Evidence of settlers in the village date back to the bronze age. Below is a timeline of key events in the village’s history.
The Saxons (400- 1050)
In Saxon times, Kirdford was known as ‘Cynered’s Ford’ and was recorded in the Saxon Charter of 898. It is thought this was named after a Saxon called ‘Cynered’ who lived near a ford (thought to be located near the Church). The settlement consisted of a primitive church and a handful of huts.
In the early 12th century, the settlement of Cynered’s Ford was big enough to warrant building a stone church capable of holding more than a hundred people.
The book “Petworth in Ancient Times” written by Lady Maxse states that the village’s name was written at least 14 different ways between 1228 and 1640.
The following industries predominated: farming and glass working.
In the Church, a chancel, North aisle and Tower were present.
Industries: From 1550 farming and the iron industry were prevalent with corn growing predominant from 1700. In 1900 dairy farming became the main source of income and in 1937 fruit farming began.
In 1798 there were 68 farm units farmed by 45 farmers; 10 small holding units and 27 cottages.
1819 Kirdford School was built (on land to the left of Butts Common now occupied by a group of bungalows). The school was run by the church but not all children could afford one penny a week to attend. By 1890 there were 120 pupils and it was enlarged in 1898 to take 150 children.
The 1831 census had a total of 1633 people in the parish and 204 dwellings, so overcrowding was considerable.
1832, 11th April – 58 Kirdford parishioners, adults and children, sailed from Portsmouth to Montreal along with hundreds of other West Sussex farmworkers seeking better fortune.
In 1878 the Church was restored.
By the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s there were several shops in the village. One of the oldest was a general store known as ‘Irelands’ (now a house called Hannah’s Cottage). The Post Office was located near The Half Moon and this was later incorporated into ‘Thompsons’, which sold general goods as well as materials and clothes. Enticknapps sold shoes and boots and offered a shoe repair service and also sold sweets. A shop at Pound Common sold groceries. The Workshop on Pound Common was once a butchers but has also played host to many other trades including, a dressmakers, shoe repairers and a printers. A sweet shop was located next to The Black Bear called ‘The Chocolate Box’ this was closed in the war when sweets were on ration.
The Creamery was built in this period (prior to the First World War) and belonged to the Leconfield Estate but was rented out to the South Eastern Farmers, a subsidiary of United Dairies. In the early days milk was brought in by horse and cart by farmers for it to be pasteurised and dispatched. In the 1930s up to 2000 gallons a day was processed. The Creamery later closed when petrol was rationed and it was cheaper to dispatch the milk by train from Billingshurst.
In the early 1900s, Kirdford Garage was established from the original cycle store. Next to this building was the bakehouse, which served bread to the local area. Prior to this it offered stabling for horses of the stagecoaches that stopped at The Three Horseshoes and Black Bear.
The First World War (1914-1918)
24 men from Kirdford were killed and their names were recorded in the Church as a memorial.
Social housing was needed following the war and in the 1920s 6 houses were built in the village and in 1930 14 were built at Mackeral’s Common.
Mains water came to the village in the late 1930’s.
1928 – 6 fruit farmers formed an association known as Kirdford Growers Ltd with the trade name of ‘Kirdap'. In 1931 the packing station was built at Pound Common. By 1947 the acreage of the fruit farms totalled 400.
1937 – Kirdford village sign erected. The sign stands on slabs of winklestone which used to be quarried locally. The plinth, with the bronze plate detailing the village’s history, is built of irony sandstone from Bedham. The Oak symbolises the Wealden forest industry. The word Kirdford in open ironwork was made in Horsham. At the top is a diamond shape filled with glass, the iron and glass symbolising the glass and iron industries which flourished in the parish.
The Second World War (1939 – 1945)
There were 2 army camps in the village, Brownings and Barkfold. Canadian and American soldiers were stationed at these camps. The soldiers enjoyed supporting the community and at Christmas time held Christmas parties for the children of the village. A searchlight camp was based where the pumping station is located at Bridgefoot. A single bright beam of light would guide planes across the night skies. The Home Guard Unit was based at the Packhouse and Land Army girls came to work on the farms in the village. Evacuees came to the village from Portsmouth and London.
After the war Townfield was built to rehouse many of the villagers.
The new Village Hall was built.
The old school building near Butts Common was sold and demolished and a new School was built on land adjacent to Townfield (now School Court)
New houses were added to the village, including Herons Close.
Mains sanitation installed.
Kirdford Growers opened a shop to sell their own produce.
The ‘Mini Shop’ opened in Townfield and expanded its range of produce after Irelands Shop closed and The Post Office Stores (Thompson’s) closed.
The new vicarage was built.
Kirdford garage closed.
Kirdford Growers Shop closed in 1999 and the Mini Shop in Townfield expanded to become ‘Kirdford Post Office and Stores’.
2000 – Kirdford Growers closed after 75 years of operation.
– Kirdford School pupil Richard Faulds wins an Olympic gold medal in shooting at the Sydney games.
– New Barn built.
2001 – Kirdford School closed and Plaistow School became ‘Plaistow & Kirdford Primary School’.
2008 – Bramley Close built.
2010 – Kirdford Village Stores officially opened in a ceremony with actress Julie Walters.
2014 – Kirdford Parish Neighbourhood Development Plan was adopted.
Aldaniti won the Aintree Grand National in 1981. He was owned by Mr. Embiricos and always lived, from 1975, at Barkfold, Kirdford, when not in training with the late Josh Gifford. During his racing career he suffered three serious injuries and he returned here to be looked after by Beryl Millam, his devoted groom. The horse miraculously recovered from the last injury and returned to Josh Gifford to be prepared to run in the 1981 Grand National. Aldaniti’s Jockey, Bob Champion, had recovered from life-threatening cancer, so it was almost a fairy story when the pair won the race on April 4th that year.
Their victory gave hope to cancer sufferers all over the U.K., that, they too, could win their own battles against serious illness. Aldaniti retired from racing in 1982 and returned home to Barkfold. From here, he enjoyed going with Beryl to fundraising charitable events, many in aid of the Bob Champion Cancer Trust. The greatest success was when he raised over a million pounds for the Trust, walking at leisure, at spaced intervals, from Buckingham Palace to Aintree Racecourse. Beryl walked at his side all the way, looking after him at his stable each night. He also attended local events, such as the Kirdford Village Fete for May Day. (He loved children and that day allowed a school boy to use his forelegs as a football goal!)
Aldaniti died at Barkfold (at home) aged 28 years in 1998. He is buried in the garden, just outside the stable yard. People from all over this country, and abroad, have come here, and still do, to see his grave.