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                                                    The Snoutsfield Project: A Synopsis


There are two intertwined stories in this book. The first centres on the village of Snoutsfield in Sussex.  The village was established at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Sir William Preston, a landowner and entrepreneur who had been exiled by his family and friends in Cornwall because of his sexual activities with the young girls in the village where he lived. On leaving Cornwall he took with him a large sum of money from the family mining business and a severe head wound inflicted by the father of his most recent conquests, Carenza and Martha Trevarrian.  He settled in Sussex just outside Brighton after changing his name from Sir Treffry Cardinham and later married the daughter of the local vicar. He bought a sizeable chunk of the Sussex countryside and built a village to house the workers of his slaughtering business. The meat produced was then sold on to the army fighting the French, and the navy based largely at Portsmouth. His enterprise flourished for many years until the army had been withdrawn from the continent and the navy returned from the Crimea. He continued to produce meat for the domestic market but attempts to sell it abroad in France failed and eventually he passed the business to his son who diversified into other areas. After world war one, the village was somewhat depleted of young men and the loss of work in the area caused a migration of several families from the village which gradually became more derelict. When world war two started, the air ministry needed a base where they could hold meetings of allied air forces, and senior officers could meet to plan the strategies that would be used to defeat Germany. They took over the entire village which by now was almost uninhabited and renovated it to a standard that would meet their needs for the duration of the war. It was re-named RAF Downland and returned to the Preston family when hostilities ceased. Again it fell into dereliction and left abandoned for sixty years until Donna Preston inherited it as part of the estate of her aunt Alice who had brought her up after the death of her parents. She, together with her partner, Toby Rockett, undertook the enormous task of renovating the entire village of sixteen houses and the master house, building a community centre and re-creating a vibrant village population.

The second thread covers several years of the life of this descendant of Sir William Preston, Donna, in the early twenty first century. As a girl, from the age of eight to eleven, she had been abused by her father and subsequently had emotional problems in developing relationships with boys and later, young men. She was also troubled by a belief that, because she raised the issue with her mum while they were all in the family car one evening and her father had gone through a red light, her parents’ death as a result of an accident was her fault. In her early twenties when a primary school teacher, she met Toby Rockett at a party and they eventually managed to strike up a friendship which both wanted to develop into a strong relationship. However, Donna’s problems, never far from the surface, bubbled up and threatened to de-rail it before it ever got off the ground. With Toby’s help after she had explained her problems, and continuing help from her counsellor, Carol Sherman, Donna eventually managed to get over her hang-ups and she and Toby began a full emotional and sexual relationship. After she had inherited the village of Snoutsfield, Donna and Toby supervised the complete renovation of the entire village which took just on two years. Whilst undertaking this task, the builders unearthed two skeletons in the garden of one of the houses. These turned out to be from the time of the Second World War and the two people were revealed to have been murdered. The resulting police investigation introduced Donna to a remarkable lady, Dorothy Bannister, who had been the sister of the girl whose body they found. Donna also spent some time during this period investigating the origins of the Preston family in Sussex and established the link with the Cardinham family in Cornwall. She was aided in this by Eleanor Pascoe who was a direct descendant of the brother of Sir Treffry Cardinham (Sir William Preston). By the time the village was restored and brought into the twenty first century Donna, and to a lesser extent, Toby, had grown sick of the project and moved out of the village and left it to its new inhabitants. Donna left teaching and fulfilled a long-held dream and opened a tea shop in Arundel. Toby advanced his career with a software firm in Brighton.

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