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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Suesse (xi cent.); Southesse (xiii cent.); Suthese, Sueyse, Southese (xiv cent.).
The parish of Southease lies in the Ouse valley about 3½ miles south of Lewes. It covers an area of 850 acres, of which about 4 acres are water. (fn. 1) Bounded on the north by the parish of Rodmell, on the south by Piddinghoe, and on the south-west by Telscombe, the parish covers Southease Hill between the limits of Cricketing Bottom and Broadgreen Bottom. The eastern boundary of the parish follows the old course of the river, which formerly made a detour of rather more than a mile on the Beddingham side. On both sides of the present course of the river there is marshland upon which cattle are pastured. On the slopes of Southease Hill corn is grown and sheep-walks are found higher on the Downs where the soil is thinner. The main road from Lewes to Newhaven crosses the parish from north to south.
The small village of Southease lies upon a road which descends from the high road to the river; the population in 1931 was 79; (fn. 2) in 1831 it was 142. (fn. 3) The occupation of the neighbourhood is mainly agricultural. Chalk also has been worked here. Formerly, a ferry called Stock Ferry crossed the river at Southease, but an iron swing-bridge was constructed at this point in 1880. (fn. 4) The path across the river leads to a Halt on the railway from Lewes to Seaford.
The cottages in the village mostly date from the beginning of the 17th century. A tall cottage at the southern end of the village is raised over a basement having a brick mullioned window. Immediately to the north of the church is the present vicarage, which retains within it traces of a half-timber house of the end of the 16th century. The remains are of a house of three bays, two of which belonged to the hall and the third to a parlour. The house ran north and south, and along the west wall was the usual outshot aisle. The mutilated three-centred or segmental door-heads from the two main rooms to the outshot are still visible. A gable on the west of the house has, built into it, a stone panel about 7 in. square, set diagonally, and bearing the inscription rivi raro re vi raro aridi. (fn. 5) In the centre of the panel is the monogram of iohn rivers and above the inscription is the date 1604.
The manor of SOUTHEASE included the parish of Southease and part, at least, of South Heighton, in Pevensey Rape. It is said to have been originally granted with 38 hides and a church by King Edred to Hyde Abbey. (fn. 6) Later, in 996, King Edgar granted it to the abbey with 28 hides of land and a church. (fn. 7) At the time of the Domesday Survey the manor was assessed for 27 hides. There were 130 acres of meadow, and land for 28 ploughs. The manor carried with it certain rights in Lewes, where 10 burgesses yielded 52 pence. (fn. 8)
The lords of the rape enjoyed the rights of freewarren and free fishery in the manor. (fn. 9) In 1268 John Earl Warenne quitclaimed to the abbey for all their men of Southease and Telscombe all exactions and demands 'for all kinds of enclosure of walls and all other enclosures in his town of Lewes'. (fn. 10)
After the Dissolution, the manor probably remained in the king's hands for a time, for in January 1546 John Keme was appointed bailiff and collector of the manors of Southease, Telscombe, and Heighton, (fn. 11) formerly of the abbey of Hyde. In the reign of Edward VI, Southease was granted to Edward, Lord Clinton and Say, Leonard Irby, and the heirs of Lord Clinton. (fn. 12) Afterwards the manor apparently reverted to the Crown, for, in 1559, it was found by inquisition that Thomas Gratwyke held a windmill in Telscombe of the queen as of the manor of Southease. (fn. 13) In 1602 the manor was granted to William Pennant and Richard Tomlyng for £80. (fn. 14) The manor shortly afterwards passed to the Sackville family, (fn. 15) and remained in that family at least until 1621. (fn. 16) In 1623 Sir Thomas Springett was lord of the manor, (fn. 17) and after his death in 1639, (fn. 18) his son Sir Herbert Springett appears to have succeeded. (fn. 19) He died in 1662, (fn. 20) and his widow Barbara held the manor until her death in 1697. Of the five children of this marriage, one, Elizabeth, married John Whalley, and it was possibly a son, Herbert Whalley who, with his wife Lucy, in 1688 quitclaimed their right in the manor to Ezekiel Hutchinson, Thomas Watson, and the heirs of Ezekiel Hutchinson, (fn. 21) and subsequently to John Watson and his heirs. (fn. 22) In 1694 Thomas Harris, senior, and Lucy his wife, late Lucy Whalley, made a further quitclaim of the manor to John Watson. (fn. 23) The latter held his first court as lord of the manor in April 1697. (fn. 24) Another John Watson held his first court in May 1717 and, dying in 1722, left the manor to his nephew John son of George Watson. (fn. 25) In 1735 John Watson and Hannah his wife and George Watson sold their interest in the manor to Thomas Barnard (fn. 26) who held the manorial courts between October 1735 and January 1749, being followed by Sir Thomas Barnard who held the courts between October 1756 and September 1767. (fn. 27) In August 1769 Ezekiel Dickenson (fn. 28) was lord of the manor, and he was succeeded, in October 1771, by Bernard Dickenson. (fn. 29) In 1835 the manor belonged to Mrs. Dickenson (fn. 30) and subsequently passed to the Rev. John Harman who owned it in 1853, (fn. 31) but sold it in 1870 to W. Langham Christie. (fn. 32) The present lord of the manor is Capt. John Christie. (fn. 33)
The custom of Borough English prevailed in the manor. (fn. 34) By the customs recorded in the 17th century every tenant of a virgate had yearly to plow half an acre and to harrow it 'two teyne for wheate and three teyne for barlye'. He had also to supply a reaper to do a day's work in each of two weeks on the lord's farm, and to carry two loads of corn, 'the one of wheat two sheafe high aboue the lades, the other of barly two rearing high the next weeke (friday & satterday excepted)'. For these services the tenant was given, on the first Sunday in Lent, for every virgate of land, 6 good herrings and one loaf and a half of wheaten bread, each loaf weighing two pounds and one ounce. While engaged on boon-work, the tenants were fed by the lord, each reaper being provided with 'two drinkings in the forenoone, breade & cheese, and a dyner at noone consisting of rost meate & other good victualls . . . & two drinkinges in the afternoone, one in the middest of their afternoones worke; & the other at the end of their dayes worke, And drinke alwayes duringe their worke as neede shall require'.
The tenants in Heighton had to send a reaper for each virgate for two days in the year to Southease. (fn. 35) The reapers had to be at Stockferry at sunrise to begin work. When the weather was unsuitable, the farmer had to be there ready to send the reapers away, but if he were late and the reapers had already crossed the ferry, it was reckoned a day's work. While at work, the reapers of this manor were given bread and cheese and drink fit for labouring men, and, at the end of the day, apple-pies or such like repast.
The church, of which the invocation is unknown, stands at the northern end of the village, just beneath the main road, and at the north-west edge of the village green. It is built of flint and rubble, with stone dressings. It consists of a nave, the eastern end of which forms the chancel, a circular western tower, and a south porch. It had in addition a chancel, and short aisles on either side of the eastern part of the nave. These aisles are in the form of pre-Conquest portici, and as the nave is apparently of the pre-Conquest period, the vanished aisles may have been contemporary with it. The only visible connexion between aisles and nave, however, is by a single late12th-century arch, now blocked, in each of the side walls of the latter. The west tower is a 12th-century addition to the nave. There is no trace of any chancel arch, nor any remains above ground of either chancel or aisles. The foundations, however, were discovered during recent years, and their angles have been marked out with metal strips let into the turf.
The present east window is an early-14th-century one of three lights, and there are two two-light 15thcentury ones in the south wall of the church, the eastern angles of which are supported by heavy modern buttresses. Between the two windows noted above, is a tall, modern single-light window, having a modern buttress just to the east of it. The south door is 14thcentury, and is covered by a restored 16th-century porch. Just east of this is a 14th-century buttress, and a modern one supports the south-west angle of the nave. Just west of the porch is a small mid-12th-century window. In the north-east corner of the church may be seen the arch leading to the vanished north aisle, in the south wall of which are a piscina and a bracket to carry a beam, possibly a rood-beam. The filling of the arch has a small single-light 13th-century window in it. West of the arch is a small single-light window, blocked, with a semicircular head and raking jambs. Adjoining this window is a modern single-light window, and another has been cut through the filling of the ancient north door. In 1916 some medieval floor-tiles were uncovered outside this door, which suggests that it may at one time have had a timber porch. The circular tower is an addition to the nave and is very plain, being capped by a steep conical roof.
The interior of the east end of the church shows, on either side, the blocked arches leading to the vanished aisles. They are obtusely pointed, very plain, and spring from simple late-12th-century impost mouldings. The northern arch has in it the single-light window already mentioned. The southern arch has a two-light 15thcentury window, and this has replaced an elaborate window, apparently of the 13th century, the western jamb of which remains, with a hollow chamfer stopped at its foot with a stiff-leaf trefoil. The present chancel was formed in the 15th century by constructing an oak rood-screen and loft, the sawn-off ends of the beam of which remain. Some of the original colour may be seen on the eastern face of the north side of the screen-jambs. Practically the whole of the screen has been removed, and a modern timber arch inserted. A modern window fills the space once occupied by the entrance to the rood-loft. To the west of the screen, high up in the north wall, may be seen the wide reveal of the early window noted on the exterior of the church. It is remarkable in that it has no splay, and this fact, coupled with the rake of the external jambs, suggests that the window is pre-Conquest or very early Norman in date. High up in the north-east corner of the church is a small length of a very coarsely formed string-course or internal cornice, which seems almost certainly pre-Conquest. At the south-west corner of the nave may be seen the deeply splayed later Norman window.
There is a simple rectangular aumbry in the northeast corner of the church, and in the eastern reveal of the south door is a stoup formed from a Norman cubical capital, apparently once the head of a pillar piscina. The font is plain, probably later 12th century, and has been repaired. There is a good altar-rail of early-17thcentury character, and some of the old pews remain. These may be late-16th-century; some of them are carved with bands of ornament. There is a Georgian Royal Arms painted on a panel. The church is notable for its mural paintings, carefully restored in 1934–5. (fn. 36) The line of the early string-course noted above has been carried along the north wall with an ornamented cheveron pattern. Below this is a series of scenes depicting the Life of Christ. These paintings are considered to date from the middle of the 13th century. The west wall has a Majesty above extensive subjects now indecipherable. These are believed to date from the end of the 13th century. Two painted consecration crosses may be seen on either side of the tower door.
In the chancel is the grave of Dr. Edward Boughen, a notable royalist divine, who died 9 November 1653. (fn. 37)
The tower contains two medieval bells, one of which, considered to be late-13th-century, is inscribed with the name of the founder, John Aleyn. (fn. 38)
The church possesses a communion cup having a preReformation foot, and a paten probably dating from about 1500 with an added foot marked for 1568. (fn. 39)
The registers date from 1556.
The advowson of the church of Southease was granted to the abbey of Hyde by King Edred (fn. 40) and confirmed to the abbey by the grant of King Edgar in 996. (fn. 41) The patronage appears to have remained in the possession of the abbots until the monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII. In 1291 it was valued at 12 marks (fn. 42) and in 1535 at £16 0s. 6d. (fn. 43) In 1544 William Burnell bought the advowson in the Court of Augmentations. (fn. 44) It afterwards belonged to John Kyme, who died in April 1585, bequeathing it to his niece Joan, the wife of George Pawlett, (fn. 45) who in 1590 conveyed it to Seth Awcock, (fn. 46) the son of Kyme's sister. In the following year, Awcock was amerced because the advowson had been alienated without royal licence. (fn. 47) He conveyed it to the Rev. Edward Rose, (fn. 48) and in 1603 Seth Rose was granted licence to alienate it to John Rivers. (fn. 49) The latter is said to have conveyed it in January 1604 to Thomas Comber, (fn. 50) but according to another authority Thomas Comber bought it of George Awcock or his heirs. (fn. 51) Comber was later amerced for purchasing the advowson without licence, but was pardoned in 1608. (fn. 52) In 1613, by his will, Thomas Comber devised the advowson to John Alwyn, 'my daughter's son', (fn. 53) and he, together with John the son of Thomas Comber presented to the church in 1615. (fn. 54) Two years afterwards, the advowson was sold to the Rev. Geoffrey Amherst, the vicar, (fn. 55) who in 1647 left it to Arthur Amherst his eldest son. (fn. 56) In 1723 Geoffrey Amherst presented Thomas Chatfield to the living, apparently on the under standing that the latter's father, the Rev. Thomas Chatfield, rector of Balcombe, would purchase the advowson. (fn. 57) By his will, the rector of Balcombe in 1730 bequeathed the advowson to his son John Chatfield with the proviso that his son-in-law Henry Bray and Sarah Chatfield his widow, should present his son John to the living at its next voidance. (fn. 58) The advowson belonged to the Chatfield family until 1811 (fn. 59) when the Rev. Henry Chatfield sold it to Dymoke Wells. The latter conveyed it in 1835 to Fuller Wenham Lewis, (fn. 60) of whom it was purchased in 1843 by William Alfrey. (fn. 61)
In 1854 Lawrence John Torkington undertook to buy the advowson from William Alfrey. (fn. 62) When William Alfrey died, two years later, Torkington had not completed payment and so a fresh agreement was made by which the advowson was conveyed to Samuel Webb Thomas, (fn. 63) who was still patron and incumbent at his death in 1904. (fn. 64) The present patron is the Rev. W. W. Thomas. (fn. 65)