The Fourteenth Century

The Building of the Church
The Third Taxation
Nome Rolls of 1342
The Black Death
Poll Tax 1379
The Poll Tax of Richard II 1379

The Building of the Church

The outstanding fact of the 14th century concerning Ardingly is the building of our present Church. Reference has already been made to the Norman Church which we know existed in the 12th century, but no record has yet been found which mentions the building of the present Church.

We have, however, the silent witness of the stones themselves, for the curving tracery of the windows, the double stages of the projecting buttresses set at right angles, and the wide arches of the nave tell us that it was built during the early half of the 14th century, when the fashion of building prevailed which we now call Decorated or Curvilinear. Who were the men who built the Church we know and love so well? Their tool marks remain, but there is no name or date carved there; the building itself is their memorial, and for close on six hundred years have the people of Ardingly in their passing generations gathered within those walls, Sunday by Sunday, for the worship of Him Who is Eternal, the God of our fathers and our own.

In some ways the fourteenth century bears much likeness to our own, being a time of great prosperity due to the growth of the wool trade, with prolonged wars with France and Scotland. The increase of wealth doubtless led to the re-building of the older Church, while the wars necessarily resulted in taxation. To this latter cause we are indebted for the preservation of the names of some of our predecessors in Ardingly. In the first year of Edward III. (1327) a tax of a twentieth was imposed, and in the record of its collection (still existing) we find the following :-

Rapus de Lewes
Hundr’ de Strete
Villata de Erthyngelegh

Johne de Wakehurst31
Willo Baidri28
Johne ate Ree10
David ate Grove 10¾
Henr’ ate Toune26
Wilimo ate Toune10
Wilimo ate Holegrove10
Walto de Suggewerth10
Andr’ de Northcote10
Rico Boucke10
Rado de Birchenestye10
Osbto Cok16
Rado ate Ree20
Thom’ ate Toune10
Johne de Tytyngesherst10
Thom’ ate Sauserye16
Walto Rogger10
Johne de Balecomb26
Rico ate Strode10
Rico ate Cumbe1
Walto Comber10
Smd istius villat£1 9s
List of Ardingly taxpayers in 1327

In this list we find three taxable persons living at the place now represented by Town House. Holgrove, or (as it has lately been miscalled Hollygrove,) also appears, while Walter of Sugworth paid his tax here for the farm, part of which is still within our parish boundary. Lying directly on the Roman road its connection with Ardingly was probably very much easier in those days than it is at present.

Burstye, Tillinghurst and Strudgate are all there, while Sauceland makes its first appearance under its original form of Sauserye. In those hard times fresh meat and vegetables were unobtainable in winter, so that the occupation of a Sauser, or as we should call it a Saucemaker, was very important, our forefathers setting great store by his concoctions for making the salted and dried provisions more palatable.

This list of Ardingly taxpayers in 1327, followed by another five years later (which will be dealt with shortly), must contain the names of some at least of the men who built our Church, the date of which is somewhere between 1325 and 1340. They have passed to the “house not made with hands,” and when our turn comes to follow them will there be anything left behind us which will be serving its purpose six centuries hence? Scarcely, and yet each one of us can humbly lay his stone in the great building of Christian witness so sorely needed in this day of splendid opportunity, and win the commendation of Him Who is the Master- Builder of us all.

The Third Taxation

The third taxation, which gives us names of inhabitants of Ardingly, took place in 1332. The Roll follows the arrangement of the earlier taxation of 1296 by including our parish in the divisions of Lindfleld and Burley, so that Ardingly does not appear as a separate “Villata” or taxing district in 1332, as it did in the return for 1327. This makes it difficult to pick out exactly all the Ardingly taxpayers, but the following are some of them:

Johe de Wakehurst
Edrico atte Northcote
Andr’ atte Northcote
Walto Comber
Willo atte Toune
David atte Grove
Rado atte Ree
Walto atte Holegrave
Willo de Byrchenestye(1)
Thom’ de Saucerye(2)
Henr’ atte Toune

Johe de Tytynghurst(8)
Rico de Bokeselle,

Henr’ de Sugworth
Johe de Balecombe(3)
Rico le Canoun(4)
Willo atte Bery
Johe de Houl(5)
Willo atte Stone
Johe atte Legh(6)
Rico le Holmer(7)
Rogo atte Stone
Willo atte Gore

(1) Burstye. (2) Saucelands. (3) This family, from Balcombe, had representatives at West Hill down to 1716. (4) See below. (5 and 7) These may represent the familiar name of Holman in the making. (6) Legh is probably the forerunner of Lywood. (8) Tillinghurst.

The list is interesting as an example of the many elements out of which our English tongue has grown. First we have the Latin Christian names (abbreviated), then the English ‘at,’ the French ‘de,’ which means ‘of’ or ‘from,’ and ‘le,’ which means ‘the.” Then we have the places at which they lived or from which they came, which distinguished the many ‘Johns’ and ‘Williams,’ &c., from one another, and which gradually became what we now call surnames. The names of places are frequently of very great antiquity, many of these being Saxon and in one or two instances Celtic in origin.

It will be seen that out of the twenty-three names given above, only one, Walter Comber, has reached its modern form. Doubtless it had been Walter atte Combe or Walter the Comber not so long before. Although place-names form the larger part of the surnames in those early days, especially in an agricultural district like ours, yet occupations also originate a large number, and instances such as Robert the Hunter, Wm. the Salter, John the Tanner, are plentiful in neighbouring parishes in the same Taxation of1332.

Among the names belonging to Ardingly is one which is worth a moment’s thought. As already mentioned, the great historical fact of the early part of the 14th Century concerning our parish is the building of our present Church, and it cannot be doubted that in these lists of 1327 and 1332 are included many of the men to whom we owe that central witness of our Christian faith. But when we come to the name of Richard the Canon we may pause and remember that nameless figure which lies recessed in the Chancel wall. It dates from the time of which we are now treating, and it is situated in the place of honour in the Church. The College of South MaIling held land in Ardingly, and it is quite possible that one of its Canons was in charge of the parish during the building of the Church, there being a blank in the list of Rectors from 1276 to 1366, which includes the time during which the Church was built.

Whether that silent effigy represents Richard the Canon we may never certainly know, but that it is the memorial of someone of consequence is undoubted. Nearly six hundred years have passed since he was laid to rest, facing the dawn, the coming of the Sun of Righteousness, and as we too stand awaiting the brightness of the future shall we not also give God thanks for those who have gone before us and say with the Psalmist: “The lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground, yea, I have a goodly heritage.”

Nome Rolls of 1342

The following Extract is taken from the Nome Rolls of 1342, and is a rough translation of what the chief men of Ardingly had to say about the parish in those far-off days. Comment will follow later on.


Inquiry taken at Lewes in Co Sussex on the 17th March in the 15th year of our Lord King Edward, after the Conquest, the Third, before Henry Husee and his associates, Collectors of the Ninths of Corn, Wool and Lambs which had been granted to the King, taken according to the true value of the taxation on the Church at Erthyngelithe . . on the sworn testimony of John de Tydingehurst, Andrew de1 Northcote, William de Bury, Adrian de2 Northcote, all of the parish of Erthyngelithe, who say that the Ninth of Corn (sheaves) belonging to the parish this year is valued at £8. item: they say that the 5d ninth to the King does not at the present time amount to as much as the tax on the aforesaid Church, the Rector of which holds the temporalities and powers, which are worth per annum, together with the small tenths, a mill and offerings of garden fruit 18 marcs (£12). Item: they say that there are no Benefices belonging to the Cardinals or other Religious bodies or corporations of any sort whatsoever (in the. sd parish) nor are there any merchants living in the parish but only persons living on their own lands and with difficulty making their own living.

In witness whereof the aforesd Jurors have herewith placed their seals, etc., etc.

Inquis Nonarium

The extract was taken from the Nona Inquisition of 1342. This is a list of parishes with the amount due from them on a Tax of a Ninth (hence the name Nonae – ninths), etc, granted to Edward III to enable him to carry on the Wars in France and Scotland. Some of our School children are now reading about this time, when the Black Prince won the great battles of Crecy and Poitiers and our King claimed to be King of France too, and carried the French Fleur de Lys on his coat of arms.

The Inquisition is very interesting, because it gives particulars of the agricultural produce of every parish, and now that we are again in another great war in France (though with her and not against her) the fact is again brought home to us that our well-being as a nation depends upon the thorough cultivation of the land and the maintenance of a larger population in the country.

In the record of Ardingly in 1342 we find that four men went down to Lewes to speak for the parish. John of Tillinghurst and William of Bury we can place, but Northcote, the place where Andrew and Adrian lived, seems to have left no trace at all. Norgate, near Wakehurst, is the nearest approach to the name.

Henry Hussey, before whom they appeared, was a member of a well-known family then resident in Cuckfield, where the Green Cross Inn on the road to Brighton still perpetuates their coat of arms.

Inn signs are very often of ancient origin, and it is quite possible that the White Hart on our own borders dates back to this time, when John of Gaunt (from Ghent, his birthplace), Duke of Lancaster, held Ashdown Forest, then called Lancaster Great Park, and his badge of the White Hart or Antelope must have been familiar in this neighbourhood.

The Mill mentioned in the record as held by the Rector may have been Stone Mill, now destroyed, or it may have been a long forgotten one whose only trace is Old Mill Shaw, on Great Hapstead land. The statement that the Cardinals or other religious bodies hold no benefices in the parish refers to a struggle that was then going on to prevent the Pope from getting possession of the property of the Church. Ardingly remains a Rectory, that is to say the great tithes are paid directly to the maintenance of a clergyman; in ancient parishes which are Vicarages the great tithes have been given away in old times to religious bodies, and from them often alienated to lay people and secular purposes at the Reformation, leaving only the small tithes, or tenths as they are called in this Inquisition, for the support of the minister.

It is interesting to note that there were no merchants in Ardingly, no traders or shop-keepers, but only persons living on their own lands and with labour making their own living.

To the date 1344 belongs the gold coin found when the present Rectory was being re-built in 1875. It is a gold noble of Edward III, practically the first gold coinage of England. When issued it passed at 6s 8d., a fact still evidenced by the lawyer’s fee of that amount. The Latin inscription on it may be translated as “Edward by the grace of God King of England and France Lord of Ireland.” The ship upon it probably represents the ship of State with the King at the helm. The text on the reverse “Jesus passing through the midst of them went his way” was supposed to be a talisman against danger in battle.

A recent find may be recorded here, although it belongs to a much later date. It is not a coin but a token, with the inscription ‘George Cheesman at Ardenly in Sussex his halfpenny. 1667.’ Tokens were issued by tradesmen to meet the need for small change in those days, and as this one has a pair of scissors on it probably its owner was a tailor.

It is interesting, as only one other Ardingly token has hitherto been recorded, that of W. and H. Bingham, 1669, a name still kept in remembrance by Bingham’s Green. There are many George Cheesmans recorded in the Registers Churchwardens of that name held office in 1608—21—28—29. The fifth bell is dated 1629, and the initials on it, G.C., may be those of the Churchwarden, George Cheesman.

In 1655 George Cheesman was elected Registrar of Births, Marriages and Burials under the Commonwealth regulations, and this is probably the one who issued the token.

The Black Death

The middle of the Fourteenth Century resembles our own time in the coming of a great catastrophe.

The destruction of life caused by the Black Death in 1348-9 has been variously estimated from one-fifth to nine-tenths, but taking the medium figure of one-half the population we shall still find it difficult to realise the desolation caused by the plague.

The lack of people to carry on the ordinary callings of life brought about changes which nothing less widespread would have accomplished. Looking back we can see how good has come out of evil, and if we carry through our present trial with courage and self-sacrifice our children may say the same of the years 1914-17.

It is a question whether the Black Death left any definite mark in Ardingly which has survived the passage of centuries. But we must always remember that evidence of ancient things may be staring us in the face which we fail to recognise for lack of knowledge. There is one little bit in the Church which possibly may bear witness to the ravages of the plague. Over the effigy of the Priest in the Chancel there is a fine canopy with pinnacles on either side dating from the early half of the 14th century. The tops of the pinnacles and the outer order of the canopy appear to be of later date The shafts of the pinnacles are ornamented with tracery in the fashion of those days, and in several pieces the outline is set out in the stone but left uncompleted. We have no proof, but it may be conjectured that in those days of far-reaching death the craftsman was called away and no one left to complete his work.

The dearth of labour caused by the terrific mortality led to the break up of the manorial system and the freeing of the villagers. Hitherto they had held their dwellings and little bits of land from the Lord of the Manor in return for their labour on his land. They were not free to go where they would in search of wages. The Lord in his turn was responsible to his over-Lord, or sometimes directly to the King, and was bound to provide so many men- at-arms in proportion to his holding of land. The Archers who won the day for England at Crecy in 1346 were provided in this way, and perhaps we have a reminder of their old training ground in the field called the Butlets, now part of Avins Farm. Practice at the Butts was strictly enjoined in those days, and the archers were the forerunners of our present-day infantry. Perhaps it may interest some of our readers to know that artillery was first used at the battle of Crecy, “bombards” being employed “to throw balls to frighten the horses.” (Buttes: Strips of the common arable which are usually short owing to their abutting on some obstacle. – in this case the river.)

Field names are often most interesting, but difficult to trace to their origin. Having been handed down for generations by word of mouth they often get transformed beyond recognition, especially when eventually written down by some clerk who has no knowledge of the land and its customs In a valuation of 1837 the Butlets appeared as the Battle Field both names are of interest. In passing mention may be made of two errors that have crept in of late.—Linders-land has been turned into Sindersland, and Awell into Ashwell. But another change is going on on natural lines, and Hapstead is losing its distinctive name and becoming “the village.” Fifty years ago Ardingly village meant the cluster of houses (more numerous then) round the Church, and Hapstead Green was quite distinct. The mention of Hapstead brings us back to the manor system and the freeing of the villagers which commenced after the Black Death, because it was probably here that the humblest class could plant their poor hovels. The name Hapstead is Saxon and shows that there must have been a settlement there from very early times, but old as it is there is no mention of it in any of the early records which we have dealt with at present. Why? Possibly because it was a bit of common land which by virtue of its being held by the villagers in common escaped inclusion in the records of taxation.

In May, 1378, Thomas de Wilford, clerk of chancery, parson of Erthyngelegh and prebendary of Hempsted in Chichester Cathedral, pleaded in excuse for non-payment of taxes for two years that “while defending the realm he (Thomas de Wilford) was taken by the enemies of France at Rottyngdene in Sussex and imprisoned and paid them (the French) a great sum for his ransome, for which without great aid of friends, his goods or benefices” are not sufficient. His excuse held good and his taxes were remitted. This record is in the Calendar of Close Rolls for 1st year of Richard II.

The preceding Rector also has a record in the Patent Rolls of 41 Edwaid III (1367) when Robert Léukenore of Harenden was pardoned of his outlawry which he had incurring owing to his A failure to appear before the Justices of the Bench to answer Master Robert de Wenlynburgh (Wellingborough) parson of the Church of Erthynglegh touching a debt of 45 marks.

Poll Tax 1379

One of the most interesting of all the old documents in existence is the Poll Tax of 1379. It is called the Poll Tax because it was levied on every person over 16 years of age, and was graded from a groat (4d.) upwards, according to station. It was this tax that brought to a head the discontent caused by circumstances following on the Black Death and resulting in the rising under Wat Tyler.

The Roll of names and amounts is written on narrow strips of sheep-skin rolled up in bundles, which are divided into Counties, Rapes and Hundreds, so to find our own parish we have to ask for the Hundred of Street, in which it then was. The ink is brown and faded, the writing good, but the characters are not those now used, and only an expert can read them easily.

Five hundred years and more have passed, and still those old names of Ardingly inhabitants remain to remind us that each one of us has also his share to take in the battle which is always going on for the uplift of the standard of truth, freedom and brotherly love.

One of the features of this particular taxation is that it gives the position or occupation of some of the persons numbered. It is disappointing that only three of the Ardingly names are thus distinguished. They are — John Wakehurst, franklin or freeman; Richard Hudde, cissor or tailor; and Roger Payne, rotarius or wheelwright. This last is the earliest mention we have yet come across of a family which seems to have held every farm in the parish in turn in the 16th and 17th centuries and is still represented by the Payne Crawfurds of East Grinstead.

The Poll Tax of Richard II 1379

Village of Erthingeleghe

John Wakehurst, franklin24
John Northcote, senior10
John Northcote, junior4
John Ryver10
Thomas Holegrove12
John Prior6
Roger Sonde (?)4
Richard Hudde, tailor12
John Hudde4
Walter Dawe4
Richard Tytingehurst10
John att’Combe8
Ralph Motyn4
Roger Payne, wheelwright12
Richard Skinner4
Thomas Hunte4
John King, senior4
*John Wilde4
*Richard Joye4
Richard Snellyn, junior4
John Baldying4
Reginald Mot4
Alicia Plummerdenne4
Alicia Plummerdenne, daughter of Alice4
Richard att’Halle4
Isabella att’Grove4
* These two names are found in an otherwise identical list without date, or, a loose strip of parchment, and are included here for the sake of recording them. The probable date is 1377.

If the above list be compared with those already given here a marked step in the making of surnames will be noticed. It is no longer John de Wakehurst, distinguished by his place of abode from the many other Johns, but just plain John Wakehurst. The place name has become his surname, and so it is with others. The French ‘de’ has gone, though the English ‘at’ still remains in a few instances. In John River we probably have a natural development from John atte Ree in the earlier lists the name still holds in Rivers Wood. Holigrove and Tillinghurst we know, Sonde may well be Sunte, and Plummerden lies a mile outside our borders on the road to Cockhaise. Hudde is one of the many surnames formed from the baptismal name of Richard, and though it is no longer represented here we find Hudd’s Wood in Highbrook, lying below the Church on the way to Horsted Keynes. Dawe has its origin in David, and has many branches in Ardingly, though most of them have added an ‘s’ to their name. Skinner and Hunter are specimens of surnames arising from occupations, John Wakehurst is described as a franklin, or freeman. In a contemporary edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which were written about this time, there is a picture of a franklin, from which we can form a good idea of how our chief inhabitant of those days looked. (A reproduction will be found in Green’s Hist. of Eng. People, Ill. Ed., p. 426).

The collection of the Poll Tax was the spark which set fire to the smouldering dissatisfaction of the country people and resulted in the rising under Wat Tyler. The chief grievance was the feudal system, which tied the people to the manor on which they were born. Hence the coveted title of freeman, possessed in this list only by John Wakehurst. Probably the remaining inhabitants of Ardingly were villeins and copyholders of the various manors.

When Adam delved and Eve span
Who was then the gentleman ?

The above quote is a saying which dates from this time, and is characteristic of the questioning spirit then working in the minds of the people.

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