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History Part One


Historical background to the site which today is known as St Francis Fields

Historical background to the land and the buildings that were to form the Comport Farm before it became the Blue Cross Animal Rehoming Centre and the purchase of the site by Northiam Parish Council in 2020.


The history of the existing former Blue Cross buildings can be viewed and downloaded from the document on this page.

With thanks to Jenny Collett and Julian Luckett for their hard work and patience in researching the history.

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History Part Two


St Francis Fields as an animal rescue centre 

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A local newspaper report of 2 August 1952 describes “an impressive and charming ceremony at Northiam last week”, when two donkeys became the first residents of “the new St Francis Fields in Northiam”.


Old photos show a statue of St Francis, patron saint of animals, on the site. The donkeys, Aunt Rose aged seven and Midge aged two, were about to be shipped to the Continent but were rescued by Miss M Raymonde-Hawkins, the Sussex Hon Sec of our Dumb Friends League.  Our Dumb Friends League was founded in 1897 to care for working horses in London. The words “dumb friends” are thought to have come from a speech by Queen Victoria.

So Aunt Rose and Midge became the first residents of six acres of land in Northiam given by Miss Kitty Comport in memory of her father and brother. Over the following years additional land was acquired until the site totalled 34 acres.


The Dumb Friends League launched the Blue Cross fund in 1912 to help animals during the Balkan War and eventually The League changed its name to Blue Cross in 1958. St Francis Fields was first used by Blue Cross to house aged horses and donkeys but the range of its operations was increased with its designation as a small animal rehoming centre, mainly for dogs and cats.

In October 2016 The Blue Cross Centre ceased to operate from the Northiam site following a strategic review of its overall operations and because, without significant investment, the site and its facilities ‘no longer meet our high standards for the welfare of our pets and people’.

The potential sale of the Blue Cross land, situated in the heart of the village, became a matter of concern to the parish as a whole particularly with the potential for large scale building development.


In order to secure control over this vital area of the village, the Parish Council registered its interest in acquiring the site and, following a referendum in the Parish, it acquired the site in January 2020 by means of a loan from the Public Works Loan Board following approval by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. This loan over 50 years is a fixed interest loan and interest and capital repayments are paid from the parish precept (which makes up part of everyone’s council tax), as well as from the income of £25,000 a year that is raised by letting out the two bungalows and the stables on the site.

The new St Francis Fields is now under the ownership of Northiam Parish Council and it is run on their behalf by the St Francis Fields Community Interest Company, set up in May 2021. Open Days were held in February 2020 so that villagers could visit St Francis Fields, make proposals as to what they would like to see on the site and volunteer to assist in various ways. The directors of the Community Interest Company put themselves forward at this time or subsequently. The aims of this initiative are ‘to give residents ultimate control of how the land is developed and used for the benefit of the local community, with future profits being invested back into the village’.

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