By the death of Mr. James Morgan, Battle has lost its oldest inhabitant. Born on the 18th March 1823, he would have
reached 100 years next March 1923. Coming to Battle from Ticehurst with his parents while still a baby he has lived in the
town ever since.
He started work at the age of nine, and worked until he was eighty-five. One of his first jobs was as a "House-boy" in the
Going to work at the Powder Mills for the late Mr. Charles Lawrence, he drove the powder van, and during the Crimea war
he helped with the transport of 1,300 barrels of gunpowder to Tonbridge in Kent.
He lived for 67 years in Powder Mill Cottage where his wife died 15 years ago at the age of 82, on her Birthday. Mr.
Morgan's memory was good to the last, and he found great pleasure in relating to anyone about things that had passed in
Battle years ago.
He had helped to make the new road to London, and remembered Battle as a coaching-station. The oak trees that are
now to be seen in the Abbey Park close by the Stumbletts were planted by Mr. Morgan as young saplings. He was a great
believer in Herbs and attributed his long life to having used them.
Mr. Herbert Blackman found him of great assistance in compiling his book about the Battle Powder Mills. See the
photograph of James Morgan, as it was reproduced in Mr Blackman's book, at the top of this page
Mr Morgan has 60 descendants alive today, including the eldest son, who will be 74 next year, living in America, and a
daughter who has emigrated to Australia.
REMEMBER, THESE WORDS WERE WRITTEN IN 1922
James took to his bed ten days ago, and while being visited by one of his grandsons,(my grandfather Percival White)
sang a song to him in quite a strong voice.
His end came quite peacefully, after having had the careful attention of his daughter Elizabeth, and son-in-law, Walter
White (my Great-Grandparents) whose great object had always been to nurse him along so as to reach his 100th Birthday.
He almost made it !
He died in November 1922,
Extract from - East Sussex Agricultural Express 1922
Battles Grand Old Man (G.O.M)
Borne to Grave by Abbey Workers
Battles grand old man, Mr James Morgan, who died last week, at advanced age of 99, was buried on Tuesday
Afternoon. The internment was preceeded by a service at the Parish Church, conducted by the very Rev. Dean H.
Francis, which was attended by several of the deceased's old friends. During the service the late Mr Morgans's favourite
hymn, "Abide with me." was sung. The mourners were: Mr and Mrs W.White (daughter and son-in-law), Mr and Mrs
J.P.Eldridge (daughter and son-in-law), Mrs S Harris (daughter). Mr Reg White. Mr Percy White, and Mr.R.Eldridge
(grandsons). Mrs Wood (neice), Mr J.Fuller and Mr. W.Waite (nephews). There were also present: Mr Harry Jones (an
old workmate), Mrs Mewett, Mrs Jones, Mr H.J.Gower. Mr Herberte Blackman, and Mr Alfred Blackman. The coffin was
borne by the following employees on the Abbey Estate: Messrs C.Jenner, J.Spittles, H.Wood. and F.Philcox.
Wreaths were sent by: "Lizzie, Walter, Reg. Percy and Mabel." "Carrie, Percy, Dorothy, Bob and Arthur." "Bert
and Ida." "Fanny," "Lily, Harry and family," Sir Augustus WebsterF.Webster, Bart., Miss Webster, and the Abbey garden
staff. Mr Herbert Blackman, Madame and Mrs. Massonat, Mrs Jones, Mrs Mewett, and Mrs. Geoorge Muggereidge and
By the death of Mr.James Morgan, which occurres on Thursday, October 19th, at Battle Abbey gardens in his
100th year, at the residence of his daughter and son-in-law. Battle has lost an interesting link with the past. Mr Morgan's
observant nature and well-stored memory, combined with a clear and happy manner of recital of happenings of lonf ago,
rendered a chat with him most pleasurable and interesting to anyone who had the privilage.
He was very active and alert mentally and physically until the last three or four years, when the gradual decline of
his physical strength prevented him from indulging in outdoor exercise; but to the end he was invariably cheerful and
uncolmplaining, and under the tender care and unremitting attention of his devoted daughter was thoroughly happy and
Nearly the whole of his long life had been spent on the Abbey Estate in various capacities, and he had very
pleasant memories of the time when he was house-boy at the abbey under Lady Webster, and of her sons Godgrey and
Ferederic, who were about his own age. In the course of time he accepted the position of head van-man to Messrs
Laurence and Son at the Battle Gunpowder Works, whith whom he remained until the works ceased. One part of his
duties was to deliver the gunpowder over a wide area extending as far as Lewes and Tonbridge with his horses and van.
In addition to delivery he was empowered to receive payment for the goods, his employers placing the greatest
confidence in him. He also assisted in bringing the salt-petre and brimstone to the works (the charcoal was burnt on
site), and taking the powder from one set of buildings to the other for the various processes in its manufacture, which
afforded him an excelllent opportunity of seeing and noting the minutest details of the manufacture; it also brought him
into contact with all the workmen, and many diverting anecdotes would he relate to them, showing that they had a full
appreciation of the lighter side of life, and were not unduly impressed by the dengerous nature of their calling.
I the course of the various conversations he related the following items : - He well remembered the Abbey
refectory being used as a gardeners store, etc. The roof, which was partly tiled and partly shingled, fell in one very rough
night about the year 1838, and then Lady Webster had the north wall removed and turf laid on the floor.
As a child he lived at Breadsell in the old farmhouse, three families living there, at that time the Beauport wall was
being built. Previous to that there was a "big bit of land covered with hawth" called Breadsell Green, where he and his
brothers played, but when the wall was built and the road straighened this land was enclosed. When he was young
wages for men were 1/8 per day and for the lads 7d. and 8d. a day. Cheese and bacon were very cheap then, sugar
about at present prices, and tea 7/- per lb. He said "We youngsters didnt have tea at all. We had herb tea (mentioning
the common hebs), which were mixed and hot water poured on them. His mother would purchase an ounce of tea
He was fond of speaking of the old couching days. The "couch horses" laid at the George Hotel, and with the
coaches and the waggons going to and fro many horses were required. There were five post boys at the "George" for
engagements if folk cam along who wished to travel. He also spoke of red coats of the coachman and guard and the
He also referred to the revolt of the farm labourers against existing conditions about the year 1850 (which is
descroibed in Mr Hodson's "History of Salehurst"). He said "the men struck for higher pay and went about in mobs. His
father was then working on a farm in Battle, and was compelled to join them. Sir Godfrey Webster spoke to them from a
platform at battle promising higher wages, and they got it' ""My father was a smuggler." he said, and minutley described
the method of slinging the tubs of brandy from the shoulders. His father being a strong man carried a third tub, two being
the ordinary load, the pay being 2/6 per tub. Their meeting place was usually Breadsell Green, and they would go off
through Crowhurst, but sometimes as far as Pett : it all depended where the boat was coming in.
He told a farm labourer named Ransome living at the old wooden cottage which stands close to Park Gate, on
going to his work at Great Park Farm one morning finding a lot of tubs of brandy hidden under the straw in nthe
He also told the following tale: - At the Seddlescmbe Powder Works one of the buildings stood in the brook under
a clump of trees, which still remain. The man named Sargent, who was in charge of this building, was suspected of
having smuggled goods there, which indeed he had, concealed under the floor. The axcise officers came and
commenced a thorough search of this building, and were getting dangerously near the place of concealment, when
Sargent rushed in the door eclaiming, "Look here, if you are going a blundering about tlike this we shall have an
explosion, and I am off." The frightened excise men then hurriedly abandoned further search.
The above are a few of the many notes of the past he loved to tell. The last has now been told, but the respected
memory of old Mr.Morgan will long live in the minds of many in Battle and neighborhood.