Chimneys spark local interest

Leeds Farmhouse as it is today.

There’s a well known saying, “great oaks from little acorns grow” and sometimes an article in Rye News generates another story which is the essence of what a community newspaper is about: to communicate with locals and engage them in conversation on topics which are important or meaningful to them.

A recent example stems from the article, A Tale of Two Chimneys which was published in Rye News at the beginning of April when the main photo was taken. The story centred around Leeds Farmhouse in Wittersham, with its distinctive double chimneys, once occupied by the Sims family with family connections to the USA. A local Wittersham resident, Trevor Monk, was tasked with identifying the property from a photograph (see below) and he enlisted the help of the local community through the social media site Nextdoor Beckley.

Leeds Farmhouse in Wittersham as it was many years ago

It was established that the house was Leeds Farmhouse which is directly opposite what has now become the White Swan public house. The house is understandably in different ownership and the new owners, having seen the article, very kindly invited Trevor to the house to see it first hand and allowed him to take photographs which we have his permission to reproduce (see the gallery below).

I have put the photos of Leeds Farmhouse (as it is today) in the order received and in his own words Trevor describes the images.

“The first photo is taken from the same side as the old photo, the chimneys were removed some years ago as they were no longer in use and were becoming unsafe. The house was extended to the right in the mid 1900s and there was also a small extension to the left but the window remains.

“The second and third photos show two sides of the house with the first showing similar chimneys to those that were removed.

“The next photo is an aerial photo taken sometime in the 1980s or 1990s when the chimneys were still there but had been reduced in size and the final photo is an earlier aerial photo which show the chimneys still at full size.”

This story has another twist. A local resident and friend of mine also saw the article and the name Sims rang bells with him. He lives in a beautiful period farmhouse nearby and on one wall is an inscription which reads, “Frank Sims, Paperhanger, Rye July 29th, 1872”  (see main photo below and in gallery). Over the years, the inscription has remained intact despite changes in décor by many generations of custodians whose decorators having reverently painted around it. It has been established that Frank Sims is a distant relative linked to both Trevor Monk and John Sims in America.

Frank Sims legend, untouched since 1872

So, from an innocent request for help on social media it has mushroomed into establishing without doubt, the identity of Leeds Farmhouse. The owners have now met Trevor who has seen his ancestral home for himself, another loose-end has been tied up by connecting the exposed legend on a farmhouse wall to the Sims family locally and abroad. The connectivity has allowed all this information to be shared and to enable unanswered questions to be resolved.

This is what a community newspaper is all about and our thanks go to Trevor Monk for taking the initiative to ask for help in identifying the property, to John Sims in America for providing lots of detailed information and photographs, to the owners of Leeds Farmhouse for inviting Trevor into his home and to my friends at the period farmhouse for adding the connection to Frank Sims. Teamwork at its best and I hope you enjoyed the update. If you have a similar story to tell, please get in touch – it’s amazing who’s out there and where things might lead.

Image Credits: Nick Forman , John Sims , GH , Trevor Monk .


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