Cowfold: Local government

Page 185

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1987.

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Manorial government within Cowfold was divided between the courts of the various manors inside and outside the parish. In the 14th century one of the customary tenants in Cowfold of the bishop's manor of Stretham owed the service of summoning the other Cowfold tenants whenever the halimote was held and of collecting rents and making distraints. (fn. 1) In the late 17th and early 18th century one of the copyholders in Cowfold served as reeve of Stretham manor every third year. (fn. 2) In the mid 17th century Stretham manor had one of the two pounds which gave the name to Pound Lane (fn. 3) in the south-west quarter of the parish where most of the manor's lands in Cowfold lay; the other pound there probably belonged either to the half-hundred or to Ewhurst manor. (fn. 4) In the northeast quarter Beeding manor before 1733 had a pound (fn. 5) which also gave the name to a lane. In the courts for Stretham, Ewhurst, Shermanbury, (fn. 6) and Beeding manors business relating to Cowfold was intermingled with the rest. (fn. 7)

Two of the three manors centred in the parish had their own courts. For Wallhurst manor it was said in 1921 that no court rolls had been found, (fn. 8) but a modern compilation of extracts records 32 courts at irregular intervals, with as many as 4 in a year, between 1289 and 1357, 1 in 1555, and 11 between 1634 and 1831 at intervals of from 13 months to 44 years. (fn. 9) A court of High Hurst manor was mentioned in 1601. (fn. 10) Between 1642 and 1780 only 15 courts for High Hurst were held, dealing exclusively with agricultural tenancies. (fn. 11) In 1756 the court was held at High Hurst. (fn. 12) After 1780 and until 1865 business was conducted out of court, except in 1839 when the last known court was held. (fn. 13) No evidence has been found of a court for Oakendene manor.

The parish had two churchwardens in the later 15th century, (fn. 14) and in 1642 there were also a constable, two overseers, (fn. 15) and two waywardens. From 1705 one of the churchwardens was chosen by the vicar. The office of overseer, and possibly other parish offices, rotated in the 18th century among the occupiers of particular tenements. From 1690 to 1725 or later three waywardens served at a time, one each for East Lane, Middle Lane, and West Lane. (fn. 16) The parish maintained punitive stocks, for destroying which a man was penalized in 1791. (fn. 17) The vestry was meeting at the Red Lion in 1807 and 1840. An attempt to provide for the poor may be represented by a house, perhaps the parish house recorded in 1635, (fn. 18) which in 1660 was said to have been built at the expense of the parish and to belong to it, and in the 1690s the overseers spent money to employ a family at spinning. There was a poorhouse in 1773, when seven of its inmates died in what seems to have been an epidemic. The poorhouse was mentioned in 1802, (fn. 19) but in 1803 what was apparently the same building was called a workhouse, and the poor were set to work both inside and outside at carding or spinning flax or hemp. Their maintenance was farmed at 3s. 6d. a head each week; the parish rate was the highest in Bramber rape, and the amount spent on the poor had increased more than fourfold (the average was about threefold) since 1776. (fn. 20) In the 30 years after 1803 Cowfold's expenditure changed rather more favourably than its neighbours', (fn. 21) and in 1834 it was said that since the introduction of the labour rate the poor rate had been lower and the men better employed. (fn. 22) The workhouse, on the north side of the churchyard, evidently remained in use until 1835, for it was owned by the parish and in multiple occupation in 1839. Later it became a private house, (fn. 23) and in 1929 it was converted by Mrs. Margaret Norris into six private almshouses, called Margaret's Cottages, later transferred to the district council. (fn. 24) The parish became part of Cuckfield union in 1835 (fn. 25) and was transferred to Horsham union in 1897. (fn. 26) With the rest of Horsham rural district it became part of the new Horsham district under the Act of 1972. (fn. 27)


  • 1. S.R.S. xxxi. 120.
  • 2. S.A.C. lxii. 190.
  • 3. W.S.R.O., MP 1298, f. 2.
  • 4. Cf. above, manors; above, Wyndham half-hund.
  • 5. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 27484.
  • 6. S.A.C. lxii. 139-93.
  • 7. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 372.
  • 8. S.A.C. lxii. 195.
  • 9. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 22964, which also has copies of rentals.
  • 10. S.R.S. lviii, p. 153.
  • 11. W.S.R.O., Cap. I/32/1.
  • 12. Ibid. I/44.
  • 13. Ibid. I/32/2-3.
  • 14. S.A.C. ii. 316-21.
  • 15. S.R.S. v. 67.
  • 16. Ibid. xxii. 239, 249, 251-3.
  • 17. S.C.M. xvii. 178.
  • 18. W.S.R.O., Par. 59/1/1/1, f. 42v.
  • 19. S.R.S. xxii. 87, 218, 244, 247-8.
  • 20. Poor Law Abstract, 1804, 518-19.
  • 21. Ibid. 1818, 456-7; Poor Rate Returns, 1816-21, 174; 1822-4, 212; 1825-9, 202; 1830-4, 196.
  • 22. Rep. Com. Poor Laws, H.C. 44, p. 158 (1834), xxxviii.
  • 23. S.R.S. xxii. 57; P.R.O., IR 29/35/71.
  • 24. Dept. of Environment hist. bldgs. list; inf. from Mr. T. B. Mills, chwdn.
  • 25. Poor Law Com. 1st Rep. H.C. 500, p. 233 (1835), xxxv.
  • 26. Suss. Poor Law Rec. 3.
  • 27. O.S. Map 1/625,000, Admin. Areas (1973 edn.).