A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1953.
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Racton is a small parish of 1,199 acres, about 2 miles in length from east to west but under 1 mile wide from north to south. (fn. 90) It lies on the chalk to the south of the downland parish of Stoughton, but is itself low-lying. The greater part of the parish is below 100 ft. in height, there being only one point in the north-east where there is a small rise to 200 ft., where the Racton Monument, or Tower, was built by the Earl of Halifax in the 18th century as a view-point. The west is wooded where the woods of Emsworth Common extend into this parish from Hampshire. The River Ems and the road from Stoughton to Westbourne cross the eastern end of the parish from north-east to south-west, passing Lording- ton and the site of Racton Manor. To the west are the Brickkiln Ponds with the southern boundary of the parish passing through them, from which issues a stream which joins the Ems at Westbourne.
Racton Manor was situated on the River Ems, but only the church and a few cottages survive; the last remains of Racton manor-house were removed c. 1840 and incorporated in the house at Racton Park Farm (fn. 91) in the parish of Westbourne. Higher up the river is Lordington House, the reputed birthplace of Cardinal Pole c. 1500, about 3/8 mile north of the church.
The building as it stands now is only a portion of the original Tudor house. The plan is L-shaped, the main body running east and west and the short arm projecting to the south from the west end of it. This shorter wing extended farther to the south (founda- tions, not now visible, exist below the ground level), with a south wing projecting parallel to, but much shorter than, the north wing. The position of the pair of 17th-century gate-posts suggests that there was an east courtyard such as might have existed between two wings. Alterations amounting in part to a rebuilding took place in the 17th century; the date 1623 is cut on the south wall of the (present) main block and the main staircase wing was added west of the (present) south wing, the former main block. Other changes took place subsequently and the 1623 date is accompanied by 'G.P.H. RESTORED 1895'; the house had been reduced in size previous to the latter date. (fn. 92) Apart from the stair wing and the modern south end-wall of the south wing, the walls are on the lines of the Tudor walls but very little of the original masonry survives. The (present) main block has ancient flint work at the base of its south wall with a few ashlar dressings at the south-east angle, but above this it is of 17th-century brickwork up to a brick string-course marking the first-floor level. The upper story is of rusticated white stone ashlar, perhaps of 1895 but possibly earlier. The east end-wall also has some flint in the lower story with a little brickwork and the upper story as well as the north wall are of similar rusticated ashlar work.
The east wall of the shorter wing is a mixture of flints and 17th-century bricks with a brick string-course and window dressings, but for about two-thirds of its length it has a stone plinth which appears to be original. The south wall is of modern flintwork with brick quoins and the projecting chimney-stack on the west side is of 17th-century bricks. The stair-wing is also of flintwork with 17th-century brick quoins and some modern stone repair. There are several blocked windows in the north wall of the main range, and near the east end is a 17th-century brick rebated chimney-stack.
The entrance is in the south wall of the long range. The interior is modernized, but the drawing-room, at the east end, is lined with late-17th-century panelling. The principal feature is the main staircase, of the early 17th century, which is of the same type as those at Knole, Hatfield, and other houses of the period but has been badly refixed. It rises in three short flights from ground to first floor. The newels are modern but on them are set carved finials of heraldic beasts and monsters sitting upright and holding shields. There are five, including two on the upper floor; the lowest is a lion, the second a dragon, the third a bear, and the two at the top a unicorn with a crown and chain and a griffin. The heavy handrail is moulded and is closed below by single pierced carvings of scroll ornament and swags of fruit, &c., and drapery. Unfortunately they have been reset upside down. The carving to the third slope is rather different from, and perhaps later than, the others and has swags of stiff drapery. Whether indigenous or not is not certain, but it fits more or less the wing in which it is built.
In the east wall of the forecourt is a pair of 3-ft. round gate-posts of stone with moulded and ball-heads. They formed probably the middle entrance to the courtyard of the former larger house. Another square garden north of the house has old brick walls and has a similar pair of gate-posts on the east side.
Next south-west of the church is a picturesque thatched cottage of 17th-century square timber-framing with a rebated central chimney-stack.
Before the Conquest RACTON had been held by Fulk of King Edward. In 1086 it was held by Ivo, who also held Mid-Lavant (Loventone), of Earl Roger. It was assessed for 5 hides. (fn. 93)
The overlordship descended with the Rape, in the hands of the earls of Arundel.
The manor passed soon after 1086 to Savaric fitzCane who also held Stoughton, Up Marden, and Easebourne. (fn. 94) Savaric married Muriel de Bohun and their second son Savaric de Forde, lord of Ford, was also known by the name of Bohun. In the reign of King Stephen Savaric held 3 knights' fees of the Earl of Arundel. (fn. 95) The Bohun family continued to be mesne tenants of Racton until 1199. In this year, Ralf de Ardern was granted a portion of the Bohun fee including the service of Ralf Sanzaver and Ilbert de Rakindon for land in Racton. (fn. 96) However, Engelger de Bohun recovered this grant in 1212 by a writ of mort d'ancestor from Thomas son of Ralf de Ardern. (fn. 97) The Bohuns were still the overlords of the Sanzavers when Hugh died in 1284, as he held of Sir John de Bohun. (fn. 98) After this, we do not hear of them again, and the lands reverted to the Earl of Arundel at the death of Thomas Sanzaver in 1349. (fn. 99)
The family of Sanzaver, of Bignor, were sub-tenants some time before the mention of them in 1196, as in 1206 a claim was made by Ralf Sanzaver from William de Rakindon for 2½ hides in Racton and Stansted, held by Ralf's father in 1135, but granted to Imbert father of William de Rakindon by the overlord Savaric de Forde while Ralf was in ward to him. (fn. 100) Ralf, however, granted 2 hides of this land to William, to hold as a quarter of a knight's fee, Ralf retaining the mill, of which William had formerly held a moiety. (fn. 101) In 1233 the estate of Racton passed to Henry fitz-Richard of Spargrove in Somerset, son of Eve now wife of Hugh Sanzaver, in exchange for the manor of Spargrove. (fn. 102) The Sanzavers continued to hold rents and the mill at Racton. Ralf, grandson of Hugh (d. 1284), is called 'lord' of Racton in 1316 (and of Bignor and Madeherst). (fn. 103) The family disappears from Sussex with the death of Thomas Sanzaver. (fn. 104)
Their holding in Racton continued to pass with Madeherst, Eartham, and Rogate as one of the members of Bignor, for in 1353 there is mention of a common bailiff for these lands, (fn. 105) and they appear together among the Earl of Arundel's lands on the Subsidy Roll of 1412. (fn. 106) In 1424 Sir John Arundel was said to have died seised of them, (fn. 107) but they were claimed (1425) in dower by Beatrice, Countess of Arundel. (fn. 108) Holdings in Racton seem to have been connected with Aldsworth and Stansted, and the manor of Racton is not referred to as such until 1511 at the death of John Gunter.
The family of Gunter already held in Racton by 1327, when Roger Gunter contributed to the subsidy there; (fn. 109) in 1428 Roger Gunter was a landowner there. (fn. 110) At his death in 1437 he held (a) land in Racton in chief of the king by service of two white capons 'when the king shall come into the district', (fn. 111) and (b) lands and tenements in Racton of William de Watergate: (b) is probably the holding connected with Stansted, as Watergate House is near Stansted. The Aldsworth portion of Racton was acquired by John Gunter in 1475 by a fine with John Sulyard and Giles Gunter and Elizabeth his wife, giving him messuages, land, and rent in Racton, Westbourne, and Aldsworth, (fn. 112) apparently the inheritance of Elizabeth.
In 1511 Racton is referred to as a manor at the death of John Gunter (of Chilworth, Surrey); it was held of Thomas, Earl of Arundel. (fn. 113) Under a settlement made in 1503 it was held for life by John's widow Margaret (Troghton) and then passed to a member of the Welsh branch of the family. (fn. 114) In 1558 it was still held in three parts by John Gunter at his death: (a) part held of Henry, Earl of Arundel, as of his manor of Stansted, (b) the main portion with all the arable held of William Dawtrey as of his manor of Aldsworth, and (c) 200 acres of pasture held of— Grene as of his manor of—. (fn. 115) John's son Arthur was succeeded in 1576 (fn. 116) by his son (Sir) George, whose grandson was the Colonel George Gunter famous for his share in assisting the escape of Charles II from England after the disastrous battle of Worcester. His son George Gunter married Elizabeth Sherrington in 1695 (fn. 117) and made a settlement of the manor by fine with William Sherrington, senior and junior. (fn. 118) Elizabeth Sherrington died in 1700 (fn. 119) and George Gunter married Judith Nicholl soon afterwards. Their son was Sir Charles Gunter Nicholl who assumed his mother's name and died in 1733, before her (d. 1737). (fn. 120) His heir was his daughter Frances Katherine. (fn. 121) It is possible that she was posthumous, as Sir Charles left Racton to his sister Dame Katherine, wife of Sir Henry Maynard, for life, with remainder to their son William. (fn. 122) The manor, however, came to Frances Katherine. She married William Legge, second Earl of Dartmouth, in 1755, (fn. 123) and the manor has remained the property of the Earls of Dartmouth to the present day. (fn. 124)
LORDINGTON appears in the Domesday Survey under the guise of 'Harditone'. (fn. 125) Before the Conquest Ulstan held it as an alod of King Edward. In 1086 William held it of Earl Roger. It was assessed at 4 hides and had a mill: later it appears as 1 knight's fee. The overlordship of the manor descended with the honor of Arundel until 1244, when it formed part of the portion of Roger de Somery and Nicholaa, one of the four coheirs of Hugh d'Aubigny. (fn. 126) It came to Robert de Tateshale before his death in 1303, (fn. 127) and then to his niece and coheir Alice and her husband William Bernak, Alice, as a widow, holding in 1341. (fn. 128)
During the 13th century a mesne lordship seems to have been established in the family of Beauchamp. In 1214 Eudes de Beauchamp, who was a member of the Beauchamps of Eaton Socon (Beds.), (fn. 129) claimed the advowson of the church of Lordington, (fn. 130) and in 1226 he was sued for the manor by Hugh de Nevill, (fn. 131) who seems to have had some claim to the estates of Hugh de Gundeville, the lord in fee (see below), through his wife Joan. (fn. 132) In 1242 Robert de Beauchamp held a knight's fee in Lordington, (fn. 133) and the manor was held of Ralf de Beauchamp in 1288. (fn. 134) Roger de Beauchamp, who held the fee in 1303, (fn. 135) seems to have got into debt and to have disposed of all his property to Sir John Engayne, (fn. 136) of whom, as 'Lord Ingayne', the manor was held in 1369, (fn. 137) after which date no more is heard of this mesne lordship.
Lordington may have been granted by Henry I to Hugh de Falaise, (fn. 138) who held 5 fees of the honor of Arundel. (fn. 139) About 1156 his son-in-law Hugh de Gundevill succeeded to the estate, (fn. 140) but on his death in 1181 it came into the hands of the king, who in 1185 gave to Peter Saracen Hugh's lands of Lordington, then accounted for under the honor of Petworth. (fn. 141) Peter held it until the middle of 1196, at which date it was part of the honor of Arundel. (fn. 142) It seems likely that the manor next came to the Beauchamps, as already noted, and that one of them subinfeudated it to William de Tracy, who appears with his wife Joan in a suit concerning land and mills in Lordington in 1268. (fn. 143) Seven years later William was reported to have obstructed a road within the manor to the injury of the neighbourhood. (fn. 144) Joan survived her husband and was twice remarried, claiming one-third of the manor in dower in 1276, when wife of James de Hampton, (fn. 145) and in 1292, being then wife of John de Thumok. (fn. 146) The widow of John de Tracy, son of William, made a similar claim in 1297. This John had in 1282 sold the manor to Maud Estur and her son Walter de l'Isle and the heirs of his body, with contingent remainder to his brothers John and Godfrey. (fn. 147) Walter died without issue and in 1288 Maud Estur and John de l'Isle established their right to hold Lordington of Ralph Beauchamp, as a knight's fee. (fn. 148) Joan, widow of a later John de l'Isle, married Henry Romayn and died in 1349, leaving a grandson John, aged 6. (fn. 149) His mother Joan (de Bohun) had a grant of the manor for his sustenance during his nonage. (fn. 150) This John died in 1369, leaving as heir his sister Elizabeth, who married John Bramshott. (fn. 151) In 1428 the manor was held by William Bramshott, (fn. 152) and in 1449 by his son and heir John, (fn. 153) whose younger daughter and coheir Margaret married John Pakenham. (fn. 154) Their son Sir Edward Pakenham died in 1528, (fn. 155) leaving two daughters, Constance wife of Geoffrey Pole and Elizabeth wife of Edmund Mervyn, who in November 1528 divided their inheritance, Geoffrey Pole and Constance his wife receiving the manors of Lordington and Whiteway. (fn. 156) Geoffrey Pole was brother to Cardinal Reynold Pole and was implicated with him in religious disputes, but was pardoned in 1539. (fn. 157) He went abroad but returned and died and was buried at Stoughton in 1558; his wife lived until 1570 and left the manor to their son Thomas, (fn. 158) and it remained in the hands of the Poles until 1609, when Geoffrey Pole sold it to Hugh Speke. (fn. 159) In 1623 Sir John Fenner acquired it, and in 1630 sold it to Philip Jermyn. (fn. 160) Philip Jermyn was living there in 1636, (fn. 161) and died in 1654; (fn. 162) his son Alexander died in 1665. The manor passed to his daughter Frances, who married first Francis Moore and secondly John Shuckborgh, (fn. 163) and was sold in 1698–9 by order of Henry Lumley, (fn. 164) probably a trustee. It was probably bought by Richard Peckham, who died in possession in 1718, leaving it to his great-nephew Richard Peckham, (fn. 165) from whom it came in 1734 to his brother-in-law Thomas Phipps. (fn. 166) His son Thomas Peckham Phipps left it by will to his godson Admiral Sir Phipps Hornby, who died in 1867. (fn. 167) This family has continued to hold it and Lordington House is now the property of Admiral R. S. Phipps Hornby.
The church (dedication unknown) consists of chancel, nave with bell-cote, and south porch; it is built of rubble, partly plastered, with ashlar dressings, and is roofed with tile. The ground on which it stands, and consequently the nave roof, has a distinct downward slope from west to east. The nave may originally have been built in the 12th century and the chancel added in the 13th, the present east window opened and the whole west wall rebuilt in about the 14th; the porch is modern.
Diagonal buttresses with sloping offsets at each east corner of the chancel are modern; the east window of five trefoil-headed lights with a transom at springing level and tracery of an early Perpendicular type is largely modern, but perhaps a renewal of work of the late 14th or early 15th century; the exterior hoodmould ends in two escutcheons, the dexter charged with the arms of Gunter, the sinister with Bohun. (fn. 168) In the east wall is a square-headed aumbry and below it another square-headed recess, perhaps originally a piscina but now without drain; the date of these is uncertain. On the south side is a lancet window of the 13th century, splay jambs and rear-arch now plastered and probably modern, a priest's door with plain pointed outer, and semicircular rear, arches, contemporary with the lancet, and a window of two cinquefoiled lights under a square head, of the 15th century. The north wall is principally occupied by monuments, but a twolight window facing that on the south resembles it. There is no chancel arch. The roof, ancient but of uncertain date, has two cambered tie-beams, moulded, carrying king-posts braced to a collar purlin, and trussed rafters. The roof division between chancel and nave is a few feet east of the wall division; above the western tie-beam on each side of the Royal Arms is woodwork of traceried cusps, sub-cusped, of doubtful date.
A modern buttress with single sloping offset at the south-east corner of the nave supports a wall now out of plumb; west of it is a square-headed window of two semicircular-headed lights, perhaps 17th-century; west of this is a plain square-headed doorway of even later date; the woodwork and hinges of the door are medieval. At each west corner of the nave is a diagonal buttress with sloping offset, these, like the west wall, a chequer of flint and ashlar, are probably late-14th-century. The west doorway has moulded jambs and four-centred arch in rectangular frame, but no hoodmould; the rear-arch is also four-centred. The west window is of three trefoil-headed lights surmounted by Perpendicular tracery under a pointed arch; both doorway and window are contemporary with the wall. The trussed rafter roof is ancient; the bell-cote has shingled sides and pyramidal roof.
The porch, of stone with wood-framed doorway, is of doubtful date, perhaps modern.
On the north side of the chancel is the tomb of Sir George Gunter (d. 1624) and Ursula his wife; their effigies kneel on either side of the same fald-stool in a semicircular-arched niche of Jacobean design; he is bare-headed and wears a ruff and armour of the tasset period, she wears a ruff and a black mantle drawn over her head; the entablature of the niche is surmounted by standing figures of Justice, with scales (dexter) and Charity, with flagon and cup (sinister), between them an eschutcheon bears Gunter within a border, impaling a cheveron sable between three choughs.
West of this is a canopied table-tomb attached to the north wall, perhaps commemorating John Gunter who died 1557, but erected earlier, and resembling the work of the maker of the De La Warr chantry chapel at Boxgrove. The principal member of the entablature is divided horizontally into two panels; on the south face of each is an escutcheon bearing the arms of Gunter flanked, in the eastern by two swans, in the western by two amorini in the Italian manner; above this is a cresting of alternate fleurs-de-lis and anthemia, below is a narrow course of vine-leaves and grapes in the Gothic manner. At the west end the main member of the entablature has one panel containing two amorini supporting a roundel containing the initials I G, the cresting and lower course are as on the south face; below the latter and surmounting the four-centred arch by which the canopy opens westwards is another panel containing a standing cup between two swans; the east face has a similar arch, but is unornamented. Two plain octagonal corner shafts rise above the entablature and terminate in foliaged caps faintly reminiscent of Corinthian capitals; and the keystone and pendant of the principal arch is surmounted by a similar shaft. In the spandrels of the four-centred arch of the canopy on the south side are the initials I G in roman capitals interlaced with foliage. In the centre of the back wall of the monument is a figure in high relief, naked save for a mantle with a circular morse, and bearing a crossstaff with banner; it clearly represents the risen Christ, but there is no nimbus. East of this a man in armour, bare-headed and wearing a tabard, kneels at a prie-dieu, behind him kneel four sons in civil dress of gowns with false sleeves hanging from the elbows. West of the principal figure at a similar prie-dieu kneels a woman wearing mantle and kennel head-dress, behind her kneel two daughters wearing kirtles and like head-dresses. From the hands of both adult figures spring uninscribed scrolls. On the south face of the base of the tomb are three multifoiled panels containing escutcheons all bearing the same arms, namely, Gunter impaling Cooke, (fn. 169) three coats marshalled as six pieces: 1 and 5 [Or] a cross [azure] (Bohun of Midhurst), 2 and 6 [gules] three crescents [argent] on a canton ermine a martlet for difference (Cooke), 3 and 4 [sable] three talbots' heads [argent] (Hall); on a like panel at the west end is an escutcheon with Gunter alone. (fn. 170)
Over the entrance to the chancel are the Royal Arms as borne 1714–1800. The font is tub-shaped, probably 12th-century but restored; and there is a small chest of about the 17th century.
There are two bells, one by Joshua Kipling of Portsmouth, 1742, and the other, of 1638, probably by John Higden. (fn. 171)
The communion plate includes a small Elizabethan cup with paten cover, a paten of 1691, and a silver flagon of 1716. (fn. 172)
The registers begin in 1680.
Savaric fitz-Cane and his wife Muriel, with the consent of their son Ralph, gave the church of Racton to Lewes Priory about 1142, (fn. 173) and the rectory, valued at £5 in 1291, (fn. 174) was held by the monks until the union of the benefice with that of Lordington in 1445, since which date the right of presentation to the joint living has belonged to the Dean and Chapter of Chichester.
In 1214 Eudes de Beauchamp claimed the advowson of the church of Lordington against the Prior of Lewes, who successfully maintained that it was a chapel dependent on Stoughton church. The prior produced a letter of Silvester, Archdeacon of Chichester, to that effect, and one of Seffrid II, Bishop of Chichester (1180–1204), stating that he had admitted Thomas de Apelderham to the perpetual vicarage of Lordington on the presentation of Godfrey, rector of Stoughton, with the consent of William, Prior of Lewes, subject to the payment of 2 bezants yearly to the rector. (fn. 175) In 1219 Eudes again brought an action, as a result of which the prior recognized his right to the advowson, for which he should pay 2s. yearly to the prior. (fn. 176) In 1229, however, on the death of Thomas, Herbert, rector of Stoughton presented. Eudes again protested his right, on the strength of the fine of 1219, but as he had not exercised it, owing to there being no vacancy, and Herbert had been instituted to hold Stoughton as fully as Godfrey had done, Eudes failed and was told that he could sue the Prior of Lewes. (fn. 177) By 1288 the advowson was in the hands of Sir John Tracy, son of Sir William, who, with the consent of Ralph son of William Beauchamp, made it over to William de Bracklesham, Dean of Chichester. (fn. 178) In 1293 Bishop Gilbert ordered that in future the rector should keep the chancel in repair and pay yearly to the Dean and Chapter, who should have the right of presentation, 40s., of which 1 mark was to augment the chantry founded in Chichester Cathedral by Dean William de Bracklesham, 1 mark to be paid to a clerk assisting at the mass of the Blessed Virgin in the cathedral, and 1 mark to the chaplain of the parish church of St. Peter outside the gate of the Friars Minor at Chichester. (fn. 179)
Lordington rectory was valued in 1291 at £5 6s. 8d., (fn. 180) and in 1445, owing to the poverty of this living and that of Racton and the fewness of their inhabitants, the two benefices were united. (fn. 181) The value of the rectory of Racton with Lordington was given in 1535 as £5 19s. 1d. (fn. 182) The only hint that the church of Lordington survived is the occurrence in a will of 1555 of 'Syr William prest of Lurtyngton', (fn. 183) and he may well have been domestic chaplain at Lordington House. No tradition of the site of the church is known.
Marion Harriet Arnold by her will dated 21 February 1932 bequeathed to the rector and churchwardens of Racton cum Lordington £200, the income to be distributed between such deserving poor persons of the parish as are selected by the said rector, the police constable of the parish, the parish nurse, one churchwarden, and a resident of the said parish of some standing (chosen annually by the said rector). The annual income of the Charity amounts to £5 17s. 4d.