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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Ashington (fn. 1) lies 2 miles (3.2 km.) north of the north face of the South Downs, and 10 miles (16 km.) south of Horsham. The ancient parish comprised a main part of 554 a. and four detached parts totalling 734 a. (fn. 2) Two of those detached parts, lying at the foot of the South Downs, were small; the other two included the medieval parish of Buncton, united with Ashington in the 15th century. (fn. 3) The main part of Ashington parish until c. 1190 formed part of Washington. (fn. 4)
Between 1882 and 1891 the two small detached portions, comprising 21 a., were added to Washington, and the more southerly of the other two detached portions, of 255 a. and containing Buncton chapel, was added to Wiston parish, by which it was surrounded. In 1891 Ashington contained 1,012 a. (fn. 5) In 1933 the remaining detached part was split between Wiston (315 a.) and Washington (142 a.), but at the same time Ashington was enlarged by the addition of the whole of Warminghurst parish to the west (1,105 a.) and three detached parts of Thakeham to west and north (104 a.), so that in 1951 it contained 1,764 a. (fn. 6) In 1960 the parish was further enlarged by the addition of 50 a. from Wiston and 500 a. from Washington; (fn. 7) the latter area, which contained most of the modern settlement of Ashington, (fn. 8) had been part of the parish for ecclesiastical purposes since 1872. (fn. 9) In 1971 Ashington parish contained 936 ha. (2,313 a.). (fn. 10) The present article deals with the history of the ancient parish until 1816, the date of the inclosure of Ashington common, which straddled the boundary between the main part of the parish and Washington. Thereafter it deals not only with the ancient parish, but also with the development of the modern settlement in the northern part of Washington. The history of the detached parts of Ashington is treated up to the time of their transfer to other parishes.
The southern boundary of the main part of Ashington parish follows the line of the Roman Greensand Way; (fn. 11) the eastern boundary was apparently undefined before the inclosure of 1816, though the boundary on the common between Ashington manor and Chancton manor in Washington had been marked in 1786 by an oak tree. (fn. 12) The eastern boundary as fixed at inclosure apparently divided the land allotted to tenants of Ashington manor from that allotted to tenants of Chancton. (fn. 13) The western boundary in 1848 passed through the brewhouse of West Wolves Farm. (fn. 14) Parts of the boundary of the more northerly of the two larger detached parts are marked by a bank and ditch, (fn. 15) and another part by a stream, while the northern and western boundaries of the detached part containing Buncton chapel follow old roads.
Most of the area of the ancient parish lies on Weald clay, though there is sandstone in the southwest corner of the main part, and also in the former detached part which contains Buncton chapel. (fn. 16) The southern ends of the former detached parts contain the highest land in the parish. East Wolves Farm in the more northerly of the two larger detached parts occupies a prominent knoll. The main part of the ancient parish is generally low-lying, but there is higher land on the sandstone outcrop in the southwest and at Spear Hill in the north. Ashington church and its environs to west and north-west, which remained rural in 1983, are overlooked by the hill on which Warminghurst stands; southwards the main part of the parish is dominated by Chanctonbury Ring. Ashington common, on the Weald clay, besides being a venue for musters in the 17th century, (fn. 17) also served as the site of a fair in 1672 and later. (fn. 18) The main part of the ancient parish and its former detached parts are all drained by streams flowing north, north-east, and east to the river Adur. One stream, possibly the Yokebourne (geoc burna) of the mid 10th century, (fn. 19) provided the power for Ashington water mill; (fn. 20) another flows to join it through a wooded ravine west of Buncton chapel. The woodland yielding 10 swine at Buncton manor in 1086 (fn. 21) presumably lay near the house called Brownhill in the more northerly of the two larger detached parts, since that area was later within Buncton manor. (fn. 22) It remained the most wooded part of the ancient parish between the later 18th century and the later 20th; (fn. 23) in 1782 a Findon timber merchant bought 153 oaks growing on East Wolves farm in one transaction. (fn. 24) In the main part of the parish Ashington manor was said to be very well wooded in 1632. (fn. 25)
The road from Washington to Horsham through the main part of the parish was apparently a medieval drove road; a road from Ashington to Horsham was mentioned in 1663. (fn. 26) The road from Ashington common towards Shipley village, also evidently a drove road, existed in 1464. (fn. 27) A road from Ashington to Handcross in Slaugham was mentioned in 1648. (fn. 28) By the earlier 18th century the common was the meeting place additionally of roads from Billingshurst and from Steyning via Buncton. In the absence of any better east-west route a road from Fittleworth to Cuckfield was indicated through the parish in 1724. (fn. 29) The road from Steyning and Buncton continued across the common and past Ashington church towards Warminghurst, (fn. 30) but the section through the main part of the parish was closed in 1816. (fn. 31) Another north-south road, which like those mentioned earlier served as a medieval drove road, ran along the western boundary of the detached part containing Buncton chapel, partly as a hollow-way, and traversed the detached part further north past the site of the modern Brownhill house. The detached part containing Buncton chapel was crossed from east to west by the Roman Greensand Way (fn. 32) and later by successive alignments of the Steyning-Washington road. (fn. 33)
The Horsham-Washington road south of Ashington village originally passed west of Malthouse Farm; the bypass road east of it was made between 1795 and 1813. (fn. 34) Between 1802 and 1878 the HorshamWashington road was a turnpike; (fn. 35) its straight course across Ashington common was fixed at inclosure in 1816, when branches running west to the church, to the water mill, and to Warminghurst were also fixed in straight courses. (fn. 36) The SteyningWashington road through Buncton was a turnpike between 1810 and 1877. (fn. 37) After the Second World War the Horsham-Washington road became a dual carriageway south of Ashington village; the village, however, suffered greatly in 1983 from continuous through traffic. (fn. 38)
A substantial Roman building existed on the sandstone outcrop south-west of Ashington church, and another south of the Steyning–Washington road near Buncton Manor. (fn. 39)
No medieval buildings except Church Farm House, the former manor house, are known near Ashington church, but a group of old houses stood in Mill Lane 1/8 mile (200 metres) south of the church in 1875. Manor Cottage, which survived in 1983, is a timber-framed building of 17th-century date; The Old Shop, which stood beside it, (fn. 40) was demolished c. 1935. (fn. 41) Cradle Bridge, south of Manor Cottage, is also timber-framed. The houses that grew up within and around the edges of Ashington common, on which encroachments and the building of cottages were presented at the manor court in the 17th and 18th centuries, (fn. 42) lay chiefly in Washington parish, for instance Broadbridge Farm and Well House on the east, the latter dated 1743, the Red Lion inn on the west, and a group of houses at Spear Hill on the north, including the former Holmbush Farm. Westlands Old Farmhouse, formerly Sticker's Farm, north of Holmbush Farm in Ashington parish, has a timber-framed range at the rear and a probably 19thcentury front range. Other 17th-century or earlier buildings, in the south end of the main part of Ashington parish, are Malthouse Farm, timberframed with a painted brick front, the nearby Mitchbourne Farm, also timber-framed, and Normans Cottages, a basically 17th-century building of sandstone with brick dressings. The Mill House in Mill Lane is an 18th-century two-celled cottage extended at the east end.
Between the inclosure of 1816 and c. 1840 many houses which survived in 1983 were built along both sides of the newly laid out high road, (fn. 43) which thus became the centre of Ashington's population, though it remained within Washington parish until 1960. (fn. 44) Some two- and three-storeyed stuccoed villas from that period also survived in 1983 in Rectory Lane, together with houses there and in Church Lane faced with beach flints. Holmbush House, a larger stuccoed villa with its own small park, was built between c. 1840 and 1875 in the angle of Billingshurst and London roads; (fn. 45) both house and park survived in 1983. There was further building in Rectory Lane c. 1900, (fn. 46) but the greatest increases in the number of houses in the parish took place in the 1920s and 30s and after the Second World War. By 1939 much of the high road was flanked by buildings, while others had been put up in Rectory Lane, and a close of council houses built further west. Another road of council houses had been laid out west of the high road by 1957, besides further privately built houses and bungalows in the same area. There was considerable building further south in the 1970s, mostly of cheaper and smaller private houses; (fn. 47) east of the high road, however, there had been no such large-scale building before 1983. By 1973 Ashington was principally a dormitory village, (fn. 48) and in 1981 most of the population was said either to be retired or to work elsewhere. (fn. 49)
At Buncton there may have been a nucleated settlement in 1086, when Buncton manor had more tenants than Ashington manor. (fn. 50) Several paths converged in the later 19th century on Waterlane Barn north-east of Buncton chapel. Earthworks apparently representing house sites were visible in 1983 north-west of the chapel and west of the north-south road which bounds the former detached part on the west. (fn. 51) The settlement was later aligned along that road and the road leading from it to Ashurst, and in 1983 was known as Wiston village. (fn. 52) It had evidently already declined greatly by 1622, when only eight freeholds of Buncton manor remained, mostly outside the parish. (fn. 53) In 1891 only eight houses existed in the former detached part after its incorporation in Wiston; (fn. 54) besides Buncton Manor and Upper Buncton Farm, they included some model cottages south of the Steyning–Washington road, built between c. 1847 and 1875. (fn. 55) In the more northerly of the two larger detached parts settlements was in individual farms: Blackland, later Brownhill (mentioned from 1402), (fn. 56) and East Wolves (from 1608). (fn. 57) The house which existed at Brownhill in 1985 was late 18th- or 19th-century.
Eight people were enumerated at Ashington in 1086, and 26 at Buncton. (fn. 58) No later medieval population figures are available, inhabitants of Ashington being listed under Thakeham or Apsley in Thakeham, (fn. 59) and inhabitants of Buncton under Wiston. (fn. 60) The protestation of 1642 was signed by 37 adult males, (fn. 61) and 73 adult inhabitants were listed in 1676. (fn. 62) There were said to be 20 families in 1724. (fn. 63) From 173 in 1801 (fn. 64) the population rose to 285 in 1831, then fluctuated between 223 and 282 during the next 50 years. In 1841 three quarters of the parishioners lived in Ashington and a quarter in Buncton. The northern part of Washington parish, which included most of the then Ashington village, had c. 280 inhabitants in 1872. (fn. 65) The parish as reduced in area in the 1880s had a population of 219 in 1891; it fell to 179 in 1911, then rose to 229 in 1931. In the area of the parish as constituted in 1933 the population rose from 315 in 1931 to 612 in 1951, and in the area as altered in 1960 it rose from 989 in 1951 to 1,470 in 1971. In 1981 there were 1,728 inhabitants. The youthfulness of the population, unusual for the area, and a consequence of the type of modern housing prevalent in the parish, was remarked on in 1983. (fn. 66)
The field named Alehouse field recorded east of Church Farm c. 1847 (fn. 67) may indicate the site of an alehouse otherwise unknown. In the 19th century two inns faced each other across the newly inclosed Ashington common: the Red Lion and the Swan, of which the former was still an inn in 1983. Both served in the earlier 19th century as posting houses on the London–Worthing road; an advertisement for post horses survived in 1983 on the wall of a former outbuilding of the Swan. (fn. 68) The Red Lion had existed by 1795 (fn. 69) and possibly in the earlier 18th century. (fn. 70) The original inn was presumably the low brick and tilehung building behind the modern inn. The latter was evidently built before the inclosure of 1816 since it lies back from the modern high road; it is apparently of c. 1800, and has three storeys, also in brick and hung tiles. In the earlier 19th century the Red Lion was used for public meetings. (fn. 71) The Swan was built after 1816, since it fronts the new high road, and before 1839. (fn. 72) In 1867 the Ashington manor court was held there, (fn. 73) and in the later 19th century or early 20th the Swan was described both as a family hotel and a temperance hotel. (fn. 74) It closed c. 1920. (fn. 75)
An Ashington cricket team was playing in 1878; (fn. 76) there were both a cricket club and a football club in 1981. (fn. 77) A reading room existed on the west side of the high road between 1909 and 1952. (fn. 78) Playing fields north of Church Lane were sold to the parish in 1948 by A. G. Linfield of Oast House; (fn. 79) a village hall, incorporating an old barn, had been opened there by 1973, (fn. 80) and in 1981 there were many clubs and societies in the village. (fn. 81)
Seven parishioners, including two gentlemen, were pardoned in 1450 for their part in Cade's rebellion. (fn. 85) There were apparently no gentry in the parish in the mid 18th century. (fn. 86) The painter J. R. Reid lived in Ashington in 1878 and depicted the village in his work. (fn. 87) The composer John Ireland was living there in 1922. (fn. 88)