Town House

The history of Town House is more difficult to trace than that of many lesser houses. It lies on one of the oldest roads we have, and it looks as if there might have been a moat round the south side. We have already referred to the earliest reference we have to it on page 27, when Alice de la Toune appears in an Ardingly law-suit. In 1327 three men are taxpayers who take their name from the place. They are Henry ate Toune, William ate Toune and Thomas ate Toune. Henry, who is evidently the senior,’ pays 2/6, a sum only exceeded in Ardingly by John de Wakehurst, who pays 3/1, and William Baldri, who pays 2/8.

There is no reason to suppose that the name Tun – now written “ton” (the commonest of all place-name suffixes), ever meant “town” in our sense of a collection of houses. Its general meaning is “an enclosed place”, and if we interpret it more closely as a “farm”, we shall not be far wrong. Its connection with Ditchling Manor should be remembered. As an outlier in the forest it must have been of considerable importance when the cattle were in the neighbourhood during the summer months.

The house itself dates back to the early 16th century at least, and is, of course, on the foundations of a far older one.

The Pilbeam family owned it for many years. George Pilbeam paid 5/- for the Chimneys or Hearth Tax in 1665, and £36 was his rateable value at the same date. It passed into the hands of Mr. W.S. Robinson and then to Mr. Joseph Esdaile, finally to Mrs. Hankey, since when it has gone with the Balcombe Place property.

Place Name Index