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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The parish, containing 669 acres, lies in a bend of the River Rother, which forms its north and east boundaries, a tributary stream dividing it on the south-east from West Lavington. The western half is mostly common and woodland, the eastern is occupied by the town, which developed at the foot of the castle-crowned hill. This hill stands in the angle of the Rother and the stream. It was known colloquially in the 18th century as Tan Hill, which was 'corrected' into St. Anne's Hill; (fn. 1) the name, however, was almost certainly a corruption of St. Denis, whose chapel stood on the summit. Historically nothing is known of the castle, or fortified manor-house, but excavations (fn. 2) have shown that it consisted of a curtain wall, 5 ft. thick, inclosing some 5½ acres, entered at the south-west by an archway, without any gatehouse. An irregular oval inclosure in the southeast angle probably marks the keep. North of this stood the chapel, consisting of a chancel 15 ft. square, and a nave 20 by 18 ft. with a western door. Beyond this, against the curtain wall, which here runs straight north and south, was a rectangular block divided into two parts, respectively 31 by 18 ft. and 22½ by 18 ft., probably cellarage under the hall and chamber. Fragmentary foundations north of this may mark the site of the kitchen and offices. The ground slopes steeply on the north to the Town Meadow, on the east to the Rother, and on the south to the mill-race of South Pond; on the west it was divided from the town by a dry ditch. Evidence points to the Bohuns having abandoned this site in favour of Cowdray about 1280; and during the time, 1284–1311, that Midhurst was in the hands of Anthony Beck, Bishop of Durham, his agents are said to have pulled down, in one place, a hall worth £50, a chamber (£62), another chamber (£12), two chapels (£5 each), a kitchen (10 marks), and a granary (5 marks). (fn. 3) This points to the dismantling of the site, but 'the chapel of St. Denis within the former castle of Midhurst' (fn. 4) was functioning in 1291, and is referred to in 1367 as standing 'in a place called Courtgrene'. (fn. 5)
As in most other live towns, the oldest buildings survive chiefly off the main thoroughfare. In North Street, which is the High Street of the town, nearly all the buildings have been rebuilt or altered from the 18th century onwards. A peculiarity is that the main road (A 286) from London to Chichester enters the town as a side-turning at the bridge over the River Rother and after passing through North Street is suddenly diverted by a sharp bend eastwards through the narrow Knock Hundred Row to pass southwards through Lion Street and the market square, the roadway on either side of the isolated old market hall and buildings north of it being narrow and dangerous. The apparent continuation southwards of the main road through North Street, Rumbold's Hill, (fn. 6) and the Mint merely comes to a dead end at Bepton; and the continuation of North Street northwards (A 272) passes through Easebourne village to turn eastwards through Cowdray Park for Petworth. West Street starts from the market square, crosses the north-south roadway at the junction of Rumbold's Hill and the Mint to continue westwards as the main road (A 272) to Petersfield.
Lion Street has ancient buildings on its west side but, except for the bottleneck north end of it, was widened in the 18th century, either by the frontage being set back to that of the parish church or by the demolition of most of a 17th-century island. Two buildings of this island still survive by the market square at the south end of Lion Street and facing West Street. The old market hall stands south of these. There are some old buildings in West Street, and in Wool Lane which runs northward from West Street to a fork with Rumbold's Hill. All the ancient buildings were of timber-framing, of which the old market hall, the Spread Eagle Hotel (west of it), and several others are good, if not very ornate, examples.
The old market hall stands isolated, south of West Street and west of the market square. It is now used as an estate agent's offices and the upper story is a private residence; this upper story was the first home of the grammar school founded by Gilbert Hannam in 1672. (fn. 7) It dates presumably from 1552, when Sir Anthony Browne granted to the burgesses a vacant space, 70 by 30 ft., in the market on which to build a market house, (fn. 8) but it has been much renovated and altered; the lower story, which presumably was open-sided originally, is closed with modern timber-framing, windows, &c. The upper story is jettied on the north front and east and west ends on moulded bressummers supported by shaped brackets. The front is of two bays with square framing. In each bay is a three-sided bay-window on shaped brackets and with pedimental heads. The two main gable-heads also project on stop-moulded bressummers and brackets and are of square framing. The east and west ends are similarly treated except for the windows, which were flat and are now blocked. The south elevation is in one plane and the west half is of timber-framing with a tile-hung gable-head; the east half is of brick and has a chimney-stack. That the building extended one bay farther southwards originally is borne out by the positions of the two long diagonal ceiling beams in the lower story.
The Spread Eagle Hotel includes an L-shaped building of timber-framing at the corner of West Street and South Street, dating probably from the 15th century, and a mid-late 17th-century building south of it, facing eastwards towards South Street. The timber building was apparently the inn originally but was abandoned when the 17th-century part was built and became shops. The east front of it has a jettied upper story on shaped brackets and the north half has a projecting gable-head. The framing is mostly plain rectangular panels, with fairly close-set studding in the south half. The windows have been renovated and fitted with lattice glazing. The north side has heavy curved braces below the wall-plate. The west half is still a separate shop and a tiled pentise or hood to the whole length is a reminder that the east half has also been a shop. It has two projecting windows on coving or brackets and a doorway between them. It is now part of the two lounges that occupy all the east range. These have open-timbered ceilings with heavy chamfered beams and wide flat joists. The northern chamber has a 7½ft. west fire-place of stone in which is an iron fireback with the Stuart royal arms. The south end of the range has some abnormally heavy timbers with straight braces. In the upper story are queen-post roof trusses and straight wind-braces to the purlins. In some of the upper windows is a good deal of collected 17th-century Flemish heraldic and other glass (1612 to c. 1640).
The southern part of the hotel is of red brick with stone angle-dressings and plain architraves to the windows. It is of two stories, attics, and cellars. The southernmost room is lined with late-17th-century oak panelling, also the room above, and there is some reset early-17th-century panelling. Behind is an 18th-century wing of whitened brickwork. Part of it—the dining-room—has a wide fire-place and old ceiling beams.
The Swan Inn and an adjoining building are the remains of a 17th-century island north of the market hall and west of the market square. The inn has plastered walls and the upper story of most of the east front is jettied, but the south block is modern.
The shop and house next north appears to date from earlier in the 17th-century than the inn. The walls are plastered: the east and west ends have jettied upper stories and projecting gable-heads. There was another building north of it and its present north wall was the party wall. It is of ancient timber-framing with curved struts, and two fire-places are exposed; the upper has moulded brick jambs and a four-centred head.
The building west of this block at the corner of Lion Street is modern but the next north of it in the narrow part of the street next the island may be of 15th or early-16th-century date, judging from the moulded bressummer to the jettied upper story: it is a small building with a frontage of about 16 ft. and has timberframing to both stories.
The next north (two shops) is a plastered building with a jettied upper story on curved brackets of the 17th century; it has modern windows. A longer building adjoining, now a house and two shops, was probably one tenement of early-17th-century date and was evidently an inn ('The Lion' ?). The southernmost part projects a little; it has a jettied upper story and a gablehead, the barge-boards of which are carved with a pierced foliage pattern. It is all plastered, as is also the northern extension, which is also jettied above the two modern shop-fronts. In front of the gable is the iron bracket for the former inn-sign.
The next to the north is similar but has moulded brackets below the overhang. Farther north is 'the Old Manor House', a rough-casted timber-framed house said to date from 1634. The north part of the east front is gabled and has moulded barge-boards decorated with foil-headed panels. The lower story has an 18th-century bow-window. The ceilings are open-timbered.
On the west side of the narrow north end is a row of three late-17th-century cottages in a curve with stone rubble lower walls and the upper story of square timber-framing.
On the opposite side is a somewhat similar long building with tile-hanging to the upper story. Part of it was once a shop and has a tiled pentise; timber-framing shows in the north end.
On the south side of West Street are two adjoining houses, the western dated 1660 and the other of the early 17th century. Later alterations have merged the two into one, but divided into three or four tenements and shops. The upper story of the east house is of fairly close studding and has a small gable in front: probably it was jettied and is now underbuilt. The shops have old ceiling beams, one moulded. The western house is of square framing and is jettied, partly underbuilt by the shop front which overlaps from the eastern house. It has a small gable and in front of it is a projecting square bay to the upper story: this has a pediment in which are the initials S/IM' and below the window the face is panelled with moulded ribs and has the date 1660. Probably it had a lower story, or at least posts below it, formerly. On the north side of West Street at the corner of Wool Lane is the Bricklayers' Arms Inn, a much-altered timber-framed house of the 17th century. The south front is of plaster and tilehanging and the west side of brick, but timber-framing shows inside and it has an old fire-place and square chimney-stack with square pilasters. The cottage next north may have been part of it formerly and continues the same roof lines. It is brick-faced, but shows 17th-century framing at the north end.
Farther north on the east side of Wool Lane are two reconditioned cottages with jettied upper stories, one mostly plastered and the other showing some 16th- or 17th-century framing. Another, next north in Rumbold's Hill, has a jettied upper story with tile-hanging. The Wheatsheaf Inn at the point of junction between Rumbold's Hill and Wool Lane has also been much altered, but shows 17th-century framing in the jettied upper story of its east side.
Another repaired cottage on the west side of the Mint has some 16th-century framing in the upper story—curved braces below the wall-plate and curved struts against the main posts. The lower story is of stone.
North Street has few old buildings. One next north of the Angel Hotel, on the east side, has been a shop and storehouse. The south side of it has five bays of 16th-century timber-framing with close-set studding with curved struts to the story-posts. The 18th-or 19th-century street front is plastered. A shop and bank premises next south is modernized but has a date 1677 and shows old timber-framing and a moulded ceilingbeam inside. Farther north a stone-built cottage with brick dressings and a central chimney-stack with pilasters is of the late 17th century, and a small house opposite has old timber-framing in the jettied half-gabled south end.
Midhurst was a 'free borough' and in 1278 was said to have been so from time beyond memory. (fn. 9) It was governed by a bailiff, (fn. 10) who was elected by the burgesses from among themselves and presented to the lord's steward at the annual court baron of the manor of Midhurst. (fn. 11) With him were associated a number of burgesses, but the constitution, and even the numbers, of this council cannot be traced. Dallaway's statement that (in 1815) 'they have a common seal' (fn. 12) is at least doubtful, the only item of municipal insignia remaining in the hands of the Town Trust being a silvergilt mace, presented in 1736 by Sir Henry Peachey. Disputes over the rights of the burgesses were settled in 1409 by an agreement under which Sir John de Bohun (and his feoffees) conveyed to Michael Bageley and six other named burgesses and their successors the right to take the market tolls and to hold both the three-weekly courts and the two 'law days' by their steward in the name of Sir John and his heirs, by payment of 40s. yearly. If they failed for a whole year to hold the courts the agreement should lapse, and if they neglected to keep the streets and ditches in order the lord's manorial officers should take measures against offenders but should hand over any fines to the burgesses. (fn. 13) This arrangement was confirmed in 1537 by Sir William Fitzwilliam. (fn. 14)
The bailiff held the assize of bread and ale, appointing two ale-tasters yearly, and acted as clerk of the market. (fn. 15) A market existed from an early date, for in 1223 when the Bishop of London complained that Savaric de Bohun had taken tolls in the market of Midhurst from his men of Lodsworth who were exempt from such tolls under a charter of King John, Savaric replied that his ancestors had been seised of the tolls before the date of the charter. (fn. 16) There was a weekly market on Tuesday in 1288, (fn. 17) but under a grant made to Viscount Montague in 1681 the market was to be held on alternate Tuesdays. (fn. 18) By 1792 the weekly market day was Thursday, (fn. 19) and there was still a market for corn on that day in 1878, (fn. 20) but by 1888 it was apparently no longer functioning. (fn. 21) The grant of 1681 included fairs on Lady Day (25 March), St. Margaret's (20 July), and St. Luke's (18 October). The first and third continued (allowing for the change in the calendar in 1752) until 1888, but the July fair is replaced in 1792 by Whit Tuesday and in 1888 by 19 May.
In 1284 the issues of the vill included fixed rents of burgesses called 'potteresgavel' amounting to 36s. 8d. —a large sum, considering that the other burgage rents came to only 34s. (fn. 22) The deduction that there was any large established industry of pot-making is not supported by any other evidence. The subsidy roll for 1340, (fn. 23) possibly incomplete, gives only 15 names, including a dyer, a butcher, and 2 tanners; and that for 1523, (fn. 24) with 100 names, identifies 2 shoemakers and 2 butchers; a tanyard is mentioned in 1718; (fn. 25) in 1878 there were 3 saddlers and 5 shoemakers. (fn. 26) The industries, in fact, were those likely to be associated with an agricultural community.
In the 12th century Enjuger and Savaric de Bohun granted a rent of 1 mark from a mill at Midhurst to the abbey of Waverley; (fn. 27) and this was transferred by the monks to Anthony de Beck, Bishop of Durham, in 1289. (fn. 28) When Sir John de Bohun died in 1284 he owned the North Mill (near the bridge over the Rother), worth 40s., and the South Mill (of which the pond lies below the Castle Hill), worth 6s. 8d. (fn. 29) In 1311 the value of the two mills had risen to £8. (fn. 30) A contract was made in 1467 by Sir Humphrey Bohun with Nicholas Wykford for rebuilding the North Mill as a corn and malt mill. (fn. 31) The tithes of both mills had evidently been granted to the Knights Hospitallers, as they were included in the lease of the chapel in 1515 to Robert Gybrisshe made by Sir Thomas Docwra, Prior of the Order. (fn. 32)
Midhurst as a borough sent two members (fn. 33) to the parliament of 1301, but was not again represented until 1311. From that date onwards the borough was represented intermittently—for instance, no names of its members are recorded between 1344 and 1350—until 1382, from which time it figures in the returns continuously until 1832. Under the Reform Act the borough lost one member and its boundaries were much extended, covering most of the neighbouring parishes. For fifty years Midhurst continued to send one member, but by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1883 it lost this right and the status of a borough. During the medieval period the members elected were local men, but under the Tudors and Stuarts they tended more and more to be chosen from the landed gentry, such names as Lewkenor, Morley, and Alcock constantly appearing. Early in the 18th century the lordship of the borough (separate from the manor) was bought from Viscount Montague by John Meeres Fagge for his son-in-law Sir John Peachey. This gave control over the electors, who were the tenants of ancient burgages—some of which had long ceased to exist, having been absorbed into Cowdray Park, in the walls of which inscribed stones indicated their former sites and entitled their nominal owners to vote. Members of the Peachey family held one seat from 1722 to 1760. The seventh Viscount Montague bought back the borough, but on his death his trustees sold it to the Earl of Egremont for £40,000. About 1800 the earl sold it to Lord Carrington and his brothers John and George Smith. From 1819 to 1831 both seats were held by members of the Smith family, who retained the nominal lordship of the borough until the present century, when Mr. Gerald Dudley Smith sold it to the 1st Viscount Cowdray. (fn. 34) Among the later members for the borough the most famous was the young Charles James Fox, whose first constituency this was in 1768, the other seat being then held by his cousin Henry Fox. A little earlier, in 1761, the two seats had been held by John Burgoyne, the dramatist and general, and Sir William Hamilton, art collector, diplomatist, and husband of Nelson's Emma. After 1832 the single seat was held from 1846 to 1856 by Spencer Walpole, Home Secretary in 1852.
Owing to the influence of the Lords Montague at Cowdray Midhurst was a centre of Roman Catholicism. Thus in 1621 there were about forty households of recusants here. (fn. 35) In 1634 John Arismandy appointed John Cope and Richard Shelley to administer certain moneys after his death to provide a priest for the poor Catholics of Midhurst, to say masses every week for his soul and 'my lords auncestors'. This deed was found in the 19th century in a box hidden in the chimney of an old house with rosaries and other religious objects. (fn. 36) In 1642 the 'Protestation' in support of the Church of England was signed by 207 men in Midhurst, but 54 'recusant Papists' refused at first to sign it. Two days later 35 of these did sign, (fn. 37) probably excepting, either expressly or mentally, the special clause denouncing the Roman Faith, as did their colleagues at Easebourne, (fn. 38) where there was an equal number of recusants. The present Roman Catholic church, built in sandstone in the Early English style, was erected in 1869 within the liberty of St. John. (fn. 39)
Some ultra-Protestant reaction may be traced in the large number of dissenters found here. In 1676 the estimated numbers of Conformists were 341, of Papists 56, and of Nonconformists 50. (fn. 40) In 1672 a licence had been issued for Richard Garrett to hold a Congregational meeting in the house of Nicholas Brewer, clothier. (fn. 41) Garrett, a graduate of Oxford, had been rector of Stedham. (fn. 42) At the present time there are Congregational and Methodist chapels.
It has already been suggested that Easebourne, of which Midhurst was originally part, may have been a demesne manor of Earl Roger accidentally omitted in the Domesday Survey. (fn. 43) At the beginning of the 12th century MIDHURST was given by Henry I, to whom the honor of Arundel had escheated, to Savaric fitz Cane, to hold with its appurtenances as 3 knights' fees. (fn. 44) He married Muriel, apparently daughter of Richard de Meri who had married Lucy eventual heiress of the seigneurie of Bohun. Savaric left three sons: Ralph died without surviving issue in 1159; his brothers Savaric and Geldewin in 1158 made an agreement by which Midhurst passed to the latter. On the death of Savaric fitz Savaric early in, or shortly before, 1187 Geldewin inherited the whole of his father's lands and also those of his mother's brother Enjuger de Bohun, who had died in 1180. Geldewin died about the end of 1187 and was succeeded by his eldest son Frank de Bohun, who incurred the enmity of Henry II, probably through his support of the king's son Richard, as the latter in 1190 annulled an agreement which King Henry had forced Frank to make with Ralph de Arderne and confirmed him in possession of his estates, including Midhurst. (fn. 45) Frank died in 1192 and his widow Rohese paid 300 marks to have the custody of his lands and of his sons. (fn. 46) The elder of these, Enjuger, was marshal for Normandy in 1213 and died at the end of 1218, when he was planning a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (fn. 47) His brother and heir Savaric died in 1246, about which time his son Sir Frank married Sibyl daughter of William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby; (fn. 48) he married secondly Nichole widow of Bartholomew de la Chapelle, to whom the manor of Midhurst was allotted after his death in 1273. Sir John, his eldest son by his first wife, married Joan, his step-sister, daughter of Bartholomew and Nichole, and died in 1284, leaving three sons, of whom the eldest was only 9. Shortly before his death Sir John had granted Midhurst to Anthony Beck, Bishop of Durham, for life, with remainder to his own children. The bishop survived until 1311, by which time Sir John's eldest son John had died (c. 1296), as had the second son James (fn. 49) (1306). The latter's son John, born at Todham, was still a child when the bishop died, and custody of 2/3 of the manor of Midhurst (the other ⅓ being held by Sir John's widow) was granted to Sir Henry Percy. (fn. 50) John died in 1367, leaving a son John, born at Cowdray in 1363, who lived till 1433. His son Sir Humphrey died in 1460, and his son John Bohun, who died in 1492, was the last male of his line. He left two daughters, of whom the younger, Ursula, married Sir Robert Southwell and died without issue, so that Midhurst and the other Bohun estates passed to Mary and her husband Sir David Owen, a bastard son of Owen Tudor, the grandfather of Henry VII.
As early as 1384 dower was assigned to Cecily widow of Sir John de Bohun in 'the manor of Midhurst called Coderay'. (fn. 51) From the time when Sir David Owen began the building of the great house the manor, as distinct from the borough, of Midhurst was often called COWDRAY. In 1528 Sir David sold the Bohun estates to Sir William Fitzwilliam, reserving the right to live at Cowdray, but permitting Sir William to build there, provided he was not inconvenienced by the work. (fn. 52) His son Sir Henry Owen pointed out that Sir David had only a life interest, but himself conveyed the reversion to Sir William. (fn. 53) The latter, created Earl of Southampton in 1537, died in 1542 and left the estates to his half-brother Sir Anthony Browne. He died in 1548 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Anthony, who was created Viscount Montague in 1554 and lived until 1592. His eldest son having died shortly before him, Midhurst and Cowdray passed to his grandson Anthony Maria and from him in unbroken succession to George Samuel, 8th Viscount Montague, who was drowned in 1793 when rashly attempting to shoot the rapids of the Rhine. As he left no issue the estates passed to his sister Elizabeth Mary, who married William Stephen Poyntz. He died in 1840, leaving three daughters, by whom the property was sold to the 6th Earl of Egmont. From the 8th Earl it was bought in 1908 by Sir Weetman Pearson, created Baron Cowdray in 1910 and Viscount in 1917, and is now held by the 3rd Viscount.
Tenements in Midhurst and land in neighbouring parishes were granted to the Knights Hospitallers, presumably by one of the Bohuns. (fn. 54) Accordingly, in 1278 the prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem successfully claimed for his tenants here a long list of liberties and exemptions, except that it was found that they were at scot and lot with the other men of the town in matters pertaining to the Crown. (fn. 55) In 1338 the Hospitallers had a grange in Midhurst with 50 acres of arable and a rood of meadow, let for 13s. 4d., and pasturage for 100 sheep, worth 8s. 4d. (fn. 56) The estates were under the Commandery of Poling and constituted the LIBERTY OF ST. JOHN. A chapel was built, and this with its estates was leased in 1515 for forty-one years to Robert Gybrisshe at a rent of 33s. 4d., he doing all repairs and finding a priest to celebrate four times in the year. (fn. 57) He was also responsible for the ornaments, which included a silvergilt chalice and paten, and vestments. Before the lease expired the Hospital had been suppressed, and in June 1561 the manor and chapel, with tenements in West and North Streets, &c., were granted to the Earl of Southampton. (fn. 58) The manor of St. John's then descended with the manor of Midhurst, each being valued at £20 in 1629. (fn. 59)
The church of ST. MARY MAGDALENE (fn. 60) stands on the east side of Church Hill, and is built of rubble with ashlar dressings, some chequer of flint and ashlar appearing on the west front, and is roofed with tile. Restoration and rebuilding have obscured its history; it now consists of chancel and nave, both flanked by aisles, tower between the two south aisles, and west vestibule. The chancel appears to have been enlarged in the 15th or 16th century, the ground stage of the tower is of the early 13th, its upper stages and the aisles east and west of it the 16th, the vestibule is modern, as is, apparently, the whole of the north aisle.
The chancel measures 29 by 23 ft. internally, and has an east window of five lights, originally of the 15th century but much restored; on each side an arcade of two pointed arches resting on octagonal piers and responds is wholly modern; there is no chancel arch. Its south aisle, formerly the Montague chapel (33 by 18 ft.) has a three-light window in the east wall and three two-light windows and a doorway with plain pointed head and jambs in the south; this work is originally 16th-century, but has been extensively restored. The north aisle, which serves as vestry and organ chamber, is wholly modern.
In the east wall of the tower is a pointed arch of two orders, modern; in the north wall is a pointed arch of one order resting on imposts on square jambs, perhaps 13th-century; in the west wall is a pointed arch of three orders resting on semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases, of the 16th century. Against the south wall is a buttress of two stages with sloping offsets; east of this is a plain pointed doorway, modern; higher up are two small lancet windows with concentric splays, early-13th-century. On each face of the upper stage is a small two-light window, perhaps 16th-century. A modern shingled cap to the tower has large dormer windows.
The nave, exclusive of the gallery over the vestibule, measures 45 by 23 ft. Its south arcade west of the tower consists of two pointed arches of two orders resting on octagonal piers and responds with moulded caps and bases; the north arcade is of like design but of three bays; this is modern in a rather nondescript Gothic style. Over the vestibule is a gallery lit by a modern window with Perpendicular tracery.
In the south wall of the south aisle is the doorway to the newel stair to the tower, a moulded four-centred arch on moulded jambs; west of this are two windows, each of three uncusped lights without tracery under a square head; in the west wall is a doorway with moulded four-centred arch on moulded jambs; this work is of the 16th century. The north aisle has a single modern two-light window in the west wall. The vestibule, equally modern, has entrance doors in its north, west, and south sides.
The font, under the north arch of the tower, is octagonal on an octagonal stem; both have sunk panels with uncusped pointed heads, perhaps 13th-century; a wooden cover is of the 17th. The pulpit is of wood, octagonal, with pierced panels of good tracery verging on the Flamboyant, 16th-century. In the chancel is a wooden chest of normal 13th-century form with four chip-carved roundels on its front, about 5 ft. 6 in. long and about 1 ft. by 1 ft. cross-section; the lid, of a single piece of wood, preserves its pin hinges. Two joint-stools, serving as coffin trestles, are inscribed 16 I/T B/P 89. On the north wall of the tower are the royal arms as borne 1702–7.
There are six bells, all cast by Lester & Pack in 1765. (fn. 61)
The church plate includes a silver flagon of 1736, given by Richard Young, and an alms plate of 1804; also a chalice and paten of 1834. (fn. 62)
The parish registers begin in 1565.
Although Midhurst gave its name to a rural deanery, the church remained a chapel of Easebourne (q.v.), whose chaplain was appointed by the prioress. At the Dissolution it passed into the gift of the owners of the Cowdray estate as a perpetual curacy. In 1557 Sir Anthony Browne, as owner of a number of rectories and advowsons, proposed to endow or augment vicarages in all of them, including Midhurst, with the tithes of the rectories, reserving the advowsons. (fn. 63) He also proposed to found two chantries, one at Battle and the other at the altar of St. John the Evangelist in the parish church of Midhurst. The royal licence was duly given on 12 June, but if any steps were taken to carry out the proposals they came to nothing on the death of Queen Mary a little more than a year later. Nearly 200 years later, in 1747, Everard Levitt left £100 for the purchase of lands to augment the living, so that the incumbent should have prayers on Wednesday and Friday. (fn. 64)
Sir David Owen in his will, made in 1530, desired a chantry of two priests to be founded in the church, the priests to be appointed by the Dean of Chichester, the Prioress of Easebourne, and the 'vicar' of Midhurst; (fn. 65) but there is no evidence that this was done.
Michael Bageley, (fn. 66) who represented the borough in Parliament in 1399, in 1422 founded a Brotherhood which supported a morrow-mass priest in Midhurst church. (fn. 67) It held lands yielding £14 10s. 6d. in 1523, (fn. 68) bequests being made to the Brotherhood of the Holy Rood before and after that date. (fn. 69) Two wardens collected the money and accounted for it to the town bailiff; when the seizure of lands given for 'superstitious' purposes was imminent, the 'maisters of the town' caused the lands to be conveyed to them by a new deed and so managed to retain them. (fn. 70)
In 1291 the chapel of St. Denis within the former castle of Midhurst was mentioned, and also the 'chantries of Midhurst in the chapel of St. Thomas'. (fn. 71) The latter was probably the chapel of the Hospitallers, as of the four services which the priest was to celebrate in 1515 two were the feast of St. Thomas (29 December) and his translation (7 July), and the ornaments of the chapel included an alabaster tablet of St. Thomas of Canterbury. (fn. 72)
George Ognell's poor charity was established in 1596 by the said George Ognell, of Crullfield (Warws.), who enfeoffed 12 trustees in tenements, amounting to some 160 acres, in the neighbourhood of Midhurst for the benefit of the poor of that town. It is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 20 February 1880, which appoints a body of trustees to administer the charity and apply the income under various heads for the benefit of deserving and necessitous persons resident in the parish. The annual income amounts to £138 10s. 0d.
John Robinson by his will proved on 2 April 1895 gave to the trustees of Ognell's charity £500 to invest. By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 3 November 1899 it was provided that the income shall be applied by the trustees in the payment of a pension to a poor person who has resided in the parish for not less than five years next preceding the time of his or her appointment. The annual income amounts to £11 14s. 0d.
It is recorded upon the table of benefactions in the church that Henry Crete, by his will, left 10s. a year for 30 poor people of this parish. The charity is now regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 19 April 1929 which provides that the charity shall be administered by the trustees of Ognell's Charity.
Midhurst Town Trust. By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 4 February 1910 it was provided that the properties consisting of the Town Hall, the Market Place, the Pound, and the Parish Stocks, all at Midhurst, shall be administered and managed by a body of trustees therein constituted, and that any residue of income of the trust, after payment of the expenses of management, repairs, and insurance, and all other charges payable in respect of the properties shall be applied by the trustees for some public purpose or purposes in Midhurst to be approved by the Commissioners.
The charity of Henry Court, founded by deed dated 8 May 1869, is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 5 September 1893 as varied by schemes of the said Commissioners dated 2 August 1898 and 4 July 1924. By the scheme of 1893 the Governors for the time being of the Midhurst Grammar School were appointed to be trustees of the charity and it provided that the income shall be applied in apprenticing poor boys, natives of Midhurst, who have always resided there, and who have completed their 13th but not their 15th year, as indoor apprentices. By the scheme of 1898, if proper applicants for indoor apprenticeships are not forthcoming the trustees may apply such income in apprenticing duly qualified poor boys as outdoor apprentices. The annual income of the charity amounts to £27 10s. 2d.
The Revd. Frank Tatchell by his will dated 20 August 1932 devised his freehold cottage at Midhurst known as Mint Cottage to the vicar and churchwardens to be used as a residence of the curate, verger, or other church official for the time being as the vicar may decide.
The testator, by the second codicil to his will, also devised his cottage known as No. 6 Little Ashfield to the Governing Body of the Midhurst Nursing Association to be used as a hostel or residence for the Association's nurses. The property was sold in 1938. The endowment of the charity now consists of a sum of £450 3 per cent. Defence Bonds. By an Order dated 1 June 1943 the Charity Commissioners established a scheme for the regulation of the charity, under which there shall be four managing trustees and the yearly income shall be applied towards the salaries of the nurses of the Midhurst, Easebourne, and West Lavington Nursing Association.
The Pest House charity, founded by Viscount Montague by indenture dated 5 August 1741 is now regulated by schemes of the Charity Commissioners dated 31 January 1899 and 27 February 1911. The scheme of 1899 appointed a body of trustees to administer the charity and directed that the yearly income shall be applied in one or more of the following ways:
1. In contributing towards the maintenance of any Isolation Hospital or Ward which may be established for the parish of Midhurst or otherwise towards the isolation of cases of infectious disease.
2. In contributing towards the maintenance of any Cottage Hospital established for any area comprising the parish of Midhurst, upon such terms, as far as may be, as to enable the trustees to secure the benefits of the hospital for poor patients of the parish.
3. In providing a parish nurse, special nourishment, surgical appliances, assistance in entering convalescent homes, or otherwise for the benefit of the sick poor of the parish.
The annual income amounts to £103 approximately.
The Curfew Charity. It appears from a Report dated 1 June 1860 to the Charity Commissioners that a person (name unknown) having in the olden time lost his way and gained the town of Midhurst by hearing the curfew bell, in gratitude gave a quarter of an acre of land situate in Knockhundred Row, Midhurst, towards the tolling a curfew bell in the parish church, which has since been done at 8 p.m., except during the war.
The Midhurst Curfew Garden Preservation Fund. By a Declaration of Trust dated 18 February 1925 Amy Brooks declared that, being desirous that the Curfew Garden shall not be sold or built upon but shall be held for all time for the purpose of maintaining the ancient custom of ringing the curfew in Midhurst, settled a sum of £180 2½ per cent. Consolidated Stock upon trust, the income (so long as the garden remains unsold and unbuilt upon) to be received by the vicar and churchwardens of Midhurst and applied at their discretion in the following objects or any of them
1. The payment of the ringer of the curfew.
2. The maintenance fencing and other expenses of or concerning the Curfew Garden.
3. The repair of the tower and belfry and of the bell ringing the curfew.
The Declaration of Trust provided that on the sale of the Curfew Garden or in case the same shall be built upon the trust fund shall be held in trust for the National Trust for places of Historical Interest or Natural Beauty.
The annual income amounts to £4 10s.