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 Piddinghoe lies south of Lewes between the River Ouse and the sea. It is bounded on its western side by the parishes of Telscombe and Southease, and on its eastern side by the parish of Newhaven.
Until 1929 the parish of Piddinghoe was comparatively large, having an area of 2,347 acres, including 7 acres of water. Since 1929, however, by the East Sussex (Piddinghoe and Peacehaven) Confirmation Order, a part of the parish on the coast has been formed into the parish of Peacehaven. By the East Sussex Review Order of 1934 a further portion of Piddinghoe was transferred to Newhaven parish and urban district. (fn. 1) The present area is 1,047 acres and the population in 1931 was 216, as compared with 231 for the old parish in 1831.
The soil of the parish is clay, and clay with a subsoil of chalk. Wheat, barley, and oats are grown. In 1874 there were 560 acres of common-field lands. (fn. 2)
The highest part of the parish is in the neighbourhood of Hoddern Farm and Lodge Hill, north of Peacehaven, where the land rises to a height of over 200 ft. A footpath leads down from here to the scattered village of Piddinghoe which stands close to the right bank of the River Ouse, about a mile and a quarter above Newhaven. The old main road from that town to Lewes passed over the brow of Lodge Hill, west of the village, by a deep bostal. On the brow of the hill is 'The Lydds', a hummocky area believed to mark the site of an early medieval village, beneath which may be seen the broad lynchets of ancient fields. The later road passes between the hill and the river, and skirts the village green, around which cluster its few cottages and the church. A few cottages, an inn amongst them, straggle along the road towards Newhaven. The village is now by-passed by a new road. Towards the northern end of the village is a wharf, but the river-trade of Piddinghoe was probably more important in medieval times than it is to-day. There was a curious local saying, the origin of which is unknown, to the effect that 'Piddinghoe people shoe their magpies'. (fn. 3)
Half a mile north-west is the manor-house of Deans, a large late-16th-century building, built of chalk faced with flint and with stone dressings. The building lies south-east to north-west, the former being the upper end. The original entrance was near the middle of the north-east front, at the lower end of the hall, which has a fine open fire-place with stone jambs and a depressed four-centred oak chimney-beam. The arch has long narrow spandrels, the sinister of which is carved with a sword, the dexter portraying a scabbard. The upper parlour has a fire-place with stone jambs and cambered oak chimney-beam, and shares the hall stack. Between this and the entrance front is an oak newel-stair in a square well. The newel is square, and is finished with a broomstick terminal. The whole stair is encased in a bay projecting from the entrance front. The bargeboard of its gable has a finial bearing the date 1622 and the initials H.W.E. At the lower end of the hall is the lower parlour, which has a fine timbered ceiling. Its fire-place, however, has been remodelled, as has that of the kitchen adjoining it. This is a large room, the axis of which is at right angles to that of the main house. The south-west wall of the kitchen, which is carried up as a gable, is continued along the back of the house to form the usual outshut aisle. This is divided from the hall and the two parlours by a timber framing carrying the main roof. On the ground floor, the filling of this has been removed to throw the aisle into the main rooms; the timber posts and braces have been left, however, and can be seen passing through the rooms. The chamber over the upper parlour has a fire-place with stone jambs and a stone segmental-pointed arch with wide hollow chamfer, over which is a four-centred relieving arch turned in thin bricks or tiles. Such other fire-places as remain on the upper floor have stone jambs and timber chimney-beams. The timber-work of the house is good throughout, the stops to the chamfers on the main beams being varied and interesting. Unfortunately no old windows or external doors remain. At the foot of the old stair is a small cellar, the walls of which are of chalk rubble. An attic floor has been inserted above the original first floor, a wing has been added at the eastern corner of the house to connect it with the stables, and another wing at the opposite end of the house provides for modern offices and servants' quarters. A large 17th-century barn, known as 'Chapel Barn', remains in the farm-yard to the east of the house, and near it is the outlet of the old main drain, discharging into the lower end of a coombe which was presumably once a river-creek. The old main road once passed by the house, but the present road runs between it and the river. On the hill-side behind the house is a Bronze Age long barrow known as 'Moneyburgh'.
Peacehaven, which was formed into a separate parish in 1929, is a holiday resort or bungalow-town which takes its name from having been founded at the end of the War of 1914–18. It lies at the edge of the cliffs, 2 miles south-west of Piddinghoe, its plan being a grid of unmade roads about a mile long and half a mile deep, based on the main road from Newhaven to Brighton. There is a temporary parish church, and also a Roman Catholic church. The population in 1931 was 2,007, and the parish covers 1,296 acres.
Formerly, Piddinghoe appears to have been of some industrial importance. There is still a whiting-works in the village, and a Lewes firm has a wharf there, but the kilns in the village are derelict, and pottery and bricks are no longer made there.
PIDDINGHOE is not found in Domesday Book, but by 1220 a manor of that name was in the hands of William Earl Warenne. (fn. 4) The vill of Piddinghoe descended with the manor of Meeching (q.v.), (fn. 5) but at the same time there was a manor of Piddinghoe which came into the possession of William Bardolf lord of Plumpton (q.v.), (fn. 6) and was held by him at his death in 1275. (fn. 7) His overlord was John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey. (fn. 8) Nothing more is heard of this manor (fn. 9) until 1486, when William 'Viscount Beaumont, Lord of Bardolf', was seised of it at the time of his marriage with Elizabeth Scrope. (fn. 10) He died in 1507. (fn. 11) This manor appears to have followed the fortunes of Plumpton, since Nicholas Carew was holding it at the time of his attainder in 1536. (fn. 12) The king restored it to Elizabeth Carew, his widow, in 1539, (fn. 13) from which time it was described as the manor of PLUMPTON-PIDDINGHOE. Francis Carew, son of Elizabeth, had succeeded her by 1554, (fn. 14) and in 1593 conveyed the manor to Richard Leache and his wife Charity. (fn. 15) In 1656 the manor was in the hands of Anthony Springett, who then sold it to William Lane. (fn. 16) He died in 1702 and his son William sold it in 1730 to Edward Gibbon. (fn. 17) His daughter Hester died unmarried in 1790, leaving the manor to her nephew Edward Gibbon, the historian, (fn. 18) who apparently sold it to his friend the Earl of Sheffield, as in 1823 and 1835 it belonged to the Earl. (fn. 19) Part of it, 'that part of the manor which is in the marsh', lay in the parish of Piddinghoe. (fn. 20)
The manor of HARPETING or HARPINGDEN [Herbertinges (xi cent.); Harpedynges (xii-xiii cent.); Harpings (xix cent.)] was held at the time of Edward the Confessor by Alnod. (fn. 21) In 1086 it was held of William de Warenne by Godfrey de Pierpoint, and with it went four messuages in Lewes. (fn. 22) The overlordship descended with the rape at least until 1428. (fn. 23)
William de Pierpoint (fn. 24) was lord of Herbertinges in about 1090, (fn. 25) but after this time the Pierpoint connexion can no longer be traced. William de Herbertinges, a tenant of William de Pierpoint, granted to the Prior of St. Pancras, Lewes, 18 acres of land and grazing for 100 sheep at Harpeting, about 1090. (fn. 26) Simon de Herbeting, presumably a descendant, held 2 knights' fees in Piddinghoe, and his widow Muriel held onethird of his land in dower. (fn. 27) His grandson, also Simon, was holding the 2 knights' fees in 1224, but in that year he conveyed to William Haubois Muriel's third, which included a capital messuage and the southern half of the garden. William Haubois was to perform to the chief lord all the service pertaining to the 2 fees. Simon retained two-thirds of the fief, with the northern half of the garden pertaining to the capital messuage, together with a messuage likewise pertaining to Muriel's portion. For this two-thirds he was to perform the proportion of service due and to pay annually one sore sparrow-hawk or two shillings. (fn. 28) In 1230 Simon conveyed to Aubrey de Marinis and his wife Eleanor two parts of 42 acres of land and 8 acres of heath, (fn. 29) of which they received the other third from William son of Gervase. (fn. 30)
In 1344–5 Peter de Harpetynge conveyed to Thomas de Wylecombe land and rent in Piddinghoe, with a messuage and a mill, (fn. 31) and including the reversion of the third held in dower by Joan widow of Simon de Harpetynge, and of 1 virgate held for life by Ismania de Harpetynge. (fn. 32) It was apparently this land that by 1428 had descended to John Leedes, who was holding it as half a knight's fee. (fn. 33) For some time it followed the descent of the Leedes manor of East Chiltington (q.v.). (fn. 34) In 1541 John Leedes paid £10 relief for the 2 knights' fees he inherited from his father William Leedes. (fn. 35) John Leedes was a recusant and had to flee the country. (fn. 36) In 1583–4 Henry Collyns and his wife Alice conveyed the manor of Harpeting to John Pryor, (fn. 37) but John Leedes died seised of it, and also of Horcombe (q.v.), in 1606, his heir being his son Sir Thomas Leedes. (fn. 38) These manors were held in 1631 by William Heath of the manor of Portslade as 2 knights' fees. (fn. 39) In addition, William Heath held as ¼ knight's fee, one messuage, one barn, and half of the lands called Harpinges alias Harpeting' in Piddinghoe, formerly Pilbeames. (fn. 40)
Nothing further is known of the history of the manor. The Heath family is said to have owned and occupied in the early 17th century the mansion house of Deans, of which the Earl of Chichester was owner in 1835. (fn. 41)
The manor of HORCOMBE (Horecumba) is first mentioned in a charter of William de Warenne to Lewes Priory, between 1091 and 1098, confirming Norman the Hunter's gift of the tithe of Horcombe, and Joslen the Constable's gift of the tithe of 2 hides there. (fn. 42) By about 1530 the manor was already held by the Leedes family, (fn. 43) and it descended with Harpeting (q.v.). In 1612 it was conveyed by Sir Thomas Leedes and his wife Mary, and Sir John Leedes to Richard and William Heath. (fn. 44) In 1631 it was in the hands of William Heath, (fn. 45) and it remained in the possession of the Heath family at least until July 1640, at which date William Heath devised to Henry Shelley and his other executors the profits of all his manors until his son Robert attained his majority, with the proviso that if his son died before the age of 21 without heirs, the manor of Horcombe should descend to his daughter Martha, wife of Henry Shelley, for life, with remainder to William Shelley, their son. (fn. 46) The subsequent history of the manor is unknown, but the name survives in Halcombe Farm. (fn. 47)
In 1086 ORLESWICK [Laneswice (xi cent.); Horlaueswica, Horlaueswik, Horlaweswica (x—xii cent.); Hordlaueswick, Ordlaueswica (xii cent.); Ordlaweswyk (xiii cent.); Orleswick (xviii cent.)] was held by Niel of Earl Warenne as 5 hides. Earl Godwin had held it as 6½ hides in the time of King Edward, and seven alodial tenants held it of him. There were two haws in Lewes pertaining to it. (fn. 48) This land appears to have been near Herbertinges. (fn. 49)
Niel gave his tithes there to the priory of St. Pancras at Lewes and Godard gave them tithe of 1½ hides there. (fn. 50) Ralph son of Niel gave 6 acres of land there to the monks; (fn. 51) and in about 1170 Simon de Herbertinges gave them 18 acres of land, and Walter son of Gerard de Horecumba confirmed the grant of 7 acres in Orleswick made to the monks by his father. (fn. 52)
In the early 13th century Ralph de Meyners was holding land in Orleswick which by 1247, after his death, had come into the hands of his sister Agnes widow of William de Benefeld. Agnes made this over to her sister and coheir, Isabel wife of Philip de Neubaud, in return for other land of the inheritance of Ralph. (fn. 53) The only other reference to Orleswick that has been found occurs in a rent-roll of the Duke of Dorset, where, under the heading of the manor of Swanborough, Orleswick is found to be held in 1719–20 by Ann Winton, widow. (fn. 54) The name is now lost. (fn. 55)
The church of ST. JOHN stands on a low bluff rising from the river's edge. It is faced with flint and has stone dressings. It consists of a nave and chancel, both with aisles on either side, a circular western tower, and a south porch. The nave and tower are probably of early-12th-century date, with the north aisle of the nave slightly later than the nave itself, and its original south aisles, rebuilt in 1882, probably dating from the end of the 12th century. The original chancel was probably of the 12th century, and had a north aisle. Early in the 13th century the chancel was rebuilt with north and south aisles, which were later removed, with the south aisle of the nave, (fn. 56) and not rebuilt until 1882. The south porch belongs to the same rebuilding.
The east wall of the chancel is lit by a triplet of plain lancet lights, above them in the gable being a large round window. Two buttresses of uncertain date take the thrust of the chancel arcades. The whole of the south aisle wall of the chancel and nave is modern, as is also the south porch. The north aisle wall of the chancel is also modern. The wall of the north aisle of the nave, however, is probably of the mid12th century, although all the windows are later. The two easternmost of these are plain rectangular openings of about 1400. On either side of the blocked north door, which has a flat lintel and is perfectly plain, is a single-light window with a foliated head, possibly also of the 14th century. The west window of this aisle is a plain rectangular light similar to those near the east end of the aisle. The round tower is contemporary with the nave, possibly early-12th century, and has a ring of six plain semicircular-headed windows lighting the belfry. Two similar windows light the west wall of the ringing floor and the ground floor respectively. The tower is perfectly plain, without set-offs, and has a steep conical shingled roof or low spire, at the summit of which is a very large vane in the form of a salmontrout.
The east end of the chancel shows internally the splays of the three lancets noted above. Their sills are stepped, and the arrises of the splays are ornamented with a roll-moulding. A string-course runs beneath them, and above them is the round window in the gable. In the east wall, just north of the altar, is a plain rectangular aumbry, rebated for a door, and on the south of the altar, is a simple piscina with an obtusely pointed arch and a projecting half-octagon bowl. Above both aumbry and piscina is a pair of image brackets, one over the other. The chancel arcades both consist of two obtusely pointed arches of two orders, each chamfered, springing from a circular column in the middle and segmental responds at either end. The caps have a roll-moulding beneath the abacus, a plain bell, and an astragal. The bases have roll-mouldings, and rest on a low octagonal plinth. The chancel arch is a fine lofty feature. Its responds have each a face-shaft and two nook-shafts, and rise from moulded bases similar to those of the chancel arcades. The capitals have stiffleaf carving on the bells, and the arch above is deeply moulded in two orders. The arch crossing the north aisle has been rebuilt in a circular form, but that it is an ancient feature is shown by the imposts, which are of the 12th century. The nave arcades have both been cut through the walls of the original nave at some time in the middle of the 12th century. The north arcade is in three bays with semicircular arches, and is earlier than the southern one of four bays with pointed arches. The imposts are formed with simple bands of chamfered string-course. In the eastern respond of the south arcade has been cut a rectangular window, similar to those which have been noted in the north aisle, and dating from after the removal of the south aisle itself. The tower arch is very simple, being a plain semicircular-headed arch with no imposts, and plainly showing that the tower and nave are contemporaneous. The roofs of both nave and chancel are modern, (fn. 57) but the braced principals to the former may be old. The font is a plain square block mounted on a square pedestal having on each face a pair of vertical square recesses, each containing another vertical trefoil-headed recess, the whole standing on a square base and apparently dating from the late-13th century. In the north-east corner of the north aisle of the nave is a square projecting bracket having 15th-century crenellation round it and a hole in the middle which makes it appear to be a sconce. In the north wall of the nave is a figure-head corbel. The church possesses a fine example of an early19th-century barrel-organ.
There are three bells, one bearing the date 1713, the other two uninscribed. (fn. 58)
The plate includes a communion cup with the mark for 1568, but the foot is that of a pre-Reformation chalice, and the paten is also of pre-Reformation origin. (fn. 59)
The church of Piddinghoe is a vicarage united since 1877 to the rectory of Telscombe. In 1252, in the endowment of Bishop Richard de la Wich, the vicarage was to be of the value of 15 marks. (fn. 60) In 1291 the rectory was valued at £29 6s. 8d., and the vicarage at £8. (fn. 61) In the reign of Henry VIII the living was valued at £7 14s. 2d. (fn. 62)
The church of Piddinghoe was given to the Priory of St. Pancras, Lewes, by William de Warenne about 1090. (fn. 63) The gift was confirmed in 1121 by Bishop Ralph of Chichester, and afterwards by Bishop Seffrid. (fn. 64) At the dissolution of the priory in 1536, the advowson was taken into the king's hands, (fn. 65) and in 1538 was granted to Thomas Cromwell. (fn. 66) After Cromwell's attainder, the advowson was granted to Anne of Cleves, in January 1541. (fn. 67)
In August 1603 Thomas, Lord Buckhurst, was patron, (fn. 68) and the advowson appears to have remained with his descendants, the Earls of Dorset, until at least 1710, (fn. 69) though in 1631 the Rev. Edward Wood of Hamsey and John Wood presented. (fn. 70) In 1694 the Crown presented, by lapse. (fn. 71) From at least 1715 the advowson descended with that of Telscombe (q.v.), to which the living was united by Order in Council of 30 April 1877. (fn. 72)
The advowson of the new vicarage of Peacehaven is alternately in the gift of the Crown and the Bishop of Chichester. (fn. 73)