THE RISE OF THE MERCHANT CLASS

MOORMAN, SCRIVENS AND DUNN

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In 1873, a parliamentary return showed that after the De La Warr family, the largest landowner in Bexhill was Samuel Scrivens.

For centuries the landed gentry had unshakeable monopoly on English land and property; land that they leased to tennanted families through the copyhold of the Manor. The ability to buy the freehold (through enfranchisement) in the later half of the end of the 19th century, finally empowered the merchant class to own and develop that land on a scale not previously seen.

At the same time, the collapse in agriculture, several poor investments and recent issues over inheritance had initiated a much larger break up of Manor Land at Bexhill. The extravagant life style and expansionist desires of the 7th and 8th Earl De La Warr continued this dissolution. In an effort to raise funds, the Earl started to sell off more and more plots and leasholds, and these were quickly snatched up by the likes of Mr Scrivens.

Samuel Scrivens was born in Pentonville, Middlesex to George Scrivens and Frances Elizabeth Scrivens on 24th February. He moved to Clapham Common in the 1830’s with his parents and younger brother William.

1841 records show him living at 7 Clapham Common. It was around this time that he met Ann Moorman, who lived close by in Clapham Road with her father Thomas Moorman and her Uncle Josiah Moorman. The two brothers had already inherited the Firs in Bexhill, and by 1847 they had started to purchase additional copyhold land in the area.

Samuel and Ann married in Wandsworth in 1849, and their first daughter Margaret was born in 1851. They continued to live in Clapham Rd, where they had twins, Ann and Maria in 1853.

By 1861 the family had moved to 1 Portland Place in Lambeth, by which time Samuel Scrivens was recorded in the census as a being a Landed Proprietor and his wife a fund holder, most likely in connection to the growing family estate in Bexhill (Thomas Moorman had died 3 years earlier, and Josiah was by this time 82 years old).

Josiah Moorman passed away in April 1863 and the Moorman Estate was inherited by Ann and her husband. It was shortly after that the family left London and moved into the Firs, where they would stay for the remainder of their lives together.

CGravesBelleHiull1897Etching of Belle Hill by Charles Graves (c.1890)underlinelong5
In order to raise capital, the Sackville family had started to convert copyhold tenancies into freehold. Upon moving to Bexhill, Samuel Scrivens quickly enfranchised the deeds that he held in copyhold in the area (including the Firs).

He began to develop the land that he held (situated between Belle Hill and the first train station), laying down a track that would later become London Road. This was the first urban expansion outside the confines of the original village and made the Scrivens an important figure in the area.

Samuel quickly started to exert his influence in the town, initially by petitioning the Battle Board of Guardians for better sewage systems in the village. A typhoid outbreak in 1880 and continued pressure from prominent figures resulted in the formation of Bexhill’s first Local Board.

The board became responsible for the development of the town  and the health and education of its citizens. It is no no surprise that one of the first members of the board was Samuel Scrivens, along with Dr Wallis, James Walker and Thomas Thwaites.

With better sanitation, Samuel Scrivens was able to widen the footpath to the railway, and further develop the ‘Station Field Estate.’ He began to sell building plots for the erection of habitations and shops along the new road, and by 1885 it was a thriving business centre for the town.

The importance of London road centre was short lived however. His expansion had proved once and for all that there was both the desire and the capability to build a ‘New Town.’  Other developers quickly moved in, most notably John Webb.

Having completed the Sea Wall in  late 1883, and in possession of large swathes of land to the south of the railway, John Webb started expansion on an enormous scale. Most of the ‘new town’ would be laid out within a decade. Starting with Western Road and the Egerton Estate, quickly followed by Devonshire Road and St Leonards Road, the attraction for new residents shifted, as did the business area.

Samuel Scrivens died in October in 1898 aged 82. His estate (which included The Firs, Genesta House, Chantry Cottage, Chintings, Sycamore House and Hillside House) would be divided up between his three daughters. Margaret, Anne and Maria would remain associated with the old town well into the 20th Century, and Samuel Scrivens labours can still be seen around the town to this day.LondonRoad1890
Construction begins on the Station Field Estate (owned by Samuel Scrivens) c.1890

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