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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In 1066 Brixi's Thakeham estate was assessed at 20¾ hides and was worth £14; the value later fell to £10 when his successor Morin received it but was again £14 by 1086. The assessment had by then been reduced to 5 hides; that figure may have included Morin's estates at Muntham in Findon, and in Washington, which were then assessed at nothing, representing a reduction of the hidation by four fifths. The estate may also have included Shipley manor. In 1086 it had land for 14 ploughs; the demesne seems to have been relatively small, with 2 ploughs, and 30 villani and 12 bordars had 8 ploughs. There were 16 a. of meadow and woodland for 60 swine. The knight who held under Morin had 5 oxen with 1 bordar. (fn. 1)
Cultivation extended markedly in the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1210 the Crown received more from new purprestures than from the farm of the manor. (fn. 2) Newly ploughed land and assarts at 'Cokeswood' and 'Ricleshurst' were mentioned in 1220. (fn. 3) There was probably land in cultivation at Laybrook in the later 13th century, as that manor was then worth 55s. 4d. (fn. 4)
By the later Middle Ages assarting had produced a predominantly inclosed landscape with traces of open fields. On the Apsley's moiety of Thakeham manor demesne in 1477 inclosed arable exceeded that in the Town field, the only possible open field recorded on that moiety. (fn. 5) At Laybrook c. 1400 all the tenants' land seems to have been cultivated in severalty. (fn. 6) Much pasture remained: thus lands given to Stephen Power's chantry in 1351 included 62 a. of heathy pasture and more pasture for two oxen. (fn. 7) Nevertheless in 1340 the parish was overwhelmingly arable: the ninth of sheaves was worth only 9½ marks as against ½ mark for the ninth of fleeces and lambs, 6s. 6d. for small tithes including those of calves and dairies, and 4s. for pasture tithes. The apparently small scale of stock farming may reflect a shortage of meadow. The hay tithe in 1340 was worth only 20s.; (fn. 8) and only 5 a. of meadow was recorded on the Apsley's moiety of Thakeham in 1477. (fn. 9)
At Laybrook in the early and mid 15th century there was no demesne and apparently no villein service. The number of tenants fell from c. 11 at some earlier date to six c. 1400 and five c. 1454, and rents fell by about a third over all. By c. 1454 one tenant held over 110 a.; three others held from 22 to 35 a. each. (fn. 10)
In 1379 the custom of Thakeham manor was borough English. (fn. 11) Richard Boys, lord of a moiety of that manor, claimed in 1604 that copyholds were not heritable, citing as an example one which had been leased for a term of years in the mid 14th century, let on single lives between 1378 and the early 15th century, and for up to three lives between 1494 and 1572. Boys had put leaseholders into three copyholds and had been sued for allegedly disinheriting the copyholders. Although some witnesses claimed to remember copyholds of inheritance, (fn. 12) the result of the suit is not known. Copyholds continued to be held for lives until 1875 or later. Some heriots were payable in kind, others were fixed in cash. (fn. 13) Entry fines were heavy in the mid 18th century. (fn. 14) On the other moiety copyholds were let for lives from the later 16th to the later 18th century, in the mid 17th century usually for three lives, and by the late 18th for two. (fn. 15) Heriots were payable in kind. (fn. 16)
Farming in the early and mid 17th century was mixed, with a roughly equal balance between tillage and stock keeping. Crops grown, in approximate order of importance, included wheat, oats, peas, barley, tares, beans, french wheat, buckwheat, and rye; several farmers apparently grew hemp, flax, or hops. Flocks and herds were mixed, but cattle were more important than sheep, and dairying than fattening; most larger farmers had cheese-making equipment. Herds of over 10 cattle were not unusual, and one farm had 48 in 1641 and 54 in 1648, excluding working oxen. The largest flocks were of c. 40-50 sheep. Some farmers kept bees. (fn. 17) Customary tenants of Thakeham manor were prohibited from selling straw off the farm without licence. (fn. 18) Common pasture had been stinted by 1649, and in 1654 overseers were appointed to drive away cattle of noncommoners. In 1655 geese were forbidden on the commons, and turbary was stinted at the yearly rate of 1,000 turves for every 10 a. (fn. 19) In the late 17th and early 18th century the relative importance of arable increased, flocks of up to 217 sheep were found, and several farmers grew clover and rotation grasses. (fn. 20) Hop ground in Thakeham was recorded in 1786, (fn. 21) and in the late 1780s and early 1790s flax was grown on Apsley and Mutton's farms. (fn. 22)
In the mid 17th century copyholds on Thakeham manor were held for low quit rents, (fn. 23) only slightly increased by 1694. (fn. 24) In the earlier 18th century Henry Shelley was re-letting lapsed copyholds on his moiety to yearly tenants at rack rents. (fn. 25)
Most farms in the parish were small in the late 18th century. In 1788 only two occupiers were assessed at rentals over £150 a year, one at £123, and five between £50 and £100; by contrast 17 were assessed at between £5 and £50 and 19 at under £5. The six most heavily assessed farmers each occupied several farms, generally in diverse ownership. (fn. 26) The land of Thakeham manor in the parish in 1812 lay divided among c. 29 owners, the Lambs owning 462 a., Henry Shelley's trustees 255 a., 8 others between 10 and 100 a., and the rest less than 10 a. each. The large estates of the duke of Norfolk, the Newtons, and J. A. Dalrymple lay outside the manor. (fn. 27) Most of the surviving common waste in the manor, including Danhill, Furze, Heath, and Greenhurst commons and covering 294 a., mainly in Thakeham, was inclosed in 1812 under an Act of 1808. The Lambs were allotted 28 a. as lords of the manor and 82 a. as landowners, the Shelley trustees 17 a. as lords and 51 a. as owners, and Elizabeth Marlott 25 a. as an owner; 34 other landowners were allotted less than 10 a. each. A further 43 a. was allotted for sale to 10 purchasers. (fn. 28)
Thakeham in 1843 was still a parish of mediumsized and small estates and farms. The largest landowner was the rector, John Hurst, with 397 a. excluding glebe; W. C. Mabbott had 372 a., the duke of Norfolk 338 a., and G. J. Gibson and Cordelia Shelley over 200 a. each. There were five estates of between 100 and 200 a., ten of 10 to 100 a., and 28 under 10 a. Hurst was also the largest farmer, occupying 414 a., one other occupier had over 300 a., one 271 a., six between 100 and 200 a., 20 between 10 and 100 a., and c. 60 under 10 a. The larger farms mostly consisted of several separate parcels often belonging to different owners. (fn. 29) In the later 19th century the Gibsons acquired much of the parish; G. C. Carew-Gibson owned at least 1,126 a. in 1887. (fn. 30) That estate was soon afterwards broken up, (fn. 31) and in 1905 more than two thirds of the farmland was owner-occupied. (fn. 32)
Stock kept in the parish in the early 19th century reflected mixed farming, with more dairying than fattening of sheep or cattle; in 1803 there were 305 sheep, 68 cows, 150 young cattle and colts, 315 swine, and only 6 fattening oxen. Horses were preferred to oxen for draught. (fn. 33) Probably, however, arable farming was more important than dairying then as in 1840, when 1,692 a. were estimated as arable, 700 a. as meadow and pasture, and 358 a. as wood. The main rotations in 1840 were the Norfolk rotation and one of wheat, turnips, oats, and fallow. (fn. 34) The turnips may have been fed to sheep, as on Thakeham Place farm in 1846. (fn. 35) The heavy clay land of much of the parish (fn. 36) rendered drainage important: there was at least one subsoil plough on Danhill farm in 1845, (fn. 37) and in 1887 most of the farms on G. C. Carew-Gibson's estate were described as thoroughly pipe-drained. (fn. 38) By 1855 the growing of hemp or flax was prohibited on Champions farm. (fn. 39)
In 1875 meadow and pasture returned amounted to 586 a. and arable to 2,426 a.; crops returned, in order of acreage, were wheat, turnips and swedes, oats, rotation grass, barley, vetches, pease, mangolds, beans, and potatoes. Of 316 cattle returned, dairy animals were barely more numerous than in 1803; 1,047 sheep and lambs and 231 pigs were returned. (fn. 40) By 1905 arable (1,102 a.) was outweighed by permanent grass (1,632 a.); oats had replaced wheat as the most important crop. The number of cattle had risen to 456, mainly dairy animals and their young, while that of sheep had fallen to 611, mainly fattening stock. (fn. 41) By 1925 sheep farming had been abandoned, while dairying had much increased. (fn. 42) Some farmers specialized in poultry in the 1930s. (fn. 43) The period after the Second World War, as elsewhere, saw the revival of arable, especially barley, which covered 1,153 a. in 1968 and 321 ha. (793 a.) in 1975. Sheep also reappeared, there being 776 in 1975, and largescale production of pigs and poultry (at first fowls, later turkeys) was developed, mainly by A. G. Linfield Ltd.; 9,767 fowls were returned in 1950, 5,533 pigs and 11,795 turkeys in 1968, and 5,310 pigs in 1975. Cattle remained important, and in 1975 one farm was wholly and another mainly devoted to dairying, a third to rearing; 875 animals were returned. (fn. 44) In 1983 Hungerhill farm maintained a herd of Highland cattle. (fn. 45) Farms grew larger in the 20th century, especially after 1950. In 1975 there were ten holdings of under 30 ha., two between 50 and 100 ha., one between 100 and 200 ha., and two between 300 and 500 ha. (fn. 46)
Thakeham's inhabitants in 1834 included 70 farm labourers; 64 of them were needed but from 20 to 40 were unemployed according to season. The weekly wage was 12s., with beer in summer. Annual earnings allegedly averaged £30, perhaps supplemented by about £3 earned by wives, a total inadequate for subsistence. Cottage rents varied from £3 to £5 a year. The quality of labour had been declining. (fn. 47) The weekly wage returned was evidently a maximum: in 1842-3 John Hurst reduced a labourer's wage from 12s. to 9s., alleging a fall in the price of corn. (fn. 48) There were 94 farm labourers in the parish in 1851, and 15 farmers employed 57 of them. (fn. 49) Some seven eighths of the parishioners in 1903 were said to be wage-earners. (fn. 50) A total of 109 farm workers was returned in 1925, (fn. 51) 278 in 1950, (fn. 52) and 637 in 1968. (fn. 53)
The unusual increase in the number of farm workers in the 20th century was mainly due to the growth of market gardening; 9½ a. of market gardens were returned in 1875, and in 1895 there were 6 market gardeners. In 1905 there were returned 6½ a. under small fruit, 3 a. under vegetables, and 20¾ a. of orchards, and in 1925 20 a. of small fruit, and at least 14 a. of vegetables. (fn. 54) The Worthing firm of A. G. Linfield & Sons, noted mushroom growers, acquired land in Thakeham for their Chesswood Nurseries in 1913. (fn. 55) By 1938 Woodside Nurseries had been established, (fn. 56) and by 1946 three nurseries stood between Townhouse farm and Furze common. (fn. 57) Linfield, from 1941 A. G. Linfield Ltd., acquired Abingworth farm in 1945, and by 1960 the firm was the largest mushroom grower in Europe, using manure from its pig and poultry farms and elsewhere, and employing 600 people. It also grew flowers under glass, and vegetables. Its nurseries in Thakeham covered 166 ha. in 1981, growing mushrooms at Willmers, Chesswood, and Abingworth, and chicory, fennel, and crisp lettuce at Chesswood. The 40 ha. of glasshouses for roses and carnations at Chesswood closed in 1982. (fn. 58)
The large commonable woodland of 1086 (fn. 59) was probably reduced by assarting to smaller managed woods, like the 3-a. wood on Apsley manor in 1328. (fn. 60) Woodland provided employment. In 1346 264 hurdles were made at Thakeham for the siege of Calais, and twenty 25-ft. scaling ladders, for which 33 trees were felled. (fn. 61) Two coopers were mentioned c. 1604, (fn. 62) and a sawyer in 1654. (fn. 63) Samuel Lover (d. 1678) seems to have been a master carpenter or timber merchant. (fn. 64) Other craftsmen recorded included a lath cleaver in 1800, (fn. 65) basket makers in 1846 and 1882, and a sawyer in 1852. (fn. 66) There was a timber yard at Laybrook in 1981. There is little evidence of ancient woods, although Great Danhill wood on the parish boundary existed by c. 1806, (fn. 67) and the distribution of woodland changed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some disappeared. A coppice at Slaughter in the north part, mentioned in 1744, (fn. 68) had gone by c. 1806, (fn. 69) and the name Sawpit croft recorded south-west of Picketty Corner in 1812 suggests former woodland there. (fn. 70) A wood east of Strawberry Lane was greatly reduced between c. 1806 and 1875. (fn. 71) New woods grew up: Old House copse was planted apparently shortly before 1778, (fn. 72) and oak trees were sold from it in 1825. (fn. 73) Other copses and plantations were established between c. 1806 and 1875 especially in the north part of the parish; (fn. 74) a new copse was planted at Slaughter between 1875 and 1895. (fn. 75) Timber was available from hedges, which perhaps yielded the 130 oaks auctioned from Thakeham Place in 1822 and the 200 in 1825. (fn. 76) Timber on clay land was described in 1840 as 'kind', but coppice as mainly inferior. (fn. 77) The minimum underwood rotation on Champions farm was fixed at 9 years in 1855. (fn. 78) In 1905 coppices in the parish were returned as 39½ a., plantations as 20½ a., and other woods as ½ a. (fn. 79)
The wool and cloth trades were represented in Thakeham by a wool merchant taxed in 1296, (fn. 80) tailors, (fn. 81) weavers, (fn. 82) and mercers (fn. 83) recorded between the 16th and 19th centuries, and the leather trades by a family of tanners recorded in the 18th (fn. 84) and shoemakers in the 18th and 19th centuries. (fn. 85) A physician practised in Thakeham in 1640. (fn. 86) Retail shops appeared early. Thomas Woolven, a 'salesman' (d. 1718), kept general stores in Thakeham and West Chiltington, (fn. 87) and other shopkeepers were recorded from the 1830s. (fn. 88)
Sandstone was dug for building and roadmaking in the 1840s. (fn. 89) The name Sandpit Cottage on the former Heath common suggests sandworking there before 1875, (fn. 90) and a sandpit auctioned on the Sandgate estate in 1913 (fn. 91) may have been there. More sandpits had been opened in the area by 1946. (fn. 92) The Coolham quarries of Sussex marble, working c. 1903, were apparently near Sprouts Farm. (fn. 93)
A brickmaker was living in Thakeham in 1874, (fn. 94) presumably working at the Carew-Gibsons' brickyard which existed by 1875 north-east of Voakes Farm. (fn. 95) It was advertised for sale in 1887; there were two kilns for 60,000 bricks and a tileshed. (fn. 96) It had closed by 1895. (fn. 97) Several works opened in the 1930s. Thakeham Tiles Ltd. on Heath common was making cement, bricks, and tiles by 1934 and still flourished in 1983. Goose Green Brickfields Ltd. opened a works south of Goosegreen Lane between 1934 and 1938; it had closed by 1957. The Laybrook Brick Co. opened its works east of Little Laybrook Farm in 1934, beginning production in 1935. From 1961 the company was styled Hudsons Laybrook and from 1976 Ibstock Brick Hudsons, and in 1981 was using clay dug on the site to produce 435,000 facing bricks a week, including hand-moulded shaped bricks. It employed c. 70 people in 1982. (fn. 98)
In 1086 a mill on Morin's Thakeham estate was worth 3s. (fn. 99) It may have stood north of Thakeham Place, but is more likely to have been in Shipley parish, (fn. 100) since nothing more is known of a mill in Thakeham.