Ashurst: 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, 'Ashurst: Economic history', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham, (London, 1986), pp. 78-80. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2024].

A P Baggs. C R J Currie. C R Elrington. S M Keeling. A M Rowland. "Ashurst: Economic history", in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham, (London, 1986) 78-80. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Currie, C R J. Elrington, C R. Keeling, S M. Rowland, A M. "Ashurst: Economic history", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham, (London, 1986). 78-80. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024,


There were 5 villani and 3 bordars on Eatons manor in 1086, (fn. 1) but no later reference to tenants of the manor has been found. No other manor was recorded in the parish in 1086. Land within Ashurst was evidently listed, however, under Steyning manor, and presumably also under what was later King's Barns manor in Upper Beeding. (fn. 2) In later centuries much land in the parish belonged to those two manors and to Sele priory and its successor Magdalen College, Oxford; after Steyning manor was divided (fn. 3) its lands in Ashurst formed part of Charlton-Ashurst manor. The land of Charlton-Ashurst between the 16th century and the 19th included Sweethill farm south of Ashurst village, (fn. 4) and Ford, Grants, and Lock farms in the northern tongue of the parish. (fn. 5) King's Barns manor had land in the west end of the parish, including the farm called Kings Barn farm in 1983, and also in the east along the Horsham-Steyning road. (fn. 6) The lands of Sele priory, later of Magdalen College, lay in the north-east around Bines green, south of Bines green along the Steyning road, where they included Godsmark's farm, and in the south-west. (fn. 7) Tenants of King's Barns manor still apparently owed customary services in 1398. (fn. 8) Ford farm in Charlton-Ashurst manor had apparently been enfranchised by 1589. (fn. 9) Tenements, mostly copyhold, continued to be held of Charlton-Ashurst (fn. 10) and of Magdalen College's Sele manor (fn. 11) until the 19th century, and of King's Barns until the 20th. (fn. 12)

Five freehold tenants of Wiston manor were mentioned in Ashurst in the 14th century. (fn. 13) No more is heard of them. Other manors which had lands in Ashurst were Chancton in Washington, of which Jessups farm was held, (fn. 14) and Sullington, of which 2 a. of meadow were held in the 16th century. (fn. 15) Heath farm, the detached part of Ashurst between Steyning and Henfield parishes, was a copyhold of West Grinstead manor. (fn. 16)

The Wiston manor demesne land was at farm in the 1370s. (fn. 17) The Charlton-Ashurst manor demesne was managed by a bailiff in the 1530s. (fn. 18)

Eatons manor had land for two ploughteams in 1086; there was one team on the demesne and the tenants had another. (fn. 19) There may also then have been arable land in the parish belonging to Steyning manor and what was later King's Barns manor. (fn. 20) No certain reference to open fields in the parish has been found, though closes called Townfields or Townsfields, which may represent former open fields, were mentioned in the 17th century. (fn. 21)

The progress of medieval and later assarting is indicated by field names such as the Reeds mentioned in 1713. (fn. 22) Some farms in modern times bear names which may be those of the medieval pioneers who created them; Jessups farm in the west, for instance, seems to have belonged to the Joseph family recorded in 1370. (fn. 23) In 1830 the landscape of Ashurst was one of small closes and wide hedgerows. (fn. 24) The only crop recorded in the Middle Ages was oats, which were apparently being grown in 1366. (fn. 25)

Pasture indeed seems to have been much more important in Ashurst in the Middle Ages than arable, and the lands in the parish belonging to manors elsewhere perhaps originated as outlying pasture places. The demesne lands of Wiston manor in Ashurst, totalling 86 a., were still apparently all pasture land in the mid 14th century. (fn. 26) In the mid 17th century the demesne farm of King's Barns manor in Upper Beeding retained 39 a. of woodland pasture in the west end of the parish; (fn. 27) it was commonable in 1526 and apparently later. (fn. 28) Tenants of Sele priory and of its successor Magdalen College had pasture rights in the same part of the parish. (fn. 29) There was also much commonable waste land along the HorshamSteyning road, notably in the north-east and south where it widened to form Bines green and Horsebridge common. Bines green was presumably commonable by tenants of both King's Barns and Sele manors, since both manors fronted it. (fn. 30) It remained open common grazing land in 1963, when it comprised 16 a. (fn. 31) In 1967-8, when the duke of Norfolk was named as owner, eight persons claimed common pasture rights there. (fn. 32) Ownership was said in 1984 to be divided between the duke and Magdalen College. (fn. 33) Horsebridge common and roadside waste north of it was commonable by tenants of the same two manors; the soil, however, belonged to King's Barns manor, (fn. 34) which received fines for encroachments there in the early 19th century. (fn. 35) The duke of Norfolk was owner in the late 1960s, when three commoners claimed pasture rights. (fn. 36)

Cattle were mentioned in Ashurst in 1421, (fn. 37) and there may have been sheep in 1296 on the land in the parish owned by two important wool merchants. (fn. 38)

The lowlying land especially in the north and east provided meadow. Eatons manor had 6 a. of demesne meadow in 1086, (fn. 39) and Wiston manor 6 a. in 1357. (fn. 40) Common meadow land was mentioned between the 16th century and the 18th; (fn. 41) at that period and later the first mow from all or part of certain closes of meadow belonged to persons other than the owners of the land. (fn. 42) In 1843-4 common brookland along the river Adur north-west of Bines Green was still apparently divided into temporary annual allotments. (fn. 43)

In 1551 there were c. 40 farms in the parish; (fn. 44) the names of many of them survived in 1983. Hawking Sopers existed in 1623 (fn. 45) and in the later 18th century had 75 a. (fn. 46) Kings Barn farm was mentioned in 1708, (fn. 47) and in the later 18th century was leased for periods of 11, 20, and 21 years. (fn. 48) Eatons farm was leased for 14 years in 1794, (fn. 49) and Sweethill farm for 10 years in 1829. (fn. 50) Pepper's farm c. 1806 comprised 290 a. in Ashurst and West Grinstead. (fn. 51) In 1843-4 nearly two thirds of the parish belonged to four landowners: Charles Goring of Wiston (518 a.), Mary Dennett, owner of Lock farm (465 a.), W. J. Campion (322 a.), and William Whitter (223 a.). Nearly all the c. 20 farms over 30 a. in area were leased; the largest were Eatons farm (319 a.), Lock farm (220 a.), and Pepper's farm (190 a.). (fn. 52) Eatons farm in 1883 had 470 a. in Ashurst and Henfield. (fn. 53) In 1909, out of 32 holdings in the parish, 14 were over 50 a. in area, and there was nearly three times as much rented as owner-occupied land. (fn. 54)

Part at least of the estate belonging to Arthur Lloyd was managed by a bailiff in the early 20th century. (fn. 55) In 1914 it included nine farms wholly or partly in the parish, of between 23 a. and 163 a. in area. (fn. 56) There was a bailiff on the successor Lock estate in 1934, (fn. 57) and a farm manager in 1983. (fn. 58) In 1975 half the 16 holdings listed in the parish were under 50 ha. in area. (fn. 59)

Crops grown in the 17th and 18th centuries were wheat, mixed wheat and rye, barley, oats, peas, tares, and mixed peas and tares. Cider was apparently being made at Eatons farm in 1687, and 'seeds' were mentioned in the parish in 1737. Cattle, sheep, and pigs were kept during the period; at Eatons in 1687 there was a flock of 132 sheep, besides more than 60 cattle, and also pigs and geese. (fn. 60) In the later 18th century wheat was said to produce 24 bu. an acre, barley 26 bu., and oats 28 bu. (fn. 61) Hops were evidently grown at one time, to judge from the name Hop garden field recorded in 1843-4. (fn. 62)

In the first half of the 19th century arable land predominated over pasture; (fn. 63) in 1843, for instance, three quarters of the farmed area of the parish was arable. (fn. 64) By the 1870s, however, the position had begun to be reversed. In 1875 there were 1,105 a. under crops, notably wheat and oats, and 904 a. under grass, including 665 a. of permanent pasture. Numbers of stock then recorded were 418 cattle, 914 sheep, and 122 pigs. (fn. 65) In 1878 the vicar noted that the system of farming had materially altered in recent years, with a great increase in the fattening of stock. At the same time it was claimed that there were no 'really poor' parishioners. (fn. 66) Crops raised at Dayland farm in the west part of the parish in 1902 included mangel-wurzels, swedes, and spring tares. (fn. 67) By 1909 the total acreage under crops was only 574 a., but 1,678 a. were under grass, nine tenths of it permanent pasture. (fn. 68) The high quality of the brookland pasture along the Adur was often remarked on at that time. (fn. 69) A dairyman was mentioned at Doves farm in the 1930s. (fn. 70) There were 5 a. of orchards and 1 a. of market-garden land in 1875, and 12 a. of orchards and 1 a. of small fruit in 1909. (fn. 71)

The predominance of pastoral farming continued after 1945. Lock farm was described in 1971 as a dairy, pig, and arable farm with a herd of 550 pedigree Friesians. (fn. 72) In 1975 six of the 16 holdings listed in the parish were specialist dairy farms and another mainly so, while at two others livestock was raised. Stock then listed included 1,379 cattle and 1,194 sheep; the arable area, on the other hand, was small, with only 75 ha. of barley and 36 ha. of wheat. (fn. 73)

A miller of Ashurst was mentioned in 1649. (fn. 74) A windmill was built south of the modern Fountain inn in 1789. In 1858 the miller was also a grocer. The mill ceased working c. 1900, and after falling into decay was blown down in 1929. (fn. 75)

A pedlary fair was held on Bines green in the later 18th century, the date being variously given as 12 June and 15 or 16 October. (fn. 76)

Surnames recorded in the early 14th century which may denote trades were Smith, Soper, and Taylor. (fn. 77) One unspecified craftsman was recorded in 1378. (fn. 78) Tradesmen mentioned in the 17th and 18th centuries included tailors, (fn. 79) a shoemaker, a butcher, (fn. 80) several carpenters, and a joiner. (fn. 81) There was a smithy on the Horsham-Steyning road south of Ashurst village in the early 19th century. (fn. 82) The large number of carpenters reflects the amount of woodland in the parish, though one parishioner described as a ship's carpenter in 1703 died at sea. (fn. 83)

The river also gave employment. (fn. 84) The Eatons manor demesne farm included a wharf or wharves in the parish in 1725; (fn. 85) their site is not known, but may be indicated by place names in the south-east part of the parish which include the elements New Wharf, recorded by 1791. (fn. 86) John Gratwicke of Eatons owned two boats at his death in 1687. (fn. 87) There was also a brickyard on the west side of Horsebridge common from 1733; the brickmaker John Hills at his death c. 1736 had a large stock of different kinds of bricks and tiles. A 'bricklayer' of Steyning acquired the yard in 1757. It was still apparently working in 1779, but it had ceased to be used by c. 1835. (fn. 88)

One in six families in work was supported chiefly by non-agricultural pursuits in 1811 and 1831. (fn. 89) In the 1810s there were among other tradesmen a tailor also called a shopkeeper, and a wheelwright. (fn. 90) Between the mid 19th century and the earlier 20th there were the usual tradesmen of a small parish of the time, some of whom carried on more than one trade. Most tradesmen seem to have lived either in the village or at Bines Green. One farmer practised as a vet in 1845 and 1855. There were still a blacksmith, a butcher, and a wheelwright in 1938; (fn. 91) a post office and general store south-west of the Fountain inn survived in 1974, (fn. 92) but had closed by 1983. The Lock estate had its own workshops in the mid 20th century, (fn. 93) and there had been a gamekeeper on Arthur Lloyd's estate in 1913. (fn. 94) There were a dogbreeding establishment at Bines Green in the 1930s (fn. 95) and kennels south of Ashurst village in 1974 and 1984. (fn. 96)


  • 1. V.C.H. Suss. i. 450.
  • 2. Cf. above, introduction.
  • 3. V.C.H. Suss. vi (I), 227.
  • 4. Wiston Archives, i, p. 21.
  • 5. S.R.S. xiv, p. 138; xxxiii, p. 10; K.A.O., U 269/M 117/2; W.S.R.O., Wiston MSS. 4952, pp. 266, 269; 5204, ff. 4-5; P.R.O., SC 2/206/46, rot. 4.
  • 6. Arundel Cast. MS. H 1/27; P.R.O., SC 6/1023/8; W.S.R.O., MP 1227.
  • 7. Above, manors and other estates; Arundel Cast. MS. H 1/27; Danny Archives, ed. J. Wooldridge, pp. 55-6; Wiston Archives, i, pp. 25-6.
  • 8. P.R.O., SC 6/1023/8.
  • 9. S.R.S. xiv, p. 138.
  • 10. W.S.R.O., Wiston MSS. 4952, pp. 265-6, 269; 5204, ff. 4-5.
  • 11. Wiston Archives, i. pp. 25-6; Arundel Cast. MS. H 1/27.
  • 12. Arundel Cast. MS. H 1/27; Horsham Mus. MS. 1134; W.S.R.O., Add. MSS. 380-1.
  • 13. S.A.C. liii. 149, 155-6; liv. 172.
  • 14. Wiston Archives, i, pp. 16-18.
  • 15. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 246, rot. 2d.
  • 16. Ibid. S.A.S. MS. BA 380 (TS. cat.).
  • 17. S.A.C. liv. 159, 181.
  • 18. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.). i. 426; L. & P. Hen. VIII, Addenda (2), p. 484.
  • 19. V.C.H. Suss. i. 450.
  • 20. Ibid. vi (I), 232; cf. above, introduction.
  • 21. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 380, pp. 26, 51, 83.
  • 22. Ibid. Add. MS. 3015 (TS. cat.).
  • 23. Wiston Archives, i, pp. 16-18; P.N. Suss. (E.P.N.S.), i. 184.
  • 24. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 264.
  • 25. Cal. Pat. 1364-7, 227.
  • 26. S.A.C. liv. 132, 159; cf. P.R.O., E 149/2, no. 1.
  • 27. Arundel Cast. MS. H 1/8; B.L. Add. MS. 5685, f. 173.
  • 28. Magd. Coll. Oxf. Mun., Sele 114; W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 3015 (TS. cat.).
  • 29. Magd. Coll. Oxf. Mun., Ashurst and Lancing 6, 10 (TS. cat.); Sele 114.
  • 30. Arundel Cast. MS. H 1/27.
  • 31. W. G. Hoskins and L. D. Stamp, Com. Lands of Eng. and Wales, 326.
  • 32. W. Suss. C.C. reg. of com. land.
  • 33. Local inf.
  • 34. Arundel Cast. MS. HC 134.
  • 35. Horsham Mus. MS. 1134; cf. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 381, p. [245].
  • 36. W. Suss. C.C. reg. of com. land.
  • 37. Magd. Coll. Oxf. Mun., Ashurst and Lancing 7 (TS. cat.).
  • 38. S.N.Q. iv. 162.
  • 39. V.C.H. Suss. i. 450.
  • 40. S.A.C. liv. 132.
  • 41. Magd. Coll. Oxf. Mun., Sele 117, f. 2v.; E.S.R.O., SAS/HB 78 (TS. cat.); W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 380, passim; ibid. S.A.S. MS. BA 420 (TS. cat.); Wiston Archives, i, p. 415.
  • 42. Wiston Archives, i, pp. 17, 56, 258-61, 263 n.; W.S.R.O., SP 364.
  • 43. W.S.R.O., TD/W 7.
  • 44. Ibid. Par. 11/1/1/1, p. 122.
  • 45. S.R.S. xiv, p. 25.
  • 46. Hants R.O., 18 M 51/97.
  • 47. Wiston Archives, i, p. 271.
  • 48. W.S.R.O., Add. MSS. 3021, 3024-5 (TS. cat.).
  • 49. Danny Archives, ed. J. Wooldridge, p. 54.
  • 50. E.S.R.O., SAS/ND 218 (TS. cat.).
  • 51. Worthing Ref. Libr. vol. of estate maps, c. 1806.
  • 52. W.S.R.O., TD/W7; for Campion and Whitter, above, manors and other estates.
  • 53. Danny Archives, p. 54.
  • 54. P.R.O., MAF 68/2371.
  • 55. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1903 and later edns.).
  • 56. W.S.R.O., SP 364.
  • 57. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1934).
  • 58. Inf. from Sir Wal. Burrell, Knepp Cast.
  • 59. M.A.F.F., agric. statistics, 1975.
  • 60. W.S.R.O., Ep. 1/29/11; S.N.Q. xvi. 290-1.
  • 61. Young, Agric. of Suss. 92, 100-1.
  • 62. W.S.R.O., TD/W 7.
  • 63. Ibid. Wiston MSS. 5609, 5612-14, 5616-17.
  • 64. P.R.O., IR 18/10234.
  • 65. Ibid. MAF 68/433.
  • 66. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/1 (1878).
  • 67. Ibid. Wiston MS. 5695.
  • 68. P.R.O., MAF 68/2371.
  • 69. W.S.R.O., Par. 183/7/5; ibid. SP 364; cf. ibid. Wiston MS. 5709.
  • 70. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1930 and later edns.).
  • 71. P.R.O., MAF 68/433, 2371.
  • 72. W. Suss. Gaz. 27 May 1971.
  • 73. M.A.F.F., agric. statistics, 1975.
  • 74. S.R.S. liv. 186.
  • 75. M. Brunnarius, Windmills of Suss. 94-5.
  • 76. G. A. Walpoole, New Brit. Traveller (1784), 51; Rep. Com. Mkt. Rights [C. 5550], p. 207, H.C. (1888), liii; Young, Agric. of Suss. 429.
  • 77. S.R.S. x. 159, 274.
  • 78. P.R.O., E 179/189/39.
  • 79. W.S.R.O., Ep. 1/29/11/7; S.R.S. liv. 186.
  • 80. S.R.S. xxviii. 42, 199.
  • 81. Ibid. 104, 197; W.S.R.O. Ep. 1/29/11/36, 63, 72.
  • 82. W.S.R.O., Wiston MS. 5614; cf. Edwards, Brighton Rd. 72.
  • 83. W.S.R.O., Ep. 1/29/11/51.
  • 84. e.g. ibid. Add. MS. 7310, no. 24.
  • 85. Ibid. 27266.
  • 86. Arundel Cast. MS. H 1/27; O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXXVII (1879 edn.).
  • 87. S.N.Q. xvi. 291.
  • 88. Wiston Archives, i, pp. 23-4, 179; W.S.R.O., Ep. 1/29/11/65; ibid. Wiston MS. 5615.
  • 89. Census, 1811, 1831.
  • 90. W.S.R.O., Par. 11/1/2/1; Wiston Archives, i, p. 278.
  • 91. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845 and later edns.); W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 5986 (TS. cat.).
  • 92. W. Suss. Gaz. 3 Oct. 1974.
  • 93. Inf. from Mr. D. Cox, Partridge Green.
  • 94. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1913).
  • 95. Ibid. (1930 and later edns.).
  • 96. W. Suss. Gaz. 3 Oct. 1974; inf. from Mr. Cox.