A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1953.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
This parish, which measures 2 miles from north to south by 3 miles from east to west, contains 2,259 acres of rich agricultural land, 165 acres of tidal water, and 652 acres of foreshore. It is bounded on the south by the open sea and on the west by the estuary at the mouth of Chichester Harbour. The coast has constantly suffered erosion from the violence of the sea. In 1340 it was said that in the past fifty years arable land of the yearly value of more than £4 10s. had been drowned by the sea, and other lands worth over £3 had been ruined by sand. (fn. 1) The process continued until the present century but has now been arrested by the erection of groynes. Among the lands lost was the former rabbit warren called Cockbush Common, which in 1815 was said to be 'nearly absorbed by the sea'. (fn. 2) It was from here no doubt that the rabbits of the Bishop of Chichester came which were alleged in 1340 to devour yearly the crops of the parishioners to the value of £7. (fn. 3) The warrener in 1363 was receiving a bushel of wheat, or its value, every week as his fee. (fn. 4) Grants of hunting rights in West Wittering and elsewhere had been made to the bishops by Henry II and were confirmed in 1227 and 1233 to Bishop Ralph de Neville, (fn. 5) who in 1235 received a grant of 100 oaks from the New Forest for the inclosure of his park at Cakeham. (fn. 6) In 1447 a general licence to impark the estates of the see and to crenellate or fortify the manor-houses, including Cakeham, was granted to Bishop Adam Moleyns, (fn. 7) but it is improbable that he made use of it before his murder in 1450.
The episcopal manor-house of Cakeham was a favourite residence of the Bishops of Chichester from the early 12th century onwards. Two of the miracles of St. Richard are associated with his presence there, (fn. 8) and many instruments were executed here by later bishops. In 1363, however, the house was stated to be of no value, as it was ruined and roofless. (fn. 9) Bishop Robert Sherburne early in the 16th century restored and enlarged it, building, presumably on the strength of the charter of 1447, a tower which has survived and is the most prominent feature of the existing building. After the Reformation the house and lands were almost always leased. In 1712 William Stanley, of Lee in Fittleworth, the tenant, complained that the kitchen end of the house was ruinous; he was given leave to pull it down and rebuild 'in a narrower compass'. (fn. 10) His son George married a coheiress of Sir Hans Sloane and their son Hans Stanley devised the lease to George Hans Blake, whose son George Blake was tenant in 1815. (fn. 11) The estate is held of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
The earliest portions of the house remaining are those of the undercroft of the Great Hall, which originally measured 48 ft. from east to west and 22 ft. from north to south. It was vaulted in two alleys and four bays with quadripartite vaulting and groin and division ribs of semi-octagon section resting on plain corbels and on three short cylindrical piers with moulded caps and bases. This work resembles, and is probably contemporary with, the undercroft of the Vicars' Hall at Chichester. A quarter of the whole undercroft survives as an outhouse, as does a fragment of the upper story, the Great Hall itself.
South of this, lying roughly north and south, is the present dwelling-house. This consists of a rectangular brick building of two stories, about 77 ft. by 23 ft., containing work of all centuries from the 16th to the present. In c. 1800 there was added to this on the west side a block of about 50 ft. by 20 ft. containing the principal reception rooms and the staircase, built (probably) of reused brick covered with stucco.
In the angle between the present house and the former Great Hall stands the tower, a five-sided structure of Tudor brickwork of three stages, access to the upper stage and the roof being provided by a wooden newel staircase in an attached turret. Tradition, probably correct, assigns this to Bishop Sherburne (1508–36), and the architectural features of it and of the neighbouring parts of the dwelling-house are consistent with this.
The parish preserves much of its rural aspect and, in addition to Cakeham Manor House, contains a number of scattered farmhouses, several of which are ancient. The church is ½ mile inland near the centre of the parish, and in the village round about it are several thatched cottages with walls of flints, stone, or brick which are probably of the 17th or early 18th century.
Nunnington Farm, about 5/8 mile north-east of the church, is a rectangular building facing north. The walls, probably of stone, are cemented, and the interior has been modernized, but the ceiling of the kitchen, at the east end, has a moulded beam and wide flat joists, indicating an early-16th-century origin.
'Elm Tree Cottage', about ½ mile east of the church on the north side of a loop road, has late-17th-century walls of red and black bricks and a thatched roof. The wide fireplace and open-timbered ceilings suggest a rather earlier origin.
Buckets Farm, 1 mile north-east of the church, is a timber-framed house of c. 1600 that was refaced a century later with brickwork. The original framing shows in the side walls. The roof is thatched and has a plain central chimney-shaft. The fire-places are altered, but the open-timbered ceilings have fine chamfered beams with carved stops. One or two original battened doors exist.
Redlands Farm, (fn. 12) about ½ mile farther east, is a late-Elizabethan house facing east. The middle part of the front, c. 36 ft., retains the original timber-framing with red brick infilling; it has a central chimney-stack with a room on either side of it. The two end bays, the northern about 14 ft. and the southern about 8 ft., appear to be later additions. The northern has walls of flints and cobbles with brick dressings of the early 18th century, the southern is of later brickwork. The windows of the old part have been modernized but the southern lower and the two upper preserve the original pairs of small wing-lights that flanked the larger middle windows; these have moulded frames and mullions and the diamond-shaped central bars, but are now blocked. The plan is normal for the period, having the entrance lobby in front of the central chimney-stack and the staircase behind it. Both stories have stop-chamfered ceiling beams. The roof is thatched and the chimneystack is of rebated type with a middle V-shaped front pilaster. In the upper story is some contemporary wall panelling and doors with 'cock's-head' hinges. Around the site are the remains of a square moat; about half of it contains water; it is crossed on the east by a brick bridge.
Another farmhouse, now tenements, to the south of Redlands dates from about the same period, but the walls were encased or rebuilt with red and black bricks of the late 17th century. There is some original timber-framing in the back wall, now covered by a later widening. The central chimney-stack has a rebated shaft above the thatched roof; next to the chimney-stack is an original winding staircase with a central post. The stop-chamfered ceiling-beams appear to be rather earlier than those at Redlands.
Newark Farm, ½ mile east-south-east of Redlands, is a brick house of the 18th-century or earlier with a central chimney-shaft of rebated type above the tiled roof. Near it is a thatched cottage of beach cobbles with brick dressings and a central chimney-stack of 17th-century thin bricks. Hales Farm, 3/8 mile south of Newark Farm, is a late-17th-century house of red and black bricks with a tiled roof and end chimney-stacks. The front has tall windows with casement frames and transoms.
Under an Act of 1791 (Award 1793) 176 acres of West Wittering Common and Cackham Green were inclosed. (fn. 13) The Tithe Award of 1848 shows that the customary acre containing ¾ statutory acre was in use here, as in general in the coastal area. (fn. 14) The prebendary's great tithes of corn were reckoned at £716, and the other tithes belonging to the vicar at £172 10s.
In 683 Wittering was among the places given by Caedwalla as endowment for the see of Selsey. (fn. 15) Under the Confessor and the Conqueror the manor of [WEST] WITTERING was held by the bishop in demesne; there was a mill attached to the manor, and 13 haws in Chichester. Of the manor Ralph held 1 hide and Herbert 3 hides. (fn. 16) By the 13th century a manor-house had been built at CAKEHAM, by which name this manor was henceforth known. Later in that century a custumal of the manor was drawn up, which shows that, besides 12 freeholders, there were 'gavelmen', of whom some are also called 'inlondemen', villeins, and cottars, paying yearly between them £13 1s. 6d. and 143 hens and 1,720 eggs. (fn. 17) A terrier drawn up in 1327 shows that there were at Cakeham about 466 acres, (fn. 18) and another survey, made in 1388, gives the total of arable as 479 acres, worth 3d. per acre, because it was sandy. (fn. 19) In 1291 the value of the manor was given as £75 10s. 9d. (fn. 20) It remained in the possession of the see, not being coveted by Queen Elizabeth, and is now held by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
It is possible that the Domesday holding of either Ralph or Herbert may later have constituted the endowment of the prebend of West Wittering in Chichester Cathedral, which is now also in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
In 1593 John Osborne died, holding what is called the manor of THURLWOOD COATES, with lands in West Wittering, held of Richard Ernle as of his manor of East Wittering. (fn. 21) The manor descended in his family until 1674, when William Osborne, with William Peche and Anne his wife, sold it to Oliver Whitby, (fn. 22) Archdeacon of Chichester; his son Oliver Whitby gave his estates in West Wittering to endow the school which he founded in Chichester. (fn. 23) Thurlwood is known as one of the tithings of Manhood Hundred, (fn. 24) and the suffix is no doubt connected with the family of which Geoffrey de Cotes was entered as a freeholder in the first custumal and William in the revised version. (fn. 25) Elias de Cotes occurs in the subsidy of 1296; (fn. 26) Robert in 1311 sold land in West Wittering to Stephen son of John de Wyghtring, (fn. 27) and Stephen de Cotes was holding a yardland of the bishop in 1310 (fn. 28) and figures in the subsidies of 1327 and 1332. (fn. 29)
The church of SS. PETER AND PAUL (fn. 30) stands on the south edge of the village. It consists of a chancel flanked on the south by a chapel, a nave with south aisle and north porch, and a tower north of the nave. It is built of rubble, part flint, part beach boulders, with ashlar dressings, and is roofed with tile.
To a nave of the 12th century a south aisle was added late in that century; shortly after that the present south chapel was added; the chancel was reconstructed, and probably enlarged, and the tower added in the 13th; the porch, though now much restored, is probably originally 15th century.
At each eastern angle of the chancel is a clasping buttress of one stage finished with a sloping offset. The east window consists of a pair of lancets with pointed rear-arches, moulded, resting on nook shafts with moulded capitals and bases. As it stands this work appears nearly all modern, and Grimm's drawing of 1790 (fn. 31) shows a small window of quite different design; it is said that during a 19th-century restoration enough traces of the old work were found to make accurate reproduction possible. In the south wall of the chancel is an image-bracket, perhaps 14th-century, and a single lancet window with exterior rebates and segmental pointed rear-arch, of the 13th-century. Below this is a coeval piscina with round trefoil head.
An arcade of two bays opens from the chancel into the south chapel; this dates from very near the year 1200. The two arches are semicircular, of two moulded orders each, the pier, of Purbeck marble, is round with moulded base and capital, the responds are square, the inner arch order is carried on a corbel, the abacus of which is continued on the respond as an impost. On the face of the west respond are cut a number of crosses, 2 in. or 3 in. high, some with stepped bases and some with double crosses, perhaps recording vows. In the north wall of the chancel are two lancet windows like that in the south; both appear to be 13th-century, but in place of the eastern Grimm's drawing shows a crude, rather high three-light window. Next comes a priest's door with moulded segmental pointed outer arch and segmental rear-arch; west of this is a square-headed window of two trefoiled lights, the sill of the western light being considerably lower than that of the eastern; this work is of the 13th century. A coeval moulded string-course runs round the north, east, and part of the south sides of the chancel. The chancel arch (13th-century) is pointed, of two orders, the outer having a hollow quirked chamfer, the inner being semi-octagonal; the responds are square, the inner order is carried on corbels (of different design from those of the south chancel arcade) the abacus of which is continued on the respond as an impost. The roof, of trussed rafters with three tie-beams, contains ancient work, but has been much restored.
The south chapel, originally of c. 1200, has been almost entirely modernized. In the east wall are the remains of the sill of an ancient, perhaps 13th-century, window below the present lancet, which, like a two-light window on the south side and two small lancets looking west over the aisle roof, is modern, as are the pair of buttresses at the south-east corner and the single one at the south-west. The arch opening westwards into the aisle, of two chamfered orders, the inner resting on corbels, is modern, in 13th-century style. The roof also is modern.
The south arcade of the nave (late-12th-century) is of four bays; the arches are pointed and of a single order. The responds and piers are alternately circular and octagonal, and have moulded bases, carved capitals square on plan, and moulded abaci. In the north wall of the nave the tower arch (13th-century), of one order, has a plain pointed arch springing straight from the responds. West of this are two (modern) two-light windows with traceried heads in late-13th-century style. Between them is the north door (late-12th-century) of one chamfered order with hood-mould, resting on moulded imposts; the rear-arch is semicircular. The door hinges are of medieval form.
A diagonal buttress at the north-west and a square one at the south-west corner of the nave are each of two stages with sloping offsets, and are probably of the 15th century, as is the west doorway (now blocked), which has a pointed arch with mouldings continued on to the jambs and a much mutilated hood-mould; the reararch is very depressed elliptical; over this is a modern two-light window. The roof is modern.
The south aisle has a buttress at the west and one midway along its southern wall, of like design to those of the nave, but modern. In the south wall is a square-headed window of two lights with ogee trefoil heads and pierced spandrels, and a double lancet; these and a single lancet in the west wall are modern. The south doorway resembles the north in design and date; the roof is modern.
The tower (13th-century) has clasping buttresses of two stages with sloping offsets at both north corners. The east wall appears originally to have had a pointed arch, opening perhaps into a small chapel, but this is now blocked; there is a 13th-century lancet in the blocking, and the responds of the arch stop about 3 ft. above ground level. In the north wall is another lancet with exterior rebates and concentric splay. In the tower stands the ancient wooden bell-frame, (fn. 32) having puncheons at each corner rising from ground level and braced both by transoms and by X-shaped braces; the stairs to the bell-chamber consist of blocks of wood of triangular section nailed to slanting bearers; this work is ancient but cannot be dated exactly.
The upper stage of the tower has two-light trefoil-headed windows in the east, north, and west sides, modern, but apparently a reproduction of the ancient work shown in Grimm's drawing; the pyramidal cap has overhanging eaves and is shingled.
The altar table (now in use as a side altar) and the altar rails are of the late 16th or early 17th century. In the north-west corner of the chancel are three stalls, one being wholly modern and a second having a modern misericorde. The third, ancient, misericorde has a mitred head with roses as supporters.
On the east wall of the nave are the Ten Commandments painted on wood, of perhaps the early 19th century. There are some ancient benches, much restored, with finials in the form of fleurs-de-lis. The font (12th-century) is tub-shaped on a round base.
In the north chapel is a taper-sided grave slab, about 3 ft. 6 in. long, of the 13th century; it has a double hollow chamfer on the edge and a cross; beside the cross stem is carved a bishop's crozier. Near it is preserved a stone bearing a Greek cross about 9 in. across deeply incised in a circle, probably an ancient consecration cross.
In the north-east corner of the chancel are two niche tombs of early-16th-century date; they are now both set against the north wall, but the eastern one formerly stood at right angles to the other, and is so shown in Grimm's drawing. (fn. 33) It has a depressed Tudor arch with spandrels carved with foliage between jambs carved on their projecting faces with Renaissance detail of putti, foliage, and the like, similar to the work on the de la Warre Chantry at Boxgrove. At the back of the niche, in the centre, is a relief of Christ with rayed (not cruciform) nimbus, naked save for a loin-cloth; the face has been destroyed, the right hand points to a wound in the right side while the left, of which the forearm is missing, was apparently raised in blessing. West of this, before a desk with an open book, kneels the figure of a man, bare-headed and with long hair; he wears armour of which the mail collar and the plate defences from the elbow to the hand and from the mid-thigh downwards are visible. Over this he wears two garments, the under perhaps a tabard, the upper apparently a cape. From his hands comes a label, partly mutilated, inscribed in black-letter, By . . . crosse and passyon. Behind him kneel two boys in civilian dress. On the east side, before a similar desk kneels a woman wearing kennel head-dress, mantle, and kirtle; from her hands comes a label inscribed delyber us Lord Jh. cryst. Behind her kneels a girl in a kirtle, the upper part of the body missing. The soffit of the niche is panelled in quatrefoils, in the centres of which are W E twice repeated. At each end of the niche are two roundels, on the upper, on an escutcheon, an eagle displayed, on the lower W E and E W respectively, united by a looped cord. There is no trace of any inscription on the chamfer of the slab.
Below the niche is a representation in relief of the Annunciation. To the east, between a curtain and a desk bearing an open book kneels the Virgin with rayed nimbus, her hands joined in prayer. In the middle is a two-handled pot from which spring three lily stems; on the central is the image of Christ, without nimbus, with arms outstretched as though crucified and hands touching the two side lily stems; the legs of the figure below the knees are missing. Facing the Virgin is the archangel, vested in amice and alb, nimbed and genuflecting. From his hands comes a scroll (mutilated) inscribed Eu. . . ple ina dno. Above the archangel's hands the crowned head of God the Father appears from a cloud, and from his left hand rays point towards the lily pot. The whole composition is flanked by narrow panels with Renaissance designs like those on the jambs of the niche.
Adjoining this tomb to the west is a second, larger, niche, which has no Renaissance detail. In the spandrels of the moulded Tudor arch are the initials W and E on escutcheons; in the centre of the back is a relief of the Resurrection. In the foreground is Christ with rayed nimbus, the face destroyed, vested only in a cloak, the skirt of which is brought across his body and thrown over his left elbow, both fore-arms are missing. On the east side a man in armour (head missing) bearing an oval shield of rather classical design is falling to the ground, above him are the doubtful remains of a second figure and a pike and halbert, above this perhaps was the figure of an angel. On the west side is a table tomb, the slab in place, the sides ornamented with quatrefoils; leaning on the back of it is the helmed head and the arm of a man in armour, who holds a halbert. Flanking the relief on the west side is a demi-angel, unvested but with the feathers of the wings carried across the chest, holding an escutcheon charged with three spread eagles and a mullet on a bend. On the east side is a demi-satyr, winged, holding an escutcheon party per pale, the dexter coat being a repetition of the coat on the other side, the sinister having three roundels on a cheveron. (fn. 34) Below each shield is a roundel with W E and a cord like those on the other tomb. The sides and soffit of the niche are panelled.
On the chamfer of the slab is an inscription in relief: Of your charity pray . . . William . . . and Elizabeth hys wyf. Below the niche is panelling, three square panels with shields alternating with four narrow ones with figures of saints. The two outer shields each bear one of the coats of the impaled shield of the other tomb, the middle one the two coats impaled; from west to east the saints are (i) St. George killing the dragon, with a lance in his right hand, and holding a sword in his left; (ii) a female figure before a building, perhaps St. Barbara; (iii) an ecclesiastic, perhaps in friar's dress, holding a cross-staff; (iv) St. Roche pointing to the wound in his thigh and accompanied by his dog.
There are three bells, two dated 1665 and the other 1845. (fn. 35)
The communion plate includes an Elizabethan silver cup with floriated strap and other ornamentation, and a paten cover; each has had 'I.H.S.' engraved on it, presumably in 1844 when they were given to the church by the then vicar. There is also a good Sheffield plate alms basin. (fn. 36)
The register begins in 1621.
The Prebendary of Wittering was rector and patron of the living until it passed, under the Act of 1840, to the Bishop of Chichester. At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries grants were made to chaplains appointed to the vicarage of a manse and lands called the Church land, Prestland, and Lorcops, and of all small tithes except half the tithe of cheese from the bishop's barton. (fn. 37) These grants were regularized as constituting the perpetual vicarage in 1216–17 by Bishop Richard Poor. (fn. 38) The croft of Lorcops continued to be enjoyed by the vicar until at least the end of the 16th century. (fn. 39)
In 1548 there was a Brotherhood of Corpus Christi, of which the stock was valued at 56s. 4d.; there was also a sum of £9 7s. entered vaguely under West Wittering (fn. 40) and perhaps representing money and chattels left to the church by former parishioners.
It appears by a table of benefactions in the church that Henry Carpenter and Mary his wife in the year 1720 gave £5, the interest thereof to be divided amongst the poor every Easter Monday. The governing body of the charity consists of two persons appointed by the parish council of West Wittering.
It is recorded in the printed Parliamentary Reports of the Commissioners for Inquiring Concerning Charities in 1836 that there are 4 acres of land in this parish from which there is an annual payment of 7 bushels of wheat to the poor and 6s. 8d. in money to the clergyman for preaching a sermon on Ash Wednesday. By an Order made by the Charity Commissioners on 7 January 1898 it was provided that a yearly sum of 6s. 8d. payable out of the income of the property constituting the endowment of the charity should constitute the Ecclesiastical Charity, of which the vicar and churchwardens should be the trustees; the remainder of the original charity should henceforth be called the Eleemosynary Charity, and the trustees should consist of the vicar and two persons appointed by the parish council of West Wittering.
It is also recorded in the above-mentioned Report that there are about 7 acres of land in this parish, the rent of which has, from time immemorial, been applied to the repairs of the church. By an Order of the Charity Commissioners dated 4 November 1898 the vicar and churchwardens were appointed trustees. The annual income amounts to £16 (approximately).