A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1953.
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There were two holdings in [MID] LAVANT before and after the Conquest; and these remained distinct through later centuries. In the reign of Edward the Confessor the manor of 9 hides was in the hands of Earl Godwin and was held of him by another Godwin. One hide here was held as another manor by Alwin of Earl Godwin. In 1086 Ivo held Mid Lavant of Earl Roger, and Wido held the 1 hide. There was a mill worth 7s. (fn. 1)
The overlordship of the larger holding went with the honor of Petworth. (fn. 2) In this it seems that Ivo was succeeded by Savaric fitz Cane, the ancestor of the Bohun family, since the church was given by him to Lewes Priory with those of Racton and Stoughton. (fn. 3) The manor was among the lands of Frank de Bohun in 1190; (fn. 4) and between 1199 and 1212 was, with Racton (q.v.) and other property, the subject of contention between Engeler de Bohun and Ralph de Arderne and his son Thomas. In 1213 Engeler de Bohun gave to Thomas de Arderne ½ knight's fee, less 7 virgates, in Mid Lavant. (fn. 5) It seems that Ralph de Arderne, the presumed founder of Shulbred Priory, (fn. 6) gave his holding in Mid Lavant to that convent since they owed him in 1239 the service of ½ fee, which he then transferred to William de Percy. (fn. 7) In 1302 the Prior of Shulbred was the tenant of the honor of Petworth for the ½-fee, (fn. 8) the service belonged to Henry de Percy at his death in 1314. (fn. 9) Shulbred continued to hold this ½-fee (fn. 10) down to the time of the Dissolution.
After the Dissolution the manor of Mid Lavant alias RAWMERE (fn. 11) was retained by the Crown until 1557, when it was granted to John Wiseman to hold as 1/40; knight's fee. (fn. 12) In 1581 John Wiseman (his son) and Margery his wife conveyed it to Richard May, (fn. 13) who died possessed of it in 1588. (fn. 14) His son Richard, who succeeded, transferred the manor to Mary May (his mother) in 1590. (fn. 15) Throughout the next century the manor continued in the May family, (fn. 16) who also acquired the rectory and advowson (q.v.). In 1631 John May, 4th son of the elder Richard, died in possession of both. (fn. 17) His grandson John May in 1662 transferred the property to Sir John Morley and Katherine Morley, (fn. 18) evidently for a settlement on his marriage with Mary, his second wife, sister and heir of John Morley of Bromes. This (Sir) John May died without issue in 1672, when the manor passed to his uncle John (d. 1677), and, after the death of the latter's son Sir Thomas May in 1718, to his cousin Thomas Brodnax, who in 1726 took the name of May, and in 1738 that of Knight. His son Thomas May Knight sold the holding in 1777 to the Duke of Richmond, (fn. 19) in whose family it has descended to the present day. At the time of Dallaway (1815) it was held for life by Henrietta le Clerk, married to Gen. John Dorrien, but was to pass at her death to Lord George Lennox, second son of the Duke of Richmond. (fn. 20)
The hide held in 1086 by Wido seems to have come into the king's hands and to have been granted out as a serjeanty, which was held at the end of the 12th century by Ilbert, or Imbert, de Rakinton. He had a son William who was living in 1207 (fn. 21) and was possibly identical with William de Gundeville, who in 1219 held 1 hide in Mid Lavant (Lovinton), worth 20s., by serjeanty of rendering 4 white capons to the King when he came into the neighbourhood. (fn. 22) In 1224 Isabel de la Potte proved her right to land in Mid Lavant held by the render of 4 capons. (fn. 23) By 1248 this estate had passed to Hugh de Standen, (fn. 24) or le Waleys, (fn. 25) the hide being then valued at 30s. In 1250 it is called the serjeanty of Imbert de Rakinton, the service is stated as the render of 2 white capons, and it is said to have been alienated entire (in toto) to Hugh le Waleys and Agatha his wife, who were to hold it as 1/40 (or 1/60) knight's fee at a rent of 13s. 4d. (fn. 26) Hugh was dead by 1255, (fn. 27) and Agatha died in 1265, when the estate, called 4 virgates, passed to her son John le Waleys, then aged 30 and more. (fn. 28) Its history then becomes involved. In 1275 the whole hide was said to be held by Peter son of Thomas de Thadeham and his sister Amy, (fn. 29) while in 1278 William de la Potte was said to hold 3 virgates in Lavant in serjeantry by rent of 13s. 6d., (fn. 30) and in another place William de Thadeham was said to hold 2 hides (sic) at Mid Lavant which used to render 2 white capons and now paid 13s. 4d. (fn. 31) The two entries clearly refer to the same property, and the tenant must be William de St. George, who held la Potte in Westhampnett (q.v.) and Todham (Thadeham) in Easebourne (q.v.). This William was son of Thomas and Amy de St. George, and in 1279 he made an agreement (fn. 32) with John de Waleys about land in Mid Lavant which shows that 2 messuages and 40 acres (i.e. 2½ virgates (fn. 33) ) were divided between Amy widow of Thomas de Thadeham (his mother), Peter and John sons of the said Thomas, and John de Wytham and Amy his wife (elsewhere called daughter of Thomas de St. George (fn. 34) ). William granted the first three portions, and the reversion of the other if John and Amy died without issue, to John le Waleys. According to a statement made in 1288 William de St. George had held the 4 virgates of this serjeanty but they were at that date held by John le Waleys. (fn. 35) However, when John le Waleys died in 1305 he was holding only 2 virgates, for which he paid 8s. 10d. yearly. (fn. 36) His heir was his kinsman William de St. George, who died in 1316 seised of 26 acres of arable and 2 customary tenants, held of the king by rent of 9s. (fn. 37) His son William did homage to the king for these 2 virgates in 1320, (fn. 38) and died in 1334 holding of the king 2/3 of 2/3 of 2 virgates by rent of 8s. 10d. for 1/60 knight's fee. (fn. 39) He left a son William, who died without issue, and this estate probably passed with his other property (fn. 40) to his brotherin-law William Tawke, who was dealing with land in West and Mid Lavant in 1368, (fn. 41) but it cannot be traced farther.
Part of the serjeanty had come into the hands of Henry Husee of Harting, who died in 1332 seised of a messuage and ½ virgate in Mid Lavant held of the king by render of 4s. 5d. (fn. 42) His son Sir Henry in 1338 had licence to acquire another messuage and 1 virgate from Master Robert le Cook, (fn. 43) but the transaction probably fell through, for Robert died in 1350 seised of a messuage and 16 acres of land, constituting ⅓ of 'the serjeanty of Lovente' and held by render of 4s. 5¼. (fn. 44) As Robert was a bastard and left no issue his land escheated to the Crown, (fn. 45) in whose hands it remained until 1520, when John (Young), Bishop of Gallipoli, Prior of Shulbred, had a lease of it for 40 years at a rent of 8s. 10d., as well as of 'Iremonger tenement' in Mid Lavant. (fn. 46) After the Dissolution this estate was probably amalgamated with the Shulbred manor of Mid Lavant.
'Iremonger tenement', just mentioned, occurs in 1359 among lands escheated to the Crown, as 'Isemongeres tenement', containing 6 acres, formerly held by Sarra de Oulham. (fn. 47) She must be the Sarra who acquired land in Mid Lavant in 1320, as the widow of John de Stoke, (fn. 48) and in 1338, as wife of Ralph atte More, (fn. 49) and in 1346 with her husband Ralph settled the manor of Oulham (in Oving) and lands in this and other parishes on themselves and their son Thomas. (fn. 50)
The church of ST. NICHOLAS (fn. 51) consists of chancel, nave with bell-cote, south porch, and north aisle; it is built of flint rubble with ashlar dressings, and is roofed with tile, but the sides and spire of the bell-cote are shingled. The nave is of the 12th century, the chancel was added or rebuilt in the 13th, the north aisle and porch are modern. (fn. 52)
The chancel has modern diagonal buttresses at the east; the east window, also modern, is of three lancets with a common rear-arch. On the south side are three lancet windows, probably all ancient but much restored; the westernmost shows signs, on the outside, of having been a low side window, the present sill being the former transom. A piscina in the south wall has an ancient segmental arched head and modern jambs. On the outside of the north wall are one or two scraps of ashlar in about the position where the east quoin stones of an earlier short chancel might have been; it is, however, improbable that they are more than odd stones reused. The eastern of the two lancets on this side is ancient, the western, and a small credence shelf, modern. There is a triple chancel arch, carried on pairs of marble shafts, in a 13th-century style, but modern. The roof is also modern.
The nave has modern buttresses at the south-east corner and in the middle of the west side; on the south one small round-headed window, with concentric splay, survives from the original fenestration, but the stonework of this has been retooled, or renewed, in the 19th century. Three other windows, the first a double lancet under a common rear-arch, the second of the same design, and the third a single lancet, are all modern, as is the plain unmoulded doorway. In the east wall, north of the chancel arch, is a small niche with pointed arch head perhaps of the 15th century. The north arcade is of three bays, with circular piers and square responds, modern work in the style of the 13th century. The west wall has two single lancets, also modern. The roof is ceiled in plaster in coved form, two tie-beams only being visible; the western of these carries the bell-cote, which is surmounted by a small spire.
The north aisle (entirely modern) has a two-light window at the east and a single lancet at the west. The south porch has small windows east and west and is also modern.
The pulpit is of oak, of semi-octagonal form, with panels carved with 17th-century strapwork ornament. The font and other fittings are modern.
In the middle of the 19th century wall paintings (no longer visible) were discovered apparently of two different dates. That which is supposed to have been the earliest represented the burial of some saint or distinguished personage, whose corpse, tied in a shroud nearly in the form of a fish, was lying in the foreground, and behind was a bishop, or other dignified ecclesiastic.' (fn. 53)
There was formerly in the church a monument, with recumbent figure by Bushnell, to Dame Mary May, who died in 1681, but had prepared her monument previously. This is now buried under the floor of the church. (fn. 54)
There is one bell, of 1803. (fn. 55)
The communion plate includes a plain silver cup with the hall marks for 1655; and a paten, on a foot, given by Thomas May in 1686. (fn. 56)
The registers begin in 1567.
There is a large ancient yew tree north of the church. Savaric fitz Cane gave the church of Mid Lavant to Lewes Priory in the early 12th century, and the church was among those confirmed to the priory in the charter of Bishop Ralph dated 1121. (fn. 57) The charter of Ralf de Arderne confirming the gift later in the century refers to land and tithes as well as the church. (fn. 58) There is evidence that the prior and convent presented to the living c. 1201, in a letter of Bishop Seffrid II of Chichester. (fn. 59)
Lewes Priory retained the advowson until the middle of the 14th century. The advowson of the church was acquired by Edward St. John, who alienated it to Shulbred Priory in 1354. (fn. 60) However, his claim to it was doubtful and, having failed to find any charter or other evidence of Edward's acquisition from Lewes Priory, the Prior of Shulbred reacquired it direct from Prior Hugh and his convent in 1368, subject to the payment of a yearly pension of 20s. due from the church from time immemorial. (fn. 61) The canons of Shulbred had acted without obtaining the king's licence; that licence was granted in 1385 at a charge of £10 paid into the hanaper. The church was at this time worth 100s. yearly. (fn. 62) In 1359 Bishop Robert de Stratford had given leave for the Prior and Convent of Shulbred to appropriate the benefice, (fn. 63) but it was not until 1405, when the rector William Mayn resigned, that it was finally appropriated, with the reservation of certain pensions to the Bishop, Dean, and Archdeacon of Chichester. (fn. 64) No vicarage was ordained, and the living must have been a donative, probably usually served by one of the canons.
At the Dissolution the advowson and the rectory were granted to Sir William Fitzwilliam, along with the vicarage and chapel of Linchmere, also late of Shulbred Priory. (fn. 65) The holding of Fitzwilliam reverted to the Crown and the rectory was given in 1545 to John May of Chichester, by a grant of the Court of Augmentations. (fn. 66) From now until 1620 it changed hands rapidly; it passed in 1573 from Thomas Wiseman to William Devenish; in 1578–9 from him to Thomas Turgeys; in 1586 from Thomas Turgeys to William Cobden. He disposed of it in 1606 to John Standen, (fn. 67) but retained a rent of £10 until 1623, when this passed to Thomas May. (fn. 68) From John Standen the rectory and tenements came to William Smith in 1611–12, and from William Smith in 1620 to John May, (fn. 69) who thus united the manor and the rectory, dying possessed of both in 1631. (fn. 70) From this time the rectory has passed with the manor. Henrietta Dorrien presented to the living in 1834 and 1835 while she was enjoying her life interest in the property, (fn. 71) and the living is to-day in the gift of the Duke of Richmond. (fn. 72)