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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The parish contains 3,098 acres and measures 4 miles from north to south with an average width of a little over a mile. It is mostly good agricultural land lying between 25 and 50 ft. above sea-level, but rising to 120 ft. on its northern edge. The church and village lie near the centre of the western boundary, here formed by the Aldingbourne Rife, which flows southwards past Tote Copse, a circular mound with traces of a moat, adjoining the site of the Bishop's Palace. (fn. 1) The boundary follows the rife, crossing the railway, to the course of the disused Arundel-Chichester Canal. Here it turns south-east by Lidsey, to meet another small stream which forms part of the eastern boundary of the parish and of the rape.
The road from Chichester to Arundel crosses the north part of the parish, skirting the grounds of Aldingbourne House, (fn. 2) formerly the seat of Lady Molyneux Howard and later of Richard Hasler but now a county sanatorium. From here a road leads south through Norton to the church, passing Limmer Pond and sending a branch eastwards by Nyton to Westergate, which is now the chief centre of population, houses having been built along the road which runs south to Woodgate, Headhone, and Lidsey. From the latter Sack Lane runs to Sack Barn, near the railway line to Bognor, mentioned in 1612 as two closes 'commonly called the bottome of the sacke'. (fn. 3) On the eastern edge of the parish, and partly in Eastergate, is Fontwell Racecourse.
Aldingbourne was from early times one of the chief seats of the Bishop of Chichester, who had there a 'palace' or manor-house and a large demesne farm of some 500 acres of arable, cultivated on the three-field system. (fn. 4) When Bishop Ranulf de Warham in 1220 laid down the minimum quantities of livestock to be maintained on the episcopal estates Aldingbourne had the largest number of beasts (44 oxen, 15 cows, and a bull) and, for some reason, was the only one where goats—120 she-goats and 6 he-goats—were kept. (fn. 5) The experiment seems to have been abandoned, as a later extent (undated) shows none, but the flock of sheep had then gone up from 100 to 560. (fn. 6) The bishops frequently resided here: Robert de Stratford died here on 8 April 1362; (fn. 7) Robert Rede in 1414 (fn. 8) and Simon Sydenham in 1427 (fn. 9) made their wills here; Edward Story in 1502 bequeathed to his successors 'the bell hanging in the belfry of my chapel of Aldingbourne'; (fn. 10) and Robert Sherborne in 1536 left £10 towards building 'the new tower', (fn. 11) probably like that, usually attributed to him, at Cakeham in West Wittering (q.v.). Whether this tower was completed is not known, but by 1606 the place seems to have fallen into decay, as in that year the Chapter confirmed a faculty granted by the Archbishop to Bishop Lancelot Andrews to pull down ruinous buildings at Aldingbourne. (fn. 12) Tradition asserted that the parliamentary troops levelled the manor-house with the ground; (fn. 13) but when the manor was sold in September 1648 the sale included the manor-house and chapel. (fn. 14) There are, however, now no remains of the building.
Nyton has a 17th-century façade, but the northwest wing shows 16th-century features inside, and there are two staircases, of the early and late 17th century respectively. In the same neighbourhood are two low thatched houses with 17th-century features, and there are others at Lidsey. Here Lidsey House is an early-17th-century building of rubble and brick, with a fine central chimney-shaft of cross-plan with a pilaster at each end. The site of Lindsey Chapel is unknown, but worked stones probably from its fabric have been found. Two carved heads now built into Bersted Schoolroom are said to have come from here, but, if so, they have been re-tooled. (fn. 15)
At Westergate, at the north-west corner of the road from Bognor, is a mid-16th-century cottage, now called 'The Tudors'. It faces east and the front is of four bays, the southernmost of 18th-century flint work the other three of original timber-framing with curved braces below the wall-plate. Between the north and second bays is an internal chimney-stack with a wide fireplace, of which the oak lintel is cut to form a shallow arch. The shaft above the thatched roof is of the local rebated type. Cut on the fireplace on the southernmost room is the date 1711.
Norton Grange, ¾ mile north-east of the church on the east side of the road, is an Elizabethan house partly altered. The main block facing west has cemented flint walls; the ends are gabled. The windows are all modernized, but one at the north end retains an original moulded label. A central chimney-stack has a wide south fireplace with an original moulded oak curb to the raised hearth; above the tiled roof the shaft of thin bricks is of cross-shaped plan. A moulded ceiling beam with stops is seen in the south room; others are encased. A back wing has some ancient timber-framing, enclosed by a modern addition north of it, but the external walls are of later brickwork and the roof slated: the ceilings have 17th-century beams. A barn of five bays has weather-boarded walls and a thatched roof. On the same road farther south are several thatched cottages, one or two of which may be of the 17th century.
About 1620 the Bishop of Chichester agreed with Henry and William Peckham and other tenants of the demesne that the commons belonging to the demesne should be inclosed and converted to tillage. Representatives of the copyholders were elected and the land was allotted and inclosed, leaving ways and setting up gates for access to each man's piece. (fn. 16) A further 400 acres of common at Westergate were inclosed in 1777. (fn. 17)
The early history of Aldingbourne is obscure, depending upon copies of Saxon charters (fn. 18) which are certainly corrupt in detail, though they probably embody facts. According to these, Nothelm, King of the South Saxons, in 692 gave to Nothgithe his sister for the erection of a monas tery and church 33 cassatos, of which 12 were in Lydesige [Lidsey] and Aldingbourne, and she transferred the endowment to Bishop Wilfrid. It is not clear how this can be reconciled with the fact that Caedwalla, King of Wessex, in about 683 endowed the monastery of Selsey with these two places, here called 6, instead of 12, cassatos. (fn. 19) In 899 King Alfred in his will left 'the ham at Ealdingburnan' to his nephew Ethelm; (fn. 20) but, whatever the significance of this bequest, it is clear that by the time of Edward the Confessor the manor of ALDINGBOURNE was in the hands of the Bishop of Selsey, (fn. 21) and it remained with his successors the Bishops of Chichester without a break, except during the Commonwealth, until taken over by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in the 19th century.
In 1086 the manor was rated at 36 hides; (fn. 22) of these, the local priest held 1 hide, three clerks, Robert, Hugh, and Alward, held 5 hides, 3 hides, and 1 hide respectively, which may represent later prebendal estates, and there were four knights, of whom Herald and Murdac held 3 hides each, and Ansfrid and Lovel 1 hide each. The bishop's temporalities in Aldingbourne in 1291 were valued at £48 1s. 2d. (fn. 23) The demesne arable in about 1330 amounted to 382½ acres; (fn. 24) this had increased by 1387 to 485 acres. (fn. 25) At this latter date there was a windmill, worth 26s. 8d., and reference to the mill is made in the custumal drawn up in 1257; (fn. 26) this may have been at Westergate, where one existed at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 27) A watermill, doubtless on the site of the present mill, is mentioned in 1535, when the total yearly value of the manor was £58 11s. 6d. (fn. 28)
Under the order made by Parliament for the sale of bishops' lands the manor of Aldingbourne was sold in September 1648 to William Kendall, a London merchant. (fn. 29) He died before July 1652, when his executors disposed of the manor, (fn. 30) which was conveyed in 1653 by Denis Bond and Elizabeth his wife to Thomas Player and others. (fn. 31) At the Restoration it returned to the see.
In 1086 there was woodland attached to the manor which yielded three swine for pannage dues, (fn. 32) and this was probably the nucleus of the PARK which was an important feature of this manor. Both Henry I (1100– 23) (fn. 33) and Henry II (1180–4) (fn. 34) granted to the Bishop of Chichester rights of free warren in Aldingbourne, which were confirmed by later kings, (fn. 35) but the first actual reference to the park appears to be in a letter written in about 1225 by Simon de Seinliz, the bishop's steward, to Bishop Ralph de Nevill asking him to provide dogs to catch foxes in the park of Aldingbourne. (fn. 36) In the 13th century more than a mile of the park paling was kept in repair by the bishop's tenants throughout the diocese, at the rate of one perch of 20 ft. for each hide held. (fn. 37) The office of keeper, which carried with it the privilege of sitting at the head of the 'yoman borde' in the manor hall, (fn. 38) seems to have been hereditary in the family of Parker in the 14th century, (fn. 39) and its holder in 1387 received ½ bz. of wheat and ½ bz. of barley weekly. (fn. 40) Most of the large timber had been felled before the middle of the 17th century and the whole was disparked about that time. (fn. 41)
LIDSEY, as we have seen, was linked with Aldingbourne in the Saxon charters, and the manorial over-lordship remained with the bishops. In 1229 a commission was appointed to define the bounds between the bishop's estate of Lidsey and the Archbishop of Canterbury's estate of Shripney. (fn. 42) Part of Lidsey constituted the hide in Aldingbourne held in 1086 by Ansfrid, (fn. 43) who also held of the bishop 2 hides in Ferring, (fn. 44) from which place his descendants took their name. About the end of the 13th century these 3 hides were said to be held by the successors of Amfrid de Ferryng, (fn. 45) and in 1310 more definitely by Nicholas de Barenton. (fn. 46) This is explained by the fact that in 1279 John de Palyng, son of Simon de Ferryng and representative of Amfrid, (fn. 47) sold his West Sussex lands to George de Barenton and Emma his wife. (fn. 48) In a rental of 1379 Alice atte Setene appears as holding a hide (glossed as, or corrected to, '32 acres') at Lidsey called atte Setene, formerly of Nicholas Baryngton of Ferring, called Hedehone. (fn. 49) This Alice was wife of Richard atte Hurlonde in 1352, when Richard Laxman and Joan conveyed to them 2 messuages and 62 acres of land in Aldingbourne, (fn. 50) which is identified as the manor of HEADHONE in a suit of 1363–5 brought against Alice and her then husband John atte Setene. (fn. 51) The suit, for ⅓ of the manor as dower, was brought by Agnes widow of Nicholas Avenel, to whom Edmund Crepyn and Mary his wife (who held the manor of Headhone in her right) (fn. 52) demised a messuage and a carucate of land in Aldingbourne in 1342. (fn. 53) An earlier Nicholas Avenel and Maud his wife had in 1272 granted to Master Geoffrey de Gates a life interest in 3 virgates and 2/3 of 2 virgates in Westgates, Lidsey, and Headhone, with reversion to the heirs of Maud. (fn. 54)
In 1398 Henry Blondel did homage to Bishop Robert Rede for the estate of Hedehone and of Hills (de montibus), (fn. 55) as did Richard Blundel in 1408 for Hedhone alias Setene. (fn. 56) Headhone is next found in 1546 in the hands of John Smith, (fn. 57) in which family it descended. A John Smith who died seised of the manor in 1635 left it to his kinsman John, younger son of William Smith of Stopham. (fn. 58) In 1706 Edward Smith conveyed the manor to Nicholas Mayhew, (fn. 59) and by 1780 all manorial rights had apparently lapsed, Burrell then describing it as 'a freehold manor farm of 100 acres'. (fn. 60)
In 1428 Agnes Tyxale held ¼ knight's fee of the Bishop of Chichester in Lidsey, (fn. 61) but nothing is known of her identity or that of her holding.
In 1257 John Daundevill held 'I yardland' in Lidsey, (fn. 62) which was presumably identical with 'the land of Ralph Pesson of Ludeseye' for which he had to maintain 1 perch of the Aldingbourne park paling, (fn. 63) —a length corresponding to 1 hide of land. As Amfrid de Ferryng was returned as responsible only for 2 perches of paling, (fn. 64) it is possible that Daundevill was tenant of his hide in Lidsey, where a Roger Daundevill still had some property in 1325. (fn. 65) In 1398 William Cheyne held land late of Daundevill in Lidsey, (fn. 66) and Thomas Cheyne held there in 1478. (fn. 67)
The park paling list of 1257 shows that Geoffrey Brown held ½ hide in some unnamed place, (fn. 68) which the scutage lists of 1299 and 1310 show to have been Lidsey, where John Brown was holding in succession to Robert Brown. (fn. 69) Edward Brown occurs in the subsidy lists for Aldingbourne in 1327 and 1332. (fn. 70) The next entry in the park paling list gives Robert de Ernesbeme as tenant of a yardland (in Lidsey). His successors were Geoffrey, Peter (1299), John (1310), (fn. 71) and in 1332 William son of Thomas de Ernesbeme, who in that year sold a yardland in Aldingbourne to William le Croucher of Lidsey. (fn. 72) This was presumably the messuage and 100 acres in Lidsey called Ellesbeame, held of the bishop by Richard Gawen who died in 1607, (fn. 73) and Allan his son, who died in 1633. (fn. 74)
Nothelm's benefaction to Selsey included 10 (in Caedwalla's charter 6) (fn. 75) cassatos 'aet Genstedegate'. (fn. 76) Part of this, probably represented by one of the holdings of the three clerks in Domesday Book, seems to have become the prebendal manor of WESTERGATE, attached to the prebend of Gates in Chichester Cathedral. It was surveyed in 1649 by the Parliamentary Commissioners, who leased it for one year to William Cawley, the regicide, and then included 340 acres of common and a few fields; among these Woodhouse Closes had been the site of the manor-house but then contained only a barn. (fn. 77) In 1653 the manor of Gates alias Westergate was conveyed with that of Aldingbourne by Denis and Elizabeth Bond to Thomas Player and others, (fn. 78) but was recovered at the Restoration by the prebendary and eventually came into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
Land called Worth (Werda, Wurda) was given by William de St. John and others to Boxgrove Priory, (fn. 79) where its revenues were assigned to the kitchen. (fn. 80) It is later always found associated with Nyton, (fn. 81) which the priory farmed at 66s. 8d. in 1535. (fn. 82) After the suppression of the priory Robert Thornhill, a landspeculator, acquired on 16 August 1546 the farm of Nyton and two fields of 'lez Worthe' in Aldingbourne, (fn. 83) which he alienated next day to John More and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 84) John More died in 1559 leaving this property, defined as a messuage, 50 acres of land, and 6 acres of heath, to his son Nicholas, (fn. 85) who shortly afterwards alienated to John Trunnell. (fn. 86) He died in 1584 and his son John in 1595, (fn. 87) when it passed to the latter's nephew Richard, who was holding Nyton and Worthe when he died in 1610. (fn. 88) His son Richard Trunnell still held them in 1650, (fn. 89) but by about 1680 Nyton had passed into the hands of Thomas Peckham, in whose family it descended. Mary, daughter of John Peckham who died in 1782, married Charles Hewitt Smith, and their son Charles took the name and arms of Peckham. His son the Rev. Harry John Peckham sold the estate in 1880. (fn. 90)
Among the bishop's tenants by knight service in 1478 was Robert Hartele who held in Lidsey. (fn. 91) It is possible that this may refer to the estate of Norton, which was held in the early 17th century by Thomas and Joseph Hartley. (fn. 92)
The church of THE VIRGIN MARY (fn. 93) is built of rubble with ashlar dressings, largely plastered, and is roofed with tile; it consists of a chancel with south organ chamber, nave flanked on the north by a tower and a vestry, south aisle, and south porch. The oldest work recognizable, probably part of the church mentioned in Domesday Book, consists of the three westernmost arches of the arcade formerly opening into a north aisle, since destroyed. The south arcade is of the late 12th century; the vaulting inserted in the east bay of it (which is now used as a side chapel), the chancel, the tower, and the east part of the north arcade are of the 13th; the porch appears to be of the 17th; the upper stage of the tower, formerly wooden, was reconstructed in stone in the 19th, when the organ chamber, originally built to be the squire's pew, was added; the vestry is still later.
Grimm's drawing of 1791 (fn. 94) shows a lancet triplet in the east wall of the chancel, there is now a modern three-light window in the Decorated style. In the south wall is a single lancet window of the 13th century; west of this is a modern pointed arch of two orders opening into the organ chamber. Grimm's drawing here shows a square-headed two-light window, and, west of it, a lancet, apparently a low side window. In the south wall is a piscina with plain pointed arch and single drain, west of this are double sedilia having arches of one moulded order and a hood-mould with carved heads as stops; a corbel with nail-head moulding supports the common springing of the two arches; the jambs have nookshafts with moulded caps and square abacus. In the north wall are three lancet windows, modern, reproducing work of the 13th century. There is no chancel arch; and the chancel roof, of trussed rafters with a single tie-beam, is modern.
The floor of the nave originally rose towards the east, as may be seen from the differing levels of the bases of the south arcade. This is of five bays of varying widths; the piers are cylindrical with scallopped caps and water-holding bases, the responds have the form of half-piers. The arches are pointed, of two orders, the inner chamfered the outer square, there is a hoodmould of roll section on both sides. The easternmost arch of the former north arcade gave access to the tower, it was pointed, of two orders; it is now blocked and a modern doorway, with square-headed trefoil head, is inserted in the blocking. The next arch, also blocked, seems to have been of the same design; both these were of the 13th century. The three western arches, of the 12th, were semicircular and of one order; the westernmost has been partially unblocked to provide access to a modern vestry, and has crude painting (fn. 95) on its plastered soffit; the piers of this arcade are no longer visible, but evidently were oblong in plan. Inserted in the north wall of the nave are two modern windows, each of two ogee trefoil-headed lights. In the west wall is a doorway having a plain pointed arch of one order and a hood-mould with grotesque heads as stops and a depressed rear-arch, of the 13th century or later; the ironwork of the hinges of this door is ancient. Over this is a window like those in the north wall, modern. The roof resembles that of the chancel, but is ancient.
The lowest stage of the tower has modern diagonal buttresses at both north corners; in the east wall is a modern doorway with a plain pointed arch of one order, in the north wall is a lancet window of the 13th century. In the west wall was formerly a pointed arch of two orders opening into the aisle, and in the blocking is a lancet window, originally 13th-century but repaired. Small modern piers to support the bell-frame occupy all four corners. The second stage has a square-headed window, perhaps of the 13th century, on each of the east and north sides, and a small round window of doubtful date on the west. The uppermost is entirely modern, replacing the wooden bell-chamber and shingled pyramidal cap shown in Grimm's drawing. It has two-light square-headed windows like those of the nave on each of the east, north, and west sides.
At the east end of the south aisle is a small buttress of one stage with sloping offset and a Mass dial, and there is a like buttress one bay west; these were probably added when the bay was vaulted. In the east wall was a small lancet window with concentric splay, now blocked by the organ chamber, and in the south wall of the eastern bay is a modern three-light window. Into this bay which, like the rest of the aisle, was originally of the late 12th century, there was inserted in the 13th a single bay of vaulting, slender shafts being built against the easternmost pier of the arcade and the aisle wall opposite to carry the arch which forms the west limit of the vaulting. This arch is of one order, square in section, and originally semicircular; it has pushed both its abutments perceptibly out of plumb and is now elliptical. Its shafts have caps with stiff foliage and square abaci; the vault has groin ribs and wall ribs, both moulded; some of the ashlar here is partly of chalk, partly of freestone of a different colour, deliberately disposed in contrast.
Three other windows in the south wall of this aisle resemble those in the north wall of the nave, in the west wall is a single lancet, these are all modern. The south doorway has a semicircular arch of two moulded orders and a hood-mould; the jambs have attached shafts; this is of the late 12th century. On the west jamb is a Mass dial; over the door is a one-light window of doubtful date, now blocked. The aisle roof west of the vaulted bay consists of four ridges running north and south, now modern and having trussed rafters, but reproducing the ancient arrangement. (fn. 96)
The altar table is made of the remains of old altar rails supporting the pre-Reformation slab; the font has a square bowl resting on four slender and one thick shaft, without capitals, and has shallow arcading cut on its sides; it is of the 12th century. At the west end of the aisle are the Royal Arms of William III, and on the north wall of the nave those, apparently, of George III before 1800, but not easily legible. There are traces of wall paintings on the walls of both nave and aisle, both pre-Reformation figures and post-Reformation blackletter texts from Scripture.
The communion plate includes a large silver cup with engraved ornamentation and a paten cover, both of 1568, and another paten with hall marks for 1679–80. (fn. 97)
There are three bells by Thomas Wakefield, 1615. (fn. 98)
There was a church at Aldingbourne in 1086, (fn. 99) which formed part of one of the richest prebends of the cathedral until 1227, when it was assigned by the Chapter, with the consent of Bishop Ralph Neville, to the Dean of Chichester, (fn. 100) who held it with reservation of the vicar's endowment. The Dean held it until 1840, when the patronage was transferred to the Bishop of Chichester. (fn. 101) The vicarage was worth £10 in 1291, (fn. 102) and £10 5s. 6d. clear in 1535. (fn. 103)
The rectory and great tithes were farmed by the Dean, and during the Commonwealth were in the hands of the Gunters of Racton under a lease for three lives granted in 1618. (fn. 104)
In 1535 tithes 'in the parish of Lydsey' were farmed by the Dean to William Royse at £4 16s. 8d., (fn. 105) and other tithes from Lidsey belonged to the Chancellor of Chichester. (fn. 106) There was a chapel at Lidsey in 1282, when it was settled that all oblations there belonged to the mother church of Aldingbourne, (fn. 107) and services were still held there as late as March 1544, when Robert Lylyott left 'to the chapell of Lydsey xijs. to have a Torch every Sonday and Hey Day' for a year after his death. (fn. 108) It does not figure in the records of the suppression of chantries, and Sir John Miles made his will on 1 September 1551 as 'curate of the chappell of Lydsey, annexed to the parish church of Aldingbourne'. (fn. 109) It had, however, gone out of use by 1583, when 'the old chapel of Lydsey with one acre of land' was among the miscellaneous properties granted to Theophilus Adams. (fn. 110)
Church Acre. The origin of this charity is unknown, but from about the year 1862 the rent received in respect of the land belonging to the charity has been applied by the churchwardens to church expenses.
Walter William Kelly by will dated 10 June 1921 gave £1,000 to the vicar and churchwardens of Aldingbourne to be applied by them, in their absolute discretion for the advancement of Christ's religion in the parish according to the teaching of the Church of England. The annual income of the charity amounts to £35.