NOSTALGIA: Dennis has a close encounter

A sketch in the paper of the approved plan for the new supermarket site in 1963 in Midhurst
A sketch in the paper of the approved plan for the new supermarket site in 1963 in Midhurst

FIFTY years ago this week, approval was granted for the replacement of the Orion Cinema, in North Street, Midhurst, with a supermarket and flats.

In the Midhurst and Petworth Times, dated March 1, 1963, it was reported Midhurst Rural Council’s planning committee had granted conditional approval for the construction.

The paper described the development as being ‘the most important to take place in the centre of Midhurst for many years’.

Although the plan was approved by the rural council, the Midhurst Society spoke out against the plan, labelling it as a ‘bad example of the wrong style of development for the site’.

It was added the building would make no worthwhile contribution to the architecture of North Street as a whole.

The article added: “Few people will be sorry to see the cinema building go. It was built in 1881, and is typical of the large, ugly and cluttered designs of that period.

“It stopped acting as a cinema several months ago, when audiences dwindled so much it was not an economic proposition.”

The same week 25 years ago, the then Midhurst and Petworth Observer reported on a ‘close encounter of a strange kind’, near South Harting.

Dennis Hoare, of Barncroft Way, near Havant, told the paper he was driving his Ford Granada on the B2146 near Uppark House when the car ‘began to behave strangely’.

“It was dark. All of a sudden the radio started buzzing and the next thing I knew was the headlights were going dim. Then I saw my ampmeter was at full discharge,” he said.

“I looked to my left, where there is a dell and the land sweeps up, and I could see what looked like arc lamps on top.”

The paper added as he passed through South Harting, his car returned to normal.

But on the way home, later the same evening, the radio began to buzz again at the same point.

“I just kept my toe down – I didn’t want to stop in the middle of nowhere,” he said.

“When you are right out in a dark place like that you imagine all sorts of things.”

That same week in the Chichester edition of the paper, there was a story about a secret room had been discovered in a Chidham pub.

Workmen repairing the roof of the Old House at Home, which had been damaged in the Great Storm the previous October, found a bolthole that could only be reached by the ‘huge’ chimney.

Landlord Simon Harris said: “I have had an architect look at it and he thinks it’s a smugglers’ hole.

“What better hideaway than to stash the contraband up the chimney and then light the fire? What customs officer is going to scramble over a lit fire to search?”

Also in the Chichester Observer, of ten years ago in 2003, it was reported that a village’s traffic problems now included ‘funeral rage’.

Westbourne Parish Council said there had been ‘distressing incidents’ in Cemetery Lane, when funeral services were being conducted in a mortuary chapel, and at other times when funeral cars were in the lane for interments.

“Respect for mourners is fast disappearing, and there is currently impatience and ‘rage’ among some people when the lane is temporarily blocked by mourners and funeral vehicles,” said the parish council.