Instead of discussion breaks, I found myself sweeping and moving piles of stone chips regularly into the bucket to ease the elbow muscles.

The air was filled with rhythmic pile-driving near the new river bridge. I tried to mirror my mallet timing but it proved too different to continue. The skyline was full of interesting shapes. Continue reading