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THE GUILD OF ST JOSEPH AND ST DOMINIC

LIFE AT THE  GUILD

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1.  LOCATION

The Guild is generally referred to as being located on Ditchling Common; this is an area some two miles the north of Ditchling village and on the outskirts of the town of Burgess Hill. The land occupied by the Guild was diagonally opposite the south-west corner of the Ditchling Common Country Park, just beyond the railway line and bounded by Folders Lane to the north and Common Lane to the east. The area lies within the square on the map below.

 

An aerial photograph of the area as it is today is shown below. The Guild land is the centre of the photograph, bounded by hedges to the west and south.

The small triangular piece of land, created by the intersection of the railway line, is significant as this was the location of the Spoil Bank Crucifix, sculpted by Gill. Its elevated position announced the presence of the Guild to the world in general and to railway passengers in particular.

Hopkins Crank is one of the houses to the east and was Gill's home. The two prominent houses to the north of the picture post-date the Guild.

2.  BUILDINGS

A detailed plan of the site is set out below. Click on this map to see a upright version.

 

 

and this is an aerial photograph of the guild buildings from the general direction

of Folders Lane with the chapel in the background:

 

  3. DAILY LIFE

The Guild was considerably more than a working arrangement. It was a complete way of life  which included the following, particularly in the first twenty years

  • Education for children - a schoolroom was one of the guild buildings
  • Living accommodation was provided for several of the families with other Guildsmen living very close
  • Several  members undertook agricultural production on a small scale with the aim of achieving something close to self sufficiency. As elsewhere in the Guild, only traditional tools were used.
  • Religious worship was a central feature of Guild life, with the monastic divine office of six daily liturgical celebrations taking place in the early days. While the amount of prayer was much reduced as the years passed but it remained part of daily life to the end.

Relations with the village were limited and there was a certain amount of mistrust on the part of villagers. This was partly addressed by having open days (such as on St Dominic's Day) when all villagers were invited.

 

 
 

 

4.  THE SITE TODAY

I visited the site previously occupied by the Guild in 2000. The land alongside Folders Lane was occupied by two new houses but there was still a considerable amount of former Guild land behind the houses which had been left to nature and was completely empty (left). The only traces of the Guilds presence I could find were some small apple trees where there had been an orchard and the base of the crucifix at the head of the spoil bank which was still in place (centre). Also, Gill's old house, Hopkins Crank was still there (right) and is now marked with a plaque.

 

                           

 

 

Adjacent to Hopkins Crank are the following houses and buildings which were connected with (but not owned by) the Guild:

  • Little Crank - Gill's Dairy,

  • Crank Barn - Gill's workshop,

  • Woodbarton - Designed and built by Gill 1921,

  • Woodbarton Cottage (The sorrowful mysteries) - Designed and built by Gill in 1921,

  • Marysfield (now July House) - Designed and built by Pepler in 1939 for his daughter Mary