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.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
A chapel of St. Leonard existed in 1215, (fn. 1) but if, as seems likely, it gave its name to the forest rather than vice versa, had been founded by c. 1208; (fn. 2) it survived until the mid 16th century. It was not a chapel of ease, for the incumbent of Beeding apparently had no jurisdiction over it; instead it was described as a free chapel or chantry (fn. 3) belonging to the successive lords of St. Leonard's Forest, the Braoses, the Mowbrays, and the Howards, who presented its chaplains. (fn. 4) Thus in 1381 a Crown presentation by reason of the minority of John Mowbray was directed to the constable of Bramber castle, not to the ordinary. (fn. 5) In the early 15th century the chaplain was alternatively called a warden; (fn. 6) on one earlier occasion he seems to have been called a rector. (fn. 7) The chapel was dissolved by the duke of Norfolk in or shortly before 1547. (fn. 8) No trace has survived of the building, which is said to have been sited either on what became the bay of Hawkins pond or near the Horsham–Colgate road not far from the parish boundary. (fn. 9)
A parish of Lower Beeding was formed in 1838, to resolve disputes over tithe between Magdalen College, Oxford, and local landowners. Bewbush tithing was however excluded from the new parish and remained ecclesiastically part of Upper Beeding until 1871. A parish church, Holy Trinity, was built in 1840. (fn. 10) The living was at first a perpetual curacy, but in 1866 a vicarage was established, the first incumbent called vicar being instituted in 1883. (fn. 11) The advowson of the new living was settled on Magdalen College, (fn. 12) which sold it in 1861 to W. E. Hubbard of Leonardslee, (fn. 13) from whose family it passed in 1922 or 1923 to the bishop. (fn. 14)
The tithes of Lower Beeding belonged during the Middle Ages and later to Sele priory and Magdalen College, Oxford, as successive rectors of Beeding. (fn. 15) In 1247 the chaplain of St. Leonard's chapel unsuccessfully claimed the tithes of calves, foals, and cheeses in St. Leonard's Forest against the priory. (fn. 16) In 1269, however, he or a successor was provided by the priory with a pension on retirement, at the request of William, Lord Braose. (fn. 17) In 1535 the chaplain's income was £9 13s. 4d., including £6 in fixed rents and 19s. in offerings. (fn. 18) At the chapel's dissolution in or before 1547 the lands apparently comprised over 230 a., including High Hurst manor (100 a.) in Nuthurst and land in Cowfold and Slaugham. (fn. 19)
By the earlier 17th century Magdalen College's right to tithe from the forest had become a buck and a doe annually, (fn. 20) later commuted to a payment of between 2 and 10 guineas. (fn. 21) Land in Bewbush tithing was said in 1650 to be tithe-free, (fn. 22) but in 1727 and 1832 tithes there were taken by the college's lessee. (fn. 23) Following the great expansion of arable in the parish in the early 19th century, the college in 1833 laid claim to all tithes from the Wealden portion of Beeding parish, but was opposed by landowners in the forest. To resolve the dispute the parish of Lower Beeding was created by an Act of 1838, Bewbush tithing being excluded. A rent charge of £135 was levied on the landowners of the area to maintain an incumbent. (fn. 24) The annual render of 10 guineas in lieu of the buck and doe was, however, maintained during the lifetime of the then incumbent of Upper Beeding. (fn. 25) Meanwhile the tithes of Bewbush tithing were commuted in 1841 at £83 18s.; (fn. 26) in 1861 that rent charge was sold with the advowson of Lower Beeding church to W. E. Hubbard. (fn. 27)
By the Act of 1838 Robert Aldridge of St. Leonard's house was to give 20 a. as glebe, on which Magdalen College undertook to build a house. The building, of stone, was erected 2/3 mile south-west of the church, and survived in 1981. (fn. 28) By then, however, it had been replaced by a new glebe house built next to the church. The net income of the living was said in 1875 to be c. £117. (fn. 29)
Chaplains of St. Leonard's chapel were recorded sporadically between 1215 and 1535; (fn. 30) one was a prebendary of Salisbury, (fn. 31) and another, John Bilney (resigned 1400), was later mayor of Cambridge. (fn. 32) After the dissolution of the chapel the spiritual care of Lower Beeding devolved in theory on the incumbent of Beeding. Some inhabitants were apparently married at Upper Beeding church in the early 17th century, (fn. 33) the many baptisms in private entered in the Beeding register in the later 18th century were perhaps for Lower Beeding, (fn. 34) while the large number of parishioners of Beeding presented for not receiving communion in 1679 perhaps included residents in the Wealden outlier. (fn. 35) Most inhabitants of Lower Beeding, however, presumably made use of neighbouring churches, for instance those of Cowfold, (fn. 36) Horsham, (fn. 37) Ifield, (fn. 38) Nuthurst, (fn. 39) and Slaugham; (fn. 40) in the 1820s the residents at Holmbush house had a pew in Crawley church, (fn. 41) where the Broadwood family, the later owners of Holmbush, were buried. (fn. 42)
In the 1820s the clergy of the neighbourhood complained to Magdalen College of the increasing burden caused them since the partial inclosure of the parish after 1801, and represented the reclaimed area as without spiritual comforts. (fn. 43) By 1836, before the creation of the new parish, money had begun to be collected to build a church in the west near Coolhurst in Horsham. (fn. 44) The dowager marchioness of Northampton, the owner of Coolhurst, gave the site, and her successor C. Scrase-Dickins, together with Robert Aldridge of St. Leonard's house, largely defrayed the cost of building. (fn. 45) The church, St. John's, known later as the 'forest church', (fn. 46) was consecrated, evidently together with its graveyard, in 1839, (fn. 47) having been constituted a chapel of ease to Lower Beeding under the Act of 1838. The Act also provided for alternate morning and evening Sunday services at each church. (fn. 48)
J. M. Cholmeley, the first incumbent of Lower Beeding and a former fellow of Magdalen College, worked hard at setting up parish organizations, and also held weekday cottage services at Colgate. (fn. 49) His successor, instituted in 1848, was another fellow of Magdalen. (fn. 50) In 1851 services were held alternately in morning and afternoon at the two churches, morning service at Lower Beeding on Census Sunday being attended by 91 people besides Sunday schoolchildren and afternoon service at Coolhurst by 112. (fn. 51) In 1856 there were two Sunday services at Lower Beeding church, the morning service having a congregation of c. 80, but the evening service often being overcrowded, so that before long it was necessary to enlarge the building. At the same date there was only one Sunday service at Coolhurst, the congregation for which, except for the Aldridge family and their servants, came entirely from outside the parish. Communion was then being celebrated 12 or 14 times a year at Lower Beeding and 8 times a year at Coolhurst. (fn. 52) In the 1860s there was an assistant curate, (fn. 53) but the incumbent's task was much eased by the building of Colgate church and the creation of Colgate ecclesiastical parish in 1871. (fn. 54)
In 1875 congregations at Lower Beeding church averaged c. 150. (fn. 55) Coolhurst church was greatly enlarged in 1889 by C. R. Scrase-Dickins, grandson of the co-founder: a new chancel and north aisle, in 13th-century style, were added, to the designs of J. O. Scott, with very sumptuous interior decoration and fittings. (fn. 56) In 1890, by arrangement with the vicar of Lower Beeding, Coolhurst church was served by the vicar of Horsham, who provided a Sunday service and monthly communion. (fn. 57) Inhabitants of other outlying parts of the parish attended neighbouring churches in 1903, though by then two mission rooms for use in winter had been provided for them, (fn. 58) one near Old Park (fn. 59) and the other at Ashfold crossways. The latter had been built in 1878 and still existed in 1933. (fn. 60)
The church of HOLY TRINITY, built near the centre of the then more populous southern part of the parish, is of local sandstone and consists of chancel, aisled nave, and tower with short spire. A three-bayed church in 13th-century style comprising a single internal space lit by lancet windows was put up in 1840 (fn. 61) by Magdalen College, on a site given by Robert Aldridge, its building being financed partly by a levy of £1,000 on the landowners and occupiers of the new parish of Lower Beeding. (fn. 62) It was designed by the architect of Littlemore church (Oxon.) as a copy of that building, (fn. 63) the vicar of Upper Beeding, J. R. Bloxam, having served at Littlemore as curate under J. H. Newman. (fn. 64) The building was greatly enlarged in 1862, also in 13th-century style, to the designs of Habershon and Pite, and at the expense of W. E. Hubbard of Leonardslee. (fn. 65) The west tower, however, was not carried out until 1884, (fn. 66) various other embellishments being made soon afterwards. (fn. 67)
The church of ST. SAVIOUR, Colgate, originated as a small chapel built before 1868 by Thomas Broadwood of Holmbush. In 1871 it was rebuilt and considerably enlarged in Gothic style at the expense of his successor, Col. James Clifton Brown, (fn. 68) and to the designs of G. M. Hills. (fn. 69) It comprises chancel, nave, north vestry, and south porch of red, white, and blue brick with stone dressings, and is roofed with purple slates. The bell turret sits over the chancel arch. A graveyard was provided from the beginning. (fn. 70) A consolidated chapelry was formed from Lower Beeding and Horsham parishes, together with the tithing of Bewbush. (fn. 71) By 1874 the benefice was called a vicarage, Col. Clifton Brown being the first patron. (fn. 72) From him the advowson descended to his son Brig.-Gen. H. Clifton Brown (d. 1946), and between 1962 and 1981 it belonged to Mrs. E. C. Calvert. (fn. 73) Between 1950 (fn. 74) and 1979 there was a priest-in-charge. A vicarage house was built by Col. Clifton Brown (fn. 75) north-west of the church and in the same architectural style. About 1950 it was sold and replaced by a smaller building east of the church. (fn. 76) The living was augmented by grants from Col. Clifton Brown, Mrs. S. B. Brown, and Queen Anne's Bounty between 1872 and 1877, and was said in 1875 to be worth £130 net a year. (fn. 77) In the latter year two services were held each Sunday, besides weekday services. A parish room, not far from the church, had been provided by that date at the expense of Col. Clifton Brown. (fn. 78) By 1898 communion was held weekly. (fn. 79) After 1966 the vicar of Colgate also served the church at Faygate in Rusper. (fn. 80)