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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'Woolbeding', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester, ed. L F Salzman( London, 1953), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp84-87 [accessed 14 July 2024].

'Woolbeding', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester. Edited by L F Salzman( London, 1953), British History Online, accessed July 14, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp84-87.

"Woolbeding". A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester. Ed. L F Salzman(London, 1953), , British History Online. Web. 14 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp84-87.

In this section


The parish, with an area of 1,950 acres and a population in 1931 of 288, is some 4 miles from north to south, with an average breadth of ¾ mile. The hamlet of Radford, at its northern end, was annexed to Linch for ecclesiastical purposes in 1886. (fn. 1) The main village lies at the junction of three lanes in a deep bend of the River Rother, which with a tributary stream forms the western boundary of the parish for about 2 miles. The northern half of the parish is largely common and woodland, and there is another large block of woodland at its southern extremity. From the church, which lies at about 100 ft., the ground rises northwards, at first gradually and then very steeply, to attain a maximum height of 678 ft. on Telegraph Hill on its eastern boundary.

Woolbeding House, north of the church, is a large stone house facing west, built about a middle courtyard (now roofed over) and with a subsidiary wing at the north-east. There is little visible evidence of age, but apparently the original plan was H-shaped and dating from the 16th century or possibly earlier. About 1700 the walls were largely refaced, windows altered, and the wings lengthened eastwards. In the 19th century the east range was built, or rebuilt, and the internal courtyard was closed in and fitted with the main staircase. The interior is of 18th-century and later arrangement, and practically the only ancient detail that survives is a Tudor stone fire-place on the first floor which has a moulded four-centred arch and jambs with moulded base-stops. The west front is recessed 5 ft. in the middle, between the wings, and fitted with Ionic columns to form a shallow portico. The windows are 18th-century sashes and the masonry of uncoursed ashlar, but one indication of the earlier house is the moulded string-course at first-floor level in the face of the south wing; this is moulded, whereas in the other walls are only plain string-courses. The front has 18th-century plastered coving to the eaves. In the north and south elevations the masonry is smaller and earlier than that of the front, and the north side preserves an original two-light mullioned window with doublehollow chamfered jambs and head and a moulded dripstone. In the south front is a projecting chimney-stack of 17th-century red brick (this contains the Tudor fire-place) and there is also a brick doorway with a pediment and middle pedestal. In the attractive garden is a fountain with a figure of Neptune, brought from Cowdray.

A farm-house 2½ miles north of the church on the east side of the road has a 17th-century central chimney-stack of rebated type, but the walls are of later masonry with brick dressings and modern windows.

The bridge over the Rother, south of the church, is of 15th- or 16th-century date but was restored in 1919 (dated). It has four three-centred arches each with three chamfered ribs, and piers with cut-waters on both faces, now reduced at the tops. The roadway is 11 ft. wide between the restored parapets. The walls are of coursed squared rubble.


WOOLBEDING, which had been held of Edward the Confessor by Fulcui, was not included in Earl Roger's rape but was held in 1086 of the king in chief by Odo of Winchester. It was assessed at 6 hides and contained a church, a mill, and 23 acres of meadow. (fn. 2) For a century the descent of the manor is unknown, but it is then found in the hands of a family who took their name from the place. In 1192 Roger fitz Reinfrid had the custody of the heir and lands of Ralph de Wolbedinge and gave it to his own daughter Bonenee. (fn. 3) Seven years later Alan de Wolbedinge paid 30 marks to have the custody and marriage of Ralph's heir, then in ward to Bonenee daughter of Roger, (fn. 4) who had recently lost her husband William de Beumes; (fn. 5) and in 1203 Alan de Wolbedinge paid 50s. to avoid serving abroad 'for his serjeanty'. (fn. 6) This is defined in 1210–12, when Roger de Wolbedinge held a carucate of land in Woolbeding by the old-established serjeanty of 'being ensign (gunfanarius) of Spicheforde', or 'of carrying the ensign (gunfanum) into Hampshire to Sparkeford (in Compton by Winchester)'. (fn. 7) Roger died shortly before 1219, when the serjeanty was valued at 10 marks and defined as 'carrying the infantry colours (vexillum peditum) in the king's army'. (fn. 8) Roger's widow Cecily paid 40 marks for the custody of his land and heir. (fn. 9) Ralph de Wolbedinge held the serjeanty in 1244, when he is recorded to have sold 1 mark rent to Gilbert de Basevile and 24 acres of land to the Prioress of Easebourne. (fn. 10) This was later described as three assarts containing 40 acres in Woolbeding and la Niwode, for the acquisition of which by Alice, then prioress, the convent was pardoned in 1339. (fn. 11) Ralph died in 1265, leaving a widow Agnes, (fn. 12) and a young grandson John, who was in ward to Simon the Draper of Winchester, (fn. 13) his lands being in the custody of Robert Mortimer. (fn. 14) John was evidently still under age in 1275, when the manor was in the hands of Simon (the Draper) of Winchester, (fn. 15) but himself held it in 1278. (fn. 16) He probably died soon afterwards without heirs, and the manor came into the hands of John de Arundel, who was holding it by serjeanty in 1288. (fn. 17) In 1306 John son of John de Arundel granted the manor to Ralph de Camois, (fn. 18) who had a grant of free warren there in 1309. (fn. 19) He seems to have transferred it to William Paynel, who held it at his death in 1316, (fn. 20) when his brother and heir John Paynel sold two-thirds of the manor and the reversion of the other third, held by William's widow Eve, to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, and John de Hastings (his heir). (fn. 21) Although Laurence de Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, was confirmed in his right to the manor of Woolbeding, which his father John had held, in 1346, (fn. 22) the transfer does not seem to have been effective, as in 1338 Maud, daughter and heir of John Paynel, sold the reversion of the manor of Woolbeding held by Eve, widow of William Paynel and then wife of Edward St. John, to Richard, Earl of Arundel. (fn. 23) Eve survived until 1354, when it was recorded that she had held the manor in dower, 'by service of coming before the king with the infantry to the bridge of Shetebrugge and from there carrying a standard to Wolwardebrugge'. (fn. 24) The manor then passed to the Earl of Arundel and descended to Henry, Earl of Arundel, who with his daughter Jane and her husband Lord Lumley, in 1567 sold it to William Aylyng. (fn. 25) He died in 1583 and left the manor of Woolbeding to his daughter Joan, wife of Edmund Gray. (fn. 26) The tenure was then stated to be 'by service of carrying before the lord King a bow without a string and a bolt without feathers whenever the King comes in those parts, namely when he is going to cross to Hampshire from the bridge called Wolversbridge near Midhurst to the bridge of Sheete in Hampshire'. (fn. 27) Margaret, granddaughter of Edmund Gray, married Sir John Mill, bt. (fn. 28) and the manor descended in this family until 1791, when the Rev. Sir Charles Mill sold it to Lord Robert Spencer. (fn. 29) Lord Robert died in 1831 and left the manor to Diana Juliana, wife of the Hon. George Ponsonby, from whom it was inherited in 1873 by her daughter Diana Harriet, wife of Edward Granville George Howard, who became Lord Laverton in 1874. (fn. 30) Lady Laverton died in 1893 and bequeathed the manor to Col. Henry Arthur Lascelles, (fn. 31) who was succeeded in 1913 by his son Edward Charles Ponsonby Lascelles, O.B.E.


The church of ALL SAINTS (fn. 32) stands south of the Manor House, the grounds of which surround the churchyard on three sides. It consists of chancel, south vestry, nave, west tower, and porch to the south of the tower; it is built of stone, the chancel and nave being plastered, and is roofed with tile.

Parish Church of All Saints Woolbeding

Pilaster strips 7 in. by 2 in. on each side of the nave make it clear that this is part of the church mentioned in Domesday Book. (fn. 33) In the 18th century a chancel was built, or repaired; (fn. 34) and in 1727 an agreement was made with the parishioners by which Sir Richard Mill undertook to take down the 'stipple' (evidently a timber-framed belfry at the west end of the nave) and build the tower at a cost of £74 2s.; (fn. 35) the stone bearing the date 1728 now under the west window may record this building, but is not in its original place. The present chancel, vestry, and porch were built in 1870.

The former chancel (fn. 36) was approximately square, and had in its east wall a three-light window with pointed head and uncusped intersecting tracery. There was a flat plaster ceiling with an ornamental cornice and a circular rib in plaster. Before 1870 the chancel arch was pointed, of two orders, the inner being carried on corbels, in the Early English style but probably 19th-century work. (fn. 37) The present chancel has rather diminutive diagonal buttresses at each eastern corner; the east window is of three lights with semi-Perpendicular tracery. In the north wall area is a square-headed two-light window and a door; in the south a piscina and sedilia and an arch opening into the vestry. The chancel arch, of two orders, spanning the whole width of the chancel, is probably coeval. The roof is ceiled with oak boarding in mansard form.

The vestry (1870) has a single two-light window to the south.

On the north of the nave both original 11th-century quoins are visible, on the south both are covered by later work. In the north wall is a single window of two lights, the heads being uncusped pointed arches with no tracery or hood-mould; this window is shown in the Sharpe drawing of about 1815, and, from the tooling, seems to date from 1728. Doorways in this wall, one at the east, and one at the west leading to a gallery, existed before 1870, but have left no visible trace. In the south wall are two windows of like design to, and probably of even date with, the one in the north wall; the interior jambs of the eastern of these are square, not splayed. Between the windows are the inner jambs of a doorway, probably 11th-century, having apparently the remains of a window, now blocked, in the blocking; the outside of this is covered by plaster. Before 1870 there was a small one-light window with pointed head in the west wall north of the tower. The tower arch is of two orders dying away into square jambs, and is modern. There are four ancient tie-beams with braced wall-pieces resting on corbels; the rest of the roof-framing is covered by a modern board ceiling in mansard form. A modern screen between the chancel and the nave includes in the former a few feet of what is structurally the latter.

The tower, of 1728, has diagonal buttresses at both western corners. In the west wall was, till 1870, a window of two lights with uncusped semicircular heads over a plain semicircular-headed west door; the window was doubtless, the door probably, of 1728, though it is possible that it was an 11th-century doorway re-used. (fn. 38) In place of these there is now a two-light window with Perpendicular tracery. Under this, on the outside, besides the date-stone already mentioned, are stones bearing the names or initials of eleven members of the Mill family; the date-stone may have been removed from the former chancel, the others are said to have marked graves. In the north wall of the tower a modern arch of two orders resting on square jambs leads to the porch.

The next stage of the tower has two modern single-light windows with cinquefoiled heads opening into the nave; the uppermost stage has a single-light roundheaded window (of 1728) on each of the north, west, and south sides. The tower is finished with eight diminutive pinnacles, somewhat reminiscent of the finials of the wooden newel-posts of a staircase.

The porch (1870) has a two-light window in the west wall and a doorway in the north.

On the south wall of the chancel is the former reredos, evidently dating from 1728, having the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer painted on one large wooden panel set in a narrow carved frame. The altar rails, probably coeval, are of mahogany and have slender turned balusters between moulded top and bottom rails, each pier being formed of a group of four similar balusters set close together. The other fittings are modern.

The east window of the 18th-century chancel was filled with stained glass brought at about the same time from Mottisfont Priory by Sir Henry Mille, rector. Part of this glass is now in the north window of the chancel, and part in the western window in the south wall of the nave. An angel flying among clouds, two men in a Roman type of armour fighting one another, and a hammer and pincers lying on the ground are in the former; in the latter one panel shows men (without nimbi) kneeling, in the background a standing figure (the head missing) apparently making a discourse, perhaps this represents the Disputation in the Temple; another appears to be part of the Entombment; another has a nimbed figure sleeping, perhaps part of a representation of the Agony in the Garden; another a woman (probably nimbed) in blue kirtle and white mantle with hands outspread, kneeling before a prayer-desk, while behind an old man holds a book, the subject obviously being the Magnificat. (fn. 39) On the floor of the tower is a taper-sided gravestone with double-ended cross, of the 13th century, and on that of the porch are fragments of the casements of brasses, one of the 15th century.

Of the three bells (fn. 40) one is medieval, of uncertain origin, another is by Robert Tapsil, 1616, and the third bears the date 1665.

The communion plate (fn. 41) includes a chalice of 1634, a paten of c. 1700, and a silver tankard-shaped flagon, given by Elizabeth, widow of Humphrey Otway, rector, (fn. 42) in 1703.

The registers of burials begin in 1548, those of marriages in 1556, and of baptisms in 1570.


The advowson has descended continuously with the manor. In 1291 the rectory was valued at £5, (fn. 43) and in 1535 at £7 0s. 9d. (fn. 44)


  • 1. Kelly, Direct. of Suss.
  • 2. V.C.H. Suss., i, 450. In 1278 it was claimed by the men of the manor that it was ancient demesne: Add. MS. 39373, fol. 53, citing De Banco R. Mich. 6–7 Edw. I, no. 36.
  • 3. Pipe R. 3 Ric. I (Pipe R. Soc.), 60.
  • 4. Pipe R. 1 John (Pipe R. Soc.), 128.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Pipe R. 4 John (Pipe R. Soc.), 142; cf. Bk. of Fees, 340.
  • 7. Red. Bk. of Exch. 556; Bk. of Fees, 71.
  • 8. Ibid. 272; cf. ibid. 1413.
  • 9. Exc. e Rot. Fin. i, 9.
  • 10. Ibid. 1153. The ninth part of the corn from this land was worth 5s. in 1340: Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 363.
  • 11. Cal. Pat. 1338–40, p. 177. The land was only worth 6s. 8d., being poor heathland: Cal. Inq. Misc. ii, 530.
  • 12. Curia Regis R. 176, m. 4.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Ibid.; Cal. Pat. 1258–66, p. 441.
  • 15. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii, 212.
  • 16. Assize R. 921, m. 21.
  • 17. Assize R. 924, m. 67d. Cf. Cal. Pat. 1330–4, p. 246.
  • 18. De Banco R. 159, m. 258d.
  • 19. Cal. Chart. R. 1300–26, p. 127.
  • 20. Pipe R. 11 Edw. II.
  • 21. Cal. Pat. 1313–17, p. 658; ibid. 1317–21, p. 415; Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii, 1563. In 1333 Eve and her then husband Edward St. John recovered her dower here against Laurence de Hastings, the king's ward: Cal. Close, 1333–7, p. 67.
  • 22. Ibid. 1346–9, p. 127.
  • 23. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii, 1864.
  • 24. Enrd. Esch. Accts. 3, no. 60.
  • 25. Suss. Rec. Soc. xx, 503.
  • 26. Ibid. iii. 159.
  • 27. Ibid. 160. This form of the serjeanty occurs also in 1337: Cal. Inq. Misc. ii, 530.
  • 28. Berry, Suss. Gen. 208.
  • 29. Close 31 Geo. III, pt. 30, m. 5.
  • 30. Add. MS. 39432, fol. 16.
  • 31. Add. MS. 39469, fol. 348.
  • 32. Suss. Rec. Soc. xlv, 413.
  • 33. V.C.H. Suss. i, 450.
  • 34. Dallaway, iii, 236.
  • 35. Par. Reg. vol. ii, fol. 33.
  • 36. There is a view of the church from the north-east, dated 1791 by S. H. Grimm in Add. MS. 5675, fol. 95.
  • 37. Photograph in the possession of Mrs. Lascelles of Woolbeding Manor.
  • 38. The Sharpe drawing suggests that this had a four-centred or elliptical arch; but a photograph in the possession of Mrs. Lascelles proves it to have been semicircular.
  • 39. A coloured drawing (not very accurate) of the glass as it was in c. 1790 is in Add. MS. 5675, fol. 24.
  • 40. Suss. Arch. Coll. xvi, 230; lvii, 21.
  • 41. Ibid. liv, 191.
  • 42. He was father of Thomas Otway, the poet.
  • 43. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 134.
  • 44. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 325.