getting the facts straight over town heritage

Your issue of August 8 reported the opening of Midhurst’s new square. It included statements of the town’s history that are totally incorrect.

For example, it is said that Midhurst ‘was born in the reign of Henry I’. It was not. King Henry made a gift of the 669 acres of the manor of Midhurst to an impoverished immigrant who lived at Ford, near Arundel, and merely took the rents of the existing town. He did not create it.

Again, reference is made to ‘the market charter of 1432’. This is also wrong. A market charter is the formal permission of a king for a market to be initiated. Without it a market was illegal. Saying Midhurst’s market charter was dated 1432 is giving that date for the beginning of the market. This is nonsense.

Documents show that the market had existed centuries before. In 1432 the lord of the manor confirmed an existing agreement, made in 1403, that the people of the town, rather than he himself, would take the tolls of the market and fines paid at the local court.

This confirmatory agreement of 1432 is certainly not ‘a market charter’. The market is far older.

Furthermore, it was not (as is said) in 1790 that the market building became 
the town hall. Documents show this had occurred before 1760.

How sad that those 
congratulating themselves on their new square were not, apparently, interested in the history of what they were replacing.

The centre of Midhurst goes back more than a millennium and should be cherished for its own sake, and not for its tourist potential. The Town Trust are, in a sense, the custodians of that heritage. Yet, have treated the facts so lightly it defies belief.

Bridget Howard

Edinburgh Square