Netherfield

The church and the school were designed by the eccentric Victorian architect S.S. Teulon, and built in the middle of the 19th century by Lady Mary Webster in memory of her late husband Sir Godfrey.

She was a woman of high principle who obviously thought a lot of the village and its people for she kept a secret while the building was in progress. Only when the work was completed did she call in person on the rector and tell him: ‘I did not write to you in case you might think I was withdrawing from the project but now that the church is finished and all the bills are paid I must tell you that I have become a Roman Catholic.’

The church is dedicated to St John the Baptist and contains a rather grisly reminder of that fact: a painting of the saint’s head on a platter. The artist was Giovanni Barbieri (1591-1666) and it hangs on the north wall.

Netherfield poacher John Bartholomew was a persistent minor offender and it seems the magistrates ‘did a deal’ with local Army units and sent him for recruitment. He joined the Grenadier Guards in the 1830s but was not a happy soldier, persistently deserting and returning to his corner of East Sussex. He was eventually branded with a D (for deserter) and given a final chance. When he absconded yet again the military authorities lost patience, accused him as a felon of taking a brush and blacking as well as his uniform and sentenced him to seven years’ transportation. He left England on 9 July 1839 for Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and died there the following February. He was buried at Port Arthur, the island’s penal colony.