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 small parish of 1,790 acres has been annexed to that of West Dean under the West Sussex Review Order of 1933. (fn. 1) The road and the railway from Chichester to Midhurst run through the eastern end of the parish, with the River Lavant between them. Most of the parish lies at a height between 200 ft. and 350 ft., dropping to about 160 ft. in the valley of the Lavant and rising abruptly on its western boundary, which runs along the crest of Bow Hill, to over 600 ft. Here there are many intrenchments, earthworks, and other signs of early occupation, (fn. 2) including Goosehill Camp, a remarkable oval fortification sited some distance below the crest of the hill and consisting of two concentric ditches and banks. (fn. 3)
Binderton House is the only building of interest in the parish, which has no village. It was erected in 1677 but remodelled about 1780. More recently the long south wing was destroyed by fire. The plan is peculiar and rather pretentious for a house of this size. It consists of a middle main block, facing east and west, and of two stories and attics, flanked on its western half by exceptionally long low two-storied ranges, each more than half as long again as the main block and with fairly long wings projecting at right angles to the east at the outer ends. Only the stump of the south range is left but the north range is complete. The main block was probably rectangular, in three bays north to south, but in the late-18th-century changes a large sevensided bow window was thrown out in the middle bay on the east front. Against the north and south sides in the angles with the long low ranges are square towers, of which the northern retains an original central-newel winding staircase. The west front is of red brick, the lower story and first-floor string-course being now coated with rough-cast. The cornice is of dentilled brickwork and has a low parapet. The roof is tiled. The middle entrance has a late-18th-century stone porch with Ionic columns, entablature, cornice with modillions, and a pediment. The windows are tall and narrow and fitted with sash frames. The other walls are entirely rough-casted. The west entrance opens into a hall that includes the former north room and rises two stories in height. It contains a fine staircase with square newels, 3½ in. turned balusters, and massive moulded handrails. It branches two ways from the half-landing to the first-floor rooms. It is of much the same period as the original house (or perhaps a little earlier) but from its size and position it seems to have been introduced later from elsewhere. The winding stair in the north tower has oak steps and a central oak newel finishing at the second floor with a pearshaped head. The large middle east room with the bow window is lined with unpainted deal panelling of the late 18th century, and all the fireplaces are of the same period. The roofs have plain oak timbers. The long low north range is built of flint and has a heavy square-panelled chimney-shaft above the tiled roof. The doorways and windows are plain and several are blocked or altered. The east end of the north wing is of 17th-century brickwork and has square angle pilasters carrying pine-apple urns on panelled pedestals. The wall has a pediment of less pitch than the roof, so that the kneelers are considerably higher than the eaves. Below the pediment is a stone tablet with an inscribed panel surrounded by swags and scrolled ornament. The inscription, partly covered by creeper, reads: THO. THE SON OF THO. THE GRANDSON OF WILL. SMITH OF BINDERTON ESQ. BUILT THIS HOUSE IN THE YEARE OF OUR LORD 1677 IN THE . . YEARE OF HIS AGE.
The manor of BINDERTON was held before the Conquest by Countess Gida, wife of Earl Godwin. In 1086 it was held in demesne by Earl Roger. It had been assessed at 7 hides but was now 3 hides. (fn. 4)
By the beginning of the 13th century the manor was in the hands of Robert de la Mote, who forfeited it as 'the king's enemy' in 1205, when it was given to his overlord the Earl of Arundel, who held it in 1212. (fn. 5) The Earl enfeoffed Reynold Aguillon, who died in or shortly before 1233, (fn. 6) in which year the king gave to Emery de Rivallis the custody of the land which Reynold Aguillon held of the grant of the Earl of Arundel in Binderton, as being 'lands of Normans'. (fn. 7) Next year the land of Robert de la Mote, Norman, was granted to Hugh d'Aubigny, (fn. 8) who was sued for the manor of Binderton in 1236 by Reynold's co-heirs, his four daughters and their husbands—William de Covert and Mary, Peter de Gatesden and Cecily, Ralph de St. Owen and Godehuda, William Russell and Alice. (fn. 9) In 1243 Bernard of Savoy had a grant of the manor, to hold during the king's pleasure, (fn. 10) and he conveyed it to the Cistercian nunnery of Tarrant in Dorset. (fn. 11) This was probably done on behalf of his relative Queen Eleanor, as in 1262 it was stated that 'the vill of Binderton is the king's escheat after the death of William (sic) de la Mote, Norman, and is worth £20, and the Abbess of Tarrant holds it of the queen's gift'. (fn. 12) And in 1278 it is again said that the manor belonged to the abbess 'by the grant of Queen Eleanor, mother of the present king'. (fn. 13) It remained in the hands of the nuns until the suppression of the abbey, when it fell to the Crown. In August 1550 the manor, then in the tenancy of John Smyth, was granted to Sir Thomas Smith and Elizabeth his wife, with licence to convey it to Sir Thomas Stradlyng, (fn. 14) and he had licence to transfer it to Henry, Lord Maltravers, in May 1553. (fn. 15) Henry, as Earl of Arundel, in 1566 settled the manor on his son-in-law John, Lord Lumley, (fn. 16) who, in 1584, conveyed to John Shurley, who, in turn, conveyed in 1604–5 to William Smyth. (fn. 17) In 1619 the latter settled it on himself for life, with remainder to his eldest son William and heirs male, in default to his second son Thomas and heirs male; (fn. 18) William Smyth the younger predeceased his father, dying in 1620 without male issue; (fn. 19) on the death in 1623–4 of William Smyth the elder (fn. 20) the manor passed to Thomas Smyth, and on his death in 1658 to his son Thomas. (fn. 21) The latter died without issue in 1687–8, (fn. 22) having settled a life interest in the manor on his wife Alice, who was subsequently married to Sir William Millard, and died in 1729. (fn. 23) The remainder meanwhile devolved on George Smyth, first cousin of Thomas, and, on his death in 1711, on his only surviving son Thomas, who died in 1721. (fn. 24) Litigation about the Smyth family property then took place in the Court of Chancery, which, in 1730, ordered a partition; (fn. 25) by this the manor and Binderton Great House were assigned to Hannah, daughter of George Smyth. She died unmarried in 1731, (fn. 26) leaving her Binderton property to her sisters Mary and Barbara jointly. Mary in the same year received a quitclaim of their rights in a moiety of the manor from Walter Bartlett and Barbara his wife, her sister. (fn. 27)
Mary married William Hamilton and, dying without issue, left her Binderton property to her greatnephew Walter Bartlett, who took the name of Smyth. In 1774 he exchanged the manor for other lands with Sir James Peachy, (fn. 28) who was created Baron Selsey in 1794, it then followed the descent of West Dean (q.v.) and in 1938 was held by Edward Frank Willis James.
PRESTON before the Conquest formed part of the endowment of the church of Bosham, and with it was held by Bishop Osbern of Exeter in 1086. (fn. 29) The overlordship of the Bishop of Exeter was recognized at least as late as 1438, (fn. 30) and in 1242 Richard de Presteton held ½ knight's fee here of the bishop. (fn. 31)
A considerable estate in Preston was held between 1296 (fn. 32) and 1316 (fn. 33) by Master Henry Garland. In 1412 lands in Preston worth £4 were held by Thomas, Earl of Arundel, (fn. 34) and in 1421 Sir John Arundell died seised of the manor of Preston. (fn. 35) The manor descended in the hands of the Earls of Arundel (fn. 36) until 1566 when it was among the manors settled by Henry, Earl of Arundel, on Lord Lumley. (fn. 37) He probably sold it, as well as West Dean, to Richard Lewkenor, whose grandson Richard died in 1635 seised of the manor, (fn. 38) the site and lands of which he had bought in 1622 from John Aylwyn, whose father and grandfather had held them. (fn. 39) The manor then descended with West Dean (q.v.).
Of the medieval church of Binderton we can only form an idea from casual references. It had a nave, and a chancel 'severed from', (fn. 40) and probably structurally distinct from it. Alice Smith in 1523 desired to be buried in the chancel next her former husband George Osborne, (fn. 41) and in 1586 it was 'unpaved for that Ellyze Smythes wife was buryed there of late'. (fn. 42) In 1611 the chancel was decayed and some of the rafters had fallen into it. (fn. 43) Two years later 'the steeple' (perhaps a wooden bellcote) was weak and 'shaketh very mutch'. (fn. 44) In 1622 the church porch is mentioned as out of repair. (fn. 45) But in 1640 the churchwardens reported: 'Wee have a decent church for divine service … noe parte of our church is demolished nor put to any prophane use.' (fn. 46) Within twenty years, however, during the Commonwealth, Thomas Smyth, finding that the old church, which stood in the corner of the present grounds of Binderton House, would interfere with the view of the new house he was planning to build, pulled it down. (fn. 47) It was probably his son Thomas who built not only the house but, on the other side of the road, the new church, of which the ruins still stand. This was a single chamber (28 by 18 ft.): the outside walls of flint rubble with brick dressings, and much of the inside of hard chalk. At the west end was a roundarched doorway with a window over it; at the east a wooden-framed window of two lights with a high transom, and on either side of it internally a small recess. The north and south walls were unpierced. (fn. 48) The church was never consecrated and although Thomas Smyth was buried in it in 1688 it had sunk to the level of a barn within a hundred years, and Smyth's body and monument were removed to West Dean in 1839. (fn. 49)
There was a church at Binderton in 1086, (fn. 50) but its history during the next five centuries is an almost complete blank. It is not mentioned in the Taxation of 1291 or in the Nonae Rolls of 1340; no presentation, institution, or casual occurrence of any incumbent before the Reformation is known. Although it was not mentioned by name when the prebend of Singleton (q.v.) was given to Chichester Cathedral in the 12th century, the confirmation of that gift by Archbishop Simon in 1355 refers to the chapel of Binderton as forming part of that prebend; (fn. 51) and in 1481 the Dean and Chapter leased to William Collock the rectory of West Dean with the 'chapels' of Binderton, East Dean, Chilgrove, Didling, and Dumpford (fn. 52) —of which East Dean and Didling were parish churches. Binderton is definitely called a parish church in 1526 and 1546, (fn. 53) and in the latter year was served by a curate, (fn. 54) as it was also in 1563. (fn. 55) In about 1579 it was stated that the Dean and Chapter were patrons and that service was conducted by the curate of West Dean, by sequestration. (fn. 56) In 1640 the churchwardens stated that 'our vicar lives at Westdeane', (fn. 57) but in the following year the Protestation, signed by nineteen persons of the parish of Binderton, was made before James Eburne, (fn. 58) who was curate, or minister, of East Lavant. (fn. 59) Generally, however, Binderton was served from West Dean, presumably under sequestration, and the assumption grew up that the two livings had been united, though there is no trace of any formal act of union and, indeed, as late as 1849 there was a separate Tithe Award for Binderton. This states that the vicar has half the small tithes of Binderton Farm (634 acres), with a render of 80 eggs in Lent, and all other small tithes, the Dean and Chapter, as appropriators, having all other tithes; the vicarial glebe was then 30 poles in West Dean, obtained in exchange for the site of the old churchyard. (fn. 60) The living, or chapelry, is now definitely absorbed into that of West Dean.