A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 1, Bramber Rape (Southern Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The rape of Bramber lies near the centre of Sussex from east to west, and stretches from the coast to the Surrey border. In geological formation and relief the landscape is very varied. The most prominent feature is the range of chalk downs in the south part rising to nearly 800 ft. To the south lies the fertile coastal plain, where much land has been eroded away by the sea. North of the downs is the rolling sandstone or clay country of the Weald in places rising to over 400 ft. The northern part of the rape was formerly heavily wooded, and much woodland remains. The central and southern parts are drained by the river Adur and its tributaries. In the Middle Ages the river formed a wide estuary, since reclaimed; its mouth was gradually deflected more than 3 miles east but later a new mouth was made at Shoreham. The northern part of the rape is drained by the river Arun and its tributaries, the Arun itself flowing through Horsham. In the downland area the chief building materials were flint, timber, and later brick. Further north local sandstone was used, and sandstone roofing tiles, known as Horsham slates, were used, apparently from the Middle Ages onwards, in the south of the rape besides. (fn. 1)
There is much evidence for prehistoric and Roman settlement in the south part of the rape. That part was also thickly settled in the Saxon and medieval periods, the sandstone ridges north of the downs providing many village sites. Some villages were later deserted or shrank to a few houses or a single farm. The same happened to many of the subordinate hamlets that formerly existed, as a nucleated pattern of settlement replaced one originally more scattered. Many manors in the south of the county had outliers in the north part for transhumance, and perhaps to supply timber, which later developed into permanent settlements. Sometimes the northern outlier remained until the 19th century part of the parish in which the southern manor lay. Wealden parishes were large, and had much scattered settlement, the result of individual assarting in woodland.
In the Middle Ages there were three important towns. Steyning, of Saxon origin, was originally a port on the Adur, but that function was taken away from it by New Shoreham, founded in the late 11th century, and a major port in the 13th century. Bramber is another late-11th-century 'new town', but it was not successful. Horsham grew to importance in the later Middle Ages, and in the 17th and 18th centuries was one of the chief towns of the county. The fourth town of the rape, Worthing, began only c. 1800, at first merely as a resort. The 19th and 20th centuries saw an influx of outsiders throughout the rape, to reside or retire, and in the 20th century many residents travelled daily to work in London or elsewhere. All four towns expanded in the 20th century, but especially Worthing; by 1978 building was practically continuous along the coastline of the rape. The rest of the rape, however, remained largely rural.
The southern part of the rape lay chiefly in open fields in the Middle Ages, but was mostly inclosed early. In the northern part land seems chiefly to have been held severally. By the 17th and 18th centuries much of the rape was within the London market area, and later much of the southern part supplied Worthing and Brighton. The Worthing district was one of the chief market-gardening areas of the country in the late 19th century and the early 20th. Much of the downland was open sheep grazing until its conversion to arable in the 19th or 20th century. The Wealden area has specialized more in cattle-raising and dairying. The chief modern market centres for the rape, besides London, are Brighton, Horsham, and Pulborough. Three industries in past centuries were of more than local importance. The lower Adur valley produced salt between at least the 11th century and the 15th. Wealden ironworking was of less importance than elsewhere in the county, but the export of timber by road and river was an important activity in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The earliest roads followed high ground, notably the ancient east-west roads along the crest of the downs and along the Lower Greensand ridge. A road south of the downs following the line of the modern Chichester-Brighton road also existed in Roman times. Road communications in the Weald clay area were proverbially bad before the turnpike era, though a road between Horsham and Steyning existed in the Middle Ages. Adequate east-west communication in the Weald was provided only under turnpike Acts of the 1820s, (fn. 2) and the coast road between Worthing and Brighton was also not built until the 19th century. The lower reaches of the Adur were apparently crossed only by fords or ferries until after the Norman Conquest, Bramber bridge being built in the late 11th century. There was no bridge lower down the river until Old Shoreham bridge was built in 1782. The Brighton-Chichester railway by way of Shoreham and Worthing was built between 1840 and 1846. Horsham was linked to the London-Brighton railway line in 1848, and lines from Horsham to Pulborough, Shoreham, Guildford, and Dorking, serving much of the rest of the rape, were opened between 1859 and 1867. (fn. 3)
It is now generally agreed that the Sussex rapes as they existed later originated after the Norman Conquest, (fn. 4) though there may have been other divisions of the county called rapes in Saxon times. (fn. 5) Bramber rape had been granted to William de Braose by 1073 when he held in demesne a number of manors in a triangular area between Clapham in the west, Southwick in the east, and Shipley in the north. (fn. 6) There seems no reason to think, as has been stated, (fn. 7) that he received those lands appreciably later than the lords of the other rapes received their lands. The rape was known in the late 11th century by the name of its lord, (fn. 8) and perhaps alternatively as the castelry of Steyning, after its chief town. (fn. 9) There are references of the late 11th century and c. 1139 to the castelry of Bramber; (fn. 10) no reference to the rape of Bramber eo nomine has been found before 1188. (fn. 11) The honor of Bramber was considered to be virtually coterminous with the rape, except in the early 13th century, when an honor or bailiwick of Knepp, presumably corresponding to the northern part of the rape, was mentioned as well. (fn. 12) Some lands outside Sussex were held of the honor, in Surrey, Wiltshire, and Dorset. (fn. 13) It is not clear whether the rape was a true barony. It was, however, called a barony from 1218 or earlier, (fn. 14) and in 1307 it was stated that baronial relief had regularly been paid in the past. (fn. 15)
William de Braose was succeeded between 1093 and 1096 by his son Philip, and Philip between 1134 and 1155 by his son William (d. c. 1192), whose son William lost his lands through confiscation in 1208 and died in 1211. (fn. 16) Between 1210 and 1215 Roland Bloet had the keeping of the rape. (fn. 17) William's second son, (fn. 18) Giles, bishop of Hereford, received the rape in 1215 but died later that year. (fn. 19) In the following year it was restored to Giles's younger brother Reynold. Reynold surrendered it in 1218 to his son William, (fn. 20) and in 1219 was sued for dower in Bramber by Maud de Clare, apparently his father's widow. (fn. 21) In 1226 Reynold and William sold the rape to John de Braose, who had claimed it in 1219-20. (fn. 22) He was son of William (d. 1210), son of William (d. 1211). (fn. 23) After John's death in 1232 dower was assigned in 1234 to his widow Margaret, then wife of Walter de Clifford. (fn. 24) From 1235 (fn. 25) to at least 1242 (fn. 26) the rape was in the keeping of Richard, earl of Cornwall. John's son William, Lord Braose, who had come of age by 1245, (fn. 27) was succeeded in 1290 by his son William (d. 1326).
In 1316 the last William de Braose settled the reversion of the lordship of Bramber on John de Mowbray, Lord Mowbray, (d. 1322), (fn. 28) and his wife Aline, (fn. 29) one of William's daughters and heirs. (fn. 30) In 1324 William granted his life-estate in Bramber to the Crown in return for a pension, (fn. 31) and in the same year Aline granted her reversionary interest to Hugh le Despenser, earl of Winchester, (fn. 32) a grant which having been made under duress was later annulled. (fn. 33) Aline was confirmed in her estates in 1328, (fn. 34) and she and her second husband Richard de Peshale were confirmed in the lordship in 1331, (fn. 35) the year of Aline's death. Aline's son and heir, John de Mowbray, Lord Mowbray, (fn. 36) was lord of the rape apparently in 1332 (fn. 37) and certainly in 1333. (fn. 38) He was succeeded in 1361 by his son John (d. 1368). (fn. 39) Between 1369 (fn. 40) and 1377 (fn. 41) Ralph Basset, Lord Basset, had the keeping of the lands. John's son and heir John, created earl of Nottingham, was succeeded in 1383 by his brother Thomas (d. 1399), created earl of Nottingham in 1383 and duke of Norfolk in 1397. Thomas's son and heir Thomas, earl of Norfolk and Nottingham, was executed in 1405, and the younger Thomas's brother and heir, John, duke of Norfolk, died seised of the lordship in 1432. (fn. 42) Sir John Dalingridge had the keeping in 1405. (fn. 43) John Mowbray's son and heir John, duke of Norfolk, (fn. 44) died in 1461, and the latter's son and heir, of the same forename and title, in 1476, leaving as his heir his daughter Anne, who married Richard Plantagenet, duke of York (d. 1483), and died childless in 1481. A moiety of the lordship had been settled on the duke of York for life, (fn. 45) and on his death that moiety descended to John Howard, created duke of Norfolk, as one of the grandsons of Thomas de Mowbray (d. 1399). (fn. 46) The descent of the other moiety is unknown. On John's death and forfeiture in 1485 the whole barony was granted to Thomas West, Lord de la Warr, (fn. 47) who was recorded as lord of Bramber in 1490, (fn. 48) but in 1491 John's estates were restored to his son Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, (fn. 49) who in 1497 was licensed to convey Bramber to feoffees. (fn. 50) Thomas, created duke of Norfolk in 1514, was succeeded in 1524 by his son Thomas, to whom livery of the lordship was granted in 1546. (fn. 51) On Thomas's forfeiture in 1547 it was granted to Thomas Seymour, Lord Seymour, (fn. 52) attainted in 1549, (fn. 53) but it was restored to Thomas Howard in 1553, the year before his death. His grandson and heir Thomas, duke of Norfolk, forfeited his estates and was executed in 1572, Bramber being granted by the Crown in the same year to William Dix and William Cantrell. (fn. 54) Thomas's son Philip, earl of Arundel, was attainted in 1589. Philip's son Thomas was restored in 1604 to the earldom of Arundel and to his grandfather's baronies, presumably including Bramber, which he held in 1640. (fn. 55) He was created earl of Norfolk in 1644, and died in 1646. Thereafter (fn. 56) the barony descended with the Howards' earldom and (from 1660) dukedom of Norfolk, through Henry Frederick (d. 1652), Thomas (d. 1677), Henry (d. 1684), Henry (d. 1701), Thomas (d. 1732), Edward (d. 1777), Charles (d. 1786), Charles (d. 1815), Bernard Edward (d. 1842), Henry Charles (d. 1856), Henry Granville (d. 1860), who in 1842 took the surname Fitzalan-Howard, Henry (d. 1917), and Bernard Marmaduke (d. 1975)..
A court which was evidently an honor or rape court is recorded from the late 11th or early 12th century (fn. 57) until at least 1651. (fn. 58) There is a court roll of 1383. (fn. 59) The court's first recorded meeting was at Washington, (fn. 60) but later it seems always to have been held at Bramber, evidently at the castle. (fn. 61)
Originally the court's jurisdiction was extensive. In the mid 12th century gifts of lands made to monasteries by tenants of the honor were ratified there, instead of at the shire court, the usual place, (fn. 62) and the earliest case recorded at the court was a dispute over parochial rights in Southwick and Brambleden. (fn. 63) Disputes over land were still being heard there in the late 13th century. (fn. 64) In 1279 the court was being held threeweekly, (fn. 65) replacing the three-weekly hundred courts for those hundreds held with the rape, as also happened in Hastings rape. (fn. 66) Whether separate three-weekly hundred courts had ever existed is not clear, but references to the payment of murdrum fines by Bramber 'hundred' in 1168 and 1169 (fn. 67) indicate that the honor court had hundredal jurisdiction by then.
In 1275 William de Braose was holding pleas of vee de naam and of illegal seizure and detinue. (fn. 68) The other franchises which he successfully claimed in the rape in 1279 were those normally held in private hundreds: assize of bread and of ale (except in Steyning and Broadwater), infangthief and gallows, pillory and tumbrel, together with wreck of the sea and strays; the exercise of those rights, however, was limited to the honor court, the hundred courts being concerned only with the view of frankpledge and doing justice on thieves taken with the mainour. (fn. 69) In 1304 William's son William also claimed moorage dues and cognizance of trespasses of bloodshed in Bramber rape. (fn. 70)
In the 14th and 15th centuries the honor court continued to be held three-weekly. (fn. 71) In 1369 it was described as the foreign court, to distinguish it from the Bramber borough court. (fn. 72) In the late 14th century pleas of debt, trespass, detinue, and covenant are recorded, and several actions were compromised by fine. (fn. 73) In 1399 Broadwater market was being held under licence from the lord of the rape. (fn. 74) In 1468 John, duke of Norfolk, received greatly extended franchises in the rape, including the return of all writs and of summonses, estreats, and precepts, the fines and amercements levied on his men in the king's courts, stolen goods and the goods of felons, fugitives, and outlaws, the right to appoint coroners and clerks of the market, and jurisdiction over Admiralty pleas. Trial for debt or damages, however, was restricted to cases of 40s. or less. (fn. 75) The franchises were confirmed in 1559. (fn. 76)
The court was still held every three weeks in 1651, when it claimed the jurisdiction prescribed in the grant of 1468. (fn. 77) The last record of a case being heard before it is in 1623, (fn. 78) but the nature of the case is not known. In the 18th century a 'liberty court' with jurisdiction over the whole rape was still claimed by the duke of Norfolk. The fiscal privileges of the 1468 grant were also claimed in spite of encroachment by the county sheriff, (fn. 79) and post fines and some fines from the county sessions and assizes were still being received in the 1770s. (fn. 80) In its last years the court was apparently exclusively concerned with the recovery of small debts, and it had disappeared by the end of the century. (fn. 81) As late as the 1930s the dukes of Norfolk claimed foreshore rights in the rape and rights over the bed of the river Adur, (fn. 82) though a claim to right of wreck in Lancing made in 1755 on the basis of 13th- and 14th-century documents was not upheld. (fn. 83)
A private sheriff is recorded in Bramber rape in the late 11th century, (fn. 84) as in the other Sussex rapes and elsewhere. (fn. 85) In later centuries the two main officers of the rape were the steward and the bailiff. The steward held both the honor courts and the twiceyearly hundred courts; (fn. 86) in the mid 16th century he received a salary of 66s. 8d. a year. (fn. 87) Numerous stewards of the 13th century are known by name; (fn. 88) the last known holder of the office was appointed in 1701. (fn. 89) Bailiffs of William de Braose who were apparently bailiffs of the rape are mentioned in 1267 and 1275, (fn. 90) and plural bailiffs of Bramber are again recorded in the 15th century. (fn. 91) Usually, however, there seems to have been one bailiff, whose duty was to collect the profits of both honor and hundred courts, (fn. 92) and who was called the bailiff errant (fn. 93) or foreign bailiff (fn. 94) to distinguish him from the Bramber borough bailiff. In 1369 the bailiff received 60s. a year. (fn. 95) In the mid 15th century the bailiff or bailiffs apparently sometimes executed warrants of the county sheriff. (fn. 96) A bailiff still functioned in the mid 17th century, (fn. 97) but by 1816 when the last recorded holder of the office was appointed (fn. 98) it had presumably become a sinecure. A receiver is recorded between 1281 and 1686. (fn. 99) The receiver of Bramber and Lewes rapes in 1549 was paid 40s. a year and had certain rights of herbage as well. (fn. 100) A master forester of St. Leonard's forest, who was keeper of all chases, parks, and warrens in the rape, was mentioned in 1408. (fn. 101)
Bramber rape comprised the hundreds of Brightford, Burbeach, Grinstead, Patching, Singlecross, Steyning, Tarring, and Tipnoak, and the half-hundreds of East Easwrith, Fishersgate, and Wyndham. Patching, which was in Rieberge (later Poling) hundred in Arundel rape in 1086 (fn. 102) was later considered to belong to Bramber rape with West Tarring, both being archbishop's peculiars, in the same way that Slindon parish was included in Chichester rape. (fn. 103) The three half-hundreds resulted from the division of previously-existing hundreds between Bramber rape and Arundel and Lewes rapes.