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Delving into Singleton history and links to the royal family

by Pat Saunders & Amy Roberts

Singleton Railway Station

The name Singleton is derived from the Anglo-Saxon 'sengel', which means "burnt clearing". The village was listed in the 1086 Domesday book as an ancient hundred (a type of administrative division) and at that time had 237 households including the settlements of East and Mid Lavant, Binderton and Preston.

The Grade I listed village church of The Blessed Virgin Mary was founded in Saxon times. It was the central church of the Hundred of Singleton. The nave walls and square tower date to this time. The tower contains three Saxon windows and a Saxon doorway which leads to nowhere, high up in the nave. The Saxon tower arch was later rebuilt with a pointed arch in the twelfth or thirteenth century.

The village had two pubs, the Horse and Groom which had been rebuilt in the 18th Century, a former Henty and Constable pub, which closed in...and the Fox and Hounds, now known as The Partridge Inn.

As well as the church the village was also home to Singleton Station, a stop on the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (LSBCR) from Chichester to Midhurst which opened on 11th July 1881. On the Chichester- Midhurst line there were stations at Lavant and Cocking. The LBSCR employed the railway architect Thomas Harrison Myres (1842-1926) to work on lines that opened between 1880 and 1883.

The station had four platforms so it was large enough to accommodate visitors to Goodwood racecourse although most passengers preferred using Chichester station. Edward VII as Prince of Wales was a frequent visitor travelling there by Royal Train, either for racing at Goodwood or to stay at West Dean Park with the James family. All Goodwood traffic came through Singleton with extra staff on duty for the races. There were between five and seven staff employed at the station and the station master had his own house. When a regular bus service started in the 1920s the number of staff reduced until the point that one staff member was doing the jobs of booking clerk, porter and station master.

Before the line was closed to passengers in July 1935 each morning there were two school trains, one with girls going to Chichester's High School, the other with boys attending Midhurst Grammar School. There were occasional day excursions from Singleton departing 8am to Victoria returning at midnight for 2/6 return.

Between 1935 and 1953 the line was used for freight traffic, mostly transporting sugar beet from local farms. On 19 November 1951 a locomotive and goods train from Bognor to Midhurst crashed into a 30-foot deep gully. The locomotive was extracted a year later and was repaired but by then the track to Midhurst was considered too uneconomic. Singleton Station finally closed in 1953.

By the early 1970s the platforms at the station were becoming derelict. In 1972 the brothers Ian and Andrew Paget took out a lease on the station from West Dean Estate to establish a vineyard and winery. The platforms were accessed through the passenger tunnel which was then in the occupation of the Potter brothers who ran a vehicle repair business.

Over thirteen acres there were nine plots on the south facing slope above the station which were planted with vines between 1972 and 1973. The site was chosen for its aspect and soil type, clay silt loam overlying the chalk, which is very free draining whilst retaining sufficient moisture for the vines. The varieties planted were Mueller-Thurgan from Germany, Reichensteiner and Chardonney. By 1979 some of the Chardonney needed replacing and those plots were replanted with Seyval Blanc a hybrid variety.

The winery was housed in the booking hall that had been built with stained glass windows and fine Canadian pinewood. The lavatories became the wine store holding up to 40,000 bottles. The wine was bottled on site; the white wine was described as "crisp, clean, fruity and dry". The Chilsdown Vineyard continued to 2011. The property has since reverted to being a private residence that in March 2019 was listed as Grade II.