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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This parish, lying immediately to the south of Midhurst, has an area of 2,597 acres, of which roughly a quarter is covered with woodland and coppice. The most heavily wooded part is along the south boundary, which runs through Charlton and Singleton Forests on the east of Cocking Gap and through the West Dean Woods on the west of it. Through the Gap runs the road from Chichester to Midhurst, entering the parish at Wolverstone Farm, at an elevation of 300 ft., with the tree-clad hills rising steeply on either side to reach heights of 730 ft. on the east and west bounds of the parish. The road rises gradually for ¾ mile to 350 ft. on the crest of Cocking Hill, down which it drops steeply to 200 ft. at the village, where are concentrated most of the population, which numbered 437 in 1931. Just to the west of the village is Cocking Station on the Chichester-Midhurst branch of the Southern Railway, which runs close to, and more or less parallel with, the road. The church is on the east of the village and below it, to the north, is the mill-pond, from which a stream runs northwards, dammed in its course to form the Foundry Pond (fn. 1) and, again, to serve Bex Mill. A little beyond this point the eastern boundary of the parish, which is formed by the stream, turns westwards to the Midhurst Road, which it follows, passing Cocking Causeway, a portion of the parish now attached for ecclesiastical purposes to West Lavington. (fn. 2) West of the road is Pitsham, which in the 14th century was a member of the manor of Bepton. (fn. 3)
The Manor House, north-west of the churchyard, is of medieval origin, probably 15th-century, but has been considerably altered at different periods. The existing outer walls of the house and its outbuildings, &c., preserve the original plan, which was a rectangle, almost a square, with the present two-storied west range as the main block. It is not altogether clear from the existing walls what form the other ranges took, but there seems to have been a small courtyard surrounded on the south and east sides as well as the west, but perhaps open to the north. Part of the south range may have been a two-storied wing to the main block, but the east range, of which only the outer wall is now standing, may have been of only one story. A modern inner outbuilding stands against the surviving outer wall of the south range. The missing ranges must have been destroyed by the late 17th century, when the kitchen wing was built behind the west range over most of the courtyard. It is built of flint and the lower story has free-stone quoins, as does an adjoining wing north of it which replaces the north range, if there was one. The upper story of both has brick quoins and is probably an 18th-century heightening. The west range has thick walls of native squared free-stone but the west front and south end are covered with rough-cast cement. It has a chamfered plinth which is continued right round the whole building. The original masonry, with some flint work, is seen in the north side. The north side of the later wing is of roughly squared white stones with grey stone quoins to the north-east angle, but the upper story where it meets the west range has brick quoins forming a straight joint with it. The interior of the west range is more or less of modern arrangement with an entrance and stair-hall entered from a modern porch, with one room north of it and two south of it. In the back wall of the range now opening into the kitchen is a chamfered four-centred stone doorway, and next south of it another with hollow-chamfered jambs and arched head, now blocked. The external wall a little south of the kitchen wing is thinned back with a splay, suggesting the former existence of a south-east wing, as mentioned above. In the upper story of this wall is a small blocked original window, right against the south wall of the kitchen-wing. All the other windows are modern, but in the north wall of the range is a blocked ground-floor window and some plaster facing suggesting a blocked upper doorway. The upper north room of the range has a late-15th-century or early-16th-century open-timbered ceiling with a moulded wallplate and main beams and stop-hollow-chamfered joists. In the south wall of the kitchen is a doorway which has a re-used late-15th-century arched square head, from some other part of the house. The original south wall, east of the west range, remains; it is of free-stone but has been refaced outside with later flint-work. It now has outbuildings against it inside, but on the west half can be seen recesses of a former window now blocked and, partly covered by the east wall of the house, part of a four-centred head of a former doorway.
The east wall is now only the boundary wall of the kitchen courtyard; in its inner face is a range of five blocked windows with free-stone splays: externally the wall has been refaced with flints, obliterating all traces of the windows, but south of them the gabled end of the outbuilding is of yellow and grey free-stone and shows a straight joint of a jamb of a former doorway.
The roof of the house, not visible inside, is said to be of old rough timbers. It has hipped north and south ends and is tiled. There are in the parish some seven or eight buildings of the 17th century or earlier, all small.
In the village a cottage west of the Manor House, partly of stone, has some 17th-century timber-framing. A reconditioned cottage at the north end of the village, west side of the road, is of late-16th-century framing. A third in the south half, east side of the road, is of 17th-century square framing, partly tile-hung, and has a massive central chimney-stack with square pilasters. The Malt House, farther south on the west side, is mostly of red brick and has a 17th-century central chimney-stack of rebated type in thin bricks. A cottage in a side lane east of the last has plastered and tilehung walls and a 17th-century central chimney-stack. Another to the west on the north side of the Bepton road has a lower story of free-stone, the upper of timber framing. Another cottage, south of the Richard Cobden Inn, is of timber framing, possibly 17th-century. The lower story is of 18th-century brickwork. The central chimney-stack is of 17th-century bricks.
COCKING was held of Edward the Confessor by Azor, and in 1086 it was held of Earl Roger by Robert (son of Tetbald), as 12 hides, of which ½ hide was held by Turald. There were 5 mills, and there was one haw in Chichester attached to the manor. (fn. 4) Robert's estates constituted the honor of Petworth, later acquired by the family of Percy, and Cocking was held of that honor. In 1187 when the honors of Arundel and Petworth were in the king's hands, Cocking was tallaged among other royal demesnes at 2 marks. (fn. 5) In 1195, shortly after Henry de Percy had recovered the honor of Petworth, (fn. 6) Brian fitz Ralph disputed his right to the honor, (fn. 7) which he himself claimed in right of his wife Gunnor, who was great-granddaughter of Aveline, heiress and probably granddaughter of Robert son of Tetbald. (fn. 8) Eventually Brian and Gunnor remitted to Henry de Percy their rights in the honor but retained the whole of the vill of Cocking (except 2 virgates which Henry de Hesset held as appurtenant to ½ knight's fee in Heyshott), (fn. 9) with Linchmere and 2 1/20 fees in Selham (and Minstead). (fn. 10) It was arranged that these fees should be held of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who should hold of Percy, and this arrangement still held good in 1314. (fn. 11)
Brian, son of Ralph, and Gunnor had two sons, Brian and Eudes, who left no issue, and at least two daughters, Aveline and Sarah. (fn. 12) Sarah married Roger de Bavent and brought to him the manor of Cocking, which was assured by two fines; one by which John de Sey, late husband of Aveline, Sarah's sister, settled upon them the share of Cocking which had been Aveline's, (fn. 13) and the other by which Peter de Cuddington, apparently the representative of another sister, (fn. 14) secured them and the heirs of Sarah, as the heir of Gunnor de Mauden her mother, against any claim which Peter might make to the manor of Cocking. (fn. 15) Roger de Bavent was granted exemption from serving on assizes and the like for life in 1253, (fn. 16) and was still living in 1255. (fn. 17) At some time after that date he was succeeded by his son Adam, who in 1279 established his right to free chase there, subject to the personal right of the lord of Arundel to hunt therein. (fn. 18) At the same time the jury reported that Adam de Bavent had not inclosed his wood, which was called la Haye, as he ought to between the forest of Arundel and the said chase. (fn. 19) Complaint was made by Adam some years later against certain persons in the right of Richard, Earl of Arundel, who entered his free chase at Cocking. (fn. 20) The jurors returned the earl as not guilty, because he had the right to hunt there whenever Adam did; he was likewise exonerated in the matter of cutting down Adam's trees on the same occasions. Two or three years after this Adam again vindicated his claim to free chase when he recovered damages against certain hunters. (fn. 21) In 1285 he was granted free warren on all his demesne lands of Cocking and other places, with a market every week on Thursday in the manor of Cocking and a fair every year to last three days on the eve, day, and morrow of the Beheading of St. John Baptist (29 August). (fn. 22) Adam died in 1292, seised of the manor of Cocking, which he held of the Archbishop of Canterbury for service of 3 1/20 knights' fees. (fn. 23) His son and heir, Roger, was aged about 12 years at the time of his father's death, proved his age in 1301, (fn. 24) and was holding the manor in 1316. (fn. 25) He and his son Roger were frequently in the king's service during the earlier years of the reign of Edward III. The younger Roger died in 1355, (fn. 26) having in 1344 granted the greater part, (fn. 27) or perhaps all, of his possessions to the king. Cocking is not mentioned among them, Roger having already sold the manor in 1339 to Richard, Earl of Arundel. (fn. 28) It was confirmed to the earl in 1359 by Roger's son John, (fn. 29) who had presumably died by 1367, when Sir John de Dantesey and Joan his wife, daughter and then heir of Roger de Bavent, (fn. 30) received 200 marks from the Earl of Arundel for quittance of their claim to the manor of Cocking. (fn. 31) Cocking was among the manors settled by Earl Richard on his marriage with Eleanor, daughter of Henry, Earl of Lancaster; (fn. 32) and in 1356 Richard, Earl of Arundel, made complaint that certain malefactors had broken into his free chase of Cockinghay, (fn. 33) apparently the same to which Adam de Bavent had established his claim in 1291.
Cocking then descended with the honor of Arundel, and as late as 1448 it was among the manors of which Earl William made a settlement; (fn. 34) but it would seem subsequently to have been given to the College of the Holy Trinity of Arundel, as on the suppression of the college the manor of Cocking was among its possessions given to Henry, Earl of Arundel, in December 1544. (fn. 35) It was among the many manors which Earl Henry settled in 1566 on his daughter Jane and her husband Lord Lumley. (fn. 36) By Lord Lumley it was conveyed in 1584 to Anthony, Viscount Montague, (fn. 37) and subsequently followed the descent of Cowdray (q.v.), the present lord of the manor being Lord Cowdray.
Although there were five mills in the vill in 1086 the only later reference to a mill appears to be in 1200, when Jonas le Lohareng quitclaimed to Thomas, son of Reynold, I virgate of land and a mill in Cocking. (fn. 38)
The church (fn. 39) (invocation unknown) stands east of the Manor House. It consists of chancel with north vestry, nave, north and south aisles, south porch, and west tower; it is built of flint with ashlar dressings, mainly Henley sandstone; the tower is of the local malm rock plastered; the roofs are of tile except that of the tower, which is of stone slates. The chancel and nave are of the 12th century, the south aisle and tower were added in the 14th, the north aisle and vestry in the 19th.
A drawing of 1795 (fn. 40) shows herring-bone masonry on the north side of the chancel. The east window has three trefoil-headed lights under a pointed arch; the present window is modern, a reproduction of the original of the 13th century, which is preserved in the Rectory garden. On the south side is a piscina with straight-lined arch, of the early 14th century. Over it is a contemporary one-light window with ogee trefoil head, much restored; west of this is a low side window with pointed trefoil head and rebated jambs, of the 13th century. On the north side is a window resembling, and coeval with, the eastern on the south, and a modern vestry door with a plain pointed arch. Midway in each wall are the remains of the inner jambs and rear-arches of the original 12th-century roundheaded windows; below that on the north side is a niche tomb with depressed trefoil-headed ogee arch, surmounted by a finial and flanked by short pinnacles springing from carved heads, of the late 13th century. The chancel arch (11th-century) is roughly semicircular, of one plain order springing from square responds with chamfered imposts. The lower part of the rood screen survived in about 1850, (fn. 41) but has since disappeared. The roof is modern.
The south arcade of the nave (14th-century) is of two bays. The responds are square, and the arches, of two orders, die away into them at a rather low level. The single pier is octagonal, with square base, bold chamfer stops to the oblique faces of the octagon, and a thin capital, or rather impost, which is moulded. As this is at a higher level than the respond springing, the pier half of each arch is of segmental pointed form. In the east bay are slight traces of the fixing of a former parclose screen. (fn. 42) Over the arcade is a 12th-century window, blocked when the aisle was added, discovered and opened in the 19th century. This is a small roundheaded window with concentric splay, having no provision for glazing. On the plaster of the east splay is a wall painting, of the early 13th century, representing the angel appearing to the shepherds at the Nativity. (fn. 43) Before the addition of the north aisle there was a square window of four lights in the north wall of the nave, shown in the drawing of 1795. The north arcade (modern) is of three bays with octagonal piers and responds and pointed arches of two orders. In the west wall is a doorway which, as its door checks are to the westward, may have been the west door before the tower was added. It has a plain pointed arch of one order with semi-elliptic rear-arch, and is perhaps of slightly earlier date than the tower. The roof has three tie-beams, possibly of the 12th century, pretty certainly older than the tower, as the position of the westernmost suggests that it once carried a timber bell-cote. There is a board ceiling under the rafters.
The south aisle has modern buttresses with sloping offsets at each end of the south wall. Its east window is of two lights with pointed trefoil heads and a diamondshaped quatrefoil over; the interior splays are treated as shallow niches with cinquefoiled heads. In the south wall is a square-headed aumbry with remains of the door fastenings; next is a piscina with head in the form of a concave triangle, these may be coeval with the aisle. The south window is of two ogee trefoil-headed lights, with pierced spandrels, under a square head. The south doorway has a pointed arch of one plain order, probably modern. The west window (1865) has two trefoil-headed lights under a quatrefoil. The roof is modern.
The tower (14th-century) has pairs of buttresses at each west corner; three of these are of one stage only, the fourth, the northernmost, is of two; all have sloping offsets. The west doorway is pointed, of one moulded order with label, over this is a small square-headed window. The second stage originally had single trefoilheaded windows in the south, west, and north sides, of which the western only is now open. The third stage has two-light windows with pointed trefoil heads on the south, west, and north sides, and a plain square on the east. The roof is pyramidal, with overhanging eaves; its pitch appears to have been lowered in the 19th century. (fn. 44)
There are three bells; (fn. 45) one inscribed SANCTE CATERINA ORA PRO NOBIS, by Roger Landen of Wokingham, c. 1450; the second, similar but with the name of St. John, also from the Wokingham foundry, possibly slightly earlier; and the third dated 1616.
The communion plate includes a silver chalice of 1763, and an alms dish of 1714, given to the church by the Rev. Melmoth Skynner, vicar, in 1821. (fn. 46)
The parish registers begin in 1558, and from that date to 1837 have been printed. (fn. 47)
There was a church at Cocking in 1086. (fn. 48) This was a prebend of the collegiate church of St. Nicholas at Arundel and when that college was converted into a priory subject to the abbey of Séez the church passed to the abbey. (fn. 49) In 1200 there was a suit (fn. 50) between Brian, son of Ralph, and Gunnor his wife against the abbot of Séez, who was represented by William, prior of Arundel. Brian and Gunnor claimed the advowson in Gunnor's name, on the ground that her greatgrandfather Alan had been seised of it and had presented Humphrey de Pallingham in the reign of Henry I. The abbot of Séez against this claimed that the advowson of Cocking belonged to the prebend of Arundel which the monks of Séez had from Roger de Montgomery, who founded the church of Arundel and was the overlord of Cocking at the time of the Domesday Survey. In the autumn of the same year Ralph and Gunnor released their right in the advowson of Cocking Church to the abbot, who in return gave Gunnor a palfrey. (fn. 51)
In 1234 Bishop Ralph Neville, with the assent of the abbot of Séez, appropriated Cocking Church to the priory of St. Nicholas at Arundel, on condition that the monks should pay yearly to the vicar 20s., in addition to the small tithes, offerings, manse, and glebe which he had previously had. At the same time the bishop reserved the collation of the vicarage to himself and his successors. (fn. 52)
In 1379 Richard, Earl of Arundel, received licence to grant to his new foundation the college of the Holy Trinity at Arundel a number of advowsons, including that of Cocking, which the prior and convent of St. Nicholas had previously been licensed to grant to him. (fn. 53) This seems to have been a blunder of the Chancery scribe, as there is no evidence that the priory ever held the advowson, which in 1401 was certainly in the hands of the bishop (fn. 54) and remained with his successors until about 1859, when the patronage came into the hands of the Bishop of Oxford. (fn. 55) It was acquired in about 1873 by the Crown, and the living is now in the gift of the Lord Chancellor. (fn. 56)
In 1291 the rectory of Cocking had been valued at £6 13s. 4d. and the vicarage at only £4 6s. 8d. (fn. 57) It seems likely that when the rectory was conveyed to the college the Bishop of Chichester insisted on the increase of the vicarage, which was returned at £13 6s. 8d. in 1535, (fn. 58) and as there is no valuation of the rectory among the estates of the college at that time it is probable that the great tithes had been assigned to the vicar.