The Farming Community

When discussing the 18th Century, the term “enclosure” often looms large, but in Ardingly the parish had long been enclosed into farms of varying sizes. The schedule for the 1727 estate map shows that of the farms belonging to the Wakehurst estate in the parish, there were three of over 200 acres, occupied by William Chatfield, Thomas Fieldwick and William Tully, two between 100 and 200 acres and two under 50 acres.(1)

This well established pattern of enclosed farms was no doubt due to the development of the outliers of the Saxon Manors, already described in the first chapter. There is some slight evidence of a possible manorial system of farming in the place names still existing in the 18th Century (and some up to the present time.) There were three small areas of common land, Lywood Common, Binghams Green and Hapstead Green. The name of the fields, Eastlands, near Lywood, and Westlands, to the north of the parish, denote the possible sites of the common ploughlands.(2) The name “Tinkers’ Croft” may have been one of the stinted pastures allocated to people practising a trade generally useful to the Village. In spite of this evidence, the fact remains that none of the Manors, nor the parish of Ardingly, is mentioned in “Sussex Enclosure Acts and Awards“, the nearest land being that belonging to the Manor of Keymer, lying in the neighbouring parish of Balcombe, enclosed in 1829.(3) Indeed it is fair to say that the pattern of farms, though not of course farming methods, is more or less the same today, making allowances for the land absorbed by building development. There are still several farms of between 100 and 200 acres and a large amount of woodland, which impedes the creation of the very large farms which are becoming typical of more open country.

As far as farming methods are concerned, these seem to have remained the same for generations and Ardingly, together with the country as a whole “had made no general advance on the agriculture of the 13th Century”(4) However, the cause of the stagnation here was not so much the open field system of farming but the reluctance to give up traditional methods and to very poor communications. An interesting light is thrown on the lives of the farming community by inventories “which had to be produced at the time of the granting of probate of a will or at the issuing of letters of administration, if the person died intestate”. The list had to include the deceased’s “household stuff, money, debts, plate, clothes, jewels, cattle, poultry, corn, hay and felled timber.…

Certain effects need not be listed, fish, conies, deer or pigeons, found in pond, warren, park or dovehouse, but these were liable for inclusion if tame. Things affixed to the tenement and thereby made part of the freehold were not put in an inventory and neither were goods to which a husband was entitled in right of his wife. (This may account for the absence of greater quantities of valuables in the inventories of some of the wealthier persons”)(5) Steer also adds “although appraisers were required to be honest and skilful persons, the majority of them were illiterate, and even allowing for the change in the purchasing power of money during the last two or three hundred years, some of their valuations were ridiculously low”.(6) As Steer’s work for Essex covered much the same period as these to be quoted for Ardingly, his comments have some relevance in the present case.

With the inventories and other evidence it is possible to build quite a vivid picture of the life of the yeoman farmers in Ardingly in the 18th Century. Two families for which inventories exist were of considerable importance in the parish: one the Nicholas family of Stone Place, now Stonelands, to the eastern side of the Ardingly to Turners Hill Road, facing the Wakehurst estate, and the other the Tully family who farmed the land on both sides of Ardingly Street, leading to the Church from Hapstead Green. Two other farmers with long inventories were Edmund Davey and John Langridge. William and Abraham Nicholas appear in the list of five Parliamentary votes for Ardingly in 1705. William Nicholas appears again in 1734 in the Sussex Poll Book and again in 1774.(7) Between 1785 and 1792, Thomas, Anne, James and Mary Nicholas were baptised in Ardingly Church. They were the children of Abraham and Anne Nicholas.(8) It seems therefore that the family were well established in Ardingly in the 18th Century. Although most of their estate was in West Hoathly, their house was in Ardingly and got its name, the oldest in the Village, from the “Big-Upon-Little” stone, which is mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Charter of 765 A.D. already referred to on Page 1. The inventory of the goods of Abraham Nicholas, who died in January, 1719, gives some indication of his social standing. He seems to have been more of a “gentleman” than a “Yeoman” farmer, since the farming equipment and stock was not considerable, though there may have been other reasons for this. The house had four bedrooms, and two garrets used as storerooms. There was a parlour with a table, presumably of some size, since there were also twelve leather chairs and two stools. In the Parlour Chamber, apart from the bed and its fittings, there was a dressing table with drawers and mirrors, “a silver tankard and bowle, 8 spoons, 9 silver cups and a cuzzole”. Quite a quantity of fine linen sheets and napkins is listed, and £100. is shown as “Money at Interest”.

On the farming side there were only 5 cows, 1 heifer, 1 horse and 2 pigs. The farm equipment listed includes a wagon. 3 harrows and “1 plow and rouler”. These with a “Mow of Hay in the barn”, 11 bushels of oats and 3 of peas and beans (presumably for seed since they were stored in the garret), some faggots and hop poles, complete the list of farming equipment and stock which is not nearly as considerable as that of some of the other farmers who had more cows in their byres but less silver in their bedchambers.(9)

The Tully family had been established in Ardingly at least since the middle of the sixteenth century, when Harman Tulli is mentioned in a list of taxpayers of 1549, where he is described as an alien.(10) The William Tully, of Tully’s farm shown on the 1727 map, was tenant of lands known as Cook’s Farm, Churchlands, Cheesman’s farm, Wheeler’s field, Tinker’s Croft and Kitfield (rented from Dennis Lydell for £89. a year, according to the latter’s will of 1714.)(11) There is also a map, dated 1711, of “Tinker’s Croft, Wheeler’s Field and Barn, Kitfield and Barn, Kitfield Grove, the Oast House and Orchard — free hold lands purchased by Dennis Lydell, Esq. of Mr. James Tully Anno 1711”.(12) This James, presumably William’s father, appears as a juror and also as a purchaser of Wheelers‘ field and Tinker’s Croft at the Wakehurst Court Baron of 1708. One wonders why he decided to sell his freehold lands to Dennis Lydell. Possibly he purchased other property in East Grinstead, since the Ardingly register records his death in 1729 and described him “of East Grinstead”. His widow, Elizabeth, is also described as “of East Grinstead” in her will dated 1741, in which she left 50/- to the poor of Ardingly”.(12) James’ son, William, the tenant of Tully’s farm, had married in 1704.(12) and perhaps, after some years, James decided to leave his son to farm in Ardingly, and possibly purchased the property in East Grinstead with the money he raised by selling the freehold to Dennis Lydell.

James Tully had a younger brother, Thomas, who occupied land near the church, shown on the 1711 map, which belonged to Dennis Lydell and for which he paid a rent of £26. a year. He therefore farmed on a smaller scale than his nephew William though, judging from the list of farming equipment in the inventory, on a larger scale than Abraham Nicholas. An extract from the will of John Tully, father of James and Thomas reads

“To my son James my customary or copyhold messuage holden of the Manor of Ditchling known as Knowles, Dences or Denches, 40 acres. My son Thomas to enjoy the messuage and land now occupied by him, being part of the land demised to me by Dennis Lydell for term of lease on condition of payment of £26. rent to my executors.”(13)

The house Thomas Tully occupied had three bedrooms and a garret, a pantry, two drink butteries, a brew house and a kitchen. There was quite an assortment of fine sheets and napkins, some silver “stones” and a silver cup. There were 34 cheeses in the pantry, and amongst other things, three bags of hops. Outside equipment also included “hop poles, well Bucket and a grindstone, value at £6. 0. 0.” The stock listed included “7 cows and 2 oxen, 5 young beefs and 3 calves, 2 horses and their hay, 8 pigs and 4 hogs.” In addition there was a store of wheat and oats worth £60.0.0.(14)

Both Thomas Tully and Abraham Nicholas served as Churchwardens, the former in 1712 and the latter in 1701.(15)

There is a considerable inventory of goods belonging to James Langridge drawn up on the 22nd August, 1723. Although the name Langridge crops up frequently in Ardingly material it is not easy to discover which end he farmed. A John Langridge built a house on land belonging to Wakehurst Manor and enclosed an extra three—quarters of an acre near Hapstead Green at the end of the 17th Century.(16) The Wakehurst estate acquired land from the Langridge family in West Hoathly in 1589, known as Langridgelands.(17) The inventory considered here clearly states “John Langridge of Ardingly” and one of the assessors was John Pilbeam, who farmed the land next to Baldney or Bolney. In John Langridge’s will he left his estate to Elizabeth Langridge, his mother, who was married to a Mr. Charles Ward; there are records of the Ward family holding land in Ardingly at the end of the 18th Century.(18) Possibly his farm lay on the West Hoathly side of the Ardingly to Turners Hill Road, in the area left blank on the estate map. Reference to the Court Books of South Malling is probably necessary here, to confirm this.

His house consisted of Kitchen, Hall and Buttery, with three bedrooms and garret, with a Milk—house, Bake—house, Cheese-house and Brew-house. He had a considerable quantity of stock:— “5 two yearlings, 4 twelve—monthlings, 17 ewes, 20 lambs, 6 cows, 2 runts, 3 calves, 8 shoats, 6 small pigs and sow, 2 horses, a mare and colt” He had a quantity of wheat which was stored in the barn worth £40., pease valued at £16. and clover worth £13. Oats in the straw were valued at £45.0.0″.(19) This list of stock and crops may seem large compared with others because of the time of year. Obviously some of the harvest had only just been gathered in and had not been sold before John Langridge died.

The last farming inventory is that of Edmund Davey, described as a “husbandman”, dated August, 1736. He farmed the 60 odd acres shown as “Hillands” or “Davies farm” on the bottom left—hand corner of the 1727 map. In the Parish accounts for 1731 there is an item recording that 18s. was paid to “Edmund Davey for carrying timber to Rybridge”(20) which is near his farm and noted in his inventory is “a timber carriage with 4 wheels” valued at £5.0.0.(21) He had a waggon, an ox—harrow, three horse—harrows and three “plows”. One can almost see the assessors walking from field to field as they note down his cattle as follows:- “4 oxen, 8 calves, 7 cows, 5 young cows, 8 more, 7 cows and a bool”. In addition he had 17 sheep, 7 horses and 4 hogs. Standing hops were valued at £20. and oats in the straw at £18., wheat in the straw at £36., pease at £6,. and hay at £10. Apparently the women of his family were most industrious since in the parlour there were three spinning wheels, and included in the inventory were twelve pairs of sheets worth £4.16.0 and new cloth worth £3.10.0. There were three bedrooms in the house and downstairs there was a Kitchen, Parlour, Brewhouse and Bakehouse.

To summarise these inventories, extracts from which are given in the Appendix, one can say that the main crops grown in Ardingly in the 18th Century were wheat, oats, clover, peas and beans, together with a considerable quantity of hops (a crop no longer seen in this area.) No mention is made of root crops. It was obviously too early for the farming methods of Townshend to have spread from Norfolk (where he died in 1738) to Sussex. The stock was chiefly cows, pigs and a few sheep, with oxen and horses used for draught and ploughing. This use of oxen continued late into the 19th Century, no doubt because of their suitability for the very heavy soil. An advertisement in the Sussex Advertiser of 25th Sept., listing the effects of Mr. P. Penfold, who was “declining business at Knowle Farm Ardingly” included “8 fine working oxen”.(22) Writing between 1915 and 1925, Mary Holgate mentioned an old inhabitant who had recently died “who remembered bringing stone for the building of the school (completed in Sep. 1848) from Philpots quarry, up Cob Lane and across the fields to the school. His team were oxen; there was no jibbing at the hill and wherever their broad horns could go there was room for any vehicle.”(23) In the same series of notes it is recorded that “old people remember the oxen bringing bales of wool or blankets up from Fulling Mill, after the yarn spun at the Workhouse had been dyed and woven.”(23)

To return to the farming stock listed in the inventories, there is no mention of poultry except for a solitary hen-coop in Steven Robrough’s inventory but this is probably due to the fact that hens, geese, ducks etc. traditionally belong to the farmer’s wife and therefore were not included in his property.

The farming machinery was of the simplest — ploughs, harows, rakes, and a farm wagon or cart. No seed drills appear in the lists and the methods and machinery of Jethro Till were, like those of Townshend, probably a closed book to Ardingly farmers.

It is probable that the lack of winter feed due to traditional farming methods, giving poor crop yields, still necessitated the killing of cattle when winter set in. It may be significant that Abraham Nicholas, who died in February, had far died in against writes, pork in writers less cattle than John Langridge and Edmund Davey, who August. Fussell, however, sounds a note of warning this assumption. “A good many beasts were killed” he writes, “sheep were sold and pigs made into bacon and pickled the autumn and winter months“, but all our contemporary give one piece of advice that takes an opposite direction: “About this time” (September) says one “make an end of selling such cattle as you bought in the Spring, for they are now as well fed as you can expect them; and buy in fresh cattle to fatten against Christmas or the Spring”. This advice, continues Fussell, “is uniformly repeated by others, so that the hay and simple forage crops known to the people of the pre-Norfolk course age must have had some efficacy.”(24) Perhaps there is some support for this proposition in the amount of “Old Hay” included in John Langridge’s inventory and valued at £9. 0. 0. this implies that at least in the winter of 1722 to 1723 there was no shortage of feeding stuffs on his farm.

The glimpses of the interiors of the farmhouses given in the inventories are very vivid and the lists of equipment in kitchen, parlour and bed-chamber are brought to life in local museums such as Anne of Cleaves House and Barbican House in Lewes. The long massive table which often filled the centre of the parlour or kitchen was a treasured possession, passed from father to son. John Tully, in his will of 1701, bequeathed to “my son James one longe table standing in the parlour of the house wherein I now dwell, and also one large joined press in the hall chamber.(25) In Sussex most of the furniture would be locally made, of oak. Besides the table there would be oak chairs and stools, possibly a dresser or cupboard and, mentioned in nearly every inventory, one or two spinning wheels for linen and wool. There is no mention of curtains, other than for beds, except for those of Maria Pollard, widow, who died in 1719, and who, incidentally, owned three bibles at the time of her death. No china or glass is mentioned except for 2½ dozen glass bottles on the premises of William Wicking, shoemaker (21.8.1741). All the plates and dishes seem to have been of pewter, with cooking utensils of iron, copper or brass. These farmers, who grew their own hops and brewed their own beer, were probably slow to take to the habit of tea-drinking and china or porcelain would be for more elegant households. Possibly inventories at the end of the century might have included these items.

Objects which constantly occur in the inventories are fire- irons, bellows, jacks and pot—hooks, warming pans. guns and pistols. Stephen Robrough, Thomas Tully and William Wicking all had clocks. William Wicking (died 1741) and Thomas Steer (died 1743) both had box-irons, which contained hot iron or burning charcoal, and which do not appear in earlier inventories. Like the table, the family bed was often of considerable value, and obviously the most important item in the bed-chamber. The best bed and fittings was given a value of between £4. and £6. Distinction was drawn between feather or chaff beds and a separate valuation was put on the fine linen sheets and pillow “coats“, the difference between fine and coarse linen being indicated. The working quarters of the farmhouse were considerable:- Milkhouse or Buttery, Brewhouse, Bakehouse, Vinegar or Drink Room, etc., quite apart from the kitchen. The farms were practically self-supporting and the farmers’ wives must have been kept extremely busy. Large quantities of beer were brewed at home and, apart from ordinary bread-making, cooking and butter making, cheese was apparently made on quite a large scale. There were 34 cheeses in Thomas Tully’s pantry and 28 in the buttery in Abraham Nicholas’ house. No farmhouse inventory seemed complete without its powdering tub, sometimes with “poark in it“. Sussex farms were evidently noted for their “poark“. Dr. Burtion wrote “in their cooking, being neither dainty nor expensive, they care most for pork, which indeed they prepare skilfully by steeping in brine”. One feels that this preference for pork was probably largely conditioned by the habits of centuries and by the abundant supply of acorns from the oak woods which were the “swine pastures” of Anglo-Saxon times, as well as of the 12th century.

A collection of words used in the inventory of Thomas Steer, whose trade or profession is not clear, and who died in December, 1743,(27) gives some interesting examples of Sussex dialect and throws further light on the life of the village people. In the Brewhouse there was a “bucking tubb, two keelers, a stallage and a firm”. These turn out to be a wash tub, two shallow tubs for cooling beer, a stool on which the cask of beer was placed in the cellar, and a form.(28) Not all the unfamiliar names in the inventories could be traced, but mention may be made of some. A “seed lipp” was included in John Langridge’s inventory, and this was a shallow basket shaped to the body, used for sowing seed broadcast. A “pair of rods” were the shafts of a cart or wagon.

The equipment of William Box, a tradesman, who will be mentioned further, included a “wimble” which was a hook with two handles for twisting up hay or straw, a “twinbill” which was a combination of a small axe and an adze used for making mortices in the stakes of hurdles, and a “scuppit“. This was a wooden shovel used by maltsters and hop-driers and gives further evidence of the growing and drying of hops in this area. These tools, and the others in William Box’s inventory show the close link between the farming community and the tradesmen of the village who form the subject of the next chapter.

1. Loder P83-90
2. Mary Holgate, Place Names of Ardingly, No.9
(3) W.E. Tate, P.35.
4. Protjeroe P.195
(5) F.W.S. Steer, P.4. (Inventories of Mid-Essex.)
(6) Steer, P.4
(7) Mary Holgate.
(8) Booker, Ms. Vol. 7.
(9) Inventory,1719, E.Sussex RO. Archdeaconry of Lewes.
(10) Mary Holgate, Place Names of Ardingly, No.25
(11) Loder, P.73.
(12) Booker Ms. Vol.1. P.57..
(13) Mary Holgate, Place Names of Ardingy, No.26.
(14) Inventories,1719. E. SUSSEX Record Office. Archdeaconry of Lewes.
(15) Loder P.207.
(16) Mary Holgate. Plc. Names of Ard. No. 40.
(17) Loder, P.51.
(18) Ibid. No.43
(19) Inventory. 1723, E. Sussex R.O.3
(20) Loder, P.220.
(21) Ibid, 1736.
(22) Loder . P257.
(23) Mary Holgate, “From Generation to Generation”.
(24) Fussell, P.55.
(25) Mary Holgate, Place Names of Ardingly No. 26.
(26) Fleet, P 290
(27) Inventory, 1743. E. Sussex R.O.
(28) Dictionary of Sussex Dialect.