Ashington: 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.

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A P Baggs. C R J Currie. C R Elrington. S M Keeling. A M Rowland, 'Ashington: Economic history', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham, (London, 1986) pp. 67-70. British History Online [accessed 21 May 2024].

A P Baggs. C R J Currie. C R Elrington. S M Keeling. A M Rowland. "Ashington: Economic history", in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham, (London, 1986) 67-70. British History Online, accessed May 21, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Currie, C R J. Elrington, C R. Keeling, S M. Rowland, A M. "Ashington: Economic history", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham, (London, 1986). 67-70. British History Online. Web. 21 May 2024,


Both Ashington and Buncton manors had demesne farms in 1086. (fn. 1) That of Ashington manor was leased in 1528, (fn. 2) and that of Buncton was held on a 21-year lease in 1622. (fn. 3) Blackland (later Brownhill) farm in the more northerly of the two larger detached parts of the parish belonged to the Buncton manor demesne until alienated in 1614-15. (fn. 4) In 1622 the Buncton demesne farm had 165 a., (fn. 5) but in 1639 only 135 a. (fn. 6) The Ashington demesne farm was called Church farm in 1672 (fn. 7) and Court farm in 1701, when it had 160 a. (fn. 8) About 1835 Lower Buncton farm formed part of the Wiston home farm of 764 a.; Upper Buncton farm then comprised 158 a. (fn. 9)

There were 6 villani and 2 bordars on Ashington manor in 1086, and 19 villani and 7 bordars on Buncton manor. (fn. 10) Two tenants of Buncton were mentioned in 1347-8, (fn. 11) and in 1574 land in Shipley was held of the manor. (fn. 12) By 1622 only eight freeholds were left, chiefly in Nuthurst, West Grinstead, and Ashurst; most other land within the manor then belonged to the demesne farm, at least one copyhold having been engrossed recently. (fn. 13) Tenants of Ashington were recorded between the 17th and 19th centuries. In 1625 there were at least 12. By 1720 there were c. 31 tenements, including cottages which had been built on the manor wastes. (fn. 14) In the 18th and earlier 19th centuries cottages and other encroachments on the waste could be held freehold, copyhold, or leasehold. (fn. 15) In the 17th century a bull and a boar were kept at Church farm for the use of the tenants. (fn. 16) Freebench and borough English obtained on copyholds of Ashington manor in the later 18th century. (fn. 17) In the 1880s the duke of Norfolk was attempting to maximize his income from the manor by claiming quit rents whose payment had lapsed; (fn. 18) enfranchisement of copyholds was also going on at the same period. (fn. 19) The bounds of Ashington manor were still perambulated in 1848. (fn. 20) One other manor extended into the parish: Chancton manor in Washington, which lay between the main part of Ashington and its detached parts to the east, and of which East Wolves farm in the more northerly of the two larger detached parts was held; (fn. 21) in 1724 East Wolves had 71 a. in Ashington and Washington. (fn. 22)

Mitchbourne farm south-west of Ashington church perhaps commemorates the Michelborne family recorded locally in 1296. (fn. 23) The farms in the more northerly of the two larger detached parts of the parish evidently originated as assarts from woodland. (fn. 24) In 1830 all farms in the parish were under 125 a. in area. (fn. 25)

There was land for three ploughteams at Ashington manor in 1086, and for five at Buncton manor. (fn. 26) Only one open field is known at Ashington; called either the common field (fn. 27) or the town field, (fn. 28) it lay in the south-west corner of the main part of the parish, west of the road to Washington, and some distance from the church and manor house. (fn. 29) Subdivisions of it were the Great and Little town fields and the south and west furlongs. (fn. 30) In the 17th century the lord of the manor had the right to put 9 cows and a bull into it, at times of common pasture, 24 hours before the tenants. (fn. 31) Common pasture rights were still said to be exercised over the field in 1813, (fn. 32) when it remained mostly uninclosed. It was inclosed in 1816. (fn. 33) Land in the field of Buncton called the Hedge acre was mentioned c. 1270. (fn. 34) A close called Common field in the earlier 19th century, (fn. 35) and the common c. 1847, (fn. 36) which lay north of Upper Buncton farm, may be its site. No other reference to it has been found. Closes called Inhams and Little Inhams named on the south-west border of the main part of the parish c. 1847 presumably represent medieval or later assarts from waste land. (fn. 37) At Lower Buncton farm in 1639 there was twice as much arable land as meadow or pasture. (fn. 38) Upper Buncton farm in the earlier 19th century had a similarly high proportion of arable (fn. 39) Crops grown in the parish in the 17th and 18th centuries included wheat, wheat and rye, barley, peas, and oats. (fn. 40) Clover was mentioned in 1725 (fn. 41) and at Buncton in the 1770s. (fn. 42)

Stock kept during the same period included cattle, sheep, and pigs; a flock of 62 sheep was mentioned in 1614 and one of 47 in 1695. (fn. 43) In the main part of the parish pasture was provided chiefly on Ashington common, (fn. 44) which was carefully conserved. (fn. 45) In 1809 there were 13 commoners of Ashington manor there, all freeholders, besides commoners of Chancton manor, including the tenant of East Wolves farm; tenants of land or cottages granted from the waste, however, had no pasture rights. (fn. 46) A town mead, alternatively called the common mead, at Ashington was mentioned in 1618 when the tenants of the manor complained that it had not been 'laid up' for them according to custom. (fn. 47) It was presumably the Dole mead north-west of the church recorded in the later 18th and the 19th century. (fn. 48) Doles or 'cuts' in the common mead were mentioned as belonging to various estates in the 17th and 18th centuries. (fn. 49) The common wastes of Ashington and Chancton manors were inclosed in 1816, together with Ashington common field and the common mead. Twenty commoners of the manor, including the rector, received allotments; most were under 10 a. in area, but the lady of West Wolves manor received 17 a. and Charles Goring of Wiston 15 a. (fn. 50)

Buncton green and the Mill or Middle common in Buncton, mentioned in the 17th century, may have been waste lands of Buncton manor; (fn. 51) no more is heard of them.

About 1847 the three largest estates in the parish were those of Charles Goring (372 a.), Sir Charles Burrell (156 a.), and W. W. Richardson (224 a.). Of the larger farms only Lower Buncton and Frenchland, belonging to Goring and Richardson respectively, were in hand; most were apparently small, though Church farm had 149 a. (fn. 52) Church farm remained larger than other farms in the parish in the earlier 20th century. (fn. 53) In 1909 there was nearly four times as much rented land as land in owner occupation, and only six holdings were over 50 a. in area. (fn. 54) The character of farming in the parish in the later 19th and the 20th century was mixed, with an increasing proportion of pasture to arable. In 1847 there was more than twice as much arable as pasture and meadow in the ancient parish, (fn. 55) and in 1875, when wheat, oats, and turnips and swedes were the chief crops, only a sixth of the parish was under permanent grass. By 1909 the proportion had risen to more than half, the number of cattle listed having increased between the two dates, despite the reduction in the parish's area, from 108 to 276. (fn. 56) A dairyman was recorded in 1882, and a cattle dealer in 1913. (fn. 57) There were three specialist dairy holdings in the modern parish in 1975. (fn. 58) Broadbridge farm east of Ashington village had cattle in 1983, and Whitelands farm 140 cattle and 120 breeding ewes. (fn. 59)

Two closes south-west of Malthouse Farm were market-garden land in 1875. (fn. 60) The site later belonged to Ashington Nurseries Ltd., described in the 1930s as nurserymen, seedsmen, and florists; by that date there were large premises, with glasshouses. (fn. 61) In 1983 the site was occupied by A. G. Linfield Ltd. Two market gardeners were listed in the parish in 1909, and a fruit grower in 1927. (fn. 62) An orchard was depicted on the north side of Rectory Lane in 1909; by the late 1930s there were also nurseries west of the rectory in the same road and at the north end of the village. (fn. 63) The nurseries west of the rectory survived in 1983. In 1909 there were 16¼ a. of orchards, growing chiefly apples and plums, and 4½ a. of small fruit, namely strawberries, currants, and gooseberries. (fn. 64)

A water mill was recorded at Buncton in 1086 (fn. 65) and in the mid 14th century; (fn. 66) its site seems likely to have been east or south of Buncton Manor. (fn. 67) Mill common and Mill field at Buncton manor were named in 1622. (fn. 68) A mill at Ashington was mentioned from 1538, (fn. 69) and a water mill from 1632; (fn. 70) it was perhaps worked by the miller named in 1751, (fn. 71) and was probably on the site 300 yd. (275 metres) south-east of the church where a water mill was recorded from 1780. (fn. 72) Water power ceased to be used c. 1920, (fn. 73) and the mill pond was later drained, part being built over. (fn. 74) In 1973 the mill was driven by diesel and electric power. The mill building, apparently of the late 18th century, was burnt down in 1974. The firm of C. Muddle and Son which then occupied the site was distributing animal feed over a radius of 10 to 12 miles in 1973, when seven or eight men were employed; (fn. 75) it continued to manufacture animal feed in 1983. A windmill on Ashington common south of the modern Rectory Lane existed between 1723 and 1813 or later, (fn. 76) but had gone by c. 1847. (fn. 77) In 1783 it was held with the water mill. (fn. 78)

An annual fair on 29 June was being held on Ashington common in 1672, the lord of Ashington manor receiving the profits of tolls and 'shewpence'. (fn. 79) In the later 18th century the date was variously given as 29 June and 21 July, sheep and cattle being among items sold. (fn. 80) About 1810, when Welsh cattle were sold, profits were said to have recently been very small. (fn. 81) By that date the fair was partly a pleasure fair, (fn. 82) and no more is heard of it. There was a close called Fair piece or Ashington fair place south-east of the church in the 19th century. (fn. 83)

The surnames Potter and Smith were recorded in the 14th century; (fn. 84) there was a carpenter in the parish in 1450, (fn. 85) and a tanner in the later 16th century. (fn. 86) Tradesmen recorded in the 17th and 18th centuries included wheelwrights, (fn. 87) shoemakers, (fn. 88) a maltster, (fn. 89) tanners, a joiner, (fn. 90) and two shopkeepers, one of whom sold haberdashery. (fn. 91) In 1811 one in eleven families in the parish in work were supported mainly by trade, and in 1831 nearly one in five. (fn. 92) From the mid 19th century many more tradesmen were recorded, especially in the high road of Ashington village; (fn. 93) besides the usual ones for a mediumsized village there were a bricklayer in 1874, a carrier in 1905, a saddler in 1907, and a cycle repairer in 1909; a physician and surgeon visited the parish in 1918. There were three grocers in 1909 and 1927; at the latter date there were also a farrier, a dressmaker, an undertaker, and a timber merchant, besides a motor works.

After c. 1900 the type of trade and business to be found in Ashington village was greatly influenced by the resurgence of road transport. There were tea rooms at the Swan inn and elsewhere in the earlier 20th century, and a café in 1930. (fn. 94) Mill House south of the mill was a boarding house in 1913, (fn. 95) and a hotel in 1973 (fn. 96) and 1983. In 1977 there were a café and two restaurants, (fn. 97) and in 1981 the former Swan inn building was used as a restaurant and night club. (fn. 98) There was a caravan park at West Wolves in 1973 (fn. 99) and later. In 1977 many of the businesses to be found in the high road served a wider area than the village and parish, benefiting both from good road access and from prime sites for advertisement; they included a farm supplier, a saddler, a hardware and garden stores, a cabinet maker, and a firm dealing in swimming pools, besides a motor dealer. There were also then two garages, two general stores, a butcher, a hairdresser, and a doctor's surgery in the village. (fn. 100) Other businesses outside the village in the 1970s or 1980s were a stud and riding establishment at West Wolves farm, a cactus nursery on the road to Billingshurst, which had been started c. 1956, and a trout farm at Malthouse farm. (fn. 101)

Large brick kilns were recorded north of Brownhill in the more northerly of the two larger detached parts c. 1847. (fn. 102)


  • 1. V.C.H. Suss. i. 449-50.
  • 2. Arundel Cast. MS. HC 292, rot. [1].
  • 3. W.S.R.O., Wiston MS. 4952, ff. 261-2.
  • 4. Ibid. f. 262; Wiston Archives, pp. 12, 56-7, 243; cf. Arundel Cast. MS. M 280, m. 2; Cal. Close, 1399-1402, 576, locating Blackland in Buncton par.; the ho. called Frenchland, which also belonged to the Buncton man. demesne, and of which the lands extended into the par., lay just over the border in Wiston: Wiston Archives, i, pp. 17, 56, 243; O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXXVII (1879 edn.).
  • 5. W.S.R.O., Wiston MS. 4952, f. 261.
  • 6. Ibid. 5591.
  • 7. Arundel Cast. MS. M 53, p. 33.
  • 8. W.S.R.O., S.A.S. MS. BA 337 (TS. cat.).
  • 9. Ibid. Wiston MSS. 5631, 5636; for the date of the maps, V.C.H. Suss. vi (1), 254 n. 15.
  • 10. V.C.H. Suss. i. 449-50.
  • 11. S.R.S. xxiii, p. 121.
  • 12. Ibid. iii, p. 89.
  • 13. W.S.R.O., Wiston MS. 4952, ff. 259, 261-2.
  • 14. Arundel Cast. MSS. HC 76, rentals, 1625, 1681, 1698, 1700, 1720; 77, rentals, 1720-1844.
  • 15. Ibid. HC 84; ibid. M 53, pp. 70, 122-5; Arundel Cast. Archives, iii, p. 58.
  • 16. Arundel Cast. MS. M 53, pp. 15, 19, 33.
  • 17. B.L. Add. MS. 5686, ff. 26, 51.
  • 18. Arundel Cast. MS. HC 74.
  • 19. Ibid. M 53, pp. 183-9; Wiston Archives, i, p. 15.
  • 20. Arundel Cast. MS. HC 85.
  • 21. P.R.O., C 142/315, no. 175; cf. W.S.R.O., HolmesCampbell MS. 546.
  • 22. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 2033.
  • 23. P.N. Suss. (E.P.N.S.), i. 183; cf. P.R.O., C 142/75, no. 66.
  • 24. Cf. above, introduction.
  • 25. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 259.
  • 26. V.C.H. Suss. i. 449-50.
  • 27. Arundel Cast. MS. M 279, rot. 2.
  • 28. Ibid. M 53, p. 11; W.S.R.O., QDD/6/W 10; ibid. TD/W 6.
  • 29. W.S.R.O., TD/W 6. Other closes called Common field c. 1847 were apparently only closes beside Ashington com.: ibid.
  • 30. Ibid. PHA 3596; ibid. TD/W 6; Wiston Archives, i, p. 7.
  • 31. Arundel Cast. MS. M 53, pp. 11, 15, 33.
  • 32. 53 Geo. III, c. 26 (Local and Personal).
  • 33. Below.
  • 34. K.A.O., U 1475/T 300/1; Hist. MSS. Com. 77, De L'Isle and Dudley, i, p. 23.
  • 35. W.S.R.O., Wiston MSS. 4186-7.
  • 36. Ibid. TD/W 6.
  • 37. Ibid.; cf. Wiston Archives, i, p. 197; Arundel Cast. MS. M 53, p. 70; P.N. Suss. (E.P.N.S.), i. 29-30.
  • 38. W.S.R.O., Wiston MS. 5591.
  • 39. Ibid. 4186-7, 5631; cf. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 259.
  • 40. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/9, passim; cf. ibid. Wiston MS. 4952, f. 261.
  • 41. Ibid. Ep. I/29/9/42.
  • 42. P.R.O., E 126/30, Trin. 11 Geo. III, no. 15.
  • 43. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/9, passim.
  • 44. e.g. Wiston Archives, i, p. 7; cf. Gardner, Suss. Map (1778-83).
  • 45. Arundel Cast. MS. M 53, passim.
  • 46. Ibid. HC 84. Spear Hill com., mentioned then, was the northern part of Ashington com.
  • 47. Ibid. M 53, pp. 15, 19; Horsham Mus. MS. 1858 (MS. cat.); P.R.O., C 142/701, no. 7.
  • 48. Arundel Cast. MS M 53, p. 114: W.S.R.O., QDD/ 6/W 10; ibid. TD/W 6.
  • 49. Arundel Cast. MS. M 53, p. 122; Horsham Mus. MS. 1858 (MS. cat.); P.R.O., C 142/701, no. 7; Wiston Archives, i, p. 196.
  • 50. W.S.R.O., QDD/6/W 10.
  • 51. Wiston Archives, i, p. 277; W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 4514 (TS. cat.); ibid. Wiston MS. 4952, f. 261.
  • 52. W.S.R.O., TD/W 6.
  • 53. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1927); cf. W.S.R.O., Hurst MSS., sale cat. 1874; ibid. SP 614.
  • 54. P.R.O., MAF 68/2371.
  • 55. W.S.R.O., TD/W 6.
  • 56. P.R.O., MAF 68/433, 2371.
  • 57. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1882, 1913).
  • 58. M.A.F.F., agric. statistics, 1975.
  • 59. Inf. from Mr. P. Owen, Whitelands Fm.
  • 60. O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXXVII (1879 edn.).
  • 61. Ibid. XXXVII. SW. (1898 and later edns.); Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1934, 1938).
  • 62. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1909, 1927).
  • 63. O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXXVII. SW. (1914, 1952 edns.).
  • 64. P.R.O., MAF 68/2371.
  • 65. V.C.H. Suss. i. 450.
  • 66. P.R.O., C 145/149, no. 1; S.R.S. xxiii, p. 121.
  • 67. W. Suss. C.C. planning dept., arch. sites and mons. rec., TQ 11 SW 78.
  • 68. W.S.R.O., Wiston MS. 4952, f. 261.
  • 69. Arundel Cast. MS. M 279, rot. 1d.
  • 70. E.S.R.O., SAS/FB 59; Wiston Archives, i, p. 205.
  • 71. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/9/46.
  • 72. Gardner, Suss. Map (1778-83); W.S.R.O., TD/W 6; O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXXVII (1879 edn.).
  • 73. Story of Ashington in Suss. (c. 1950), 9 (copy at Worthing Ref. Libr.).
  • 74. Inf. from Mr. C. Muddle, Ashington.
  • 75. W. Suss. Gaz. 13 Dec. 1973; 20 Jan. 1983; Worthing Gaz. 16 Jan. 1974.
  • 76. Arundel Cast. MS. M 53, p. 124; Gardner, Suss. Map (1778-83); 250 Yrs. of Mapmaking in Suss. ed. H. Margary, pl. 20.
  • 77. W.S.R.O., TD/W 6.
  • 78. Arundel Cast. MS. M 53, p. 106.
  • 79. Ibid. p. 33.
  • 80. G. A. Walpoole, New Brit. Traveller (1784), 51; Young, Agric. of Suss. 428.
  • 81. Horsham Mus. MS. 242.
  • 82. J. Evans, Picture of Worthing (1805), 70.
  • 83. W.S.R.O., QDD/6/W 10; ibid. TD/W 6.
  • 84. S.A.C. xl. 100; liv. 159.
  • 85. Cal. Pat. 1446-52, 344.
  • 86. V.C.H. Suss. ii. 260; P.R.O., C 142/247, no. 49.
  • 87. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/9/30; S.R.S. xxviii. 151.
  • 88. S.R.S. xxviii. 203; W.S.R.O., Par. 205/34/1/1.
  • 89. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/9/40.
  • 90. Wiston Archives, i, p. 30.
  • 91. W.S.R.O., Par. 205/34/1/1; S.A.C. lxvii. 200.
  • 92. Census, 1811, 1831.
  • 93. e.g. Wiston Archives, i, p. 231; Arundel Cast. MS. HC 80, sale cat. 1840; W.S.R.O., TD/W 137; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845 and later edns.), on which rest of para. mainly based.
  • 94. W.S.R.O., PH 7686; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1927, 1930).
  • 95. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1913).
  • 96. Suss. Life, Feb. 1973, p. 7.
  • 97. Personal observation.
  • 98. Horsham and Dist. Citizens' Guide, 1981 (W. Suss. Co. Times), 111, 118.
  • 99. W. Suss. Gaz. 13 Dec. 1973.
  • 100. Personal observation.
  • 101. W. Suss. Gaz. 13 Dec. 1973; 26 Nov. 1981; Horsham and Dist. Citizens' Guide, 1981, 21.
  • 102. W.S.R.O., TD/W 6.