Life In Ardingly in the 18th Century

by Mrs Olive Barraclough

Between 1959 and 1961 Olive Barraclough, historian and wife of a master at Ardingly College, wrote a paper entitled, “Some Aspects of Life in Ardingly in the Eighteenth Century.” She built on the research published by Mary Holgate (see Bibliography) and it is published here in the original chapters:

Background – The Manors in Ardingly
The Manor Court of Wakehurst
The Church and Rectors of Ardingly and a note of other professions in the 18th Century
The Poor of the Parish
The Farming Community
The Village Tradesmen


Note on Culpeper landholdings in 1565
Extracts from Manor Court Rolls
Extracts from Inventories

Background – The Manors in Ardingly

The Manors in Ardingly present a very confused and complicated picture. Wakehurst was never a real Manor in its own right but was most important to the Parish. There were six Manors holding land in Ardingly, the four oldest being South Malling, of which Stanmer was a subsidiary, Ditchling, Street and Plumpton Boscage. The Manor of Highly and the Borough of Lewes claimed other small sections. There was, in fact, “no Manor of Ardingly”.(1)

Ardingly lies on the Sussex Weald, north of these Manors, and the clearings in the Wealden Forest which eventually developed into the Village of Ardingly were obviously in origin the assarts, or outliers, of these Manors. This growth of a number of assarts from different Manors into the settlement of Ardingly may have been due to the existence of very ancient tracks which linked some of the Manors with their outliers.

The old road, which stretched across St. John’s Common, through Haywards Heath, past Fulling Mill, Ardingly Church, Wakehurst and on to Selsfield, was the means of access to the outliers of the Manor of Ditchling and it has since been proved to be the line of a Roman Road from Portslade to London. In addition the northern part of the Parish was served by a ridgeway track crossing the London to Brighton way at Selsfield Common.(2)

The River Ouse, which runs through the Parish would have been a natural boundary for the Saxon division of land, probably well established before the Norman invasion and embodied in the Rapes stretching from the South Coast.

The Monks of South Malling held land in Ardingly through two subsidiary manors, Stanmer and Walstead. The Charter founding the College of South Malling, dated 765 A.D., contains the earliest reference to land in Ardingly:

“I Ealdwuf, king have been asked by my thegn Hunlaf to be so good as to grant him a little land for the building of a monastery; and the land is dispersed….. there are 16 hides in the place which is called Stanmer, Lindfield and Burleigh….. These are the names of the swine pastures which pertain to Stanmer; the fishwood and the nook of the followers of Aesc….and Stonehurst and eastwards….etc.”(3)

Stonehurst lies opposite Wakehurst, on the east of the Lindfield to Turners Hill road.

South Malling also held, through its subsidiary, Walstead, parts of the Manor of Wakehurst. From an enquiry taken after the death of John Culpeper, made at East Grinstead on the 24th October, 1565, we find that he was seized of several properties, including the “Manor of Wakehurst, held of Thomas Browne Esq., as of the Manor of Walstead. Co. Sussex, at a rent of 12d. It and the advowson (of Ardingly Church) are worth £7. per ann…”(4). The parts of the Wakehurst estate belonging to Walstead or South Malling were chiefly on the west side of the Lindfield-Turners Hill road but it also includes Mercers (now represented by “The Gardeners Arms” and Hickpots), Great Hapstead, Upper Lodge and Birstye.(5)

The Manor of Ditchling was another important Saxon Manor holding land in Ardingly. After the conquest, this land was kept by William de Warrenne as demesne land. In Domesday we find “William himself holds land in demesne, Ditchling. King Edward held it. It has never paid geld. In the time of King Edward it was assessed at 46 hides….woodland yielding 80 swine.”(6)

William used part of this land to endow the Priory of St. Pancras at Lewes. The church of Ardingly, with its land and customary dues, was one of three mentioned in a charter dated somewhere between 1091 and 1098, made by William de Warrenne the second, confirming grants of his land made to the monks at Lewes. (7) Evidently the church at Ardingly and part of the woodland there was an outlier of Ditchling. In 1255 some of this land (known as Churchlands until about a century ago) was the subject of a dispute between Thomas, Rector of Ardingly, and William de Wakehurst, the former claiming that a house and 218 acres of land belonging to the church were wrongfully held by the latter. The dispute dragged on until 1284, when the 218 acres were supposed to be restored to the Church. In 1287 Robert de Aete, the Rector of Ardingly, brought a further case to obtain possession, apparently unsuccessfully. (8) In the 17th century, Edward Culpeper, a successor to the Wakehurst estates by marriage, heads the list of 19 tenants of the Manor of Ditchling holding land in Ardingly recorded by John Rowe, Steward of the Manors belonging to Lord Bergavenny. Edward Culpeper is shown as holding 200 acres of land known as Churchlands, in addition to other holdings.(9) Belonging to the Manor of Ditchling too were Piercelands and land near the Church, including Knowles, Townhouse, Saucelands, and on towards Cuckfield in the Copyhold Lane area, leading from Ardingly to Cuckfield. Ditchling also held land adjoining Balcombe, marked on the map as belonging to Mr. Newman and Mr. Bray. (9)

Two other important Manors in Ardingly were those of Plumpton Boscage and Street, (10) both held by sub-tenants of William de Warrenne. In Domesday we find “Hugh, son of Ranulf, holds of William, Pluntune: Godwin, the priest held it of Earl Godwin…..there is woodland yielding 20 swine” (11) The entry for Street reads “Ralph (de Caisned) holds of William, Estrat. Lewin held it of King Edward… From the woodland come 16 swine” (12) Parts of the Wakehurst estate were held of the Manor of Plumpton: Bolney Farm, or Baldney, Tillingshurst, to the west of it, Pipstye, in the Strudgate area and an isolated piece of land south of Upper Lodge, called La Cerne and Bedell’s Land. (13) The Manor of Street held lands on the east side of the Lindfield to Turners Hill road, including Withylands, Lywood Farm and Common and Berry. (14)

Apart from the four main manors already mentioned, that of Highly claimed part of the Strudgate (15) area and the Borough of Lewes claimed two small sections, the occupiers of these being included in the book of John Rowe. (16) Originally the tenancy was probably in reverse, one of the Manors holding haws in Lewes.

Finally we turn to Wakehurst. Although it was known as a Manor in Ardingly, its origins are obscure, its owners had, by the 18th Century, grown to be the most important in the district, even if they could not claim manorial rights over a large number of the inhabitants of Ardingly. They were the largest single landowners, combining the ownership of the great house with the patronage of the Church, and had acquired the status of Lords of the Manor in name if not in fact. As it was more closely knit with the district than the other Manors, it is the history of Wakehurst Manor in the l8th Century which will be followed in more detail.

The Manor of Wakehurst was a “reputed” manor, not being held directly from the king. There is no specific mention of it before the 15th Century, but the name is Saxon and it is fair to assume that the Wakehurst family took their name from the Saxon clearing in the Forest of Worth where they lived. The Manor covers land in the near neighbourhood of the house.

In 1205 William de Wakehurst purchased one and a quarter virgates of land in Ardingly from Phillip de Grauele. From then until 1454, when the estate passed by marriage to the Culpepers, there is ample documentary evidence of the importance of the Wakehurst family in Ardingly. (17) In the church there is a brass memorial to Richard Wakehurst and his wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1454. Near it are those of Richard and Nicholas Culpeper, the two brothers whose marriage in that year to the two granddaughters of Richard Wakehurst brought about a lawsuit which includes the first mention of Wakehurst as a “Manor”. Richard Culpeper and Margaret (Wakehurst) had no children, but Nicholas and Elizabeth, the other Wakehurst heiress, had ten sons and eight daughters, all shown in the brass memorial in the Church. Wakehurst remained in the Culpeper family until 1694. The family had reached the height of its prosperity by the end of the 16th century, during the lifetime of Sir Edward Culpeper, who greatly increased the estate and completed the rebuilding of the house in 1590. A hundred years later the whole estate was sold by Sir William Culpeper to pay off his creditors and gambling debts. It was bought by Dennis Lydell for £9,000 in 1694.

Dennis Lydell was a Commissioner of the Navy and he was possibly influenced in his choice by the fact that a friend of his, Charles Sergison, another Navy Commissioner, had recently bought a considerable estate in neighbouring Cuckfield. This sale reflects the general trend of property ownership in the 18th Century when there was a steady increase in the number of estates owned by those “cherishing the ambitions of ending their days on at least level terms with the squires” (18)

We do not know how active a part Dennis Lydell played in the life of the parish. He only held two Manor Courts in Ardingly and he appears to have kept up his London House. In his will dated 18th December, 1714, his address is given as Hart St., London, and no doubt his work as a Navy Commissioner entailed frequent residence in London. He died in 1717 and was buried in Ardingly Church. He bequeathed Wakehurst to his wife, who only survived him for two years, and then to his son Richard.

Richard Lydell also had interests other than at Wakehurst. He was Member of Parliament for Boisney in Cornwall from 1741 until 1746 and was also Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. So little interest in Ardingly did he appear to have that he mortgaged the Wakehurst estate to his brother Charles and his sister Elizabeth in 1729 for £9,000. Perhaps this transaction was the reason for the making of the estate map in 1727. His brother Charles was cited as Lord of the Manor in 1731, although Richard did not die until 1746. He was unmarried when he died and left no will.

Charles Lydell had a much longer and closer connection with Ardingly as he became its Rector in 1724, at the age of 26, and remained so until his death in 1757. That he was held in high esteem is shown by an entry in the diary of Mr. Thomas Turner of East Hoathly, described by Charles Fleet as the “Pepys of Sussex”(19):

“On Sunday, January 9, 1757, died suddenly the Rev. Mr. Lydell, rector of Ardingly, aged fifty nine, a gentleman who, for his extensive knowledge, unlimited charity, general behaviour and other amiable qualities, was an ornament to his profession…..he was possessed of good paternal estate above one thousand pounds a year, and tho’ he lived in the most retired private manner, the yearly income of it was disposed of in assisting his friends in distress and in charity to the poor . . . . .”(20)

These comments, written by someone living about twenty miles from Ardingly, were confirmed by an inscription in the Parish Register, written after his death, which stated that Charles Lydell’s regard for religion was great and suitable to his office “and that his charity was extensive and his benevolence effusive”.(21) Further mention of his work as Rector will be made in the chapter on the Church and Rectors of Ardingly during the 18th Century.

Under Charles Lydell’s will, Wakehurst was left “In tail male” to Richard Clarke, a cousin, and then to Dennis Clarke and Capt. Edward Peyton. The Clarkes held Wakehurst until 1776 when Dennis Clarke, a bachelor, died. There is little evidence of the Clarkes’ connection with Ardingly. The marriage of Richard Clarke to a Mrs. Ann Fytch took place in July 1750 in Ardingly church, but this is the only Clarke entry in the Register. The list of subscribers to a new Bell in 1766 includes a Dr. Clarke, who promised £1. 1. 0. Dennis Clarke was a Doctor of Law, so that this entry may have recorded his subscription. In 1768 his name is included in the list of trustees appointed to erect gates and toll houses for the toll road running through Turners Hill, Hapstead Green, Lindfield and Haywards Heath authorised under the Turnpike Acts.(22)

On the death of Dennis Clarke, Wakehurst passed to the Peyton family, in whose hands it remained until 1869. Capt. Joseph Peyton, who inherited the estate, became a Rear Admiral in 1787 and the family acquired a considerable fortune. However the estate again became security for the debts of the younger Joseph Peyton, mounting to £5,000 in 1799. His father paid off these debts and in his will in 1801 left money in trust for the purchase of freehold farms to consolidate the Wakehurst estate, which then consisted of about 1700 acres.

Thus, at the end of the 18th Century, the chief landholders in Ardingly were in a very sound position for Admiral Joseph Peyton had a considerable fortune and a large family. It looked as if the estate would continue to expand as its owner had obviously hoped when he established the trust fund. It remained in the hands of the Peyton family until 1869 when it was sold to Lady Downshire and it has had a succession of owners since.

Before proceeding to discuss the Manor Courts held at Wakehurst and the officials and tenants who met there, it would be as well to take a brief glimpse of the house itself. It was completed by Sir Edward Culpeper in 1590, on the site of an older house. It was originally a quadrangular building of local sandstone and may have been designed by John Thorpe, architect of several houses in the south of England at that time. The south side must have been pulled down before 1697, as it is not shown on an estate plan of that date.(23) The stables must have been added between then and 1727 as they are shown on the later map, but not on the former. Sir William Burrell (a great—nephew of Timothy Burrell, a Steward of the Manor) mentions Wakehurst in his notes on Sussex houses now in the British Museum, and his manuscripts include a drawing of the house by Grimm, made in 1780. It was considerably reduced in size in the nineteenth century, but retains its character as a typical Elizabethan Manor House. The gardens, but unfortunately not the house, are often opened to the public.

See the Bibliography for details of the references.
1. V.C.H. Vol. 7. P.129.
2. Margery. Ch.6.
3. S.A.C. Vol. 86, P.87
4. Loder, P.37. (Fuller details of this enquiry are given in the appendix as an example of the complicated pattern of land holding in Ardingly).
5. Mary Holgate. Plc. Names of Ard. P. 4, 10, 33
6. VCH.Vol 1, P388
7. S.R.S. ,Vol. XXXVIII. P. 9-15.
8. Mary Holgate. Plc. Names of Ard. No.22
9. S.R.S. ,Vol. XXXIV, P50, 53.
10. VCH, Vol.7, P129
11.&12. VCH, Vol. 1, p441
13. Holgate, Place names of Ard. Nos. 20, 21.
14. Holgate, Place names of Ard., Nos. 4.10.33
15. See Appendix on Culpeper land holding in 1565.
16. SRS. Vol XXXIV, P16
17. The facts on the history of Wakehurst Manor and its owners have been taken from Sir Gerald Loder’s book and Miss Holgate’s notes.
18. Ashton, P.34.
19. Fleet, P.3O.
20. SAC Vol XI, P189
21. Loder; P.81
22. Mary Holgate, Notes for the History of Ardingly.
23. Loder, P.110. (unfortunately a copy of the 1697 estate plan is not available.)