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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'Linchmere', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester, (London, 1953) pp. 67-70. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp67-70 [accessed 5 March 2024]
The parish of Linchmere, also spelt Lynchmere and earlier Wlenchemere, (fn. 1) is bounded on the north by a tributary of the River Wey which here divides Sussex from Hampshire and Surrey; on the other three sides it is surrounded by the parish of Fernhurst, to which a detached portion of the parish was annexed in 1879, at which time Brookham, an outlier of Bepton, was added to Linchmere. (fn. 2) The little village lies at the foot of the steep hill on which stands the church, but the chief centre of population is now in the extreme north of the parish, where there has been a good deal of building in recent years at Hammer. This district takes its name from an iron-mill known as Pophall, which was working from before 1573 till after 1730. (fn. 3) Of another iron-mill in Furnace Wood near Lower Lodge Farm, apparently started a little before 1620, known as North Park Furnace, there are remains in a large pond with a fine sluice gate and culvert of stone; (fn. 4) but these works were partly in Fernhurst.
Highbuilding, supposed to have been built for the iron-master of the North Park works, lies on the north side of the Fernhurst road, near the parish border. It is built of stone with some tile-hanging. The east front shows most original features with a chamfered almost four-centred doorway having above it the inscription w.s. (William Shotter) and the date 1687. This apparently is the date of the frontage, though two of the windows are of earlier type with three hollow-chamfered lights. Above the doorway is a string-course, chamfered with hollow below, which continues north as far as a modern addition, but has been cut a short distance south of the entrance, probably denoting an 18th-century rebuilding of this part, though not to ground level, as the chamfered plinth, contemporary with the doorway, continues here and along the south wall, where chamfered windows with iron bars light the cellar. A plain string at a slightly higher level and sash windows with keystones mark the newer work above. The west wing is of 18th-century date, enlarged recently.
The dining-room is two bays in length and has a stopchamfered beam and wide fire-place with chimney seats. The old entrance is in line with the stack. Another chamfered four-centred fire-place shows in the room above, and has an ogee-moulded cornice. The rebuilt south bay has long 18th-century panelling with cornice and dado. The staircase is of early-18th-century date, with wave-moulded rail and newel, turned balusters, and a dog-gate.
Shulbrede Priory (fn. 5) (at first known as Woolynchmere Priory), about a mile south of Linchmere Church, was founded for Augustinian canons towards the end of the 12th century (fn. 6) and, according to a document dated 1358, the buildings 'by the industry and magnificence of its founder (Sir Ralph de Arderne) were originally sumptuously arranged'. Excavations have shown the former existence of a church on the north side 140 ft. in length and 98 ft. across the transept extremities, with chapterhouse and domestic buildings on the same scale, according to the usual plan. All that remains is a portion of the south-west corner which originally comprised an entrance hall or parlour leading into the cloisters, an undercroft, used as a buttery, and above it the guests' hall or prior's chamber. The exterior walls are 4 ft. thick, composed of packed rubble of sandstone. To the short monastic stone chimney was added a tall brick chimney of 16th-century date. In order to afford more light mullions of the two main windows were at some early date reduced in breadth. The outer entrance to the parlour is a plain pointed doorway with segmental rear-arch. A pointed arched doorway on the north side led into a cellarage which was demolished in the 19th century, and there is a round-arched entrance to a spiral staircase with a barrel vault of rubble leading to the floor above. The groined ribless vaulting of the parlour continues in the buttery adjoining it on the south side.
The vaulting in the buttery is supported by a central pillar with a shaft of Purbeck marble and a capital of Sussex marble. This may be an insertion from elsewhere as 18th-century prints show the pillars of the cellarage, where the vaulting was extended towards the north, as being composed of octagonal drums of sandstone. On the west side of the buttery is a doorway, now a window, and a second arch contains a modern window. In between the two windows is a large open fire-place built with joggled stonework, but the projecting hood has been cut away. On the south side are two doorways and on the east a doorway which led into the refectory range, and a hatch (now partly blocked) for passing in the food.
The staircase beyond the entrance hall is a lean-to of brick and beam on the cloister walk, constructed, no doubt, for the convenience of the first inmates after the Dissolution. The tiled floor-space of the guests' hall (34 ft. by 21 ft.) covered originally the whole of the upper floor. It was a lofty chamber, the high roof of which was supported by two king-post roof trusses with collar purlin and collar beams. Most of this is still in good condition. But at some period, perhaps when the canons, because of their poverty, were reported as unable to keep their building in repair, one of the tie-beams broke and was propped up with rough beams. Eventually a partition of wattle and daub divided the chamber, leaving the larger part, known as the Prior's Chamber, at the south end, the shorter end being further divided into a small chamber with loft, reached by a staircase and passage. The panels of the partition were decorated at various dates after the suppression with wall paintings. (fn. 7) There are birds and animals, Elizabethan ladies, a perfect heraldic representation of the arms of James I with his motto Beati Pacifici, and a primitive design of the animals declaring the Nativity (The cock: Christus natus est. The duck: Quando Quando. The raven: In hac nocte. The bull: Ubi Ubi. The lamb: In Bethlehem). There is also a picture of a building with a spire which may possibly be intended for the priory. On the east wall are almost obliterated traces of more paintings. In the east end of the south wall a double round-arched entrance to a staircase led formerly down to the buttery and another led to the kitchens, of which there are now no traces above ground. High up in the gable is a round arch with a square-headed window. The brick fireplace is built over part of the original stone fire-place which stood in the middle between the windows. The arch with its square-headed window is repeated in the adjoining room.
Part of the walls of the large refectory hall still exist, although this range was roofed at a lower level soon after the suppression. On the south side the lower part of the jambs of the windows are visible and seem to have been lancets inserted in pairs. On the north side three original trefoil-headed arches of the monastic lavatory remain in good condition. The wide brick fire-place built in the middle of the floor-space of the refectory, which was divided up into two stories, is 16th-century, having been constructed for the kitchen of the yeomen farmers who were the first occupants after the monastery was dissolved. A smaller kitchen or washhouse was built about a hundred years later on part of the site of the monastic kitchens.
The priory enclosure covered about 4 acres and was surrounded by a moat. On the north side foundations, 4 ft. thick, of a small building by the side of the moat may have been part of a gate-house. A fine Sussexmarble coffin, measuring 6 ft. 9 in. inside, was discovered in the centre of the site of the Chapter House. Cut and decorated stones from the priory have been found in cottages and houses both in Linchmere and as far as Fernhurst. A large barn on the other side of the road was constructed out of priory remains and much of the metal under the road came from the ruins, which constituted a sort of local quarry. Many decorated tiles have been found, mostly of Hampshire origin, also from other parts of Sussex and some of local manufacture from a kiln the remains of which were discovered in the North Meadow. (fn. 8)
Of two original stone arched culverts under the approaches to the priory from the west and from the south the one under the present road is in good condition.
Court Baron of the Manor of Linchmere and Shulbrede was held in the priory till copyhold was abolished in 1925. A few court rolls of the reigns of Elizabeth and James I are preserved.
The priory remained as part of the Cowdray estate from the Dissolution until 1902, when it came into the possession of Arthur Ponsonby, who in 1930 was created Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. Since his death in 1946 it has been in the occupation of Lady Ponsonby.
Boxall Moor (formerly Covers) stands on the east side of Linchmere Hill. The house is modernized externally with tile-hanging over stone and brick; it was timber-framed, and an old post can be seen in the north elevation. It was built in the second half of the 16th century, of two stories and three bays, with a central stack and a projection at the south-east; there is a modern outshot in line with this along the east wall. The lintelled fire-places are large and contain stonework, probably from Shulbrede. (fn. 9) Timber-framing in wide panels and stop-chamfered beams are exposed on both floors, some old doors remain, and in the original east wall is a blocked window in the timber framework. A small, panelled cupboard in the stack has butterfly hinges. There are brick floors on ground level.
Greenhill is rebuilt except for the chimney-stack, which dates from c. 1600. A fire-place has, above the four-centred arch, two stone panels carved with fishtailed dragons.
Close to the county boundary on the north of Linchmere Common stands Bridge, (fn. 10) an attractive example of timber-framing, brick, and tile-hanging. The main block, running north and south, represents an open hall of probably 15th-century date, altered in the 16th century by the insertion of a floor and of a great open fire-place, with chamfered jambs in stone and brick and oak lintel, at the south end. In the second half of the 16th century a wing was built at the south (possibly replacing a former solar wing), making the plan T-shaped. This wing is timber-framed in oblong panels with herring-bone brick nogging, and the upper story is hung with tiles in alternate plain and scalloped courses. Below the east end of it is a basement built of stones, evidently from Shulbrede Priory, some being worked, which rise above ground to form a plinth. There are several original windows with chamfered wood mullions and bars set diagonally, and a fine stepped, brick chimney-stack, the fire-place of which is now occupied by a 19th-century carved fire-place brought from Dangstein. The room which it serves has at the east end a fixed seat, with turned legs; that to the west has a fire-place formed at the back of the central stack and surmounted by a carved overmantel with the initials R.S. and J.s. (for Roger and his son, John Shotter) and the date 1631. The staircase, between these two rooms, has a newel of circular plan and original oak treads. The roof above this wing has queen-post struts and purlins.
East of the house is a 17th-century barn, modernized but retaining its purlins and queen-posts.
In 1195 Brian fitz Ralph and Gunnor his wife, who seems to have been the representative of Robert fitz Tetbald, sheriff of Arundel at the time of Domesday, (fn. 11) made over to Henry de Percy their claims to the honor of Petworth, retaining certain properties, including an estate in Linchmere held with Cocking as one knight's fee. (fn. 12) In 1200 they sold 2 hides in Linchmere to Ralph de Arden, or Arderne, (fn. 13) a member of a leading Warwickshire family, (fn. 14) and he shortly afterwards founded there the priory usually called Shulbrede. The priory lands seem to have been leased to tenants and not organized as a manor. (fn. 15) By the agreement of 1195 Brian and Gunnor and their heirs were to hold not directly of the Percies but from the Archbishop of Canterbury, interposed as mesne lord. (fn. 16) Accordingly at the beginning of the 14th century Linchmere was part of a group of fees of the honor of Petworth held by the archbishop; (fn. 17) but by 1428 the Prior of Shulbrede was holding a ¼ fee in Linchmere. (fn. 18) After the Dissolution the priory estates were granted to Sir William Fitzwilliam, (fn. 19) afterwards Earl of Southampton, and what is thenceforward called the manor of SHULBREDE or LINCHMERE passed with Cowdray (q.v.) to the Viscounts Montague and their descendants and then, by sale in 1843, to the Earls of Egmont until 1909, when it was bought by Lord Cowdray. (fn. 20)
The church of ST. PETER (fn. 21) stands on the brow of a hill on the southern edge of the village; it consists of a chancel and nave with no structural division between them, a diminutive tower built up in the west end of the nave, south porch, west vestry, and double north aisle with north porch, the east end of the inner aisle being used as an organ-chamber. It is built of local sandstone ashlar and roofed with tile.
The original church, of the 12th century, seems to have consisted of a single chamber, probably with a semicircular east end; in the 13th century this was extended eastward, the former east wall being demolished and the four walls of a chancel built. (fn. 22) The tower was added later; the inner north aisle was built in 1856 and the former chancel arch probably removed at the same time; the outer aisle and vestry were added in 1906.
The east window, of the 13th century, has two uncusped lights surmounted by a roundel. In the east wall is a piscina with a pointed trefoil head, and in the south wall three rather wide lancet windows with jambs rebated internally and segmental pointed rear-arches; the eastern two, like the piscina, are of the 13th century, the western modern, but a reproduction of old work. There is no structural division between chancel and nave, but an ancient moulded beam spans the former near its west limit.
In the south wall of the nave is a small window with pointed head, much restored but originally late-12thcentury. (fn. 23) Next is now a lancet like those of the chancel, modern, replacing a single trefoil-headed light, shown in Grimm's drawing. The south door is a plain pointed arch, modern; the doorway shown in Grimm's drawing has a semicircular head and was possibly 12th-century. Next, west of a modern buttress, is a single lancet, also modern, replacing a two-light perpendicular window shown by Grimm. The west doorway, of the 12th century, has a plain semicircular arch resting on crude imposts.
The tower is practically a translation into stone of the normal local bell-cote of timber. (fn. 24) Two slender circular piers, with moulded capitals and plain bases, carry three pointed arches, of two orders each, spanning the whole width of the nave; on the midmost arch, on two similar arches between the piers and the west wall, and on the west wall rests a small stone tower, having a small single-light window with segmental arched head in each of the south, west, and north sides. This formerly had a flat roof with battlements and pinnacles, shown in Grimm's drawing; there is now a shingled broach spire. On the south wall is a sundial, dated 1653; this may be the date of the tower, though there is no sign of the sundial in Grimm's, or any other ancient drawing.
The vestry (modern) has a single-light window to the west; the inner north aisle (1856) has an arcade of five bays with pointed arches resting on four piers, one circular and three octagonal; this is entirely modern, in a nondescript Gothic style; a drawing of 1795 shows the former north wall with no window or other feature. The east end, screened off as an organ-chamber, has a two-light window with pointed trefoil heads, the west has two lancets. The outer north aisle is divided from the inner by two pairs of octagonal timber posts, carrying a timber lintel; it has one single-light window in the east wall and three in the north; west of these is the plain north doorway; there is a two-light window in the west wall. On the inner face of the north wall is a relief carving of seven monks' heads, typifying the Seven Deadly Sins; this was brought from Italy in modern times.
The font and fittings, and the roofing throughout, are modern.
Of the two bells one is uninscribed and the other is of 1849. (fn. 25)
The communion plate includes an unusual type of chalice (c. 1570), having an acutely shaped bowl with a band of engraved panels inscribed 'FOR THEM OF LENS MERE PARISE'. (fn. 26)
The registers begin in 1568. (fn. 27)
The church of Linchmere seems to have been dependent on that of Cocking, and therefore in the hands of the Abbey of Séez at the beginning of the 13th century; for about 1230 Bishop Ralph (Neville) of Chichester confirmed a grant by the Abbot and convent of Séez to the Prior and convent of 'Wlenchmere' of the patronage of the church of 'Selebrede'—the names of the priory and church being thus curiously reversed. (fn. 28) The bishop allowed the priory to appropriate the church, provided that they supplied a fit secular chaplain and discharged its dues, including the accustomed pension to the church of Cocking. The church was valued in 1291 at £4 6s. 8d.; (fn. 29) and in 1535 the profits of the 'chapel' in Linchmere were returned at 66s. 10d. (fn. 30)
The chapel was assigned with the other possessions of Shulbrede to Sir William Fitzwilliam in 1537. (fn. 31) It was a donative, but as such was of little use to the Viscounts Montague, who were Roman Catholics, and they seem to have parted with it, as in 1574 Thomas Wyseman and Anne his wife conveyed the rectory or chapel of Linchmere with a messuage, a barn, 2 acres of land, and all tithes and oblations to Thomas Bettesworth. (fn. 32) His son Peter sold it in 1596 to Stephen Terry, of Long Sutton, who in turn sold it in 1614 to John Eggar, of Upnately. He conveyed it in 1624 to his kinsman Edward Fidder, of Froyle, who sold it in 1636 to Edward Rapley of Linchmere. With this family it remained for five generations, until in 1798 it passed, through non-payment of a mortgage, to James Baker and Ann (Coleman) his wife. They made a conveyance of it in 1801 to James Freakes (later Parson), whose son William Henry Parson was incumbent as well as lay rector from 1849 to 1882. On his retirement in 1903 Francis Pratt Barlow bought the advowson, which his widow held from 1917 until her death in 1928. In 1929 it was bought from Edward and Robert Pratt Barlow by the Bishop of Chichester, and in 1937 the Parochial Church Council purchased a half-interest, whereby the rights of patronage were vested jointly in the bishop and the council, these rights being later conveyed on trust to the Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 33)