Bottom of the village

From 1759 we have a consecutive history, contained in the Ditchling Manor books, of the island site at the bottom of the village, now belonging to Mr. Sidney Munnion. On October 9th, 1739, a grant was made to Robert Mathew, of East Grinstead, gentleman, of one piece of land on which is a tenement, at the lower end of Hapstead Green, 74 feet adjoining road from Hapstead Green, to Lindfield towards the east, 34 feet in breadth joining road from Ardingly Church to Lindfield towards the south, 74 feet in length joining north part of Hapstead Green to Ardingly Church towards the west and 21 feet in breadth joining other waste lands of the manor. William Mathew inherited it from his father, who died in 1763. In 1772 William Mathew disposed of it to Richard Hollman. In 1808 Stephen Fielder appeared at the Manor Court and produced the will of Richard Hollman, single man, dated April 27th, 1778, wherein he bequeathed the premises to his mother Jane, who had re-married with William Fielder. After her death it passed to Richard Hollman’s sister Mary, wife of Samuel Payne, and eventually to the Fielder family. Stephen Fielder having proved his claim, he immediately surrendered the premises to William Ward, of West Hoathly, gentleman, who at that time (1808) held other lands in Ardingly. William Ward bequeathed the cottage and piece of land to Maurice Holford Barrow and another, on trust, who on May 25th, 1831, proved his right, and held the property for eight years.

On July 5th, 1839, Barrow disposed of the premises to William Wheeler. The next entry in the Court Books shows Philip Shaw, farmer’s bailiff, in possession. He was father to Sophia, widow of William Backshall, a schoolmaster living in Lindfield, who died November 17th, 1849, leaving all his property at Hapstead for life to his wife Sophia, who he named as executor with her father Philip Shaw. Sophia remained in possession till her death, November 18th, 1869, which was reported at the Manor Court held on June 9th, 1870, when her son Leon William Backshall was admitted. He immediately surrendered it to Henry Munnion, of Ardingly, shoemaker, in whose family it still remains. The Backshall property also included a cottage at Hapstead Green and a shop, late Allen Anscombe’s, late Thomas Bourne. Leon William Backshall surrendered the cottage to George Box, of Ardingly, builder, and Allen Anscombe’s shop to Thomas Potter at the same Court.

It must be remembered that Manor Courts were not held very frequently in recent times, and therefore when a death was reported it had often taken place months, and sometimes years, before, and the action of the Court was only required to put things on a formal basis and confirm the holder in his rights. In the above list there is only one gap in the succession which is not accounted for, and that is between William Wheeler in 1839 and William Backshall, who was in possession before 1849. It must also be remembered that the owners were by no means always the occupiers, which often added to the difficulty of identifying property, especially when, as in this case, the property had no name.

The wall on the south and west was built when the level of the road was raised at the time of the re-building of the “Greyhound“; the old level can be seen within the wall. Before that, the house stood on the open green, which, unfortunately, has been swept away. The shop at the north end is a modern-addition. The butcher’s shop now occupied by Mr. Dier was built by the late Marchioness of Downshire, who bought Wakehurst in 1869, and lived there for twenty years, selling it to Sir William Boord in 1890.

Much of the cottage property in Hapstead was nameless, as it grew up on the waste of the Manor and carried only the name of the occupier or holder, who of course were always changing with the passing of time. But although not really qualified to appear under the heading of “Place Names of Ardingly”, it is well to record as much as possible of the history of the place.

Place Name Index