Family History


Steers in 19th century Lancing

For a novice family historian the Steers in 19th century Lancing presented an easy and satisfying challenge as all the families apart from one were descended from THOMAS Steer who settled in the village with his bride MARTHA in 1798.

The other Steer family in the village was that of WILLIAM Steer born about 1834 Petworth. He had married 1871 Sarah Elizabeth Trevett who is recorded as from Lancing In 1891 he and Sarah were living in Grace Box Cottage and 1901 Ham Cottages. He seems to have been a domestic gardener, described as a gentlemanís gardener and jobbing gardener. They moved into Lancing about 1880 from the Worthing area. Their daughter MARTHA at this time might have seen something interesting as she was maid to George Legrand and his brother Isidore at Seebrook, Lancing. The brothers came from Bourbourg, France. Isidore imported French goods and George was an inventor!...I wonder of what!

There were threeĎstrayí Steers in Lancing as recorded in census returns during this time. In 1881 17 year old MARY JANE from Shoreham was companion to her aunt and uncle George and Mary Green. George was the Coast Guard living in Coast Guard Station.

20 years earlier saw 21 year old WILLIAM Steer from Wisborough Green working as a gardener and lodging with the Boyce family in Sea Blue Cottage. William was cousin of my great-grandfather James Steer and it could be that James moved to Lancing sometime between 1861 and 1871 after being told of work available by his cousin. By 1871 William had married and was living back in Wisborough Green, but the stray James stayed and married Thomasís grand-daughter JANE. He and Jane were my great-grandparents. A stray in the registers of St James the less Church was a Sarah Steer buried 1805. Could this be the Sarah Emery whom Thomasís younger brother James married in Sompting in 1799?

THOMAS Steer was about 27 when he married MARTHA MERRIT IN St Andrewís Steyning 26/6/1798. The marriage licence states that he had been in Lancing for four weeks and Martha in Steyning for four weeks. His occupation was a shepherd and I assume he worked for his sponsor and witness at the marriage James Stubbs, farmer.from Sompting. He and Martha had four sons and three daughters ( including twins) all born in Lancing and christened in the parish church of St James the Less. They were Mary baptised 1799, William 1800. Ambrose 1803, Thomas 1805, Frances 1807. John and Sarah (twins) 1810. I have not been able to establish the fate of the Mary but all the other children lived out their lives in Lancing and raised families in the village apart from William who although he married was childless. Martha died in 1819 and two years later William married SUSANNA SLAUGHTER. She had been born Susan Cobden in Aldingbourne in 1771 and had first married James Slaughter in St Peter the Great Chichester in 1802. I believe her to have been childless. She lived to 90 but after Thomasís death in 1848 she had I would assume not a very comfortable life as a pauper on relief. Thomasís death was due to Ďdecay of natureí.

When Thomas and Martha settled in Lancing the population was 451. A big change in the village took place shortly after. In 1805 the Enclsure Act saw the end of the old medieval farming system whereby the different manors and farms had portions of land often strips throughout the parish. Instead these were amalagamated into larger fields which were apportioned between the landowners. As well as affecting the tradional rights of many farm workers in Lancing this was followed by the expansion of the Lloyd-Carr estate so that during the 19th century the Lords of Lancing manor seem to have acquired most of the land in the village and retained it until the break-up of the estate between the wars. Lancingís population increased steadily to 1,381 inhabitants in 1881. This remained roughly the same until 1901 but in the succeeding decade there was a 60% increase to just over two thouand.. The increase from then onwards became even greater. In 1838 approximately 8% of the land was housing and gardens, 92% agriculture. By the 1970s this had been completely reversed.

Thomasís occupation on the 1841 census was agricultural labourer and this was the occupation of his sons WILLIAM and THOMAS. AMBROSE and JOHN are also described in various census returns as gardeners and gardnenerís labourers. Certainly much of this work was domestic as in 1851 Ambrose was the gardener at Orchard House and John the gardener at Lancing Manor. The lady of the manor Lady Lloyd was not in residence at the time; her housekeeper Sarah Olliver was given as head of the household .Other occupants listed were three houseservants and an agricultural labourer. The term gardenerís labourer is used to describe the occupation of several Steers in 19th century lancing and I wonder if it means they were employed by market gardeners rather than being domestic gardeners?With the coming of the railway which allowed easy access to the London market market gardening was to become one of the chief industries of the area and remained so well into the 20th century. Within the Steer family my cousin says that his mother OLIVE (Googie) Steer was a skilled propagator of tomatoes. My grandfather GEORGE Steerís occupation on his wifeís death certificate 1922 was market gardenerís carter. A lot of carting must have been needed to take all the produce to the railway. I understand that normally this would be by horse-drawn wagons to Brighton. Georgeís father James is variously described as agricultural labourer, farm labourer, farm carter and market gardenerís labourer. His two sons GEORGE and FREDERICK CHARLES were market gardenerís labourers all their working lives. George always lived in Lancing, Frederick spent a lot of his adult life in Sompting, where market gardening was also an important industry.

Ambrose and John had four sons each who survived into adulthood and William two. Williamís son Thomas continued as an agricultural labourer, for a short spell moving away to Barnham, but his brother William became a market gardener in neighbouring parish Sompting. Johnís sons JAMES and GEORGE and son-in-law JAMES were all described as gardenerís, market gardeners or gardnerís labourers, and spent their working lives in the village. However gadening took another of Johnís sons further afield. ABRAHAM Steer born 1842 was by 1865 living in Gloucestershire and probably already the gardener at St maryís Hall Female training college. He and his family lived in the Lodge there until his death in 1899. The College had been founded in 1847 by the Church of England to train teachers. Ambroseís sons looked toward the sea which of course borders lancing on the south. One JAMES became a sailor whilst CHARLES, ALFRED and WILLIAM worked as shipwrights, CHARLES was first employed in Portsmouth dockyards and then in Shoreham where he joined (or was joined by) his brother WILLIAM. Alfred settled in Portsmouth.. William had previously been a gardener in Lancing. Johnís son CHARLES went to Brighton as a carman. This may have been driving a horse-drawn carriage to transport goods but being a busy town it could also have meant driving one of the horse-drawn trams which operated at the time. His step-daughter Zilpah for a while worked on the bazaar on Brightonís famous chain pier. This had been built in 1823 as a landing stage for cross-channel steamers but soon became a popuular place for entertqainement with a camera obscura, bandstand and shower baths as well as the bazaar. It was blown down in a storm in 1896. Some of the next generation carried on the same trade. One of the sons of CHARLES shipwright became a shipís carpenter, another a sailmaker, another was also a shipwright. In Portsmouth Alfredís eldest sons were in 1901 a shipwright and shipfitterís apprentice. One of Charlesís brother Williamís sons was in 1901 a ships stoker. JAMES SON OF Ambrose was in 1861 an apprentice aboard a ship in St Sampson Guernsey. The crew were a master, mate, two ableseamen and four apprentices. All the crew apart from one were from West Sussex.

What of the women at the time? Thomasís daughter FRANCES had married a Lancing man FREDERICK MITCHELL. Hor some reason the marriage took place in neighbouring Coombes. Frances and the Steer wives were generally not given an occupation but it is very probable that they, as was the custom of the day, would also help in the agricultural work at certain times, such as hay-making and fruit gathering. Ambrosesís wife EMMA is in 1851 recorded as a laundress, and this occupation was also followed by Thomasís daughter SARAH who had married WILLIAM WINTON.

William died when Sarah was only 29, she never remarried and supported herself and her four children in this way. At the same time as Emma is recorded as a laundress her husband was gardener at Lancing House so it is possible she may have gone there to launder. If the laundress didnít visit a house to launder then she would do it at home, usually six days a week. The work was ardous often skilled but could provide a healthy income and was one of the very few openings for married or widowed women. It was common for unmarried daughters of the working class in rural areas to go into service and this was no exception for the grand-daughters of Thomas. Johnís only daughter JANE in 1871 was a servant but living with her parents. It was more usual for servants to Ďlive-iníí more convenient for the employer and it helped solve over-crowding. Ambroseís elder surviving daughter JANE in 1861 was nurse to Henry Joseph a barrister not practicing in Worthing. Even then Worthing was a place for retirement! She would not of course have been a trained nurse. Her younger sister ELIZABETH was at this time housemaid at the Vicarage. Frederick F Watson had in 1860 succeeded his father to the living, and Fisher Watson was living with his son. Between them they served St James the Less for 49 years and were much loved and respected in the village.

They lived close together as a family. In 1841 Thomas and Susannah had his daughters on either side. Interestingly at this time and in 1851 John and was not living with his wife MARGARET and their children. In 1841 he was with other farm labourers and Margaret was living with her aged Winton grandparents. John was probably living in a tenement close to the house occupied by George Bushby farmer. He was renting Newmanís farm and this might have been where John was working. The first listed occupant in Johnís tenement was Sarah Olliver farm servant. Could she be the housekeeper at Lancing Manor ten years later? In 1851 he was living at Lancing Manor and Margaret was in Upper lancing Street a door but one from sister-in-law Sarah. It would seem that she probably (and John) lived in the same property perhaps one of the Joyceís property from then until their deaths in 1882 and 1888. Only son THOMAS was not living in Upper Lancing Street in 1841; he was living on New Salts Farm. This farm and Old Salts Farm were created from the 17th and 18th centuries draining of the marshes which bordered Lancing to the River Adur and the sea. William and sister Sarah Winton both lived for a time in Old Ship (also referred to as Ship House) Upper Lancing Street. This is reputed to be the oldest house in lancing and one of the oldest in Sussex with some of the timber beams carbon dated to 1410-1480 and it is now believed it was the original Fleet farmhouse. The name may have derived from a sign of a Ship once outside it, though it has been said that some of the oak beams are reputed to come from a Spanish ship of the Armada, The house were leased to the Stringer family (Charles Stringer was a gardener and coal merchant) so the various Steers living there were either sub-tennants or lodgers. It must have been quite crowded.

Later in the 19th century Monks Farm became home to a number of the Steer family . In 1828 it became part of the Lloyd estate . In 1871 batchelor James Steer from Wisborough Green was probably working on Monks Farm then rented by Charles Stone described as a farmer of 487 acres employing 15 men and 8 boys. He was lodging with George Jupp and his family, next to Sarahís son WILLIAM WINTON. Frances Mitchell and her family were four households away, and next to them Ambrosesís daughter ELIZABETH and her sailor husband JOHN GREET. Her father Ambrose was next door. It is easy to imagine how James met Jane with so many of her relatives nearby. In 1891 the three Moks Cottages were occupied by Daniel Lisher, JAMES STEER and EMMANUEL MITCHELL (Janeís cousin). The 1861 census lists Ambrosesís house as Myrtle Lodge, and it had been built between 1820 and 1828. One census transcription gives Thomasís son THOMAS as living in Myrtle Lodge too with his sister and brother-in-law MARY and WILLIAM KENNARD but the families were not even living next to each other. Were some of the buildings the families lived in the old block of three tenements in what is now North Street which in 1922 were described as flint-built with thatched roofs, each containing two bedrooms, a licing room and scullery with a shared washhouse? Three families away and he and his family were still in Monks Farm Cottages in 1901. Kerridgeís ĎA history of Lancingí has a sketch of the cottages and describes them as Ďthree old flint cottages built before 1770 and stood for about 150 years before being demolished to make way for modern development. An ancient barn only demolished in 1973 stood next to themí. In 1881 widowed EMMA STEER was living further down in top end of South Street in Alma Cottage, one of four cottages under one roof erected between 1803 and 1838. Throughout that 30 years various cousins of Jane were neighbours (and by coincidence in 1881 George Wilmer from Pulborough a relative of my grandmother).

The family seem to moved further south in lancing as time went on. In 1871 Thomasís son WILLIAM had moved from the Monks farm area in North Street to Cherry Tree cottage built between 1820 and 1838 on what was then Lower lancing Street. They then left the village for Sompting. There is an interesting coincidence with their son John, who like his forefather Thomas was a shepherd as a young man. In 1901 he was following this job in Slindon, and living with the Swan family. Their daughter Miriam was six then, and was to become twenty-two years later my motherís godmother!

By 1901 the family had moved to Salt Lake. The Salt Lake area of Lancing was reclaimed from the marshes and the housing was north west of New Salts Farm. In that year they were living in no. 2. By 1908 when Jane died GEORGE (now married) was in No 5 and when JAMES died in 1918 he was in no.10, and it was at No 10 that my father JAMES EDWARD was born in 1921 and where my grandmother died in 1922. Again other members of the family had moved similarly as neighbours were Greets and Wintons cousins. The1891 census has cousin CHARLES WINTON living at no 9 and his family were still there in 1915. Similarly in 1915 Elizabeth Greet, Ambroses daughter was at No 6 Freshbrook Cottages with her son John Bennett Greet who advertised himself as a market gardener. On 24/7/1924 Nos 1-10 Salt Lake was sold. The sale also inclused Cherry tree Cottage South Street, 1&" Penhill Rd, building plots Penhill Rd, slaughter house Salt lake and market garden lands Grinstead Lane and Freshbrook. These market garden lands were probably where my grandfather lived.

One member of the family who continued to live in North lancing was Janeís brother JAMES. In 1901 he was living at Newmans farm . As his neighbour on the census was described as being in church cottage this is probably the other cottage of two which were described in 1922 as being Ďtwo flint built and slated roofed cottages each containing three bedrooms, kitchen, lobby and scullery. Outside WCsí.In 1915 the family according to school register is living in Myrtle Cottage, once inhabited by Ambrose and his family and when Jamesís daughter DOROTHY married in 1927 they were in Baytree Cottages on the Street Lancing the area most of the Steers were living in a hundred years before. Baytree Cottages can still be seen. My great uncle FREDERICK CHARLES was living in Church farm Cottages in 1924 according to school enrolments, but he seems to have lived most of his adult life in Sompting.

My grandfather GEORGE STEER lived his last years with my aunt ALICE MILLARD, the only one of his children to remain in Lancing after World War 2. ALICE and BILL MILLARD lived first 22 Freshbrorok Road, then 23 Fifth Avenue (where my grandfather died in 1955) and finally 35 Penstone Park. They emigrated to Australia around 1985 and that saw the end of my immediate familyís links with Lancing.

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