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11 December 2018

Goldstone Bottom, Hove.

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2018) 

 copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
The Encampment at Brighton by Francis Wheatley (1788)
This painting depicts a scene at the Brighton military camp. In the foreground a peasant family are selling chickens to officers mounted on horseback. In 1793 Jane Austen's brother Henry was there with the Oxfordshire militia: she refers to the camp in her novel Pride and Prejudice.

Bottom was the old Sussex name for a valley – hence Goldstone Bottom. The term is still in use to this day locally with Cockroost Bottom (north of Mile Oak), plus Whitelot Bottom and Hazelholt Bottom (both north of Southwick Hill). However, the designation Goldstone Bottom has dropped out of use, the area being transformed into the more elegant-sounding Hove Park, surrounded by housing and roads. The Goldstone itself is still to be seen in Hove Park (see Ancient Hove).

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
This early 1900s photograph of the Goldstone in Hove Park shows the path leading down towards Goldstone Bottom.
A Tragic Accident

On 24 July 1771 Charles Western, together with his wife Frances and their four-year old son Charles Callis Western, were riding in a carriage along the road by Goldstone Bottom (now Old Shoreham Road) when the horse stumbled. The jolt to the carriage was so severe that the occupants were thrown out and Mr Western was killed outright. Fortunately, the child’s fall was cushioned by falling into a furze bush. Soon afterwards, the widowed Mrs Western and her children left Sussex for good.

Mr Western owned a large amount of land at Hove and Preston, which eventually became known as the Stanford Estate.

Highway Robbery

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum,
Brighton & Hove
Phoebe Hessel,
 the inscription below her name states:-
 ‘Who says she was born in the year 1715, 
An industrious woman living at Brighton, with slender 
means of support which she can only earn by selling
 the contents of her basket, for whose assistance 
this etching is sold. Price 3/6. 
Published for her May 1 1814’.
On a winter’s evening in 1792 a mail robbery took place in the lane leading to Goldstone Bottom. John Stevenson, the Steyning post boy, was carrying mail when he was confronted by Edward Howell, a tailor, and James Rooke, a labourer between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. One of the letters contained a half-sovereign sent from a soldier at Steyning to a friend in Brighton.

The Sussex Weekly Advertiser gives the day in question as 1 November while Erredge in his History of Brighthelmstone (1862) plumbs for 30 October. The former source states that Rooke was around 22 years of age with Howell being 27, whereas Erredge states Rooke was around 24 and Howell aged 40.

Erredge also records the story that the two men were arrested because of information provided by Phoebe Hessell, the celebrated female who posed as a man in order to join her lover as a soldier in the Army and fought at the Battle of Fontenoy. Hessell was in the Red Lion at Shoreham when Rooke came in and ordered a beer. From the ensuing conversation about the mail robbery, she concluded that Rooke had a part in it, and she told the parish constable. The constable knew Rooke who lived in a cottage nearby with his mother.

Rooke and Howell were tried at the March Assizes 1793 held at East Grinstead. The post boy, although only aged 12, was a credible witness. The Sussex Weekly Advertiser stated ‘his evidence proved so strong, clear and convincing that the jury had no difficulty informing their verdict.’ Rooke and Howell were found guilty and sentenced to death.

It seems Rooke had ‘form’ when it came to criminal acts. At the same Assizes Rooke was accused of horse stealing but as he had already been handed a death sentence, there was no need to go through with another trial. It was alleged that on 31 October 1792 he stole a large brown gelding with a sprig tail and a large miller’s pad on his back – the property of John Boyle, the elder, of New Shoreham. Howell confessed to having set fire to a pub in Jevington that burned down some time previously, and he also appeared to have some knowledge concerning the robbery of a Mr Willard.

Rooke and Howell were condemned to be executed at Horsham and afterwards their bodies were to be taken to a spot near to where the mail robbery had taken place and there placed in chains.

The night before the execution took place Revd M. R. Capper spent three hours with Howell in his cell, and administered the sacrament. Howell entrusted to him a gold ring to give to Miss Pettit, his former sweetheart. But Rooke refused to take the sacrament, and in a fit of despair spent the night pulling his bedding to pieces and scrabbling at the cell walls. By morning Rooke was in a calmer state of mind, and took the sacrament in company with Howell ‘against whom he had before seemed to harbour resentment’.

On 6 April 1793 at around 1 a.m. Rooke and Howell were taken by post-chaise to the gallows erected on ‘an eminence a few rods from Peter Dean Lane’. There the two men spent 1½ hours in prayer assisted by Revd Jameson, the prison chaplain, and half an hour by themselves. When asked if they were now ready, they left the chaise and got into a cart. From this cart Howell addressed the considerable crowd saying how sorry he was to have dragged Rooke into committing the crime, and how he had petitioned the judge on Rooke’s behalf. Howell then ‘betook himself to prayer while Rooke stood in a state of insensibility, till the cart moved from under him, and launched him into eternity’.

The Sussex Weekly Advertiser seemed surprised at the great number of people who attended the execution, and stated with regret that ‘sorry are we to say, to the disgrace of the female sex, that among the spectators were between one and two thousand women, and some of them of fashionable appearance.’

The bodies of Rooke and Howell were taken to Hove, to a spot west of present-day Holmes Avenue, south of Elm Drive, and on the east side of a large, old chalk pit. According to J. Edwards, who was writing in 1801 when the 25-ft gibbet was still standing, Rooke was hung on the east arm and Howell was suspended from the west arm. The bodies had been dipped in tar for preservation before being hung in chains as a grim warning to all passers-by. The eventual disintegration of the bodies was helped along by the attention of local youths who made a sport of pelting them with stones.

There was a certain morbid fascination about hanged and gibbeted corpses, and bones became valued relics. Henry Martin, a respectable resident of Brighton, was not ashamed to state that he possessed a tobacco stopper made from one of Rooke’s finger bones – Rooke being described as a fine, well-made young fellow. There were said to be many relics in the possession of people living in Shoreham and Hove.

There is a heart-rending story concerning Rooke’s aged mother who made frequent visits to the gibbet under cover of darkness to collect the bones of her son as they fell to the ground. When her task was complete, she placed the bones in a chest, which she buried at dead of night in the hallowed ground of the churchyard at Old Shoreham.

This story came to the attention of the celebrated poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who was so moved by it that he wrote a poem entitled Rizpah. The name Rizpah comes from the 2nd Book of Samuel in the Old Testament. Rizpah stayed by the bodies of her hanged sons, night and day, chasing off scavenging animals. Eventually King David heard about her devotion and arranged for a decent burial for her sons.

Military Camps

In 1792 the French Revolution broke out and by the following year Britain and France were at war. This placed the Sussex coast virtually in the front line and the first military camp was set up in August 1793 at the Belle Vue Field, Brighton (now occupied by Regency Square). The Prince of Wales, together with a detachment of the 10th Light Dragoons, arrived on 5 August 1793. The prince’s tent was ‘pitched on a small eminence near the ruins of Hove church, whence he could command a view of the whole encampment’.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
The ruins of St Andrew's Old Church, Hove

His pavilion tent was a novelty, consisting of of three very large compartments to which a spacious kitchen was added, the structure being described as ‘one of the most elegant things of the kind ever made use of in this country’.

The 10th Light Dragoons picked some ground to the right of the intended grand camp, and before erecting their tents, they removed a number of flints lying about. Unfortunately, this action disturbed a veritable army of earwigs that invaded almost every tent.

The Prince of Wales took command of the picket guard, and apparently remained on duty all night. The camp broke up 28 October 1793, and the last regiment marched out on 7 October.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
The Environs of Brighthemstone by Thomas Yeakell c1800 (Goldstone Bottom is shown north of Hove)

In 1794 the military camp was set up at Goldstone Bottom. The camp started off with around 7,000 men, and swelled to 15,000 later on when the militia arrived. Since the majority of militia recruits were agricultural labourers, military manoeuvres had to wait until the harvest was safely gathered in. There was another military camp at Goldstone Bottom in 1795. It is interesting to note that the military camps were not an exclusively male preserve because wives and children sometimes accompanied the men.

The mortality rate seemed somewhat excessive because 56 soldiers, three wives and six children died. In 1794 and 1795 burial parties were kept busy going to and from the churchyard of St Andrew’s Old Church. Presumably, most of the deaths were caused by disease, although one man, a surgeon’s mate, drowned in the sea, and his body was washed up at Rottingdean. The Dorsetshire Militia was badly hit with nineteen deaths, while Herefordshire Militia suffered eight losses. Most of the casualties were other ranks, but there were also:

Sergeant John White, Sussex Militia
Quartermaster John Holmes, Lancashire Fencibles
Sergeant Samuel Coe, West Essex Militia

There was a brighter side too with the baptism of five infants from the camp. It is because of these entries in the parish records of St Andrew’s Old Church that we know which regiments or companies were camped at Goldstone Bottom. The last military burial took place on 20 October 1795.

Parish Registers 1794-95

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
A 1933 aerial view of St Andrew's north churchyard, the location of military burials, before it was destroyed and obliterated in the late 1970s by the building of a Tesco's car park and school playing fields.

Cheshire Militia

Mary, daughter of Private John Poole, buried on 5 July 1795
Private Edward Ellis buried on 12 August 1795
Private Hugh Billington buried on 21 August 1795
Margaret, daughter of Private Joseph Morris and his wife Sarah, baptised 30 August 1795
Private William Woolmer buried 3 September 1795
Private John Turner buried 22 September 1795
Private James Barber buried 20 October 1795

Denbigh Militia

Nelly, daughter of Private David Bayless and his wife Alice, baptised 7 July 1795

Dorsetshire Militia

Private William Ballsom buried 5 July 1794
Private Jonathan Whiting buried 2 August 1794
Susannah, daughter of Private William Squib and his wife Sarah, buried 15 September 1794
Private Robert Helyer buried 16 September 1794
Private John Read buried 22 October 1794
Private James Hiscock buried 22 October 1794
Private Robert Rideout buried 29 June 1795
Private George Woodcock buried 29 June 1795
Private John Galpine buried July 1795
Mary, daughter of Private Robert and his wife Mary, buried 5 July 1795
Private Thomas Woolfreys buried 6 August 1795
Private John Sanger buried 14 August 1795
Private William Trip buried 21 August 1795
Private Richard Harwood buried 3 September 1795
Private George Baker buried 6 September 1795
Private Aaron Kent buried 7 September 1795
Diana, wife of Private Samuel Drake, buried 7 September 1795
Private Robert Bridle buried 15 September 1795
Private James Hunt buried 15 September 1795

Herefordshire Militia

Private John Walder buried 6 July 1795
Private William Powell buried 25 July 1795
Elizabeth, daughter of John Blackwell, drummer, and his wife Mary, baptised 26 July 1795
Private John Price buried 27 July 1795
Private William Bevan buried 27 July 1795
Private Thomas Prichard buried 1 August 1795
Private John Evan buried 11 August 1795
Private John Stevenson buried 15 August 1795
Thomas, son of Private Evans Bourne and his wife Prudence, baptised 17 August 1795
Private Edward Clarke buried 15 August 1795

Lancashire Fencibles

Quartermaster John Holmes buried 1 September 1794

Lancashire Militia

John, son of Private Stubbs and his wife Agnes, buried 29 September 1794
Private John Robinson buried 10 October 1794

North Hampshire Militia

Thomas, son of Private Thomas Maynard and his wife Mary, buried 6 July 1794
Private Thomas Ventham buried 17 August 1794
Private George Campbell buried 19 October 1794

Rutlandshire Fencibles

Private Johnson buried 18 October 1794

Suffolk Militia

Private Richard Morley buried 26 September 1794
Private (no name recorded) buried 26 October 1794

Sussex Militia

Private William Winton buried July 1794
Private Elija Badcock buried 4 September 1794
Sergeant John White, aged 39, buried 9 September 1794
Private William Silby buried 12 September 1794
Private William Toulett buried 12 October 1794
Private Thomas Tipping buried 7 November 1794

Warwickshire Militia

Mary, wife of Sergeant Wall, buried 18 June 1794
Private William Kenman buried 23 September 1794
Private Francis Hinckinson buried 17 October 1794
Private Timothy Vaughan buried October 1794
Private John Towe buried 17 October 1794

Wiltshire Militia

Private Caleb Curtis buried 1 June 1795
Private Richard Clark buried 5 June 1795
Private Andrew Jones buried 9 June 1795
Private (no name recorded) buried 11 June 1795

Regular Army

10th Light Dragoons

Private Jonathan Chapman buried 15 September 1794
Private Charles Reeves buried 21 September 1794
Private Henry Turner buried 27 October 1794
Sarah, daughter of Private John Skeldon and his wife Sarah, baptised 11 October 1795

20th Light Dragoons

Private Thomas Kyte buried 11 September 1794

Royal Artillery

Rose, daughter of Private George Asprey, buried 8 October 1794
Private William Hudson buried 12 October 1794

West Suffolk Regiment

Dorothy, wife of Private James Richwood buried 25 October 1794


Middleton J, Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Erredge, J. A. A History of Brighthelmstone (1862)
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove 
St Andrew’s Church Records of Baptisms and Burials
Sussex Weekly Advertiser (1792 / 1793) 

Copyright © J.Middleton 2018 
page layout by D. Sharp