The Thirteenth Century

The thirteenth century brings within our ken names and places which are well known to us all and which makes us feel our continuity with the past which underlies the whole of our present-day life.

The names of three of our earliest known Rectors are preserved to us, and Wakehurst itself first comes into view through the record of legal proceedings between them and one William de Wakehurst, who had got possession of property belonging to the Church. Quentinus, who was parson in the reign of King John (1199-12041), apparently held the property, but his successor, Thomas, found William de Wakehurst in possession. William tried to settle with Thomas by giving him in exchange, in 1255, a house, garden and croft called the Welpytle, (Wellplot) but the following Rector, Robert de Aete, (de Aeth in Flanders?) disputed the power of his predecessor Thomas to agree to settlements of property belonging to the Church. The first trial at the Sussex Assize, in 1278, went against Robert de Aete, but he appealed against the verdict and won his case for the restoration of the land to the Church in 1284.

In the Assize Roll for 1278 we also find other familiar names, as William de Honeycombe (or Horneycombe) sought to recover 17 acres of land which he had inherited from Humphery de Hykeport, but which somehow or other had fallen into the hands of William de Wakehurst. Horncombe and Hickpotts still remain, although of course the present buildings do not date back to the 13th century. The old spelling of Hykeport may throw a light on the meaning of the name – the high gate. It stands where the old track now falls into the main road. There are few still living who remember the walking postman who, starting from East Grinstead, came through West Hoathly, and, following this old way, crossed the modern road at Hickpotts, took a path across Humpherys field (the stile was opposite, a little to the south of Hickpotts) to Ardingly Church and on to Balcombe; but anyone who has approached Hickpotts from the West Hoathly side can appreciate the sense of our forefathers if they did call it the High gate.

It would be difficult to prove that Humphery’s field is the very bit of land which Humphery of Hickpotts left to William of Horncombe, for the possession of which he sued his neighbour of Wakehurst, but weaker clues than that have been proved true.

In 1278 we also have record of another neighbour of William of Wakehurst in Richard de la Strode. We have here a place-name in the making. Strudgate, as we know it, has added a distinctive syllable to its name, and stands in a wide clearing now, but still is it in the heart of the woods, and little imagination is required to see how well it justified its Saxon name when 600 years and more ago the forest was thick about it – Strode meaning a dwelling among trees. All the names hitherto mentioned relate to holdings within the parish, and are good examples of how many families got their surnames from the land where they dwelt.

There is also a record of one to whom the parish at large gave its name in John de Erdingeleth, who was ordained at South Malling, in 1286-7, to one of the lesser orders of the Church.

The chief origins of surnames are place-names as above, paternal or baptismal names as we now call them, such as ‘John-son,’ and occupation-names such as ‘Baker.’ Our Saxon forefathers favoured the first custom – the Scandinavian settlers in the Eastern counties had followed the second plan before they came over the North Sea, while the third class are mostly of medieval origin and are typically English.

During this century the over-lordship of Ardingly was held by the Bardolfs, into whose family it was probably brought by the marriage of Beatrix Warren. The name remains in that of the Manor of Lindfield Bardolf, into whose records we shall have to look when we come to the history of the various farms within this parish. Another great manor which concerns Ardingly is that of Burleigh. If we look at a large scale ordnance map we shall find a farm called Burleigh Arches to the N.W. of Fen Place in Turners Hill parish, and we shall also see the same name in large letters printed across the parish of Lindfield. The manor of Burle, as it used to be spelt, belonged to the Archbishops of Canterbury, hence “Arches,” which is short for Archiepiscopal, and it gave its name to the hundred which Lindfield (also held by the Archbishops) represents.

Parishes and manors are not the same in their boundaries, and in those early days the tenants are frequently classed with the manors of which they held their lands rather than with the parishes in which those lands lay. Hence the need of looking outside our own borders.

The thirteenth century was a time when the Constitution of England was in the making. We have all heard of the winning of the great Charter from King John and the Battle of Lewes, so near our own home, in 1264. The fight for free government was going on then, and we owe much to those long past generations who laid the foundations of much of England’s greatness.

The evolution of Parliament as representing the taxpayers was being carried out, and in the early records still extant we find some Ardingly names. In the Lay Subsidy Roll of 1296 we find the following names :—David de Byrchenestye, Wm de Bokesulle, Wm de Tytyngehurst, Rd de Wakehurst, John atte Northcote, Ph. de Bacselue, Wm atte Stone, Galfro atte Gore. Burstye, Tillinghurst, Wakehurst, Stone and Gore are place-names well known to us in their present form, while the Backshall family has still many representatives.

Among the tenants of Hugh Bardoif in the same taxation we find John Piryman, a name now transformed into Pearmints, and John Cobbe, of whose family Cobb Lane is probably a memorial.

The above relates to the taxation of the laity, but there is an earlier taxation of the Ecclesiastical Benefices which includes Ardingly. This is the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV., who in 1288 granted a tenth of all Benefices for six years to King Edward I. towards defraying the expense of an expedition to the Holy Land. The valuation was completed in 1291. It is a most important record, as all the taxes, both King’s and Pope’s, were regulated by it up till 1533. In it we find the following concerning our own Church property:

Ecclia de Hertingeligh … £20
In Herdinglegg ….3s.

The first entry refers to Temporalities, the second to Spiritualities.

The men of those days were builders whose skill has rarely been equalled. The greater part of Westminster Abbey was built during the latter half of the 13th century, and Reims Cathedral, the destruction of which has been a grief to the world, also dates from that time. Our own church shows no definite mark of their craft, although the clustered shafts of the responds in the south aisle have a likeness to their style; but West Hoathly, Cuckfield and Lindfield all owe much to the men of that time. From 1244-55 the Diocese of Chichester was ruled by Richard de Wych, one of the few Englishmen whose saintly names are preserved in the calendar of our Prayer Book. Written in black to distinguish them, from the greater saints of Our Lord’s time, which were written in red, they have come to be known as Black Letter Saints. April 3rd, Richard, Bp., is all the record. The thirteenth century shows us not only the building of a nation and the triumph of Gothic Architecture, but the growth of Christian character, the foundation of which is Humility.

1) Correction: 1199-1216

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