Itchingfield: Economic history

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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


A P Baggs. C R J Currie. C R Elrington. S M Keeling. A M Rowland, 'Itchingfield: Economic history', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham, (London, 1986), pp. 13-15. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

A P Baggs. C R J Currie. C R Elrington. S M Keeling. A M Rowland. "Itchingfield: Economic history", in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham, (London, 1986) 13-15. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Currie, C R J. Elrington, C R. Keeling, S M. Rowland, A M. "Itchingfield: Economic history", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham, (London, 1986). 13-15. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,


No evidence of open fields has been found; arable fields on Muntham manor in 1297 seem to have been wholly in Findon. (fn. 1) Services of the customary tenants of Muntham at that time included carriage of wood, possibly from Itchingfield to Findon. (fn. 2) Tenants of Sullington-inItchingfield manor had common pasture on the waste in Itchingfield in 1548. (fn. 3) The glebe was wholly inclosed by 1616. (fn. 4)

John Covert had 100 a. of demesne not sown, probably part of Broadbridge manor, in 1340, and the Muntham demesne had 250 a. not sown. Since the Muntham estate was seldom more than 500 a. later, a two-course rotation may be indicated. The ninth of sheep and of lambs was well below that of sheaves in value, suggesting that sheep farming was only of moderate importance, but other recorded tithes reveal fruit growing, dairying, and poultry keeping. (fn. 5)

On Muntham manor in 1297 there were both freeholders and customary tenants, but it is not clear that any of them resided in Itchingfield. (fn. 6) A rental of an unidentified manor in 1375 recorded only freeholds in Itchingfield, of which Simon of Apsley's 50 a. at 'Slaughterland' (perhaps Slaughterford farm) was the largest. (fn. 7) Sullington-in-Itchingfield manor had seven copyholders in 1548; three owed rents of 4s. 4d. or 4s. 8d., two between 6s. and 8s., and two owed 12s. (fn. 8)

In the late 16th century the customs of Sullingtonin-Itchingfield manor were disputed between lord and tenants. The latter claimed that copyholds were inheritable and that the lord sought to dismember the manor. The lord claimed that copyholds were for lives. (fn. 9) A similar suit in 1603 involved the allegation that the lord had conspired to remove the custom book of the manor. (fn. 10) At least one of the holdings concerned had reverted to the lord by 1706. (fn. 11) By 1895 all land was freehold. (fn. 12)

From the mid 16th to the mid 18th century farming was mixed. (fn. 13) The principal crops were wheat and oats, grown in small quantities; one farmer in 1633 grew rye, (fn. 14) but barley was not recorded. A few farmers grew peas or beans, and in the 18th century clover or rotation grass. More common and valuable were cattle keeping and dairying, and a butterman of Itchingfield was mentioned in 1557. (fn. 15) A minority of farmers kept small flocks of sheep; the largest recorded comprised 41 animals. Farms were small. In the early 18th century 34 farms in the parish, occupied by 23 farmers and owned by 17 people, had seats allotted in the parish church. (fn. 16)

When the Shelleys succeeded to the Michells' Stammerham estate in the 18th century (fn. 17) landownership became more concentrated. In 1844 Sir Timothy Shelley owned 1,257 a., more than half the parish, Charles Chitty of Muntham 357 a., Matthew Stanford of Broadbridge in Sullington 243 a., Thomas Barnett 165 a., and William Golds 117 a. Eight owners had between 11 a. and 76 a. each. (fn. 18) The break-up of the Shelley estates from c. 1870 (fn. 19) resulted in a more dispersed pattern of ownership, although much of the Shelleys' lands passed to Christ's Hospital, which owned over 660 a. in 1900. The Muntham estate then covered over 530 a.; there were five owners with between 100 a. and 200 a. each and ten with between 10 a. and 99 a. (fn. 20)

Most farms remained small. In 1844 there were 3 large composite holdings of 407 a., 357 a., and 224 a., 5 of between 100 a. and 200 a., and 15 of between 10 a. and 99 a. The median holding (of those over 10 a.) was 77 a. (fn. 21) In 1870 two large farms had between 200 a. and 300 a. each, 8 had between 100 a. and 200 a., and 15 between 10 a. and 99 a.; the median had risen to 91 a. In the 1880s the Aylesbury Dairy Co. experimented with running the Stammerham estate in Itchingfield and Horsham as a single farm, which had 874 a. in Itchingfield (excluding woodland) in 1889, reduced to 747 a. in 1890. By 1900, however, the parish had reverted to small and medium-sized farms, one of 326 a. and one of 263 a., 5 between 100 a. and 200 a., and 21 between 10 a. and 100 a., the median being 44 a. (fn. 22) In 1950 4 holdings between 200 a. and 300 a. were returned, and 3 between 150 a. and 200 a., but still 11 between 10 a. and 100 a. In the later 20th century much of the land was apparently farmed from outside the parish: thus farms within the parish returned 2,043 a. in 1950 but only 1,265 a. in 1968 and 630 ha. (1,557 a.) in 1975. More than half the land returned in 1975 was owneroccupied; of the 16 holdings, 2 were between 50 ha. and 100 ha., 2 between 100 ha. and 200 ha., and the rest under 50 ha. (fn. 23)

Stock returned in 1803 included 210 sheep, 220 cows, young cattle, and colts, but only 8 fatting oxen, suggesting that dairying was the main livestock enterprise. Since there were 54 draught horses and only two draught oxen, horse ploughing was probably more developed than elsewhere in Sussex. (fn. 24) Perhaps then, and certainly by 1840, the parish was much more prominently arable than in the 17th century: 1,411 a. were in tillage and only 309 a. meadow or pasture. (fn. 25) Covenants on the Muntham estate in the early 19th century restricted corn growing, and a farmer was sued in 1821 for breaching them. (fn. 26) The rotation in 1840 was considered to be wheat, oats, seeds, and fallow. (fn. 27) On Broadbridge farm c. 1870 fallow had been eliminated; rotations of roots, oats or barley, seeds, and wheat were followed on better land, and of wheat, seeds, oats, and trefoil on heavy clay. Altogether more wheat was grown than all other grains and pulses combined. Roots, cabbages, and tares were grown for animal feed; 400 Southdowns and 25-30 Sussex cattle were fattened, and a few dairy cows were kept. Artificial manures were much used. (fn. 28)

By 1875 a swing to pastoral farming had begun in the parish: 411 a. of permanent and 325 a. of rotation grass were returned, compared with 1,054 a. under other crops, which in order of importance included wheat, barley, oats, peas and beans, turnips and mangel-wurzels, and vetches. Some carrots, cabbages, and rape were grown. Altogether 242 sheep, 52 dairy cows, 222 other cattle (mostly young animals), and 119 pigs were returned. (fn. 29) The acreage of permanent grass returned increased to 1,078 in 1905 and 1,580 in 1925. Among arable crops oats increased proportionately at the expense of wheat. Dairying greatly increased, 332 cows and heifers being returned in 1925, but only 54 sheep. (fn. 30) Eggs were produced by the Horsham Poultry Producers Association Ltd. in the 1930s. (fn. 31) By 1950 the usual swing back to arable had reduced permanent grass to 960 a. Crops grown included 245 a. of wheat, 291 a. of oats, 34 a. of potatoes and 21 a. of linseed. (fn. 32) In 1965 most holdings were small dairy farms, keeping mainly Guernseys or Friesians. Three large farms on the higher ground grew corn, and one farmer irrigated his land with water from the Arun, using an elaborate system of perforated tubing. (fn. 33) In 1975 the pattern was probably similar, with barley the chief corn crop. Egg production and pig keeping were then noteworthy activities. (fn. 34) By 1985 farms were shifting to arable, even where land was considered unsuitable. (fn. 35)

In 1851 there were c. 100 farm labourers in the parish; many were paupers. (fn. 36) It was claimed in 1868 that, though 30 years before there was 'a great redundancy of labour', no-one had recently been out of work even in winter for several years. Hours were shorter, and it took three educated men to perform tasks formerly done by two ignorant workers. (fn. 37) In 1896 the population was 'purely agricultural', and in 1903 nearly 99 per cent were said to be wage earners. (fn. 38)

The woodland yielding 5 swine on Muntham manor in 1086 (fn. 39) was presumably on the Itchingfield part of the manor. Some of the woodland for 30 swine on Sullington manor (fn. 40) may also have been in Itchingfield. The value of woodland later is suggested by a grant by Henry Michelborne of 1,000 cords of wood from Rye farm in 1596. (fn. 41) Much woodland remained in the 19th century. On Sharpenhurst farm c. 1800, for example, there were 39 a. of woods including 5 a. of coppice. (fn. 42) In 1840 up to 720 a. of the parish were woodland, (fn. 43) and 594 a. were estimated as woods and hedges for rating purposes in 1864. (fn. 44) In 1900 woodland covered 157 a. around Muntham House, and several farms had woods attached. Some landlords retained woods in hand, partly for sport. (fn. 45) Forestry Commission plantations in Shipley, leased from 1947, provided employment at Barns Green by 1965. (fn. 46) Much woodland survived in Itchingfield in the later 20th century, especially round Muntham and Marlands, near Bashurst in the north-west, and at Shelley's wood north of Sharpenhurst Hill.

Tiles for roofs, flues, and floors were made during the Roman period, perhaps in the 2nd century, at a works on Baystone farm in the north-east part of the parish. (fn. 47) There was a brickyard in the parish in 1850. (fn. 48) Stone for paving was extracted in the late 19th century from pits on the Stammerham and Broadbridge estates. (fn. 49) Otherwise there is little evidence of non-agrarian employment. A joiner was mentioned in 1645 (fn. 50) and a butcher in 1736. (fn. 51) In 1851 there were at Barns Green a grocer, a wheelwright, two shoemakers, and two blacksmiths, and elsewhere an underwood dealer, a cooper, and two bricklayers. (fn. 52) A wood-rake maker was listed in 1862, and two were listed in 1882. (fn. 53) In 1896 there were a builder, a cobbler, a wheelwright, and a blacksmith, and two or three shops at Barns Green. (fn. 54) Two shops and a garage were there in 1965, besides a weaver and until 1973 or later a sculptor. In 1985 there were a newsagent, a post office and stores, a filling station, and a rusted-chassis repairer. Many parishioners were still in domestic service in the 1960s. (fn. 55)


  • 1. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 12235.
  • 2. Ibid. 12236.
  • 3. Horsham Mus. MS. 1842 (MS. cat.).
  • 4. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/25/3 (1615).
  • 5. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 388; above, manors and other estates.
  • 6. W.S.R.O., Add. MSS. 12236-7.
  • 7. Ibid. 12241.
  • 8. Horsham Mus. MS. 1842 (MS. cat.).
  • 9. P.R.O., C 2/Eliz. I/B 32/12; C 2/Eliz. I/S 23/38.
  • 10. Ibid. C 2/Eliz. I/F 2/60.
  • 11. S.A.C. xl. 83.
  • 12. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1895).
  • 13. Para. based mainly on W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/113.
  • 14. Ibid. Ep. I/29/113/6.
  • 15. Wiston Archives, i, p. 86.
  • 16. S.A.C. xl. 82-3.
  • 17. Below, Horsham, manors and other estates (Stammerham).
  • 18. P.R.O., IR 29/35/132.
  • 19. Above, manors and other estates.
  • 20. W.S.R.O., Par. 113/30/58.
  • 21. P.R.O., IR 29/35/132.
  • 22. W.S.R.O., Par. 113/30/25, 41, 58.
  • 23. P.R.O., MAF 68/4327, 5104; M.A.F.F., agric. statistics, 1975.
  • 24. E.S.R.O., LCG/3/EW 2, ff. [1, 6v.].
  • 25. P.R.O., IR 18/10381.
  • 26. Horsham Mus. MS. 464.
  • 27. P.R.O., IR 18/10381.
  • 28. Jnl. of Bath and W. of Eng. Soc. 3rd ser. iii. 32-4.
  • 29. P.R.O., MAF 68/433.
  • 30. Ibid. MAF 68/2143, 3262.
  • 31. Below, pl. facing p. 48.
  • 32. P.R.O., MAF 68/4327.
  • 33. W.S.R.O., MP 775, p. 16.
  • 34. M.A.F.F., agric. statistics, 1975.
  • 35. Local inf.
  • 36. P.R.O., HO 107/1648, ff. 116-28.
  • 37. Rep. Com. on Children and Women in Agric. 77.
  • 38. S.A.C. xl. 80; W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/2 (1903).
  • 39. V.C.H. Suss. i. 450.
  • 40. Ibid. 445.
  • 41. P.R.O., C 2/Eliz. I/E 2/12.
  • 42. Hants R.O., 18 M 51/97.
  • 43. P.R.O., IR 18/10381.
  • 44. S.A.C. xl. 91.
  • 45. W.S.R.O., Par. 113/30/58.
  • 46. Ibid. MP 775, p. 16; below, Shipley, introduction.
  • 47. S.A.C. cviii. 23-38.
  • 48. W.S.R.O., Par. 113/30/8.
  • 49. S.A.C. xl. 81.
  • 50. S.R.S. liv. 80.
  • 51. Ibid. xxviii. 33.
  • 52. P.R.O., HO 107/1648, ff. 116-28.
  • 53. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1862, 1882).
  • 54. S.A.C. xl. 81.
  • 55. W. Suss. Gaz. 29 Nov. 1973; W.S.R.O., MP 775, pp. 8, 20.