We owe much of our present knowledge of the history of Ardingly to the Rev. J. H. L. Booker, the record of whose labours is contained in a collection of MS. Note Books now in the Sussex Archaeological Library at Lewes. Much of his research has been incorporated by Mr. Loder in his book on Wakehurst, privately printed in 1907. A Manuscript Folio, bequeathed to the Rectors of Ardingly by Mr. Bowden, contains Mr. Booker’s transcript of the Registers with much other information. The present series of papers also has benefited largely by his Notes. The amount of his labour is amazing. It is all written out in a beautiful hand, and, beyond one or two inexplicable mistakes about the Church, is remarkable for its accuracy. The list of Rectors on the brass to Mr. Booker’s memory is due to his research.
The Sussex Archaeological Library contains, besides its own publications, some deeds referring to the Ardingly property of the Pelhams, and Woolgar’s copy of the Rowe MSS., which contains information regarding that portion of the parish belonging to the Manor of Ditchling, of which Rowe (d. 1639) was Steward.
The Chartulary of Lewes Priory, in which is a copy (1444) of William de Warren’s Charter, containing the earliest known reference to Ardingly, is at the British Museum, but the earliest original reference, a photograph of which hangs in the Tower of the Church, is at the Record Office. At the British Museum the Burrell MSS. contain accounts of Sir William’s visits to Ardingly in 1775 and 1782, and many details of parish history. They also contain drawings of the Church and Wakehurst, by Grimm, and pen-and-ink sketches of the brasses and priest’s effigy.
The Buckle collection contains sketches of the Church in 1802. The Addington collection contains rubbings of our brasses, as does the Craven Orde collection. It may be recorded here that a son of the antiquary Craven Orde was Curate here in 1808.
The ancient shields of glass are included in the Winston collection. There are also a few leases and charters referring to Ardingly at the British Museum.
To the Record Office we go for the history of the taxation and transfer of land and legal transactions regarding Ardingly and its inhabitants. The three great Subsidy Rolls of 1296, 1327 and 1332 have been published by the Sussex Record Society, Vol. X., but there are many other Rolls giving us the names of the taxpayers of later times. The fines or deeds executed when transferring land, the enquiries held on the death of a landowner, the Assize Rolls, the Close and Patent Rolls, and the many other legal documents of the nation, are to be found there, and they give us a wonderful picture of the way in which our present life has been built up by the past.
At the Record Office is the most wonderful book of all—Domesday, A.D. 1086. Although there is no direct reference to Ardingly in it, it may yet be proved that there is an indirect one. [Worth is the closest reference.]
Probably the earliest reference of all will prove to be in one of the Saxon Charters in the Library of Lambeth Palace. There is one there dealing with a gift of land by Aldwulf, King of the South Saxons, to the College of South Malling. It refers to Chittingly, now, unfortunately, called Rockhurst Farm, and to Stone—the Great Upon Little—which has given its name to the neighbouring farm and to the family that occupied it in past generations. The land, given before England was a kingdom, has remained part of the manor of South Malling until its enfranchisement in quite recent years.
It is not generally known that Domesday and other treasures of England can be seen by the general public every day between 2 and 4 except Saturdays. The Record Office is in Chancery Lane, just out the Strand, by Temple Bar. [Note: The Record Office is now part of the National Archives based in Kew, London.]
Besides the national records which contain references to Ardingly there are many which are entirely local.
The early wills of Ardingly people are to be found at the Archidiaconal Registry at Lewes. Transcriptions of them have been made by the Rev. J. H. L. Booker and are included in his MSS. From one of these, that of John Lynder, 1553, the forgotten dedication of our Church was recovered. Lyndersiand lies to the west of the main line to Brighton and has of late been turned into Sinders or Cindersiand!
The Registers, dating from 1558, have been published down to 1812, through the generosity of Mr. G. W. E. Loder, as Vol. xvii. of the Sussex Record Society. Since the publication of that volume two additional leaves of the original paper Elizabethan Register have been recovered, containing 18 entries of the years 1564-5.
Mr. Loder’s exhaustive history of Wakehurst, already mentioned, is another source of valuable information to which I desire to acknowledge my great indebtedness. The Elizabethan record of Church Officers and of Accounts, and the Assessment of 1806 for the repairs of Rye Bridge, have been published in this Series.
The list of Church marks (1821) was published in a previous Series relating to the Church. The following books exist belonging to the Church :-
- Overseers A/cs.—3 vols.—1711—1811, and one sheet—1673.
- Relief books—12 vols.—1811——24.
- Churchwardens’ A/cs .—one sheet—1673.
Knibbs’ “Churches of Sussex” contains drawings of the exterior of the Church and the interior of the Chancel before the restoration of 1854. The same artist’s “Antiquities of Sussex,” 1874, contains drawings of Stone Mill and a Mill House near Ardingly.
It is only by piecing together the items collected from public and local records that any truthful history can be constructed. In the course of the eleven years during which this Series has been put into shape fresh information has been coming to light. But with the exception of one or two surmises, which have proved incorrect, the main facts, being founded on documentary evidence, remain unaltered.
It may be possible to condense the whole into a pamphlet form, with full references, at some future time, but the cost would be great and much of the personal matter would have to be cut out at the cost of much of its interest. Therefore those who have complete sets of ”From Generation to Generation” may well retain them for the present.
From time to time I hope to publish additional articles on matters not at present in print, and also on the various farms in turn, so as to preserve their history as far as possible. [See Place Names of Ardingly.]
In bringing this Series to an end I have to thank many far outside the borders of Ardingly for their help. We are all bound together in a wonderful way, and a learned official at any of the great Libraries helps the rural parish in a way that it does not often realise. The “treasure hunt “of history is well worth the trouble, and though one often draws a blank there are still many prizes. The words of Bishop Stubbs, the historian, which headed the commencement of these Notes in March, 1915, may fitly close them :-
“The roots of the present lie deep in the past and nothing is dead to the man who would learn.”— Const. Hist.
July 29th, 1925 MARY S. HOLGATE