A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1940.
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The parish of Balcombe has an area of 4,718 acres, stretching down in one part to touch the River Ouse in the south, and rising high up on to the forest ridge in the north and north-west. The village is situated on a spur of land coming down from the ridge, at an altitude of 316 ft. It lies just to the east of the main road from Cuckfield to Redhill, where another road branches off and runs south-east along the spur and down to Haywards Heath. Balcombe Place, the residence of Lord Denman, lies to the east of this road, lower down the slope. The church is north-west of the village, beside the main road, and opposite it a road branches off west to Handcross. Near the church is the former rectory, an early-18th-century house of brick with stone dressings. On the forest slope farther north is Highley Manor, with Balcombe Forest behind it, rising to a height of 460 ft. The western part of the forest ridge is Brantridge Forest, with Brantridge Park, the seat of the Earl of Athlone, on the slopes to the south of it. Stanford Brook here forms the northwest boundary of the parish. To the east of the main road is the Warren, occupying a little valley running down from Paddockhurst; and part of Paddockhurst Park, and Little Strudgate Farm, are included within the eastern boundary of the parish. The stream running down this little valley, joining with a stream from Highley, forms a lake to the north of the village, and continues south-east to join the Ouse, being crossed by the road from Balcombe to Ardingly. The north and north-western parts of the parish are all high forest land, and the main road on the eastern edge leaves the parish at an altitude of 440 ft. Just south of this point a road leaves it, curving south-west through the forest to join the road to Handcross. The tunnel of the Southern Railway line from Brighton to London passes underneath this part.
There are several chalybeate springs in the parish, one of them near Balcombe House, and there are good building-stone quarries. There is a Congregational Church in the village, built in 1893. The station, on the Southern Railway, is a short distance south-west of the village.
In the village itself the houses are of no great antiquity, but two tenements (nos. 34 and 35) were an early-17th-century house of square timber-framing with plaster infilling and mullioned windows. The roof is covered with Horsham slabs and has a central chimney-stack of thin bricks and of cross plan. Similar stacks exist at Bagpitts Farm and in two neighbouring cottages, and such a stack is all that remains of Yew Tree Farm, an ancient timber-framed house recently burnt down.
Great Coopers Corner Farm, west of the church, is of L-shaped plan. (fn. 1) The eastern main part appears to have been built about 1550. It is of square timberframing with brick nogging and is roofed with Horsham slabs. At the junction of the wings is a rebated chimney-stack; this has wide fire-places, and the rooms have open-timbered ceilings: next south of the chimneystack is an ancient winding stair about a central newel. On the farmstead is a large 15th-century barn of five bays with tie-beams with curved braces below them, king-posts, and curved braces below a central purlin; some of the original flat wide rafters remain.
Bowders Farm, 1¼ miles south-south-east of the church, is of c. 1600 and of T-shaped plan. The walls are of brick and tile-hanging on timber-framing, and at the back is a projecting chimney-stack of brick. Naylands, just east of Bowders, is mostly of modern rebuilding but retains a fragment of the seat of the Culpepers: (fn. 2) this is a great projecting chimney-stack, on the west front, of brick, gathered in above with crow-stepping to a rectangular block on which is a row of three detached square shafts close together. The fire-place inside is 15 ft. wide and has a 20-inch bressummer, cambered on the upper edge. In the grounds south of the house is the chimney-stack of a former south wing; it is of stone and has two defaced fireplaces, one over the other. These remains are of c. 1580.
Stone Hall, near Naylands, is a house of about 1700. The front has a main block recessed between slightly projecting wings. The walls are of red and black bricks with stone plinths and rusticated stone angle-dressings: at the first-floor level is a moulded string-course, and the eaves have wooden cornices with brackets or modillions. The entrance in the middle has a shell-hood and the windows are mullioned and transomed. The entrance hall has a stone fire-place in which is an iron fire-back dated 1598, and the hall is lined with oak panelling of the same period. The main staircase is of c. 1700, but a back staircase has some silhouette flat balusters of the earlier period. The head of a three-light wood-mullioned window in an internal wall at the north end of the house suggests that possibly some walls of an earlier building are incorporated in the present one.
Edmonds Farm, West Hill, is an early-15th-century house facing approximately south. The much-cambered tie-beam of the middle roof-truss of the hall is in place: it is chamfered and has in the middle of it the chamfered 'stiffener', cut in the solid, that connected the curved braces which formed the arch below it: the braces have been removed, but mortices in the tie-beam indicate their position. The king-post, &c., are hidden above the upper ceiling. The pointed doorway—like those at Slipe in Twineham and the Priest House at West Hoathly—remains in position in the north wall, but is now filled in; but both the original east and west end walls of the hall have been removed to enlarge the rooms. The central chimney-stack with a 9½ ft. fireplace was inserted in the 17th century in the eastern bay of the hall; the first floor was then, or later, remade and has chamfered beams. Externally, typical large curved braces remain in the three walls of the east (buttery) wing, but elsewhere the framing has been somewhat altered. The west wall is of stone of the 18th century; apparently half the solar wing has been obliterated and the remainder incorporated in the present rooms. At the back is a 17th-century wing, making the plan T-shaped: it shows square timberframing in its east wall, the west being of stone with tile-hanging above.
Woodwards Farm, to the north of Edmonds Farm, is of modified L-shaped plan. The main block, dating from about 1600, faces east. The back wing projecting to the west from near the south end of it is earlier. The chamber forming its westernmost bay has the typical rough wide flat ceiling joists of a 15th-century solar or buttery wing, and there is a great 14-in. chamfered beam above the partition dividing it from the room next east, which may have been the great hall, but there are no visible traces of the usual roof-truss of the hall. A great chimney-stack, 9 ft. thick and with 9-ft.-wide fire-places, was built in, in the probable east bay of the hall, and the main block added east of it in place of the other original wing. The front block is of square timber-framing with brick infilling to the lower story and plaster infilling to the upper story. The back wing has mostly brick and tile-hung walls, but some framing is exposed in the north side-wall. The main room of the back wing has a 17th-century opentimbered ceiling including two longitudinal main beams, and the west room the earlier wide flat joists mentioned. The upper story of this part has moulded joists, and the other rooms have open-timbered ceilings.
Spicers Farm, near Pilstye, is of T-shaped plan. The main block, dating from about 1580, faces north. The back part, the stem of the T, is of the 15th century and had the normal great hall of two bays with solar and buttery wings. It retains the original moulded wallbeam of the north end of the hall and the framing above with curved braces, but the middle roof-truss has disappeared: the cross-beam on the ground-floor ceiling, marking the position of the former roof-truss, is a little way in front of the chimney-breast in the great stack inserted in the south bay late in the 16th century. The front block was built against the solar wing of the original range, which is now the entrance-and stairhall. The north front is of square timber-framing and has a two-storied middle porch-wing, also of timberframing and with a gable-head. The end walls of the range are tile-hung and gabled. The east gable-head projects on a moulded bressummer and has a moulded barge-board. The rooms have moulded beams and stop-chamfered joints in the ceilings, and in this later range are two stairs, from first floor to attic, of solid oak balks; the roof construction over this range has queenpost trusses and side-purlins.
'The White House', ¼ mile west of Spicers Farm, is mostly modern, but it incorporates as its west wing a late-16th-century house of two rooms (on each floor) with a central chimney between them. The southern fire-place is of stone and has an arched lintel, and the room it serves has moulded ceiling beams and chamfered joists, the other room, now the entrance-hall, having a chamfered beam. There are interesting remains of Elizabethan wall-paintings. Over the northern fireplace, ground floor, in a scrolled frame is the inscription: 'Behold the whole state of man, Who is borne to dye but dyes he knows not when, How flower like doth flourish in decay, How soon death's sithe doth cut him down like hay Who is borne with greefe brought up with paine And with a sob doth leave the world againe.' On the first floor, above the south fire-place, another reads: 'Man remember Watch and Pray, Think upon your dying day.' There is another smaller painting east of the last. There is also some late-16th-century panelling in the south room and elsewhere. The east part of the house shows some old framing, perhaps of an out-building now absorbed by the enlargement of the plan.
There was no manor of Balcombe, but a large part of the parish was included in the manor of Ditchling, held by the Earls de Warenne (fn. 3) and their successors. In 1279 John de Warenne claimed free warren in the vill of Balcombe. (fn. 4)
In 1439, when the forest of Worth was partitioned among the three heirs to the barony, it was agreed that each should take a corresponding portion of the manor of Worth, 'if there be any beyond that forest'. (fn. 5) About a century after the division HIGHLEY (fn. 6) had replaced Worth as the seat of the forest-manor. (fn. 7) There is a single earlier mention of it, in 1326, when Ralph de Cobham was holding lands in Worth of John, Earl of Surrey, 'by service of rendering 2s. at the manor of Heghlegh, and suit there'. (fn. 8) And in 1476 John, Duke of Norfolk, died seised of the manor of Hylegh, held of the king by knight service and worth 20s.; (fn. 9) but it is not named among the manors surrendered to the Crown by his widow. (fn. 10) By the second half of the 16th century, however, the name Highley was regularly used for this manor, to which the forest of Worth was appurtenant. (fn. 11) It was then, like the barony, in three portions, half being in the hands of Lord Bergavenny, and a quarter each in the possession of the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Derby. (fn. 12) The Bergavenny moiety of the manor, separated from the forest of Worth (q.v.), was still with that family in 1624, (fn. 13) and seems now to be part of their manor of Ditchling. (fn. 14)
The quarter of Highley Manor belonging to Henry, Earl of Derby, was sold by him to Edward More and Thomas Eversfield and the heirs of Edward More in 1582. (fn. 15) In 1585 John Eversfield and the same Thomas, his son and heir, were dealing by fine with a moiety of a fourth part of the manor, (fn. 16) but in 1595, on John's death, it was claimed that the quarter of the manor, with half the forest of Worth, had been settled in 1582 to the use of John and Thomas and the heirs of Thomas and Anne his wife, (fn. 17) and in 1612 Sir Thomas Eversfield and his son Herbert made a conveyance of what was described as the quarter manor, (fn. 18) and the family evidently continued to claim it down to 1668. (fn. 19) Meanwhile in 1589 Edward More also made a conveyance of a moiety of the fourth part of the manor, (fn. 20) which portion, along with a moiety of half the forest of Worth, continued to descend with the manor of Worth (q.v.), until at least 1696, when John Smith was holding it. (fn. 21)
The Norfolk quarter, with half the forest of Worth, was conveyed in 1583 by Philip, Earl of Arundel, and his brothers to John Farnham, (fn. 22) who in 1584 sold it to Sir Thomas Sherley. (fn. 23) Sir Thomas, being in debt to the Crown, surrendered it to Queen Elizabeth and it was re-granted in 1602 to John Middleton and Anthony Fowle and the heirs of Anthony. (fn. 24) John Middleton and his wife Frances and Thomas their son, with his wife Barbara, were holding a moiety of a fourth part of the manor in 1630, (fn. 25) and in 1669 John Middleton (fn. 26) joined with Edward Eversfield (see above) and others in conveying what was described as a moiety of the manor of Highley to Timothy Shelley (fn. 27) (see below). Anthony Fowle's eighth share was in the hands of Humphrey Fowle in 1672 (fn. 28) and was subsequently acquired by John Newnham, who was holding it in 1777, and who is said to have made a partition with the trustees of Smith's charity. (fn. 29) By 1786 a quarter of the manor has been acquired by the Rev. George Bethune, (fn. 30) rector of Worth, and it was in the hands of his son Dr. George Maximilian Bethune in 1834. (fn. 31)
When Timothy Shelley's son John died in 1739 (fn. 32) he left to his wife Helen for life his quarter of the manor and half of the forest. (fn. 33) After her death it went to his son Timothy, who was succeeded by his sons John (d. 1790) and Bysshe, who was made a baronet in 1806 and lived until 1815. (fn. 34) Sir Timothy, son of Bysshe, was the father of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who in 1814 was dealing by fine with a fourth part of the manor, though his father was still alive. (fn. 35) The poet was drowned in 1822 and his property descended to his son Sir Percy Florence Shelley. (fn. 36) The other quarter of Highley Manor seemed either to have been absorbed into other estates in the parish of Worth or to have been acquired by the Shelleys, (fn. 37) for there is no further mention of the Bethune portion and in 1867 Sir Percy Florence Shelley conveyed what was called the Manor of Highley to George Smith of Paddockhurst. Before 1880 it was acquired from the trustees of George Smith by Robert Cradock Nicholls, and at his death in 1892 passed to his widow, who married Henry Faure Walker and died in 1907. Mr. H. F. Walker then purchased Highley from the trustees of R. C. Nicholls and is the present lord of the manor. (fn. 38)
The church of ST. MARY is a small structure, of which the present south aisle is said to have been the original nave with the south chapel as its chancel. There is no ancient masonry by which they can be dated, but the wide splays of the windows suggest a 13th or early- 14thcentury origin. The west tower is of the 15th century. In 1847–50 the nave and chancel were rebuilt and the present nave was added as a north aisle. In 1872 the chancel was added east of this and the present north aisle and organ chamber built. The whole of the masonry is modern unless otherwise mentioned.
The chancel (26½ ft. by 18¼ ft.) has a traceried east window and two single-light side windows: farther west are archways into the organ-chamber and south chapel. The chancel-arch is pointed, with short marble shafts in the responds. The nave (46½ ft. by 20¼ ft.) has a north arcade of four bays of 14th-century character, and a south arcade of three bays, the north side of the west tower forming a fourth bay. In the west wall is a doorway and a traceried four-light window. The organ chamber has a single-light east window and twin north windows, and the north aisle four side windows of three lights and tracery. In the west wall is a single light and above it a bulls-eye window. There is an archway between the two parts. The roofs are tiled.
The south chapel (16 ft. 9 in. by 14 ft. 8 in.) has an east window of three lights and tracery and a south window of two lights under a square head, both modern. It has no western archway. The gabled roof, of trussed rafter type, has a plastered ceiling and a western tie-beam. The south aisle (39 ft. 10 in. by 16 ft. 8 in.) has two south windows, the eastern of three cinquefoiled lights and tracery on a segmentalpointed arch and the western a similar single light. Both have wide internal splays. The south doorway has plain chamfered jambs and pointed head: the inner reveals are chamfered with broach base-stops and have ancient dressings: the outer stone-work and the reararch are modern. The wall is 3 ft. 4 in. thick, and is of squared rough ashlar. The roof is of collar-beam type with plastered soffit and has modern tie-beams and principals. Both roofs are covered with old Horsham slabs.
The tower (11 ft. east to west by 10 ft. 3 in. north to south) is built of ancient squared rough ashlar and has a chamfered plinth: at the west angles are diagonal buttresses of three stages, and north and south of the east wall are square buttresses, the former projecting into the nave. The pointed archway to the south aisle is of two chamfered orders. The west doorway has jambs and a pointed head of two hollow-chamfered orders and an external hood-mould: the four-centred rear-arch is chamfered: the doorway has been filled in to form a modern window. Above it is a window of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights under a square head with a moulded label. In the south wall is a four-centred light in a square head. The clock-chamber has a north window of one light with a square head, and in the east wall is a blocked four-centred doorway which opened into the roof-space of the aisle. In the south and west walls are clock-faces and no traces of windows. The bell-chamber is lighted by four four-centred lights with square heads. The tower has a pyramidal roof from which rises a dwarf octagonal spire, all covered with oak shingles. Above the apex is a leaded post and weather-cock.
In the chancel are two chairs with carved high backs, one with turned and the other with twisted posts, legs, and rails: possibly late-17th-century. In the south aisle is a 17th-century oak chest with panelled front and ends, and three locks. The font is modern, of octagonal plan. In the westernmost window of the south aisle is an oval cartouche of the Crucifixion, foreign, of c. 1700.
There are eight bells, one of 1628 and the others of 1936. (fn. 41)
The communion plate includes a cup, paten, and flagon of 1733, the gift of William Ellman, citizen and grocer of London. The flagon appears once to have had a whistle in the handle. There are also two contemporary leather cases with hinged lids, for the set. (fn. 42)
The registers begin in 1539: they include the original paper-leaved volumes, one only 6 in. by 4¼ in., and also the parchment transcription of 1597, continued on to 1676. There is also a rectorial-manor book with accounts from 1614 to 1892.
The church of Balcombe was given to the priory of St. Pancras at Lewes by Ralph de Chesney about 1091 and confirmed to them by William de Warenne. (fn. 43) It remained with the Priory until surrendered to the king at the Dissolution in 1537, (fn. 44) and the advowson was then granted to Thomas Cromwell. (fn. 45) After his attainder in 1540 it reverted to the Crown, who presented in 1549 and 1553. (fn. 46) In the latter year, however, it was granted to Sir Henry Sidney, (fn. 47) who sold it almost immediately to William Charnock. (fn. 48) The latter conveyed it for a time to his brother Roger, but eventually sold it in 1560 to Sir Richard Sackville. (fn. 49) The advowson of Balcombe Rectory then descended in the family of Sackville, Earls of Dorset, (fn. 50) until 1663, when Richard, Earl of Dorset, sold it to the rector Henry Whiston. (fn. 51) From him it came in 1677 to his son Nicholas Whiston, who died in 1689 leaving two daughters, Elizabeth and Jane, who presented in 1692. (fn. 52) The advowson, however, was claimed, as part of her marriage settlement, by Dorothy, sister of Nicholas, who married first Timothy Parker and secondly Walter Gatland, and in 1699 it was given up to Dorothy and Walter by the two nieces and their mother and her second husband Thomas Staunton. (fn. 53) But the claim was again disputed by Mildred Bray, who was eventually successful, and in 1701–2 she conveyed it to her daughter Sarah and her husband Thomas Chatfield. (fn. 54) Sarah survived her husband, presented in 1730 and 1746, and died in 1766, (fn. 55) when the advowson descended to her son John, and in 1778 to his son the Rev. Henry Chatfield, who died in 1819. (fn. 56) He left three daughters, Mary, Harriet, and Caroline, who with their mother sold the advowson in that year to the Rev. George M. Bethune, of Worth. (fn. 57) After the death of the latter in 1840, and of his widow in 1849, it descended to their two sons, of whom the younger, Charles Goodwin, sold his right in it to the elder, George Cuddington Bethune. The latter conveyed it in 1861 to Thomas Joseph Torr, who sold it three years later to John Clutton, (fn. 58) who held it until the end of the century. Early in the present century it was acquired by Mr. P. Secretan, (fn. 59) from whom it passed to the Rev. Douglas Liston Secretan, the present holder and rector.