A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1940.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Southover is first mentioned at the end of the 11th century, (fn. 1) and was presumably the parish originally served by the pre-Conquest wooden church of St. Pancras which William de Warenne rebuilt and made the nucleus of his priory. (fn. 2) The parish was outside the ancient borough of Lewes, (fn. 3) but the urban portion formed part of the new municipal borough in 1881. (fn. 4) By a Local Government Act of 1894 it was divided into St. John the Baptist, Southover, within the borough, and Southover Without, and in 1913 the civil parish of St. John the Baptist was included in the civil parish of Lewes. (fn. 5) By the East Sussex Review Order of 1934 part of Southover Without was added to Lewes and the rest to the parish of Iford. (fn. 6)
Southover possesses several buildings of interest. The Grange, which lies at the foot of Keere Street, is faced principally with Caen stone and was built by William Newton, (fn. 7) steward to the Earl of Dorset, in 1572, when the Lords' Place (the manor-house in the priory grounds) was destroyed by fire. It consists of a central hall (modernized), 22 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft., with a wing at each end, both of which project westwards towards the street and have stone gables. The space between the wings in front of the hall is now filled with a modern vestibule, but above this on the south face of the northern wing is a panel containing a shield of the Newton arms carved in high relief. The two wings also project to the east, the northern extending for some distance, with a north stone gable to the staircase. An additional modern block projects southwards and a modern staircase hall stands between the wings on the east from the south wing. The original windows are of stone, mullioned and (on the ground floor) transomed, and with stone weather-mouldings. The chimney-stacks, which are all restored, are of stone well above the eaves, and have brick shafts. Internally there is a good Elizabethan oak staircase in the north wing and much of the roof timbering is original. A number of the old stone fire-places remain, those of Newton's date having his initials and the date 1572. There are also two early-16th-century fire-places with carved spandrels, which were probably removed from the prior's lodging, Lewes Priory. Others are dated 1629 and 1675. There is a stone in the garden wall dated 1729 and a lead pumphead with 1789. The gardens, through which the Winterbourne flows, are extensive and include the site of Lewes Grammar School, which John Evelyn attended when staying at the Grange with his grandfather's widow, who married William Newton. There are a number of carved stones from Lewes Priory in the grounds.
Opposite the Grange is the chapel of the Hospital of St. James, Southover, which is now converted into a cottage. The internal dimensions are 34 ft. by 15ft. The walls are flint-faced and to the north and south retain on each side two single-light mid-14th-century windows, with ogee heads and trefoil cusping. There was originally a three-light window with perpendicular tracery in the east wall, and the infirmary hall extended west of the chapel to the end of St. James's Lane. (fn. 8) The Red House, south of the hospital, has a number of carved stones from Lewes Priory built into its cellar. West of St. James's Lane are the walls of the pound, with peephole squints still in position.
'Anne of Cleves House' (called formerly 'the Porched House') is now the Folk Museum of the Sussex Archaeological Society. (fn. 9) It is built partly of brick and flint and partly of oak framing. The roofs are covered with Horsham stone and tiles. It is an L-shaped building, the southern section of four roof-bays, abutting on the west on a range of six bays at right-angles to it. The western of the four southern bays forms a hall from floor to roof, the east and west walls being framed with heavy timbers of king-post construction, and having moulded beams above door height and at eaves level. North and south are two plastered coves, over which the upper moulded beams return; they correspond to a similar cove externally on the south elevation at eaves level. In the south wall is a large oak window of fifteen lights, five lights above, below, and between the two transoms, the central range being a restoration. The second bay is occupied by a large chimney-stack serving a fireplace in the hall, a passage and a stair to the north communicating with the first floor of the eastern part of the house. In front of the passage, built out into the road, is a two-story porch of flint and stone chequer work below and timber above with the initials I. S. and the date 1599 cut in the arch spandrel of the stone entrance door. Beneath the hall, approached by a stone stair under the flight already mentioned, is a cellar roofed with a roughly semi-circular barrel vault of chalk and flint. From the evidence of the remains of the stone doorway at the foot of the stair it seems probable that this cellar belonged to a 14th-century house which preceded the present one. Apart from the Elizabethan porch and west wing, the existing structure dates from the early 16th century, and it was most likely constructed from old material at the date of the dissolution of Lewes Priory. The third bay eastward is very wide (15 ft.) and was at one time divided into two rooms, back and front. It has a good stone fire-place with moulded jambs, shaped above in the form of double corbels, which support a moulded four-centred arch. The eastern bay on the ground floor formed a carriage-way to the rear of the building. The upper floor in the two eastern bays projects over the street and is of early-16th-century framing, tilehung on the south. To the north the building projects beyond the posts of the trusses and the roof is carried down to a lower eaves. There is an original Tudor window of four lights with moulded oak mullions in the east gable. The west wing is of Elizabethan date, but its southern portion of two bays is a re-modelling of an older wing of the medieval building. It overhangs the street on the first floor. There is a large chimneystack between this section and the four northern bays, the floors of which are on a different level to the former. The ground floor of the north part is built of thick walls of flint and stone with a six-light window to the west and an open fire-place with chimney-beam. The first floor is one large room, and its area is increased by a 3-ft.-6-in. overhang to the west, lit by a series of small lights, till recently unglazed. The room is lighted to the north by an oak window having five lights below and nine above the transom, there being two winglights on either side beyond the jambs. The second floor is also one room, now open to the roof but formerly ceiled. The walls are all timber-framed with heavy story-posts to each roof-truss. In the roof are curved wind-braces. This room has a similar north window to that below, except that the centre part projects forward beneath the fascia of the gable. Close by in the east wall is a four-light oak window similarly projecting. There are also windows in the west wall, including a projecting window of three lights below and three above the transom, which is roofed externally with a small gable having a much decayed carved barge-board and pendants. A staircase addition has recently been made to the north wing on its east side, the staircase being that from the demolished Moat House in Lewes High Street. (fn. 10)
At the west corner of Potters' Lane, which bounds Anne of Cleves House, is a group of early-16th-century cottages with half-timber work in their upper stories and arched contemporary doorways. At the west end of Southover High Street on the north side is an Elizabethan house with a flint and stone gable to the south, and three stories with stone mullioned windows. The house is merely a shell, having been incorporated in the adjoining brewery, but in the building east of it, which is tile-hung, is a small Elizabethan oak stair.
The remains of the Cluniac priory of St. Pancras, in Southover, are fragmentary and are now divided by the line of the Southern Railway from Lewes to Brighton, which cuts across the site of the high altar of the priory church and across the chapter house. It was the construction of this line in 1846 which laid bare the foundations of the church, and the information gained at that time, supplemented by later digging, enabled Sir Wm. St. John Hope and Sir Harold Breakspear to produce a plan of the monastery. (fn. 11)
Close to the east wall of Southover parish church are the remains of the Great Gate of the priory. It was a square building with two adjacent archways in its west wall and a stair-turret at the north-west angle. The southern arch was approximately 10 ft. wide and the northern 5 ft. The south jamb of the former arch survives, and shows that it was of four orders, each with a shaft, moulded base, and capitals. The material is Sussex marble; the free shafts have disappeared, but the capitals, bonded into the masonry, show square abaci and stiff-leaf foliage, and the hollow mouldings have carved leaf ornament. The smaller archway has been re-erected at the west end of Priory Crescent and now shows a two-centred pointed archway. An 18th-century drawing by Lambert represents it as semicircular and the span of the arch has been evidently reduced. The date of the gatehouse, which must have been a building of great importance and beauty, is about 1200. Portions of its southern wall still exist, bounding the parish churchyard, and there is part of an archway in this wall at right-angles to the entrance.
The only remains in situ of the Priory Church are the southern wall of the south-west tower and a portion of its west return. The masonry shows signs of the subsidence caused by the underpinning of John Portinari, the engineer who threw down the church at the order of Thomas Cromwell. (fn. 12) Only the inner face of the tower wall is visible, with a moulded stone bench on which stand the shafts and moulded bases of the five arches forming a wall arcade. Part of the south respond of the tower arch may be seen, and of the shafts in the south-west angle, the whole of the work being in Caen stone. Portions of the foundations of the south wall of the nave are visible, and from excavations in the adjoining churchyard the same wall has been found to extend westwards, which may indicate a narthex on the scale of Cluny and its dependent churches in Burgundy. The church had a nave of eight bays (clear of the two western towers), double transepts with a choir of four bays between them, each western transept having two eastern apsidal chapels, and each eastern transept one. East of the latter the church ended in a chevêt of five apsidal chapels. The internal dimensions were: nave (including tower) 215 ft. by 70 ft.; eastern arm: length including transepts, &c., 210 ft.; width across western transepts 150 ft., eastern transepts 102 ft.
The Cloister, which measured (including the alleys) 145 ft. by c. 100 ft., has gone, but beneath the ground is a small domed chamber which marks the site of the circular lavatory above, an independent building that projected from the south alley into the cloister garth. The lavatory was an elaborate structure of marble, remains of which are preserved in the lapidary room of the Museum of the Sussex Archaeological Society. They include spiral shafts of varying design, bases for twin shafts with spurs at the angles, and a portion of the central laver, which was enriched with an arcade of semicircular arches. The domed chamber may represent the head of a well or the site of a cistern and pump for filling the laver above. It communicated with the sub-vault of the frater by a vaulted passage that proceeds west and then turns at right angles south. It is now cut off by the railway embankment.
The Frater floor was level with the cloister, but the fall in the ground gave occasion for a sub-vault of six bays, with five piers down the centre. These have disappeared, but three bays of the south wall at its eastern end exist to a considerable height and are marked by external buttresses. In the western of these bays are two double-splayed windows, the openings being very narrow, with semicircular heads, while the splays both within and without are unusually wide. The ashlar facing to the wall stops at a height of four courses above the arch stones, with a chamfered set-off worked on the third course, and above this the frater wall is faced with regular herring-bone courses of small unworked stones. This technique, together with the double-splays to the windows, would normally suggest an 11th-century date, but may be a survival of early building methods. It seems clear that at some date in the 12th century the cloister was enlarged towards the west and that at the same time the frater was extended and remodelled, a fact to be borne in mind in connexion with the presence of this early type of masonry and also the irregularity of plan noted below. Another double-splayed window lights the easternmost of the five bays under description, and to the east of this are the plain stone jambs of a doorway, which retains most of its western reveal.
East of this undercroft is a vaulted compartment of a bay and a quarter, evidently the eastern part of the earlier undercroft of the first frater, since it is in line with the east wall of the cloister. It retains two spiral staircases, one at the NE. and the other at the SE. angle, the latter being intact for some height. The south wall of this undercroft continues beneath the dorter range, with responds of the main arches of the vault.
The site of the Dorter is occupied by a number of vaulted compartments beneath its floor level; and here again is evidence of extensive replanning and enlargement late in the 12th century. The first dorter, which was probably over the chapter-house and the remainder of the east claustral range, projected southwards beyond the frater over a vaulted room with a free central pier and with a small eastern chamber projecting from its north-eastern compartment. The dorter terminated against the old rere-dorter, a building measuring 95 ft. by 25 ft. inside and lying east and west. Considerable remains of this building survive, since it was incorporated in the later extension of the dorter; it is divided into six bays by buttresses on its south face and has clasping buttresses at the angles. The vaulted drain runs within its south wall and was contained by a parallel wall to the north. The external masonry shows herringbone work, and the vault beneath its eastern end is lighted by three windows to the north and three to the east, beside three openings into the space above the drain.
The later and enlarged dorter (internally some 70 ft. wide) was carried over the old rere-dorter, and was aligned with its eastern wall. It was continued two bays farther south, the western part of the rere-dorter remaining as a projecting extension. A new reredorter (measuring 158 ft. by 24 ft. inside) was built to the south, with a clear space of 10 ft. between it and the dorter, the two being linked by a stone bridge. This building, though unroofed, is largely intact and is an interesting example of its kind. It is constructed like the earlier one with a wide stone paved drain contained within the south wall and another wall parallel to it on the north. The drain is vaulted before it enters and after it leaves the building and passes under arches in the end walls. At first-floor level the area over the drain was occupied by 60 cubicles, divided by walls which were carried on arches across the drain space. The remaining area on both floors formed a long hall, the lower one being possibly the laundry of the priory. There are in the walls long internal cavities which are supposed to have been filled at one time with bond timbers, but the probability that they communicated with the interior suggests that they contained lead water-pipes, and this may be confirmed by the fact that they have evidently been further opened out when the priory was robbed of its materials. The rere-dorter is divided externally to the south by buttresses into four bays, in the centre of each of which was a large square window, with one recessed order, for ventilating the space above the drain. The masonry of these and of the angle buttresses at the east end is in beautiful condition, all cut from fine squared Caen stone. The whole building had, however, settled towards the south, owing to the swampy nature of the ground, and a number of heavy buttresses faced with flint and stone chequerwork were added, probably in the 14th or 15th century.
Abutting on the east side of the dorter was a large aisled Infirmary Hall, with additional buildings to the east of it, all of which are known only by their foundations. There are, however, important remains above ground of the Infirmary Chapel, which stands just south of the east end of the priory church. This chapel follows the plan of the mother house of Cluny by being independent of the infirmary hall, orientated differently from the monks' Church, and in having a triple east end, this last feature being also found at Souvigny. The difference in orientation may be due (as has been surmised at Cluny) to its being on the site of the original church of St. Pancras given by the founder. The extreme internal length is 100 ft. and the nave is 29 ft. wide. The chancel is square-ended, but the lateral chapels each terminate in an apse; the altar-pace remains in the chancel, and in the north chapel the stone altar itself has been preserved. The walls of the chapel were thrown down by John Portinari by the same methods of under-pinning that were used for the church, but the masonry held together and much of the ashlar facing is in fine preservation. An aumbrey in the north wall of the chancel is visible, together with the angle-shafts which carried the vault, and a fragment of an internal moulded string-course with pellet ornament is still in position. The newel and bottom treads of a spiral staircase can be traced at the junction of the south chapel with the nave.
The only other building of which traces remain is one that projected southwards from the west end of the frater range. They consist of the core and part of the facing of three of its buttresses, showing diaper work of flint and stone, and probably belong to the 15th century.
Just east of the priory ruins is 'the Mount', a mound some 45 ft. in height, the top of which is reached by a spiral path. (fn. 13) Nothing is known as to its origin; but the fact that it adjoins 'the Dripping Pan', a large sunken rectangular piece of ground surrounded by banks, may point to there having been a salt-pan here, since in Essex such pans are accompanied by mounds, (fn. 14) perhaps for windmill-pumps.
To the south-west of the monastery lay the great pigeon-house, a cruciform building about 80 ft. in length and breadth, which survived until early in the 19th century. (fn. 15)
At the time of the Domesday Survey there were 44 haws or burgages in Lewes, pertaining to the manor of Rodmell (q.v.), which may possibly have constituted, then or later, the suburb of Southover (fn. 16) to the south-west of the town. These burgages belonged to William de Warenne in 1086. (fn. 17) In about 1095 his son, the second William de Warenne, gave the land called Southover, with two ponds and mills, to the newly founded priory of St. Pancras, (fn. 18) for which it provided the site, as well as forming the manor of SOUTHOVER, which remained the property of the priory until it was surrendered in 1537 to the Crown. (fn. 19)
In 1538 the manor of Southover and the site of the dissolved monastery were granted to Thomas Cromwell. (fn. 20) After his fall Anne of Cleves was given the manor and 'borough' of Southover, in 1541, (fn. 21) and these returned to the Crown after her death in 1557. (fn. 22) The manor was conveyed to Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, in 1582 by John Stempe and his wife Anne, (fn. 23) and descended, along with the site of the priory, in the family of the Sackvilles, Lords Buckhurst and Earls of Dorset. (fn. 24) Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl, died in 1624, holding the manor of the king in socage. (fn. 25) The site of the priory of St. Pancras was also held of the king, but by knight's service, and to it pertained the 'Southey', the 'Ryes', the 'Hammes', and the 'Broches'. (fn. 26) Richard's widow Anne and her husband, Philip, Earl of Pembroke, were still holding the manor in 1643, (fn. 27) but it passed subsequently to the Earl of Dorset's elder daughter and coheir Margaret, (fn. 28) who in 1629 had married John Tufton, Earl of Thanet. (fn. 29)
Their descendant, Thomas, Earl of Thanet, with his wife Katherine, sold the manor and site to Nathaniel Trayton in 1710. (fn. 30) He died in 1715, and his elder son Edward Trayton devised the manor to Samuel Durrant by will, and died in 1761. (fn. 31) Samuel Durrant of Lewes died late in 1782, having devised the manor to his cousin, Samuel Durrant of Robertsbridge, surgeon, who died in 1783. (fn. 32) His second son Samuel left it in 1822 to his son John Mercer Bosville Durrant, who was lord in 1835. (fn. 33) Subsequently William Verrall bought Southover Manor with all rights, and died at the Manor House in January 1890 in his 92nd year, (fn. 34) and from him it has descended to Mr. Frank Verrall, the present lord.
The site of the dissolved priory of St. Pancras was leased in 1539 for 21 years by Thomas Cromwell to Nicholas Jenney, and this lease was confirmed in 1540, after Cromwell's fall, by Henry VIII. (fn. 35) The site was subsequently owned by the Earls of Dorset (see above).
It appears probable that the church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST was originally the hospitium at the gate of the Priory of St. Pancras and that it was converted into a parish church in the 13th century when, possibly, the new Hospital of St. James was built close by. (fn. 36) It consists now of a nave and chancel without structural division, a south aisle, west tower, and a modern southern extension which includes the Gundrada Chapel and a vestry.
The oldest part of the fabric is the arcade to the aisle, which is carried on large drum-like piers of the latter half of the 12th century. There are four of these piers, the westernmost, although now engaged with the west wall, having once stood free; so that the arcade must have had at least five arches, and it may have originally divided the building into two parallel aisles or wards, each with an altar at the east end. There are now three perfectly plain semicircular arches carried on the simple circular abacus of the pier capitals, with two further arches eastward, one a 15th-century arch of two orders completing the nave, and the easternmost a modern arch south of the chancel. The 15th-century arch and its pier are said to have been moved from a position across the aisle. The chancel is modern and the north wall of the nave, though of 14th-century build, is very much restored. Only a small portion of the tracery of one of its two-light windows is original. The west wall of the nave is also of the 14th century and retains its contemporary doorway leading into the tower. The south wall is mid-16th-century, as well as the west wall of the aisle, both being post-dissolution work, having fragments of the priory built into the masonry. They are constructed of a chequerwork of stone and flint and towards the south are three three-light and one four-light windows under four-centred heads and hoodmoulds. The external door in the west wall of the aisle is a two-centred arch within a square moulded frame.
The tower fell down in 1698; it was rebuilt as high as the belfry stage in 1714 and completed in 1738. (fn. 37) It is faced with brick, with battlemented parapet and a string-course below it. It has a stone plinth and regular quoins of stone on its north face. At its western angles are large diagonal buttresses of sandstone, which may belong to an earlier tower but were adapted to the structure, for one bears the inscription W. Stephen 1714. The belfry stage has plain square openings and in the west wall in the ground stage is a three-light window similar to those in the south aisle. The north door is modern. The tower walls in their upper stages are of chalk inside the building. The roof is surmounted by a small octagonal cupola, tile-hung and domed in lead. There is a lofty weather-vane with a large copper fish. In the external walls of the tower are set four carved stones. On the west is a date-stone with the year 1714 and the initials of Nathaniel Trayton, lord of the manor, and also a medieval shield of the checky coat of Warenne. On the south is a Tudor rose and crown, and on the north a stone with a mitre over a shield with the letters I.A.P.L., presumably the initials of John Ashdown, Prior of Lewes. Adjoining the north-east angle of the church are the remains of the gateway to Lewes Priory (q.v.).
The most interesting monument in the church is the memorial to Gundrada wife of William de Warenne, which is now preserved in a modern chapel built on to the south aisle. It is a slightly tapering coffinlid of black marble, carved with two long bands of ornament consisting of bunches of stiff-leaved foliage within curved stems of anthemion form linked by animal's heads. An inscribed band surrounds the slab and traverses the spine. The lower part of the stone is a restoration and the base is modern. It dates from the latter part of the 12th century and was no doubt executed on some occasion requiring the re-entombment of the remains of William and Gundrada. The inscription is as follows:
+STIRPS. GVNDRADA. DVCV[m]. DEC[VS]. EVI. NOBILE. GERMEN: INTVLIT. ECCLESIIS. ANGLORV[m]. BALSAMA. MORV[m]. MARTIR. . . . [F]VIT. MISERIS. FVIT. EX. PIETATE. .MARIA. PARS. OBIIT. MARTHE. SVPEST. PARS. MAGNA. MARIE. O. PIE. PANCRATI. TES[TIS. PIE]TATIS. ET. EQ[VI]. TE. FACIT. HEREDE[..]. TV. CLEMENS. SVSCIPE. MATREM. SEXTA. KALENDARV[m]. IVNII. LVX. OBVIA. CARNIS. ĪFREGIT. ALABASTRV[m]. . . .
The stone had been removed from Lewes Priory and used in the monument of Edward Shirley at Isfield Church. It was discovered by Dr. Clarke, rector of Buxted, and was removed to Southover Church in 1775 at the expense of Sir William Burrell. Seventy years later, in cutting the Lewes-Brighton railway, the lead cists containing the bones of William and Gundrada were discovered on the site of the Chapter House. The cists are preserved in this chapel, the remains being buried under Gundrada's tombstone. They measure respectively 2 ft. 11 in. and 2 ft. 9 in. long; both are 12½ in. wide and are from 8½ to 9 in. deep. They are ornamented with a fret-work pattern and are inscribed respectively WILLEM[u]S and GUNDRADA.
The other objects preserved in the chapel include the torso of a marble effigy of a man in armour of the late 13th century, discovered in the Priory ruins during the excavations of 1846. Dr. Mosse (fn. 38) describes it as follows: 'The figure is arrayed in complete mail (rings set edgeways) and a surcoat; kite-shaped shield, damaged; guige; cross-belted sword lies parallel with the shield, its pommel high up, level with the armpit; the bawdric horizontal with ordinary buckle fastening. The left arm is bent upon itself, the hand flat on the breast. The figure was formerly coloured, of which traces remain; surcoat blue, bawdric and guige red, with some gilding; the mail gilt.'
There are eight bells, re-cast in 1839. (fn. 39)
Among the Communion plate is a cup and paten of the late 17th century, and a paten dated 1709. (fn. 40)
The chapel of St. John the Baptist outside the gate of the monks of Lewes (fn. 41) seems to have been originally built within the precincts of the priory for the use of nonmonastic worshippers, and to have been transferred to the hospitium (fn. 42) at the gate of the monastery between 1257 and 1263. (fn. 43) It was then a rectory in the patronage of the prior and convent of Lewes, who surrendered it to the Crown in 1537. (fn. 44)
The advowson was granted to Thomas Cromwell in 1538, (fn. 45) and after his fall seems to have been retained by the Crown (fn. 46) and later transferred to the Lord Chancellor. It was sold in 1863 to the Rev. John Scobell, then rector, and he left it to his son Sanford G. T. Scobell. (fn. 47) By 1915 the patronage had been acquired by the Church Pastoral Aid Society, (fn. 48) who still hold it. (fn. 49)
Elizabeth Ballard, by will dated 17 June 1608, gave an annuity of £4 for the relief of the poor of Southover. The endowment is represented by 8 acres of land called the 'Meadow', situate at Stoneham, and land containing 2 acres 2 roods, being part of Broyle Park, let at annual rents of £20 and £5 respectively.
Barnham's Charity. By an indenture dated 26 June 1620, Martin Barnham charged land known as Bulbrooke's with a yearly rent charge of 40s. to be distributed among the poorest people of the parish. The endowment now consists of £83 13s. 5d. Consols producing an annual income of £2 1s. 8d.
The St. James's Charity. By an indenture dated 19 July 1867 land with the buildings thereon situate in Southover was conveyed to trustees the rent thereof to be distributed among the poor of the parish. The land is now let for £23 per annum, which is distributed in coal to poor inhabitants. Trustees are appointed by order of the Charity Commissioners.