The Church and Rectors of Ardingly and a note of other professions in the 18th Century

A glance at the map of 1727 will show that, apart from isolated farms, houses in Ardingly were concentrated round the Church and in the area near the cross-roads known as Hapstead Green. The actual village of Ardingly was, however, the area near the church and in the 18th Century the church must have seemed as much the centre of the village as it was (and is) of the actual parish.

The first 18th Century description we have of the church is contained in a report made by Tomas Pierce, Rector of St. Mary, Westout, dated 8th April, 1724. It is included in a return made to the Bishop of Lewes concerning the parishes of the Deanery of Lewes. It states:—

“Richard Lydell Esq. Patron, Chas Lydell, Rector. Church out of repair, but shortly to be repaired. A poor box. Four bells. The chancel repaired by Rector who is now repairing it. The mansion house and outhouses left under great dilapidation by the late incumbent, but shortly to be repaired or rebuilt by the present Rector. 40 families, 7 acres of plain land, Glebe”.(1)

Two later descriptions of the Church come at the end of the 18th Century, and are contained in the manuscripts of Sir William Burrell. On his first visit in 1775 he described the Church as “small, consisting of a nave and south aisle which, as well as the chancel, is in tolerable repair. It is well paved. The walls are green and the monuments in the Chancel very nasty”.

In a second visit in 1782 he described it as “having a Tower Steeple with four bells. The roof is of Horsham stone. The church is ceiled, pewed, well paved with tyles and has a gallery at the west end of the Nave. A south aisle belongs to Wakehurst”.(2)

One of the bells Sir William mentioned was made in 1719. It is inscribed “John Waylett fecit 1719”. Several items concerning this bell appears in the Churchwarden’s accounts for the years 1719-1720:(3)

“Paid John Francis for carrying the bell and fetching it from Horsham. ….. £ 1. 0. 0
Paid a bill to George Box about ye bell 15. 9.
Paid to Richard Pilbeam for the bells £5. 7. 0.
To pay to Stephen Roborough for the bell. £12. 5. 0.

Another new bell was installed in 1766 and among the papers of the Newman family is a list of subscribers headed:—

“All landholders and other persons belonging to the parish of Ardingly are desired to subscribe their names and give what money they please towards the purchase of a new bell, and if there remains any money more than what the Bell will amount to, that is thought necessary, to be distributed amongst the poor of the Parish that are not in the Workhouse.”

The list is undated but the bell is inscribed “N.C. and E.F. Churchwardens, Wm. Newman and John Wicking chief subscribers (as in fact they are on the list) Lester and Parke of London fecit,1766.”

Another point of interest arising from the records is that the porch of the Church was still being used as a place for the settlement of business transactions at the beginning of the 18th Century. The will of John Tully, yeoman, of Knowles, dated 24th February,1701, left all his freehold lands in Ardingly to his son James Tully, on condition that he would cancel two obligations entered in to by his brother, John Tully “at or in the Church porch of ye parish Church of Ardingly between the hours of 12 noon and 5 in the afternoon….”(4)

From 1667 to 1805 there were only three Rectors in ArdinglyStephen Roborough from 1667 to 1723, Charles Lydell, from 1724 to 1757, and Timothy Browne from 1757 to 1805. Stephen Roborough died in November 1723, aged 89, and there is no doubt that the Church and parish suffered from neglect at the end of his long ministry. This is evidenced by the report quoted above made to the Bishop of Lewes. His son, also Stephen Roborough, acted as Churchwarden during the later years, and tried to keep things going (as in the case of the new bell) but the Church and Registers were sadly neglected.(5) Stephen Roborough’s will, quoted by Mary Holgate, shows that his property was considerable, but he seemed to have lived very humbly, judging by an inventory of the contents of the Rectory taken in 1724,(6) and the bad state of repair in which it was left.

From the inventory it can be gathered that the Rectory must have been quite small, with three bedrooms, (the great chamber, the “chamber over the kitchen” and garret). Downstairs there was a little parlour, kitchen and sink room, buttery, brewhouse and vinegar house.

The wheat stored in the garret, the harrows, troughs, hen coops, hop—poles, horse, colt and two hogs indicate that the Rector farmed his seven acres of glebe land in a small way. As might be expected however, he also had the appurtenances of a gentleman. There were books in the “library”, dress glasses, two gold rings and some silver plates. An unusual item is “chyrugeous instruments”— possibly the Rector or his son may have acted in some capacity as a doctor, or may they have been used for “bleeding” the horses.(7) “Dubious debts” to the amount of £25. 0. 0. were also listed.

Stephen Roborough was succeeded as Rector by Charles Lydell, who later inherited the Wakehurst estate from his brother Richard. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, taking his B.C.L. degree in 1724, and on the death of Stephen Roborough, took Holy Orders, with the definite intention of becoming Rector of Ardingly, under his brother’s patronage. An account of his ordination is given in the Ardingly Register and signed by John Wicking and Wm. Nicholas, Churchwardens.(8)

In spite of his rather hasty ordination and induction, Charles Lydell served Ardingly well for thirtythree years. He carried out the repairs mentioned in the report to the Bishop of Lewes and probably installed the fashionable high pews mentioned by Sir William Burrell. He had the family vault made below the floor of the Wakehurst aisle and possibly the stone tablets with the Commandments, Creed and Lord’s Prayer were erected when these alterations were made. The parish accounts of 5th April, 1732 mention £36. 2. 6d as being paid to the Rev. Lydell for ornaments for the Church.(9) Another entry on the flyleaf of this particular account mentions a silver salver given by Elizabeth Lydell, Charles’ sister who died unmarried in 1738.(9) Charles and his sister probably lived together at Wakehurst when he took over the estate some years before his brother’s death in 1746. As has already been mentioned, he died in 1757, held in great esteem by his parishioners. The Ardingly Register of January 20th 1757 has the following note about this:—

“The most worthy Rector of this place, whose regard for religion was great and suitable to his office, whose Faith was truly Christian, orthodox and Apostolic, whose charity was extensive, whose piety was exemplary, whose benevolence diffusive . . . .”(10)

His reputation lived on after his death as Sir William Burrell described him many years later as “a very good man”.(9)

The Reverend Timothy Browne was the next Rector of Ardingly and he was also vicar of West Hoathly. He evidently lived in Ardingly with his father and mother since there is a memorial to them in the Church. His wife, Elizabeth was many years younger than he. Apart from his living as Rector and Vicar, he owned Great Saucelands farm and a cottage (probably Little Saucelands)(11) and his name is given on a list of subscribers to the Ouse Navigation scheme in 1789 for the sum of £100.(12) He was apparently a man of some means and was one of the eight voters mentioned for Ardingly in the list of Parliamentary voters in 1774.(13) He died at the age of 83 in the year 1804. His wife Elizabeth died in 1824, aged 77.

It will be seen, from these three long ministries, that the relationship between Church and Parish in the 18th Century in Ardingly was probably a most peaceful one. There had been a period of turbulence during the Civil War when Sir William Culpeper’s nominees did not meet with the approval of the Committee of Plundered Ministers who dismissed the Rector, Richard Teynton, in 1643 and appointed a puritan, John Winge, and then John Braine, who replaced another nominee of Sir William, so that between 1642 and 1644 there were four different Rectors(14). There were no records between 1645 and 1661, but in 1662 Ralph Rotheram is confirmed as Rector and Stephen Roborough followed in 1667.

The Reports to the Board of Agriculture on Sussex dealing with the Collection of Tithes between 1793 and 1815 mentioned that for the County “Compositions average 4/6d. an acre for wheat, 2/6d for barley, oats, pease or beans; pasture and meadows. These compositions are generally allowed to be moderate and very fair”(15) However, at the end of our period the first warnings of future trouble occur at Ardingly. An extract from The Courier and Evening Gazette dated Tuesday, 22nd April 1800, reads:—

“One day last week a number of labourers assembled at Ardingly in Sussex and went in a body to the parish officers and informed them that unless their wages were augmented they could not buy bread for their families, and must in consequence become burthensome. After which they dispersed and went quietly to their respective homes.”(16)

The dissatisfaction gradually mounted through the early part of the nineteenth century and in October 1829 flared up again, resentment being particularly strong against the system of tithe collection which had been farmed out to a tithe contractor. So strong was the feeling that the Ardingly parishioners took the law into their own hands and burnt down the Tithe Barn(17) and the incident was reported in The Brighton Guardian of 18th October, 1829. The dispute was still not settled in 1835.

It was sad that the peaceful relationship existing in the 13th Century had gone and that the growing economic difficulties of country people in the 19th century should have crystallised into opposition to the Church because of mismanagement of the tithe Collections.

This is possibly a suitable place to insert a few notes on members of professions other than the Church and the Law, who may have been connected with Ardingly in the 18th Century. So far as the Law was concerned most legal matters connected with Ardingly would probably have been dealt with by Counsellor Burrell, the Wardens and Mr. Waller, who have already been mentioned as stewards of Wakehurst manor. Their signatures have been found on several legal documents of the period.(18) In the Parish Accounts we find two items for 1802:-

pd. Mr. Waller’s attorney’s bill……..£ 6. 11. 6.
pd, Mr. Waller, Attorney, Cuckfield, on a/c of Wm. George to the Parish of Chichester £15. 10. 0(19)

With regard to Doctors, it is unlikely that Ardingly had its own doctor resident in the village (it does not have one today) but there are one or two references worth mentioning. The chyrugeous instruments included in the inventory of Stephen Roborough have already been referred to(20) (right at the end of the century) there is an item (for 1791) in the Parish Accounts. “Pd to Mr Richard Chatfield years pay for doctoring poor, £5. 5. 0.” and in 1796, “Pd Mr Ward, sirgion, years pay £6. 6. 0.”(21)

The other occupation regarded as a profession today, but probably not in the 18th Century, was that of school-mastering. The present School was not erected until 1848, but there is evidence that education of a sort was being given in the village. The assessors whose names appear at the end of the inventories were all small farmers, but the handwriting, though varied was clear and legible, and the spelling, though admittedly eccentric, didn’t present the difficulties of the examples given by Tate in his Glossary.(22) The first reference to schools comes in 1811 in the Parish Accounts:—

1811 Pd. Richard Williams a schoolbill… £1. 4. 3.
1814 Pd. Richard Williams instruments for school…………. £1. 0. 0.(23)

In 1812 a house near the junction of Ardingly Street and the Lindfield-Turners Hill Road was sold by William Attree, schoolmaster.”(24) In 1822 there is mention of Dame School run by a Miss Ann Heasman.(25) The 1834 edition of Pigott’s Directory mentions William Attree again, as a schoolmaster, and in 1839 there was an “Academy” kept by Elizabeth Attree.(26)

(1) Mary Holgate. From Generation to Generation, 18th Century. (Notes printed in Parish Magazine, pages unnumbered.)
(2) Mary Holgate, Notes for History of Ardingly. 18th C.
(3) Loder, P.234.
(4) Loder. P.234
(5) Mary Holgate, Notes for History of Ardingly.
(6) Inventory, 1724, E. Sussex R.O. Archdeaconry of Lewes.
(7) Fussell, P.57.
(8) Loder, P.79.
(9) Mary Holgate, Notes for the history of Ardingly.
(10) Loder, P.81
(11) Place Names of Ardingly (Mary Holgate) No. 29.
(12) Booker Ms. Vo. I. P.55, (quoting Burrell Ms.)
(13) Mary Holgate, Notes for the History of Ardingly.
(14) Loder, P.62 and 204.
(15) Protheroe, Appendix VI.
(16) Loder, P.246.
17. Loder, P.247.
18. In particular documents belonging to the Newman family.
19. Loder, P.222.
20. See Page 13.
21. Loder, P. 221.
22. Tate, The Parish Chest P 302
23. Loder, P 223 (Extracts from Parish accounts)
24. Mary Holgate, From Generation to Generation
25. Ibid, Place Names of Ardingly No 41
26. As for 2.

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