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 Portslade covers a wedge-shaped piece of country lying on the western boundary of the rape of Lewes. Its base is about 1¼ miles across, and it is about 37frac14; miles in length, with an area of 1,953 acres. There are, in addition, 8 acres of foreshore, part of which is in the quarter of a mile of the estuary of the River Adur inclosed within the parish boundaries. This stretch of tidal water is now merely a basin, but the river actually flowed along it until late medieval times, its current, aided by the Channel seas, removing from time to time considerable areas of the parish by erosion, so that 60 acres were lost between 1291 and 1340. (fn. 1) A small detached portion of Portslade lying in Aldrington has now been transferred to the latter parish.
The northern part of the parish is all Downland, and covered with traces of Early Iron Age field systems, the summits of Tenant Hill and Sweet Brow having the remains of contemporary and Romano-British settlements upon them. (fn. 2) The remains of a Romano-British building have been discovered near Easthill House, (fn. 3) to the south-east of the old village, and burials of the same period are reported to have been disinterred on the north side of Portslade-by-Sea. (fn. 4) This area to-day is all bare sheep-pasture. The southern part of the parish is, however, rapidly being built upon, and there is a large gas-works situated on the Adur bar.
The parish is intersected by the ancient thoroughfare, sometimes called 'Port's Road', which passes from Saddlescombe, through Hangleton, towards the coast by Southwick. (fn. 5) Where this road passes through Portslade village it is called the Drove Road. Where this road dips as it crosses two spurs is the site of the village, its High Street forming a loop-way parallel with, and south of, the old road. The centre of the village is marked by cross-roads, from which the eastern half of the High Street climbs the hill-side towards the manor-house and parish church, passing several old cottages, one or two of which are possibly late-16thcentury, lying between it and the Drove Road.
From the old church, a road leads southwards towards the coast, where is the modern colony of Portslade-by-Sea. This seems to have started as a maritime settlement on the bank of the Adur, along which are a few early-19th-century houses, with others in a back street known as North Road. By the end of the last century, however, the district was becoming residential, and it is now spreading rapidly towards the old village and on either side of it towards the Downs.
In 1898, Portslade-by-Sea was made a separate parish, but in 1933 the two parishes were again united. The population of the old and new parishes in 1931 was 9,527. The new parish church was built in 1864, and a large Roman Catholic church near it in 1912. Portslade railway station on the line from Brighton to Worthing is actually in Aldrington.
The old village possesses the remains of a domestic building of more than usual interest in its Manor House, of which a part dates from the 12th century. (fn. 6) Immediately to the north of the church, and abutting on the churchyard wall, is the south gable of the manor-house of this period, which consisted of a small building of two stories, built of rubble with stone dressings, and of which much of the southern half remains. The first floor was probably supported by a row of wooden posts down the centre of the lower story, which has the remains of two original windows, altered in the 16th century, in its south wall and another in the south part of its east wall, in which is a modern arched opening built within the jambs of an earlier, medieval opening. The first floor was lit by a series of two-light windows of 12th-century date, two of which remain, the south window being of two semi-circular lights separated by a mullion, while that in the east wall has a slender shaft in place of the mullion. Neither of the couplets has an external containing-arch, but each shared a semicircular-headed internal reveal, with straight sides, and moulded scoinson-arch and jambs. The moulding consists of an edge-roll, and another roll, on the wall-face only, separated from the first by a shallow hollow. The head of the eastern window has been recently rebuilt in old stones and given a segmental head. The windows are rebated internally for shutters. Attached to the northern half of the west wall are the remains of a wing which may be medieval but shows only 16th-century and later features. It is of flint with brick dressings, and the north-west angle remains to some height, traces of 18th-century plaster decoration showing on the internal face of the north wall. Opposite this, at ground level, is a 16th-century fire-place. The ruins have been much robbed to provide material for sham ruins near by. The slender shaft of the 12th-century window is almost weathered away. The ruins are now in the garden of a large modern convent.
Opposite the church and manor-house, on the north side of the High Street, is an old house called Kemps, now divided into cottages. It consists of two wings at right angles, the western, and older, of which is at right angles to the road. It has been much altered, but shows traces of a 16th-century origin. The stair to the first floor is a timber spiral in the outshut; beneath it on the ground floor is a cupboard having the jambs and head of a 16th-century door with a straight head, and at the head of the stair is a plainer doorway with a fourcentred head. The attic stair is in its usual position next the chimney-stack, and is also a wooden newel stair of early form. It was once lit by a single-light window, of which the stone-dressed jambs show internally. The exterior of the wing is now stuccoed, but the stump of a brick pilastered chimney-stack shows above the roof. The eastern wing is later, possibly of the early 17th century. It is of flint with brick dressings and quoins. An early window, now blocked, shows in the north-east corner. The present kitchen has an open fire with a spit-rack, upon which the wooden pulleys of the turn-spit remain. The threshold of this room is formed by a 13th-century tomb-slab.
Two holdings at PORTSLADE are mentioned in the Domesday Survey. Half a hide was held of William de Warenne by Osward, who had held it before the Conquest. An other half hide was held by Albert and it paid no geld. (fn. 7) The rest of Portslade was then apparently part of the 9 hides in Aldrington held by Godfrey Pierpoint. (fn. 8)
This estate afterwards became the manor of Portslade to which some land in Aldrington and the advowson of Aldrington Church was attached. It appears to have escheated to the Earl of Surrey and to have been given by him to his illegitimate son Rainald de Warenne. (fn. 9) The overlordship of the ten fees of which Portslade formed part descended with the rape, passing in 1439 to Edmund Lenthall. (fn. 10) After his death it appears to have gone to the Mowbrays, since the Earl of Arundel was holding these fees at his death in 1465. (fn. 11) In 1559, however, the site of the manor was said to be held of the three lords of the barony of Lewes. (fn. 12)
From Rainald de Warenne the manor descended for a time with Plumpton (q.v.), (fn. 13) until Portslade was granted in 1217 by William Bardolf to his step-father, Hubert de Burgh, second husband of Beatrice. (fn. 14) This grant was confirmed in 1226 to Hubert, who was to perform the service of 10 knights' fees for the manor, (fn. 15) which fees were said to be held of the manor of Plumpton. (fn. 16) This mesne lordship was held by the descendants of William Bardolf until at least 1450. (fn. 17)
Already by 1226 Hubert de Burgh appears to have given the manor to Margaret, (fn. 18) his daughter by his third wife Margaret, sister of Alexander King of Scotland, (fn. 19) and the grant was formally enrolled in 1227. (fn. 20) Hubert fell into disgrace in August 1232 and his estates, including Portslade, were taken into the king's hands. They were restored to him in November of that year, (fn. 21) but in February 1233 Portslade Manor among others was given to Robert Passelewe in trust for Roman clerks, Italians, and others, to compensate them for damage done them by Hubert, until their claims were satisfied. (fn. 22) Hubert was restored to the king's favour in May 1234, and in June Portslade Manor was restored to his daughter Margaret. (fn. 23) Margaret married secretly, without her father's knowledge, his ward Richard, Earl of Gloucester, (fn. 24) but she died without issue, and Portslade passed in 1241 to her halfbrother John de Burgh son of Hubert by Beatrice Bardolf. (fn. 25) In 1246 John assigned the manor together with the ½ fee of Alfred de Feringes in East Chiltington (q.v.) to Margaret, Countess of Kent, as dower from the former possessions of Hubert who had died in 1243. (fn. 26) The countess died in 1259, (fn. 27) and John de Burgh had a grant of free warren in his demesne land at Portslade in 1260. (fn. 28) Three years later John leased the manor to John Mansell, Treasurer of York. (fn. 29) On the pretext that John de Burgh had taken part in the rebellion against Henry III, his lands were seized by the Earl Warenne, his overlord. (fn. 30) John died in 1274 seised of Portslade, which he held of Sir William Bardolf, doing for William the service due to the overlord the Earl Warenne. (fn. 31) His son and heir John died in 1280 leaving three daughters—Divorguilla wife of Sir Robert Fitz Walter, Hawise wife of Sir Robert de Grelle or Gresle, and Margery, a nun variously described as of Chicksand, (fn. 32) or Sempringham. (fn. 33) Portslade Manor fell to the share of Hawise, (fn. 34) who died in 1299. (fn. 35) Her son Thomas was then not quite of age, but in 1305 he granted the manor to his sister Joan and her husband John, Lord de la Warr, who was holding it in 1316. (fn. 36) John de la Warr died in 1347, his heir being his grandson, Sir Roger de la Warr, son of his son John, then aged 18. (fn. 37) Joan survived him, (fn. 38) and died in March 1353. (fn. 39) Sir Roger settled Portslade Manor in 1368 on his eldest son Sir John and his wife Elizabeth and their issue. (fn. 40) Sir Roger de la Warr, who was frequently in France in the king's service, died in Gascony in 1370, (fn. 41) having been twice married. His widow Eleanor daughter of John, Lord Mowbray, married Sir Lewis Clifford, (fn. 42) and in 1373 she released her right in a third of the manor of Portslade to Sir John de la Warr son of Sir Roger by his first wife. (fn. 43) On John's death in 1398, his brother Thomas de la Warr, a clerk, succeeded. (fn. 44) Thomas, who was rector of Manchester and of Swineshead, held Portslade until his death in 1427. (fn. 45) He was succeeded by his nephew Sir Reynold West, son of his half-sister Joan and Sir Thomas West, (fn. 46) who held Portslade as two knights' fees in 1428. (fn. 47) Sir Reynold died seised of Portslade and Aldrington manors in 1450, leaving a son Richard, aged 19, (fn. 48) who in 1459 received a grant of £40 a year for life for his services against the Yorkist rebels and died in March 1476. (fn. 49) His son Thomas West, Lord de la Warr, was a supporter of Henry VII, and obtained large grants of land in Sussex. (fn. 50) He mortgaged Portslade and other manors in 1497 to Ralph Bukberd of London, and died in 1525. (fn. 51) His son Thomas died without issue in September 1554, when the baronies of La Warr and West fell into abeyance between the daughters of his half-brother Sir Owen West. (fn. 52) Sir William West, nephew and heir male of Thomas, being son of Sir George West of Warbleton, co. Sussex, had been adopted by Thomas as his heir before the death of Sir Owen in 1551, but William had tried to poison his uncle and was by Act of Parliament in February 1550 disabled from all honours. In 1556 he was found guilty of complicity in a plot against Queen Mary. He was, however, restored in blood in 1563 and was created in 1570 Lord de la Warr. He died in December 1595, (fn. 53) and his son Thomas conveyed Portslade and other manors in 1599 to Sir Herbert Pelham as security for certain bonds. (fn. 54) In the following year Thomas, Lord de la Warr, Thomas Pelham, Herbert Pelham, and others sold the manor to Richard Snelling. (fn. 55)
The site of the manor had been held before this time by the Snellings. Thomas father of Richard was holding it at the time of his death in 1559, and it had previously been in the tenure of Thomas's mother Joan. (fn. 56) Joan Wetley mother of Richard, who was then only 5 years of age, received the profits after the death of Thomas. (fn. 57) Richard Snelling was succeeded as lord of the manor between 1602 and 1607 (fn. 58) by his son Sir George Snelling, who with his wife Cecily and his father Richard Snelling and his mother Margaret sold the manor in November 1609 to Abraham Edwards of Lewes and Abraham Edwards of Brightling. (fn. 59) The former died in 1615, when his kinsman became sole owner of the manor. (fn. 60) He died in October 1643 at Portslade, leaving his son Abraham, then aged 8 years and 8 months, in the charge of Abraham, younger brother of the deceased. (fn. 61) Abraham was still lord of the manor in 1670, (fn. 62) but before the end of 1700 Portslade manor had passed to William Westbrook, who had been succeeded before 1704 by Elizabeth Westbrook. (fn. 63) She appears to have married Thomas Andrew, as Thomas and his wife Elizabeth were owners of the manor between 1717 and 1734. (fn. 64) From 1739 to 1747 their grandson Thomas Foley was lord, but he sold the manor in 1750 to William Watson of Ticehurst, from whom it passed to William Davies of Rye, who had married Elizabeth Watson. (fn. 65) Mr. Davies died about September 1783, and the manor passed to his only daughter Elizabeth the wife of Thomas Phillipps Lamb of Rye. In 1806 they conveyed half the manor to William Borrer. (fn. 66) Elizabeth Lamb, widow, conveyed half the manor in 1819 to James Sowton, (fn. 67) but the whole came to the Borrer family, John Borrer being the owner in 1833 and 1859, (fn. 68) It was still in the possession of the Borrer family in 1870. (fn. 69)
Many manors, including Ovingdean, were held as of Portslade by the early 17th century, and the customs of Portslade are described in a survey of 1631. (fn. 70)
In 1312 John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, was granted a yearly fair at his manor of Portslade. (fn. 71) The lord of Portslade had all wreckage cast up between the west hedge of Aldrington and the ditch of Hove. (fn. 72) The custom of Borough English prevailed in this manor. (fn. 73)
The parish church of ST. NICHOLAS stands on the eastern side of the old village. It is built of rubble with stone dressings. It consists of a nave of three bays with north and south aisles, a chancel with modern north vestry, and a western tower. At the west end of the north aisle is the modern Brackenbury Chapel, between which and the tower is a small annexe. There is a south porch of uncertain date. The north aisle of the nave is modern, but the nave and south aisle are of the late 12th century, the chancel and the upper stages of the west tower being rather later.
The whole of the north side of the church is modern, except for part of the north wall of the chancel, which has two large 13th-century lancets. Opposite these, in the south wall, are two others, with a third near the east wall of the aisle, set low to form a 'low-side' window. The east wall of the chancel has a pair of 13thcentury lancets with a circular sexfoiled light over. The end walls of the south aisle are pierced by small 13th-century lancets, and there is another near the east end of the south wall. West of the porch is a larger single-light window with a trefoiled head, probably of the 14th century. The south porch is of doubtful antiquity. It has a plain pointed and chamfered stone outer arch. The west tower, which has Caen stone quoins, is probably of late-12th-century build in the lower part and was completed in the early part of the 13th century. The battlemented belfry stage is late-14th-century and has a single trefoil-headed light on each face. The ringing floor and the tower space are each lit by a single small lancet in the west wall of the tower, the latter having a half-round head externally, but pointed within. The west door is obtusely pointed, in two heavy orders, each with a small chamfer. There are simple impost mouldings, consisting of a roll with a deeply undercut hollow beneath it. The tower has a modern stair turret on its north side.
The tower arch is obtusely pointed in one order with a small chamfer passing round both arch and responds. The last are of slight projection from the walls of the tower and have mid-12th-century quirked and chamfered impost mouldings, matching that to the west respond of the nave arcade. The south arcade has three plain, unchamfered, obtusely pointed arches in a single order springing from two circular piers with high well-moulded square bases having griffes at the angles. The capitals are of cushion form with well-cut scallop ornament from the square abacus to the circular bed. The abacus of the western capital has the same quirk and chamfer as the western respond.
The eastern has a convex band between two quirks over a hollow chamfer, the latter being repeated in the eastern respond, the lower part of which has been cut away at a later date flush with the wall, leaving the cap as a corbel with two additional hollows formed below. The north arcade is a modern copy of that to the south. The south door is a plain semicircular-headed arch without imposts and with a reveal of similar form. The east wall of the nave is in line with that of the aisle. At the north end of this wall is the northern half of a small arch that apparently adjoined the original chancel arch. It was of about four feet span, and had a semicircular arch in one order with elaborate cheveron ornament on the soffit as well as on face. The imposts were of simple form, with a quirk above a flat chamfer. A slight plinth formed the base of the respond. The southern half of this arch was cut away when the present 13th-century chancel arch was built. (fn. 74) The latter is of two orders, the inner being chamfered and supported on corbels each having a cap with a deeply undercut filleted roll and a short shaft fluted back to the face of the respond. The main order is plain except for a slight chamfer carried round it and down the responds without any imposts. The west end of the north wall of the chancel has been cut away to give access to the modern vestries, and a half-arch has been formed to clear the impost of the old side arch. The eastern couplet of lancets are set out so that their splays adjoin. The chancel has an undercut filleted-roll string-course passing beneath the windows. In the usual position in the south wall of the chancel are three 13th-century sedilia and a piscina. The seats rise towards the east, and are covered by continuous arches of trefoil form, with hollowed chamfer, below arched hood-moulding which terminates at either end in mask-stops of crude design. Between the seats are small detached shafts, with deeply undercut caps and water-holding bases. The piscina is of similar form, but with no stops to the hood-mould, and with primitive stiff-leaf carving on the bell of the eastern shaft-cap. The basin projects, and is fluted internally.
The roof of the nave, which also covers the south aisle, is apparently of the 16th century. Its tie-beams support king-posts which each have four struts spreading to meet the collar and a longitudinal binder which passes down the church. The roof is covered with Horsham stone slabs. The font is plain, and of 15thcentury origin, but the bowl has been renewed. It is octagonal, with foliated panels to the shaft and a spreading base of simple form. The organ is situated in a gallery in the tower, and an arch has been cut over the tower arch to enable it to be heard in the church.
The church once possessed a remarkable painting of a 'Doom', in an unusual position on the south side of the nave, the whole of which it covered. (fn. 75) Above the centre arch was a Majesty, and above the cap of the easternmost pillar were the souls rising towards a crowd of angels, sounding trumpets, occupying the upper eastern portion of the painting. On the opposite side of the central feature to the angels were demons with bat-wings, casting down the damned towards the mouth of Hell, which occupied the space above the cap of the westernmost pillar. High up in the northeast corner of the nave is a coat of arms supported by angels. The field is quartered, one and four are now blank, and lions rampant occupy the second and third quarters. On the east wall of the south aisle is a brass plate commemorating Richard Scrase of Hangleton, another Richard Scrase of Blatchington, and Edward Scrase of Blatchington, who died in 1499, 1519, and 1579 respectively. This plate was found in the ruins of West Blatchington Church.
There are three bells: one of the early 16th century by Thomas Lawrence; one of 1613 by Edmund Giles; and one of 1661 by Bryan and William Eldridge. (fn. 76) The bell-frame is supported on oak posts in the four angles of the tower, reaching to the ground.
The plate consists of a silver communion cup of 1637; a paten of foreign origin; another paten and an alms-dish of 1726; and a silver flagon of 1727. (fn. 77)
The registers begin in 1666. (fn. 78)
The church of ST. ANDREW, Portslade-on-Sea, is situated three-quarters of a mile south of the old parish church, on the road joining the village to its modern maritime offshoot. It was built in 1864, of brick with stone dressings, in the Gothic style with a nave and an apsidal chancel. In 1889 it was enlarged by the addition of a north aisle of four bays with a vestry to the east. The registers date from 1877.
The tithes of Portslade were confirmed to the priory of Lewes by Ralph, Bishop of Chichester (1091–1123), (fn. 79) and the church was confirmed to them by Bishop Seffrid II about 1187. (fn. 80) About 1185 there was some controversy as to the church between Stephen, the clerk, and the prior and monks of Lewes, which was settled by Stephen's acknowledgement of the prior's claim. (fn. 81) In 1191 the prior assigned the advowson to William son of Rainald de Warenne, lord of the manor, in exchange for the advowson of Harthill, co. Yorks., on condition that the parson of Portslade should pay the prior and convent yearly 40s. (fn. 82) The advowson passed with the manor to Hubert de Burgh, Justiciar of England, who gave it and the church of Portslade to the canons of St. Radegund of Bradsole, for sustenance of themselves and the poor pilgrims who resorted there, saving to Robert the parson and Robert the vicar their pensions as long as they lived. (fn. 83) Henry III confirmed this grant, (fn. 84) and the church was appropriated to the canons. (fn. 85)
In 1246, however, the advowson was conveyed by John de Burgh to the Countess of Kent. (fn. 86) In 1347 John de la Warr was said to hold the advowson at his death, (fn. 87) but the canons of St. Radegund presented in 1444 and appear to have remained in possession of the advowson and rectory until the Dissolution. (fn. 88) Both were granted on 28 May 1538 to Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, (fn. 89) and his successors. The advowson remained with the archbishops until at least 1773, (fn. 90) but subsequently came into the hands of the Crown, (fn. 91) and was sold in 1864 to the Dowager Countess Amherst, and since then has remained in the Sackville family. The vicarage was held with the rectory of Hangleton in 1535 (fn. 92) and 1634. (fn. 93) The two were united in 1864 and the patron is now Lord Sackville. In 1291 Portslade was valued at £20 (fn. 94) and in 1535 at £8 18s. 8d. (fn. 95)
The rectory was leased by the Archbishop in 1580 for 3 lives to William, George, and John Bellingham, (fn. 96) and 'Mr. Bellingham' was tenant of the parsonage house in 1650. (fn. 97) Portslade parsonage house was sold by the Parliamentary Trustees in February 1658 to Edward Anthill of Warnham and Richard Furby of Mayfield. (fn. 98) The rectorial tithes had been commuted before 1849, (fn. 99) and are now appropriated to the parish of St. Andrew, Portslade-by-Sea, constituted in 1876. (fn. 100)