Arabelle Welch

Interview 28 April 2014 with Mrs Arabelle Welch nee Lee at Woodgate Close, Woodgate

Arabelle was born in India in 1929 where her father was a soldier. In 1936 they moved to Orchard House, Denman’s Lane, then called Holloways Lane. The house was surrounded by orchards and is now called Folly Fruit Farm. Arabelle told of Westergate Woods House where Canadian soldiers were stationed and which she said was at the end of Level Mare Lane.

Arabelle’s father was Thomas Frank Lee (cremated and ashes at Aldingbourne Church) and mother, Alice May.  From 1936 to 1948 Thomas was a postman delivering to Westergate and Aldingbourne. Mr Terry was the postman for Eastergate but Mr Lee emptied the post boxes in Eastergate. The post went by bus to Chichester at 12:23 and 5:23 every day, after being chained to the Southdown bus. 

The family moved to North Meadow (now Barnet’s Field, housing development). Arabelle went to Aldingbourne School until she was 12 and then to Lancastrian School at Chichester. She caught a double decker Southdown bus at the Labour in Vain pub at the corner of Nyton Road. A single decker brought pupils from Yapton for transfer to the larger bus. One afternoon, Arabelle and friends were walking home from the bus stop when a German plane fired at them as it flew low overhead. She heard the bullets ricochet off the roof of the Salvation Army Hall in Westergate Street. A lady came to her door and called the children into her house for safety.


She recalls that Ivy Mew from London stayed until 1943 or 44 along with her sisters Rene and Lily. They lived with Mrs Goble, whose son Norman still lives in the area – possibly Ivy Lane. Ivy was Arabelle’s age and the other sisters were younger. She met up with Ivy and Norman in the Prince of Wales public house in 1983 or 84 but has since lost touch.


A mobile fish and chip van would regularly park at the rear of the Labour in Vain as fish was not rationed. Mr Lester of the Labour in Vain was run down and killed by the fish and chip van as it was driven along Fontwell Avenue.

Land Mines:

When a land mine fell on the nursery on the corner of Church Lane, Eastergate and Barnham Road, the blast broke the glass in Arabelle’s porch in Westergate Street. In Eastergate Lane, an ack-ack battery was installed. She remembers American soldiers hiring boats at Arundel and rowing local youngsters.

Her father was the storekeeper in the Home Guard. They would meet at Mr Draycock’s at Limmer Pond and she tells of one vehicle that drove straight into the pond in the blackout.

In 1948 her parents emigrated to Australia but Arabelle did not want to go. She stayed in Westergate and married Mr Welch.


Sandra Lowton

Revised May 2020