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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'Singleton', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester, (London, 1953) pp. 118-121. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp118-121 [accessed 5 March 2024]
This is a large parish of 4,063 acres, about 2½ miles from east to west and 3½ miles from north to south, divided by a valley running at about the 200-ft. level between much higher ground. In this valley (fn. 1) lie the settlements of West Dean, Singleton, Charlton, and East Dean, linked by road. The considerable village of Singleton lies at the point where another valley, carrying the road (and railway) to Midhurst, comes in from the north. One mile south of the village is Rook's, or St. Roche's, Hill with the Trundle, a Neolithic and Early Iron Age camp, (fn. 2) on the edge of the parish, where a height of 677 ft. is reached. About the same distance to the north-east, on Heyshott Down, a height of 760 ft. is attained, and all this northern third of the parish is heavily wooded, constituting the Forests of Singleton and Charlton. (fn. 3) The hamlet of Charlton, ½ mile east of Singleton, is famous in sporting annals for its Hunt; (fn. 4) and on the downland to the south of it is the even more famous Goodwood Racecourse.
An architectural relic of the Charlton Hunt is Fox Hall, the lodge built by the Duke of Richmond in 1730. Externally the chief feature is the chimneystack on the north side with a moulded cornice, above which the square shaft is flanked by consoles; inside, the first-floor bedroom retains its panelling and fine fireplace. Otherwise the houses here and in Singleton village are unpretentious buildings, mainly of the 17th century, with typical chimney-stacks and, in some instances, thatched roofs. One tiny cottage, north of the church and east of the main road, with flint-faced mud walls and thatched roof, may be medieval, as there are freestone dressings to one jamb of the doorway and to one angle.
In the time of Edward the Confessor the manor of SINGLETON, which then included East and West Dean, was held by Earl Godwin; it was then assessed at 97½ hides and was worth £89. In 1086 it was one of the manors retained in his own hands by Earl Roger, and its assessment had been reduced by 47 hides. The clerks of the church (see below) held 3¼ hides, a certain William 1 hide, Geoffrey 2 hides, Pagen 1 hide, and a monk of St. Evroul 1 hide. There were 2 mills, and 9 haws in Chichester were attached to the manor. The value of the earl's estate was estimated at £93, but he was raising £120 from it; the estates of the 'knights' were worth £14, and that of the church £8. (fn. 5)
Singleton descended with the honor of Arundel and in 1566 was among the manors conveyed by Henry, Earl of Arundel, to his daughter Jane and her husband John, Lord Lumley, (fn. 6) who died seised of it in 1610. (fn. 7) It continued in his family until 1730, when the Earl of Scarborough sold it to the Duke of Richmond, (fn. 8) with whose descendants it has remained.
CHARLTON, also, was part of the honor of Arundel. Lands there were assigned in dower to Isabel de Mortimer, widow of John, Earl of Arundel, in 1272, (fn. 9) and it continues to figure in the estates of the earls, the free chace there being mentioned in 1344. (fn. 10) The manor was conveyed to Lord Lumley in 1566 with that of Singleton and descended with it to the Dukes of Richmond.
There seems to have been a subinfendation of part of the manor of Charlton, as in 1428 William Courte was holding a ¼ knight's fee, formerly held by Walter de Charleton, here. (fn. 11) John Court 'of Charlton' died in 1553, (fn. 12) and in 1640 John Court and Katherine his wife sold the manor of Charlton and its lands to Sir William Forde and Sir Edward Banister. (fn. 13) They were presumably acting for Richard, Viscount Lumley, as he leased the manor with Singleton to Mr. Lewknor in 1646, and in his will of 1662 says that he bought the manor from John Court and his wife. (fn. 14) It was sold with Singleton in 1730 to the Duke of Richmond.
The church of ST. JOHN EVANGELIST (fn. 15) stands south of the village; it is built of flint rubble, part plastered, with freestone dressings and some modern brick patching, and is roofed with tile. It consists of chancel with south organ chamber, nave, aisles with north porch and south vestry, and western tower. The tower and probably the upper part of the nave walls are of preConquest date; the chancel was reconstructed and a south aisle added in the 13th century; this aisle was reconstructed and a north aisle and porch were added in the 15th; the organ chamber and vestry are modern.
The chancel has at each eastern corner a diagonal buttress in two stages with sloping offsets; these and the east window, of three cinquefoil-headed lights with Perpendicular tracery, are insertions of the 15th century in walls of the 13th. Close to the east end of the south wall on the outside are the remains of a 13th-century lancet window, formerly farther west, but refixed here when the organ chamber was added; this was originally a low side window. (fn. 16) On each side of the chancel is a window of three cinquefoil-headed lights, without tracery, under a four-centred arch, of the 16th century. A modern arch of two orders, the inner resting on shafts attached to square responds, opens into the organ chamber on the south side. The chancel arch is of two orders with hollow chamfers resting on semicircular responds with moulded caps and bases; the profile of the former suggests a late copy, probably 15th-century, of work of the 13th. In the south wall is a piscina with pointed arched head, and in the north a small squareheaded aumbry, both probably 15th-century. The roof is ancient, having a moulded tie-beam, moulded wallplates, and plain trussed rafters. Against the north wall is a table tomb with flat canopy, panelled soffit, and cresting of four-leaved flowers; against the south is another table tomb without canopy; both have panelled fronts and the casements of lost brasses in their reredoses, and both are of the 15th or 16th century.
The modern organ chamber has a diagonal buttress of two stages to the south-east, in the east wall is a twolight window in Perpendicular style, a similar window in the south wall incorporates some ancient tracery, evidently that of a former east window of the aisle, shown in the drawing of 1804 in the Sharpe collection. The west arch is of two orders dying away into square responds.
In the east wall of the nave over the chancel arch is a small window of two square-headed lights without tracery containing some stained glass, apparently ancient; the stonework may be a 15th-century reconstruction of a pre-Conquest window. In the northeast corner of the nave is a rood-loft stair of the 15th century having plain anse de panier doorways above and below and a small window with pointed arched head to the north-east.
The north arcade is of three bays, each arch is of two orders with hollow chamfers; the two piers are cylindrical and the responds have the form of half-piers; the base moulds are of a 15th-century form; the caps, however, though probably coeval, are a rather inaccurate copy of those in the opposite arcade. (fn. 17) The south arcade resembles the north, but, while all the bases are of the 15th century, the caps of both responds and that of the western pier as well as, probably, some of the stones of the piers themselves are of the 13th. Evidently there formerly was on this side, if not also on the north, an arcade of the 13th century which was reconstructed with the arches at higher level in the 15th, and the old caps were reused, except one, perhaps broken in handling. The tower arch is of one order, square and resting on square responds with plain imposts; the responds are pre-Conquest, the arch, now pointed, a reconstruction, perhaps of the 15th century. High up in the west wall of the nave is a pre-Conquest doorway having straight-lined arch and jambs of square section without imposts, probably, like that at Bosham, to give access to the space above a flat ceiling. The present roof is ancient, and has four tie-beams braced to wallpieces, king-posts, a collar purlin, and trussed rafters. The nave and aisle roofs are continuous.
The north aisle has diagonal buttresses in two stages at both corners; in the east wall is a window of two lights, and in the north one of three lights east, and one of two lights west, of the porch; these are all of the 15th century and have cinquefoil heads to the lights and normal Perpendicular tracery; the outer exterior arch of the three-light window has been rebuilt in brick. In the middle bay is the north door, having a pointed arch the mouldings of which are continued on the jambs, the rear-arch is segmental pointed. Over the door on the outside face is IHS carved in black-letter on stone, apparently medieval. The door hinges are ancient. West of the south doorway is a small doorway, now blocked and visible on the inside only, having anse de panier head, formerly leading to a newel staircase, now destroyed, giving access to an upper story of the porch. The lean-to roof has tie-beams braced to wall-pieces, principals, and a purlin. This work is all of the 15th century.
The south aisle had formerly a diagonal buttress at the east corner, now rebuilt square at the junction with the organ chamber; in the south wall are two buttresses partly incorporated in the modern vestry wall, and a diagonal buttress at the south-west corner; these resemble those of the north aisle, as do the windows. The doorway probably once corresponded, but now has a plain pointed arch made up in plaster; there is a similar roof.
The north porch (15th-century) has buttresses much patched with brick east and west of the doorway, which consists of a pointed arch of two orders, moulded, the outer continued on the jambs, the inner resting on semi-octagonal responds with imposts. West of this in the outer wall is a contemporary holy-water stoup, and in the east wall is a single-light trefoil-headed window. The former upper story of the porch has disappeared, if, indeed, it ever existed, and the present roof is ceiled in plaster.
The tower (pre-Conquest) has a large buttress against the middle of the south wall, probably added in the 15th century; it is of four stages with sloping offsets. On the north and south faces of the tower is a onelight window with round head and double splay: these are pre-Conquest, but have been subsequently widened. In the west wall there is a similar window, placed somewhat higher; in the second stage there is, on the north side only, a coeval window of two round-headed lights separated by a thick mullion (not a baluster shaft): (fn. 18) in the uppermost stage there is in the east wall a one-light window with square-framed trefoil head, perhaps modern, and a one-light window with round head, apparently pre-Conquest, in the north. The tower walls are finished with rough battlements.
The vestry (modern) is built against the place of the ancient south doorway, and has a two-light window to the south, and a single-light to the west, in late Perpendicular style.
The font is octagonal, perhaps 15th-century; in the chancel is some oak panelling, part 17th-century, part a renewal; and some of the benches are of about the 15th century.
There are two bells, one uninscribed, the other dated 1572. (fn. 19)
The communion plate (fn. 20) includes a large plain silver cup of 1707, and a paten of 1683; these were given to the church, apparently, by the rector, George Henry Woods, whose initials they bear, with the respective dates 1840 and 1839.
The registers begin at 1558.
Singleton appears to have been, like Easebourne (q.v.), a hundredal church; that is to say, an early 'missionary centre' with a number of subordinate chapels— East and West Dean, Binderton, Didling, Dumpford, and Chilgrove (fn. 21) —of which the first four became parochial churches. In 1086 the church was said to possess the unusually large endowment of 3¼ hides, worth £8 but actually yielding £10 to 'the clerks' who held it. (fn. 22) These clerks may have been the members of a local collegiate establishment, but they may have been the college of secular priests at Arundel, of which Earl Roger apparently gave the patronage to the Norman abbey of Séez. The church of Arundel certainly held the 'prebend' of Singleton in the time of Henry I. (fn. 23) In 1150 William, Earl of Chichester, and Queen Aeliz his wife gave to the cathedral of Chichester 'the prebend which William Archdeacon of London held in West Dean and East Dean', (fn. 24) and this was confirmed to the canons as 'the prebend of Singleton' by Hilary, Bishop of Chichester. (fn. 25) Richard I extorted 100 marks from the canons for a confirmation of the grant in 1190, (fn. 26) they having been deprived of it by Henry II. (fn. 27) Under an agreement made during the bishopric of Simon de Welles (1204–7) the advowson of Singleton was assigned to the Earl of Sussex (or Arundel), various tithes being assigned to the dean and chapter, who were to pay 60s. yearly to the rector. (fn. 28) From this time the advowson followed the descent of the manor until January 1768, when, on the cession of Henry Peckham rector of Singleton, the benefice, being insufficient for the support of a rector (it was valued at only £6 9s. 7d. in 1535 (fn. 29) ), was united to the vicarage of West Dean. (fn. 30) The Duke of Richmond, as patron of Singleton, was to have one turn in three and the dean and chapter two. This arrangement persisted until 1849, when the two benefices were again separated, (fn. 31) the Duke of Richmond retaining the advowson of Singleton; since, the bishop and dean and chapter of Chichester have been associated with the duke as patrons. (fn. 32)
Within the Trundle on Rook's Hill can still be traced the foundations of a little chapel of St. Roche, a rectangle 14 by 11 ft., of which considerable ruins were standing in 1723. (fn. 33) This is first recorded in 1570 as 'the late chappell of St. Rooks'. (fn. 34) In 1635 the churchwardens of Singleton reported that the rector had 'a little house which by report of ancient men was bilt in former times for a Mass Priest to live in and to say Mass at a Chappel standing upon Rooks Hill'; it stood just north of the churchyard and east of the road to the church. (fn. 35) Of the history of the chapel nothing is known.
In 1532 Peter Mawtalye made bequests to the Brotherhoods of Blessed Mary and of St. Katherine of Singleton. (fn. 36)
Ann Butler by her will dated 11 March 1874 bequeathed £100 to the churchwardens of this parish, the income to be given to the aged poor of the parish. The sum of only £17 17s. 5d. was received in respect of the bequest, and the annual income amounts to 9s.
Henry Smith (Longstock Estate). The share applicable in this parish of the charity of Henry Smith is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 13 March 1906. The scheme provides that the income shall be applied in making payments under various heads for the benefit of the poor of the parish. The income amounts to £30 approximately and is administered by four trustees appointed by the parish council of Singleton.