A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1987.
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Agriculture. Assarting in St. Leonard's Forest was being practised in the Middle Ages with the conversion of herdsmen's seasonal settlements to permanent agricultural ones. By 1326 there were 100 a. of demesne arable at Bewbush; (fn. 1) possibly most of it lay around the manor house, but fields separated by shaws in the extreme north, which in 1981 gave an impression of forest clearings, may represent medieval assarting. There were presumably assarts in the south too, like the one belonging to John of Ifield in Shelley bailiwick (in Crawley detached) which was ratified in 1330. (fn. 2) By 1499 there was arable land in various parts of the forest. (fn. 3)
In the mid 16th century more deliberate efforts were made to reclaim the forest for arable. Thomas Seymour, Lord Seymour, during the brief period when he owned it (1547-9), (fn. 4) converted much land into holdings for small farmers, (fn. 5) who paid rent to the Crown as landlord in 1573 (fn. 6) and ten years later apparently had rights of pasture over the parts of the forest still uninclosed. (fn. 7) In 1602 there were c. 40 tenants holding between them c. 4,000 a.; most holdings were under 50 a. in area, but two containing heathland and woodland were of 1,500 a. and 208 a. and another of 900 a. comprised only heath. Most closes were small, and only about a tenth of the land seems then to have been farmed as arable. (fn. 8) Arable land in the south part of the forest was mentioned c. 1684. (fn. 9) In the long term, however, the reclamation of 1547-9 does not seem to have been successful, and much of the reclaimed land had apparently been turned over to rabbit warrens before 1800. (fn. 10) One manor outside the parish, Hyde manor in Slaugham, (fn. 11) is known to have had tenants within it in the early 17th century. A further attempt at reclamation made in the 1630s or 1640s was also unsuccessful: Sir Richard Weston, lord of the forest by 1638, (fn. 12) experimented with new agricultural techniques, but his plan to raise corn by intensive sheepfolding failed because of the wetness of the ground. (fn. 13) More successful was the disparking of New park in the south-west corner; the land had been reclaimed for arable possibly by c. 1620 and certainly by 1667, (fn. 14) though at the latter date the soil was said to be very poor. (fn. 15) In 1794 Park farm together with Parkgate farm, in Cowfold, comprised 346 a., and was let on a 7-year lease. (fn. 16) By the same date part at least of the centre of the parish was cultivated, for Springfield Farm is partly 18th-century. (fn. 17)
Meanwhile the more fertile land around Bewbush Manor House was divided in 1650 between several farms, winter corn, among other crops, being grown. (fn. 18) In the later 18th century most arable within the parish was at Bewbush; there were five farms in 1787, of which the three largest, including Kilnwood farm, comprised 173 a., 224 a., and 479 a., and were let for periods of 14 or 21 years. (fn. 19) The land in the parish then said to yield 16 bu. of corn an acre was presumably at Bewbush. (fn. 20)
Stock listed in the parish in 1801 included 52 cows, 85 young cattle and colts, 1,185 sheep, and 143 pigs. (fn. 21) Despite the opinion expressed in the late 18th century that most of the uninclosed parts of the parish were not worth reclaiming, (fn. 22) much was in fact assarted in the earlier 19th century. In 1801 the two warrens in the centre of the parish, comprising 3,000 a., were let on a 100-year lease with permission to destroy all the rabbits on the premises, to fell timber, and to plough up the land. The lands were further divided during the next six years, and parcels of 1 a., with cottages, were sublet by the lessees. (fn. 23) By c. 1813 nearly 2,000 a. had been reclaimed, some of it described as very productive, (fn. 24) but with falling corn prices much land went out of cultivation before 1834, when the rest was said to be very poor and hardly worth farming. (fn. 25) A second programme of reclamation, presumably with underdraining, (fn. 26) was pursued in the 1840s, (fn. 27) when the heathland of Plummers Plain and between Hammerpond Road and Colgate was perhaps largely cleared. Meanwhile reclamation of the former rabbit warren in Bewbush tithing had begun before 1824, when 133 a. near Buchan Hill were described as newly assarted. (fn. 28) The buildings of Shepherdsfield Farm near Buchan Hill, which are of early 19th-century character, were presumably built in connexion with that campaign. The straight-sided closes, variable in size, which existed in those three areas of the parish in the 1870s (fn. 29) presumably also date from the period of reclamation.
In the late 1830s landownership in the main part of the parish, i.e. excluding Bewbush tithing, was dominated by the Aldridge family of St. Leonard's house, which owned at least 3,400 a., including a home farm of 1,022 a. Other farms in the main part of the parish, which belonged to smaller landowners and were let to tenants, included Grouse farm, Plummers Plain farm, and Docker's Lodge farm; several were between 40 a. and 110 a. in size. (fn. 30) Bewbush tithing similarly was dominated by the Holmbush estate which comprised 870 a. in hand, including the home farm and Kilnwood farm, and three let farms of 98 a., 158 a., and 271 a. (fn. 31) There was then more arable in Bewbush tithing than meadow and pasture, though the soil was described as light and poor and the method of farming unsystematic. (fn. 32)
Five farmers were listed in the parish in 1845. (fn. 33) In 1851 there were 6 farms over 200 a. in area, each employing between 6 and 12 men, besides many other holdings, some of c. 60-70 a. and others of only a few acres. (fn. 34) Seventeen farmers were listed in 1862. (fn. 35) The St. Leonard's house estate remained the largest in the parish in 1878, when it included c. 20 farms in Lower Beeding and Nuthurst of between 22 a. and 312 a., almost all let for periods of up to 21 years. (fn. 36) From the 1860s the large estates began to be kept in hand and managed by bailiffs: the Holmbush, Leonardslee, and Buchan Hill estates, for instance, were so treated in 1882. (fn. 37) In 1909 there was more owner-occupied than rented land, the two largest holdings, of over 300 a. each, being both owned or mainly so. Fifty of the other 70 holdings in the parish then were of less than 50 a. (fn. 38)
Agricultural improvement continued during the later 19th century, especially on the large estates. Underdraining, presumably introduced into the parish during the reclamation of the 1840s, was put in at Willis's farm near Lower Beeding village c. 1864. (fn. 39) Lower Bewbush farm was being similarly improved at the same period, and by 1875 was all underdrained. (fn. 40) Elsewhere farmhouses were rebuilt on new sites, for instance at Park farm in the southwest and at Church farm in Lower Beeding village before 1878. The St. Leonard's house estate had undergone great improvements in the 1870s, (fn. 41) and there was steam-driven machinery at the home farm there by 1896. (fn. 42)
In 1875 over 2,000 a. of arable were listed in the the parish, besides 1,259 a. of permanent grass; wheat and oats were the main crops, and 410 cattle and 1,519 sheep were listed. (fn. 43) Two thirds of the area of Lower Bewbush farm was arable in 1875, (fn. 44) and much of the centre of the parish was arable in 1878. (fn. 45) Meanwhile, as in neighbouring parishes, land use was much affected by the growth of London and other towns. There had been c. 100 a. of orchards at Park farm in the south-west in 1834, (fn. 46) which in 1852 were described as very valuable. (fn. 47) Much orchard land existed in the latter area in the 1870s, when there was also some near Lower Beeding village. (fn. 48) In 1909 the chief fruit crop was apples. (fn. 49) At the same date there were three poultry farmers. (fn. 50) Dairying and cattle raising also greatly increased during the later 19th century, at the expense of arable. In 1882 there were eight cowkeepers, and in 1895 two dairy farmers. (fn. 51) By 1909 most of the arable in the parish had been converted to pasture, reversing the former balance: only c. 500 a. of arable, mostly oats, was then returned, while the acreage of permanent grass had increased by two and a half times to 3,138 a., 800 cattle and 1,288 sheep being listed. (fn. 52) By the same date at Buchan Hill agriculture was eclipsed in importance by game preservation. (fn. 53)
The larger estates of the parish continued to be kept in hand after the First World War; (fn. 54) in 1957 several were managed by bailiffs. (fn. 55) In 1975, of 1,559 ha. returned more than 90 per cent was owneroccupied, all except three of the 42 holdings then listed being less than 100 ha. in size. (fn. 56) The predominance of non-arable agriculture continued during the same period. In 1938, for instance, 7 poultry farmers were listed in the parish. (fn. 57) The Leonardslee home farm specialized in cattle after 1920, (fn. 58) while in 1938 dairy farming and pig breeding as well as fruit growing were practised at Orchard farm in the south-west. (fn. 59) Some land in the last-named area remained in orchards in 1956, (fn. 60) and in the following year five market gardens, nurseries, or fruit farms were listed, one market gardener specializing in mushrooms. One nursery and two market gardens existed near Lower Beeding village in 1971, (fn. 61) and there was one of each in 1981. In 1957 there were also four poultry farmers, a dairy farmer, and a pig breeder in the parish. (fn. 62) Livestock and poultry still predominated in 1975, when five holdings specialized in dairying and five in livestock rearing and fattening, one chiefly of sheep, and the others chiefly of cattle. Sheep then listed numbered 926, cattle 1,631, pigs no fewer than 1,756, and there were also over 15,000 head of poultry, kept chiefly for egg production. (fn. 63)
A fair in St. Leonard's Forest, possibly originally for selling feral horses, was being held by 1438. (fn. 64) In 1441 and later it was held on St. Leonard's day (6 November), (fn. 65) but after the mid 18th-century change of calendar on 17 November. (fn. 66) In 1631 the profit was said to be 10s. a year. (fn. 67) In 1724 the fair was apparently held on Mannings Heath in Nuthurst; (fn. 68) it is not clear whether it had always been held there, but Booth's land, described as the site in 1608, (fn. 69) may have been nearby. (fn. 70) In the late 18th century the fair was apparently chiefly a cattle fair, (fn. 71) though goods sold there in 1717 included stockings, one purchaser coming from Hurstpierpoint. (fn. 72) Before 1794 the fair was moved to a new site in Horsham parish, east of the town. (fn. 73)
Between c. 1550 and c. 1550 and c. 1660 the chief non-agricultural economic activity of the parish was ironworking.
The twin St. Leonard's ironworks at Hawkins and Hammer ponds on the Horsham-Slaugham road were the largest in western Sussex; (fn. 74) the eastern pond, called Hammer pond, had a forge, known as the upper forge, and the western pond, called Hawkins pond by 1585, had both a forge, known as the lower forge, and, later, a furnace. The St. Leonard's ironworks were perhaps the ones near Horsham mentioned in 1552; (fn. 75) corroboration may be provided by mention of a French collier murdered in the forest in 1556. (fn. 76) In 1585 their founder was said to have been John Broadbridge. The ironworks certainly existed by 1562 when they were described as 'the iron mills in St. Leonard's Forest'. (fn. 77) By 1570, the year of his death, Roger Gratwicke of Sullington occupied the ironworks, and also leased woods at New Park presumably to provide fuel. His son Roger (fn. 78) continued to hold the ironworks until c. 1588; (fn. 79) both men were very wealthy. (fn. 80) The western forge already had two fineries by c. 1576; the eastern forge was enlarged by the building of a second one in the 1580s. Before c. 1584 pig iron was perhaps brought from Bewbush furnace (see below). At about that date a furnace was built beside the lower forge to use the same head of water; in 1588 it was claimed to process 1,000 loads of ore annually, the ore probably being obtained south-west of Colgate, where many deep minepit craters could still be seen in 1981. (fn. 81)
The ironworks were included in 1602 in the Crown lease of St. Leonard's Forest to Sir John Caryll. (fn. 82) The furnace ceased to be used c. 1615, (fn. 83) but both forges continued in 1653. (fn. 84) In 1656 the eastern forge had a finery, a chafery, and a warehouse, and the western forge two fineries, a chafery, and a warehouse. (fn. 85) By 1664, however, both had ceased operation, (fn. 86) and 12 years later they were said to have fallen to the ground through disuse, (fn. 87) some building materials from them having been sold by the Crown c. 1670. (fn. 88)
The furnace at Gosden south-east of Crabtree was built c. 1580 by Roger Gratwicke the younger, and evidently used ore from Minepits wood nearby, (fn. 89) where remains of pits survived in 1981. In the 1580s Gratwicke's sole right to mine ore in the forest was challenged by Walter Covert of Slaugham, who apparently had some interest in the forest, (fn. 90) and Edward Caryll of Shipley. Presumably in order to supply Covert's furnace at Slaugham, (fn. 91) and therefore probably in the vicinity of Gosden furnace, they began digging ore in the forest, their workmen clashing several times with those of Gratwicke. In reply to Gratwicke's suit against them the two men alleged that his minepits were wastefully operated and were producing more ore than he could use, while they themselves were merely taking the lower deposits which his men left behind. The dispute may have been settled at the same time that Edward Caryll acquired the Gosden ironworks, apparently by 1586. He was said to employ at least 49 miners in 1587, (fn. 92) but since no more is heard of the Gosden ironworks they may have been abandoned soon afterwards.
A furnace at Bewbush existed by 1569, (fn. 93) presumably using ore from the Bewbush estate, as later. (fn. 94) It seems usually to have been managed with Ifield forge further downstream, since it was called Ifield furnace in 1574. (fn. 95) In 1570 it was leased like the St. Leonard's ironworks to Roger Gratwicke the elder, (fn. 96) and the lease continued to belong to his son in 1578. (fn. 97) In the early 17th century Arthur Middleton, lessee of Bewbush, held it together with Ifield forge and ironworks elsewhere. (fn. 98) The furnace building still stood in 1650, though it had then been empty for c. 7 years; (fn. 99) by 1664 it was in ruins. (fn. 100)
Occupations provided by the ironworks included those of hammerman, forgeman, and iron ore digger. (fn. 101) Some workmen came from other parishes, for instance Horsham and Shipley, and work seems to have been seasonal, (fn. 102) since two such immigrant workers were described as husbandmen, one in 1588 having come to the parish to work during each of the previous three years.
Two hammerponds in the parish later provided power for corn mills. Gosden mill is described below. (fn. 103) A mill at Bewbush existed from 1787 or earlier. (fn. 104) In 1862 the miller was also a farmer. (fn. 105) The mill was disused by 1875, (fn. 106) and was said in 1930 to have long disappeared. The mill pond then survived (fn. 107) but had been drained for agriculture by 1950. (fn. 108) The names Windmill field, recorded west of Bewbush Manor House c. 1841, (fn. 109) and Windmill burrow, recorded east of Colgate in 1874, (fn. 110) presumably refer to sites of windmills. A miller and shopkeeper was recorded in the parish in 1862 in addition to the miller of Bewbush. (fn. 111)
Other trade and industry.
Stone was being dug for roofing in the parish in 1439, (fn. 112) and Roger Gratwicke the ironmaster dug over 200 loads in St. Leonard's Forest to build his house at Cowfold in the 1580s. (fn. 113) In 1849 excellent building stone was said to be plentiful and extensively dug. (fn. 114) One quarry near Carter's Lodge was apparently still working in 1895, besides others south of St. Leonard's house and south-east of Lower Beeding church. (fn. 115)
Other trades recorded in the 16th and 17th centuries include those of foyster or saddletree maker in 1555, (fn. 116) blacksmith in 1647, (fn. 117) and victualler in 1667. (fn. 118) Woodland also gave employment in other trades, such as those of woodcutter, (fn. 119) sawyer, carpenter, collier, i.e. maker of charcoal, and 'clapboard maker', (fn. 120) mentioned in the later 16th century. Fish farming was being practised at Bewbush in 1650, when the furnace pond produced c. 800 carp which were sold to a London fishmonger; other ponds at Bewbush were then thought to be capable of use for the same purpose. (fn. 121)
In 1811 one in nine or ten of families in work listed in the parish were supported chiefly by nonagricultural occupations, and in 1831 one in six or seven. At the later date, however, and possibly also at the earlier, the figures given exclude St. Leonard's Forest. (fn. 122) Many more tradesmen lived in the parish after the mid 19th century. (fn. 123) In 1845 there were a baker, a grocer and draper, and a timber valuer. A shopkeeper at Lower Beeding village was recorded in 1848, (fn. 124) and a wheelwright in the parish in 1852; by 1862 there were a tailor and two shoemakers, and by 1865 a grocer. (fn. 125) Heath broom makers were recorded in 1851 (fn. 126) and later. At Lower Beeding village in 1882 there were also a baker, a builder, and a draper and corn dealer. From 1909 or earlier there was a butcher's shop there, and by 1938 a garage; both survived in 1981. At Crabtree there was a shopkeeper in 1862 and a baker in 1874; by 1895 there were also two shoemakers, a smith, and a coal and coke merchant. At Colgate there were a blacksmith, a beer retailer, and a shopkeeper in 1874, and by 1882 a shopkeeper and two grocers; by 1895 there was a coal and coke dealer. Meanwhile the great estates of the parish in the late 19th and early 20th centuries yielded many non-agricultural occupations, notably those of gardener, gamekeeper, and forester. St. Leonard's house had a smithy and a timber yard in 1896; (fn. 127) at Buchan Hill under P. F. R. Saillard (d. 1915) there were at least 14 indoor staff and 7 gardeners, (fn. 128) while at South Lodge a carpenter in 1964 had given 70 years' service to the estate, for which his father too had worked. (fn. 129) In 1981 there was a general stores at Lower Beeding village, besides the butcher already mentioned, and a general stores at Crabtree, but there were no shops or tradesmen at Colgate, where the general stores had closed in 1976. (fn. 130) Some alternative employment was provided by a sawmill near Hammer pond and by stables west of Lower Beeding village. (fn. 131)
Bricks had been made in the parish in 1584, (fn. 132) and there were brick kilns at Plummers Plain in 1803. (fn. 133) Two brickmakers had works at Plummers Plain in 1851, one of whom, Richard Morley, a tenant of the Leonardslee estate, burnt c. 7 kilns of bricks or tiles a year, farmed 50 a., and employed 7 men. (fn. 134) In 1882 Morley's brickworks had reverted to the estate, which employed a manager to run it. It had ceased operation by 1896, and in 1909 another brickworks existed further east along the road to Ashfold crossways. (fn. 135) The brickworks north-east of Holmbush on the Horsham-Crawley road existed by 1862, when it also made tiles, drain pipes, and brown ware. Later known as the Holmbush pottery works, it survived until 1938 or later. A third site of brickmaking in the parish was south of the Horsham-Colgate road; a brickworks was active there in the 1870s, but had ceased by 1896. (fn. 136) After c. 1945 the site of the Holmbush brickworks was used by firms making breeze blocks and paint. The firm of Bernard J. Newman, builders' merchants and roofing contractors, was formed in 1962 and expanded greatly in the next 20 years, supplying for instance over 200,000 handmade clay tiles for the Horsham town centre redevelopment in the 1970s. In 1981 there were other firms on the site too, including a firm of wholesale grocers and a firm distributing central heating equipment. The total number employed there was then c. 250. (fn. 137)