The City of Chichester: The cathedral precincts

Pages 102-105

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.

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The history of the CATHEDRAL PRECINCTS probably goes back to a time before the bishop and his canons were settled in Chichester. There is some slight reason to believe that the Bishops of Selsey were acquiring property in the city before 1066, and that when the see was moved in 1075, (fn. 1) the bishop and clergy of the cathedral had already some foothold in the south-western quarter (acquired perhaps as a possible place of refuge). The grant of this quarter to the bishop, although it had doubtless taken place earlier, cannot be traced further than the charter of William d'Aubigny, Earl of Arundel, husband of Adeliza, widow of Henry I, who in 1147 confirmed to the church of Holy Trinity whatsoever the church had by right in the quarter of the city in which the church, the houses of the canons and of the bishop lay, with soc and sac, etc., from the South Gate to the West Gate. (fn. 2) This charter was confirmed by Stephen with a clause empowering the church to hold free from all exactions and customs, with soc and sac. (fn. 3) Jurisdiction over the quarter was given to the bishop and maintained by him and the dean and chapter until 1835. It extended outside the wall to the outer line of the Lavant. Hence the question of the repair of this portion of the wall was a constant anxiety to the city, and the liability of the bishop and the dean and chapter to contribute to murage was more than once in dispute. The lands and the jurisdiction over them seem to have been held in common by the bishop and the dean and chapter until the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th century. (fn. 4) The bishop, however, had the separate court of his Palace (Curia Palacii), and to this court and to the Hundred of Manwood his tenants by knight service owed suit. (fn. 5) The bishop held a view of frankpledge, but it is uncertain if he had a customary court for his tenants within the city.

The dean's jurisdiction goes back to the time of Matthew the Dean (c. 1180–90). (fn. 6) Richard the Robber, who had married the daughter of Simon, son of the dean, sought justice in the dean's court as to land which he seems to have held until the fire in the city in 1187, when possibly there was confusion as to the ownership of the burnt-out sites. William Gibet owed suit to the halimote of the dean (Hallemot domini Decani) in the time of Simon the Dean (1220– 1230) for a tenement in North Street (fn. 7) and Master Richard, son of Hamo de Felpham, granted 6d. a year to the common fund (communa) of the cathedral church, and 4d. to the reeve of the city by the hands of the canons, which he granted in full chapter of Chichester, and afterwards in the hundred court of the city. (fn. 8) Later (1232–48) a case was heard in the dean's court in Chichester (fn. 9) as to land granted to Emery de Rouen, saving suit of court when needed to the afforcement of the court; the witnesses named are six well-known citizens and the court of the dean (curia Decani).

The confusion of authority was conspicuous in a notorious case, already referred to, of a theft from the shrine of St. Richard, in which a certain clerk, Nicholas de la Crane, (fn. 10) stole some jewels from the shrine, secreted them on his person, and when he found himself unable to leave the cathedral in safety, secreted them in a trunk, where they were found by a Friar Minor and handed to the dean and chapter. When Nicholas ventured out of the church, he was immediately taken by John Peche, the bishop's seneschal. Peche handed his prisoner over to the sheriff, who died. What became of Nicholas no one knew: he was outlawed, but had no goods and was not in a tithing as he was a clerk.

In the 14th century both bishop and dean made agreements with the city as to possible conflict of jurisdictions. The indentures which contain these agreements are dated 1358 and 1359, (fn. 11) and possibly form one of the last stages in settling the dispute which was so notorious in 1342–4. The dean and chapter on the one hand, and the mayor and community of the city on the other, admitted that disputes had arisen as to suit to the views of frankpledge held by the bishop and by the dean, for their tenants, and as to matters, which the mayor and commonalty asserted, in the name of the king, belonged to them. It was agreed that if any tenant of the dean and chapter, or of the dean alone, within the city, 'in arte sua delinquens' should be unreasonably cited to the view of frankpledge held by the mayor, or to a certain day called 'Somerlagheday,' or should be oppressed by the said mayor and community or their officers by any fine or ordeal (jewysam) in any manner, other than that to which the tenants of the king or of the mayor were liable, a fine of 40d should be paid each time to the dean. A parallel agreement was made by the bishop and the mayor. (fn. 12)


It seems impossible to ascertain precisely how the Archbishop of Canterbury obtained possession of THE PALLANT, a large part (covering about 12 acres) of the south-eastern quarter. As his property here was always held as parcel of the manor of Pagham, (fn. 13) it is possible that he acquired it with that manor from Bishop Wilfred. (fn. 14) There is little doubt that the only church in Chichester mentioned in Domesday, and that belonging to the archbishop, (fn. 15) was the church of All Saints in the Pallant. (fn. 16)

Archbishopric of Canterbury. Azure an archbishop's cross or set upright and surmounted with a pall argent charged with four crosses formy fitchy or.

It seems likely that the archbishop made a small inner inclosure, (fn. 17) having as its centre a secondary carrefour which perhaps represents part of the original Roman plan, and was marked by a wooden cross down to the 18th century. (fn. 18) Surrounding the archbishop's quarter, however, were the tenements of a number of foreign lords, but the 'Pallant' touched the south wall. (fn. 19)

The records of the Archbishop's Court in the Pallant (fn. 20) unfortunately only begin in October 1439 (18 Hen. VI); the extent of the archbishop's jurisdiction had evidently been in dispute in the 13th century, when the claim was made to view of frankpledge, assize of bread and ale, pillory and tumbril. (fn. 21) The archbishop, John Peckham, stated that he and all his predecessors had held a free court (liberam curiam) for his tenants for these causes. The jurors stated in reply that Robert [Kilwardby], the archbishop (1273–9), was the first to claim these liberties and that he had usurped them. The archbishop appears to have made good his claim, though there are few traces of his court till the 15th century.

At the same time the archbishop was called upon to answer to Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, concerning his refusal to allow his tenants in the Pallant to pay stallage to the earl. The archbishop replied that there was a distinction between 'stallagium' and 'theoloneum,' claiming that he owed only the latter, but the earl showed that previous kings, Richard I, John and Henry III, when the city was in their hands, had been accustomed to take stallage. (fn. 22)

The first of the rolls extant, headed 'View of Frankpledge with Court,' contains little of importance save for topographical purposes. The rector of the Pallant and the lord's beadle (bedellus) are named and the highways of the South and East Pallant (Palente); in the next court 12 burgesses present five cases of brewing against the statute, including two of themselves. Cases are referred back to the archbishop's council or to the steward; the dean and chapter of Chichester owed suit to the court, but apparently usually defaulted; (fn. 23) Richard Exton, one of the afferrers of the court in 1490, was a butcher, who took excessive profits. Five years later, as mayor, he arrested a man from Drayton, within the Pallant, on suspicion of felony, and took him unlawfully to the gaol at Eastgate against the privilege and to the prejudice of the archbishop, to whose council the matter was referred. It was stated that the mayor with four men and the mace (cum le masu) had come into the Pallant in person to make the arrest. (fn. 24)

In 1524 an interesting agreement (fn. 25) was made between the mayor, John Cresweller, and his brethren, and the archbishop on behalf of the tenants of the latter, who were to be allowed to buy and sell freely within the city according to my Lord of Canterbury's Charter, without interference from the mayor. The archbishop on his side appointed John Halle, his servant, to watch all manner of 'crafty' men dwelling within the Pallant. If they were not conducting themselves lawfully, Halle was to correct them, and to act in co-operation with the mayor in the supervision of victuals passing from the city into the Pallant.

In 1534, however, the mayor, John Lane, and citizens sent a petition to the king touching the ruin and decay of their town, which had been occasioned partly 'by the tyranny of the late Bishop of Canterbury,' who interfered with the liberty which they claimed 'in the parish called the Pallant.' (fn. 26)

The 'custom of the Pallant' may be deduced in one or two cases from these rolls. It is stated in the reign of Henry VIII that there were no heriots by ancient custom; a garden could be devised by will, and other testamentary cases concerning tenements are mentioned without detail; on the whole, however, it is not possible to ascertain how the manorial organisation of the Pallant compared with the borough conditions elsewhere in the city. Further complications were due to the fact that many tenements were held by the cathedral clergy from the archbishop. Unjust entry within the liberty was referred to the archbishop's seneschal and council. The rolls throw a little light on the occupations prevalent in this quarter: John Whitegod was 'Custos le Oystry' (fn. 27) in c. 1520, and took excessive profits; tanners are mentioned several times—one, John King, held a mansion house in South Pallant, which he acquired from John Bachelor, rector of the Pallant (c. 1440); it had formerly belonged to Walter Goldsmith. Tallow-chandlers and hucksters of bread and butchers are the only other tradesmen mentioned. (fn. 28)

There is a mention of the cross in the Pallant in 1485 or 1486; the highways were constantly presented as requiring repairs, and in 1490–1 the king's highway 'juxta Southwallis' is presented as defective. (fn. 29)

In the reign of Henry VIII the bailiwick of Pagham passed by exchange to the Crown, when it and the Pallant were annexed to the Honour of Petworth and were dealt with in 1544 as parcel of the Hundred of Aldwick. (fn. 30)

In 1552 the Archbishop of Canterbury's property and jurisdiction in the Pallant were conveyed to the mayor and corporation, to hold in free socage of the king as of his Honour of East Greenwich. (fn. 31) Henceforth the Pallant fell under the ordinary jurisdiction of the city. But the church of All Saints in the Pallant remained as the Archbishop's 'peculiar.' The courts of the Peculiar of Pagham were held in the chancel until 1639, when orders were given that a new 'consistorie' should be made in the belfry. (fn. 32)


In the time of Henry I, Martinsgrove, Drayton, Shopwick, 'Orrea Regis,' which we must identify with KINGSHAM, (fn. 33) and 'Egley' (fn. 34) pertained to the city of Chichester and the reeves received the gavel which they handed to the Exchequer. It seems probable that Kingsham and Egley comprised approximately the parish of St. Pancras, as the advowson of the church went with the manor of Kingsham. King Henry gave these lands to Reginald Hareng and to two knights, Conan and William de Fraxino, whose lands seem to have reverted to the Earl of Arundel, who gave them to whom he willed. (fn. 35) It was not known in 1212 to whom Kingsham and Egley went, (fn. 36) but in 1218 it appears that they had passed to William Ruffus, whose daughter and co-heir, Emma, married Bartholomew de Leigh of Thurleigh (d. c. 1217). Their daughter and heir Nichola married Roger de Cauz and Kingsham and Egley went to their daughter and heir, Emma, who married first John de Segrave and secondly John de Grey of Shirland (d. 1256). Emma had by her second husband a son, Reginald de Grey of Wilton, (fn. 37) who in 1297 enfeoffed William de Ayot of his manor of Kingsham with the advowson of the church, (fn. 38) presumably St. Pancras. William de Ayot died in 1325 seised of the advowson of the church of St. Pancras held of the king by serjeanty, by the curious service of rendering to the king, whenever he should come by a lane called 'Goudeslane' or 'Gode Lane' (presumably at Kingsham) to make war upon the southern sea, a spindleful of raw thread for making a false cord for a crossbow. William left a son, Nicholas, aged 34 years, (fn. 39) who in the same year enfeoffed William de Sydney of these lands and the advowson. (fn. 40) He died in 1331 seised of Kingsham and the advowson of St. Pancras by the same service. He held jointly with Isabel his wife, then surviving, by the feoffment of William de Sydney, who settled the property on the heirs of the body of Nicholas with remainder to John, son of William Ayot (Heyot) the elder, and the heirs of his body, and reversion to William de Sydney and his heirs. Nicholas left a son William, aged one year. (fn. 41) Isabel, widow of Nicholas, died in 1374 seised of the manor and advowson, leaving a daughter Elizabeth, wife of Valentine Bromdene, aged 40 years. (fn. 42) In 1394 Elizabeth Taverner, possibly daughter of Elizabeth Bromdene, died seised of the manor and advowson, leaving a son John. (fn. 43) John Taverner died in 1414, leaving no heirs of his body. His wife Alice survived him, and his heirs were his kinswomen Margaret and Joan, (fn. 44) to whose husbands, John Skardevyle and John Michellgrove, Alice granted her life interest without royal licence, whereupon the manor and advowson were seized by the king. (fn. 45) Alice died in 1422. (fn. 46) John, probably a son of John Michellgrove and Joan, married Mary, daughter of William de Sydney who was holding Kingsham in 1428, (fn. 47) and their daughter and heir, Elizabeth Michellgrove, married John Shelley. (fn. 48) The manor and advowson passed from John Shelley and Elizabeth to their son Sir William Shelley, justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and from him to his second son, Thomas Shelley of Mapledurham. In 1562 the manor and advowson was settled on Thomas Carpender and Agnes his wife for life, with remainder to Thomas Shelley. (fn. 49) Henry, son of Thomas Shelley, in 1580 gave Kingsham and the advowson of St. Pancras to his cousins William and John Shelley, sons of John Shelley of Michellgrove. (fn. 50) John Shelley, the younger, died in 1592 and left the reversion of half the manor and half the advowson, after the death of Agnes Carpender, to his son, John, who was then a minor. (fn. 51) Two years later William Shelley was attainted for his papist sympathies and his lands were confiscated, Lady Elizabeth Russell (fn. 52) and Roland Deacon (fn. 53) receiving the rents of Kingsham. William Shelley died in 1597 and his nephew, John Shelley, obtained the restoration of the manor and advowson. John was created a baronet in 1611 and leased the manor in 1622 to George Oglander and Mary his wife. (fn. 54) He died about 1644 and was succeeded by his grandson, Sir Charles Shelley (d. 1681), and he by his son Sir John, the third baronet (d. 1703). Sir John, the fourth baronet, died in 1771, in which year Kingsham Farm was sold to Joseph Randall, the former tenant, shortly after it had been enfranchised by private Act of Parliament. Randall devised it by will to his nephew William Dearling. The advowson of St. Pancras church was held by W. Dearling in 1804. (fn. 55) The manor or farm was later purchased by the Duke of Richmond and the farm is now a depot for Agricultural Research and Demonstration. Such remains of the old buildings as have been preserved (fn. 56) will still probably be kept free from modern developments of the city of Chichester.

Shelley. Sable a fesse engrailed between three whelk-shells or.


  • 1. V.C.H. Suss. ii, p. 47. The date is given by some chroniclers as 1070.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 1168; Gibson, Misc. p. 1.
  • 3. Dugdale, op. cit. 1169.
  • 4. Cf. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), 129.
  • 5. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxi, pp. 13, 42, 56, 104, etc.; cf. also Cath. Doc. Liber B, fol. cxv. The Custos Palacii was the keeper of the bishop's prison; cf. C. A. Swainson, Cath. of the Old Foundation, pt. i, p. 106, quoting White Act Bk. (A.D. 1485).
  • 6. Cath. Doc. Liber Y, fol. lxvi.
  • 7. Ibid. fol. lxxxix d.
  • 8. Ibid. fol. lxiv d.
  • 9. Ibid. fol. xcvii. In a deed dated 1155 there is no mention of a court or chapter, but it is witnessed 'toto clero Cycest'.'
  • 10. Assize R. 923, m. 73.
  • 11. Cath. Doc. Liber Y, fol. cxvii; Liber C, fol. cxxxiv; cf. Gibson, Misc. p. 7. A pension | of 10s. (reduced to 8s.) yearly was to be paid by the mayor in recognition of the bishop's right. Gibson refers to the Lord Bishop's Great Rent Roll, fol. 87; cf. Rymer, Fœdera, vi, p. 169; Dallaway, op. cit. i, 151, quoting from Corporation Records.
  • 12. The post-Reformation status of the Close is dealt with by Mr. W. D. Peckham in S.A.C. lxxiv, 87–9.
  • 13. The chamberlains of Pagham accounted for the profits of the Pallant; cf. Ct. R. of Pagham (Lambeth Library).
  • 14. V.C.H. Suss. ii, p. 1.
  • 15. Ibid. i, pp. 373, 389a.
  • 16. Cf. Hay, op. cit. p. 178; T. G. Willis, op. cit. p. 283, quoting the Rev. J. Cavis-Brown.
  • 17. The name Palenta is probably an English form, denoting an inclosed or paled space, with no direct connection with palatium or palatine jurisdiction. Pallant is a late spelling, and palenta is consistently and exclusively used in the 12th and 13th centuries, and concurrently with Pallant in the 16th century. The form Palentena (Engl. Place Name Soc. vi, p. 13), quoted from Liber Y, seems to be an isolated example; cf. Boxgrove Cart. fol. 6. In 1540 in the Parliament Roll the name is written Palantyne.
  • 18. Willis, op. cit. p. 68.
  • 19. Cf. Univ. Coll. Oxf. MS. 148, fol. 141, 'aream juxta murum australem Cycestr' in Palenta' (36 Hen. III).
  • 20. Ct. R. (Lambeth Library), nos. 890–917.
  • 21. Assize R. 916, m. 18. The bailiff, Walter le Clavir, parson of Lavant, had set up tumbrel and pillory in the time of Archbishop Robert Kilwardby. Cf. also ibid. 923, m. 40.
  • 22. Ibid. m. 24; for stallage paid to the lords of Arundel by merchants living in the Pallant cf. ibid. 921, m. 26; 924, mm. 24, 27.
  • 23. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. (Var. Coll.), i, p. 198, where among the expenses of the repairs of the cathedral is included 2d. in curia de Palenta, 13 Edw. IV.
  • 24. This is the earliest mention of the mace that has been noted.
  • 25. Ct. R. (Lambeth Library), no. 910.
  • 26. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, no. 1677.
  • 27. I.e. Keeper of the Guesthouse.
  • 28. These court-rolls have been noted in some detail, as they do not appear to have been utilised before for the history of Chichester, and one or two of them are earlier than any similar records for the city proper.
  • 29. This is probably the road that is said to have been closed about 1760.
  • 30. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, 443; Mins. Accts. (P.R.O.), Hen. VIII, no. 3483, m. 32.
  • 31. a Cal. Pat. R. 1550–53, p. 288. The patent appears to be incorrect, as it ascribes the lands to the archdeaconry of Canterbury; there is a mention of lands in Lyttell London, belonging to the late Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.
  • 32. Add. MS. 39425, fol. 170.
  • 33. The combination here of 'Orrea Regis' with Egley and the subsequent like combination of Kingsham with Egley leaves no doubt of the identification of 'Orrea Regis,' or King's Barns, with Kingsham. This identification detracts from the repeated assertion that there was a royal residence at Kingsham.
  • 34. Shopwick Eagle in Oving parish.
  • 35. Bk. of Fees (P.R.O.), 72–3.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. Complete Peerage (2nd ed.), vi, pp. 171, 172, and notes quoting Feet of F. case 283, file 14, no. 318.
  • 38. Cal. Pat. R. 1292–1301, p. 257.
  • 39. Cal. Inq. vi, no. 558.
  • 40. Cal. Pat. R. 1324–7, p. 110; Abbrev. Rot. Orig. (Rec. Com.), i, 289.
  • 41. Cal. Inq. vii, no. 353.
  • 42. Chan. Inq. p.m. 49 Edw. III, pt. i, no. 42.
  • 43. Ibid. 17 Ric. II, no. 55.
  • 44. Ibid. 2 Hen. V, no. 24. John Taverner's will (P.C.C. Marche, fol. 231) throws no light on their relationship to him.
  • 45. Cal. Pat. R. 1422–9, p. 12.
  • 46. Chan. Inq. p.m. 1 Hen. VI, no. 83.
  • 47. Feud. Aids, v, 157; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. (De L'Isle and Dudley), i, 3; this William's son and namesake in 1445 settled the manor on his son William: ibid. 4, 6; Feet of F. Suss. 23 Hen. VI, file 89, no. 19.
  • 48. Visit. Suss. (Harl. Soc.), 36.
  • 49. Feet of F. Suss. Mich. 4–5 Eliz.
  • 50. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 253.
  • 51. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. ii), ccxxxii, 30.
  • 52. Pat. R. 36 Eliz. pt. 20.
  • 53. Ibid. 37 Eliz. pt. 9.
  • 54. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 97; Feet of F. Suss. Hil. 19 Jas. I. George Oglander was patron of St. Pancras in 1629: Add. MS. 39826, fol. 120.
  • 55. Hay, Hist, of Chich. 608; Rich. Dally, Chich. Guide, 1831, pp. 103–4.
  • 56. S.A.C. lxiv, 123–7.