A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1986.
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THE PARISH of Shipley, (fn. 1) containing the medieval Knepp castle and known also for its connexion with the Knights Templar, lies 6 miles (9.7 km.) south-west of Horsham. It contained 7,778 a. (3,148 ha.) in 1881 and its area has not been altered since. (fn. 2) Parts of the northwestern and south-eastern boundaries of the parish follow streams, and parts of the eastern and southern boundaries the Horsham-Worthing road. The northern boundary between Shipley and Horsham was fixed by an agreement of 1247 between the Templars and Rusper priory which held Horsham rectory. (fn. 3)
The parish lies chiefly on the Weald clay, but there are outcrops of sandstone and of Paludina limestone (Sussex marble) in the north, and alluvium and river gravels overlie the clay in the west. (fn. 4) The clay was described as 'cold' in 1811, when much of the land on two farms in the north was said to be more suited to timber than agriculture. (fn. 5) The centre of the parish, drained by the river Adur and its tributaries, is low and gently undulating; in the north and south, however, the land reaches 150 ft. (46 metres) and over. The fishing of the Knepp and Grinstead river, presumably meaning the Adur, belonged to the lord of West Grinstead manor in 1497-8, when it was let. (fn. 6) Periodic flooding in the parish was mentioned in 1797 and 1814, (fn. 7) and winter floods still occurred in the 1980s, when the castle was often surrounded by water. (fn. 8)
Four ponds existed in the parish c. 1800. Three were dry in 1983: two which lay south-west and north-east of Bentons Place in the south part of the parish, whose purpose is unknown, and the former hammerpond near Hammer Farm south of Shipley village. The fourth pond, Knepp pond, remained in 1983, when it was one of the largest pieces of inland water in south-east England. It too was a hammerpond, its outlet originally being at the south-east corner. (fn. 9) In the later 17th and earlier 18th centuries, when it was kept in hand by the Carylls, lords of Knepp manor, it was fished regularly on a large scale. In the 1710s it was being stocked with carp and tench, and in 1724 with carp and pike. A Mr. Southwell bought 1,350 fish from it in one transaction in 1716. (fn. 10) In 1787 the pond was let, the lord of Knepp manor reserving 50 of the best carp and six of the largest pike at every fishing of it, besides the right of angling there and of keeping swans and a boat. (fn. 11) By c. 1800 the pond was c. 1 mile (1.6 km.) long, extending northwards to where in 1983 the Billingshurst- Cowfold road ran, and having a new outlet at the south end. The south-eastern arm was enlarged towards the Horsham-Worthing road before 1813, but the northern part of the pond was apparently drained at the construction of the Billingshurst-Cowfold road in the 1820s, and the pond thereafter shrank further during the 19th and earlier 20th centuries. (fn. 12) In 1876 it was 54 a. in extent. (fn. 13) In 1907 carp, tench, pike, perch, and roach were bred there, the Sussex Piscatorial Society, founded in 1891, having access. (fn. 14) The pond was still well stocked with fish in 1979, when 3¾ tons of mostly carp and tench were sold for stocking other waters, and ½ ton of eels for eating. (fn. 15)
The soil of the parish is highly suitable for the growth of oak timber, (fn. 16) and much of it presumably carried woodland in early medieval times, which was used for swine pasture. The Templars in 1308, however, seem only to have had 18 a. of woods in an estate of at least 238 a.; their underwood was then said to be insufficient even for fencing, (fn. 17) and in 1338 was said to have been destroyed, apparently by the Braoses who had been claiming the estate from their successors the Knights Hospitaller. (fn. 18) Medieval and later clearing of the woodland is discussed below. (fn. 19) It was so widespread that by c. 1800 the only remaining woods were three small ones in the north end of the parish. (fn. 20) In 1830 the scarcity of woodland in the parish meant that the poor had great difficulty in finding fuel. (fn. 21) The area of woodland apparently increased during the mid 19th century, and was further expanding in the north-west quarter of the parish c. 1900. (fn. 22) After 1947 some woods in the north were leased to the Forestry Commission. (fn. 23)
There have been three chief parks in the parish: the medieval and the modern Knepp parks, and Hookland park. In addition small parks were created for several late 19th- or early 20th-century gentlemen's houses.
The medieval park attached to Knepp castle apparently existed in the early 12th century, since it was enlarged by William de Braose c. 1145 or before. (fn. 24) The original portion was presumably the 'old [park] beyond the stream which [bounds] Shipley towards the north' mentioned in 1181. (fn. 25) The park was often alternatively called a forest in the later 12th and earlier 13th centuries; (fn. 26) it had, however, a hedge or pale, mentioned from 1201, (fn. 27) the repair of portions of which was a service owed by the tenants of Bentons, (fn. 28) Broadwater, (fn. 29) and Wiston manors, (fn. 30) by the rectors of Shipley and Sompting churches, (fn. 31) and by tenants of other estates in West Grinstead, (fn. 32) Woodmancote, (fn. 33) Kingston by Sea, (fn. 34) Slaugham, (fn. 35) and Henfield. (fn. 36) In the later 15th and earlier 16th centuries Knepp park was considered a bailiwick of St. Leonard's Forest in Lower Beeding. (fn. 37)
The location of the park mentioned in the 12thcentury references noted above is not clear. The gate to the park at Crockhurst, however, mentioned in the mid 13th century, (fn. 38) may be the same as the later Cripplegate on the Shipley-Horsham boundary. (fn. 39) A gate near the 'court' (presumably the manor house) of William of Knepp 'towards' West Grinstead was mentioned in 1330, (fn. 40) and in 1326 and later there was a water mill within the park, (fn. 41) presumably using the same fall of water that was later dammed for Knepp pond. It seems, therefore, that the medieval Knepp park extended north from the castle as far as the northern boundary of the parish. In 1326 it was said to contain 1,000 a. (fn. 42) A further 62 a. of arable land were thrown into it before 1409, (fn. 43) and 9 a. of meadow with adjacent marshland, presumably somewhere near the castle, before 1498. (fn. 44)
In the earlier 13th century, during its forfeiture to King John, Knepp park was hunted intensively, the king sending huntsmen, kennelmen (bernarii), grooms, and fewterers or greyhound keepers, often with large numbers of animals, to hunt deer and wild boar there. (fn. 45) Deer continued to be mentioned in the park throughout its existence; (fn. 46) the size of the herd in 1529 may be gauged from the fact that 93 deer were listed in that year as dead of murrain. (fn. 47) Besides being hunted for the lord's own use, the game in the park was used for presents: in 1234, for instance, Henry III gave 15 does to the archbishop of Canterbury, (fn. 48) and in the earlier 16th century the duke of Norfolk gave does to the archbishop and to the abbess of Syon (Mdx.). (fn. 49) Other game mentioned in 1295 at Knepp park or at Bewbush park in Lower Beeding were hares, rabbits, pheasants, and herons. (fn. 50) The park also provided pasture for cattle and pigs. In 1210, during forfeiture, the Crown received 28s. 7d. for grazing in the park, (fn. 51) and before 1330 William de Braose granted to John of Ifield pasture for all his cattle, swine, and other animals there. (fn. 52) Pannage for pigs was taken in the park until the later 15th century at least. (fn. 53) In 1549 there were at one time 100 fatting oxen and a cow, 53 fatting sheep, and 13 young geldings in the park. (fn. 54)
From the mid 14th century, if not before, the management of the park was in the hands of a keeper or parker. The keeper in 1369 had a house and received 2d. a day wages, besides other fees and profits. (fn. 55) A successor, appointed in 1399 during wardship, was a king's serjeant. (fn. 56) The title of overseer (supervisor), however, held at some date between 1435 and 1461 by Sir Edward Nevill, Lord Bergavenny, and his wife, was presumably honorific. (fn. 57) By 1447 the parker's wages had risen to 3d. a day, (fn. 58) and by 1476 to 4d. (fn. 59) In 1499 and 1529 the office was held by William Burrell, presumably an ancestor, whether direct or collateral, of the later owners of the Knepp estate. (fn. 60) The keeper in 1549 had the right to put 14 beasts, 2 horses, and 10 hogs in the park, while his assistant, called an underkeeper, could put in a smaller number of each. (fn. 61)
The park was still enclosed with a pale in 1547. (fn. 62) Thomas West, Lord de la Warr, during his brief ownership of it between 1549 and 1554, (fn. 63) leased portions to various persons; (fn. 64) it is not clear how far that amounted to disparking, though one tenant had licence to clear trees on a large scale. (fn. 65) The park had apparently been disparked and inclosed by 1610. (fn. 66)
The second medieval park in the parish, Hookland park, occupied high ground in the extreme south of the parish, and seems originally to have been considered as a component of Knepp park. (fn. 67) It was evidently the same as the demesne lands of 'Hoke' which belonged in 1255, with Stock in West Grinstead, to William, Lord Braose (d. 1290); in that year he agreed with various tenants of the rape to forgo their suit at his hundred courts in exchange for their giving up the right to hunt with dogs in both places. (fn. 68) William was granted free warren in 'Hoke' in 1281. (fn. 69) In 1361 Hookland, so called, was let, (fn. 70) as it was in the 15th century; (fn. 71) in 1425 it was described as a wood of 160 a. (fn. 72) A gate called Hookland gate was mentioned in 1538. (fn. 73) In 1660, and perhaps earlier, the park extended into West Grinstead parish. (fn. 74) The park pale remained in 1647 (fn. 75) and possibly in 1733. At the latter date the park comprised 422 a., areas within it being described as the lawn, the paddock, and coney burrows. (fn. 76) There was partial inclosure in the mid 17th century, (fn. 77) but the park was not fully inclosed until a century later. (fn. 78)
A new 'landscape' park was created in the 19th century around Knepp pond for the house called Knepp Castle built c. 1809; (fn. 79) it thus apparently occupied the site of the southern part of the medieval park. (fn. 80) In 1813 there was parkland east of the pond, and by 1825 west of it too. (fn. 81) By 1876 the park had expanded to reach the Horsham-Worthing road on the east and the parallel road on the west. By 1896 it had further expanded on the north, a lodge having been built on the Billingshurst-Cowfold road. Much of the park was returned to agriculture during the Second World War. (fn. 82) In 1965, however, the large numbers of trees on the Knepp estate gave a park-like appearance to the parish in general. (fn. 83)
As in neighbouring parishes most roads in Shipley in the past trended from south to north. The modern Horsham-Worthing road east of Knepp castle is evidently old since it is followed there by the parish boundary; the boundary also follows another section of it further south, which in 1733 was called Basing Lane. (fn. 84) The first-mentioned section evidently served as a drove road, since the lord of Denne manor in Horsham claimed a right of way along it further north in 1650. (fn. 85) It was probably the road which linked Horsham and Knepp in 1324. (fn. 86) Both sections may have formed part of the Horsham-Ashington road mentioned in 1663. (fn. 87) The road through Coolham in the west was evidently a drove road linking Sullington manor with its outliers at Broadbridge Heath near Horsham. Its northern part was presumably the road from Horsham to Slaughter Bridge mentioned in 1511, (fn. 88) and it was called the road from Five Mile Ash (in Thakeham) to Horsham in 1669. (fn. 89) It was considered a major road in 1724. (fn. 90) Slaughter Bridge north of Coolham, apparently commemorating a sloe tree (sloghtre), was mentioned in 1399. (fn. 91) The north-south road leading through the modern village in the centre of the parish, only part of which was metalled in 1983, was called the Horsham to West Tarring road in its southern part in 1464, (fn. 92) and its great width west and north-west of Bentons Place indicates that it too was once a drove road. The section through Hookland park was called Hookland Lane in 1733 (fn. 93) and Oxcopse Lane in 1834. (fn. 94) Beside Blonks Farm further north was Blonks green, an open space inclosed between the 1840s and 1875; (fn. 95) it was presumably the site of Blank (or Blonks) cross, either a crossroads or a wayside cross, mentioned in the mid 16th century. (fn. 96) South-west of Shipley church the road retained stretches of flagstones in 1983. (fn. 97) North of the church it was evidently continued by the twin roads west and east of Newbuildings Place, depicted in 1795, (fn. 98) of which the more westerly, only a track in its northern part in 1983, follows a ridge between Madgeland and Marlpost woods, while the more easterly leads to Marlpost itself, the outlier in Horsham of Tarring manor in West Tarring. (fn. 99) A fourth north-south road was a branch of the modern Horsham-Worthing road from Dial Post in West Grinstead; it bypassed Shipley village on the east and led to Southwater, (fn. 100) and was presumably a route from Washington manor to its outlier at Crockhurst in Horsham. (fn. 101) In 1724 it was considered more important than the modern Horsham-Worthing road. (fn. 102)
A road from Clothalls Farm in West Grinstead to Polespitch south of Coolham and another from Clothalls to Slaughter Bridge were mentioned in 1511. (fn. 103) The winding route followed by both evidently went by way of what was later the hamlet of Whitehall. (fn. 104) The road mentioned in 1663 which led from the modern Horsham-Worthing road to Coolham (fn. 105) was very likely the same road. Another route providing east-west communication followed the modern path through Knepp park and the green lane through Green Street towards Dragons Green hamlet; (fn. 106) the section along the south side of Knepp pond, however, evidently only assumed its present position when the pond bay was created between 1724 and 1777. (fn. 107) There was a road from Coolham westwards towards Billingshurst, running south of the modern road, by 1669. (fn. 108)
The Horsham to West Grinstead road along the eastern boundary of the parish was turnpiked under an Act of 1764, (fn. 109) and its southwards continuation under an Act of 1802. (fn. 110) The parish in general, however, still remained scarcely accessible in winter in the earlier 19th century because of the heavy clay soil. A new east-west road through the parish was constructed under an Act of 1824, partly using existing roads, and linking Coolham with Billingshurst on the west, and with Cowfold on the east by way of Buck Barn on the Horsham-Worthing road. Also turnpiked at the same time were the old road south from Coolham and the road leading north from the new road towards Southwater. Several roads and tracks in the parish were closed as a result, including the road through Green Street hamlet. (fn. 111) The roads turnpiked under the Act of 1824 were disturnpiked in 1867, (fn. 112) and the two sections of the Horsham- Worthing road in 1878 and 1885. (fn. 113) The more northerly section of the latter road near Buck Barn became a dual carriageway in 1965. (fn. 114)
After 1859 the parish was served by Billingshurst station on the 'Mid Sussex' railway, (fn. 115) which was still open in 1983. Between 1861 and 1966 there were also stations on the Horsham-Shoreham branch railway at West Grinstead and Partridge Green in West Grinstead and at Southwater in Horsham. (fn. 116)
At least two sites of settlement in the parish apparently succeeded to seasonal pasture places: Goringlee near Coolham, and Withyham ½ mile (800 metres) north-west of Shipley church. The name Shipley also suggests a pasture place, (fn. 117) and the fact that both a church and a manor bore the name by c. 1080 indicates a focus of settlement. (fn. 118) The place called Shipley a century later cannot be definitely located but seems not to have been near the church; (fn. 119) since no later reference to a vill of Shipley has been found, the central part of the parish may have been included within the vill of Knepp mentioned in 1201 and 1248. (fn. 120) In 1327, however, the Hospitallers' rectory estate around the church was part of Withyham vill, (fn. 121) and in 1397 it was included in the tithing of Apsley in Thakeham. (fn. 122) Bentons manor in the south also evidently lay in Apsley tithing. (fn. 123)
There is no evidence for a medieval nucleated settlement on the site of the modern village. Within ¼ mile (400 metres) of the church are only four surviving buildings of before 1800. A pair of apparently 18th-century houses on the north-west side of the churchyard are timber-framed and clad in brick, hung tiles, and weatherboarding. Church Farm North and Church Farm South are both 17th-century timber-framed buildings clad in various materials, each with a central chimneystack and additions of the 18th century or later. The brick-faced west range of King's Land includes in its centre remains of the hall and south cross wing of a 16th-century Wealden house with crown-post roof; a chimney and an upper floor were inserted in the 17th century, the rear service range was added probably in the 18th century, and other additions and alterations were made between the 18th and 20th centuries. (fn. 124) In the later 19th century the house was used as a shop and post office. (fn. 125) There may have been more buildings in the 1720s, when the word village was used to describe the settlement. (fn. 126) In the earlier 19th century there were only six or seven buildings including the four mentioned above. (fn. 127) With the building nearby to the west of the glebe house and girls' school, however, c. 1848 and in 1858 respectively, (fn. 128) the village began to be more the centre of parish life. More houses were built there after c. 1850, including some estate cottages, and after the Second World War a close of council houses (fn. 129) and one of privately owned houses were built north of the church.
Medieval settlement elsewhere in the parish was scattered. Some farms which existed in the Middle Ages remained farms in the 20th century, (fn. 130) and some medieval farmhouses survive, for instance at Crookhorn, Durrance, and Lackenhurst farms; (fn. 131) at Crookhorn farm the north cross wing survives from a late medieval house, but the hall range was rebuilt in the later 16th century, (fn. 132) while the central east-west range of Lackenhurst incorporates a two-bayed late medieval hall with crown-post roof. More common are isolated farmhouses of the 16th century or later, mostly timber-framed and clad in a variety of materials. Notable examples are Sauceland Farm south of Coolham, which has a red brick front with stone dressings, (fn. 133) and Knepp Mill House below Knepp pond, a two-bayed 17th-century house extended eastwards apparently in the 18th century. Charlwood Barn, north-west of Knepp Mill House, is 17th- or 18th-century.
Post-medieval settlement generally took the form of ribbon development along the chief roads, often by encroachment on waste land beside them. (fn. 134) Many roadside houses of between the 17th and 19th centuries survived in 1983, for instance along the Horsham-Worthing road or the parallel Dial Post to Southwater road.
Sometimes roadside settlement was dense enough to form hamlets. The most important was Coolham, formerly called Coolham Green from the piece of roadside waste land of Thakeham manor there which was inclosed in 1812. (fn. 135) A tenement of Thakeham called Coolham was mentioned in 1626, (fn. 136) and Coolham green in 1663. (fn. 137) A few buildings existed at Coolham in 1724, (fn. 138) but the chief period of growth was the earlier 19th century, perhaps stimulated by the inclosure of the green. By 1850 there were c. 17 buildings, mostly north of the crossroads which had been formed by the building of the turnpike road in the 1820s. (fn. 139) In 1983, when the hamlet had a post office and shop, a garage, and a school, several older buildings survived, including the Selsey Arms of the 17th century with additions of c. 1830, and many small brick cottages, some set back along the edge of the former green.
Another area of settlement was at Dragons Green and Green Street, which formed virtually a single straggling hamlet (fn. 140) until cut in two by the construction of the new turnpike road. The name Green Street was mentioned in 1773, (fn. 141) but the name Dragons or Dragon Green has not been found before 1824. (fn. 142) Several buildings were recorded in the two places in 1795. (fn. 143) About 1847 there were c. 25, besides further ribbon development to the north-west. (fn. 144) In 1983 there were at Green Street a timber-framed farmhouse of the late 16th or the 17th century and two 19th- or 20th-century cottages, and at Dragons Green buildings of various dates, including timberframed houses of the 17th century or earlier, a pair of 19th-century villas, and some 20th-century semidetached houses. Three smaller hamlets which also survived in 1983 were Brooks Green in the northwest, in existence by 1724 and having c. 9 buildings by 1850; Whitehall, south-west of Shipley village, which had one or two buildings in 1795 and c. 5 by 1850; and Broomer's Corner, south-west of Whitehall, where several buildings existed by 1795. (fn. 145)
The 19th and early 20th centuries also saw the conversion of old houses and the building of new ones as gentlemen's residences, accessible first by the new turnpike roads and then by the railway, and made attractive by fine southward views (fn. 146) and good sporting surroundings. (fn. 147) Whereas only one gentleman besides the incumbent and the lessee of Knepp Castle was listed in the parish in 1866, by 1903 there were 16 'private residents' listed, and by 1938 many more. (fn. 148) An example of a new house was Netherwood north-west of Dragons Green, built of local sandstone with prominent gables c. 1890, (fn. 149) while houses rebuilt or converted included Bentons Place, (fn. 150) Sauceland (fn. 151) and Oldhouse Farms (fn. 152) near Coolham, and Floodgates near Knepp pond, remodelled for Sir Merrik Burrell (d. 1957) c. 1927. (fn. 153)
An increase of 40 per cent in the number of houses in the parish in the decade 1831-41 has not been explained. The number of houses fluctuated greatly during the next 50 years. (fn. 154) Shortly before 1867 Mrs. Vernon Harcourt, owner of Goringlee manor and lay impropriatrix, built five pairs of three-bedroomed cottages to house c. 50 people in all; (fn. 155) one pair was evidently the red brick Victoria and Albert cottages built in 1862 in memory of the Prince Consort west of Coolham hamlet, which survived in 1983. (fn. 156) Other cottages were built during the later 19th and 20th centuries on the Knepp Castle estate; in addition one-storeyed weatherboarded cottages were built on the Newbuildings estate by W. S. Blunt, for instance on the Dragons Green to Brooks Green road west of Newbuildings. (fn. 157)
There are no figures for the medieval population of Shipley. (fn. 158) In 1642 there were 170 adult males listed in the parish, (fn. 159) and in 1676 there were 600 adults. (fn. 160) There were 130 families in 1724. (fn. 161) The population in 1801 was 997; thereafter it rose to 1,277 in 1851, falling to 901 in 1901, and rising again to 1,235 in 1981. (fn. 162)
King's Land north-west of Shipley church was called the Ship c. 1805, and may then have been an inn. (fn. 163) The Duke's Head inn at Coolham, formerly the King of Prussia, was described in 1805 as oldestablished and flourishing. (fn. 164) By c. 1847 it had been renamed the Selsey Arms, (fn. 165) as it remained in 1983. The Blacksmith's Arms at Whitehall existed by 1862, (fn. 166) but after 1973 (fn. 167) was renamed the Countryman. The beershop recorded in the parish from 1852 (fn. 168) apparently became the George and Dragon at Dragons Green, mentioned in 1909 (fn. 169) and also surviving in 1983.
There was a parish lending library in 1867, from which c. 40 volumes a fortnight were borrowed. (fn. 170) The former boys' school in Shipley village (fn. 171) was used as a parish hall in 1922. (fn. 172) Coolham village hall, replacing a wooden building on the same site, was opened in 1960, and in 1977 accommodated various social activities. (fn. 173) The name Cricketing field given to a wood beside the Billingshurst-Cowfold road c. 1847 (fn. 174) evidently commemorated a former cricket ground. In 1867 the Shipley cricket team played on Knepp Castle lawn. (fn. 175) That pitch remained in use later, (fn. 176) and Sir Merrik Burrell was captain of the Knepp Castle cricket club in 1907. (fn. 177) Another cricket field at Whitehall was mentioned in 1890. (fn. 178) In 1981 there was a Shipley football club. (fn. 179)
The poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (d. 1922) owned and lived at Newbuildings Place, entertaining there Oscar Wilde, Francis Thompson, William Morris, W. B. Yeats, and Winston Churchill among others; he is buried under an elaborate table tomb in a woodland ride west of the house. (fn. 180) Hilaire Belloc bought King's Land and the adjacent Shipley windmill in 1906, and lived there until his death in 1953. Among fittings he inserted in the house are the large oak staircase in the north wing, while an upstairs room was converted into a Roman Catholic chapel; in the drawing room, however, the drawers, shelves, and racks of the former shop were retained. (fn. 181) The composer John Ireland (d. 1962) is buried in Shipley churchyard.
Eighteen parishioners were pardoned in 1450 for their part in Cade's rebellion. (fn. 182) The tradition, recorded by 1814, of a Civil War skirmish near Knepp castle involving members of the Michell family has not been substantiated. (fn. 183) In the 1810s the so-called Shipley gang of thieves terrorized the neighbourhood, raiding shops, mills, and farms by daylight. (fn. 184)