The Rectors and Parsons of Ardingly

See also: “The Church and Rectors of Ardingly, and a Note of Other Professions in the 18th Century”

The following articles have been edited to the date sequence of events where the originals jumped back and forth as new research became available.

In 1912, when these notes on parish history first began, they dealt with the Church as the oldest living institution round which the whole of the early history of the parish centres. It is the only visible building which shows the continuity and the growth of things through the centuries. But its witness is a silent one and not always easy to read. It is the body but not the spirit of the Christian Faith. What of the men who in their generation have ministered to the people of things spiritual and who have led them in the worship of God? Faulty they were, as every child of man must be; indeed, if it were not for their faults we should not know of the existence of some of them. But to them as a whole we owe a debt of gratitude for having handed on a light which, thank God, still burns among us.

The Rev. J.H.L. Booker, who was curate of Ardingly from 1883 to 1888, collected much material for the history of the Church and parish. After his death in 1905, the list of rectors which he had compiled was placed in the Church as a slight memorial of his work and a testimony of the affection in which he was held. Unfortunately, being engraved on brass in the fashion of the day, it is impossible to add any names which have since come to light or to make any alterations in accordance with more recent knowledge.

It may be well to give a word of information as to the title of this series, in mediaeval records the terms Rector and Parson are frequently used for the same office, but sometimes we find instances of a non-resident Rector with a Parson in charge of the parish. He is not a Curate in the modern sense of the word at all, but is fully responsible to his patron and Bishop. As we also find the word Parson used for a Curate, it seems best to include all the clergy serving this parish as far as known and to classify them as Rector, Parson or Curate as information allows.

The earliest existing record of Ardingly concerns the Church, as has been stated in all our other historical notices. It was given by William de Warenne to the Priory of St. Pancras, which he had founded at Lewes some twenty years after the Norman Conquest. There is no mention of Ardingly in the copies of the two first charters contained in the Lewes Chartulary, the book of Lewes charters, though it is possible that it is included with Ditchling, a large part of the parish being in the manor of Ditchling. But when we come to the charter of William de Warenne the second Earl, we get the first mention of Ardingly as “the church of Herdingle.” This charter was dated somewhere between 1091 and 1098, but of late doubts have been cast on the correctness of that date. There is, however, an original deed at the Public Record Office (Ancient Deeds A. 15412) which rehearses the gift of six churches to Lewes Priory and which can be dated as circa 1093. This includes the Church of Hardingueleia.

Now, where a Church is there is of necessity a Parson to serve it, but unfortunately we get no record of a name till many years later. All we know is that the gift of the living, as we call it, or of the advowson, which is its technical description, was in the hands of the Prior and Convent of Lewes and so remained till the suppression of the monasteries in 1536, some four-and-a-half centuries later on. Let it not be supposed, however, that the Church was served by the monks from Lewes, a very common error when the patronage is in the gift of a monastic order. Very few monks were in Holy Orders, i.e. ordained priests, and those that were were fully occupied with their duties in the Priory Church. In case of emergency no doubt someone would be sent, but to speak of the Church as “served by the Monks” is altogether incorrect.

It is worthy of notice that Ardingly is served by a Rector and not by a Vicar. As a general rule, when a living is in the gift of a monastery or other religious body we find the great tithes appropriated by the patrons, who appointed a Vicar to serve the Church, with the lesser tithes only for his pay. Why Ardingly kept its great tithes and its Rector is a question which has not yet been answered.

Having dealt with some of the early conditions connected with the work of the Church in this parish let us now turn to the men themselves.

Quentinus

This is the earliest Rector whose name we have. His English name is Quintin, and we may hazard a guess that he was a fifth son. There is nothing but the record of his name as Rector in the time of King John, 1199-1216, or earlier. The record is brief, but the tale which introduces it is long.

It is a good instance of how local history can be verified by legal proceedings; in fact, without the information obtained from them we should never have heard of Quintin or his two successors.

Thomas

In the 40th year of the following reign of Henry III., 1255, a dispute arose between Thomas, the Rector of Erdingley, and Simon Pakyn, a landowner, respecting the ownership of a house and 218 acres of land, the former declaring that the property belonged to his Church, while the latter asserted that he was the lay lord of the premises. The case came on at the Chichester Assizes, and the verdict was given in favour of the Rector. Simon Pakyn at once appealed against this verdict. He complained that the jury had made a false oath in that they said that the aforementioned house and land was of the right of the aforementioned Thomas of Erdingley, and that a certain Quentinus, predecessor of the same Thomas, who was parson of the same Church, was seized of the house and land as in right of his Church, in the time of King John. Because he (Simon) says that Quentinus never held the house and land as in right of his Church but only for a term (of years) – and this was very much before the time of King John. On this occasion the disputants came to an agreement by which Thomas recognises the house and land to be the right and inheritance of Simon and remits all right and claims which he had or could have in the house and land. The land in question has always been thought to be the portion now belonging to the Wakehurst Estate called Churchlands, and bounded by Wakehurst Lane, Street Lane, and the High road.

William of Wakehurst apparently had obtained the land from Simon Pakyn and so the matter is further complicated. However, eventually Thomas and his successor were recognised in holding “the house, with the garden and one croft called Welpytle near to the house“ as from William de Wakehurst. Thomas promises to obtain the consent of the Bishop of Chichester and his Chapter and that of the Prior of Lewes and his Chapter. It is possible that the Welpytle is now represented by Well-Plats.

Robert de Aete

In 1278 the matter was re-opened again by Robert de Aete, Thomas’s successor. He was in possession of five acres only in the right of the Church and the remainder was in the hands of five different persons. Robert lost his case, the jury’s verdict being that the tenements were the lay fee of Wm. of Wakehurst and not free charity or frank almoigne land belonging to the Church of the said Robert. None the less, Robert tried again in 1284, and this time he won his ease.

It seemed to the King and his Council that Robert’s predecessor Thomas had no power at all to restore anything to anybody to the prejudice of the Church. So all which had been done by Thomas was annulled and Robert regained possession of the house, garden, croft and land.

Robert takes his name from Ath in Flanders, which also lies at the back of the surname Death, meaning “of Ath”.

The Church in which these three men led the worship of God was a small Norman building on the same spot as the present 14th century church. Three stones are still visible which formed part of the original building, the capital lying on the window sill in the north aisle and two stones built into the south wall west of the porch.

Fourteenth Century

The early part of the fourteenth century is a complete blank as far as known references to the Rectors of Ardingly are concerned. It was during that time that the body of the Church, as we know it, was built. The Black Death, or Plague, which devastated the country in 1349, swept away the Clergy by the dozen and put an end to the Decorated style of building. But before that disaster happened the main part of our Church had been built, and the monumental figure in the north wall of the Chancel is probably the effigy of the Rector who was responsible for the work of the time. There are certain features which point to the figure being of fourteenth century work, such as the ears being set out on the pillow, and also it lies in the position usually allotted to the founder or builder of a Church, namely, the north side of the Chancel. At the same time the effigy does not fit the recess in which it now lies, the canopy of which is of coarser work than of the figure itself.

The remains of paint, now blackened with age, are still existing, and the monument has suffered much from ill-treatment. We know nothing of the man whom it represents except that he was a priest and wears a chasuble, with stole and maniple. In many old guide books the figure is described as that of a woman.

It is doubtful whether we shall ever know his name, but at least we can include him amongst those who as Rectors have served God in this place and who have left us a heritage in the Church which we should do well to value.

Robert de Wendlyngburgh

The next Rector of whom we have any record is one of a man of considerable importance in the Diocese. Robert Hyne is his personal name and he obviously came from Wellingborough (in Northamptonshire), the modern form of Wendlyngburgh. In a deed in the Cartulary of Lewes Priory, dated 26th Jan., 1344, he describes himself as “I Robert Hyne of Wendlingburgh, clerk of Lincoln Diocese, by papal authority notary public.” He was present at the deathbed of Bishop Robert de Stratford in 1362, and is then described as Canon. He held the prebend of Hempsted in Chichester Cathedral. He appears in the Fines which regulated the purchase of lands, from 1372 to 1387. The first purchase was in Lindfield and the others farther east in the county. The date of his appointment to Ardingly is not known, but his name appears, in 1367, in the De Banco Rolls as parson of Erthingley. He was very likely non-resident, with a “parson” doing the parochial work. All that we know is that in 1375 he exchanged the Church of Ardingly with the parson of Hurstmonceux. His name appears in the De Banco Rolls up to 1384. It is, of course, possible that the monument in the Chancel is his.

The recent appointment of our Rector to a Prebendal Stall in Chichester Cathedral has raised the question as to whether that honour has ever been held by a Rector of Ardingly before. We have only one definite record, which is that Robert de Wendlynburgh held the prebend of Hempstead in Chichester Cathedral. His surname was Hyne, with the addition of the place from which he came, Wellingborough in Northants. It is possible that the monument in the Chancel is his.

Canon Brack does not yet know which stall he is to hold; it would be a pleasing coincidence if it were to be Hempstead. These prebendal stalls do not involve residence at Chichester. We congratulate him most heartily on the recognition of all his hard work which this appointment betokens.

Thomas de Wilford

Here again we know little or nothing beyond the fact that Thomas Wilford, parson of Hurstmonceux, exchanged with Robert de Wendlyngburgh in 1375. He could not have held the Church of Ardingly for long, because we soon find another Rector in possession.

In 1377 the French were attacking all along the Sussex coast. They destroyed Rye completely and took the Isle of Wight (except the castle). Capgrave, in his “Chronicle,” p. 233, tells us

“In the same yere they londed in Southsex, fast by a town cleped Rotyngdene; and ageyn hem went the Prior John of Lewes; and there was he take, and with him to knytes, Sir Jon Fallisle and Sir Thomas Cheyne and a swyere (squire) Jon. Brocas.”

The Prior took with him other clergy to fight the enemies of England, among them the Rector of Ardingly, Thomas de Wilford. Perhaps we can imagine him trotting clown to Rottingdene on a short-backed stocky little horse, armed with bow and arrows and some other weapons of defence, but whatever they were they were not very effective, and Thomas with many others was carried off to France. He got back the following year and was promptly summoned, in May, 1378, for not having paid his taxes. The following gives the particulars:

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 will be found in the Calendar of Close Rolls for the first year of Richard II., 1377-8.

It will be seen from this last extract that Thomas de Wilford was Prebendary of Hempsted in Chichester Cathedral, in which stall he succeeded Robert de Wendlyngburgh, also Rector of Ardingly. Our present Rector holds the Prebend of Middleton.

John Kemele

Again we only know that he was Rector here before December 10th, 1385, when John Kemele exchanged with John Compton, Rector of Aspenden, in the Diocese of Lincoln, who was admitted and instituted to the Church of Erthinglegh. The record is in Archbishop Courtney’s Register, f. 259.

John Compton

Almost immediately afterwards John Compton exchanged again and went to Godalming. The Vicar there was Stephen Randolf; their exchange is dated 10th Feb., 1385-6. John Compton died in 1401.

Stephen Randolf

There is no record of Stephen Randolf beyond the fact of his exchange of Godalming for Ardingly in February, 13856. The double date 13856 is given in the first three months of each year. as January 1st was not the beginning of the year in those days. According to our method it was February, 1386.

John Balsham

The last few years of the 14th century, which have hitherto been blank in our list of Rectors, are now filled with two new names. In making investigations about a monument in West Walton Church, Norfolk, where the late Head Master of Ardingly College is now Rector, I found the name of John Balsham, Rector of Ardingly, who exchanged this parish with Thomas Eliot for the Ely portion of West Walton in 1393. It should be explained that up till quite recently West Walton had two Rectors, though only one Church. One part belonged to Ely and the other to Lewes Priory, the Bishop of Norwich being the Diocesan. In the Bishop of Ely’s Register (Fordham) is the following entry: “Presentation from the Bishop to Henry Bishop of Norwich setting out that whereas Sir Thos. Eliot Rector of West Walton and Sir John Balsham Rector of Erthyngleg,’ Cicestr’ Dioces’ proposed to exchange their Benefices, he therefore presented Sir John Balsham to West Walton. Dated at Downham 13 May 1393.

John Balsham did not hold West Walton for long. On 25th June,1394. he was instituted to the rectory of Chelsea, Middlesex, and on 24th February following (1394-5) he got permission from the Bishop of London to exchange with the Rector of Little Grandesden, Cambridgeshire. Shortly afterwards he moved yet again, and the commission from the Bishop of Ely to Edmund Bishop of Exeter, approving of his exchange with Sir John Lawrence, Rector of Blisland, Cornwall, bears date 22nd November, 1396 (Fordham’s Reg.). There he died and was buried. From the inscription on the brass to his memory in Blisland Church it appears that he had resigned the benefice before his death.

John Balsham was probably of Cambridgeshire origin, taking his name from the village of that name. How long he was Rector of Ardingly we do not yet know, the date of his departure alone being available. The connection between West Walton and Ardingly was closer than would appear nowadays, both being closely connected with Lewes Priory, which was the patron of Ardingly and also of the Lewes portion of West Walton. It is possible that the monument in West Walton Church is that of one of the Priors of Lewes.

A rubbing of the Brass to John Balsham has been obtained, through the kindness of one of his successors at Blisland, and is now in the Chancel behind the figure of one of our unknown rectors. It is remarkable in one way, as, though he was undoubtedly a priest, he wears no stole. The inscription runs :—

Orate pro anima Johannis Balsam quondam Rectoris istius Ecclesie qui obijt (blank) die Mensis Septembris. Auno Dominis M°CCCC decimo

(Translation) Pray for the soul of John Balsham some time Rector of this Church who died (blank)day of the month of September In the year of the Lord one thousand four hundred and ten.

So after 640 years comes back to the old Church a memorial of one of its Rectors whose name has been hidden for so long. How many are the questions that we should like to ask him! He could tell us the name of his predecessor, whose stone effigy lies in the Chancel, and countless other facts about the Church and the Ardingly of those far-off days.

Thomas Eliot

Of Thomas Eliot we know nothing beyond the fact that he was given the benefice of Ardingly in 1393 by exchange with John Balsham. He was succeeded by Richard Markwyk, who in his turn exchanged Ardingly with John Welles, of Hilgay, Norfolk, in 1402.

John Welles

At the beginning of the 15th century we find John Welles in possession of the benefice of Ardingly. He came from the parish of Hilgay in Norfolk, which he exchanged with Richard Markwyk in 1402, as already recorded. Mr. Booker’s list is incorrect in several details here. We know nothing of Markwyk beyond the fact of his going to Hilgay in April, 1402, when he exchanged with John Welles, but he is recorded in Bishop Rede’s Register as being Rector of Ardingly. Within a few months (November,1402) John Welles exchanged with John Gyles, Rector of Hurstpierpoint.

John Gyles

It is unfortunate that John Gyles’ name has also been misread, and wrongly engraved on the list on the Brass of the Rectors in the Church, as John Eyles. The mistake is easy to make, as “E” and “G” are both difficult to read in the handwriting of those days. But mistakes must be recorded with the view of correcting them when opportunity arises. The authority for these corrections will be found in Bishop Rede’s Register, which has been published in two volumes by the Sussex Record Society, a most excellent Society, whose object is to place valuable historical works within reach of the humble student. Their publications can be found in any Public Library.

Master John Gyles (to give him his full title as Master of Arts) was a person of considerable importance in the Diocese of Chichester in those days. He first appears as Rector of Hurstpierpoint in 1397, coming to Ardingly in 1402, where he remained till 1413. During that time he was Bishop’s Commissary and acted in several legal cases of importance. One case of deciding legitimacy and in consequence the power to inherit contains an interesting statement by Gyles in his report to the Bishop. His judicial finding was that Hugh Halsham had proved his case as the lawful son of John and Philippa Halsham, and he goes on, “In testimony whereof because my seal is unknown to many persons I have procured the affixing of these presents of the Seal of the Dean of the Deanery of Storghton (Stoughton), at the special and personal request of Master John himself given at West Grinstead .June 4, 1405.” In those days most owners of property had their private seals, but when a document was of serious moment it was thought desirable that it should be sealed with some official seal. Hence Gyles’s action was all on the side of safety.

Another case of the same sort concerning the Codyngton family was also judged by Gyles. He summoned the parties concerned to appear before him in Horsham Parish Church. His verdict was in their favour. This is dated finally on October 8th, 1407. Records also exist of Gyles being concerned in the resignation of the Priors of Hastings and of Calceto as a Diocesan official.

All this points to John Gyles taking a high place among the clergy of the time. He and Robert de Wendlyngburgh are without doubt among the most prominent men who have served God in the position of Rector of Ardingly. John Gyles exchanged his Sussex parish for that of Charlwood in Surrey in 1413. His successor here was John Harengey.

John Harengey

Rector of Charlwood, Surrey, exchanged benefices with John Gyles, and was admitted to the parish church of Erthynglegh on August 7th, 1413. The record will be found in Bishop Rede’s Register (p. 322, printed edition), where both men are described as “Magister” (Master), which denotes a man of University education. The Patrons of the living were the Prior and Convent of St. Pancras, Lewes, who had possessed the right ever since the time of William of Warenne.

After 1413 there is a blank in the list of Rectors for many years. How long John Harengey remained we do not know. Mr. Booker gives John Stoke as Rector from 1407 to 1414, but there is some mistake here. John Gyles was Rector from 1402 to 1413, and then John Harengey, for both of which there is full documentary evidence. It is impossible to unravel Mr. Booker’s mistake now, but it may have occurred through there being a Vicar of Cuckfield named John Stoke; but then again the dates are wrong. At any rate, there was no John Stoke Rector of this parish in the early part of the 15th century. There is a gap here of some 50 years in the list, and we are able to add three names, Baldwin Haukyn, Thomas Bridges and William Walker, to help in filling it.

Baldwin Haukyn

The entry is found in the Exeter Episcopal Registers and consists of a letter to the Bishop of Chichester asking him to expedite the exchange between Baldwin Haukyn, Rector of Erdinglegh, and Sir John Smyth, Rector of Dolton. This entry will be found in Bishop Lacy’s Register, p. 620. He was Bishop of Exeter from 1420 to 1441, so that we have a fairly close guide to the time when Baldwin Haukyn was Rector here, the letter being dated 11.Mar.,14345. Whether the exchange was ever carried out we do not know at present, but if Sir John Smyth did come here that would give us yet another Rector hitherto unknown.

Thomas Bridges

Thomas is known to us only by the account of a lawsuit in 1475, in which he is described as Parson, which may mean Rector, of Ardingly. The reference to this suit is De Banco Roll (Sussex) 851 Trin. 14.Ed.iv. m.487. The following is an abstract of the case:-

Thomas Brigges, parson of the Church of Erthynglegh, was summoned to answer Richard Pykerythe (Pickeridge) in a plea that he took the beasts of the said Richard and unjustly detained them, And thereof the same Richard by John Warnet, his attorney complained that the said Thomas on 5 March 14 Edward IV. (1475) at Westhothlegh in a certain place called Hoggestrode took six oxen of the said Richard and unjustly detained them against wage and pledge etc whereof he says he has damage to the value of £10. And the said Thomas (Brigges) by Thomas Aleyn his attorney comes and defends etc. The suit is postponed till Michaelmas.


A second suit against Thomas Brigges, Parson of the church of Erthynglegh, was brought by William Marschall, in that he had taken the beasts of William at West Hothlegh and unjustly detained them. The beasts were two cows, by the loss of which Williams says he has damage to the amount of 100s. Thomas appears and the case is again adjourned. Unfortunately, the final result has not yet been found. The date of the trial being 1475 it is obvious that Thomas must have been in office before that date.

William Walkare

We have evidence that he was Rector of Erthingle in 1478, as his name appears in the Register (D) of Bishop Story, f.18b. He was summoned to appear at the Visitation of Bishop Story at that date, and it is noted that he holds two benefices. The name of the second is not given, but it may be found in the course of further research.

William Goodbarn

We have only the record of his resignation, Sep.16,1484, when he was succeeded by Thomas Taylour.

Thomas Taylour

Thomas Taylour, chaplain, who was admitted to the Parish Church of Erthynglegh by the resignation of William Goodbarn. Both entries will be found in Bp. Story’s Register Af.1.b. Thomas Taylour resigned after less than two years’ occupation of the benefice.

Hugh Levered

Hugh Levered was the next to be presented, by the Prior and Convent of Lewes, and the official record will be found in Bp. Story’s Register, folios 5, 6, where he is described as Chaplain. The date of his induction after the resignation of Thomas Taylour is given as May 27th, 1486.

Mr. Booker read the surname as Lenarde, but Dunkin gives it as Levered. The reading of these old records is by no means easy, and when the possibilities of error in reading as well as copying and reproducing are added together a very keen eye is required to obtain accuracy.

16th Century

The 16th century, a time of many changes, without much definite information about the parsons here. Mention has already been made of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, who brought about the keeping of Parish Registers, a source of invaluable information for parish history.

At the present moment we are celebrating the fourth centenary of the English Bible being placed in every Church. This we owe also to Thomas Cromwell before he fell from power. It is impossible to estimate the world-wide influence of that enactment.

There is a wonderful exhibition at the British Museum now open where all and sundry can see the magnificent Biblical Manuscripts, famous throughout the educated world.

Our own Parish Registers do not begin quite so early as some, but we are fortunate in possessing the original paper registers which were afterwards copied on to parchment and the originals frequently destroyed.

The registers down to 1812 were transcribed and printed at the expense of the late Lord Wakehurst, and published by the Sussex Record Society, Vol. XVII. They commence in 1558. From them we shall in future be able to get much information at first hand.

Edward Dugherty

Edward Dugherty or Dughty follows Hugh Levered and is another instance of nothing being known about him except that he died some time before February 16th, 1509-10.

John Rogers AM

John Rogers A.M., was admitted to the parish church of Erthinglegh on the death of Edward Dughty on the presentation of the Prior and Convent of Lewes. The date of his admission was February 16th, 1509-10, which is found in Bishop Sherborne’s Register C, f. 3. Edward Dughty was then dead. Mr. Booker has a note that Edward Dughty died in 1508, but gives no reference for the statement.

Ninian Burrell

In the same Register, folio 6, we find the admission of Ninian Burrell to Erthinglegh on the resignation of John Rogers and the presentation of Prior and Convent of Lewes. May 21st, 1511. He was already Vicar of Cuckfield, where he had succeeded his uncle, Gerard Burrell, in 1509. Ninian had been previously Vicar of Poling and of Rodmel. He was also Prebendary of Selsey in 1525, an(l held the degree of LL.B. He resigned Ardingly in 1531, but remained Vicar of Cuckfield for a few years longer.

The Burrell family came from the North and are still represented in the county. Sir William Burrell, the famous Sussex archaeologist, was one of them, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for his records of the parishes at the end of the 18th century.

The unusual name of Ninian was brought by the Burrell family from the North. St. Ninian, who is commemorated by it, was a fifth-century saint who is still well remembered in the north of England and across the border by the dedication of churches to his memory.

There are some 20 entries of the name in the Ardingly Registers, the most prominent instance being Ninian Jenkins, a farmer whose surname is still preserved in Jenkins Croft. The Christian name was in use down to 1689 in Ardingly.

Ninian Burrell was the last Rector of Ardingly to serve the Church on the old lines during the whole of his incumbency. His successor went through the great changes brought about by the Reformation, and there is nothing to show that there was any trouble here caused by the alterations.

It may be well to look at the Church and compare it with what it was when Ninian Burrell was Rector, 1511-1531. The main part of the Church—Chancel, Nave, South Aisle and Tower – is identical with what he saw 400 years ago. The north aisle and vestry are the only structural additions. Within, the staircase to the rood-loft was in use, the screen was in its present place but surmounted by a platform hidden by carving. Above it hung the figure of Our Lord on the Cross, with St. Mary and St. John on either side. The effigy of the unknown priest on the north side of the Chancel was already nearly 200 years old. The Wakehurst Tomb was comparatively new and the brass of Richard and Margaret Culpeper which lay before the altar was newer still. The altar rails were not there. There were no pews, but probably benches and a poor man’s box. The wooden hood molds over the chancel windows were there and the two heraldic glass shields in the windows also.

Our Church has seen the changes and chances of history in our land for the last 900 years and it is still with us to witness to the existence of things eternal which we in our turn must bear in mind.

Thomas Cheyney

Ninian Burrell resigned the Parish Church of Ardingly in 1530-1, and was succeeded by Thomas Cheyney, whose admission is recorded in Bishop Sherborne’s Register A,f. 59. It is there stated that Ninian Burrell resigned in favour of Thomas Cheyney on condition of his paying Burrell an annual pension out of the fruits of the said Church.

Cheyney was presented by the Prior and Convent of St. Pancras, Lewes. It was the last time that they exercised their patronage. Before another Rector was appointed the great monastery had been broken up, its possessions taken over by the Crown and the magnificent Church destroyed. Henry VIII. gave the possessions of the Priory to Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, in 1537 (not to be confused with Oliver Cromwell of the next century), but he did not hold them long. In 1540 he was beheaded and the property reverted to the Crown, at that time represented by Henry VIII. It is to Thomas Cromwell that we are indebted for the establishment of Parish Registers throughout England.

We do not know any details of Thomas Cheyney, and there is nothing to show that Ardingly was much moved by the great changes which were going on at that time. We do not even know when Cheyney left or died, but possibly he was non-resident.

As we find records of George Romsay, Miles Newby and George Kylner as curates of Ardingly between 1531 and 1547. George Romsay witnesses John Lyder’s Will in 1533, as Curate of Ardingly. Miles Newby’s Will has already been published in a previous series of these papers. He died in 1555-6. He witnesses Thomas Bridges’ Will in 1542-3 as “Sir Myles Newby.” Sir Geo. Kylner, “curate,” witnesses Richard Newnhams Will in 1547.

John Worthiall

We find John Worthiall resigning the Parish Church of Ardingly in 1550, but at present no further information about him is forthcoming. He was succeeded by James Shaw, who was presented by Edward VI. His appointment is recorded in Bishop Day’s Register B.f. 586.

There is no mention of him in Ardingly documents, but the fact of his resignation occurs in the Bishop’s Register in 1550. It now appears that there were two John Worthialls. The earlier of the two was Chancellor of Chichester Cathedral. Mention of two witnesses to his will in 1540 prove that he could not have been Rector of Ardingly in 1550. But the other was Archdeacon of Chichester, and died on 25th July, 1554. His will, which still exists, was proved 12th October, 1554. The will is in Vol.8,109,1554, now in the Winchester Registry. An extract from the will may be of interest:

“Yf I depart this present lyfe within Chichester, then I will my bodye to be buried within the bodye of the Cathedral Church of Chichester afforsaide, or else yf I departe this present lyf owt of Chichester, then I will my bodye to be buried their as I shall departe at ye discrecion of my executor.
Item I will and my full mynde and last will ys that the Deane and Chapiter of Chichester shall have for my libertie to be buried within the Cathedral Church of Chichester (yf I be buried their) accordinge to thuse and custome their in that behalf.” John Worthiall, Archdeacon.


There are several appointments to Prebends in the Cathedral, but from their dates it seems that they concern the other John, who was Chancellor of the Cathedral. The man who was Rector of Ardingly 1545-1550, was Archdeacon of Chichester 15312-1551, and possibly Prebendary of Thorney 1549. He was probably non-resident, with curates to fulfil his duties here, Miles Newby and George Kilner amongst them.

Much of the information given here is confirmed by the volumes of Sussex Wills now being published by the Sussex Record Society. It is Vol.XLI. of their series and No.3 of the Collection of Sussex Wills made by the late Mr. R. Garraway Rice. These volumes should be in the hands of everyone who studies the life of the county during the early part of the 16th century. At first sight they seem a collection of dull extracts, but to the parish recorder they are a gold mine of information.

James Shawe

The presentation to the benefice was now in the hands of the Crown, after the forfeiture on the attainder of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, of all his possessions. James Shawe was presented by Edward VI. He does not appear to have done anything remarkable in any way, but to have been a typical country parson of the time, with his horses, his bows and his gun to enable him to take his part in the defence of his country if called upon, as well as providing some game for his larder in times of peace. And yet it was during his incumbency that the terrible persecution of the Reformers by Queen Mary was taking place and Ardingly contributed one at least to the martyrs who were burnt at Lewes in 1556.

James Shawe died in October, 1558, just one month before Elizabeth began her famous reign. His will is dated 7th October, 1558, and proved 28th of the same month by Sir William Maudsley, priest, Rector of Balcombe. The will is at Lewes, with other wills of the Archdeaconry. A.4.f.6. He desired to be buried in the Chancel of Ardingly, a place to which he was entitled by reason of his being the Rector. His name appears in the first year of the Register of Burials which is headed:

“A remembrance of all suche as have been buried in the parishe of Erdinglye from the viii day of Februarie Anno Domini.” 1558.

The thirteenth entry is –
Oct. 30—James Shawe, person of Erdinglie.

The Will runs as follows:-
In the Name of God Amen. In the yere of or Lorde god 1558. The vii day of October, 1, James Shawe, clerke and parson of Ardyngleigh, syke in bodye but well of mynde, praysed to God, doe make and ordeyn this my last wyll and testament in maner and forme following –

First I bequeath my soule to Almighty God, and to our Lady Sanet Mary and to all the holly companie of heaven—and my bodye to be buried in the chauncell of Ardyngleigh.
Item, I will as concerning my buryall and month day, I put yt to the discretion of my executors and my overseers
Item, I give to the mother churehe of the Dioc xiid.
Item. I give to the church of Ardyngleigh vis. and viiid.
Item. I give Katheryn Heason £x.
Item. I give to John Chysman the sonne of John Chysman that hath married my nese xxs.
Item. I give to Faythe Chysman the daughter of John Chysman £x. and my best panne.
Item. I give to William Chysman £x and my best pott.
Item. I give to Jone Mitchell daughter of my sayde nece Lx and all the foresayd bequestes I have given unto the forenamed chyldren I will these to be payd within tenn years after my decease and alsoe my will ys that my executors shall fynd sufficyent sureties that shall be bound in wryting obligatory to my overseers for the faythfull and true payment of all the foresaid summes of mony, and other bequestes that I have given to the forenamed chyldren.
Item. I give William Penyngton £x and one of my geldings at his liking.
Item. I give to my brother Fousom (?) yf he come yn to this countrye xii bushells of wheat.
Item. I give to Thomas Udall, my old blewe gown and vis. viiid. I give to Margaret Redehead my servant my best gown and viis. ixd.
Item. I give to John Elis my best shoting bowe and vii arrowes.
Item. I give to the parson off balcombe, my best cloke, my gune and my cross bowe.
Item. I give to Richard Pilbeame, my best bowe and vi arrowes and my freshe gowne and my lethern hatt and belt.
Item. I give vis. to Roland Harvyman, vicar of Hothelegyh, my best cappe and my worsett (? worsted) ferrett.
Item. I give to Elizabeth Chysman my fyrm friend my best gowne. All the rest of my goods my detts payd, my funeralls discharged and legacies pformed, I give them to John Chysman and Elizabeth his wyff whom I make and ordeyn my faythfull executrix of this my last will and testament, and Sir William Mawdesley parson of Balcombe and Richard Pilbeams off Ardyngligh to he my overseers to my will performed.

William Moorey

After James Shawe’s death in 1558, William Moorey was appointed to the Parish Church of Ardingly. His name is spelt in many ways – Moorye, Moore or Morye are examples. His admission to the benefice is dated February 18th, 15589 ; the double date is due to the year beginning in March at that time instead of January as it now does.

The record of his appointment is to be found in Archbishop Pole’s Post Mortem register, f. 426, where it is stated that he is admitted on the death of the last incumbent. Moorey was presented to the living by John Culpeper, of Wakehurst. He paid the composition for first fruits, one of the taxes the clergy had to pay, on 7 Oct. Eliz.1,1559. His tenure of the benefice was short, as he died within six years. He was buried in Ardingly Church, probably within the Chancel, and the record of his burial runs as follows in the parchment copy of the Register: “Sir William Moorye, parson of Erdinglie was buried 9th Feb.1564.” We are fortunate in possessing the original paper Register where the entry is: “Feb.9,15645. Sir Wyllyam Morye (Clarke of the sam church) parson of Erdinglie.” The title “Sir“ is a courtesy one only, and does not imply that he was knighted.

There is a good number of entries of the name in the Registers at a somewhat later date, but none which we can connect immediately with William Moorey. He left a will dated February 6th,1564. in which he expressed a wish that he “should be buryed in the pishe churche of Erdingligh.” Two persons only are mentioned in the will – ”Elizabeth More my wiffe“ and “Alice Bradford.” To the latter he bequeathed “one highe bedsted yt stands in the greate chamber, the bed that I lye in nowe” &c., and “one russet – faced sheep.” The bequest of a bedstead and bed seems an odd bequest to us now, but in the time of Elizabeth they were items of great importance in the simple households of the day.

Mr. Booker suggests that this Alice Bradford was William Moorey’s stepdaughter. The following entry in the Register probably refers to her: 1565. May 7. Thomas Yearmer bachelor of Arts and Alice Bradford were maryed.

John Culpeper

It will be noticed that the advowson of the living was in the hands of John Culpeper, of Wakehurst, grandson of Nicholas Culpeper and Elizabeth Wakehurst, whose brasses, with many children at foot, lie in the chancel of Ardingly Church. It had passed from the Crown through the hands of Sir Thomas Smith to Sir Richard Sackville, from whom John Culpeper obtained it.

William Moorey, who died in February, 15645, was succeeded by John Culpeper, a cousin of the family at Wakehurst, the head of which, another John, presented him to the Parish Church of Ardingly, and the record is in Reg. F, f. 236, at Chichester. He was ordained Priest by the Bishop of Chichester on 18th March, 15645. According to Mr. Booker, he was the son of Richard Culpeper, one of the many children of Nicholas Culpeper shown in the brass in the Chancel of Ardingly Church.

John Culpeper was Rector of Ardingly from 15645 till his death in 1589. He had a wife and two sons, only one of whom, Richard, survived his father. John was buried in the Church, probably in the Chancel, to which place he was entitled by right as Rector. His will mentions a brother, Richard, to whom he bequeaths forty shillings “yf he be lyvinge and do come hymself to demande the same, and not ells or now otherwise.” He directs “that a sermon be made at my buriall by Mr. Kellingbecke, or by some other learned and discreete mynister and that the said preacher have for his paine vis. viiid.”

Mr. Killingbecke has been called Rector of Ardingly, but there is no foundation for the statement. He was, however, Vicar of Lindfield till 1590, when he resigned. The names of members of his family are found in our parish records up to 1707. Jane Killingbeck, widow, held Tinkers Croft of the Wakehurst property at that date.

John Culpeper left “xxs.to vi. of the poorest and most nedye inhabitants of Erdingleigh.” The due execution of this bequest is recorded in the Parish Register according to Mr. Booker, but does not appear in the printed copy,* “Paid unto the poor of the parish xxs. by Richard Culpeper, Nicholas Baxshill and John Wheeler, the executors of ye said John Culpeper in ye presence of Mr. Ward.” The overseers to his will were Thomas Culpeper, of Neelond, in Balcombe, and Mr. Thomas Boord, of Lyndfeld. The will is in the Registry at Lewes.

For many generations the advowson remained in the hands of the Culpepers and their descendants, the Lyddells, Clarkes and Peytons. In 1875 the Peyton Trustees sold it to the Rev. James Bowden.

*The statement is probably in the parish accounts.

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