History of Ardingly

by Mary Holgate

As well as the series of Papers describing the Place Names of Ardingly, Mary Holgate also wrote numerous Papers on the history of the village and surrounding area that were published in the Parish Magazine of St Peter’s Church between 1915 and 1925. At the end of the final Paper on the Nineteenth Century she writes, “Ten years ago, March, 1915, this series of Papers on the History of Ardingly was begun. Its close coincides with the death of Mr. Bowden. [Rector: 1875-1911] There will be a final Paper, giving details of the sources from which these Notes have been compiled. After that Papers on the history of various parts of the parish will be continued, if desired, as time and money allow.”

The Papers, published monthly, have been collected into chapters as follows:

From Generation to Generation
The Ancient Britons
The Roman Occupation
The Saxon Invasion
The Norman Conquest
The Thirteenth Century
The Fourteenth Century
The Fifteenth Century
The Sixteenth Century
The Seventeenth Century
The Eighteenth Century
The Nineteenth Century

Additional Papers include:
The Roads and Bridges of Ardingly
The Chancel Screen
The Charter of Henry I
The Bells of Ardingly
The Rectors and Parsons of Ardingly
Source Documents

From Generation to Generation

“The roots of the present lie deep in the past and nothing in the past is dead to the man who would learn.”
Stubbs, Constit. Hist.

As we go about our daily occupations amid surroundings which have become so familiar to us that we hardly give them a thought, a casual question from a stranger may suddenly open our eyes to our utter ignorance of the history of all that lies around us.

Countless generations have gone before us into silence, each giving its contribution to the common weal, and when once our thirst for knowledge is aroused we begin to see that commonplace things may contain a link with the past which transforms them into living records of the men of old time into whose labours we have entered.

The history of Ardingly has still to be written. It involves a life-time of patient research, but in the meanwhile the dwellers in this little spot of earth may be glad to have a rough outline of what is already known and to which they may themselves make some contribution if they will but look and listen and remember.

In the dim ages before history begins we know that there was a race of men who had taken the first step upward and had learnt to chip flints into sharp and useful weapons. Those were the days before England was separated from the Continent, when mammoth and other strange beasts ranged the forests and when the contours of rivers and hills were not as they are now. We call it the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age, on account of the chipped stone implements made by these early men, specimens of which may be seen and studied in any Museum. We know that these pre-historic men travelled through this district, though amidst surroundings incredibly different from those familiar to us, for one of their stone scrapers (probably Neolithic) was found near Ryelands Wood when the water was being laid on in 1914, and doubtless there are other local specimens which may come to light now that the matter has been mentioned. [Fossils 140m years old were discovered at Ardingly College during excavations for a new building.]

The Palaeolithic Age passed away, and after great geological changes which brought the land into a conformation very like the present, the Neolithic or New Stone Age comes within our ken.

This race of men had learnt the art of grinding, and were able to produce far more highly-finished instruments than their predecessors. One of these was found some years ago on the Stonehurst Estate, and though unfortunately it is not now forthcoming there can be no doubt, from the description available, that it was a good specimen of New Stone Age workmanship. These Celts, as they are sometimes called, are frequently of a flattened egg shape, very pointed at one end and three or four inches in length.

The next great stage in the history of men is called the Bronze Age, because its distinguishing feature is the use of fire in the melting and moulding of metals and all the consequent developments. There is at present no record of any early bronze implement being found in Ardingly, but it is always possible that one may turn up.
Between the Bronze Age and the earliest recorded history of our land there is no great cataclysm of Nature such as divided the Old from the New Stone Age, but a general slow uprising, which developed first in Southern and Eastern lands.

The definitely-known history of our country begins with the Roman invasion of 2,000 years ago, but before that the elder nations of the world knew of the existence of an island in the North Sea and traded with its uncivilized inhabitants, our own forefathers, the Ancient Britons, of whom we hope to tell another time.