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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Elsted is a large parish of irregular shape containing 1,840 acres, 2½ miles from north to south, with an average width of 1 mile from east to west. Elsted station on the Southern Railway is in the north of the parish and from it Elsted Road leads to the village. The church, now disused and in ruins except for the chancel, is north of the village near the Manor Farm, and the parishioners attend services at Treyford.
The highest part of the parish is about a mile south-west of the village at Beacon Hill, where a height of 795 ft. is reached inside a supposed British camp. Near by also, at Pen Hill, 700 ft. is reached, whereas Elsted Marsh in the north is less than 150 ft. above sealevel.
The parish abounds in scattered copses and moorland. Mill Pond Bottom may possibly mark the site of the mill which existed here in 1086; (fn. 1) but there is no trace of a stream there now and it seems more likely that the mill was on the stream which divides the parish from Treyford.
The village is a small group of buildings south of the church at cross-roads. A cottage, south of the church on the east side of the road, has stone walls with brick dressings and a 17th-century central chimney-shaft of brick with square pilasters on two faces above the tiled roof. Another east of it has stone walls with 18thcentury brick angles, &c., and a thatched roof, above which is a 17th-century chimney-shaft with a square pilaster on each of its four faces. A third, south of it, on the south side of the road to Midhurst, has flintrubble walls with early-17th-century brick angles and window dressings. The roof is thatched and has a plain chimney-shaft. Almost all the others are probably post-1700.
Osbern, Bishop of Exeter, held ELSTED of King Edward the Confessor, and the manor remained in his hands after the Conquest. Of the manor Richard held 1 hide, Osbern the clerk half a hide, and Ralph the priest 1 hide which pertained to the church. (fn. 4) In the time of King Edward the manor was assessed for 13 hides, and in 1086 for 5½. Osbern died in 1103, and Elsted manor passed to the see of Exeter, the overlordship of the bishops being recognized until 1421. It was held of the manor of Chidham by the service of 2 knights' fees. (fn. 5) In 1443 it was not known of whom the manor was held. (fn. 6)
Bartholomew, son of Robert de Elsted, in 1230 granted to the priory of Boxgrove pasture for 7 beasts in his park of Elsted, (fn. 7) for the salvation of himself and his wife Clemence. In 1240 Bartholomew conveyed to Philip de Croft a carucate and 4 virgates in Elsted, with the advowson of the church, at a rent of 2s. (fn. 8) Philip was holding 2 fees (fn. 9) at Elsted in 1242 directly of the Bishop of Exeter. (fn. 10) Hugh de Croft, brother and heir of Philip, gave his interest in Elsted with the advowson to the Prior of Boxgrove, (fn. 11) and this grant was confirmed by Bartholomew de Elsted. (fn. 12) Bartholomew died before 1249, when Robert de Croft agreed to pay to Clemence, widow of Bartholomew, 1 mark yearly for her life from half of 3 virgates in Elsted which Clemence claimed as dower. (fn. 13)
At some date previous to 1242 Bartholomew had granted to John de Gatesden 2 virgates and 3 acres of land and a rent of 8s. from his demesne land of Elsted, (fn. 14) and John agreed with the prior that all the land of Elsted which the prior had acquired from the Crofts should be held by John in fee tail, with reversion in default of issue of John to the prior. (fn. 15) The church, advowson, and tithes of 3 acres were to be held by the prior. (fn. 16) John also agreed to pay Clemence £10 a year from Elsted as her dower. (fn. 17) She survived John de Gatesden and the annuity was confirmed to her by the king in 1262. (fn. 18) Half a carucate of land in Elsted was part of the jointure of John's widow Hawise, (fn. 19) but the manor itself appears to have passed with Trotton before John de Gatesden's death to his son John, as it was among his possessions when he died in 1258. (fn. 20) With the other Gatesden estates, Elsted passed to Margaret, daughter and heiress of the younger John de Gatesden. She and her husband John de Camoys in 1280 recognized the right of the Prior of Boxgrove to certain land and a mill in Elsted which John de Gatesden had held for his life by a lease from a former prior, and 17½ acres in Elsted in the vale of Marden. They also gave him an acre in Tulonde, and the advowson of the church, while the prior recognized their right to 22½ acres of land in Kerswell furlong and 3 acres of wood lying to the south of this land. (fn. 21)
Sir John Camoys leased the manor in 1279 for 20 years to Henry Husee of Harting, who paid the rent of £25 to Queen Eleanor on behalf of Sir John de Camoys. After Henry's death, though there were 9 years of the lease yet to run, Sir John entered into the manor, and took fealty of the tenants. Thereupon Sir William Paynel, who was then in possession of all the Gatesden manors, (fn. 22) came to Elsted and chased away Sir John's servants, until he too was ousted by the subescheator in the king's name. (fn. 23) In 1329 the Bishop of Exeter wrote to Sir Ralph Camoys (son of Sir John) stating that the Prior of Boxgrove claimed that he held the manor of the bishop and that Sir Ralph was his tenant; the bishop contradicted the prior's claim and told Sir Ralph that his service should be rendered to himself as for 2 knights' fees of his manor of Chidham. (fn. 24)
The manor descended with Trotton (q.v) to the coheirs of Sir Roger Lewknor, (fn. 25) passing with Didling to the Mills, (fn. 26) and being sold with it in 1791 to Lord Robert Spencer. (fn. 27) It was probably purchased at the same time as Didling by Lord Leconfield who was lord of the manor in 1876. (fn. 28)
The land is now divided into farms.
The present church of ST. PAUL (fn. 29) (officially a chapel of ease to Treyford) consists of a single chamber, formerly the chancel; it is built of stone, repaired in modern times with brick, and is roofed with tile.
The church mentioned in Domesday Book (fn. 30) seems to have consisted of a single chamber, to which were added, soon after, a chancel and a north aisle; in the 13th century the chancel was rebuilt; a south porch was added in 1662. (fn. 31) In 1872 the church was 'in a dilapidated condition', (fn. 32) but it was restored in 1873, at which time, apparently, the aisle was destroyed and the arcade blocked; (fn. 33) and later the porch was destroyed and the nave unroofed, though most of its walls still stand.
The chancel has modern diagonal buttresses at both east corners, and a pair of plain 13th-century lancets with pointed rear-arches in the east wall. In the north wall are two similar lancets; this wall has been faced with brick in modern times, presumably owing to settlement of the foundations. In the south wall is a window consisting of a pair of lancets under a common rear-arch; west of this is a single lancet like the one opposite. A moulded string-course runs round the north, east, and south sides of the chancel. The chancel arch is semicircular, of one order, with square jambs and plain imposts, of the 12th century; it is now filled by modern boarding, in which is the present doorway. The roof has a single moulded tie-beam with a kingpost, braced all four ways, and a collar purlin; the rafters and collars are ceiled in plaster.
The ruined nave has modern buttresses at all four corners. The Sharpe drawing shows that it had in the south wall a two-light window with segmental arched head and Perpendicular tracery; this has entirely disappeared and the wall is now only about 5 ft. high. The east jamb of the south doorway (fn. 34) remains; west of this the wall has been demolished. The north wall is intact; like the south and west walls it is built of local greensand laid herring-bone fashion. The two arches of the arcade closely resemble the chancel arch, with which they are coeval; each appears to have been inserted separately. They are now blocked; in the blocking of the eastern one has been inserted a single-light window with pointed trefoil head, perhaps of the 14th century; this is probably the former east window of the aisle. (fn. 35) In the blocking of the western arch is a re-used doorway with a semicircular head, over this is a short window, in modern brickwork, resembling the head of a 13th-century lancet. Against the west respond there has been re-erected a plain doorway with four-centred arch head, perhaps the former south doorway. In the west wall is a two-light window with pointed trefoil heads and no tracery, perhaps 14th-century. The Sharpe drawing shows a small timber bell-cote over the middle of the nave; the bell now hangs from a beam in the north-west corner of the ruin.
The former north aisle was 9 ft. 10 in. wide internally, and had diagonal buttresses at both corners, besides two others flanking the north door. (fn. 36) It has now completely disappeared.
The font and other fittings are modern.
There were two bells in 1864, one without any inscription, the other, inscribed SANCTE PAULE ORA PRO NOBIS, by John White of Reading, c. 1520. (fn. 37)
The church plate includes a silver chalice and paten of 1701, and a flagon of 1692. (fn. 38)
The registers begin in 1571.
A church at Elsted is mentioned in 1086, and Ralph the priest held a hide of land appurtenant to the church. (fn. 39) As already mentioned, the advowson came into the hands of Boxgrove Priory in the 13th century. It remained in the possession of the priory until the Dissolution (fn. 40) when it passed to the Crown. The church was never appropriated, and the rectory, which was valued at £10 in 1291, (fn. 41) was returned in 1535 as worth £10 0s. 2d., clear of payments of 6s. 8d. to the archdeacon and 3s. 2d. to the bishop. (fn. 42)
In 1341 the rector held 4 virgates of arable land and had pasture for 2 horses and 6 oxen with the lord's animals and pasture for 100 sheep and pannage for 6 pigs. (fn. 43)
The advowson and rectory were granted in 1560 to Thomas Reve and Nicholas Pynde, (fn. 44) and in 1579–80 Thomas Dering obtained licence to sell the advowson to Thomas Hanbery, (fn. 45) who presented in 1598. (fn. 46)
Philip Burton of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, presented in 1618 for that turn, and the Crown in 1625 and 1647. (fn. 47) Mr. Hutchinson presented in 1672, (fn. 48) and in 1709 the Rev. Charles Hutchinson conveyed the advowson to John Colebrooke, the younger. (fn. 49) Colebrooke presented in 1718, and Walter Rainstorp in 1739. Robert Islip was patron in 1773 and 1785, (fn. 50) and in 1800 Walter Islip, clerk, and Mary his wife conveyed the advowson to Lord Selsey. (fn. 51) After the death of the last Lord Selsey in 1838 the advowson passed to the Vernon Harcourt family, from whom it was acquired in 1873 by the Marquess of Clanricarde. (fn. 52) He sold it to James Turvey, who conveyed it in 1881 to Miss Mary Dorothy Newton, (fn. 53) who appears to have vested the advowson in trustees. It was acquired before 1915 by J. A. S. P. Moffatt, the rector, and was held between 1917 and 1934 by Mrs. Moffatt, shortly after which date it was conveyed to the Bishop of Chichester. (fn. 54)
The churches of Elsted and Treford were united in 1485, but this arrangement lasted only till 1500. (fn. 55) The living is now a rectory held with Treyford and Didling, the church being at Treyford until the latter was pulled down in 1951, Elsted becoming the church of the united benefice.
The rectory of Elsted was granted by Henry VIII to Richard Roberts, the incumbent, who leased it to Richard Durante of Petersfield, Edmund Ford, and John Randolf in 1549. This lease came into the hands of Erasmus Ford. Roberts resigned the living in 1550, and much bad feeling arose between the new incumbent, John Lewes, and Erasmus on account of the lease. The latter refused to give John possession of the parsonage house, and when the Court of Requests decreed that John should have occupation of the fairest chamber in the house, Erasmus refused to give him the hall or parlour, which had been accounted the parson's chamber, but wanted him to have the chamber over the hall. The parties were ordered to meet in London in 1552 for a settlement, but it is not known whether agreement was ultimately reached. (fn. 56)