In the Court Books of the Manor of South Malling there is an occasional reference to the Northcote, or North Croft, in Ardingly, held by the owners of Wakehurst. There are also references in the Taxations and other documents of the 15th and 14th century to a family called Northcote, who must have been people of some importance in the place. The name has quite died out, and it is only quite recently that it has been possible to identify the place. The information comes from a map of the Manor of South Malling made between 1821-1825, which corresponds with the short time in which Joseph Ritson Peyton held Wakehurst. His name appears as holder of 5ac. 3r. 24p. called the Northcotes or North Crofts. The land is bounded on the West by College Road, on the South by the old road which ran in front of Upper Lodge and is now partly preserved in the drive to Culpepers. The boundary crossed the modern road which is shown in pencil. The eastern boundary ran up the hedge at the back of Mr. Munnion’s premises, and the northern boundary cuts through Compton Villas and joins the eastern boundary about where the present signpost stands. In shape it is roughly a square narrowed at the north end. In the Charter mentioned in the last paper, the name Leofecildes cot – “Love child’s cot” – was mentioned as fitting in with what was later called the Northcote. To Ardingly people the more natural name would now be Southcote, but we have no evidence to show that there was any hamlet of Hapstead in those far-off days. Anyhow, it was north of Upper Lodge and in the northerly part of the manor.
One of the earliest mentions of the people who took their name from the place is in 1296, when Johanna ate Northcote paid 1s. 1d. in the tax of that day. He is grouped with Richard de Wakehurst, William atte Stone, Philip de Bacselve and others who held of the same manor. In 1327 Andrew de Northcote is a taxpayer in Ardingly and Edric ate Northcote is one of the collectors for Ardingly, Balcombe, Lindfield and Hoathly. Four years later they both appear as taxpayers. At the enquiry known as the Nonae Rolls of 1342 Andrew and Adrian de Northcote, the latter perhaps the same as Edric, were two of the Ardingly men who went down to Lewes to testify that the tithe on corn did not amount to more than £8, that there were no merchants living in the parish, but only persons living on their own land and with difficulty making their living. The other two men were William de Bury and John de Tydingehurst (Tillinghurst). One more record contains the names of Northcotes and then the family fades out.
This last record is the famous Poll Tax of Richard the Second in 1379, which lay at the root of Jack Cade’s rebellion. In the list at married men taxed in Ardingly, after the name of John Wakehurst, franklin, who pays 2s. 4d., there come the names of John Northcote senior and John Northcote junior, who both pay ls.
After this date (1379) evidence is lacking about the Northcote ‘till we find it, in the hands of the Culpepers of Wakehurst. Edward Culpeper held it sometime before he was knighted in 1603, and paid 6d. quit rent for it to the sub-division of the manor of South Malling called Walstead. It has gone with the estate of Wakehurst till the beginning of the 20th century and was enfranchised sometime after 1825.
We have no proof whether there was a house on the land or not, but the probability is that it went with Upper Lodge.
The early Court Books of South Malling are in the British Museum, given by one of the Earls of Chichester to whom they came by inheritance. The reference number is Add. MS.33,182. Later books and the map are in the custody of Messrs. Blaker and Son, Lewes.